“Your old friend Jehu’s got a list of new enemies, and you’re at the top. Angels had to drag Lot out of Sodom, and I smell fire and brimstone.” Zak yanked Obadiah to his feet.
46. Who is on my side?
The Bakery, Fort Jezreel, Jezreel Valley, Israel
Obadiah scowled yet allowed Zak to guide him down the stairs and across the plaza to the bakery in the northeast corner.
Instead of waiting like a customer, Zak hurried Obadiah and Yedidah around the bread counter and pounded on the door. “Let us in!”
The baker opened the door, brushed flour from his apron, and ushered them inside. His wife pulled Yedidah to her in a hug, spilling her white locks over Yedidah’s shoulder. “My dear. Did you ever?”
Obadiah stood behind the shutter and watched with the others through the slits.
The planks over the moat rattled, and chariots careened across the threshing floor. Several captains hitched their teams to the rails at the front of the headquarters. But General Jehu hung a hard right to headquarters across from the bakery.
The baker turned wrinkled cheeks toward Obadiah. “You know the general quite well, don’t you?”
“Yes. Yes. We rode together at Dibon.” Obadiah nodded. “The general’s a devout follower of the Lord. He hates Moloch and Asherah, yet he respected Ahab as a strong commander and effective king. I have to believe it hurt him to kill Ahab’s son.”
Above the general, in a second-floor window, Queen Jezebel appeared in a royal blue gown. Fresh curls formed a jet black corona around her face. She studied her reflection in a small mirror then fixed the Jehu with her stare. “Greetings, General.” The ice cycles dripping from her voice cooled the plaza and inside the bakery.
The baker’s wife gawked. “She was born to rule.”
Zak snarled. “She’s the past.”
Yedidah lifted fingers to her throat. “But doesn’t she just look so … so … regal?”
“She uses fourteen hairdressers.” Obadiah stepped back from the shutter. “When that witch wants to lock more slaves in her brothels, she buys a string of little girls and boys stolen from distant backyards.”
A flush crept up Yedidah’s neck. “I can’t believe what I’m feeling. I’ve always called her that horrid woman. But seeing her there … Think about Ahab, like a brother to you. You hated a lot of what he did, yet you fought by his side.”
“I loved Ahab, but I despise that woman.” Obadiah gave the shutter a light punch.
Jezebel smirked through gaudy makeup at General Jehu. “Remember Zimri, the chariot commander? Zimri murdered his master but found no peace.”
Zak nudged Obadiah. “The old bird knows where to insert the knife. Jehu considered Ahab his master.”
General Jehu wheeled his chariot up next to the wall. With his horses aimed at the pavement beneath Jezebel’s window, he yelled, “Is anybody up there on my side?”
Zak whispered, “That room up there’s packed with servants. Afraid of the queen. Afraid of the general.”
In windows left and right of the queen, eunuchs in light gray robes appeared.
Yedidah let out a loud breath. “Who are those afraid of?”
Zak shook his head. “Ma’am, those guys have jumped at her command since they were tiny, but they’re shivering. They don’t know who’s in charge.”
Jehu laughed. “Throw her down, boys!”
“Don’t touch me.” Jezebel held her chin high. “Animals.”
“Oh, just look.” Yedidah sniffled.
The baker’s wife slipped Yedidah a cloth for her nose. “I know, dear.”
The eunuchs disappeared from view.
Jezebel’s scream echoed off the walls as a blur of curls crossed the windowsill. She shot out headfirst and thudded onto the paving stones.
As Yedidah wiped her nose, opened her eyes wide and blurted through the cloth, “The caves! The bubblers! They can all go free!”
Obadiah let out a gasp and pulled her to him in a side hug. “Yes!”
General Jehu whipped his horses forward and pranced them in place over the queen until blood splattered the wall and trailed down the horses’ legs. The snap of bones carried into the bakery.
“Oh!” As Yedidah covered her face, the baker’s wife patted her on the shoulder.
The general tied his team by the headquarters kitchen door. As he peeled off his gloves, he raised his chin toward the queen’s scattered pieces and strode inside.
Zak gripped Obadiah by the shoulders. “Jehu has been in that chariot for hours and won’t leave until his belly’s full. I’m taking you out of here.”
The baker raised his gentle voice. “Too dangerous. Wait until the city’s asleep.”
Obadiah clutched Zak’s wrist and pulled Yedidah closer. “But our daughter.”
The baker’s wife opened her eyes as large as hen’s eggs. “The one who married the captain?”
“And their baby girl.” Obadiah whispered.
Zak took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “We’re not leaving a hoof behind. Or a granddaughter.”
Obadiah fixed Zak with a stare. “And your wife. Your grandchildren.”
Zak closed his eyes. “Lord, help us.”
“Every one of our guards. And their families. Plus our family in Keslote. We’re all dead.” Yedidah clutched Obadiah’s arm.
The baker raised a finger. “Not dead. My wife and I will hide you right here. At midnight you can sneak out the cobbler’s tunnel.” He pursed his lips and gave a slow nod. “It’s the nearest.”
“Yuck.” His wife hunched her shoulders. “We can’t let them crawl through that scary hole. You don’t know what kind of creepy…”
Zak shook his head. “I’m sorry, sir, but General Jehu knows the tunnels and will post men there. We need some kind of distraction, so everybody’s looking one way, while Biah and Yedidah go the other.”
“Distraction?” Obadiah frowned. “We can’t wait. I know the general. His men are searching our apartment this moment, and he’ll soon have them scouring every corner of the fort.”
Zak opened a slit in the shutter and squinted out at the threshing floor. “There’s gotta be a—”
The baker’s wife cupped Zak’s shoulder. “Now don’t you worry. Farmers will be loading up from the market and going home.”
Zak released the shutter. “Farmers?”
The baker’s wife replied, “We’ll lay Biah in a cart and let Yedidah lead the donkey.”
The baker shook his head, “But we haven’t a cart, dear. Or a donkey.”
“No, but Shiphrah does. And her chickens are so scrawny she hauls half of them home every evening. Why don’t you give our guests a few loaves of your famous bread and that mutton in the warming oven while I bring Shiphrah and her cart?”
As she pulled her headscarf down around her neck, the baker’s wife touched the door handle. “There’s carrot soup as well.”
She turned toward the baker and waited.
Her husband looked up. “Yes, dear?”
“See how they’re dressed? Put our gardening robes on them and those old gray headscarves. Plus, Biah’s so long, I’ll need two blankets to cover him. Old and ragged.” She marched out past the bread counter and turned left toward the market.
Zak opened the oven. “Bread and soup sounds good. You got any red wine?”
Obadiah leaned against the window jamb. “I’m not hungry.”
“Eat anyway,” Zak said. “You’re going on a trip. And don’t worry about the rest of us. Talk with the Lord about us, but focus on getting you two out of here.”
Yedidah and the baker poured themselves large bowls of soup.
Obadiah picked at the mutton and pushed it away. “How can you look at food?”
While Zak stood and watched through the slits, he sipped wine, nibbled bread, and spooned soup from a bowl on the windowsill. “Here she comes.”
Shutter – Proverbs 7:6-12
Jehu killing Ahab’s son – 2 King 9:24
Eye paint – Jeremiah 4:30
Zimri, the chariot commander – 1 Kings 16:15-20
Is anybody up there on my side? – 2 Kings 9:32
Not a hoof left behind – Exodus 10:26
Shiphrah – Exodus 1:15