Obadiah hopped into Ahab’s chariot and cocked his head at the hawk which soared over their heads. A fresh breeze whispered from an almond grove behind them. “Feel it, my king. ‘The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear.’”
“I’ll show you what I feel, Biah.” Ahab tapped the driver, and they took the back road from Jokneam up onto Mount Carmel. They stepped off the chariot and waded through waving grass to the edge of the bluff.
Ahab sighed. “Last year at Dothan I told you that fight wasn’t over until we had their king. Well, spring is here, but instead of flowers, we get Ben-hadad.”
Syrian red tunics covered the valley from Aphek to Acco and all along the coast.
Obadiah turned toward Megiddo.
Israel’s entire army camped at the crossroads. Yet, compared to the never-ending hordes of Syrians, they looked like two small flocks of goats.
“Check out their chariots.” Ahab pointed to the far side of Aphek. Red chariots parked in fleet after fleet next to tens of thousands of horses on picket lines.
Obadiah let out a low whistle. “I wonder how many bags of silver left Ben-hadad’s treasury to build those battle wagons.”
“You know he spent a pretty fortune on the horses and troops alone.” Ahab muttered.
“I bet he paid more for strategy than for horses.” Obadiah cleared his throat. “My kids like this one.
“Think Damascus. The palace. Everybody gathers in the great hall.” Obadiah took a step to the side. “The official who wears the most loyal turban comes forth and bows to Ben-hadad.” Obadiah gave a sweeping bow. He pasted on a frown, reached into his belly, and pulled up a deep, hollow voice. “‘It was the hill gods, my king.’”
Ahab punched him in the shoulder. “You’re good, Biah.”
Obadiah bowed. “Thanks.” He returned to his deep, deep stage voice. “‘The gods of Israel own those hills, Ben-hadad, sir.’” Obadiah pulled a dark scowl over his face. He crouched, shaded his eyes with his hand, and scoured the horizon. “‘But fighting in the open is second nature to our gods. We’ll meet ’em on the plains and thrash ’em good!’”
Ahab slapped him on the back. “You could infiltrate the Syrian officials with that act.”
Obadiah straightened. “Thanks. I’ll tell my boys.”
With long strides, Ahab led the way back to his chariot. “Mikey said the Lord does not appreciate the Syrians calling him ‘hill gods.’ Pass the word. We attack at dawn.”
Obadiah climbed in beside him. Ahab knew battle strategy. And he seemed to appreciate what the Lord was saying through Mikey. Obadiah’s old friend had so much going for him. “May the Lord bless you as you lead us into this battle, my king.”
The next afternoon near Aphek, men in red tunics with the yellow-winged torch of Syria lay scattered on both sides of the road. A few moaned or moved. Flies buzzed around most. Several vultures stood and pecked on corpses while hundreds more circled lower and lower.
Obadiah spoke to his chariot driver. “Mikey was right. The Lord did not enjoy being called ‘hill gods.’” They stopped next to Ahab’s chariot.
Seven men knelt in the dirt with their faces up toward Ahab. In addition to their Syrian uniforms, they wore sackcloth around their waists and ropes on their heads.
Ahab pursed his lips and leaned over his chariot rail. “Is he still alive? He is my brother.”
The men in sackcloth shot glances at each other, bowed, and scurried away toward the city.
“What was that all about, my king?”
“Ben-hadad.” Ahab watched the men in sackcloth disappear into Aphek. “They’re bringing him to me. Or so they say.”
Obadiah leaned back in his chariot. “Our humongous victory puts you in a good mood, my king. But those sackcloth guys will never find Ben-hadad. Last year at Dothan you wiped out his army, yet he eluded your grasp. This year he’s trotting northeast through the hills on a horse he loosed from a battle wagon.”
Ahab tossed his head. “If those jokers do produce Ben-hadad, I plan to get back some cities and put my markets in Damascus.”
“Well, my king, you know how to lead troops. But it looks to this country boy like you don’t need that whipped puppy’s permission to get cities or markets. Just lift Ben-hadad’s head from between his shoulders.”
Ahab only jutted his chin forward and rocked back on his heels.
Obadiah cocked his head. What was going on in Ahab’s head? He was so bright in so many ways. But diplomacy? Not his forte. Ah, well. Obadiah didn’t have time to play royal nurse maid. “My king, I’ve killed enough Syrians for one day. I need a bath and play time with my kids.” He touched his driver on the arm. “Take me home.”