“Do you know why Elijah chose you for this job?”
The boy leaned forward. “No, Sir.” If Elijah asked for his help, it didn’t matter why.
The man from Elijah glanced quickly around the market. “You’re young and unknown. No one here in Jezreel or over in Ramoth will look at you and think, ‘Important task today.’”
He grinned. “Never happened yet, Sir.” His head bobbed.
“So we keep it that way, understand? What I’m going to tell you has to remain a secret from everyone. Forever.”
The keeper of secrets scowled. “Everyone. Forever.”
“Where is Commander Jehu right now?”
“Why, the commander’s in Ramoth Gilead with our troops.”
“Would you know Commander Jehu when you see him?”
“Yes, sir. Everybody knows Jehu.” Or at least they recognized Jehu’s big broad nose.
“Take this flask of oil. Go to Ramoth and find Commander Jehu.”
The boy took the flask and checked the stopper. Ramoth was a long hike.
“Get the commander off in a room alone and pour this oil on his head. And here’s what to say: ‘Thus says the Lord, I anoint you king over Israel.’ Then run. Don’t stop for anybody.”
“Got it. King over Israel and run.” Easy peasy. And the hike under the stars might even be fun.
“Leave the fort right now. I don’t want anyone asking you anything. Here’s water and pitas. It’s an all night trip.”
The boy looked down. Three pitas and a skin of water for the tramp to Ramoth? “Um, sir. Um…”
“What?” The man from Elijah grimaced. “Oh, of course. You’re a growing boy. Ramoth. And back again.” He dug into his purse and laid several tiny pieces of silver in the boy’s hand. “Put those pitas in your bag and go buy what else you need.” He glanced at the fruit and vegetable displays at the edge of the plaza. “I’ll say goodbye right here. The Lord bless you on your mission. Elijah’s counting on you.”
The boy jogged over to the nearest shop. Elijah counted on him. Elijah. Wow. He bought apples, figs, five pitas to go with the original three, and a small skin of red wine.
He jogged out the gate and turned toward the Jordan River. In the cool evening breeze, his strides ate up the road, and by midnight he had crossed the Jordan and the King’s Highway. He settled into a fast walk under the twinkling stars and soon left Jabesh far behind. He slept a few hours by a boulder deep in Gilead.
When the sun peeked over the horizon, he rolled away from the boulder and got going again. Half way through the morning, the aroma of fresh-pressed garlic and fish roasting together announced Ramoth.
He walked up to the huge old house which served as army headquarters. Commander Jehu sat in the yard with several of his officers. “A message for you, commander.”
Jehu turned his broad nose toward him. “For which one of us, lad?”
“For you, sir.”
Jehu led the boy into the house and closed the door.
The boy brought out the flask. “Sit still, please, commander. This is from the Lord.” He poured the oil on the commander’s head.
“The Lord says, ‘I anoint you king over the people of the Lord, over Israel. I commission you to destroy the family of your master Ahab and to avenge on Jezebel the blood of my servants. You are to cut down every male in the entire family of Ahab, slave or free. You will purge his family, just like I cleaned out the families of Jeroboam son of Nebat and of Baasha son of Ahijah. The dogs in Jezreel will eat Jezebel, so that no one can bury her.’”
The boy shuddered. Where did those terrible words come from? He bolted from the house and slammed the door behind him. Dashed past the officers in the yard and sprinted up the street as though a pack of wild dogs yapped and snapped at his heels.