14. Obadiah Grieves

1How old was Obadiah? I need to plot his age compared to Ahab and Elijah.Obadiah, the royal chief of staff, parked his chariot in front of Abdel’s house. After inspecting olive groves and olive presses, he would prepare for Sabbath with old friends. Almost as good as being home in Fort Jezreel with Mrs. O.

He waited while his five guards and driver shouldered a roast leg of mutton, a large basket of apples, a small bag of baby carrots, ten loaves of fresh bread, and ten small skins of wine. Enough for the evening and a good start on munchies for tomorrow.

But as they started for the path to the house, four tall men in black shirts strode out. Obadiah clenched his jaw at the pink Moloch insignia on their shoulders. He stared at them cold-eyed, and they smirked in return. They strolled up the street toward the town square of Samaria.

He shook his head. That horrid queen from Sidon taught young King Ahab to worship Baal, and they erected an Asherah pole right here in the capital. How would we ever escape the Lord’s anger?

A shriek rang out.

The guards dashed up the path, and the chief trotted after them. At the front gate, they stared across the empty courtyard at Abdel’s mother. She knelt and sobbed over someone by the front door.

Obadiah pushed through and strode over to her side. She heaved with sobs and pressed her cheek against the cheek of the man lying face up on the doorstep.

Her daughter-in-law stumbled out the door and knelt beside her. The mother looked up at her and wailed. With one hand, the young woman covered the slash in the man’s throat. With the other, she turned his head.

Abdel, her husband.

She threw her head back, stared at the sky, and clenched her fists. Her mouth opened wide and a voiceless gasp escaped. Then she screamed and screamed. Her toddler tumbled out the door and buried his face in her robe. He wailed in time with her screams. His little brother crawled into the open doorway, raised his head toward his grandmother, and whimpered.

A sharp pang gripped Obadiah in the chest. Those haughty men had hunted down his young friend. Why, Lord? Why do you stand far off? He bent over the little group. “I’ll go get Shel.” He paused by his guards at the gate. “See that no stranger gets in here.” He touched his driver on the arm, and they trotted out to the chariot.

That afternoon Obadiah wept with Abdel’s family as they put Abdel in the ground. That evening and all of Sabbath day he sat with them and greeted visitors. Many smiled at him in recognition. Others raised their eyebrows and scanned him and his six men. The men said nothing, and Obadiah limited his response to a quick smile. One or two turned to Abdel’s buddy, Ulam, who told them, “Abdel’s Uncle ‘Biah from Jezreel, the king’s chief of staff.” Obadiah favored those few with a nod.

For the first five days of the week, Obadiah left the city early and inspected olive groves and presses for King Ahab. Each evening the chief of staff returned to the family. Early the sixth day, he left his room at the inn and joined the family. “This last day of grieving your visitors will be few. Tomorrow I return to the fort, and I wish to spend this day with you.” An hour later, his guards came in and set down another array of food.

The chief picked up an apple but put it back on the tray. He could still see Abdel’s wife trying to cover the slit in Abdel’s throat. Those wicked men wearing the pink Moloch had tossed her husband at the door as if the Lord took no notice.

At mid-morning, Abdel’s youngest crawled onto Obadiah’s lap, and the royal chief of staff breathed a little easier. His big hands cupped the tiny back and bottom and nestled him up against his chest. He smiled over at Shelemiah, Abdel’s father, and then swallowed.

For six years….” croaked out, and Shelemiah leaned in. Obadiah cleared his throat and spoke in full voice. “For six years Abdel managed olive groves, first for King Omri and now for King Ahab. He would show me the tiniest invasion of scale or scab and what he was doing to push it back. Other times he took me far outside the grove to show me a small box of diseased fruit that he pulled off the trees. Abdel spoke the truth.”

Shelemiah looked at his wife. “He even told his mother if there was too much salt in the stew.”

She nodded. “That boy just had a way of letting the truth get out into the open.”

Rizpah, Abdel’s wife, pulled her toddler up onto her lap. “I know how it happened. The day before they…” A sob stopped her. She shifted the child and took a deep breath. “The day before they killed my Abdel, it was all bubbling out of him and Ulam and their buddies about how the Lord hates Moloch. So, when he saw that furnace and his cousin, it just bubbled out of him again.”

Obadiah stood. “Thank you.” He handed the baby to its grandmother. “I’ll give you this child for now. Next time I’m in Samaria I hope to hold him again. We go to the inn now. My crew and I leave for the fort at dawn, so tonight I tell you goodbye, my friends.” He reached his hand to Shelemiah.

But a man Obadiah recognized from the first day of grieving burst through the door. “Ulam! They killed Ulam!”

Obadiah sank to the floor like the man had struck him in the chest.

Rizpah jumped up and handed the toddler to Shelemiah. She snatched up the crawler from her mother-in-law and lowered him back into Obadiah’s lap. “Come!” The two women scuttled out the door, pulling the messenger of Ulam’s death between them.

Obadiah’s six guards stared down at him. He pointed to three, and they hustled after the women.

The crawler squirmed, and Obadiah sat up straight. His hands again cupped the child’s head and bottom. He pulled him to his chest and looked over at Shelemiah.

The toddler had captured his grandfather by the thumbs, but with a free forefinger, Shelemiah stroked his grandson’s cheek. “Ulam is like Abdel. Lets everyone know his disgust for that Moloch priest. You never know when the truth will just bubble out of him. Plus he has a loud voice.”

Obadiah let out a breath. “‘Why, Lord? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?’”

“‘In his arrogance the wicked hunts down the weak. From ambush he murders the innocent.’ But we have to do something, Biah. You and I. We can’t let this go on.”

How many more boys are there like Abdel and Ulam who just let the truth bubble out?”

That’s what the queen is asking. And her men will hunt them down. We have to do something, Biah. It’s up to you and me.”

This story in the Bible – 1 Kings 18:3-4

Obadiah was a devout believer in the Lord. Jezebel was killing off the Lord’s prophets, but Obadiah hid them in two caves and supplied them with food and water.”

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