Jezreel Valley, Israel, 868? BC
1 Kings 18:3-4
Micaiah marched again with Assyrian troops, but they passed the cutoff to Samaria City and were closing in on Fort Jezreel.
The fort was a trap.
He must deliver the Lord’s message to the palace in Samaria City. The moment a boulder hid him from sentries, he bounced off the road and into the bushes. He crouched, climbed into the hills, and surfaced on the ridge road to Samaria. He hiked north.
Women in iron-gray robes with matching turbans led donkeys piled high with melons, pears, yams, or chickens in bamboo baskets. Young girls drove gaggles of geese and herds of sheep. No uniforms, chariots, sentries, or flags.
Micaiah pulled a pomegranate from his pack and tore away the skin. He broke out sections of the fruit. The juice stained his fingers red, and he crunched the seeds between his teeth. He stretched and bounce in his stride and sang, “The meek shall inherit the earth and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”
An old man wearing a checkered gray and white turban wrapped high on his head led a donkey hung with clusters of pots, shovels, and axes.
Micaiah shut down his song and bounced up beside them. He bent over the donkey and inhaled. The aroma of home filled his eyes with tears. For how many months had he been cooped up in that cave, unable to rub against donkey, goat, or cow. “The Lord be with you, sir. She’s a beautiful beast.”
“The Lord be with you, son.” The old man squinted at him and lowered his head. “She’s that all right. Old Beor’s a beauty. Smart, too.”
Micaiah probed for information. “Down in the valley, seems like Assyrians are racing to take over.”
“Hmpf! They won that race, son. Not safe to move about down there.”
“Yes sir. Safe up here in the hills, though, eh?”
“Don’t you go believing it, young man. They’ll soon be surrounding the king in his palace.”
Micaiah paused in mid-bounce. How did this old man know the king’s location? How long before the Assyrians learned the king was not in Fort Jezreel but in the palace at Samaria City? “May the Lord give you a profitable day at market, sir.”
“Good day to you, son. Want to survive in the new order, best be brushing up on your Aramaic.”
“I’ll do that, sir.” Micaiah suppressed a chuckle. Everyone in his village had been speaking Aramaic for many years. He waved goodbye and strode on ahead.
Long after dark he found familiar paths on the outskirts of Samaria City. Next to the little hut where Uncle Gera managed the olive groves, Micaiah sat on the bench and unlaced his sandals. Uncle Gera would find him here in the morning and take him with his message to the king.
He rubbed his aching feet, and turned up the corners of his mouth. Last night he slept under a stone roof with the brush of bat wings and the dark splash of a stream. Tonight he lay under shimmery stars among the songs of toads and crickets.
He refilled his water skin from the tiny spring that bubbled beside the hut. He opened his pack and nibbled his remaining flatbread, a handful of raisins, and two figs.
The old man with the smart donkey was right. Assyrian troops would soon surround the king in his palace. But not tonight.