“Do you know why I chose you for this job?”
Elisha glanced quickly around the market. “You’re young and unknown. No one here in Jezreel or over in Ramoth will look at you and think, ‘Important task today.’”
He grinned. “Never happened yet, Sir.” His head bobbed.
“So we keep it that way, understand? What I’m going to tell you has to remain a secret from everyone. Forever.”
The keeper of secrets scowled. “Everyone. Forever.”
“Where is Commander Jehu right now?”
“Why, the commander’s in Ramoth Gilead with our troops.”
“Would you know Commander Jehu when you see him?”
“Yes, sir. Everybody knows Jehu.” Or at least they recognized Jehu’s big broad nose.
“Take this flask of oil. Go to Ramoth and find Commander Jehu.”
The boy took the flask and checked the stopper. Ramoth was a long hike.
“Get the commander off in a room alone and pour this oil on his head. And here’s what to say: ‘Thus says the Lord, I anoint you king over Israel.’ Then run. Don’t stop for anybody.”
“Got it. King over Israel and run.” Easy peasy. And the hike under the stars might even be fun.
“Leave the fort right now. I don’t want anyone asking you anything. Here’s water and pitas. It’s an all night trip.”
The boy looked down. Three flatbreads and a skin of water for the tramp to Ramoth? “Um, sir. Um…”
“What?” The man from Elijah grimaced. “Oh, of course. You’re a growing boy. Ramoth. And back again.” He dug into his purse and laid several tiny pieces of silver in the boy’s hand. “Put the bread in your bag and go buy what else you need.” He glanced at the fruit and vegetable displays at the edge of the plaza. “I’ll say goodbye right here. The Lord bless you on your mission. I’m counting on you.”
The boy jogged over to the nearest shop. Elisha counted on him. Elisha used to run with old Elijah of Tishbe. Wow. He bought apples, figs, five pitas to go with the original three, and a small skin of red wine.
He jogged out the gate and turned toward the Jordan River. In the cool evening breeze, his strides ate up the road, and by midnight he had crossed the Jordan and the King’s Highway. He settled into a fast walk under the twinkling stars and soon left Jabesh far behind. He slept a few hours by a boulder deep in Gilead.
When the sun peeked over the horizon, he rolled away from the boulder and got going again. Half way through the morning, the aroma of fresh-pressed garlic and fish roasting together announced Ramoth.
He walked up to the huge old house which served as army headquarters. Commander Jehu sat in the yard with several of his officers. “A message for you, commander.”
Jehu turned his broad nose toward him. “For which one of us, lad?”
“For you, sir.”
Jehu led the boy into the house and closed the door.
The boy brought out the flask. “Sit still, please, commander. This is from the Lord.” He poured the oil on the commander’s head.
“The Lord says, ‘I anoint you king over the people of the Lord, over Israel. I commission you to destroy the family of your master Ahab and to avenge on Jezebel the blood of my servants. You are to cut down every male in the entire family of Ahab, slave or free. You will purge his family, just like I cleaned out the families of Jeroboam son of Nebat and of Baasha son of Ahijah. The dogs in Jezreel will eat Jezebel, so that no one can bury her.’”
The boy shuddered. Where did those terrible words come from? He bolted from the house and slammed the door behind him. Dashed past the officers in the yard and sprinted up the street as though a pack of wild dogs yapped and snapped at his heels.
A lieutenant eyed him. “Um, sir. Do you know you have oil in your hair? And beard. On your tunic, too.”
The commander patted his beard. Oil, of course. The boy had emptied a flask on him.
“Are you okay? What did that crazy-looking kid want?”
“Oh, nothing. You know how some people just like to babble.” Jehu’s smile didn’t stick.
The lieutenant smirked. “Yah! Right! Come on, what did he say?”
Jehu scooted back from their stares. If he would be king, he had to act now. Taking each officer in turn, Jehu looked him in the eye before he spoke. “The boy’s message? Word for word. ‘Thus says the Lord, I anoint you king over Israel.’”
“King!” They jumped up wide-eyed. A lieutenant blew a trumpet. “Jehu is king!”
They threw their robes onto the step of the mansion, and a lieutenant smoothed the robes. “Your throne, my king.”
They bowed, but Jehu stood by the pile of robes. He did not sit. These men had come up through the ranks with him under King Omri and King Ahab. They knew the value of decision and quick action. “Thank you.” He turned to the pile of robes. “I shall always remember this, my first throne. If you want to make me king, we have some things to accomplish.”
He pointed to the lieutenant who challenged him about oil in his hair. “I’m putting you in charge. Make sure no one leaves Ramoth. I want no news to precede me into Jezreel. But tomorrow morning, you are to bring the troops to me at Fort Jezreel.”
The lieutenant nodded. “Yes, sir. Yes… my king.”
He pointed to three other officers. I need you, you, and you to follow me now in your chariots. Jehu climbed into his chariot and headed west. He crossed the Jordan River and raced past Beitshan and up the valley. When Fort Jezreel came in sight, Jehu’s furious driving had left his three lieutenants behind but in sight.
A rider on a fast horse from the fort met Jehu in the valley. “Do you come in peace?”
“You want peace? Fall in behind me.”
A second rider from the fort approached.
Jehu pointed to the first. “Ride with him.”
Two chariots rolled out from the fort. One flew the colors of Joram, king of Israel, the other of Jehoahaz, king of Judah.
King Joram met Jehu on the valley road. “Do you bring peace, Jehu?”
“How can there be peace with the whoredoms and sorceries of your mother Jezebel?”
“Treason!” Joram reined his team around to run.
But Jehu put an arrow in his bow and pulled back with all his strength. He sent it straight into Joram’s back and out through his heart. He wheeled around next to Joram’s stalled chariot and let his officer Bidkar down. “Dump him in the field that belonged to Naboth of Jezreel. Remember when you and I drove chariots side-by-side and heard the word of the Lord from Elijah. For the blood of Naboth and for the blood of his children—I swear I will repay on this very plot of ground. So, throw him in that field, like the Lord said.”
Jehu’s trailing lieutenants caught up as Jehoahaz, the other king, whipped his horses off toward the Garden House.
Jehu gave chase. “Kill him, too!” Their arrows struck Jehoahaz as he climbed the rise by Ibleam, and he sagged onto the deck of his chariot.
“Let him go. He’ll never live through the night.” Jehu wheeled around. “Bigger business in the fort.”
When Jehu’s chariot rolled into the courtyard, Queen Jezebel appeared in a third-floor window of her apartment overlooking the plaza. The bodice of her best gown showed in the window frame. Fresh curls puffed her blue hair evenly around her face, where recent layers of powder and paint covered the wrinkles.
Jezebel smirked and squinted hard. “Greetings, Commander Jehu. I’m sure you remember Zimri the chariot commander. He murdered his master, but he found no peace.”
Jehu brought his horses around into position. Peace? She brought only murder and lies. He brought peace. The peace which followed the storm. Jehu yelled. “Is anybody up there on my side?”
Two palace eunuchs looked out.
Jehu smiled. Yes. Good, strong men.
“Throw her down!”
Jezebel held her chin high. “You animals.” Her nostrils flared. “Don’t touch me!”
The eunuchs seized her arms, but she screamed and tore at their tunics. They tried to push her through the window, but she splayed her legs and bit at their wrists. Finally one wrapped his arms around her legs and the other embraced her flailing arms and torso. They poked her nicely curled blue head out the window and then shoved.
The queen dropped headfirst onto the pavement. Jehu whipped his horses forward, and their huge hoofs stomped the fine dress and flattened the fancy hair. They squashed her chest and snapped her bones.
Jehu wheeled his team around. Had his horses done a thorough job? Her blood trailed down the wall and dripped from the horses’ legs.
Jehu glanced at the sun hovering low over the Mediterranean. He needed food and drink. He went into headquarters and ordered dinner. When he finally pushed back from the table, he turned to his lieutenants. “Take care of that cursed woman. Bury her. She was a king’s daughter, after all.”
His men went out, but one came back wide-eyed, his lips quivering. “I never saw such a thing. I found her skull, and then we looked all over. The other guys finally found the soles of her feet and the palms of her hands.”
Jehu stood and pulled on his gloves. “I heard Elijah the Tishbite tell how─on this very plot of ground─dogs would devour the flesh of that woman. He said she would be dung on the ground, so that no one could say for certain, ‘Here is the body of Jezebel.’”
He beckoned to his secretary. “Take a letter.” Jehu leaned on the window sill. “To the guardians of Ahab’s children. And make it to the officials of Jezreel, too. Tell them something like… ‘You have Ahab’s seventy sons in your care, so this is your chance to rule. Pick the best, the most worthy son and make him your king. You’ve got chariots and horses, a fortified city. Everything you need. No one can stand before you.’”
When the lieutenant read it back to him, Jehu turned from the window with a smile. “Send it via my fastest couriers.”
That evening, a courier jogged in the gate of the fort and up the path to the headquarters. “From the elders of Samaria City.”
The guard laughed. “Jehu said you’d be here tonight.” He opened the door. “He’s waiting for you.”
Jehu stood, took the letter, and handed the courier a cup of wine. He scanned the letter and pointed to bear skin rugs around a low table. Bowls overflowed with cheeses, nuts, and grapes. A short stack of fresh pitas stood by wine and water in cut-glass carafes. “Stoke your furnace, my man. I’ll soon have a return message for you to haul.”
He turned to a lieutenant seated with scroll and pen. “Ready, my scribe?” Jehu again leaned into the window sill. “To the same elders in both cities.” He drummed his fingers on the sill. “Thank them for their letter of support. And then tell them the best way to show their obedience is to bring the heads of their master’s sons to me in Jezreel at noon tomorrow.”
He turned to the lieutenant who had commented about the oil in his hair. “When those heads come in tomorrow, I need you to pile them right out in front of the fort gate where everybody has to brush past them. I don’t want dogs or jackals dragging them away, so place all-night guards.”
Two mornings later, Jehu went out to the gate and stood tall and broad-nosed before a somber crowd. “Not to worry, folks. You are innocent. I am guilty. I conspired against my master and killed him. Hmm…” He turned toward the rotting heads and stroked his chin with his thumb and forefinger. “But who killed all these?”
Jehu faced the crowd. “Know this. The Lord will perform every word he has spoken against the house of Ahab.” He rubbed his neck and breathed a long sigh “And the Lord has done what he announced through his servant Elijah.”