Ch. 55. Two Altars

Elijah pointed at an arrangement of stones covered with weeds.

Ahab poked Obadiah. “What’s that boy found?”

19. Two Altars

Mount Carmel, Israel, 871 BC

1 Kings 18:2-19

Obadiah trudged to the pile of stones and tossed dead branches aside, kicked weeds off, and waved Ahab over. “Have you seen this?”

Several large stones all about the same size protruded from the soil.

Ahab cocked his head. “Rocks, Biah. Old rocks. Goatskin Boy brought me up here before dawn to show me a pile of rocks?”

Please, my king.” Obadiah tugged him back a step from the boulder, cupped a hand to Ahab’s ear, and whispered. “For once in your royal life, shut up and watch.” [How does Ahab react?]

Obadiah dropped his hand and did a quick check of faces. Had the guards heard his indiscretion?

Since childhood [show their first horse race? Or first mounting of horses?], he and Ahab had always talked straight with each other. But the king and his right hand man needed to present a united front among the troops and guards.

All eyes focused on Elijah.

Ahab [ground his teeth POV?] [He needs a simile. Or an irritation BEAT.i] and took slow, measured breaths.

Elijah pointed to the ancient stones. “We’ll use this old altar.” He pointed and called to the Baal officials huddled at the edge of the crowd. “And you black tunics know how to build an altar for Baal, right? You’ll need it.”

The Baal officials gawked at him.

He grinned back at them. “Two altars. One fire.”

Obadiah blinked.

Elijah beckoned the Baal officials to him as he spoke for the crowd to hear. “Here’s the catch. Nobody lights a fire. So no flint, no pyrite. Got it? Those little lords you carve and set on a shelf? The ones who tell you which babies to burn? Ask them for a spark. And we who serve the Lord of the universe will ask him to ignite our fire.”

He turned back to the crowd and raised both arms. “Who is the real god? These pretend lords of Sidon? Or the Lord of the universe? [Erma – Just me but this word has taken on a different meaning – it’s a religion.ii] What do you say to a trial by fire? Let the real God send fire.”

A low murmur swept the crest of Carmel.

Obadiah gripped Ahab’s arm. Did people understand Elijah’s question? Did they agree with his terms? [Obadiah drew a sharp breath. Did he? believe God would consume w/fire?]

One of the many tent emblems waving among the elders of Gad bobbed up and down, and the man under it yelled, “Fire. You got it right, boy.”

A man waved the Naphtali gazelle and called out, “The real God. Fire.”

Then a man stepped forward under Dan’s serpent banner. “Fire! By fire!”

Fire.” The word rumbled into a low chant. “Fire, fire, fire.”

Ahab slapped his thigh. “Really, Biah? What is this trickster up to?”

Obadiah pulled Ahab close and muttered in his ear. “We’ll learn together, my king.”

Elijah thrust both arms toward the Baal officials. “Since there’s four hundred fifty of you and only one of me, we’ll let you supply the two bulls. And since I’m in a generous mood, I’ll let you go first. It’s all yours, boys. Build your altar, butcher your bull, and ask your baby-burning lords to light your fire.”

The Baal chief stalked onto a high spot and planted his feet. “Here.”

The black tunics spread out, scrounged up large, random sized stones, and rolled them into a square about as long on a side as Elijah was tall. They dropped smaller stones inside to form a platform then dragged in branches and stacked firewood on their new altar.

The chief Baal official led a bull to the altar and pulled out a knife.

Obadiah turned to Jamin. “How do you like the show?”

Old Jamin hung his head. “Those pagans don’t know the first thing about butchering.” He curled his lip and wrinkled his nose. “Watch. They won’t even lay the pieces of meat in the proper order.” He shielded his mouth with his hand and turned to Obadiah. “Should be slaughtered themselves.”

Without advice from Jamin, the Baal officials killed and skinned the bull. They butchered the carcass and stacked the meat on the firewood.

Elijah reminded [telling] them, “Stay clear, so we can see your hands. No flints or stones, please. Ask those little lords of yours to light a fire for you.”

The officials twisted, writhed, gyrated and shouted “Baal, put your fire under our bull.”

Nice moves, guys.” Elijah imitated a few of their dance steps. “But I don’t see sparks or flame. Not even smoke. Your little tin gods don’t seem to be listening. Did they go to the beach?”

The dancers gyrated faster. [what’s the sky look like?]

Elijah yelled. “Why do you call them, ‘Lords of dew and rain’ when they only make dust and wind?”

If you’d hired Elijah for court jester,” Obadiah whispered to Ahab, “we could have avoided this drought.”

How does Ahab react?

The Baal officials increased their dance tempo to a desperate frenzy. [Help us see this a little more. Are they flailing their arms? Do they toss their heads? What about their robes and hair? What is the ground like around them (You could include this next to a different line on this page.)]

Shortly after noon, Elijah held his skinny belly and laughed for the crowd. “Louder, boys. Louder! You couldn’t wake your gods with ten brass horns.”

Obadiah laughed. “Ahab, remember calling Elijah a trouble maker? You’ve got four hundred fifty Baal officials here who agree with you.”

The officials yelled louder and sliced their skin, so their dance moves sent blood flying over their butchered bull and into the crowd. But as the sun moved closer to the sea, the officials of Baal wore down. Their leaps lower and steps slower. They ground to a halt, slouched, hung their heads, and dropped to the ground. No energy. No answer. No fire.

Obadiah turned to Ahab and tilted his head. “Did anyone really expect them to make fire?”

Don’t be silly.” Ahab frowned and shook his head. [“Don’t be silly?” O’s stomach knotted. Did E have a lock on God’s fire power? What if God was as powerless as baal and no fire fell from Heaven? (or whatever!! To me, I want the stage set for what comes next – that’s what I was getting at – tension for the God’s display.)]

Elijah stepped over to the pile of ancient stones and scanned the crowd. “Who knows how to rebuild this altar?”

Three graybeards who might have enjoyed the company of Obadiah’s father tossed weeds and branches aside and rolled the stones into four rows of three.

Old Jamin stepped over to their work with arms folded, nodding his white head as if he were in charge. “Good work, men. One natural, uncut stone for each son of Israel.” He looked up at Elijah. “The altar is ready, young man.”

The crew dusted their hands, dragged in dead branches, and stacked the altar with firewood. They butchered the second bull with Jamin nodding approval of each cut, and they stacked the pieces on the firewood.

Obadiah laughed and turned toward Ahab. “How do you like your troublemaker now, my king?” [Hmm this seems displaced. The crew did the work and O is giving a nod to Elijah?]

Ahab cocked his head. “I like that boy’s style. If I could teach him how to fight from a chariot and to respect his commanding officer, I’d put him in charge of a small troop.”

Obadiah shook his head. Three days ago Ahab had complained that Elijah backed him into a corner by the short hairs, but today he imagined assigning him responsibility. Ahab’s care for the troops endeared him to his men and helped him defeat the Assyrians. Yet this same Ahab allowed Jezebel to import four hundred Asherah officials and dozens of slave girls for his brothels. A complicated king.

[Prior to this paragraph, give us an indication of how much time these clowns have had to call, cut themselves, and dance for fire.? ]

So the Baals cannot make fire.” Elijah called to the crowd and beckoned them to the rebuilt Hebrew altar. “Gather around. Nice and close. Let everyone see.”

Obadiah raised an eyebrow. What was this boy up to?

The elders of the ten tribes crowded in, peering over shoulders, standing on tiptoes, the younger making way for the older.

Elijah turned to the graybeards who rebuilt the altar. “We need a shallow trench around the altar broad enough to plant two full measures of seed. Villagers have loaned shovels to my brother.” Four graybeards took shovels from Nathan [Where’d he come from? I didn’t realize Nathan was there. Is this the first mention we’ve had of him.] [Good job of bringing Nathan in. Consider a brief mention earlier, showing what he is doing while Elijah is speaking. (You could show us if Nathan is confident, nervous, concerned, or something else.)] and opened the trench. [At such an important moment in the story, I’m missing Elijah’s perspective. He seems so confident and self-assured to Obadiah’s perspective, but we’ve seen Elijah worry in the past. Could we hear his thoughts? Did he doubt at all? If not, why? ]

Elijah yelled over to the Baal officials. “Are your little gods still out of town? Don’t go looking for them, or you’ll miss what the Lord has to show you.”

[They sniveled and hissed, but their faces bore the agony of defeat (or whatever non-shakespearean prose you wanna offer. Personally, I thought I done good!! HA!).]

He spoke to the graybeards. “Our generous village friends brought monster jars of water from their tiny streams. Please let everyone see. Please soak the meat and the wood.”

A gasp rose from the crowd as the graybeards emptied four jars on the sacrifice..

Again, please.”

They poured on four more.

Once more, please.” [Consider an action beat or a voice descriptor ]

[Ahab’s face heated. He grabbed O’s arm. “Is he making a mockery of these officials? Who’s going to clean up this mess? I have no time for such nonsense.” Or whatever! :)]

When the water ran over the meat, through the wood, and into the trench, Elijah folded his arms and smiled.

Obadiah nodded. “I love it.” [Why? Could we hear more of Obadiah’s inner monologue? His realization that Elijah is about to show up the Baal prophets good.]

Ahab scowled. “He’s nuts.”

Patience, my king.” Old Jamin’s quiet voice startled Obadiah. “Whatever happens next, nobody smuggled fire into that young man’s pile of wood, don’t you know?”

Elijah jumped down from the boulder and turned to Jamin. “Is it time?”

iPOV? He needs a simile. Or an irritations BEAT.


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