The noose tightens
|Ahazi pulled his sword from the chest of the man lying on the ground and wiped it on the corpses' tunic. Looking around, he saw his men were in the process of looting the bodies of the Philistines. He saw quite a few men swap their cheap daggers or swords for finely worked metal ones. There were also quite a few of the small round shields the Philistines carried that were now Israelite property. Ahazi wasn't too worried about loot, although he wouldn't mind a new pair of shoes. He looked at the body at his feet, but the man didn't even have shoes on. Then the sound of weeping caught his ears.
He followed the sound into a hut that was diagonally across the footpath that ran through the center of this village. Inside the hut, he found a small boy huddled in a dark corner. What must have been his father was lying in the dirt with his belly ripped open, blood forming a dark puddle in which he lay. Against the back wall lay a woman, naked and with her throat cut. She had obviously been raped and then discarded. How did the boy survive?
Crossing the hut, Ahazi reached for the child, but the boy shrunk away, his breath catching. Crouching, Ahazi looked into the boy's terror filled eyes and tried to convey, through word and action, that he was here to help not harm.
"I am an Israelite like you. My name is Ahazi. What's your name?"
The boy shuddered, but then took a deep breath and answered, "David. David bar-Nad."
"Well, David bar-Nad, let's get you to safety."
"But,...." the boy began, his eyes darting to his parents' bodies.
"We will take care of your parents. They have gone on to Abraham's bosom. They are at peace now, but we are still here and so we must fight." Ahazi lifted the boy and carried him from the tent. He saw his men were now gathering the bodies of both their people and the Philistines. The enemy were being stacked and prepared for burning. The Israelite dead were to be taken to the public sepulcher for burial.
Ahazi looked for survivors, but there were none except for this boy. It appeared that when the Philistines realized they were being attacked they had taken the time to kill the women and girls, and the men and boys had already been murdered before that. Thus it always was when the enemies of Israel raided. No one was safe. And that was why vengeance must be visited, so that these heathens would think twice before doing it again.
Ahazi left the boy with one of his men and went to find his fellow captains. His unease from earlier had eased, but only a little. Having the Ark with them was nerve wracking and he wished it would have stayed in Shiloh, but he would try to make the best of it. As he walked through the village his mind was racing, formulating how to use this place as a trap for the Philistines.
* * * * *
Joshua knelt by Shan and watched as his friend's breath became more and more ragged. The old scout's chest had been heaving when he first came on him, but as he watched it began to move less and less. Shan was dying and there was nothing he could do about it. He heard footsteps approaching and he looked up to see Nad approaching. The chief of the missile troops was watching the scene with seeming indifference, as if his mind was distracted. When he came close he simply stopped and stared at the prone scout master.
Before any word could be spoken, another set of footsteps were heard and then a voice exclaiming, "YHWH's mercy. What happened?"
Joshua explained how the single enemy had been able to fling his blade and strike Shan, and how the old man had pulled the knife out and collapsed. As the three remaining captains watched, the scout master's breathing became shallower, shallower, then it stopped. Ahazi knelt and closed the man's eyes, then looked up at his peers.
"I think we need to plan. I interrogated one of the raiders and he told me that the main enemy force is less than half a day away. Surely they would have seen the smoke by now, and while they probably assume that it's from their scouts pillaging, when their men don't show in the morning they will come looking. And we had best be ready."
Joshua nodded, then shouted for two of his men to come gather Shan's body. Then the three men moved to the top of the hill that Ahazi had charged down so they could scan their surroundings. When they reached the top they looked around. The village was surrounded by hills on three sides, with the only real approach being from the south up a winding footpath. This path was wide enough for three men to walk shoulder to shoulder, barely big enough for a small cart to pass. The hills to the west were too steep to climb. The hills to the north were heavily wooded, and also too steep to climb after about a one thousand span distance. The eastern hillside, which is where they stood, was the only other approachable direction besides the south.
They arrived at the plan hide the archers and spearmen in the woods to the north, and the swordsmen and most of the scouts, who would be on foot, in the eastern hills. The remaining scouts were to dress as the Philistine raiding party and lure the enemy army into the village, where the advantage of their superior numbers would be hampered by the tight quarters. The missile troops would pour their ammunition into the massed Philistines, with the spearmen protecting them. Then the foot soldiers would assault from behind and the scouts that had been hidden would mount and hunt down any stragglers or break any pockets of resistance. The men began the laborious process of preparing a killing ground, ready to avenge their people some more on their hated enemies.