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10. King Ahab

[Show Ahab as Ahabi]

867 BC

Samaria City, Samaria, Israel

Obadiah nestled against the pillar of the open city gate.

He faced King Ahab, standing in his white linen robe and purple headscarf with his back to the opposite pillar.

Chariot wheels clanked on the plaza pavers as two rows of bodyguards funneled departing guests toward the threshing floor. A long line of foreign rulers and Israel’s elders ducked their heads and spoke soft words of condolence to the new king.

With one hand Obadiah shielded his eyes from the noonday sun. With the other, he waved a steady farewell.

King Ahab nodded to the moving file.

Guards on horseback surrounded each departing chariot. A rider in a solid gray robe turned his horse out of formation, paused, and leaned over Obadiah. “Wake up, sir. The Lord says, keep your eyes open.” The rider straightened and touched a heel to his mount.

Obadiah slammed his eyes shut against the words. In his head, the old fishmonger of Gibbethon shuffled through, his basket swinging from his shoulder with the rhythm of his call. “Fish. Fresh fish.” Obadiah opened one eye a slit. No fishmonger. And the cavalryman had disappeared out the gate. Perhaps Obadiah had imagined him.

As the last visitor rolled out and descended the switchbacks, King Ahab stepped into the center of the gateway. He spread his feet and faced the distant hills.

Obadiah joined him. He didn’t speak.

A hawk circled overhead, and a breeze from the Great Sea built puffs of white into gray clouds over the hills, the promise of an early afternoon shower.

Among the shoppers lugging produce from the market, Gera and Hodiah carried two small sacks bulging with onions. They paused on the threshing floor and greeted the guards. Hodiah glanced up at Ahab. “You’re still welcome on our veranda, child.”

Ahab turned from his survey of the hills and touched her shoulder.

She followed Gera around the south side of the hill.

Obadiah took in a deep breath. “Your father was good to me, my king. From way back at Gibbethon.”

Ahab glanced toward Obadiah. Those were good days. He was a good father. Terrific leader of troops.”

A great king.”

He sure let Mesha know who was boss.” Ahab drove his fist against his palm.

And he lived his dream—a capital on this hilltop.”

Only six years here, Biah. He deserved more.”

Behind them, the elder Shuthelah cleared his throat. “May the Lord protect your guests from bandits and Syrians.” He stroked his long, white beard. “Come, please. Sit a while.” He led them over the freshly swept threshing floor and across the plaza, their guards in tow. He guided them through farmers loading cages of chickens and unsold apples. They paused, pulled their donkeys aside, and nodded as King Ahab passed.

Shuthelah opened his courtyard gate and called toward the veranda. “What do we have to feed the prince and the king’s man?” Two strides in, he stopped short. “King. I mean the king.”

Ahab waved him away. “You’ll have me looking around for my father.”

In the shade of an oak, Shuthelah dropped goatskins. Obadiah and Ahab sat cross-legged, and Shuthelah placed a tray between them with dishes of sliced cucumber, olive oil, and spices. Then he excused himself.

As their bodyguards looked over the courtyard’s waist-high wall, Zak asked, “Do you want your guards inside the courtyard?”

Out there’s fine,” Ahab said. “The sun shines out on the plaza or in here on the courtyard, but not on the north side of the hill. When my father was planning his tomb, he said, ‘Not that bitter north side.’ He wanted the sunrise to warm his bones.”

Sunrise. Good choice.” Obadiah nudged a cucumber slice to align it with the others. “When I bloodied your nose in Gibbethon I thought your father was going to chop my head off.”

Then who would have contradicted me all these years?”

Or challenged your strategy, my king.”

A cry of oop-oop-oop sailed from the top of an olive tree by the courtyard gate, and Obadiah followed the flash of the hoopoe’s black and white bars. Since King Omri had become sick, neither he nor Ahab had confronted the other with ‘the Syrians are upon you.’

Booted hoofs clopped an irregular pattern through the city gate and across the threshing floor. An Arabian of the Fort Jezreel stable known for his never-give-up heart limped across the plaza.

The horse tripped.

Ahab rolled to his knees, head up. “Gallant.”

Obadiah stood.

A trusted messenger from Jehu lay along Gallant’s neck and clutched his mane. His headscarf was missing. Obadiah shot through the courtyard gate and grabbed Gallant’s reins.

Biah.” The rider gasped.

Before he could collapse to the pavers, Obadiah caught him in his arms, scanned and patted, but found no wounds. He eased him to his feet.

The rider sank against Obadiah’s chest and forced a whisper. “Your father, sir… Syrians.”


King Omri reigned six years in Tirzah and six in Samaria – 1 Kings 16:23-24

Death and burial of King Omri – 1 Kings 16:28

Mesha in Moab – https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesha_Stele

11. Homeward

867 BC

Samaria City, Samaria, Israel

Obadiah croaked out, “Father.” Was his father dead? Taken captive?

Gallant’s chest heaved ragged rasps of breath. His head hung low. Lather rolled from his bridle, and sweat coursed down his legs.

Crowding past Obadiah, Zak laid a hand on the horse’s neck. He pointed at his men. “Water!” Bodyguards thundered toward nearby wells and cisterns. Shoppers jumped aside.

While guards soaked Gallant from head to rump, Obadiah splashed water on the messenger’s face. He tried to give him a drink but couldn’t open his mouth.

Had Syrians killed his father? His mother? Burned their village to the ground? When the man’s eyes rolled up into his head, Obadiah eased him into Zak’s arms and turned toward the livery. He raced across the plaza, waving his arms and yelling, “Give me a horse!”

His driver sprinted past When Obadiah arrived, the man hooked harness to chariot and shouted, “Horses. Horses.”

Obadiah shook the driver’s shoulder. “I don’t have time for this. Put me on a horse.”

“Pardon me, sir, but your mount will never make it. You need two horses pulling wheels.”

Obadiah threw up his hands. “Give me a horse, man. A horse!”

“And neither will you, sir. I’m driving you.” He shoved a harness at Obadiah.

While attendants led horses from stalls, Obadiah knelt beside the chariot and picked through the tangle of leather in his hands. “Lord, help us.”

Zak and the other bodyguards dashed into the livery and led their mounts from the stalls.

Obadiah fumbled, dropping straps and hooking clasps where they didn’t belong.

An attendant took the harness from him. “Please, sir.”

Obadiah clapped a hand over his quivering jaw and backed away.

Once the driver had hooks and bridles in place, he tested connections with quick tugs, then draped the reins over the rail.

Ahab jogged up. “We may have saved Gallant. The messenger only mumbles ‘Syrians’ or ‘Biah.’”

As Obadiah stepped into the chariot, his mouth twitched.

Ahab’s hand trembled on the rail. “Look, just get there. Don’t worry—I mean, Gera can handle the groves. My father lies in his tomb. Everything else can wait. I’ll catch up after my men have done what they can for Gallant and his rider.”

“Thanks.” Obadiah laid a hand on Ahab’s then tapped his driver’s shoulder. “Go.”

“Hee-YAH!” Reins slapped. With his bodyguards leading the say, Obadiah’s team trotted across the plaza and out the gate. At the bottom of the hill, they turned toward the Jezreel Valley, and the horses settled into their long-distance gait.

Obadiah bored his gaze into the road ahead. The sun was high. He should be in Keslote before dark.

Whoever had brought word from Keslote to the fortii had told Yedidah. So, she knew if Syrians were swarming the village and if her parents were alive. Yet, she must be clinging to their children, hoping for word from Obadiah. He clamped his hand hard over the driver’s bony shoulder.

“Look, sir. I can only drive so fast. If I kill these horses, we’ll never reach Keslote.”

With a grunt, Obadiah released. He hunched over the rail. What made the driver think hours of bending his knees with the bumps in the road was easier than bouncing on a trotting horse?

Your father,” the messenger had said. Obadiah had felt proud to help his father add rooms to their house.

Obadiah and Ahab had stayed out of the way as Omri’s hired masons built his house. Yet, every time Obadiah’s father cut blocks at the quarry or built a wall, Obadiah and Ahab stood at his elbow, eager to join the fun.

As the chariot rolled, Obadiah pictured cutting blocks and building a wall around his family home. When the blocks of his picture rose higher than he could reach, he searched for his father, to tell him, “You’re safe now.” But his father wasn’t in their rooms or the stable.

The chariot swerved to miss a large hole, jarring him from his daydream.

The driver stopped for water at the first village on the road. As the dust settled, guards hauled up buckets from the well. While horses sucked the buckets dry, Obadiah wrung his hands and paced beside the chariot. The messenger had not mentioned his mother or little brother, Yedidah’s family or Ahab’s grandfather. Was anyone alive?

The driver stopped for water a second time, then a third. At each pause, Obadiah’s insides quivered.

As the meadows and farms of the long Jezreel Valley opened before them, the driver pointed left toward the fort. “We need to change horses, sir. I’ve pushed these as hard as I dare.”

Obadiah drooped against the chariot rail, but he felt lively compared to how his five bodyguards clung to manes, ready to swoon. Their horses dripped sweat and hung their heads.

Obadiah cupped the driver’s shoulders and faced him. “Can this team make it to Keslote?”

“They could, sir. But fresh horses…”

A new team. Faster and more sure-footed. While the men secured mounts from the corral, he could bundle Yedidah and the kids into a chariot.

At the cost of three or four hours.

He released the driver. “We go with this team.”

As the chariot descended into the Jezreel Valley, the horses’ heads sagged. Yet, they carried Obadiah and his men into the foothills and surfaced in the meadow which held Keslote. The weary horses stumbled over bumps in the path.

As he rolled past familiar clumps of rocks and trees, a thickness filled Obadiah’s throat.

The first houses looked undisturbed. Tears pricked his eyes.

People leaned out open doorways or rose from their knees in vegetable gardens to gawk at the chariot and the sagging riders. A few faces burst into smiles then faded, blank, sad.

Crickets announced approaching twilight.

The kiln of red brick in front if Yedidah’s parents’ house stood in its correct spot. They must wonder if their daughter was safe, but he could not pause three doors from his own home. He tapped the driver on the arm, and the chariot stopped by the well.

Obadiah stumbled on numb feet through the gate on the left.

A fresh mound stood by the corner of the house. Although he had helped lay King Omri in a tomb cut into the rock, did his own father rest in this hole heaped with dirt?

Obadiah knelt, sifted a handful through shaky fingers, and pressed together his trembling lips. “I should have been here for you.”


Keslote, a village of Issachar – Joshua 19:18

iShow Obadiah thinking of Ahab as “Ahab,” not “the king” or “King Ahab.”

iiI’m not 100% sure if this is where she’s at, but if you haven’t mentioned her location in the last couple of chapters, I’d clarify where she and the children are. SS

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