20. Mourn-SD

What do you want, Lord?

If you hold back. If you don’t deliver those who are drawn unto death, about to be killed. If you say, ‘Look, I didn’t know’—doesn’t the one who ponders hearts see? He who holds your life, doesn’t he know?”

20. A Time to Mourni

864 BC

Gera’s Courtyard, Samaria City, Samaria, Israel

Obadiah sat with Gera at the base of the ladder. The two men held the babies, and Hodiah and Keren sat nearby. Obadiah’s guards formed a loose semi-circle around the family.

The courtyard hummed with greetings and condolences. A bluethroat sang under a clear sky, and from near the gate came the scratchy voice of Jamin, the elder from Shechem. “‘There’s a time to mourn and a time to dance,’ don’t you know?”

He stooped, resting his wrinkles and full, white beard on his two hands at the top of his long, stout cane. He peered between mourners across the courtyard.

Obadiah handed the baby on his lap to Hodiah and stood.

The crowd opened before Jamin’s cane as he stumped along. When he stood face to face with Obadiah, he tipped his head toward Gera’s little family. “This is ‘a time to mourn,’ and friends should not grieve alone.”

When Gera shifted as if to rise, old Jamin lifted a palm. “Don’t get up, young man.” He lowered his voice. “No offense, but I’m here to mourn your son and to speak to the king’s right-hand man.”

Gera sat back. “How kind of you to come. Thank you.”

Jamin turned to Obadiah. “It’s an invasion, don’t you know?”

Gripping one hand with the other behind his back, Obadiah stood on tiptoe for a quick check of courtyard eyes and ears. “Invasion?”

A soft chuckle came from Jamin. “You’re wondering how much to consult with this loud old geezer. We’ve been invaded by agents from King Ethbaal. Tell me, do those who whisper of Asherah agents killing the Lord’s bubblers go mute when the king’s right-hand man appears?”

The elder from Shechem sounded like he’d been listening to Yedidah. Leaning in close, Obadiah spoke into Jamin’s ear. “You heard what happened in Beitshan?”

The elder flapped a hand. “Beitshan, Jabesh, Akko, Ramoth, the villages of Jair. This good man’s son right here in our capital. The queen murders those who speak for the Lord wherever she wishes, don’t you know?” Old Jamin drew up straight behind his cane. “Bubblers hide in hedgerows. Spouters of truth. Good men who can’t—who won’t—close their mouths against evil in high places. Some are children of my friends. They starve. Or die at the hand of the queen.”

Obadiah asked, “And how many more will refuse to keep quiet?”

Jamin tipped his cane forward and jabbed his finger against Obadiah’s chest. “That’s what the queen is asking, young man. And her thugs will hunt them down.”

A child rolled off Gera’s lap and toddled over to Obadiah’s knee.

Obadiah reached down and lifted the baby to his shoulder. Did the ancient elder grasp logistics? “I’ve got six guards. Should I send three to protect bubblers in Akko and three to Ramoth?”

“You’re asking the wrong question, don’t you know?” The old man flashed his coal-black eyes.

Obadiah put his head down and glanced from side to side. “Some say not all who contend against the evil are inspired by the Lord.”

“You’re asking if all who bubble are true bubblers, and I ask if what bubbles forth follows our teachings.”

Jamin patted Obadiah on the shoulder. “Take heart, young man. The Lord has not abandoned us. Our Moses will awaken.” He turned toward the gate, paused and shot words back over his shoulder. “But the queen would have us waste our breath on who is a true bubbler.” Then he stumped off across the courtyard.

Rubbing his chest where Jamin’s finger had jabbed, Obadiah shrugged. Moses awaken? Perhaps the elder from Shechem enjoyed melodrama too much.

Obadiah set the baby’s feet on the ground and let him cling to his fingertips while he guided him back to his grandfather. When the baby fell into Gera’s lap, Obadiah sat next to them.

{Start of Shulemii}

“Hodiah?” A woman called from the gate.

Hodiah answered, “I’m over here.” She shifted the baby from her lap to Keren’s and stood. “Come on in.”

The woman [look like?iii] hurried through the crowd to Hodiah. “It’s my aunt from Nakurab.iv She’s come to see the king’s right-hand man. She’s scared. You’ve got to make him help her.” She turned to Obadiah. “You’re the king’s right-hand man, aren’t you? We’ve heard so much about you. You’ve got to help this woman. She’s my aunt on my mother’s side, and she’s frantic.”

Obadiah turned puppy dog eyes to Gera and whispered, “Where can I hide?”

He gave Obadiah’s wrist a light slap, then set the baby in Keren’s free arm and lumbered to his feet. “Our friend will be glad to help our neighbors. Bring your aunt in.”

“Oh, she can’t come in. She’s afraid she’ll interrupt. So terrible what happened to Liev.” The neighbor lady stared down at Obadiah. “I didn’t dare tell her you would help. But you will, won’t you? I’m so glad you’re here.”

What’s going on, Lord? Obadiah gripped Gera’s hand and pulled himself up.

As he searched Hodiah’s face for a clue, the neighbor lady jerked his arm toward the gate. “Oh, you must hurry. My aunt is quite nervous.”

At the last second, Obadiah latched onto Gera’s sleeve and dragged him along.v

Words bubbled from his captor. “We all love my aunt, but she talks. I had to hide her at the back of the house, so the neighbors didn’t hear.” She pulled the gate open and led him through. “I didn’t know who might be listening and … and misunderstand.”

She pushed through the five rows of olive trees to the path and addressed a mule standing beneath overlapping limbs. “I brought the king’s right-hand man like you asked, dear. Obadiah, this is my aunt Tilly from Nakurab.”

A shoulder covered in a dark gray robe appeared by the mule’s rump. The owner peeked around the tail and edged aside her dark gray scarf to reveal wrinkles and straight gray hair.

Her face sagged in red, puffy rings, and she wore a deep frown. Yet when she turned toward the neighbor lady, her eyes told of thumb-sucking children who crowded in as she caressed their cheeks, stroked their hair, and cooed, “sweet child.”

“Is this the king’s right-hand man?” She stole a glance at Obadiah then shrank behind the donkey, her armsvi tight to her sides.

Gera took a firm grip on Obadiah’s elbow. There would be no escape.

The neighbor lady sighed and stroked her aunt’s arm. “Yes, dear. The one who runs the king’s olive groves. It’s like you heard. He’s visiting Gera and Hodiah.”

The aunt jerked her scarf back and stood clear of the mule. “Are you really the king’s right-hand man?”

Obadiah flared his eyes and turned from her toward Gera. He mouthed a silent, “Please.”

Gera pointed to the tracks leading through the trees to his stable. “Come, we’ll show you his chariot.”

The aunt heaved a sigh. “No. No, I can’t. Too many people. He’s got to be who you say.” She captured Obadiah with her arms around his waist.

He leaned away. Like Hiel in Jericho, this frail person was going to come out with a story of a nephew or husband or cousin for him to protect.

Gera should be plucking at the aunt’s fingers. But he covered his mouth with a hand, while his eyes twinkled.

Obadiah brushed at her arm as if an extraordinarily long cockroach had landed on his robe.

Yet, she held firm and gazed deep into his face. “Please, sir. Is it true what the queen’s men did to the children in Beitshan?” Her grip tightened.

“Pardon me, ma’am.” He pried the aunt’s arms from his waist and shifted her hands to the neighbor lady’s arm. “What is it you need? How can I help you?”

“And in Akko? In Jair? In Jabesh?”

[SD – I didn’t get this from her words. It seems like Obadiah would be confused by her clinging and need more info first, ask what she wanted, and then when she makes her request he walks away.]

“Gera.” He pulled his friend down the path.

Gera shot him quizzical looks but let his feet shuffle.

Held beside the mule in the neighbor’s firm grip, the aunt stared at the two men on the path.

Obadiah clasped Gera’s arms and faced him. “I can’t do this. That frail woman wants to tell me a tale of terror. She hears ‘king’s right-hand man’ and thinks ‘Daddy, make the bad men go away.’ I don’t have that kind of power [SD’s alternate]vii.

Obadiah shook his head and let his arms drop to his sides.

Gera took slow, even breaths. In. Out. Twice. Then he laid his open palm on Obadiah’s chest. “I think she knows you can’t make the queen’s enforcers disappear. But you can listen to her. Right now, what she needs from the king’s right-hand man is hope.”

From farther up the path, a graceful prinia trilled a rolling breep-breep, breep-breep. From the courtyard, two dozen conversations buzzed through the trees.

Obadiah looked around.

Tracks led to his horses and chariot in the stable. The neighbor and her aunt stood by the mule, and Gera looked him in the eye.

Obadiah glanced up. “Look, Lord, slow me down here. Straighten me out.”

With shoulders squared, he returned Gera’s look. “I can do this.”

Gera punched him in the arm and escorted him back to the pair by the mule.

The neighbor pulled her aunt to her and stroked her arms.

“You came back.” The aunt covered her mouth.

Thank you for waiting.” The aunt hadn’t gone completely to pieces. Yet.

“Yes, ma’am.” Obadiah approached and hovered a hand over her. “‘The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a hiding place in times of trouble.’”

She blinked.

King David said those words, ma’am, and he knew trouble. I want you to know you are not alone. Important friends are working on a … a place. To hide your… I’m not at liberty to say more. You understand, secrecy is…”

Obadiah let his hand settle on her shoulder.

She pushed off from the neighbor and faced Obadiah with her hands clasped under her chin. “Oh, I understand, sir. I do. And with all you’ve got on you, I’m so grateful to have the king’s right-hand man looking into this for us. I’m sure everything will be all right.”

The neighbor woman patted the aunt’s cheek. “Let’s get you a cup of hot soup.” With the back of her hand, she shooed Obadiah and Gera toward the courtyard then paused on the path.

She tightened her arm around her aunt. “I’m putting you in our spare room, so you don’t have to climb that path back to Nakurab in the dark. Come. We have enough soup left for a cup or two.”

Gera watched his neighbor and her aunt disappear around a bend in the path. “Did you catch who it is the woman from Nakurab is concerned about?”

I didn’t ask. There’s no place to hide anyone.”

[End of Shulemviii]

As the sun neared the end of its daily arc, the courtyard crowd grew quiet. Although diligent diners still found mutton on the spit by the well, they glanced into the jar that once held pickled cucumbers and shook their heads. As the baskets of apples, grapes, and figs emptied, Obadiah’s youngest guard had turned each one over, yet he still waved his broom at curious goats and chickens.

Mourners leaked out the gate in little groups. Men came over to Gera, patted him on the shoulder, then ushered their wives out. The crowd grew thin.

Obadiah asked, “How long did Liev manage olive groves?”


Gera pursed his lips. “Six years.”

“You know, if that boy found woolly worm or black scale, he showed us. Never hid a problem. Wanted things to be right, didn’t he, Zak?”

The chief bodyguard nodded. “That’s Liev.”

Keren gave a soft moan, released the child in her lap, and cocked her head.

The little one climbed down and marched straight to Obadiah, who nestled the baby against his shoulder. “Sometimes Liev led me far outside the grove—whether I wanted to go or not—to a hole where he buried diseased fruit he’d pulled off the trees. Liev was incapable of hiding a problem. He shoved everything out into plain sight.”

Gera lifted his chin and shifted his look directly at Hodiah. “He even told his mother when he thought there was too much salt in the stew, didn’t he, dear? That boy couldn’t hold back.”

“Our Liev has a way of letting the truth bubble out.” Liev’s mother squeezed Keren’s wrist. “We can talk like he’s still with us if we want to, dear.”

Her face contorted in pain, Keren blurted out, “Yes, we can. And I know how it happened.”

Obadiah leaned toward the two women. Until this moment, Keren had stirred only to tend to her children or to hug a friend. She had sat by her mother-in-law, her face wet from weeping, her skin blotchy, eyes puffy. Holding back new tears that would flow if she didn’t have two babies to look after.

She turned toward Liev’s mother and father, and the three locked eyes for a moment. Then Gera blinked.

Keren sat bolt upright. “I need to say this. The day before—” A sniffle stopped her. With a haggard look and a hand under the low bump that sheltered her third child, she shifted on the goatskin, took a breath, and began in a stronger tone. “The day before the queen’s men…”

Obadiah scanned the remaining crowd. What kind of danger was this girl causing herself and her family? Compared to her normal dulcet tones, this new, louder Keren jarred like don’t-you-know Jamin.

Yet her anguished voice washed over the courtyard like a wave. Chatter paused. Guests tapped each other on the arm, and heads turned.

Obadiah put a hand on Gera’s wrist and held it there. His friend must be torn between pride in his daughter-in-law and fear of the queen.

Gera and Hodiah beamed at their daughter-in-law. Whether the queen’s spies watched or not, she was past warning.

Still cradling a baby in her arms, Keren set her jaw and raised her voice another notch, each word distinct and clear. “The day before the queen’s men killed my husband, it bubbled out of Liev and his friends about how the Lord hates Asherah.” She gave a slight giggle. “Those boys were quoting Moses about smashing idols.”

As she glanced around the courtyard, pausing at faces, Keren’s eyes turned sober. “So, when my Liev saw that poor girl in the dirt.” She sniffled and wiped her nose. “He couldn’t hold back. He spouted off, like Liev does.” She beamed at her mother-in-law.

That’s our boy.” Hodiah’s face flushed. Her voice had risen perhaps higher than she intended. She ducked and glanced around. Then she pursed her lips and shook her head, sat up wide-eyed and spoke more loudly than before. “Opens his mouth and spouts truth.”

“Truth.” The word came softly from somewhere in the crowd. People glanced around then lowered their eyes.

Obadiah rose from the goatskin.

Eyes in the crowd rose to him. Someone coughed. A bluethroat sang gorgeous notes from an olive tree beyond the gate.

He handed a baby to Hodiah and stood. Liev’s widow had given them a grand speech. If she and Hodiah would let it rest, their family might live through the week. Perhaps he could steer them to a safer tone.

Keren looked up. “I’m not done, Uncle Biah.”

Obadiah glanced from Keren to Gera. “Not…not done?”

Sorry.” She rocked the baby. “Maybe a woman isn’t supposed to…, look, we all hate Jezebel with a perfect hatred, but the queen’s thugs killed my Liev anyway. Because he was unprotected.”

Obadiah sat back down and watched for Keren’s next words.

“Your six guards can’t cover all the bubblers. But, like the elder from Shechem said, that’s not the question.”

She pulled the baby up to her shoulder. “We’re not strong enough to kick Jezebel out, but we can help people. So, when the Lord’s man wakes up and gets people organized, we can protect good men like my Liev.”

When the Lord’s man wakes up? Organized?

Gera reached a hand and held Obadiah’s wrist. He whispered, “Now you know how Barak felt when Deborah sicced him onto Sisera.”

Barak! I’m no general. As Obadiah stared into the distance, two goatskins flopped on the paving stones next to him. Zak sat on one and pulled a young guard down to the other. “Tell Biah what you told me.”

The young guard sat very still with his head down.

Obadiah narrowed his eyes. He’d just been put down by young Keren, and now Zak was intruding on his personal little pout. Obadiah flung words at him. “Well, what is it?”

The young guard lifted his head. “A cave, sir. Hide people in a cave.”


A time to mourn – Ecclesiastes 3:4

Smashing idols – Deuteronomy 12:3

Perfect hatred – Psalm 139:22

Deborah and Barak – Judges 4 & 5

Why do you hide yourself? – Psalm 10:1

Deliver the weak – Psalm 82:3-4

i at beginning of book. a map of the area & drawings of what the houses or the village looked like. [The Israel Four-Room House]

ii{Start of Shulem}

iiiThe woman [look like? Wearing?]


v“The lady’s been crying.”

“She smells like a grandmother.”

vi This is very similar to the description I highlighted above. – SD maybe changed since she saw it?

viiSD – I didn’t get this from her words. It seems like Obadiah would be confused by her clinging and need more info first, ask what she wanted, and then when she makes her request he walks away.

viii[End of Shulem]

ixCould break 20 after How long did Liev do groves

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