38-9. F & Ram

39. To Fight or Not to Fight

8?? BC

Plaza, Samaria City, Israel

Obadiah entered the aroma of roasting beef and mutton at the city gate, followed by his bodyguards. On the threshing floor, he turned away from the harps and lyres and threaded through the happy, gossiping crowd to the potter’s shop. With his back to the flails and the donkeys, he sat on a goatskin facing King Ahab and King Jehoshaphat.

Near the center of the threshing floor, the two kings sat on thrones—a pair of marble chairs servants had carried from the palace—and chuckled and chatted together, their voices covered by the noise of the crowd. Ahab wore his flowing blue robe of state. Jehoshaphat wore purple. They held plates of mutton and beef roast.

Obadiah accepted a plate from a server and stabbed a sliver of beef. The sun was high, so Ahab would make his move on Jehoshaphat soon. Yet, unlike previous battles, Ahab had no plan for retaking Ramoth. How could Obadiah get his king away from this crowd and talk strategy?

Ahab smirked at Jehoshaphat then raised his voice to Generals Jehu and Bidkar relaxing over by the tailor shop. “You know Ramoth up in Gilead belongs to us, but we sit here in our green hills, doing nothing to take it back.” Then Ahab turned to King Jehoshaphat. “So, my friend, will you help us take back Ramoth?”

Jehoshaphat placed a hand against his chest. He lifted his handsome chin and stroked his neat, black beard. “Of course,” came his powerful bass voice. “Especially after such an impressive feast.”

Obadiah kept his head down and peeked. Pick up on the feast cue, Ahab. Three days ago, Obadiah had drilled the story into him. What was he waiting for?

Ahab cut his eyes toward Obadiah then refocused on his royal guest. He gave Jehoshaphat a conspiratorial elbow nudge and said with a voice too eager, “Ah, but this little spread is nothing compared to the twenty-two thousand oxen and hundred and twenty thousand sheep at King Solomon’s banquet.”

Several heads near the two kings nodded, and the tempo of the harps and lyres stepped up a beat.

King Jehoshaphat rewarded Ahab’s tiny tap on the reservoir of history with an open smile. “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” Then his face went blank. His smile fell. “Um, maybe we should ask the Lord.”

Behind his hand, Obadiah laughed with Zak. Jehoshaphat rode down from Jerusalem to this banquet in his flowing royal purple and surrounded by fifty bodyguards. Yet, “horses” triggered pictures of bags of silver leaving the Jerusalem treasury.

Ask the Lord? No problem.” King Ahab waved at a guard. “Bring in the counselors.”

While guests sipped wine and nibbled at beef and mutton, Jezebel’s Asherah goons filed through the gate and onto the threshing floor.

Obadiah groaned. Jezebel had ordered her men to stay away from Elijah, and the crowd that cut the throats of the Baal thugs on Mount Carmel would have done a neat job on this gang.

Ahab opened his hands to them. “Shall we go to Gilead and fight for Ramoth or stay home?”

A chorus of four hundred shouted, “War! Make war! God will lay that city in your hand!”

What a sham,” Obadiah whispered to Zak. To keep Jezebel’s father happy, Ahab gave room and board to cheap entertainers.

King Jehoshaphat scowled. “Is this it? These Asherah guys? Don’t you know any counselor from the Lord?”

The crowd grew quiet. The harps and lyres ceased to play.

Obadiah set his drink on a paving stone. Now what? Ahab was rushing blind into battle. He only knew one true bubbler, and he had told that one to stay out of sight.

Ahab glowered at Obadiah, sighed, and fluttered his hand at a guard. “Bring me Mikayhu son of Imlah. He’s with Gera the grove manager. Make it snappy. We don’t want to keep the king of Judah waiting.”

The guard bowed and left.

Ahab tugged his tunic away from throat and gave a weak smile to Jehoshaphat. “You asked for someone from the Lord. I hope you’re not disappointed. This Mika kid—he sings and bounces, bounces and sings. He’s a fine boy and means well. But he has nothing good to say about me.”

Obadiah scowled at the floor. Mika adored the king, but he cut no corners on messages from the Lord.

Ahab beckoned to a server. “Let’s give our guest more of that roast.”

As the server slid a slice of beef onto Jehoshaphat’s plate, a song floated through the gate. “Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn.”

King Jehoshaphat dropped his knife.

Heads turned. The harp and lyre at the edge of the crowd struck up the tune of the psalm.

Heh-heh.” Ahab beamed at Jehoshaphat. “That’s our boy.”

Mika bobbed in with his messy brown hair and the slight lift to his step. He stopped in front of the two kings. First, he bowed to Ahab. Then to Jehoshaphat. His heels moved up and down. “The Lord’s alive, you know. I repeat what He tells me.” He grinned over at the Asherah chorus. “Nothing like those clowns.”

One stepped out from the chorus holding a set of ram horns to his head. Zedekiah.

Ahab’s face turned red.

Obadiah groaned. What would these guys think up next?

Zedekiah leaped forward and back, right and left. With both hands holding the heavy horns to his head, he couldn’t use his arms to balance, so he toppled and staggered with each thrust—yelling, “The Lord says, ‘With these you will gore and destroy!’”

Obadiah smothered a laugh with his hand. Poor Zee and his unbalanced bull.

Yet, the Asherah chorus of four hundred backed their man with cheers. “Attack Ramoth in Gilead. Attack! The Lord says, ‘Hold out your hand!’ Grasp victory! Success!”

Ahab peeked at Jehoshaphat.

The king of Judah cringed and held his head in his hands.

Um, thank you, Zee. Zedekiah.” Ahab pasted on a fresh smile and asked Jehoshaphat’s question for him. “Well, Mika, what do you say? Go to war or stay home?”

Mika crouched in front of the two kings. He floated his head forward and back while he clicked his fingers to a beat.

Jehoshaphat scooted forward on his throne and bobbed with him. Then snapped his fingers. A slow grin lit the face of General Jehu. Chariot captains wagged their heads and rolled their shoulders, while servers at the edge of the threshing floor twitched their knees. Across the crowd, heads moved, fingers clicked, shoulders rolled.

While King Jehoshaphat led the beat, Mika chanted.

Sure thing, King.

Yeah, I mean bring.

Bring it on. War.

War, of course.

Chariot and horse.

Attack ’em. Smack ’em.

Easy vict’ry.

Hold out your hand.


Ahab hurled his wine cup to the threshing floor. “Cut the song and dance, Mika. Just tell us what the Lord showed you.”

I don’t like what I saw, King.” Mika’s heels sagged.

With the beat lying dead, Jehoshaphat turned on his throne and stared at Ahab. “Who is this boy?”

Ahab ignored him. “Tell us what you saw, Mika.”

Mika wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and licked his top lip.

Obadiah’s mouth fell open. What horror had Mika seen?

“Tell us,” Ahab said.

Mika’s face drooped. Yet, he stretched and pointed an arm toward the mountains of Gilead. “I saw Israel scattered.” He hiccupped but took a deep breath and continued. “Men dotted the hills, wandering sheep, and the Lord said, ‘They have no leader. Send them home to fend for themselves.’”

See what I mean,” Ahab said. “Never anything good.”

Jehoshaphat stared at Mika then at Ahab.

Obadiah wiped his cheeks. No leader. Mika had seen the army without the king. What did he see happening to Ahab?

The boy splayed his arms at his side. He turned his face to the sky and called to the circling vultures. “I saw the Lord on his throne with angels left and right. The Lord asked, ‘Who will lure Ahab to go die at Ramoth in Gilead?’”

Gasps floated from the crowd.

One said, ‘This way.’ Another, ‘Here’s how.’ Then one angel took center stage. ‘I’ll make those Asherah buffoons think they’ve discovered Truth.’”

The Lord waved him on. ‘Go. Do it.’”

Mika waved toward the chorus. “So the Lord put this victory dance in the mouths of your puppets here and… and…” He sobbed.

Zedekiah jumped over with his ram’s horns in one hand and punched Mika in the mouth with the other. “What makes you think the Spirit of God left me and talked to you?”

Obadiah leaped to his feet. Time to put the horns away.

But Mika wiped blood off his mouth and stood tall in Zedekiah’s face. “You’ll know, Zee. When you’re looking for a place to hide, you’ll know.”

Obadiah sat back down. If he could get Ahab alone and talk strategy, maybe he could keep his old friend alive.

Ahab pulled his knees up on his throne and looked sideways at a guard. “Lock Mika up. Bread and water until I get back.”

Oh, King. I don’t want you to die. Don’t you understand?” Mika’s voice caught. “Do what you want with me. But you’re not coming back.” He turned to Obadiah, sniffed and wiped at his nose. “Can’t you make King stay home, Mr. Biah? Our king’s not coming back.”

Obadiah rose and approached Ahab. He had to talk him out of this fool’s venture. “My king.”

Ahab whirled on him. “Shut it. I want this fight.”


This Story – 1 Kings 22

King Solomon’s banquet – 1 Kings 8:63 & 2 Chronicles 7:5

I will awaken the dawn. – Psalm 108:2

42. The Battle at Ramoth

8?? BC

Ramoth, Gilead, Israel

Obadiah rode between the two kings, Ahab and Jehoshaphat up the Jabbok River Valley toward Ramoth. Ahead of them, the tread of the infantry shook the earth ahead of them, and the hoofs of chariots and archers clop-clopped behind them.

Ahab waved toward the circling vultures and red-tailed kites as he tapped his shoulder, clothed with armor the same cut and color as Obadiah’s. “Why such thick clothing, Biah? Do you begrudge our friends on high a few nibbles of your rotting flesh?”

Obadiah hung his head. Ahab’s battlefield humor had turned ghoulish. Nothing Obadiah could say would make his friend go home. Three years ago, Ahab had told the king of Syria to save his boast for after the battle. But Ahab had a strategy for defending Samaria City.

Ahab had no strategy for retaking Ramoth. Yet, when Mika told him he would not come home, instead of consulting with his right-hand man, Ahab had prepared his troops for battle. A battle with no strategy.

Obadiah stared across King Jehoshaphat at King Ahab. His childhood friend had interpreted Commander Omri’s “a noble warrior” to mean better a dead king than a live coward. Was there no way to turn him back from death?

King Jehoshaphat leaned toward them, his purple cloak swaying over his armor. “Where are your beautiful blue robes, my king?”

Ahab opened his arms and turned a broad smile toward Jehoshaphat. “While you display your royal color, I fight in humble gray to ensure the king of Judah receives the glory for today’s victory.”

Obadiah looked down. After Mika’s “not coming back,” the word victory drooped, tired as a flag in stagnant air.

Jehoshaphat drew his purple around him. “Too modest, my king. The world knows Ahab of Israel as a mighty warrior. I am privileged to fight at your side.”

The King of Judah must wish he’d stayed in Jerusalem. Perhaps he didn’t believe the Lord spoke through Mika or the danger applied only to Ahab. He might be desperate for help against his neighbors to the south.

“I wish we had old Hiel with us.” Obadiah turned to Jehoshaphat. “Have you heard of Hiel of Bethel?”

“The no-neck who drilled Tibni son of Givath,” Jehoshaphat shifted as his chariot hit a bump. “Everybody’s heard of Hiel.”

Ahab pulled a javelin from his basket. “That was back when Biah and I were learning to hold one of these. You should see the reach on that old boy.” Ahab spread his hands as far as he could. “He sent his regrets. Says the arm isn’t what it used to be.”

Obadiah surfaced with the two kings on the north bank of the river valley right behind their foot troops. A light breeze came from the mountains on the east, and the early morning sun beat unimpeded by one cloud.

With their spears pointed at Obadiah, Syrian soldiers blanketed the plain. Behind them, hundreds of battle wagons displayed the yellow-winged torch of Syria on red side panels. Although scouts had reported thirty-two groups of chariots, their war horses bobbed and pranced in one huge, rolling wave. Behind the chariots, several rows of red-robed archers waited with their backs to the gray limestones of the city of Ramoth.

King Ahab paused his chariot and leaned toward Obadiah. “Stick with me, Biah. The old team. Together again.”

As a large group of chariots from Judah paused around him, King Jehoshaphat saluted Ahab. “At your signal, my king.”

Zak rode up beside Obadiah in his chariot. One of Obadiah’s bodyguards drove, and three guards crowded him on horseback. Across the withers, they had laced bows and clusters of arrows to each blanket harness. Zak patted a clutch of javelins standing strapped to his chariot rail. “Our little gang can still put up a good fight, Biah.”

Syrian drums rattled chants of the gods Deber and Resheph.

The Hebrew drummers dressed in battle gray answered with a beat from the psalms.

From behind Obadiah, the archers sent a volley of arrows into the approaching Syrians, and the reply arrows stabbed into the grass around Obadiah. One glanced off his chariot rail.

Shouts of “Charge!” echoed across the field in Hebrew and Aramaic.

Their feet pounding the turf, Hebrew infantry ran toward the Syrians shouting, “Praise be to the LORD our Rock, who trains our hands for war, our fingers for battle.”

Steel rang against steel. Men cried out. Smell of blood rose.Vultures and kites circled lower.

At the head of the Hebrew chariot captains, Obadiah, Ahab, and Jehoshaphat gripped javelins and ripped up the sod as they cut into the mass of Syrian troops.

As a pair of Syrian chariots closed in on Jehoshaphat’s royal colors, he attacked, yelling the battle cry of Judah, “The Lord is on my side.”

The Syrians drifted away and stood at their chariot rails, scanning the battlefield.

Obadiah called to Ahab through the swirling dust, “See that, my king! They’re looking for you.” As Ahab rared back with a javelin in his hand, he disappeared behind a Hebrew chariot.

An arrow bounced off the armor on Obadiah’s arm. He glanced around for Ahab, ready to shout, “Don’t begrudge me thick clothing!”

But the king lay slumped over the rail of his chariot.

Obadiah’s stomach dropped. “Ahab!” He screamed at the king’s driver, “Take him out! Take him out!” He pounded his own driver on the arm. “To the king.”

He’s not coming back” rang in his head. Obadiah pressed his palms against his ears. Mika had to be wrong. He followed Ahab to an acacia grove near the dip into the river valley.

Ahab sat panting on the deck of his chariot, his eyes open to the sky, his hand around the shaft of an arrow protruding from the armor over his shoulder.

Obadiah jumped out and knelt beside the royal chariot.

The king’s gaze rested on his right-hand man.

Blinking back tears, Obadiah held his hand over his mouth. “You’ll be fine, my king. Just fine.” He propped Ahab up against the chariot panel and straightened a leg that looked uncomfortable. “There. Now watch us whip Ben-Hadad.”

Ahab croaked, “Thanks, old friend. Get us a victory.”

Before he could burst into blubbering, Obadiah stepped back into his chariot and braced his feet. “Take me in.” As his chariot raced into the battle, he dabbed at his eyes. “Lord, please don’t let Ahab die.”

Shouts rose in Hebrew and Aramaic. Chariots crashed into chariots. Horses screamed in pain.

Zak and the King of Judah had disappeared into the clouds of dust and clashing soldiers.

A Syrian chariot captain missed Obadiah with a javelin and charged with another in his hand. Obadiah picked a javelin from his basket and threw screaming, “For King Ahab!” The missile stuck in the captain’s arm, and he slumped against his chariot rail.

Obadiah hit his driver on the shoulder. “Take me to the king.” He’s only been away from his friend for a moment, but the grove of acacias lay next to the fighting, and he had to see Ahab. His chariot raced through falling arrows, dodging Syrian and Hebrew troops lying wounded or dead.

As they rolled under the acacias, he leaped out. “My king.”

Ahab’s head moved in a tiny nod, but his eyes remained closed.

Obadiah knelt next to Ahab’s chariot beside the pooling blood. “They’re giving us a rough time, my king. But we’re holding our own.”

The king’s complexion had turned white.

Obadiah patted him on the knee. “We fought, but I always loved you.”

Ahab’s mouth twitched.

“Busy killing Syrians. Back in a moment.” His legs wobbled as he ducked away from Ahab’s chariot and into his own.

His driver raced them into the battle. Obadiah threw javelins and missed again and again. He wiped at sweat and dirt caked on his face.

The shadows grew long. Many had died, but the winner of the battle—Syria or Israel—was not clear.

“To the king.”

His driver raced them through the battlefield. As the chariot rolled into the acacias, Obadiah yelled, “We need old Hiel.” He jumped out and knelt by Ahab. “I’m no good out there without you, my king. I’m taking you home so you can rest up. We’ll come back and finish this together.”

Ahab’s lips gave a feeble flutter. “’gether.” Then his eyes closed and his chin slumped to his chest.

Obadiah lifted Ahab’s eyelids. The light had gone out. “My king!” He stumbled to his own chariot, choked, then whispered to his driver. “Tell General Jehu the king is dead.”

His chariot and driver disappeared into the battle.

Obadiah knelt by Ahab and lifted and let fall the metal armor plates which had shifted to give the arrow entry. He adjusted pulled the king’s tunic up around his neck. He couldn’t talk strategy with Ahab or convince him to stay home. The only thing he could do for his friend was adjust his clothing.

Several cries of, “The king is dead,” floated from the battlefield. Foot soldiers and archers emerged in twos and threes and drifted toward the Jordan River. As twilight settled in, drums on both sides beat a retreat. Neither side had won this battle, but the Hebrews had lost their king and would go home.

King Jehoshaphat, Zak, Jehu, Bidkar, and many lesser captains left their chariots on the outskirts of the acacias and collected around King Ahab.

Obadiah turned to Jehoshaphat. “Please, my king, lead us home.”

Leave a Comment