24 Killers’ message

Samaria City, Samaria, Israel, 868 BC

1 Kings 18:3-4
In mid-afternoon, Obadiah returned to Gera’s shack and eased onto a bench beside his old friend. A breeze wiggled the long purple spikelets of bunchgrass. A few clouds drifted in but without the cool scent of a Mediterranean shower.

Obadiah smoothed the front of his tunic. “We made fast work inspecting three groves, and then at Qayin’s we ran into tree after tree infested with scale. Not leaf spot this time, but scale.”

That’s Qayin’s neglect again.” Gera shook his head. “I’m working on that boy.”

He’s your project.” Obadiah chuckled. “But I’ll take my men back tomorrow and cut and burn for a few hours. How’d your pruning go?”

Liev never made it, so I’m less than half done.” Gera rubbed the back of his neck. “Keren’s due any day now.” He slapped Obadiah on the knee. “Well. Let’s go bring the sabbath in.” He squeezed into the chariot with Obadiah and his men.

The driver flipped the reins, and the team trotted off, jostling the chariot wheels through the ruts and around the hill. They took the road into Samaria City and parked in front of Gera’s house. The sun hovered well out over the Mediterranean but still promised plenty of daylight.

Gera jumped off and headed up the path.

Three thick men with red hair strode out—the slave traders who had sold the little girls to the Asherah official.

Gera dashed around them.

A thick man leered at Obadiah. “Looking for somebody?”

Obadiah clenched his jaw and growled. His guards jumped off the chariot gripping their spears with two hands.

Stand down, men.” Obadiah lifted his chin and crossed his arms. “That scum belongs to King Ethbaal in Tyre. I can’t touch them.”

Cackles floated back from the three as they strode up the street toward the plaza.

Gera’s scream cut the air.

Obadiah’s gut churned. He and his guards thundered through the trees to the gate.

Gera knelt by Liev on the other side of the courtyard. Liev lay on the doorstep with his mother, Hodiah, sprawled next to him. She sobbed and pressed her cheek against his face.

Obadiah flipped the gate open and flew across the courtyard. He knelt beside Gera and stared open-mouthed at the large slit in Liev’s throat.

Gera stroked Liev’s chest. “My boy. My boy. Look what they’ve done to you.”

Not our Liev.

Keren waddled out the door with her hand at her back, the new baby riding low in her tummy.

Obadiah raised his hands to keep her inside the house. She shouldn’t see the blood crusted on Liev’s tunic of his purple face. The whole scene was wrong for her. Wrong.

She brushed him aside and knelt next to Liev and tried to close the gap in his throat with her fingers. She clenched her fists, threw her head back, and glared into the sky. Her mouth opened wide, but with no sound. Bending her head low, she took a deep breath, raised again and screamed.

Liev’s three-year-old tumbled out the door and spread his arms. He leaned his face into his mother’s robe and rocked with her cries. His little brother whimpered in the open doorway.

The next-door neighbor dashed up the path, and the guards stopped him at the gate. “It was those slavers, Biah.” He shouted across the courtyard. “They were kicking a little girl, and Liev made ‘em stop.” Obadiah waved him in. He jogged over and knelt with the little group. He wept and clutched Obadiah’s arm.

Sharp pangs gripped Obadiah’s chest. He clutched his head with clenched fists. Pain rippled through him, and he yelled an ancient complaint into the sky. “Why, Lord? Why do you stand so far off?”i Obadiah’s cry died in the trees.

Hodiah clutched at Gera’s arm and tangled her fingers in his beard. “Oh, Gera! Gera!” She smothered her face in his shoulder. “I just sent him out for bread and fish. That’s all. Just bread and fish. And he didn’t come home, and he didn’t come home. We thought you took him to prune the trees.” A tear dripped from her cheek. “Bread and fish, Gera. Just bread and fish.”

i Psalm 10:1

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