[WHO will take Howd’s snarky lines?]
Tishbe, Gilead, Israel, 7?? BC
Milkah squinted at Elijah. “You’ve got a strange look in your eye.”
“It’s a letter. I need Sheerah to write a letter for me.”
At the table after supper, Howd spluttered, “Judah?! What business do you have telling the King of Judah the price of pickles on the Parthenon?”
“None. I know.” He looked at his mother. “You must think I’ve really lost it this time.” She reached over and patted his hand.
“Just so we understand each other,” Who? continued. “It’s none of your business, but you’re … “
“But God’s telling me to write, Who?. I’m no writer — and you know what it’s like trying to make out my penmanship.”
“Okay,” Sheerah said. “I need background, but Who? interrupted just when it was getting good. You were saying Judah lost both Edom and Libnah? Talk to me.”
“That’s right. Edom and Libnah don’t pay Jerusalem a shekel these days. But those are sideline scuffles. The issue is Jehoram. He’s a real bad guy. See, King Jehoshaphat left cities and money to each of his children. He was rich, so they all had plenty. And he appointed Jehoram, his oldest, to take over when he died.”
“But king wasn’t enough for Jehoram. He got all the officials in Judah eating out of his hand except a certain few old friends of his father. These few, he called in for consultation and had his men murder the group of them. On that same morning, he had his death squads crashing the cities of his brothers, killing them and their families.”
Elijah’s father tapped the table. “Jehoram. Didn’t Ahab and Jezebel marry their daughter off to that the young prince?”
“The same little puppy, Dad. But now he’s full grown — with fangs.”
“And Athalia.That’s the daughter’s name?”
Elijah replied, “Maybe Ahab’s daughter is why I’m supposed to stick my nose into this thing up in Jerusalem. See, once Jehoram wiped out his brothers and the old officials loyal to his father, Athaliah had him set up Asherah temples all over Judah ─ just like the ones her mother Jezebel set up here in Israel.”
“So the issues are fratricide and whorehouses,” Who? stated.
Elijah grinned. “Nice try, Who?, but Professor Sheerah already taught me ‘fratricide.’ Anyway, Sheerah, you ready to write?”
Elijah dictated, Sheerah edited and wrote, and Nathan read over her shoulder.
As Sheerah blotted the ink dry, their father asked, “Now, Son, how will you send this terrible letter?”
“I’ll just have to walk it up there myself, Dad. Or maybe this week we’ll have a customer returning to Jerusalem.”
“Let me ask Pekah over at the academy. He’s going to visit his uncle in Jerusalem day after tomorrow, and while he’s away I’m tutoring three of his students.”
“Okay. I’ll seal the letter. We don’t want to scare the professor with what you wrote. Who?,, that candle, please.”
The next day, Sheerah took Elijah’s letter to the academy, and three days later, while Elijah, Nathan, and Who?, pruned their father’s grape vines in Tishbe, the professor put Elijah’s letter in the hands of the palace guard in Jerusalem. That evening, the king opened his mail.
The Lord, the God of your father David, says,
“You have gone far out of the path travelled by King Jehoshaphat and King Asa. You have put your feet in the footsteps of the kings of Israel. Just like your father-in-law, Ahab, made whoremongers of the Israelites, you have made whoring popular in Judah, even in Jerusalem.”
“Besides this, you murdered men better than you ─ your own brothers, sons of your father.”
“So, I will strike your nation, your sons, your wives ─ everything that is yours ─ including your bowels. I’m sending you a lingering disease of day-and-night pain while your bowels exit your body.”
Elijah the Tishbite
Just as the letter declared, the Lord stirred up the Philistines and Arabs near Ethiopia to invade the nation of Judah. They cleaned out Jehoram’s palace and carried off his wives and all his sons except Ahaziah, the youngest. The Lord also laid a horrible, painful disease on Jehoram. For the next two years his bowels dropped out piece by piece. Then he died.
Jehoram reigned eight dreadful years in Jerusalem, and no one was sorry to see him go. They skipped the customary funeral pyre and refused him a tomb with the kings.