Lest you think my summer was totally wasted, I wanted to share with you a sneak peek at the new book I am working on. If you go back in entries a few months, you can catch the first few chapters. But here is a except from the exciting Battle of Michmash in later chapters of the book. I will add more later:
EXCERPT: THE BATTLE OF MICHMASH
Jonathan and Ziba left for Gibeah right away, and within a day, what was left of Saul’s army arrived as well. No one in the palace spoke of what faced them just north of Geba, but the rumors continued to fly through all of Gibeah. Ziba heard the palace staff tell of the massive Philistine army camped just north of the stockade that they had liberated, and of raiding parties that would steal, burn and kill in all directions. Israelites had left their homes to hide in ravines, caves and in the forest of Ephraim, afraid for their lives with the armored might of the Philistines camped in their midst.
Not only was Jonathan confined to the palace in Gibeah, whenever he left his room he was followed by Ziba, as well as two more guards, soldiers Ziba knew were loyal to Saul above all. So rather than parading around the palace with an armored entourage, Jonathan chose to stay in his quarters.
After a week of this, both Ziba and Jonathan grew bored with the routine. Jonathan never saw his father, and assumed that he was busy with organizing his forces against the Philistine threat.
“I have never been more bored in my life,” Jonathan said finally, sitting on a stool at the foot of his bed. He played with a dagger that he had received on his last birthday.
“Hey, try sheepherding,” Ziba said, sitting in the window, looking out into the courtyard. “This is nothing.” He watched two young women talking closely as they neared the palace. “Hello, ladies,” he said loudly, waving.
The two girls giggled and hid their faces before one of them waved back at Ziba. Jonathan stood and looked over Ziba’s shoulder.
“Who’s that with Michal?” Jonathan asked. “I don’t think I’ve seen her before.”
“You have,” Ziba corrected him. “It’s just that it’s been six years, and a young woman can change a lot in six years. That’s Mara from Jabesh-Gilead. Remember her?”
Jonathan’s eyebrow raised. “Oh, you mean the one with the—?” He tapped his finger at his eye, and Ziba nodded.
“Yeah, she looks pretty good now that she’s found a better way of keeping it covered,” Ziba said. As if she had heard him, she looked up at the two young men, showing them a golden patch that she wore over the missing eye.
“It doesn’t take long to forget that it’s even there,” Ziba said.
“Some lucky man will get her soon enough,” Jonathan said. “How about you?”
Ziba shook his head. “You know I have eyes for only one girl.”
Jonathan sighed. “And I told you, that’s not going to happen. Michal is a princess, you’re a—.”
“Yeah, I know, I’m a servant. Just the hired help.”
“I was going to say, you’re the armor bearer to the Crown Prince. Not a servant. But you’re not royalty.”
“All I know is that I have loved that girl since we were playing in the dust together. And the years have been very, very kind to her.”
“Yeah, that’s my sister you’re talking about here,” Jonathan said. “She may be pretty, but she knows it too. She plans on capitalizing on it, marrying some king or wealthy merchant, I suspect. You need a woman who better fits who you are. Someone who you won’t have to take care of hand and foot.”
“But I like her hands and feet very much,” Ziba said, grinning.
“Enough of this talk about girls,” Jonathan said. “I don’t even want to think about who my Father will arrange for me to marry. Let’s talk about something more exciting.”
“How about the Philistines?”
Ziba sighed and shook his head. “I’m tired of rehashing rumors.”
“Who said anything about rumors? Let’s go see for ourselves.”
“Are you crazy? Your father will—.”
“Will what? He already confined me to the palace. I’m the heir to the throne; he can’t kill me. At least I don’t think he will.”
“But what about me? I’m no crown prince.”
“What were his orders to you? Back in the tent at Gilgal. Do you remember? I do. He said, ‘Don’t let him out of your sight.’ Didn’t he?”
Ziba shrugged. “Yeah. So?”
“So how are you going to keep me in sight if I leave here? Like for a little first-person view of the camp at Michmash?”
“He’ll kill me! Jonathan, no.”
“Look,” Jonathan said, pointing out the window. “We wait for dark. We drop out the window—.”
“That must be fifteen feet!”
“I figure twelve. Anyway it’s soft ground. It’ll break your fall. Then we follow the wall over to the stables and take two fast horses. We’ll be back before dawn.”
Ziba looked skeptically at his companion.
“Whatever you do, I’m with you. Through thick or thin—.” Jonathan looked at his companion hopefully, and Ziba finally nodded in agreement.
* * *
Ziba and Jonathan had ridden the road from Gibeah to Geba countless times, and they crossed the short distance, even in the dark, in less than an hour. Ziba was relieved to discover that the commander of the outpost at Geba was still their old friend, Uthai. The older man seemed surprised that Ziba and Jonathan had joined them at the compound, but covered it up quickly.
“We decided to come take a look for ourselves,” Jonathan said quickly. Uthai looked at Jonathan and then at Ziba, and nodded, a knowing look on his face.
“Don’t worry, Uthai,” Ziba said. “The prince had assured me that we would be back in the palace by dawn.”
“I require all of my soldiers here to be armed,” Uthai said, gesturing to a stack of swords, spears and shields that Ziba recognized from the attack on the Philistine garrison a week before. Ziba grabbed a sword and scabbard and handed it to Jonathan, then also picked up a spear and shield.
Jonathan stepped past Uthai and walked to the edge of the cliff overlooking the ravine. Where a week ago, the cliffs on the other side had been dark, tonight they were alight with a hundred campfires. Jonathan looked at the few men he had left there, and noticed that quite a few campfires were burning on their side of the ravine as well.
“Better for the enemy to think there are more of us than there are,” Uthai said. “Heaven knows that there’s not much keeping them on their side as it is.”
“What is keeping them over there?” Ziba asked. “They must know they outnumber us 20 to 1.”
Uthai shook his head. “They want us to attack them. They’ve got a secure position and they know their chariots won’t do very well over here in the hills. So they raid and kill and plunder until we get sick of it and attack.”
Jonathan shook his head. “Sooner or later, they are going to come right through this pass and down this road. It’s just a matter of time.”
“So what do we do?” Ziba asked. As the words left his mouth, he regretted saying them.
But Jonathan didn’t respond. Instead, he patted Uthai on the shoulder and turned away.
“Thanks, Uthai. Time for us to head back.”
Ziba breathed a sigh of relief as they went for their horses. But instead of mounting his horse, Jonathan grabbed the reins of his horse and led it south along the cliff facing the ravine. Ziba followed him silently, suspecting that Jonathan wanted a different view of the Philistine camp. They stopped at the last campfire that the Israelite soldiers maintained and Jonathan spoke to the man there.
“There hasn’t been much activity this way, other than taunts and comments about the deserters who are hiding in the hills,” the soldier said. “I’m content for them to stay over there, and we will stay over here.”
“The trouble is, they won’t stay over there forever,” Jonathan said. Jonathan handed the reins of his horse over to the soldier and headed for the edge of the cliff. Before Ziba could stop him, Jonathan had started climbing down the cliff. Ziba quickly handed his reins over to the soldier as well and headed after him. Jonathan was at the bottom of the ravine before Ziba could catch up with him.
“What are you doing!” Ziba hissed at him, afraid to raise his voice too much. “This is not a scouting expedition!”
Jonathan said nothing, but kept creeping forward behind boulders toward the other side. Ziba could see the fires of the Philistines far above them.
“Remember when you and I found that big cypress tree and Father told us not to climb it?” Jonathan said. “And I bet you a week’s allowance that you couldn’t climb it blindfolded?”
Ziba nodded. “Yeah. So?”
“I can’t imagine climbing this cliff in the dark could be any more difficult.”
“What? Jonathan, no.”
“They are going to attack us, or if we don’t do something they will destroy the kingdom one town at a time. I won’t wait any longer. Look,” Jonathan grabbed Ziba by the arm. “Are we God’s people or not? Do you believe God will take care of you?”
Ziba bit his lip. “I believe God’s angels protect me, but I don’t want to go places God doesn’t want me to go. How do you know this is God’s will?”
Jonathan looked down, then nodded to himself. “OK, here’s what we’ll do. We’ll come out and show ourselves to the Philistines. If they tell us to wait here, we will wait and fight whoever comes down to us. If they say come up, we will take that as a sign that God is with us and that’s what he wants us to do. If we believe God is with us, nothing can stop us. Are you with me?”
Ziba looked long and hard at his companion, but he already knew the answer.
“Jonathan, a long time ago, I committed my fate to yours. I am with you heart and soul. If we die here, so be it, but let’s do it together.”
Jonathan looked at his friend, slapped him on the shoulder and nodded. Then he stood up, and Ziba followed him. A long minute later, they heard a voice from above speaking to them in broken Hebrew.
“Halloo down there,” the voice said. Ziba saw a burly soldier in armor standing at the edge of the cliff. “Are you Israelites?”
“We are,” Jonathan said.
“We thought all of the Israelites were still hiding in the caves.” Ziba heard others laughing and could tell that they had been drinking. “We have plenty of wine here if you want to come join us. We even have some of your countrymen who are now in our army.”
“If we come up there, it will be only to fight and kill you,” Jonathan said.
The Philistine laughed. “Well, then, come on up. It’s plenty boring up here. Maybe you can liven things up, small as you are.”
Jonathan looked at Ziba, who then nodded.
“We’ll be right up,” Jonathan shouted back.