39. Our Dwelling Place
Oak Grove, South of Mt. Tabor
Obadiah glanced at Zak and the horses. Jericho. Had someone lifted Joshua’s curse? Hiel must be getting on in years. How could he receive this army of guests? No place by the river was safe from Jehu. Not Bethel, Gilgal, nor the fire-blackened stones of Jericho. And what had become of Seba and Jebus, his friends since Gibbethon? He bit his tongue.
Obadiah’s driver pointed to a chariot. “I’m to take you and your wife on these wheels, sir. Gever carries your daughter and granddaughter.” He slapped the rail. “Rides good.”
As Yedidah stepped aboard, a flash of pain crossed her face. “I hope Hiel’s well. If we lost two children, I don’t know how I could face the day.”
Nightjars flitted around them, capturing mosquitoes and moths on the wing. As the chariot descended into the Jordan River Valley and turned toward the Salt Sea, an owl called hoo-hoo-hoo. The familiar smell of camel dung wafted from the trail, and a splash at the edge of the stream announced a night heron foraging for fish.
As Obadiah held Yedidah, he leaned against the bouncing chariot rail and spoke to the driver. “Remember when our little group fought to put Commander Omri on the throne?”
“We were very young, sir.”
“We learned to depend on each other.”
“Yes, sir. Trust. Then the king made us your bodyguards, and we carried two talents of silver to Shemer’s Hill.”
“Never been anything like us.” Obadiah wagged his head.
As the Bear and her Cubs faded from the sky, Beth Gilgal fell behind. Next town, Jericho and their old friend, Hiel.
Obadiah rubbed his face. What a life he’d lived. Village boy, friend of the prince. Had he ever directed King Ahab into a right decision? They had fought and argued. A precious struggle.
Now Zak had sketched a new life for him in some place he’d never dreamed. Obadiah guffawed. Could his chief bodyguard, master of plans and schedules, pin down the future?
The chariot driver started. “You okay, sir?”
“Never felt better.” He checked Yedidah. She still slept.
He laughed again. “The Lord has been our dwelling place and will shelter us in our new home.”
The driver winked. “Have you become a seer, sir, looking into the future?”
Obadiah started to clap him on the back, but the reach would have wakened Yedidah. “Moses looked into the future. ‘The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you.’”
The driver picked up the line. “‘He will never leave you nor forsake you. Don’t be afraid; don’t be discouraged.’”
Jericho came within sight. “Here we are, Yedidah. The City of Palms.” As she stirred, Obadiah laid a hand on the driver’s shoulder. “I can’t see any farther than you. But we both know we can’t drift beyond His love and care.”
A chariot pulled out from the city.
Obadiah waved. “I see Hiel.”
The chariot stopped in the intersection, and Hiel descended.
Obadiah jumped down to the path. “We haven’t seen you in far too long. How are you?”
“I’m in surprisingly good health, my brother.” He captured Obadiah in his enormous arms. Hiel’s face held more lines than when last they met, yet his squeeze felt strong. “We heard Jehu seized the throne. News filters through the hills and floats down the river. A few details drop off while new features climb on. Takes a day or two, but we learn what happens.”
“What do you advise?” Obadiah tipped his head. “These are my family. My friends.”
“Well, don’t squeeze them into that tiny cave at Gilgal. And don’t wait here for Jehu’s patrol.” Hiel swung an arm toward Jerusalem. “Follow me.”
He stepped back into his chariot and led them through Jericho to a narrow track winding south up into the hills. They rode through two tiny villages and into a third. Hiel stopped at a new limestone house. “We crossed into Judah back there. The border’s a line in the mind. But Jehu’s troops don’t patrol here, so you’re that much out of sight.”
He stepped down from his chariot. “I built this house and two others for the owner. He has rooms waiting for you.”
Obadiah leaned back against the chariot rail. The rising sun showed several modest houses set among fig trees, apples, and pears. A roomy garden plot graced the front of each house. Goats stretched their necks through thorn fences and stole nibbles. “You’re building houses here in Judah?”
“My sons are. I show up every few days and give direction. We build for many in these hills.” Hiel ran his gaze over Zak, Gever, and Obadiah’s driver. “Your men look strong. And if they’ve been loyal to you, they’ll do honest work for me. We’ll start by putting up a house for your family.” He glanced behind them at the path. “But where are your bodyguards?”
Yedidah hugged Obadiah’s arm. “The guards have gone to fetch their families. And our two families. You might end up with a village of us.”
Zak nudged his mount in close to Obadiah and studied Hiel’s face. A golden oriole floated a song in from a high branch of a sycamore. Weela-wee-ooo.
Hiel scratched his beard. “Bring your families, ma’am.”
“Thank you, sir.” Yedidah leaned toward Hiel. “For your kindness.”
A smile lit Hiel’s face from chin to forehead. “I have received merciful kindness from the Lord.”
“Kindness.” Obadiah looked up with an unfocused stare. “Commander Omri’s words about his stable boy showed kindness.”
“You knew the commander before he became king?”
“In Gibbethon. Ahab and I were children.”
Hiel pointed to the veranda. “Two families came in over the hills who speaking of Gibbethon.”
Obadiah jumped from his chariot and laughed as he rattled the ladder against the parapet. “Who’s chopping onions and mucking out stalls at the fort?”
Seba appeared on the veranda. “Biah!” Jebus moved up beside him. Then wives and children.
Obadiah beamed at Zak. “Not a hoof left behind.”
The Lord himself goes before you – Deuteronomy 31:8
The Lord, his dwelling place. – Psalm 90:1
The Lord, his shelter. – Psalm 27:5
Merciful kindness. – Proverbs 31:26
Not a hoof left behind – Exodus 10:26