56. Aphek

24. Victory at Apheki [Obadiahii] [POViii] [Geographyiv]

868 BC

Fort Jezreel, Israel

1 Kings 20:1-4

Obadiah hopped into Ahab’s chariot and cocked his head at the red-tailed kite tilting and balancing in its search for cadavers behind Fort Jezreel. Tomorrow the kite would eat his fill. The sun perched high over the sea. From the almond grove at the base of the fort, a fresh breeze whispered. “So many men about to die, my king. Yet feel the air. ‘The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear.’”

Ahab sighed. “I’ll show you what appears, Biah, and it ain’t flowers.” He tapped the driver. “Mount Carmel.”

His chariot led six chariots of guards up the back road from the fort onto Mount Carmel.

With bodyguards close behind, Obadiah hopped out with Ahab and waded through tall grass to the edge of the Mount Carmel bluff. Together they surveyed the Jezreel Valley.

Syrian red tunics spread from Aphek to Akko and along the coast.

“Spring is here,” Ahab said, “but it’s like I told you last year at Dothan. Until you kill the king, the fight isn’t over.”

As Ahab swept his arm toward the sea, Obadiah followed his gaze. Their entire [Ahab’s?] army camped at the Megiddo crossroads. [why here instead of at the fort?] Yet, compared to the never-ending hordes of Syrians, Ahab’s troops looked like two tiny flocks of goats.

Obadiah clicked his tongue. “Where does Ben-Hadad get enough silver to hire every foot soldier from here to Kasran?”

Ahab pointed toward fleet after fleet of red chariots parked on the far side of Aphek next to tens of thousands of horses. “We stole almost that many battle wagons from him after the battle last year, but we don’t have enough chariot drivers to bring them out of hiding.”

Obadiah let out a low whistle. “How many bags of silver left Ben-Hadad’s treasury to put those wheels together?”

“Plus the horses,” Ahab muttered. “I don’t have enough to feed Ben-Hadad’s chickens.”

“Don’t forget his strategy sessions.” Obadiah held up his palm and backed three steps through the grass. “Please pardon how I deal with my fears going into battle, my king. This is the tiny skit I put on last night for Yedidah and the kids.”

Ahab squinted. “Skit?” [feels lame]

“Think Damascus. Ben-Hadad and his advisors mingle in the great hall of the palace. Servants thread through the throng pouring cups of wine and giving out plates of cheese.”

“Gotcha.” Ahab grinned and motioned to his men. “Get this, you guys.”

Obadiah stepped beside a patch of lilies and gave a sweeping bow toward his audience of royal bodyguards. “The official who wears the most loyal turban emerges from the crowd and pays his respects.” Obadiah pasted on a frown and dredged up a deep, hollow voice. “‘Oh thou great Ben-Hadad, it was the hill gods, my king.’” [Give this skit to Mikey?]

Ahab clapped his hands and elbowed his chief bodyguard. “Biah’s good.”

Obadiah dipped his chin. “Thank you, my king. You may hold your applause.”

He returned to his deep stage voice. “The gods of Israel own those hills, Ben-Hadad, sir.” Obadiah scraped a dark scowl over his face and shaded his eyes with his hand. He crouched and scanned the horizon. “But fighting in the open is second nature to our gods, so we’ll meet ’em on the plains and thrash ’em good!”

Ahab stepped in and slapped him on the back. “You could infiltrate the Syrian officials with that act.”

Obadiah straightened. “Thanks. I’ll tell my kids you like it.” He turned and stared across the valley at the thousands and thousands of enemy troops. Yesterday Mikayhu had told King Ahab the Lord does not appreciate the Syrians calling him hill gods.”

Ahab pulled him away from the hearing of the guards and ducked his head by Obadiah’s ear. “If Mikey hadn’t told us how the Lord feels about this, we’d both be looking for a place to hide.”

With long strides, Ahab led Obadiah back through the grass to the chariot. “We’ll prove him right in the morning.”

Obadiah paused at the chariot rail. His old friend had so much going for him. He loved his nation, was a master of battle strategy, and seemed to appreciate what the Lord said through Mikayhu. Obadiah climbed in beside Ahab. “May the Lord bless you as you lead us into this fight, my king.”


The next afternoon, men in red tunics with the yellow-winged torch of Syria lay scattered on both sides of the road into Aphek. Some moaned, and a few writhed. Flies crawled over most. Several vultures stood and pecked out flesh while hundreds more circled lower and lower. [SS good choice skipping the battle scene . ]

Obadiah’s driver held a hand over his nose. “Mikey was right.”

“And he’ll be glad to hear it. I’ve killed enough Syrians for one day. [MP Again, took me a reread to figure out what happened. ] I need a bath and play time with my kids.” Obadiah tapped the driver on the arm. “Before you take me home, stop up there by Ahab.”

Beside Ahab’s chariot, seven men in filthy red uniforms knelt in the dirt with their faces lifted toward the king. They wore sackcloth draped around their waists and ropes around their heads.

Ahab pursed his lips and leaned toward them over his chariot rail. “Is he still alive? He is my brother.”

The men in sackcloth shot glances at each other, bowed, and scurried away toward the city.

“What was that all about, my king?” Obadiah stood back against his chariot rail.

“Ben-Hadad.” Ahab watched the men in sackcloth disappear into Aphek. “They’re bringing him. Or so they say.”

Obadiah shook his head. Sometimes Ahab was so easy to fool. “If it’s Ben-Hadad you’re looking for, remember after the battle last year? Our scouts said they saw him escaping “on a horse with the cavalry.”

“So?” Ahab tipped his head.

“If it’s Ben-Hadad you’re looking for, send your scouts to look for a man in a royal tunic trotting northeast through the hills on a horse he loosed from a battle wagon.”

Ahab tossed his head. “If those jokers do produce Ben-Hadad, I plan to get back some cities and put my markets in Damascus.”

“Well, my king, you know how to lead troops. But to this country boy it looks like you don’t need that whipped puppy’s permission for either cities or markets. If you find Ben-Hadad, I suggest you lift his head from between his shoulders.”

Ahab said nothing in return, but jutted his chin forward and rocked back on his heels.

“Yedidah and the kids are waiting.” Obadiah squeezed his driver’s arm, and his chariot rolled. He didn’t have time to play nurse maid. What was going on inside the royal skull?

iA trick used by many an infantry to thwart a strong cavalry attack was the use of long stakes shaved sharp on both ends. At the moment it’s too late for the lead troops to pull up before smashing into them, the front ranks of the infantry raise the stakes and jut them into the ground, impaling the first horses into them on their own momentum. Chaos ensues as the charge piles up rather than running thru the front lines as designed. Good example of this is in the movie Braveheart where they stopped the English cavalry and routed their army doing just this.

Stick this one in your back pocket for possible use in the spring attack when Ben-Haddad chooses flat ground for his chariots and cavalry.

ii Just a thought – we don’t see Obadiah’s name in these chapter descriptions since chapter 16. How does Obadiah’s story run through this? How does his world change and grow as the story’s does?

iiiBen Hadad is determined to get paid for the horses and chariots and troops he lost last year, so he listens to his councilors who tell him the Hebrew god is only of the hills and urge him to come back to punish Ahab. [How will we learn this from Obadiah’s perspective? Or will this come from Ben Hadad directly as another POV character?]

iv  2. We need to work together on the geography of the region.  I said earlier BH might have made an incursion into Moab, but that’s unlikely.  Aram lay against Ammon.  If he had any ideas of expanding a greater Aram, it would have been into Ammon.  But, importantly, how and where he would have attacked Ahab would be in large part determined by the terrain, which you are much more familiar with than I am. So before I go spinning off something altogether weird in reference to the countryside, we should put our heads together. Back to point 2, I’m not satisfied I understand the terrain well enough to know if I’ve set up a plausible attack route for BH for the fall offensive.  Need to hear from you if you’re buying it or if we need to dive in deeper.

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