43. Dead

Obadiah turned to Jehoshaphat. “Please, my king, lead us home.”

48. The King Is Dead

8?? BC

Ramoth, Gilead, Israel

Obadiah stood with his hand on Ahab’s chariot. As the screams and the clashing of steel faded with the light, the moans of the wounded rose from the darkness. Obadiah scanned faces in the grove and found General Jehu. “We leave no one behind. Bring our wounded and our dead, our horses and our chariots.”

While the general organized his teams, Zak moved in beside the Ahab’s chariot. “The arrow, sir. You don’t want it to further damage our king on the trip home.” He leaned inside the chariot and clapped his hand over the king’s shoulder.

“Hold him.” Obadiah gripped with both hands and pulled. The shaft came straight out, with the arrowhead glistening wet, but without blood or tissue following. He cleaned the arrowi on the grass. “In all our struggles, I never dreamed of wiping his blood on the grass.”

Zak knelt next to him. “You loved the man.”

“I did. I love him still.”

King Jehoshaphat stripped off his royal purple cloak. “The king needs cloth befitting his dignity.”

While Obadiah and Zak stood him up beside the chariot, Jehoshaphat fit Ahab’s arms into the robe.

Obadiah wiped his nose and turned to Ahab’s chariot driver, “Which horse?”

“The big black on the left, sir. He’s stronger.”

Zak laid a hand on Obadiah’s arm. “No, Biah. You can’t do this to the king.” He draped his arm over the horse and shook his head. “Swing his legs over one side and dangle his head over the other while his rump points to the Big Bear and her cubs? Not if you love the man.”

King Jehoshaphat pointed to the chariot. “Help me seat the king in the chariot.”

With Zak holding one arm and Zedekiah the other, they lowered Ahab with his back to the front panel, so he sat on the deck next to the javelin basket with his feet poking over the back of the deck. With rope from his own chariot, Zak tied the king to the panel, so he would not slide down.

The driver stepped in beside Ahab and moved his feet to show he had room.

Obadiah checked Zak’s knots. No way would he let the king roll out from a bump going up a hill. When the Philistines had found King Saul and his sons lying dead on Mount Gilboa, they cut off their heads and displayed the corpses on the Beitshan city wall. He squeezed Ahab’s hand. “Syrians not going to touch you.”ii He laid his hand on Ahab’s cheek. The king’s face was stiff beneath his fingers.

Foot soldiers trudging home in the dark stopped in the acacia grove to ask if the king had really died. Several more chariot fighters gathered around Obadiah.

He scanned the surrounding faces. “Where is Jehu?”

General Jehu stepped in close with Bidkar beside him. “Six teams search the battlefield for our own. We’re bringing everyone home, sir.”

“Can your teams complete their work without you?” Obadiah leaned against the rail of Ahab’s chariot.

“Yes. Six good leaders. They will do a thorough job.”

Obadiah turned to Bidkar. “Can you keep up with Jehu’s driving?”

Jehu flashed a grin, but Bidkar scowled. “When his fingers touch the reins, sir, the general becomes a mad man.”

“I need you two to stick together and push ahead to prepare. No linens. We’ll lay the king out in full battle dress. Plus his royal robes. I want myrrh and aloes. Top grade. And make sure the royal tomb is clean. Ahab’s wives and children. You’ll need to let them know.” Jehu and Bidkar were right for this task. They had fought beside the king in several battles and were well respected in the palace.

Jehu nodded. “Yes, sir.”

Obadiah slapped the rail as if to go, but paused. “I need you to ask around about the artist who carved King Omri’s ossuary, if he’s still alive. King Ahab’s bones should rest in a box of the same design.”

“We’ll do that, sir.” Jehu nodded. “And wailers? Shall we hire wailers?”

Obadiah tsk-tsked. “Talk to old Gera, the olive grove manager. Farmers around there do excellent wailing between crops.”

“Very good, sir. We’ll see you in Samaria City.” Jehu and Bidkar swung into their chariots and slapped their reins. They wheeled around toward the Jordan River and into the night.

Obadiah tapped Ahab’s driver on the arm. “Lead the way.”

“Sir,” the driver turned to him. “Some of these men are wounded.”

Obadiah swung around and lifted his voice to the collected fighters. “We need a rear guard of five. We’ll not allow Ben-Hadad’s scavenger squads to pick off stragglers. Step forward.”

Seven fighters approached.

“Choose your leader, follow us closely, and report to me in the Samaria palace.”

Obadiah dismissed them and raised his voice to the group. “I need you to check the three men next to you for wounds.” Heads turned. Mutterings floated. “I want two healthy men to drive next to each wounded man. We’re not leaving anyone behind. Or his chariot or horse.”

The group mixed and chatted.

When the buzz died down, he asked, “Are we ready?”

One man answered, “I think we’ve got ourselves sorted, sir.” Several nodded.

“Very well. Follow the king.” Obadiah waved at Ahab’s driver.

As Ahab’s chariot rolled out, Obadiah swung into his own and gave a morbid chuckle. He was still the king’s right hand man. As always, although the king couldn’t tell him what to do, Obadiah followed.

King Jehoshaphat in his chariot fell in behind Obadiah.

Ahab’s fighters mounted their battle wagons, clucked to their horses, and formed a column behind Jehoshapat. As they descended the gullies and canyons of the Jabbok River, the stars shone brighter, and the fresh aroma of the Gilead hills replaced the battlefield odors of blood and excrement.

Under a rising moon, Obadiah followed Ahab’s chariot and walked his tired chargers into Jabesh. People stood in the dirt, lining the ditch and craning their necks in the dark as the royal chariot rolled through the city’s one street. At the Jordan River, as the Bear and Her Cubs settled toward the sea, Obadiah directed Ahab’s chariot south. They came to the ford opposite Gilgal and splashed through in the dark.

As Obadiah mounted the west bank, Hiel of Bethel stepped out from a small crowd assembled on the path to Gilgal. “We hoped you would cross at our ford.”

“Hiel, my brother.” Obadiah paused the procession. “The king is dead.”

The short man with the famous arms nodded to King Jehoshaphat then gazed into the back of Ahab’s chariot. “Oh, my king.” He pulled a cloth from his pack and wiped the dust of Gilead from Ahab’s face. “We have lost a great man.” Then Hiel climbed into his chariot and fell into the line behind Jehoshaphat.

As Obadiah reached Shiloh, the stars faded, and dawn broke.iii With the sun climbing behind at their backs, they turned onto the Ridge Road then rolled into the outskirts of Samaria City at noon.

The long column of warriors left their chariots in the battle wagon pavilion at the edge of the city while Obadiah, Hiel, and Jehoshaphat followed the dead king through the city gate, over the threshing floor, and across the plaza to the palace.

While the three knelt in the brilliant sunshine and worked loose the knots which held Ahab to his chariot, General Jehu came down the stairs with women, children, and young men surging around him.


Background

The king is dead – 1 Kings 22:29-39

i what did he do with the arrow???.

ii Am I repeating here?

iiithey filed through Shiloh – fact check?

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