WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS!
© by Pastor Ross Cochrane
In the book of 2 Samuel in the Bible is the account of an incredibly handsome young man, aching with the ambition to be king, whose name was Absalom. He was one of the sons of king David in whose reign this story takes place.
Soon after king Saul died, Saul’s son Ish-bosheth was installed by Abner, Saul’s general, as a puppet king over the Northern tribes of Israel. David reigned over Judah at first but his forces, under the leadership of Joab, were defeating Abner, paving the way for David to become king of both Israel and Judah.
This is the historical setting from which our story begins to unfold.
The old man carried out his work with the skill that had made him a master of his craft. For 200 years, his family had carried on the traditions and mystery of the ironsmith. Obed-edom took pride in his work. His sons were learning from his many years of experience and they would continue to refine the secrets of this art for many years to come.
His sons had selected the ore from the quarry, their trained eyes choosing only the heavy ferrous coloured rocks which would be forged into the finest articles. Using wedges and fire, they split the larger rock faces, taking extreme care in what material they selected because their father would require only the purest ore with which to work and they had already been punished for bringing ore containing too much foreign matter.
Then they began crushing the rock on stone anvils, washing it with water from clay pots as they went, and handpicking the richest supplies of ore to be placed in baskets ready to be carried to the furnaces.
While they worked, some of the slaves were creating 10 charcoal pits, cutting and burning the wood and controlling the heat with layers of earth and water.
Overseen by the old master smith, other slaves began to mix crushed seashells and limestone with charcoal so that it could be used as a flux for the ore in the furnace.
It was at this point that Obed-edom gave the orders for the clay kilns to be built, 10 in all, above the charcoal pits and placed evenly, encircling the top of the gently sloped clearing of the hill. The largest pit, in the centre of the hill, was constructed first and reserved for the fire of Molech. From it’s flames fire would be introduced to the other kilns.
Gradually the dome-shaped kilns, like a nest of pre-historic eggs buried in the sand on their ends, were formed. Each dome was filled from the top with layers of iron ore, charcoal, limestone and ground seashells. Towards the bottom of the egg-shaped kilns was an opening into which the nozzle of a leather bellows was introduced.
Only the central furnace of Molech would be used to forge the household idols and the various amulets and talisman which would accompany the Philistine warriors to war. From such a kiln, Obed-edom had formed the weapons for the giant called Goliath in years gone by – the finest instruments of war, made by the most experienced craftsman in Philistia.
When the kilns were complete the old smith nodded to the priest who had been muttering occultic words continuously as the construction had been taking place, in an ecstatic state, to appease the spirits of iron. Molech would demand a human sacrifice to be made to ensure the success of the smelting and fashioning of weapons. Only a human life could give birth to the weapons of victory and life to the idols which would be created from the egg-shaped furnace.
Obed-edom watched as the priest introduced fire through the jaw-like opening of the central kiln, and two of his sons pumped the leather bellows until sweat poured from their skin and their muscles ached with exhaustion and others had to replace them. A smokey haze washed over the hill and was spirited away on the breeze. The Israelite raiding party saw it from miles away and moved relentlessly to its source.
At the height of the celebration as the Philistine warriors gathered, chanting and shouting their prayers and drinking the fermented potions that they hoped would make them invincible in the coming war, a newborn baby, a child of one of the temple prostitutes was brought to be cast into the central jaws of the furnace.
For a moment, there was silence and each man felt the superstitious trembling that accompanied such an act, and then the chanting and shouting reached its crescendo as each man cut into his arms and chest with daggers to draw blood and work themselves into a demonic frenzy as the gruesome sacrifice was made.
Then it was time to release the metal from the kilns. Each warrior waited with anticipation and awe as Obed-edom, the master smith, eyes red from the smoke of the furnaces, released a small plug from the bottom of the central kiln and a flow of molten metal, a glowing yoke from the egg-shaped dome spilt out into a moulded crucible.
Soon the air would be filled with the sound of hammers as Obed-edom and his sons beat out the metal from the other kilns into blades of war, teeth of the wolf; long-swords and daggers that would be tested in the midst of battle.
After the slag had been drawn off from the metal of the central kiln Obed-edom began to fashion a small weapon from the purest of metal. It was skillfully hammered into shape and for some reason he found himself trembling with excitement at the surging hiss as the dagger’s point and blade were tempered with water. He continued with a polishing stone on the blade until the metal shone with a burnished lustre.
The hilt had already been selected from a piece of ivory obtained from traders and he had carved it especially for this purpose. He attached it to the shaft with such precision that it hardly needed to be bound and then continued to carve the image upon the hilt with smaller tools. He worked on the hilt of the weapon meticulously. This was no ordinary weapon. It had been borne from the jaws of molech’s furnace where life had been given to give it power. It would be presented to one of the Philistine overlords, or better still to a king or prince. It was a formidable weapon, well balanced with a razor sharp edge. The image on the hilt was carefully rendered to portray savage terror. Somehow it reflected the unexpressed rage that burned in his heart towards the priests and their human sacrifices and even towards Molech himself.
From the shelter of the trees and rocks surrounding the hill the Israelite commander, Joab, watched the proceedings and positioned his men.