7. To tell the king

Tishbe, Gilead, Israel, 870 BC
1 Kings 17:1

Elijah pressed his hand against his swollen jaw and marched into the house. “I’m going to Fort Jezreel, Mother, and I won’t be back for supper.”

Her coal-black eyes widened in alarm. “Fort Jezreel? But, son!”

Sheerah looked up. “You can’t leave now, Lijah. It’s almost the Feast of Trumpets.”

“Trumpets. Shmupets.” He reached past her for a cucumber. “I’ll be back tomorrow.

Mother’s lips parted, and she stared at him. “The queen’s men, son. Your father’s friends in Jabesh rescued you, but we don’t know anyone at the fort.”

Elijah plopped onto a goatskin between his parents while he chomped on bread and cucumber.

Dad laid his hand on Elijah’s forearm. “Fort Jezreel might be a longer hike than you think. And you haven’t been listening to your mother.”

Elijah put an arm around Mother and gazed into her tear-brimmed eyes. He waved toward his brother. Nathan sat head in hands. He hadn’t said a word since last night when he dragged in on Balaam. “They killed Nathan’s friend. We couldn’t stop them, Mother, but somebody’s got to tell the king, burning babies is wrong.”

Her cheeks paled. “Not my little boy.” She touched the crusted-over gash in his forehead and let her trembling fingers brush his split lip and puffy eyes.

“For Omar, Mother. Little Omar.” He pulled a bowl of fresh figs close. “All right if I grab a few?” He opened his pack and dropped in six. Then two more.

“Dad, you still have that old goatskin robe?”

“Huh! You don’t want that, son. Moths found it.”

Elijah slipped out the door into the cool light of dawn. He jogged past the well as a crested lark warbled its familiar whee-whee-wheeoo. “Good morning to you, too. I’m going to the fort.”

Behind the wine building, next to the donkey pen, he opened the door to the shed and found Dad’s old robe of goatskins. He fingered several bare spots where moths had eaten the hair.

Back in the house, he shrugged into the rough skin. “Scratchy.”

“Pee-ew!” Sheerah wrinkled her nose. “The lord of hair.”

He shucked the robe. “Just the thing.” Elijah opened his pack and folded in the robe.

Mother’s lips quivered. “In Jezreel they’ll kill you.”

“They’re not going to touch me, Mother.”

She stood and gazed full into Elijah’s face. “But the fort. The king. You’re only a boy.”

Sheerah slipped her arm into his. “Does my little brother think he’s David, the shepherd lad, visiting the field of battle?”

“Oh, yeah. That’s me, Sheers. I just can’t find my trusty sling and five smooth stones.” He wrapped a clean cloth around flatbreads and slid them into his pack beside the goatskin.

Sheerah wrinkled her nose. “The sun’s going to cook that bread all day in the stink of that hide.”

Elijah grinned. From the pantry, he added a small skin of red wine. “Okay, Mother?” Figs, a brick of raisins, and a piece of cheese dropped into another cloth, and he laced the flap over it all.

Dad held up a hand. “Your mother’s right, son.”

Mother’s tears had spilled and left her eyes dry and red.

Elijah stood silent for several breaths.

Stop bouncing around. You need Mother and Dad’s blessing.

He found Dad’s face and swallowed but held his gaze steady. “My father.” Elijah took a deep breath. “I didn’t want it to be real. So when that priest shoved that little baby in the fire, I hid in your arms. I couldn’t watch, so I buried my face in your beard. And I felt your sobs. Your tears.”

“My father, I need to tell the king how the Lord feels about murdering babies. I need to go to Fort Jezreel. And I need your blessing.” He held Dad’s gaze for a moment more, took one quick stride, and bent over Nathan. “Tomorrow I’ll tell you all about Fort Jezreel.”

He looked into Dad’s eyes for a solemn moment, headed out the door, and raised the bucket from the well.

Sheerah followed and sat by him on the limestone wall. “The look in your eye, Lijah. I prefer that dopey grin you get about Milkah, when I get to wipe drool off my baby brother’s chin.”

Elijah looked up at the ridge.

She followed his gaze and whispered, “And you’re right. Her eyes are almost as beautiful as Mother’s.”

“Sheers, don’t. I have to do this.”

She held a water skin open for him. “But do you remember Ahimaaz?”

Elijah poured. “Ahimaaz. Fast. Show off. Wouldn’t stay. Had to run. That’s not me, Sheers. I like it right here. These limestone walls Mother and Dad laid up, and this old well. Our vines, our wines, our customers.” He rose. “But I have to go.”

She held the water skin behind her. “Ahimaaz ran but had nothing to tell the king. Just because you have a few whiskers doesn’t mean you have a message.”

“You mean words?”

“Of course, words, silly.” She put the water skin in his hands and her arms around his waist. “You can’t just say, ‘God’s gonna get you.’”

He pulled her head to his shoulder. “The words, Sheers. I’ll… I’ll work on that.”

“Give me my son.” Dad padded over to them, lifted Sheerah’s arm. “The little shepherd lad didn’t sit in the pasture and write poems about Goliath.

“Listen for the voice of the Lord, Elijah. And do the right thing.” Dad pulled Elijah’s head down and kissed both his cheeks. “I will borrow ancient words to bless my son.” He dropped his hands to Elijah’s shoulders. “‘The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.’”

“Thank you, my father.”

Mother pulled him away and wrapped him in a desperate bear hug.

He wiped at his face with his palm and kissed her cheeks. He stood for a moment with his chin on her shoulder. When he unfolded her arms and reached for the gate, she laid her hands on his. “Milkah. She deserves to know.”

Elijah stood with his mother at the gate. The rising sun cast long shadows on the path. If he made a quick detour over the ridge, he would find Milkah leading her father’s sheep into the pasture. But, no. Dad was right. Fort Jezreel might be a longer hike than he thought.

Mother released the gate and turned to Sheerah. “Perhaps you can take Milkah another bag of my figs.”

Elijah hugged his mother again, swung the gate open, and stepped through. “As soon as I get back, I’ll tell Milkah.”

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Lois Rolfe
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We always want our family’s blessing, but sometimes we have… Read more »

Jeanne Doyon
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I love how you personalize these stories. You give two… Read more »

Rose
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This is quite inspiring and a great reminder, that regardless… Read more »

Anita Archer
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You’re making the stories come alive! Thanks!

John M. Cunningham, Jr.
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I am loving your work, Dave. Keep it up!