A string of twelve camels peeled off the caravan, shuffled up next to Elijah’s ten donkeys, and paused. The man who held their lead line nodded toward the large goatskins full of wine.
“I’ll take one, boy.”
Elijah showed his best Tishbe Wine smile and rested his hand on a goatskin. “We’ll load it for you, sir. You can pay my father.” He pointed toward the trunk of the oak tree.
The camel puller reached deep in his robe, extracted a money pouch, and stepped over to Elijah’s father. “Nice seat you got here.”
Elijah’s father stood. “Thank you, sir.” Behind him, two chattering squirrels collected acorns, and from a limb overhead, a yellowhammer sang. On his left, clumps of pink cyclamen blossomed. “I rolled this stone into the shade before my boys were born.”
He glanced up at the caravan plodding past them on the King’s Highway. “Do you carry spices?”
The puller nodded. “For the Nile market.”
“Next week we celebrate the day we left the Nile.”
Elijah whispered to his brother, Nathan. “Wait for it.”
“The Nile? When were you at the Nile?”
“Thutmose was pharaoh. We left Egypt 621 years ago.”
“Hmpf!” The puller snorted. “Hebrews.”
Elijah’s father flashed a twinkle at his sons and returned a full smile to the puller. As he opened his hand for the five pieces of silver, a slight breeze ruffled his beard.
The brothers chuckled. They turned to Balak, the first donkey in line, and loosened the lashes on one of the two skins on his packsaddle. Elijah grabbed the front legs of the goatskin and Nathan the back.
Their eyes met. “Ready?” They eased the heavy skin off Balak and swung it up toward the puller’s lead camel.
But Nathan glanced over Elijah’s shoulder, and his eyes flew wide open. He dropped his end of the skin and crouched behind Balak.
The wineskin slipped from Elijah’s grip and hit the road intact, unopened.
He spun around.
A line of girls trudged along beside the line of camels. A steep hill pushed the caravan out of the beating sun right up into the shade of the oak grove and against Elijah’s row of donkeys, so the only path led past Elijah.
The girls would stumble over his wineskin.
As the first girl brushed by, Elijah knelt and slid the heavy skin under Balak, first one end then the other.
Each girl stared down at the heels of the girl ahead. One long rope at the ankles linked them in a column that stretched out of sight around the curve of the hill.
A short man with thick shoulders strolled along beside the girls and looked Elijah over.
Elijah stood and stared. “Who are you? Who are these girls?”
This story in the Bible – 1 Kings 16:30
Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him.