Here is a short story I wrote a little over a year ago. I think it works well with last week’s post.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:
thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart,
with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children,
shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house,
when thou walkest by the way,
when thou liest down,
and when thou risest up.”
aside the opening to his tent, the great warrior—broad in his shoulders and
mighty in his hands—stepped out into the open air. Gideon Ben Abiel (אֲבִיאֵל בֶּן
גִּדְעוֹן) looked out over the flatness.
dust blew over the surface of the ground. There were few bushes and fewer trees
to take root and secure the soil against the constant wind. Gideon’s camp, the
camp of the emergent Israelite nation, lay just beyond the west bank of the
Jordan River. Though they had entered into the land promised to their
ancestors, the land they had awaited for so many years, the desert still clung
to them. The honey of the land lay within the stone walls of the resident
camp was mostly quiet now as the wind blew. Early that morning, the priests of
Israel and its army had left to march around Jericho for the sixth time. When
they had finished, the men returned and many went back to their tents for rest.
The entire nation was restless this day in anticipation for the next—their last
day to march around the mighty city. In the middle of the camp, in front of the
Tabernacle where anyone could approach, though no one dared touch, the pillar
of cloud stood, unwavering. It would be the last night the pillar would travel
with the people.
moments of stepping outside, dust caked Gideon’s legs and particles clung to
his long eyelashes. He looked at the neighboring tent where two women stood
chatting, both already covered in a fine layer of dust. Seeing him, one of the
women turned and walked toward him. Risking sand in his mouth, Gideon spread
his lips and gave a smile for his wife, Eva (חַוָּה). He called to her, “It’s
quite the blustery day, isn’t it?”
it is. This morning the children were throwing sand into the air to watch it
must thank Him for the day.”
Eva got to him, Gideon took her in his arms as they continued talking. Her hair
flailed violently in the gusts, and she freed one hand to remove it from her
face. Gideon told her about that morning, marching around Jericho—just like the
days before. He told how they trailed through the dust around the high walls of
the city. Gideon spoke softly to his wife, reverently of the week’s activities,
and he held her firmly.
While he was still speaking, two
children ran up to them and pulled on their tunics. The older, his daughter Tam
(תָּם), and the younger, his son Asher (אָשֵׁר), did not worry themselves with
the daily marching around the city; rather, plainer things concerned them. They
tugged on their parents’ clothes, demanding their attention, as Asher’s eyes
welled up with tears. Eva noticed the blood on her son’s knee and bent down to
inspect it. Tam addressed her father:
“We were playing out on those rocks
outside of camp, and then one of the elders came by and told us to get down,
and so I got down but Asher didn’t and I told Asher to get down but he still didn’t,
and when the elder called to him again to get down, Asher purposely tried to
jump from the rock he was on to another!” She breathed.
Gideon turned to his son, “Asher, is
“Abba, I’m sorry,” he whimpered. “I
knew I shouldn’t but… I just didn’t want to listen to him. I thought I could
Eva stood up and went into the tent
to fetch some bandaging. Gideon knelt in her place, his face close to Asher’s.
He looked at the child, at his handsome, brown hair, and at his cheeks,
perpetually red with blush. He looked at his child and said, “My son, we must
always listen to those above us; no matter what we think we can do.”
“I know. I won’t do it again, Abba.”
Gideon kissed his son’s head. The whole camp kept silent as a strong breeze
swept through it, and the pillar of cloud in the center stood unwavering.
thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.
And it shall be, when
the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land
which he sware unto thy
fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob,
to give thee great and
goodly cities, which thou buildedst not,
And houses full of all good
things, which thou filledst not,
and wells digged, which
thou diggedst not,
vineyards and olive trees,
which thou plantedst not;
when thou shalt have eaten
and be full;
Then beware lest thou
forget the Lord,
which brought thee forth
out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him.”
The afternoon was growing old, and
most of the men sat around low fires with their families. Some of the men,
though, walked around the camp aimlessly, their legs too scared to stay still.
A few men stood at the edge of the tents, watching.
Gideon jabbed at the fire in front
of him while his wife encouraged the children to finish their dinner. His eyes
did not react to the dancing flames; he stared straight forward. He thought
about his people. Though he was only a young man, least of the mighty clan of
Sered (סֶ֫רֶד) within the tribe of Zebulun (זְבוּלוּן), he cared deeply for his
people. His mind was restless, and he continued jabbing the fire.
When Tam had finished her food, she
stood up and walked to her father. He snapped out of his daze and took his
daughter into his lap. He squeezed her tight and whispered into her ear his
love for his little girl. He bounced his leg as he continued prodding the fire.
When they finished eating, Eva began
collecting the pot and bowls to go clean in the river. As Asher handed her his
bowl, a great trumpet blare filled the whole camp.
Everyone in Israel perked their ears,
and the men turned their necks to look toward the center of the camp. Most of
them did not move from where they sat. For forty years, the Israelites had
trained their ears to distinguish the subtleties of each horn blast—this sounding
called for only the leaders of the clans to assemble before the entrance of the
Though the men did not move, their
minds raced. Tomorrow would be the last day of marching around the city, and
they did not know what was then expected of them. The Israelites were a sturdy
people, made strong in the wilderness, but battle they had not seen before. All
they knew was the might they had seen in Egypt and the law of their religion.
They waited anxiously for their clan leaders to return.
When the sun set, before it had
disappeared beyond the horizon, the clan leaders dispersed, calling together
their respective peoples. The fighting men assembled in their clan groups; they
stood ready for the news. Gideon was one of many in the largest clan in his
tribe. He stood near the back and listened.
“Men of Sered, I bring important
instruction. Our leaders have received a word from above: tomorrow is the day.”
The whispering among the men ceased. The leader explained what would happen the
next day, that after seven marches around the city of Jericho, all the soldiers
were to give a great cry and that then, “We shall storm the city. He will have
given it into our hands.”
men broke out in loud shouts of acclamation. They cheered for the promise that
was finally coming to fulfillment, but the leader continued, “He has required
of us the blood of the land. We are to show no mercy to the wicked inhabitants
of Jericho or any other city we find in Canaan. Leave no man, woman, or
child—not even the livestock shall be left alive.” The joy of the men quieted.
“Men of Sered, we are of great number in this nation. Much of the battle will
rest on our shoulders; fight valiantly tomorrow, men. Serve Him.” And with
that, the assembly was dismissed.
the Lord thy God is a consuming fire,
Gideon stared upward, no light to
guide his eyes. The night was too thick for anything to be distinguishable now
that the sun was down. Eva slept next to him, his children not far away. The
night was silent.
He turned to his wife to make sure
she was definitely asleep before sliding out from under the blanket they
shared. His eyes were heavy, but sleep would not embrace him—so he left the
tent, careful to disturb no one, and entered into the night air. He was the
only one out in the camp except the occasional watchman marked by a glowing
His feet leading him more than his
mind, Gideon wandered around the campgrounds. His mind churned with thought,
general and aimless, not yet deliberation. Everything was distant. He wandered
and walked through one, then two, changing of the guards. Tomorrow loomed over
As he passed between tents, his skin
began to feel warm, and despite the time of night, he found the path he walked
unnaturally bright. He looked up from his feet to find, still a hundred cubits
away, the bright pillar of fire that stood before the holy tabernacle reaching
high into the sky. The cloud that guided the Israelites in the day had given
way to a mighty, flaming column when the sun had set. Gideon was drawn to it.
When he turned the corner of the
tabernacle, to the front entrance where the fire stood, he was cloaked in
light. He had never been this close to the fiery pillar before, usually near
the back of the Israelite processions or asleep at night. Gideon came nearer.
The pillar stood nearly 100 cubits up into the air and half a dozen men could
not link arms around it. The flames were feral—like a wildfire—but contained in
a single, vertical stream. Power and might radiated from the fiery column, and
heat emanated from the pillar—but it was not unbearable. Gideon extended his
hand toward the warmth of the pillar of the LORD (יְהוָ֥ה).
He stood there, close but coming no
closer. He could not look away from the holy fire. Veins of fire raced upward
and disappeared into the sky only to be replaced at the base of the pillar. But
there was no sound, no crackle. No words came forth from the column. For a moment,
Gideon’s mind sunk into the silence.
Then a mouse came up by his feet. It
was only a small field mouse looking for warmth in the night, but it cast a
long shadow between Gideon’s feet. Just meaning to shoo it, he shifted his feet
and frightened the creature. The mouse sprinted forward from between Gideon’s
feet. But it came too close to the pillar, and a tongue of fire flicked out and
licked up the small animal. Nothing remained, as if it had never been there.
Gideon backed up from the fire and
returned to his tent.
“Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless
If thou afflict them in any
wise, and they cry at all unto me,
I will surely hear their
cry; And my wrath shall wax hot,
and I will kill you with
your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.”
The skin under his eyes hung loose
like empty sacks; their faint purple clashed with his pale cheeks. Gideon’s
joints were stiff from that night, and the sun had yet to rise.
The camp moved quickly this morning,
everyone keeping busy with their hands and with their legs. They carried gear
from here to there and relayed messages from one to another. Some were only
dressing themselves, some had moved on to eating breakfast, and some stood at
the edge of the camp, armored and anxious to move. Still, the camp was quiet
and no laughing was heard among the sea of tents.
Gideon had finished sipping his
porridge and sat by his small fire readying his instruments of war. A knife and
spear rest on the ground near him while he worked on his sword. The bronze
blade looked dull in the morning light, but Gideon knew how sharp it was. He had
sat in that same place, stoning the blade for nearly an hour already. His
countenance was fallen, and grime was beginning to collect under his
He finally set down the sword with
his other weapons. He peered down at the bronze blades on all three. Slender
and serpentine, sharp as fangs, lethal as venom—a crafty blow from these and
one would surely die. The men all around camp were carrying these instruments
around, wielding them, ready to use them. Though they may have differed from
soldier to soldier—a bow for one man, a spear for another—they were all for the
same purpose. Gideon began assuming his armor.
Tam, his daughter, was easily awoken
by the life in the camp, as young children often are. She slipped out of the
tent and found her father preparing for the day. She stood close to him, not
needing to say anything at first. She looked around the camp, colored all over
by the gray sky. She looked at the faces of each of the men that hurried by,
and she looked at the face of her father. A frown spread across her lips, “I
don’t like this day.”
When she said this, Gideon snatched
her up and held her tight to his chest. His deep eyes looked into hers,
unblinking, and the words fled from his daughter’s lips. He told her, “Tam, we
must always thank the LORD for the day. Always.” She nodded,
quickly. He released the vise of his arms, and his daughter backed slowly from
his embrace before turning and hurrying away. Again, he dropped his face and
Men began lining up all around the
camp, preparing to converge and head off to the mighty city of Jericho. They
filed into lines with their backs hunched and hands tightly gripping their
weapons. Their cheeks were hollow and their eyes sunken. They looked as if
ready to march down into Sheol (שְׁאוֹל). A trumpet blast filled the camp, and
they knew it was time to go.
people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets:
and it came to pass, when
the people heard the sound of the trumpet,
and the people shouted with
a great shout, that the wall fell down flat,
so that the people went up
into the city, every man straight before him,
And they utterly destroyed
all that was in the city,
both man and woman, young
and ox, and sheep, and ass,
the edge of the sword.
The Israelites rushed about, madly
slaying any and all they saw. Some men stayed back, launching volleys of arrows
into the center of the city where inhabitant were likely to huddle for safety.
On the edges, few of the city’s soldiers were left, leaving mostly families
that had lived close to the walls and avoided the collapse.
Gideon rushed in among the first
line of warriors, his sword in one hand, his spear in the other, and his knife
strapped to his thigh. He let the patriotism and the anger overwhelm him, the
bloodlust of the crowd and the mob mentality guide him. His heart raced as he
searched out the deed he must do.
Looking around, he would see a
soldier from the city charging forth, but before he could strike, a fellow
Israelite would cut down the soldier. A man of Jericho would take up the sword
to ward off the invaders but the numbers would overwhelm him. Gideon turned in
circles, ready to act, but with no one to act upon. He scoured the rubble of
the fallen walls and broken homes, Israelite warriors dashing around him,
screams and battle cries filling the air beyond its saturation point.
He searched in vain, and he found
nothing—until he came upon a woman. She cowered behind a shattered wall,
whimpering. The other Israelites had not noticed her and had rushed by. Gideon
approached, and when she saw him she was stricken with fear. Gideon felt her
fear, but he dismissed it. He morphed his mind, filling it with rage that he
might do what must be done. He swallowed as he raised his spear and took a step
forward. But before he could strike, an arrow came from the sky and brought her
to the ground with a whistle and a scream. She was dead.
His teeth clenched together and he
held in a scream of his own. His knuckles turned white as he squeezed his
weapons even tighter. He continued running through the streets, madly searching
for a way to accomplish his duty. Everywhere he turned, the deed had been done
and Israelites coursed on through the city of Jericho.
And then Gideon saw him—a small boy
hiding in a narrow crevice. The shadow of rubble hid him well and no one had
seen him; they all rushed by. But Gideon, by providence, had seen him. It was
his large, glistening, white eyes that had given him away. Gideon moved closer
to the boy, navigating through the Israelite soldiers rushing all about. He
came to the boy, and the boy looked up at him. He saw Gideon’s spear in his
hand, raised in the air. He said, “I am Yochanan. I am a good boy. I promise I
will be good.”
He looked down at Yochanan (יוֹחָנָן),
at his light brown hair and his rosy cheeks. The boy did not look away from his
assailant. Gideon let out a terrible scream, “With the LORD
as my judge!” and hurled his spear down.
“The Lord, The Lord God,
merciful and gracious, longsuffering,
and abundant in goodness
keeping mercy for
thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,
and that will by no means
clear the guilty;
visiting the iniquity of
the fathers upon the children,
and upon the children's
unto the third and to the
Labels: conquest, death, gideon, Joshua, kyrie eleison, mercy, pillar of fire, short story, war