Samaria City, Israel, 868 BC
1 Kings 16:29-33
Obadiah’s chariot wheeled through the Samaria City gate for his monthly inspection of olive groves.
A young girl groaned and fell, jerking a chain of thirty-some girls to a halt.
Obadiah lifted his hand to his driver, and the chariot stopped.
A thick-set, red-haired slaver poked her with his stick. “Up, girlie. You’re almost there.”
Obadiah clenched his fists. “‘He shows no mercy, but persecutes the poor.’”i He had supervised olive oil production in Samaria, six years for King Omri and two years for King Ahab. A steady flow of customers circulated openly through the plaza to the Asherah temple, but the temple prostitutes had been delivered when Obadiah was out of town.
“Biah!” King Ahab and ten guards trotted down the steps from the palace veranda. “Come see the marble I just installed.” He beckoned. “You’ve got the whole week to inspect olive groves.”
“Good morning, my king.” Obadiah stepped down from his chariot and let the hint of a frown drift across his face.
“Set a guard at my mouth, Lord.”ii Don’t let me put my family in danger.
The girl struggled to her feet and took a step.
The other little girls shuffled with her, each pair of eyes lowered to the heels of the child ahead.
Ahab turned his gaze from the girls and leaned against Obadiah’s chariot wheel. “How’s Yedidah? The kids?”
A light breeze under a pale blue sky tossed winter leaves the new growth of spring had pushed free. [where?iii]
“You must bring them up before the summer heat sets in.”
Obadiah’s stomach churned. Ahab’s lack of compassion rivaled that of King Omri before him. With one breath Omri had joked about horse racing, and with the next he had instructed his guards in the garroting of children.
Red-haired slavers herded the line of girls. [WHAT line of girls? Keep them in view.] iv One slaver led, one strutted beside the girls, and a third followed with a baggage camel.
The camel bleated, a donkey brayed from behind a fruit stand, and the chain clanked on the plaza paving stones as the line of girls stuttered around the corner of the temple.
“Top grade marble, Biah. Inside and out.” Ahab led him to the porch and spanked a column. “Good as temples in Sidon or Zarephath. Maybe better.” He let his hand linger on the stone. “We can entertain guests from any capital in the world.”
Obadiah swallowed hard.
You’re my hiding place, Lord.v
“Please, my king, I don’t understand how these little children who suffer in your temple mean nothing to you.”
“The girls? They like what they do.” Ahab shrugged. “Once they get cleaned up and trained. We feed them right, you know.” He checked the manicure on his fingernails. “And their income buys chariots and troops.”
Obadiah pressed his lips into a fine line. “Beautiful marble porch, my king. What’s at the back?” He tipped his head toward the departing girls and grasped Ahab by the elbow.
“Wha…?” Ahab stiffened and glanced at his guards.
Obadiah turned to the guards and curled his lips in a slight smile. “I seem to remember a certain young prince who led me away from the safety of the fort to race on an empty road without attendants.” He squeezed Ahab’s elbow. “Join me in the open spaces behind this temple, my king, but bring these young men and their spears.”
The guards grinned. [sharpen Obadiah’s challenge?]vi
Ahab chuckled and cocked his head. “Let’s go.”
i Psalm 109:16
ii Psalm 141:3
iv WHAT line of girls? Keep them in view.
visharpen Obadiah’s challenge?