The killer wore sackcloth

Elijah’s POV

  1. Where is Milcah?
  2. How long have Elijah and Milcah been married?
  3. Kids yet?
  4. Where is Nathan? Did he go back to Huldah?
  5. Who gets which lines?

At Elijah’s home in Tishbe, Sheerah pushed in through the door. “It’s terrible! And they killed him for the queen, for the king.”

Elijah came into the room. “Who? Who’d they kill?”

“Not anybody we know, ‘Lij. But how they did it gets me.”

“Do what? Wha’d they do, Sheerah?”

Sheerah paced. “They made this fast or feast or … this special day. And they put these two worthless slugs in front of him. And these two, they told everybody he’d been cursing God and the king and … and … and then these people took him out and stoned him.”

“Who, Sheerah? Who’d they kill?”

“A man named Naboth. The king asked to buy his vineyard, but he told the king he was not allowed to sell the family inheritance. So the queen told the city fathers to kill him. And they did. It’s so sick.”

Elijah’s father looked into Sheerah’s eyes. “I see, Daughter. I understand.”

Nathan stood up. “But, Dad, it’s … it’s so basic. ‘You shall not give false witness against your neighbor.’[i] Plus Moses set up ways of dealing with this. ‘If a liar takes the stand …’[ii]

Nathan simmered down for a few seconds and then bumped the table as he boiled over again. “They know the system! To pervert it like this is … is … it’s just stupid! They’re cutting the future out from under their own children!”

“But they did,” his father. “They picked up the very thing designed to prevent injustice and used it to murder an innocent man and steal his inheritance.”

Elijah moved over next to his father. “Why doesn’t God just kill the Devil? Like we killed all those Moloch priests at the Kishon.”

The question hung in the air until Sheerah broke the silence. “I’ve always thought God wanted us to learn to follow his teachings — even in the face of Satan. But what good are the best teachings if people don’t feel them deep down?”

Elijah’s father lifted his head. “The sins of Jeroboam, son of Nebat, have come home to roost.”

Nathan looked up. “But King Jeroboam died a good 40 years ago, Dad. What are you getting at?”

“Son, you remember how Jeroboam led the tax revolt.”

“Against the whips and scorpions of Rehoboam.”

“That’s what started it, Nathan. And when Jeroboam led our cousins here in the north to break away from Rehoboam, he got nervous about people going up to Jerusalem for the holidays where Rehoboam was still king. So he set up his golden calves.”

Sheerah joined in. “Why bother with those hot, dusty trails. Just stop in here at Dan or Bethel.”[1]

Nathan: “And the priests he put in weren’t even sons of Aaron — just whatever he could get.”

Elijah’s father continued, “So we have forgotten who we are. Even if Asherah were not so terrible, just not going up to Jerusalem for the holidays, helps us forget who we are. The trip itself” – he smiled at Sheerah – “those hot dusty trails marked us. Marked us inside. Plus just walking around in Jerusalem — knowing we were in the city that King David turned into a home for the Ark of the Covenant — feeling those old stones under our feet and rubbing at our elbows when we turned a corner — The whole thing reminded us of the Teachings, the Torah that Moses placed inside the ark — reminded us how to live.”

Elijah nodded. “So we forgot who we are, what made us who we are, and we made murder easy. Mother. Milcah. I have to go to Jezreel. I have to talk with the king.”

~ ~ ~

Elijah knew where to find Ahab — looking over his new garden spot with Jehu the commander of his army. “Dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, and dogs are waiting to lick up yours.”

The king looked up. “Well, Well. If it isn’t my old enemy.”

“What’s a man’s life worth to you, Your Excellency? What’s going to happen to Naboth’s family? They’ve lost their inheritance. How will they live?  Where can they go? No! Don’t you dare blame your wife. Send that woman back where she came from.”

“God’s going to rub you out, Ahab. You and your whole line to the most distant cousin. And Jezebel? Commander Jehu, here, will mark my words. Those dogs are going to tear Jezebel apart and devour the pieces right by the city wall. The very spot! They won’t find enough of her to bury, because your precious Jezebel will be dog dung.”

“This afternoon, everyone wants to be friends with the royal family, but everyone in your bloodline is going to die very much alone. In town, dogs will fight over their royal corpses piece by piece. And in the open country, vultures will peck the flesh from their bones.”

Elijah had no idea why the king started to tear at his clothing. Elijah left the vineyard and went home quietly. Then gossip from the palace back door reached Tishbe that Ahab had dressed for mourning. His shirt looked strangely like Elijah’s goatskin — cloth woven from the hair of a goat — but made to itch and irritate. Ahab tiptoed around— meek, minus his normal head-in-the-air stride. Elijah heard about the king’s new get-up. “A killer in sackcloth? What an act!”

But then came the Lord’s soft voice. “Eijah, you’ve seen how humble Ahab is? I’m holding off. His disaster is coming, but not in his lifetime. It’s going to hit his son instead.”

1 King 21:20 – You sold yourself to do evil.

[1] We did this already in A Bad Business.

[i] Exodus 20:16

[ii] Deuteronomy 19:16

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