Obadiah stared. Had Jehu’s men discovered them?
Shiphrah’s husband tiptoed toward the ladder, his field hoe circling high as if he were eager to chop the head off a snake.
En-Gannim, Jezreel Valley, Israel
Obadiah pushed Yedidah into Shiphrah’s tiny room. “Stay back.” They should have pulled the ladder up onto the veranda. As if Jehu’s men couldn’t climb. Why hadn’t he moved Yedidah and their daughter to Keslote years ago?
Better to face his enemy on the ladder than let him gain the veranda. He crept past Shiphrah’s husband and whispered into the dark, “Who are you?”
Cautious as a cat, Obadiah’s chariot captain son-in-law poked his head over the parapet.
Obadiah pounced. “Where’s my daughter?”
The captain ducked and disappeared.
Yedidah clutched Obadiah’s arm and stared with him into the night. “Son?”
“Where are my guards?” Obadiah asked. He shook Yedidah off and rattled the ladder. “Do you have my chariot?”
The captain spoke from the dark. “Please, sir. Your daughter’s with Zak. I have a chariot waiting for you in the ravine.”
Yedidah gripped Obadiah’s wrist with both hands, slid inside the curl of his arm, and beamed toward her son-in-law’s voice. “We’re glad to see you, son.”
He rose into the light reflecting from a tiny slice of moon. Sweat and dirt covered his brow. His eyes darted from Obadiah to Yedidah, to Shiphrah’s husband, ready to strike.
Obadiah blinked. “Oh. Um, glad, yes. Glad to see you. Son.”
Yedidah shoved Obadiah toward the ladder. “Let’s go, dear. Thank you, Shiphrah, for hiding us. For the food. The rug. The robe.”
When Obadiah reached the ground, he cupped the captain’s shoulders and whispered, “Where’s Zak taking my daughter?”
“Zak says best not to mention destinations.”
Obadiah strode with him. “I trust Zak. I still want to know where my daughter and granddaughter are.” He jerked to a halt. “How’d you get out of the fort?”
“Zak hid watchers by the tunnels. When General Jehu’s guards walked away from one tunnel, we left.” He pointed ahead. “I hid the chariot in a ravine outside the village.
In the ravine, the captain put Obadiah and Yedidah in a chariot and drove along tiny trails out of view from the fort.
Yedidah stood between Obadiah and her son-in-law with her arms around their waists.
Obadiah reached across her and rested a hand on the captain’s shoulder.
“How’d you get your hands on a chariot?”
“I told the guard I had urgent business for the king.” He turned and winked.
“Nice.” Obadiah gave his son-in-law a pat on the shoulder.
While still south of Mt. Tabor, the captain rejoined the main road and pulled off into a patch of oak trees.
Obadiah’s daughter and six-year-old granddaughter dashed out of the shadows, smiles and laughter, dressed in clean robes and scarves. “Daddy! Mother! Grandma! Grandpa!”
“My girls!” Obadiah stepped off the rolling chariot and let them crash into him. He knelt and gathered them in his arms.
When the chariot stopped, Yedidah clambered off and leaned into the threesome, reaching to hold as much as her arms could encircle.
Obadiah looked up at his son-in-law in the chariot. “Well done, Captain.”
Zak led three horses into the clearing followed by Obadiah’s driver with a team and chariot. Four extra horses followed, tied to the back of the chariot.
Obadiah put his nose close to Zak’s. “Thank you! You worker of miracles. My hero.”
“I hope you enjoy the climate in Jericho.” Zak hitched the reins of his two spare horses to the blanket harness of his mount. “I sent three guards to Keslote and two to Megiddo. With horses, chariots, and silver. Pray your people will come away with them.” He swung onto the horse and turned toward the Jordan River.
Obadiah’s driver slapped the rail of his chariot. “Rides good, sir.”
Obadiah chuckled. “Important business for the king?”
“That’s right, sir. Urgent.”
As Yedidah stepped aboard, a flash of pain crossed her face. “I hope Hiel’s well. If we lost our oldest and youngest I don’t know how I could get up in the morning.”
They rode through the night.
As the rising sun touched them in Jericho, Hiel strode out to the intersection and captured Obadiah in his enormous arms. “We heard. News filters through the hills and floats along the river. A few details drop off, but new ones climb on. Takes a day or two, but we hear what happens in Jezreel and Samaria.”
“What do you advise?” Obadiah tipped his head toward the others. “These are my family. My friends.”
“Well, don’t squeeze them into that tiny cave at Gilgal.” He swung an arm toward Jerusalem. “Come help me put together a fort a decent hike across the border.”
Hiel nodded. “The border’s only a line in the mind. General Jehu’s patrols don’t go there. So you’d be that much out of sight.”
“You’re building a fort?”
“That I am. For old customers in a village called Horchanyah. Not a magnificent city, and my fort will never win an architectural award. Yet, I build for many in these hills, and if I do a good job on this minor project, several more in Judah will call me to build for them.”
“That’s how it works.”
Hiel ran his eyes over the captain, the driver, and Zak. “Your men look strong. And if they’ve been loyal to you, I trust they’ll to do honest work. First, I’ll need you to put up a house for this bunch of yours. But where are your bodyguards?”
Yedidah hugged Obadiah’s arm. “The guards have gone to fetch our families. You might end up with a gang of us.”
Hiel stood silent while a golden oriole floated a song in from a high branch of a sycamore. Weela-wee-ooo. “Bring your family, ma’am, and I’ll send them into the hills to work at your side.”
Yedidah said, “Thank you. You’re very kind.”
“When the rains start, join me in the Arava. I’ve got friends in a settlement Moses called Oboth. Solomon named it Tamar and built a fine fort with those peculiar gates of his. Good water. Lots of sunshine. And a big spreading jujube tree.”
Hiel clapped a hand over Obadiah’s shoulder. “Winters in the Arava and summers in Judah. What more could you ask?”
Obadiah cocked his head on one side and stared up river. “What more? I’d ask for two friends from Gibbethon to stroll in. Did I ever tell you what King Omri said about his stable boy?”
En-Gannim – Joshua 15:34
Horchanyah – Fortress הורקניה
Oboth – Numbers 21:10-11, 33:43-44
Tamar – I Kings 9:18