Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

Chapter 11

“It’s not bravery! It’s rebellion! People doing what they like without accountability and then saying it is God’s will!” David was lecturing Joab. “First you kill Abner and as if that wasn’t bad enough, now others have taken your lead and killed that harmless young man.”

The news of another violent killing had been as equally shocking as the death of Abner. King Ish-bosheth murdered! Killed and beheaded by some zealous traitors, Baanah and Rechab, who thought they’d win favour with king David. They had been wrong. David was so unimpressed with their lack of submission to their king that he had ordered Joab to execute them, immediately.

Now as their corpses lay on the ground, David drew his own sword from his sheath and faced Joab. Joab flinched visibly but stood his ground. He could see the tears of frustration forming in his king’s eyes. Suddenly, David turned to the bodies of Baanah and Rechab and with determined strokes, cut off their hands and feet. Joab breathed a sigh of relief, and David ordered him to hang their bodies in the village for all to see. This was a demonstration of David’s attitude towards those who treat a king with such disrespect.

Joab was also asked to bury the head of Ish-bosheth in Abner’s grave personally. He could not help but feel the sharp prongs of David’s disgust towards him as he complied with these orders.

It had been a senseless killing. King Ish-bosheth would have given the kingdom over to David willingly. He had already lost courage and it had been Ish-bosheth who had tried to please David by sending Michal to him.

To Absalom, as he watched the bodies of Baanah and Rechab being hung up beside the pool of Hebron, his father’s actions were inhumane, cruel and unjust. The fact that David did not take any action against Joab for killing Abner but took such drastic action against Baanah and Rechab for killing Ish-bosheth was very unfair. Joab was only cursed while these men were killed and displayed like meat in a market place.

Having no real understanding of authority and submission as yet, Absalom was becoming further entrenched in his attitudes against his father. It was obvious to no-one but God.


Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

Chapter 10

“Oh, it’s you,” said Joab, releasing his grip and letting Absalom catch his breath. “What do you want?” Absalom could not talk for some time and his eyes, still wide with fear were looking into Joab’s callous face.

“Talk boy! What are you doing here?” said Joab, thrusting the dagger into the table. Joab had been drinking fermented wine, trying to forget the humiliation that David had inflicted upon him at Abner’s funeral. To walk in front of the bier of the man who had murdered his own brother had been almost as much as he could take, but his own mother had insisted.

“I just came…to say…that I still want to be your friend.” Absalom whimpered, still shocked and close to tears.

Joab’s shoulders drooped and he looked to the floor. Then looking down into the young boy’s eyes, he said, “I’m sorry Absalom. Come here.” Absalom came to Joab’s arms, tears streaming down his face.

With the reassurance of Joab, Absalom calmed down quickly, feeling a little embarrassed with his show of emotions. Absalom looked at the knife that had killed Abner, now protruding from the table, and then back to Joab. In his deep rasping voice Joab said,

“Absalom, you need to learn how to be strong, like me, even when nobody agrees with you.” He reached for the dagger. “Here, I want you to have this. I don’t need it anymore.” He handed the weapon to Absalom. “Asahel would have wanted you to have it. When you are faced with a situation that demands justice, it will remind you of Asahel and how I was finally able to avenge his death. Now go away. I need to be alone.”

Absalom told no-one about the knife and concealed it in a box of his more treasured possessions. It would remain there for some years.


Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 9

A chill went down Absalom’s spine. As he listened he could see the event in his mind. He would remember it for the rest of his life. Absalom wasn’t a first hand witness to Abner’s murder, but it left a lasting impression upon him, especially since Joab had been responsible. Absalom remembered the Canaanite knife that Joab had let him hold and Joab’s rasping voice as he said,

“…one day Abner will feel it’s blade.”

Since the meeting took place in a city of refuge, Abner had felt quite safe from any reprisals from Joab. Since Joshua’s time, Hebron had been designated as a safe place from those who sought vengeance for someone who had been slain. The holy writings spoke of it as a holy city, belonging to the Levitical priests. But Joab had violated this place of refuge by thrusting a knife into Abner and watching him die at the city gates.

The cold blooded killing seemed even more startling when Absalom had seen Abner only hours beforehand. Meeting Abner personally had been quite an experience. Abner had attended the feast as David’s guest and being David’s son, Absalom had also been in attendance. In fact he was quickly becoming one of the best informed people in the kingdom.

He discovered how Abner had convinced Israel that they would be better off under the rule of king David. Most of all, the people of Israel wanted to be free of their enemies. Abner had told them what they wanted to hear.

“The Lord has promised that king David will save us from the Philistines and from all our enemies.” he had said.

Subtly, Abner had undermined the authority of king Ish-bosheth by centering attention on the wants of the people. It was then an easy matter to transfer the kingdom to David.

Abner was a skilled negotiator. One day Absalom too would master this technique of persuasion. He would learn how to be subtle in his use of words and not to show the reality of his heart until the upper hand was gained, even if it meant placing his own ideas above the decisions and vision that marked David’s rule. His lack of respect would eventually lead him to perceive his father as weak and himself strong. The seeds of these attitudes were being sown. Already he had heard his father admit in despair that Joab and all the sons of Zeruiah were too strong for him.

“This is a disgrace to all Israel!” David had said in disgust.

Yet in Absalom’s mind, it had been right for Joab to kill Abner. He was secretly pleased. Joab had executed Abner for killing his brother, Asahel. Justice had been served, and with Asahel’s own knife.

Something of the spirit of Joab began to enter into Absalom that day, seeking and finding a foothold in his life.

Zeruiah was in tears. She was concerned that Joab would face execution. “Abner deserved to die! He killed my son! I’m glad he’s dead!” she shouted.

“Zeruiah, I am well aware of how you feel” said David, “but there are greater issues at stake. You don’t seem to realise that Israel is now on the brink of a major civil war! There has been widespread outrage that such an offence could occur at the gates of a city of refuge. And let me make it clear that I am personally outraged! Abner was a great man.” David had his back to her and was looking out of the window towards the city gates.

“He was a murderer!” she blurted out but she controlled herself. Her voice was quiet now, and apprehensive, “What do you intend to do? I couldn’t bear to lose another one of my sons. I am begging you not to…” She began to sob.

Zeruiah was David’s half sister. She was a fiery woman who allowed her emotions to rule her life, but she wielded a great deal of power in her family. Now it seemed that her only hope for saving the life of her son was to beg.

David turned and looked straight into the pleading eyes of his sister, “Zeruiah, the Lord will judge Joab for what he has done and when that time comes I will be the last one to show him any mercy! My concern now is to avert further bloodshed. That’s the only reason I allowed you to see me. Unless Joab does exactly what I command him to do, I will strike him down personally. Now listen carefully. You will convince your son to tear his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes. Then you will insist that he walks in mourning in front of Abner’s funeral bier and I will follow behind.”

Zeruiah was startled. “Joab will be humiliated if you ask him to do this!”

“I don’t intend to negotiate with you, Zeruiah. If you want to save the life of your son then you will do all that is in your power to make him comply with my orders. Unless he does what I ask, the people may well take him and stone him themselves! I intend to fast all day and pray that God will spare us from this senseless war with our own people.”

Miraculously war had been averted. All the people had taken note of David’s reponse to Abner’s death and they had been pleased.

David could have given Joab the death sentence for murdering Abner, but he was not punished in any further way. To Absalom this was a further sign of weakness in his father. If he believed in justice then why was he so soft? Why didn’t others notice such glaring faults as these in their leader.

Absalom tried to speak to Joab in private to let him know that he was still his friend, but when he arrived at Joab’s house no-one appeared to be home. The door was slightly ajar so Absalom had taken the liberty of poking his head through it. The house was small and dark and his eyes were still ajusting to the light when he was pulled violently through the door and thrust up against the wall by huge hands. A dagger was held at his throat and he could feel it’s cold blade against his skin. He had never been treated so savagely in his life.


Posted: November 19, 2015 in Uncategorized


Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 8

The message that came king David’s court was from Abner and said in essence that Abner, son of Ner, commander of the army of Israel, was willing to make a covenant with David, king of Judah, and effectively hand all Israel over to him. David smiled. This was more than he had expected, but he sent back a message to Ish-bosheth stating that he was unwilling to speak of covenants until certain conditions were met.

“I don’t think that I would want to make friends with a man like that,” said Absalom as he spoke with his father and understood what was happening. “Abner killed Joab’s brother.”

“War is never a pleasant event, my son,” said David, “I lost my friend Jonathan in war just as Joab lost his brother, but if Abner and Ish-bosheth do what I am going to ask them to do then we will have the opportunity for peace at last.” Absalom was not satisfied. He still didn’t like Abner. Joab had painted too clear a picture, but he was intrigued by what David was saying.

“What are you going to ask them to do?”

“You’re always full of questions, aren’t you, my son. All right, I’ll try to explain it to you. It has to do with a girl called Michal. When king Saul was alive, my men and I once killed 200 Philistines for him. The Philistines have always been our enemies. In return, Saul gave me his daughter in marriage. But soon after we were married I had to flee for my life.”

“That’s because Saul was a bad king and he wanted to kill you.”

“Yes, that’s right. Sometimes an evil spirit would come upon Saul and he did things that were quite irrational. God protected me, but I had to move so quickly that I was forced to leave Michal behind. I knew that Saul wouldn’t harm his own daughter. But later, Saul arranged for her to be married to another man. This was a very wrong thing to do, and I have always determined that before I make peace with king Ish-bosheth and with Abner, Michal will have to be returned.”

“But you said she is already married to somebody else. Wouldn’t it be wrong for her to be married to you too?”

“You’re beginning to sound like Abiathar. He keeps telling me that it would be ‘an abomination to the Lord’ if I took back Michal and that it would ‘bring sin on the land which God has given to us as an inheritance,’ but I disagree with him.”


“Well, the holy law says, according to Abiathar, that if a man divorces his wife and she marries again and is then divorced from her second husband, then her original husband cannot take her back. But I think that this situation is a little bit different, don’t you? You see, I didn’t ever divorce Michal. She is still my wife. So I have demanded that my wife is returned before we talk of peace. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“I think so.” said Absalom, but the intricacies of the law escaped the mind of a six-year-old boy, even though Abiathar the priest was his tutor.

“Do you agree with me?” David knew that it was good for Absalom to think through these issues even though he was still very young.

“I don’t know,” Absalom said slowly. David laughed.

“Well, it’s something for you to think about. There will be many situations that come up in your life that will demand you to make wise decisions. Not all of them are easy, my son. But right now it’s time you made a decision to find your mother and go off to bed.”

A few days later Absalom heard how Michal had been forcibly taken from her new husband. Her husband had followed her, weeping, until he was eventually ordered by Abner to go home.

“No! I don’t agree with you!” Absalom said to himself.


Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© By Ross Cochrane

Chapter 7

Obed-edom never again saw the young man who had captured him. He was not to know that the curse of death that he had uttered had proved to be prophetic. With Asahel’s death, the Canaanite dagger had been handed, along with other family property, to the older brother, the commander of the army of Israel, known as Joab. Joab was a man with a deep gravelly voice and fire in his eyes. Those who did not work hard enough or tried to escape were treated harshly by Joab’s guards, but most of his slaves co-operated and were treated well.

They were assigned to work in the city of Mahanaim in the Jabbok Valley, the administrative centre of Israel’s iron industry, only about 3 kilometres from the largest and best iron mine of the Gilead mountains, under the direction of a huge man called Barzillai. Barzillai was a Gileadite and had been given oversight of the smiths. The smithing they did was of inferior quality to his own Philistine craft, but Barzillai was a fair man and if they worked hard they ate well.

Obed-edom had never shied away from anything to do with smithing and he seemed to have an even greater capacity for work since these strange overlords required that one day of each week be set aside to rest and participate in worshiping their God. It was on such rest days that he began to plan their escape. It would take some years, but he was a patient man.


Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 6

It was not long after his conversation with Joab that rumours spread through the city about Abner that sent shock waves all over Israel. Absalom didn’t fully understand and raised the subject at the table with his father who had recently returned to Hebron.

“People are saying that Abner has made himself strong. What do they mean?”

“Well, you do keep your ears open, don’t you? It means he has slept with one of king Ish-bosheth’s royal concubines.”

“Oh.” Absalom felt a little embarrassed.

“Do you understand the significance of this?” said David.

“I know that it’s wrong.”

“Yes, it is wrong, especially for Abner.”


“If a soldier like Abner wants to indicate defiance to his king, then one way to do that is to sleep with a royal concubine. It is considered to be the ultimate statement of rebellion. You will hear people speaking about this as Abner ‘making himself strong.'”

“I still don’t understand why it is called ‘making yourself strong?'”

“At your age, my son, I wouldn’t expect you to. Let me explain it this way. By acting like a king himself, he hopes to gain the authority of a king. If these rumours are true then it means that there is a good chance that Abner will overthrow Ish-bosheth. Abner already exercises most of the authority in Israel anyway. He intends to ‘make himself strong’ by becoming king in Ish-bosheth’s place. Do you understand?”

“Yes, I think so.” Absalom’s intrigue with Abner increased. “Making yourself strong.” He would never forget this term.

They were now relaxing after their meal. David enjoyed talking with Absalom when he had the opportunity. Although Absalom was a bit serious, he was a good listener.

“Rather than try to overthrow Ish-bosheth, Abner would do better to convince Ish-bosheth to seek to negotiate peace with me. I know that he wants to. Apart from Joab, Abner is the finest military strategist of our time. If he were to join forces with Joab they would be invincible.” said David.

“Joab says that Abner is a worm. He doesn’t like Abner because Abner killed his brother and Joab is going to kill Abner one day.” Absalom blurted this out in a matter of fact way that disturbed David. He wondered what kind of stories Joab was telling his son.

“Joab’s brother was killed in war and he has grieved for him for a long time,” said David, “Perhaps too long. But I think if Abner wants to make peace with us then Joab will have to find it in his heart to forgive Abner. Abner is a great man. He is strong and smart. And I’m sure you would like him.” Absalom was sure that he wouldn’t.


Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 5

Emotionally he would never be close to his father. David loved him but tended to neglect him, especially in his early years. He was often away at war or cementing alliances, but while he attended to the menace of the enemy without, another menace sought and gained entry into David’s kingdom. David himself had opened the gate to this sinister threat through his marriage to Maacah. A menace that watched and waited as a little boy, with an internal conflict, grew up in the royal family, not knowing where he stood with his father and wanting desperately to prove himself worthy of any attention he could get.

King Talmai was pleased to have a grandson to further bind his kingdom to the kingdom of David in covenant.

Born in the middle of political unrest, Absalom had been named “Father of Peace”, a further sign to Talmai that David intended peace to remain intact between them. Since his father and grandfather were both kings, Absalom also experienced the tension and rivalry that existed between them. He learned about playing one off against the other.

David neglected the discipline and training that his son needed, and even in these early years, Absalom was beginning to lose respect. With little to no fathering, he became susceptible to a spirit of rebellion towards those in authority over him. It was a quiet rebellion that grew within his heart, gently encouraged through the years by his mother’s subtle influence and his visits to king Talmai.

Because he lacked the nurture, instruction and correction of a father, Absalom was also growing up with a false view of the God his father served. In fact, he began to dismiss any claims that God may have upon his life. His rebellion would draw him closer to spiritual forces of darkness who worked against all that David believed and treasured.

In his growing up years, Absalom witnessed and heard about many important events as David ruled as king. Occasionally Joab would tell him the stories of war. He was a good listener and Joab’s stories were often bloodthirsty.

“Tell me about Abner.”

“Abner is a worm and one day I will trample him into the earth!” Joab said with his gravelly voice.

“Why do you hate Abner so much?”

Joab frowned but already the memories were flooding back. It was little use denying them. He paused for a moment before he answered. “Before you were born I had a younger brother. His name was Asahel. I watched Abner kill him. He is a cruel, ruthless man.”

“What did you do?” asked young Absalom.

“There was little that I could do. I remember standing there over my brother’s body with a terrible rage in my heart and I determined on that day that I would pursue Abner to his death.”

Absalom’s eyes were wide with anticipation, “And did you?” he said.

“By the time I caught up I could see that his men were too well placed for a battle. My own men were at a disadvantage. To continue would have been military suicide. Many of my men would die, so I had no alternative but to return. I took Asahel’s body and buried it in my father’s tomb at Bethlehem.”

“But what about Abner?” said Absalom, “You let him get away!”

“Battles are not fought in a day, Absalom. One day Abner’s time will come and when that day comes, I will be there.” Joab unsheathed a dagger with a blade about 20cm long and handed it to Absalom. “This was Asahel’s dagger,” he said. “I found it on his body and I have made an oath that one day Abner will feel it’s blade.” It was heavy in Absalom’s hands. The hilt was bound tightly with leather thongs presumably for better grip and the blade was razor sharp. “This is a Canaanite knife. You can tell because of the shape of the blade. Asahel probably picked it up after one of our raids.” said Joab.

Joab had remained bitter and the war between him and Abner had continued for many years.

Once a leading general in king Saul’s army, Abner had taken Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth, and installed him as king of Israel when Saul died. The tribe of Judah, however, had followed David.

The intrigue of this weapon and Abner would remain with this young prince as he grew up in David’s court.


Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 4

Six sons were born to king David while he was at Hebron. His third son, Absalom, was born to him by his wife Maacah. She was the beautiful daughter of king Talmai. The marriage was arranged as a political alliance. Talmai had played his advantage well and offered his firstborn daughter. If David had refused, the insult would have resulted in war. The arrangements were made.

David could still hear Abiathar’s voice ringing in his ears.

“But this woman is a Geshurite! You can’t marry her. I could understand you if you wanted to annihilate her father’s kingdom and dispossess them from the land altogether, but enter into covenant with them?” Abiathar was high priest and had served David faithfully since David had been a fugitive during king Saul’s reign.

“I have no choice,” said David, “The last thing I need is a war on the Northern borders. If I make a covenant with king Talmai, he will support me. At the moment, he wants peace. What am I to do? Turn our friends away?”

“He is not a friend! He is a parasite! They are the most morally depraved people in the land! You can’t do this. The holy records forbid it! At least let me send for the parchments in Hebron so that you can study them for yourself before you make your decision. I can send Ahimaaz, my son.”

“No, Abiathar! I am not waiting any longer. This is a time for a covenant while we have the opportunity, not a time to be studying the holy records to find a reason why we should not make peace with our friends. I have already given my word. I do not intend to waver now. And I want you here as the covenant is made.”

It was no use trying to dissuade him further. Abiathar sighed. “Yes, my lord,” he said.

Politically the move had been wise but David had not known peace since this marriage. He still wondered if he had been beguiled too quickly by the beauty of Maacah and the expedience of a covenant to prevent further bloodshed.

Then, as he slept, Joshua was before him. He watched his campaigns and how God had directed him as a mighty warrior and leader of Israel. He saw Jericho being conquered and Canaan defeated. And he heard the words from heaven boom with a thunder that chilled his heart,

“Why have you not dispossessed the Geshurites from the land as I commanded you?” but God was not speaking with Joshua. David stood with his Geshurite bride beside him and tried feebly to hide her from God’s sight. He issued orders immediately to Abiathar, “Find all the holy records you have on the Geshurites and bring them to me!”

The records came, but David tried not to read the words. It was no use! They bounced from the very walls as he looked at Maacah, “Her name is Oppression! Oppression! Oppression!” He held his ears as the scrolls were brought closer to him.

Suddenly, an arrow came through the Northern window. It came directly towards him and there was not time to avoid it. His eyes were wide with dread but just as the arrow approached his heart, Maacah held out a shield and he heard the dull thud of the point, like the sound of a heartbeat, magnified. David felt relieved, but his security was short-lived as Abiathar now read from the scroll and it seemed as if it were the voice of God as each word echoed into his soul,

“You are to destroy the Canaanites completely. All the nations of the land are to be completely annihilated, men, women and children! Men, women and children! MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN!”

David saw Talmai and Maacah and now instead of a shield, she held children in her hands, a little boy and a girl. But the voice came stronger, “You are to destroy them from the face of the earth!”

David cried, “Why, Lord? Why?”

“Because of their wickedness I will dispossess them before you lest they become a cancer to you and corrupt your ways that you sin against the Lord your God.”

“Lord, she is my wife! And these must be the children that one day she will bear. They are heirs!” But the voice of God was even more insistent,

“Those whom you allow to remain will become pricks in your eyes and thorns in your side, and they will give you trouble in your kingdom. And it will take place that what I plan for them, so will I do to you. They will be a snare and a trap to you until your death. Annihilate them completely! All the regions of the Geshurites! Men, women and children!”

Once again David looked at Maacah, beautiful Maacah with his children at her side, princess of Geshur standing with her proud father, king Talmai.

He thought of Abraham and how God had asked him to sacrifice his own son. With despairing obedience, He unsheathed his sword and with tears in his eyes, raised it above his head. Maacah began to scream. “David! David!” Then the voice became quieter.

“David. Wake up! You are having a dream,” she said. He awoke in a lather of sweat. Maacah was smiling. Her beauty was so warm and the tender song of her voice was totally disarming.

“I have good news to tell you,” she said, “I am going to have a baby.”


Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 3

The broadsword grazed past Abner’s face. He had twisted back to avoid it, and found himself off balance, leaving his back exposed to the next blow. His spear now lay on the ground beside him, facing the wrong way. With reflex action, and bending at the knees, he leaned back slightly, snatched the spear and drove it with all his might backwards hoping it would find its mark. The speed and power of the blow broke through Asahel’s ribs and the butt of the spear suddenly protruded from his back. The impact sent an intense shock through his body. He had stumbled awkwardly to the ground and died before his sword fell from his hand.

Abner’s arms ached, but his eyes remained alert. Men around him were continuing to fall back under the onslaught. He signalled to the trumpeter so that he could regather his troops on safer ground. This long war was coming to an end and he did not intend to see his men systematically decimated by Joab’s forces. It seemed that nothing would stop this cancerous slaughter of his troops unless Ish-bosheth was willing to negotiate with David. Up until now both kings had maintained separate armies.

This time, Joab’s eyes were filled with hatred. He was almost out of control with anger and grief as he came to the hill upon which the enemy had retreated. A tall, well-built man, he was normally shrewd in all the ways of war. He was the son of king David’s sister, Zeruiah, and had earned the right to become David’s general, though not yet officially. Not only did he plan his strategies well, but he had an instinct for how to gain advantage over the enemy. Surrender was not an option with Joab. Some called him stubborn, like a wild boar, but never to his face. He was a man who commanded respect and fear. Abner could see him standing on the rise of land, his silhouette stark against the sky, out of range of stray arrows, sword in hand, a mighty warrior, leading David’s army, step by step, to victory.


Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 2

“The old one and his iron smiths are to be spared. We can use their skills for our own weaponry,” said Joab. “Asahel, your men will take them from behind after Abishai distracts them by attacking the soldiers from the southern side of the hill. Make sure that none of the smiths are killed. Be careful and remember, God is with you.”

Asahel could barely control his excitement. He had been on raiding parties before but this was the first time his brother Joab had entrusted him with a battalion of men. Abishai and Asahel moved their men quickly and silently into position.

The raid was sudden and unexpected as they had planned. Many of the Philistine warriors died, their senses and ability to fight dulled by intoxication and blood loss from the previous day’s celebration.

The old smith and his sons were completely taken by surprise. As Obed-edom stood bewildered by the attack from the southern side of the hill, the precious dagger was snatched from his hands by a young Israelite warrior. He was knocked to the ground before he could mobilise his considerable strength. As he struggled to his feet he felt the dagger pressed to his throat and he looked frantically for his sons. He was relieved to see that they too were being taken alive, and only then did he allow the young soldier to bind his hands without resistance.

Joab’s forces collected the newly formed weapons and smashed the central furnace. The dynasty of Philistia’s iron smiths was coming to an end. Molech had forsaken them. They were bound and forced to enter the strange world of the Israelites, a world where only one God was worshipped and a nation which at this very moment was on the brink of a full-scale civil war.

The old iron smith and his sons were paraded through the Israelite camp with the plunder of weapons and brought before the commanding officer where they were stripped of their clothes and held securely by a number of men. The humiliation of being stripped and tied was almost more than the old man could bear and he swore incessantly in his native tongue at his captors. His eldest son, who was still trying to appraise what was going to happen to them urged him to be quiet.

“Father, they may kill us if you insult them any further!”

“They don’t understand our language,” said Obed-edom, and then turning to one of the priests he said, “Do you, you worthless dog? If ever I escape I’ll make you pay for this!” It was at this moment that he saw the young man who had captured him unsheathe a dagger. Obed-edom recognised the shape of the blade immediately. This was the dagger he had so carefully designed.

“So, I am to be killed with my own dagger?” said Obed-edom. “May the curse of the dagger of Molech be upon you, you Israelite coward! May it bring vengeance upon you! May you die in the hands of your enemies!” He could not realise how demonically prophetic his words would be.

“Use this and do it quickly,” said Asahel to the priest, handing him the weapon. The strange Hebrew words meant nothing to his captives.

The blade of the dagger shone in the light as the priest approached him.

“Father, he’s going to torture us!” said his eldest son, struggling vainly against the ropes.

“No son,” said Obed-edom, for the first time realising who his captors were. “This man is one of the priests of Israel. I have seen them before at the valley of Elah. They have only one God. He is called Jehovah Sabaoth, the Lord of hosts. I have witnessed His power against our people once before. It seems that we are going to be sacrificed.” He spat at the priest and cursed again. Asahel, who had been standing nearby, responded with a blow to Obed-edom’s stomach and jaw which almost left him unconscious. His sons were horrified but could do nothing.

As the priest approached him, Obed-edom closed his eyes and said breathlessly, “Goodbye my sons. I have nothing I can leave you but my love and to show you that I can die bravely.”

The circumcision came as quite a shock to Obed-edom. For a moment he thought he was going to be castrated or mutilated but the priest accomplished his purpose on each of the captives efficiently, and returned the dagger to Asahel. Then he had them untied and gave them bandages to stop the bleeding. Obed-edom had heard of this savage practise of circumcision and soon they would realise that all Israelites and their slaves were marked in this way.

When the bleeding had stopped they were given new clothes, considerably better than their old ones, and taken away to be fed, walking carefully due to the pain. Though they were very hungry, none of them ate much that day.

Israel and Judah were involved in a bloody civil conflict and Asahel and his men were gone by the next morning.