19. In plain sight

Megiddo-Beitshan Road, Jezreel Valley, Israel, 871 BC

1 Kings 17:2-5

Elijah jerked his arm away from Nathan. “If you think I’m going to that lonely brook, you’re nuts. We’ve got wineskins to load for Dad at sunup.”

“Ha! Dad’s been hauling wine to the King’s Highway since before we were born. He’ll get Rocky to help.” Nathan pushed him along for several strides. “Did you see the king?”

A slow smile spread across Elijah’s face. With the focus back on his deeds of the day, he could head Nathan toward home. Elijah thrust out his chest and rolled his eyes. “I told the king, ‘As the Lord lives, we will have neither dew nor rain unless I say so.’”

Nathan wrinkled his nose. “‘Neither dew nor rain?’ One of your finer compositions. So, what did the king say?

Elijah laughed. “The king? I didn’t wait for his answer. I asked the Lord for a head start, but those guards looked fast. You should have seen me. I’m running for the gate—market day, right?—I stick my face into a load of onions and fall in fresh donkey doo. Guards grabbing at my heels, but I—”

Nathan stopped and pointed at a tiny track leading off to the right. “You know this place, right?”

Harod Valley

Why was Nathan changing the subject? The path led between limestone houses, oaks, and acacias. A village like any other. Elijah shrugged.

Nathan wagged his finger in Elijah’s face. “My little brother passed the Well of Harod and showed as much respect as an uncircumcised Philistine?”

“In there? Where’s the water? How was I…? Hey, I’m not as unlearned as you think.” He recited, “At the Well of Harod, Gideon chose men who cupped water in their hands—”

“Don’t give up your studies, young man.” Nathan started him toward the river again.

“There are moments”—Elijah put both hands on Nathan’s throat and crab-stepped sideways—“I could wring your scholarly neck.”

Nathan jerked his face toward Elijah. “So, where’s Dad’s goatskin?”

Elijah slapped his pack. “I only wore it inside the fort.”

Nathan reached over and laid his fingers on Elijah’s hand. “Nice trick.” He looked over his shoulder, and Elijah looked back with him.

“There’s nobody back there, Nate. Those guys will never touch us.”

“You think? That moth-eaten goatskin saved you for a few moments, but the king’s men realize who they’re looking for.”

“Not true, Nate. Not true. A guard ran by, and passed me again as he walked back to the fort. He never glanced at me. Not once.” Elijah thrust his chin up. “That’s when I figured out King David’s finest moment.” He nodded at Nathan in time with their strides. “Can’t wait to tell Dad.”

“Finest moment?” Nathan’s eyebrows came together.

“That time he hid right out in the open.” Elijah raised his palms facing each other. “Saul and his men went along one side of the mountain.” He waved his left palm. “David and his men on the other side.” He waved his right palm. “Hiding in plain sight, just like me.”

“You mean at Maon?” Nathan frowned.

“That’s the place.” Elijah beamed. “David kept the mountain between him and Saul.”

Nathan snorted and stared at Elijah for two paces. “Lijah, the only thing that saved David was the messenger who pulled Saul away to go fight Philistines.”1

Elijah wrinkled his forehead. “You mean David didn’t just stay behind the mountain?”

Nathan stopped. “My fingers don’t tie laces, but sometimes your head…” Nathan tapped his own temple.

Elijah opened his mouth, but Nathan put a hand over it.

“Look, little brother. One guard didn’t recognize your face? Means nothing.” Nate scowled. “Those guards are right behind us.”

Elijah ducked away from Nathan’s smothering hand. “There are no guards—”

“Listen to me.” Nathan covered Elijah’s mouth again. “Stop pretending bodyguards can’t think. They’ve already tossed Dad’s goatskin out of the equation, and they’re asking around for a tall kid with a big nose and a Gilead accent. Like the potter says, you and I are all knees and elbows. Too easy to spot in a crowd, and we look like Mother.” Nathan propelled him faster. “I’m not letting you put our mother in danger.”

“Mother.” Elijah frowned. “I promised Mother I would tell Milkah.”

“Do not even think about a visit to that young lady.”

Several strides later, Nathan poked him in the ribs. “So, what is, ‘Neither dew nor rain’?”

Elijah jerked his head back and opened his eyes wide.

Nathan squeezed his arm. “And what did you mean by, ‘unless I say so’?”

Elijah stared at a distant Gilead peak. “Well, all the way to the fort, Nate, I ranted about those guys who killed Omar, but the Lord gave me nothing to say. No words. Maybe he tried but I was talking. So, no words from the Lord. Then I saw the king’s face. (He looks like Jubal, the smithy’s son.) And it all just bubbled out—‘neither dew nor rain unless I say so.’”

“Jubal, eh?” Nathan glanced at him several times. Without missing a stride, he turned and looked Elijah in the eye. “Bubbler. My little brother’s a bubbler.”

Elijah’s eyes flew wide open, and he stopped dead in his tracks. Bubblers were weird people with no control. Abnormal.

But he had done the right thing. He had confronted the king. He would go home, tell Mother, and load wineskins with Nathan. Normal.

He caught up with Nathan and shook his head. “No, no, Nate. That’s not what I mean. What happened was, the words came to the surface and…”

Nathan gave him a curt nod. “A bubbler.”

Elijah trudged straight ahead and cut his eyes toward Nathan. “That’s not me, Nate. Honest. I’m no bubbler.”

1 1 Samuel 23:24-29

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