6b Shemer’s hill – Jezebel + Merom

Samaria City, Israel, 871 BC

1 Kings 16:24-28

Make Obadiah’s position clear up front.

Tell me, my prince, does Jezebel really have fourteen hairdressers?” Obadiah pointed a cucumber spear at Ahab. He sat at a small table in the center of the veranda of the King Jeroboam Inn.

On the other side of the table a belly laugh bounced out of Ahab. “Many servants do seem to follow her around, but I have no idea what they do.”

Obadiah dipped the cucumber in olive oil and cast a careful glance at the prince. Ahab’s latest wife had come with the usual band of servants. She had also moved four hundred Asherah priests into headquarters. Although Obadiah could joke with Ahab about servants, he could not determine a safe way to question Ahab about having these four hundred cobras in the house.

Obadiah’s driver jogged up the path and peered in between the gate guards. “Bring you a grove manager, sir?”

Obadiah shook his head. “The sun’s barely out of bed. I’ve got all day to interview managers.” He pointed to a table. “The food’s good. Grab a bite.”

The driver sat alone by the gate, and a servant brought him wine, cucumbers, cheeses and bread.

Take your time.” Obadiah stared at the bend where the path skirted an ancient oak. Ahab’s latest wife had moved four hundred Asherah priests into headquarters. The hiring of grove managers could wait. But could Obadiah vent to his old horse-racing buddy in safety?

Chords of a lyre came from the dining room behind them and mingled with a yellowhammer’s song in the olive trees that lined both sides of the veranda. From across the threshing floor, the ping of hammers and the ffft-ffft of saws mingled with the shouts of workmen building King Omri’s palace. Obadiah probed WHAT? with a cucumber spear. “Did King Ethbaal send the servants [ What servants? Who’s king Ethbaal? How does it tie to this alliance? ] as a package deal, my prince?”

Ahab waved the question away. “Come on, Biah. You know why we need the alliance with Tyre.”

Obadiah nibbled his cucumber and cast a careful glance at Ahab. The ancient threat of the Assyrian bear had prompted the sheep to ask the wolf for protection.

Sunlight reflected off fresh puddles where the path curved around an ancient oak. The local blacksmith came up the path, but the gate guards shooed him away. “Reserved.”

The driver lifted his chin and eyebrows, but Obadiah shook his head. [ What does this communication mean?]

Alliance.” Obadiah enunciated each syllable. [ confused LOL. I wonder if when you mention what happens and how he wants to vent if it might help to elaborate on his position ahead of time… might prep the reader? Technically it probably falls into telling or introspection, but I’d take that any day over confusion LOL

] “In Fort Jezreel, even children can pronounce the word.” He glanced around and shared a smile with the guards. “But their parents wonder how the four hundred Asherah priests she moved into the fort will protect them from the four hundred thousand Assyrian soldiers camped on Bashan.”

Grunts of agreement rose from guards all around the veranda.

Ha!” Ahab jabbed a finger at him but then lowered his head as Obadiah’s point sank in..

Obadiah crossed his arms. “When I want to be alone with my wife, I don’t need four hundred priests listening under the window.” Nor when he wanted to sleep in peace, did he invite a cobra into the bedroom. [ this i’m kinda lost cause I didn’t understand the point above]

He tapped Ahab’s empty cup, and a servant stepped forward. The man poured the cup half full of dark purple wine, collected the plates of nibbled food, and handed them to a second man at the dining room door. He set full plates of cucumbers, cheeses and pitas on the table and waited again by the door.

Ahab straightened a cucumber slice and scratched the back of his neck. “You don’t understand. You can’t understand. I’ve seen how Yedidah’s eyes light up for you. I bet she marked you for her own when she first you playing tag in the village. But my wives will never look at me like she looks at you. They came as gifts from across the border.” how does this relate to the 400 priests he talked about?

The driver made a show of pushing his empty plate away and tipping his wine cup to his mouth.

Obadiah held eye contact with Ahab while he shook his head at the driver. “When this last gift arrived, my prince, why didn’t you send the four hundred priests back to Tyre?” In other words, grab a broom and push the snake out of the house.

Ahab cursed under his breath. “Jezebel’s father does not take kindly to those who tell him to leave his servants at home.”

Love me, love my dog.” Obadiah smirked. The guards held their faces straight and mouths closed. Let Obadiah push his luck, but silence was their safety.

Laugh if you wish, Biah. Ethbaal’s got connections, and we need the income.” Do the priests bring income? what is the point of them being there?

For troops and chariots, I know. You sound like your father.”

I need to start sounding like him.” Ahab brushed the air with the backs of his hands as if he cleared away smoke.

Just don’t go testing the feel of your bottom on the throne this afternoon, my prince.”

The driver cleared his throat, and Obadiah shushed him with a raised finger.this repeated thing with the driver does help separater the interview portion of the story, making that easier to follow 🙂 Good job 🙂

Ahab glanced out the path and across the plaza. “My father rebuilt this nation. When he took over, enemies no longer trembled at our name. Our only glory was ancient sailors who brought gold from Ophir. Taxes that once came from Edom. Forced labor we used to send to Lebanon.”

Obadiah’s mouth twitched. Speech coming. Time for humor. “You been talking with the historian?”

My father—” Ahab narrowed his eyes, pushed up the sleeves of his tunic, and rolled right over Obadiah’s sarcasm. ahhh this helps. I didn’t catch it was sarcastic before

“—my father brought Moab under our heel.” He tipped his head at the nearby olive trees. “He created this olive oil business you’re running. He built this city and this plaza.” He stood and pointed at the construction site. “And now this palace.”

I admire King Omri’s strength as much as you do.”

Ahab plopped back into his chair. “Well it all takes silver, Biah. We befriend King Ethbaal because he’s a business leader.”

You know my opinion about Ethbaal’s businesses.” Obadiah sneered and turned his back.

Two golden orioles twittered at the corner of the veranda while a third flew across and hid deep inside the branches of an olive tree.

Obadiah cocked his head at the driver. “Maybe see if we have any applicants.”

The man jogged out the path.

Ahab reached over the table and grasped Obadiah’s shoulder. “Do you have any idea how much Ethbaal makes off his temples? He saw the cash flow when he was a young Asherah boss, so the moment he stepped up to the throne, he took over the temple in Tyre.”

Obadiah spoke unmoved. “Stepped up, my prince? Ethbaal slit the king’s throat and kicked his corpse out the door.”

Ahab clenched his jaw. “That’s why my father’s bodyguards train every day and scout each situation. Look, Ethbaal knows business. He put his lieutenants into the temples at Zarephath and Sidon. Nobody’s publishing numbers, but he’s stacking bags of silver in his treasury from—.”

Obadiah turned and cut Ahab off with a wave of his hand. “Everyone at this end of the Mediterranean wants to talk about the silver King Ethbaal will rake in from temple number four in Byblos and number five on Cyprus. But no one wants to talk about the stench from the children you want to enslave in your whorehouse temple.” But most of the exchange I really don’t understand the reasons for their views, just what side they are on

Biah, why do you get so …” Ahab ran a hand through his hair. “This is good business.”

Wrong.” Obadiah shook his head.

Obadiah’s driver strode around the oak and up to the gate. “Twelve applicants for grove manager, sir.”]

Obadiah’s driver strode around the ancient oak at the edge of the threshing floor and up the path to the gate. “Twelve applicants for grove manager, sir.”

Thank you.” Obadiah opened his hands to the driver. “Bring one in.”

The driver gave a quick nod and jogged out the path.

Obadiah nibbled his cucumber. “Twelve applicants. We’re looking at a long day of interviewing. You sure you want to listen in on all twelve?”

Ahab sipped his wine. “I’ll hang around for a while. The food’s good, and I’ll learn a head full about the olive oil business.”

Chords of a lyre drifted from the dining room behind them and mingled with the notes of a yellowhammer singing in the olive trees along the edge of the veranda. From across the threshing floor, the ping of hammers and the ffft-ffft of saws mingled with the shouts of workmen building King Omri’s palace.

Sunlight reflected off fresh puddles where the path curved around an ancient oak. The local blacksmith came up the path, but the gate guards shooed him away. “Reserved.”

Obadiah tapped Ahab’s empty cup, and a servant stepped forward. The man poured the cup half full of dark purple wine, collected the plates of nibbled food, and disappeared into the dining room. In a moment he reappeared and set full plates of cucumbers, cheeses and pitas on the table.

He sighed. “Olive oil is a good business, but sometimes I fear your father overestimates my abilities. He hopes I make money for him with up here with olives at the same time that I manage his affairs down at the fort.”

What my father overestimates is your speed.” Ahab twitched his lips. “You’ve only hired three managers in three days. Twelve men out there want to work for you.” He shrugged. “Hire them.”

The good ones, my prince. The good ones. That fellow, Gera, I hired yesterday. He’s the kind I’m looking for.”

The driver led a man toward the door.

Ahab stood. “Here comes olive grove manager number four.”

The guards at the gate stood, and those on the perimeter shuffled their feet.

A handsome man with a neatly trimmed beard and a light gray cloak strode behind the driver. His purple head scarf wound around his head turban style.

Obadiah stood but did not speak. Merom. How did he get in here? The man’s haggard wife and dirty children in Shiloh came to mind—in their house with the crumbling roof tile and the front door that pushed open in the wind for want of a latch, and the man’s voluptuous mistress and her five bastards in Bethel and the pretty girl who minced along by his side in Lebonah.

Merom entered with long strides and extended his hand.

Obadiah shied as if the hand came from a leper.

A guard by the gate gasped.

Merom’s mouth hung open, his gaze flitted from Obadiah to Ahab to Obadiah, and he lowered his hand.

Ahab stood to one side and gawked.

Merom lit up his face with a brass smile. “Good to see you again, Biah. I was glad to hear you’re hiring grove managers. You know my record. Ten years at Shiloh. Every tree greener and more olives. When would you like me to start?” He gave Obadiah a wide smile.

Obadiah squinted. Silence did not faze the man. Was he completely false, or did he have no clue about his reputation?

Merom jutted his chin and glanced toward the dining room. “Smells good. They got garlic and onions on that?”

Obadiah squared his shoulders. “Actually, we won’t be needing you. I’m sorry to waste your time, but there’s been a mix-up, and we can’t use you.”

Ahab took a step back.

Merom glanced at Ahab, at the guards by the entrance, and then at guards at the edge of the veranda. He turned back toward Obadiah, opened his mouth, but said nothing.

Obadiah raised his chin. “I’ve got another appointment, and I’m sure you have a full schedule. My driver will show you out.”

Merom followed the driver down the path. As he rounded the oak, he lowered his eyebrows and flicked a glance back at Obadiah.

Ahab jumped to Obadiah’s side. “Why did you tell that man, no?”

Business basics, my prince.”

Ahab slapped his head. “Ai-yah! You’re impossible. Did I hear wrong? The man’s been doing groves for ten years.”

You heard right.” Obadiah lifted his chin and spoke in a low voice. “Ten years at Shiloh. Every tree greener. More olives.”

So why wouldn’t you talk with him?” Ahab blocked the way to the gate, faced Obadiah, and folded his arms.

Obadiah planted his feet wide, locked eyes with Ahab, and drew himself up to his full height. “He cheats on his wife, my prince. Any man who cheats on his wife will cheat on me.”

Ahab pointed to the empty path. “Call him back, you idiot. Hire him!”

Obadiah let the hint of a smile drift across his face. “You’re not king yet, my prince.”

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