Obadiah, the king’s chief of staff, came in and stood before King Ahab.
“You sent for me?”
“Just have a seat and watch.”
Two guards came in with Artsa1, the accountant, between them.
“You sent for me?”
Ahab pointed to a stack of financial accounts. “Several entries don’t add up.”
Obadiah touched his own throat. What would the garrote feel like as it closed around the accountant’s neck?
The king smiled. “With my untrained eye, I’ve spotted fourteen lines.” He gave a soft chuckle. “How else are you cheating me?”
The accountant swallowed and lowered his head. “Too many ways for you to understand even if I showed you.”
Obadiah shook his head but said nothing.
The king looked at the guard on Artsa’s right. “You men take this man to your captain. I want him to prepare the execution of Artsa and his family for sundown.”
When Artsa left, Ahab explained.
“Artsa came to us from Elah and Zimri. My father never trusted him but left him to me to do as I wish. Some things were obvious – the room additions on his house, new furniture, five new slaves, fine linen hanging on his wife, and four grey geldings prancing in front of a silver-plated chariot.”
The king caught the eye of a guard. “Go park that team and chariot where his whole family can see them from their execution stakes.”
He turned back to Obadiah. “So I called for the accounts and used the few basic rules you taught me to find saw several entries that show he was stealing.”
“I’m putting you in charge of accounts. My father said you did a fair job as his bean counter in the army, and a few of his men even liked how you’re so fanatic about the Lord. At least he never caught you cheating.”
# # #
Six months later, Obadiah came in flanked by two guards and stood before King Ahab.
“You sent for me?”
Ahab cocked his head and pointed to a seat. “How do you expect to expand our olive business if you reject experienced grove managers?”
Obadiah looked out the window. A yellowhammer’s song drifted in through the sun shine.
Finally, he sat. “Do you remember when your father first sent me to Samaria to hire managers?”
“Of course. We took over the dining room of the King Jeroboam Inn. Couldn’t hear from all the shouts of the carpenters and the banging of hammers. The line of wanna-be managers was out the door.”
“Do you remember asking if I was going to hire them all?”
Ahab nodded but did not smile. “And you said, ‘Only the good ones, my prince.’ But my people tell me last week you rejected an experienced manager.”
“Your people tell you right.”
“So just what was wrong with Fred from Chicago, Biah?”
The chief of staff stood but he only looked out the window again. This time, two golden orioles twittered from olive branches on the left. A third flew across and hid deep inside the trees.
Ahab smirked. “Didn’t you like his looks? My people said he barely got to talk with you. Your man ushered him out, white as a sheet.”
The king stood with his back to the window and leaned his elbows on the sill.
“I asked them to check. They tell me he’s been ten years at Shiloh. Every tree greener and gives more olives. They don’t know why you would not hire a man with such an excellent record.”
Obadiah shook his head. “Waste of time.”
The king pushed the point. “But, Biah, he’s been taking care of olive groves for ten years.”
Obadiah’s face flushed. “Huh! If I’d known he was coming that day….”
Ahab stepped over to face Obadiah. “What’s wrong with him?”
Obadiah shook his head. “Nothing wrong with him. He knows trees, and he knows olive pressing. Like you heard, ten years a grove manager.”
“So, why wouldn’t you talk with him? You gonna tell me?”
Obadiah looked the king square in the eye. “He cheats on his wife. Any man who cheats on his wife will cheat on me.”
1 Kings 18:3 Obadiah feared the Lord greatly.
Why did King Ahab execute Artsa’s family members?
How much should morality have to do with business strategy?
1 Need a better name.