Monday, March 29, 2010

The Heat of Battle

Stepping over his companions, a tall hooded Midianite entered the fray - keen to claim the scalp of Joshua. He was armed with a reaper’s scythe, its long curved blade normally harvested wheat, but could easily slice clean through limbs.

The reaper paced steadily towards Joshua - barely pausing to butcher someone foolishly standing in his way. A strong low sweep of his razor sharp blade took a young Hebrew’s left leg off at the knee.

Joshua couldn’t fight him alone, yet Phinehas was still unarmed. He quickly threw the spear back to him - it was far deadlier in the hands of its owner.

In the nick of time, Phinehas jabbed the Reaper’s thigh while Joshua’s sword blocked a powerful sweep of the scythe just inches from his knee.

With a quick lunge to his left, Joshua swiped his sword tip across the heels of the Reaper, tripping him to the ground. It was all over bar Phinehas’ death blow to the throat, when Joshua lunged to fend off another threat.

A Midianite axeman took Joshua’s sword through the chest. It wasn’t enough to kill, so Joshua stole the axe and sliced his throat.

“Thanks,” said Phinehas.

“You did well” replied Joshua. “Just remember, the spear tip is for flesh, the blunt end for ribs - don’t confuse the two. Now go get those Kings.”

Joshua and Caleb formed a defensive perimeter around the wounded, along with others who quickly came to their aide. There were too many wounded to remove from the battle, but at least they could protect them from further harm.

Although Joshua’s sword was not as swift as Phinehas' spear, with Caleb’s help he always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. At times, they were comical.

“Caleb, are you holding up?” Joshua remarked while skillfully dispatching an enemy.

“Stop worrying,” shouted Caleb. “I'm fine, though my shoulder's a bit stiff”.

Caleb swung his sword around to loosen up his joint, and quite innocently smashed another attacker in the forehead.

“Just leave some for the others,” Joshua laughed.

Meanwhile, Salman scarcely held his own against the Midianite onslaught. Protecting his brother made him a magnet for anyone with a bruised ego looking for an easy kill.
Fortunately, one such scavenger was the third Midianite patriarch, King Zur. His golden breastplate was a telltale sign of royal title and a clear target for Salman to aim a hasty slingshot. It found its mark, but failed to shatter. Zur kept charging towards him, barely winded from the blow.

Salman hit the dirt, narrowly missing decapitation from Zur’s sword. He saved his skull, but now Zebulan lay unprotected with Zur vengefully poised to deliver a fatal blow.

With no time to stand up, Salman reacted instinctively. In one swift motion he lassoed Zur's neck with his leather slingshot.

The King spun around, furious that someone would snare him on a leash. Salman seized the opportunity to jump to his feet, and twist the cord tighter around his neck.

But it wasn't enough - Zur was still mobile. Salman crash tackled the king and tried to drag him to the ground, but he was too big. Like a huge dog on a short chain, Salman had him bound and gagging, but still couldn’t overpower him.

As he clung tightly to Zur, Salman endured frightening blows to his face and body. He couldn't fight back for fear of losing his stranglehold, so leaned against the leather cord with all his might.

And the more he leaned, the tighter Zur choked.

But two could play that game. Zur grasped the leather straps and yanked Salman over his shoulder like a rag doll. Salman tried to hold on valiantly as he swung into orbit, but Zur was breaking free of the noose. Letting go of the straps, Salman dropped to the ground and sent him reeling in agony with a kick to the groin.

The leather sling was sill wrapped around Zur’s neck, so Salman stood squarely on his back and yanked it as hard as he could.

SNAP! Zur's neck was broken, and his head slumped to the ground like a melon.

Friday, March 26, 2010

King on a stick

“Watch out!” yelled Caleb.

Joshua was set upon by a swordsman. His defensive block only dampened the attack - just enough time for Joshua to trip him to the ground with a kick to the ankle.

THUD! Joshua’s sword finished him off.


Joshua turned and recognized a familiar axe embedded in the chest of a enemy behind him.
“You fight with a sword and axe?” said Joshua handing it back to Caleb.

“I haven’t been training for nothing,” Caleb replied, yanking his sword out of another body.

The battle soon opened up and Joshua finally caught sight of Phinehas. He was rescuing a wounded soldier, struggling to pull him up onto his camel and fend off attackers with his free arm.

Who is it? thought Joshua. Salman? Worse - his brother Zebulan. Much loved. He cannot die.
Joshua felt powerless to intervene but decided he must. He sensed a tragedy unfolding in slow motion.

Zebulan slumped to the ground, barely able to raise his shield and fend off two Midianite swordsman.

Phinehas speared one, but was dragged off his camel by the other.

Bad move, thought Joshua as he pushed his way through the fighting. Phinehas is deadlier on foot - that buys me some time.

Phinehas slashed his attacker in the jugular, then flipped his spear around and rammed the blunt end into his chest. CRACK! Ribs shattered, blood splattered, and the Midianite fell to the earth.

Joshua arrived to find Zebulan in worse danger. King Evi, a large barrel chested man, lumbered towards him like a angry bear.

Joshua knew his chances were slim. He was too big to outmuscle.

Evi charged, straight into Joshua’s flying dagger.

It landed firmly in the abdomen, followed in rapid succession by Salman’s slingshot to the head and Phinehas’ spear through his ribs.

Evi dropped dead. He didn’t stand a chance.

“Nice work men,” shouted Joshua, trying to remove Phinehas’ spear, but it was jammed in the rib cage. Joshua saw Salman running to Zebulan’s aid. “Good, see to his wounds, before he loses too much blood.”

“He’s messed up pretty bad I think,” replied Salman. “How did he get hit by our slingshots?”

“Don’t know. The plan didn’t work,” Phinehas replied, fending off another attacker with his dagger.

“No time to argue.” Joshua could see where this was going. “Salman get your brother out of here.”

Zebulan groaned at the prospect of moving.

“He’s in too much pain,” yelled Salman.

“Right - we’ll stay with him,” Joshua ordered. “Phinehas, get your spear and keep fighting. Go for the other Kings.”


“Don’t argue.”

“But we haven’t taken out their infantry”

“Phinehas! Nothing ever goes to plan” yelled Joshua sternly. “Now strike the shepherds and the sheep will scatter!”

“Yes sir,” replied Phinehas.

And from that moment, Joshua assumed command of the rescue, for by now he realized they were taking far too many casualties. “God forbid anyone of us should die.”

But his words were of little comfort. Even as Caleb arrived to help, panic gripped Salman’s heart. “God please, oh God, ... not my brother.”

Joshua and Caleb desperately fought off an onslaught of attackers while Salman nervously opened Zebulan’s tunic. The shoulder joint was split in two, with bones piercing the skin. His chest was drenched in blood.

“I’ll be fine,” Zebulan moaned through the pain.

“No, it’s bad. Really bad,” Salman replied.

“You’re not supposed to say that,” Zebulan screamed angrily, “Just don’t leave me, alright?”

“Never,” Salman replied, “You think I'm insane?”

There was no time to waste, but Joshua realized Phinehas still needed help. His spear was jammed King Evi’s rib cage, and no amount of pulling and heaving could dislodge it.

“You alright? What on earth are you doing?” shouted Joshua.

“I don’t want to lose the spear tip,” replied Phinehas.

“Spear tip? What about the battle?” yelled Joshua. “Give it to me.”

Joshua grabbed the end of the spear like he was holding a pitchfork.

“What are you doing?”

“Arggh... King on a stick,” shouted Joshua, as he flung Evi around on the end of the spear. The carcass flew off and hit a row of Midianites.


With exploding clay shots decimating their ranks, the Midianites didn’t know which target to choose; the foot soldiers or the camels? Most aimed for somewhere in between.

Arrows rained down like deafening hail on the ground in front of Joshua. All he could do was lie still and sweat it out, hoping none hit their mark.

“Salman,” yelled Joshua, I’m feeling helpless here.”

“Don’t worry,” Salman replied over the roar of arrows striking the earth “They’re hitting no mans land.”

Joshua looked up again, and much to his relief saw that Salman was right. They were safe, at least for the moment.

“Now can we fight?” asked Caleb

“Nooooooo! Stay down.”

Salman reloaded and fired a second volley as Phinehas thundered ever closer towards the Midianites.

Enemy horses suddenly caught the scent of the camels and panicked at the apocalyptic sight. No amount of curses and whipping could restrain them from throwing their riders and fleeing the battle field in terror.

“And I thought camels were a silly idea,” said Joshua. “Now can we attack?”

“Yes! Quickly,” replied Salman, helping him up off the ground.

“About time, I’m due for a nap soon,” joked Caleb.

Joshua and Caleb charged towards the enemy, as two thousand slingers drew their swords and joined ranks with the Hebrew infantry.

With the slingshots still raining judgement from the sky, Phinehas’ camelry smashed through the Midianite frontline. Their long spears were unstoppable. A devastating jab to the chest, a gut, and a neck - in two seconds three men were slain by the hand of Phinehas.

Joshua kept running - muscles aching, heart pounding - whatever it took to keep up with the younger soldiers. He could see King Hur now, through the rows of Midianites decimated by slingshots.

Clay shrapnel tore through shields and flesh. Standing beside King Hur, the potbellied King Rekem turned around to call for reinforcements, but there were none. A few men staggered around in a daze, holding wounds on their head and limbs. No one was spared.

Not even King Rekem.

Barely had he time to turn and to face the camels, when a final clay shot embedded in his forehead. Dead on his feet, it took a moment for him to topple like a massive cedar tree falling to the ground.

Joshua finally reached the front line, momentarily disorientated in a forest of camel legs and thick undergrowth of dead and dying men. Where was Phinehas? What the heck was going on?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Better to give than receive

Down to business, Joshua leaned over and whispered in Salman’s ear. “Where do you want us? Not to get in your way.”

“Lie flat and keep your head down. You’ll be safe.”

Joshua watched Salman step forward and turn to face the front line.

“Slingers load.” His orders sparked two thousand slingers into action as Joshua hurriedly pulled Caleb flat to the ground out of harms way.

Joshua saw the intensity in Salman’s eyes as reached into his munitions pouch and loaded his slingshot. The straps were much longer than a shepherd’s sling so the heavy shot needed to kill an armored solider could reach a longer distance.

Salman crouched down like an hammer thrower, and in perfect timing with every other slinger he turned his entire body around several times to reach full velocity.

Good Lord, thought Joshua as the sling whirled inches above him, that thing really could take my head off.

“Argghhhh...” Salman released the sling from his grip and sent the deadly missile rocketing high into the sky. In a split second, two thousand other slingshots filled the clear blue skies with death.

Joshua looked up in awe - better to give than to receive! There was silence for a second, but the earth soon trembled with anticipation.

“Now?” asked Joshua.

“NO! Keep your head down,” yelled Salman.

“Yes! Yes of course.”

In a carefully orchestrated move, nine thousand Hebrew foot soldiers quickly formed into columns, about twelve feet apart to make way for the camels. The thunder of Phinehas and a thousand camelry charging through the Hebrew ranks past Joshua was planned to catch the Midianites by surprise.

And surprised they were. Not knowing whether to raise their shields for protection or to fire at the camel charge, the Midianite archers froze with confusion and terror.

“Well done!” Joshua exclaimed, “that’ll show them what we’re made of.”

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Life or Death

“What on earth are you doing?” Joshua couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Their presence on the battlefield was supposed to inspire courage. It wasn’t meant to be this difficult.

“It’s alright,” replied Phinehas dismounting his camel, “I respect my elders.”

The two men faced off, standing toe to toe, eyeballing each other. Phinehas’ tall muscular frame towered over Caleb’s short stocky body. Neither man was prepared to budge.

“In case you’re hard of hearing,” said Phinehas, “I’ll say it real slow and loud. YOU. ARE. TOO. OL...”


Phinehas never finished his sentence. The force of Caleb’s mighty punch to his stomach completely winded him as he dropped to the ground like a sack of barley.

“As a wood cutter,” said Caleb standing proudly over Phinehas squirming in the dust, “young green saplings snap easily in your hands. But old wood - well, that’s much tougher.”

Joshua extended his hand to help a very humbled Phinehas to his feet, and motioned for the other soldiers to stop smirking with laughter.

“Well I wont have the boy,” Phinehas said as he remounted his camel. “And with all respect, you may serve under my command today but your lives are in your own hands.”

Joshua shook Phinehas’ hand in good faith. “Moses wants you to lead this battle. Nothing would make me more proud than to see you win. And if we live or die, that’s up to God.”

“What about me?” asked Othniel.

“Do as he says son,” Joshua replied. “Back to camp. There’ll be other battles.”

Phinehas deferred to his elders and moved his camel aside to let them pass. And through the ranks they marched, amidst the gob-smacked gaze of soldiers less than half their age.

“Great day for a fight,” Caleb remarked,

“That it is,” replied Joshua, quite relieved to put the argument with Phinehas behind him.

“Of course, it takes a little while to warm up,” chuckled Caleb as he loosened up the joints in his stiff right arm. “Now that I’m not as young as I used to be.”

Like the parting of the Red Sea, thousands of soldiers respectfully stepped aside to make way for Joshua and Caleb. These ancient warriors were living proof of a miracle-working God, and their entrance onto the battle field finally ushered a much greater sense of courage than Joshua had hoped for.

As they reached the frontline, Joshua gripped Salman’s hand firmly with immense honor and humility.

“Salman,” said Joshua, “Is there room for us here by your side?”

“Joshua, ... Caleb, I'm shocked, I mean.. honored.”

“Just don't expect us to carry you”, muttered Caleb.

Joshua drew his sword and raised his eyes towards Heaven. What came forth was as much a life-long fervent prayer as it was a battle cry.

“God of Abraham, Creator of Heaven and Earth, grant me now the strength of my youth. Whether in life or in death, in this world or the next, guide me now Great Jehovah, into your promised land.”

“Amen” shouted Caleb, and all raised their swords and shouted in hearty agreement.

Too old to fight?

Upon arriving, Joshua thought it best to dismount from their horses, for they don’t really mix well with camels. The two pressed forward through the crush to try and overhear Phinehas’ preparations.

“The slingers are ready,” informed a messenger on horseback.

“Good,” replied Phinehas. “Riders, take your positions. Go on my mark or get out of my way.”

“Wait a minute!” someone cried in the jostling crowd of soldiers.

Phinehas saw a commotion heading his way. It was Zebulan, dragging a young Hebrew soldier by the scruff of his neck.

“What were you thinking? You’re too young!”

“No I’m not.”

“Tell that to Phinehas,” Zebulan replied as he threw the boy to the ground.

“Hey, that hurt!” yelled the teenager, picking himself up. He was instantly recognizable to Phinehas.

“Othniel, I admire your enthusiasm, but I never asked you to fight. Get up and go home.”

“Sorry, I just thought...”

“You thought you’d like to die?”

“No. I just want to fight.”

“Oh really? Not last time I checked. I need men, not boys who are afraid of women. You heard Zebulan - you’re too young. Now go, before you cause more trouble than you’re worth.”

“It’s not fair,” Othniel replied, then dusted himself off and marched past Phinehas in a huff.

“Excuse me” said Caleb, bumping into young Othniel on the way out. Although old enough to be his grandfather, his muscular frame wasn’t used to stepping aside for anyone. Caleb’s arms and legs were grotesquely scarred from Egyptian lashes felt many years before - a legacy of the suffering that couldn’t break his spirit.

“Caleb, what are you doing here?” asked Phinehas.

“What does it look like? Taking my position on the field of battle.”


“Yes he is,” replied Joshua, stepping into view behind his old friend. “We waited our whole life for this day, and God help the man who tries to stop us.”

“Whoooa! Whose in charge here?” Phinehas replied. “You’re too old - both of you.”

This wasn’t the reaction Joshua planned for. He smiled, raised his hand and was about to reason with Phinehas, but was quickly brushed aside by Caleb.

“Too young? Too old? Think you’re special? Who was chopping firewood before you were born?”

“Exactly. That’s my point!” Phinehas laughed.

“I can still swing an axe with one hand and split a log as thick as your skull,” Caleb shouted.

“You’re the only one with a thick skull,” scorned Phinehas.

“You’re right. I wouldn’t know how to build a golden calf like your grandad.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Phinehas.

“Caleb! You’ve said enough.” Joshua put his hand over Caleb’s mouth. “Only dogs dig up old bones.”

“I’ve got nothing against either of you,” Phinehas replied calmly, “But you’re just too old.”

“Come down off your fancy schmancy camel and say that to my face,” demanded Caleb.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Children’s temper tantrums are usually a little more sophisticated by the time they grow up and go to war, but for King Hur, the best he could do was smash large pottery flagons of wine on the battle ground where he paced like a wounded bull.

“Curse Joshua! Curse his god, his prophet and his people”, bellowed the angry tyrant, “I’ll drink the blood from his skull before this day is done.”

The King’s murderous rants left globules of spit dangling from his long bushy beard, as he tip-toed around the shards of broken pottery. If the situation wasn’t so serious, his subordinates would have laughed at the absurdity of such a dummy spit. So incredulous were Hur's violent threats, it seemed he mourned the loss of his pride more than his daughter.

The Midianite’s proud words did nothing to impress his regal companions assembled on that dreaded day of battle. Four other kings united forces with Hur - King Evi, Rekem, Reba and Zur all appeared sympathetic to Hur's personal loss, but “pathetic” more accurately described the true nature of their allegiance.

It was alliance of fools, politicians and mercenaries - the worst way to go to war, and for the very worst reasons. Hastily forged in the fires of convenience, Hur’s army flagrantly mocked the Hebrews under the hideous banner of their man-made god, Baal Peor.

Nevertheless, across the dry hot valley the two armies stood. The Midianites to the north were a ragged horde of ten thousand barbarians and nomads, blackmailed into service on the promise of spoils and the threat of retributions. The pride of their forces consisted of several hundred horsemen, mercenaries who were as fine as any calvary in the known world (as long as they were paid).

In front were several thousand archers, mostly herdsmen who hunted wild goats in their spare time, but their weapons were equally deadly aimed at human foe. At the rear, six or seven thousand foot soldiers bulked up their numbers, but the absence of any real discipline or fighting prowess was clearly evident in their motley assortment of weaponry. Sickles and pruning knives, stone axes and rough metal implements suggested that they either lacked the ability to forge iron or had arrogantly assumed the Hebrews would pay for the convenience of a negotiated peace.

The Hebrew army stood on the opposite hilltop in strict formation, looking keen, focussed and ready for battle.

Joshua and Caleb eagerly observed their preparation from a distance. They weren’t asked to fight the Midianites, as it was Moses’ decision for Phinehas to lead the troops into battle.

“ reward his zeal for killing King Hur’s daughter,” said Joshua.

“Or finish what he started?” Caleb asked.


Joshua studied the battlefield to guess Phinehas’ plans. At the front, Salman marshaled two thousand slingshots, armed with long leather straps and hollow clay balls the size of oranges. A hit to the skull could kill a man at three hundred yards - or worse still, shatter on his shield and tear shreds of flesh off several men. Wounding three was better than killing one, if only for the chaos it created.

In the middle, Zebulan (Salman’s older brother) led nine thousand foot soldiers, swords held high glistening in the morning sun. They stood in twelve groups of about seven hundred and fifty a piece, each behind the banner of their tribe.

At the rear, Phinehas commanded a frightening force of a thousand riders, mounted on camels and armed with long spears. Slower than horses, but faster than foot soldiers, the camels towered over all with their impressive size and proud gait.

“I didn’t come here to watch,” said Joshua. “You think we can help?”

“Yes,” Caleb assured him, “But should we?”

Joshua stroked his beard and considered his options.

“Moses did ask Phinehas to lead the battle.”

“But he didn’t say we couldn’t fight,” replied Caleb.

“True. So we fight now, and ask for forgiveness later,” Joshua laughed as he galloped off to race his old friend once again.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Salman stood up and paced the floor to stay awake. “Hope is all we had for four hundred years. Hope is what kept us alive.”

“Its amazing you even remembered where you came from,” Rahab interrupted. The Egyptians take people from all over the world and they never return. Children born into slavery don’t know any better.”

“We’re different,” said Salman rubbing the tiredness from his eyes. “We had a prophecy that we would return, and we had Josephs bones.”


“What?” replied Salman. “I’m sorry, I’m falling asleep. Help me to stay awake.”

“Joseph. Who was Joseph?”

“He was the first Hebrew sold into slavery - his brothers betrayed him. That’s how we all came to be in Egypt. Before he died he asked to be buried back home in Canaan. We’ve passed his coffin down through the generations.”

“So you still have his bones now?”

“Yes. We carried his bones from Egypt to bury in the land of our fathers.”

“The bones made you remember?” asked Rahab, listening intently on the edge of her seat.

“More than that. I believe his bones carried us.” Salman slouched back in his chair and slowly deliberated over his words to fight back the tiredness.

“Hope carried us. The hope of freedom in a land of our own. The promised land, flowing with milk and honey. Canaan.”

“You make this place sound better than it is!” Rahab laughed.

“That’s God’s plan - that it be much better, better than you or I could ever imagine.”

“Things normally turn out worse than I imagine,” Rahab replied. “I’m sorry, that’s how its always been for me.”

Salman sat up in his chair and thought deeply for a moment as he stared into the soothing glow of the fire. The similarities between Rahab’s life and the story of his people were strikingly obvious now. “But hope without courage turns to despair,” he continued. “And despair breeds rebellion in the hearts of men.”

His eyelids got heavier while still rambling on. “That was the beginning ...of many sorrows. Forty years of wilderness, neither slave ...nor free.”

A crackling spark from the fire reminded Salman of what the crack of an Egyptian’s whip might sound like. Although he had never felt its pain in real life, he had imagined it many times in his sleep. He flinched and stood bolt upright, almost as if to shake off his daydream. He desperately wanted to stay awake and keep talking with Rahab.

“Slavery and prostitution are very similar you know. Someone else owns your body.”

“I’m not a Hebrew,” Rahab answered abruptly. “What can your God do for me?”

Salman was lost for words, but wasn’t about to give up easily. “I don’t know. But I do know he made all people, and if I were Him, I would care for my creation. And I’m just a man, far from perfect - so he must love you more.”

“Well, that’s a nice idea,” Rahab replied, “but how did God love the Midianites? Surely they didn’t take too kindly to the news of their princess’ death.”

“No they didn’t,” replied Salman. “You’re right. It was a bloody and terrifying battle, and one best forgotten. Sadly, I still remember it all too well.”

Stay Awake

“...and that’s how Joshua became our leader - quite unexpectedly,” Salman concluded his story to Rahab. “Moses simply handed it to him not long before he died.”

Two or three hours passed since Giddel and his men were sent on a wild goose chase. The two Hebrew spies had made the most of Rahab’s hospitality and were now fully prepared for their escape.
So prepared, in fact, Phinehas fell asleep by the window, catching up on some well earned rest. The others talked about waking him up, but decided he was so exhausted the sleep would help for the long journey home.

Salman, on the other hand, had good reason to remain awake. Several hours of conversation with Rahab seemed just like a few minutes, and with every passing moment the two were drawn to each other’s fascinating stories.

“It’s strange God would do that to Moses,” said Rahab.

“I’m sure He has his reasons,” replied Salman, “but sometimes I feel like He can be quite dramatic, almost theatrical - just to prove a point.”

“What point?”

“I don’t know. That’t the funny thing, I don’t have a clue about Moses. So many things about Jehovah are symbolic.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Take the crossing of the Red Sea for example. He didn’t have to lead us into the wilderness - we could have travelled the direct route to Canaan, by the way of the Philistines.”

“You think he was showing off?” Rahab asked.

“Well, he doesn’t need to show off,” Salman replied, “but maybe we need him to.”

“The bread should be done now,” said Rahab as she leaned over towards the fire. “So this Midianite woman that Phinehas killed, how did Joshua know her? Did he sleep with her?”

Salman waited for Rahab to remove the bread from the oven before stoking the fire with a few extra pieces of wood. “No, although some people assumed that. King Hur had offered his daughter’s hand in marriage some months before, as a way of keeping peace between our people.”

“To whom?” asked Rahab.


“Who did he want her to marry?”

“Didn’t matter - Moses, Joshua, whatever it took to mix the blood lines of our people.”

“So he was a man of peace?”

“No. He was a merchant. Everything has its price - or so he thought,” Salman answered apprehensively, realizing the nature of Rahab’s occupation.

“You should get some sleep,” said Rahab. “You look tired.”

“What if we all fall asleep? replied Salman. “I can’t risk it.”

“True,” said Rahab “I’ll stay up with you till the middle of the next watch - when the guards are drowsy. It’ll be safe to leave then.”

Salman gazed into her stunning brown eyes. He was too tired to think before speaking. “Thanks, I’ve never talked to someone like you before.”

“What do you mean? A prostitute?” Rahab replied, “It’s alright. You can say it. I don’t mind”

“Sorry. I think you do,” said Salman. “I think you do mind, or at least you used to mind. I don’t know how anyone couldn’t.”

“Maybe, a long time ago. When I was younger, it was like looking over the edge of a cliff. You know it’s dangerous but something draws you to it. And then once you’ve jumped, it’s easy. The deed is done. It can’t be undone.”

“I disagree,” replied Salman.

“What?” laughed Rahab, “you think I can be pure again? You’re more immature than I thought.”

“That’s not what I’m saying. I mean there’s still hope.”

“Hope. I have long since forgotten the meaning of that word,” replied Rahab.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Our new fearless leader?

Caleb picked up the axe and handed it to Joshua. “Hey, you want to try it again with one hand?”


“You deaf?”

“No,” replied Joshua.

Caleb chuckled. “I said can you do it with one hand?”

“Is it safe?”

“Our new fearless leader?” Caleb laughed, “is it safe?”

“Alright, alright. You’re always so competitive, aren’t you?” replied Joshua.

He placed the split half-log back up on the block, and took a firm grip of the axe handle with his right hand. Slowly, he raised the axe above his head, trembling with the strain on his muscles.

“Steady now,” said Caleb.

“Don’t distract me,” Joshua chuckled.

THUD! The axe completely missed it’s target, embedding firmly into the chopping block instead.

Caleb laughed, “Ha! Don’t worry, it’s not easy.”

“Well this axe was made for two hands,” replied Joshua.

“Sure it was,” Caleb chuckled. “No. You’re right - two hands are better”

“Caleb...” Joshua spoke in a more serious tone.

“I know, I know,” Caleb nodded. “I’m your left hand. Always have been. Always will be. You can be sure of it my friend.”

Joshua smiled and handed the axe back to Caleb. They had been friends long enough to know each other’s thoughts. “Till Canaan then.”

“Nothing’s changed. Canaan or death,” Caleb replied. And Joshua knew he meant it.

“Now the question is, can you do it?” asked Joshua.


“With one hand.”

“Not till yesterday - been practising for weeks”

Caleb, placed another hefty log onto the chopping block and held the axe firmly in his favored left hand. It was now clear to Joshua he had done this many times before.

“No way,” Joshua marveled as he watched Caleb extend his muscular arm and raised the axe high above his head.

“Yes way.”

“How old are you again?” asked Joshua


CHOP! Caleb landed a powerful blow straight down the middle of the log, sending both halves flying in opposite directions.

Joshua smiled and shook his head in astonishment. “Alright. You’ve got me. But tomorrow, I’ll race you around the camp.”

“Ha!” laughed Caleb. “And I’ll be robed in pure gold, riding a white horse.”

The Chopping Block

The red desert sun glowed beyond the dusty eastern skyline early next morning. Dawn would break soon - the same as always, Joshua thought as he took his brisk morning walk through the camp. His world had changed last night in Moses‘ tent, but no one else seemed to mind.

The sound of roosters crowing, goats anxious to be milked, mothers tending to crying babies - he had heard it all before, every day for the last forty years.

But another familiar sound drew his attention. True to form as one of the few people awake who didn’t have to be, Caleb maintained his daily ritual of a grueling workout chopping firewood. It was a good excuse for Joshua to offload on an old friend.

CHOP! Caleb’s axe split the heavy log clean in two.
“Sounds like your head’s on the chopping block?” remarked Caleb.

Joshua bent over and picked up the split log that rolled towards his feet. “Not bad for an old woodcutter,” he laughed.

“Me? Old?” Caleb replied “You should talk, walking around the camp every morning like a headless chicken. People think your senile.”

“Keeps me young,” said Joshua.

Caleb placed a bigger log on the chopping block. “Let’s see how old you get leading this rabble.”

CHOP! The axe swung with a bit more gusto, splitting the log almost to its base. A little twist, and it surrendered.

“I didn’t ask for it,” replied Joshua, second guessing what Caleb might be thinking.

“Like you didn’t ask for this.” Caleb handed him the axe and placed another log on the chopping block. “Doesn’t mean you can’t do it.”

“Alright, its been a few years. You're on,” replied Joshua.
He sized up the log, holding the axe steady with both hands extended, then raised it slowly above his head.

“How old are you?”

“Seventy nine,” replied Joshua.

CHOP! It split like a dream.

“You look it,” Caleb chuckled. “Just kidding - not bad for an old scribe. So what’s the problem?”

“What problem?” replied Joshua.

“I’m not talking about wood cutting,” said Caleb. “Why don’t you want to lead?”

“You know the deal,” replied Joshua, “If it were up to us, we’d already be living in Canaan. I’ve no trouble believing God’s promise.”

“So what’s your problem,” asked Caleb.

“I’m surprised you’re even asking that question,” replied Joshua. “We trusted our people once, and we were hung out to dry. Heck, they even threw stones at us. Whose to say that’s not going to happen again?

‘We’re not young anymore, and frankly, I don’t know if I can take it again.”

“I hear you,” said Caleb. “There’s something to be said for being young and ignorant. Probably wouldn’t have left Egypt if I knew we had to put up with this nonsense.”

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Be strong and courageous

“Women and children?” asked Joshua. “You’re joking?”

“I don’t joke about such serious matters,” Moses sternly replied.

“Have you gone mad?” asked Joshua.

“Do I look mad? Joshua, you must destroy them all or they'll forever be a thorn in your flesh.”

"My flesh?” asked Joshua.

Moses's seemed to choke up as handed over a scroll.

“What’s this?” asked Joshua.

“A map,” replied Moses, “where you must bury Joseph’s remains.”

“Wait, you’re going too fast. What do you mean?”

“Joshua, the second thing God told me was the hardest of all. I'll only see the promised land from Mount Nebo, then I must leave this world.”

“I’m sorry,” said Joshua, “this is not how I imagined things would work out”

“I’m not allowed to enter Canaan,” Moses continued. “I’ll die on Mount Nebo.”

Joshua could hardly believe his ears. This is Moses, the prophet of God, he thought. The man who stood up to the most powerful ruler on earth. Moses who parted the Red Sea and talks directly with God himself.

“Just like that?” replied Joshua, “after all you've done? To come this far and not finish? It doesn’t make sense.”

“Remember Kadesh?”

“That?” replied Joshua, “that was just a mistake. They were stubborn and never stopped complaining of thirst.”

“I struck the rock twice,” Moses replied.

“But they’re always stubborn,” Joshua shouted, “why do you think we’ve been wasting the last forty years?
‘So you struck the rock twice? The water still came from it, right? If it were me, I would have...”

Moses placed his hand over Joshua’s mouth.
“Well it wasn’t you. It was me.”

Joshua got up and paced around the room, not grasping Moses’ resignation of failure.
“It doesn’t make sense. If you can't lead, who can?”

“Be strong Joshua. Be strong and courageous”, Moses replied, as if he was saying good bye.

“Me? What? You want me to lead? I didn't ask for this. What about Caleb? The tribes would follow him”.

“Caleb’s a good man,” Moses answered. “Stubborn as a mule, but as true and faithful as any leader could ever want. He’ll watch your back. When you divide up the land make sure he gets Hebron. That’s his dream, and nothing could make me happier than to see him plough those fields.”

“Yes but you wont,” Joshua replied angrily, “so what’s the point believing? You wont see him plough those fields.”

“Joshua, I already have. I’ve seen it in my heart,” answered Moses.

Joshua placed buried his head in his hands and cried. The comforting hand of Moses gripped his shoulder.

“I know how much you hurt,” said Moses, “I remember you tore your clothes in anguish. I was there too.”

Moses paused to hold back his own tears.
“But it's not my decision,” he continued. “You will lead our people into Canaan. You must.”

Joshua stood bolt upright and angrily paced the floor.
“But God is with us, right? Surely you can lead and he’ll give us victory over all our enemies? I mean He’s God, He parted the Red Sea. I saw it with my own eyes. He held back Pharaoh’s army with a wall of darkness. He can do anything.”

“He wont do what we’re supposed to do ourselves,” Moses replied. “The problem has always been our hearts, and it will be the same for you.”

“Well that’s even worse then. How can I be the guardian of their souls?” Joshua asked. “Our people are always going to sin. If you’re not worthy to enter the promised land then how can anyone? It’s impossible. And it seems totally unjust to expect us to do the impossible.”

“Nothing is impossible,” said Moses. “One thing is certain, you’ll come up against problems you could have never imagined. You can’t prepare for that, but you have to deal with it. Be courageous. Have faith and never give in to doubt. Fight it with all your strength, like it’s the Devil himself.”

Joshua stood quietly mortified in Moses’s fatherly embrace.
“I will.”

“And never question God’s goodness. He knows much more than us. He always has the bigger picture.”

“But it is unjust,” said Joshua.

Moses pulled back and wrapped his hands around Joshua’s face. “Unjust? By whose standards? God is God. You are not”.

Joshua digested that brutal truth. Although he still felt like a young man in an old body, he was too old to play games with God.

But the game was just beginning.

Kill them all

Later that evening, Joshua entered Moses’ tent with a great deal of fear and trepidation. The events of that day had been so horrific he had no time to process them, let alone break the news to Moses.

The old prophet sat by the soft flickering light of a lamp, diligently transcribing a parchment scroll. It must have been something of such great importance for he didn’t even look up when Joshua entered.

His wrinkled hands were rough and gnarled, but still strong enough to meticulously etch the ancient Hebraic text. The room was cluttered with scrolls, both leather and papyrus, piled high on the chairs and table - so high in fact, that Joshua couldn’t even see Moses speak as he cautiously approached.

“King Hur's daughter, if the rumors are correct?” said Moses as he carefully lay his quill down on the desk.

“Yes, the Midianite”, replied Joshua, “apparently Phinehas didn't know who she was.”

“Would it matter?”

Joshua rolled his eyes and shook his head. “Unlikely.”

Moses nodded his head slowly. “And I guess they asked how you know her?”

“Yes,” replied Joshua.

“What did you tell them?”

“The truth. It’s better than rumors, though harder to believe sometimes.”

Moses stood up from his chair, cleared the table of several stacks of scrolls, then turned to face Joshua for the first time in the conversation.

“Phinehas did a great thing. To be honest, I’m not sure if I could do that myself, even in my younger years. Yes, it was brutal and savage. But more than that, he drew a line in the sand.”

“A line in the sand?” remarked Joshua. “Slaughtering Hebrews is something we normally leave for our enemies. God knows there are enough of them. Besides, he’s lucky he didn’t kill the wrong couple.”

Moses smiled as he embraced Joshua warmly. “Luck had nothing to do with it. This is a sign, don’t you see? Getting Israel out of Egypt was easy, but getting Egypt out of Israel - a nightmare.”

“Really? I wake up from nightmares,” Joshua replied, pulling himself away.

“I understand,” said Moses. “Forty years is too long to suffer for someone else’s sins, but that’s all gone now.”

“What?” asked Joshua.

“King Hur’s daughter wasn’t the only one who died today. You, me and Caleb are now the only old ones left.”

“Dear Lord!” exclaimed Joshua. His mind raced with so many thoughts, so many old hurts, he didn’t know what to say.

“You know what this means?” Moses asked.

“Yes, of course,” replied Joshua, and in an instant he felt the pain of an old festering wound suddenly re-opening in his soul.

Moses took a deep breath and finished off a goblet of wine on the table. He gently placed the cup back on the bench, wiped his old grey beard and cleared his throat.

“Joshua, a leader without followers is just a cranky old prophet.”

“Maybe that’s our only consolation,” Joshua replied, “the just outlive the wicked.”

“I wish it were always true,” Moses continued, as he rolled out a map on the table.

Joshua sensed there was more Moses wanted to say, but couldn’t bring himself to ask what it was.

Moses breathed a heavy sigh and continued. “Last night in the Tabernacle, God spoke to me about two things. Firstly...”

“What?” Joshua asked, almost fearful of the answer.

Moses placed small stones at each corner of the map to keep it flat on the table. Stretching out his bony index finger, he drew Joshua’s attention to the last east of the Jordan river.

“Five Midianite Kings stand between us and the promised land. By dawn, King Hur will hear of his daughter’s death and will undoubtedly assemble the largest army he can muster. I’ll ask Phinehas to take twelve thousand of our best troops and wipe them out”.

Joshua sat down to digest the moment. I knew this was coming, he thought, so why do I feel hopelessly unprepared? He resigned himself to the obvious.

“It’s begun. We're invading Canaan?”

Moses nodded. “Yes. This will be the first of many battles. Kill them all - men, women, and children.”

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Spear of Phinehas

With a sudden flash of steel, the tent ripped open and dropped to the ground, exposing their sin to the entire camp. Phinehas raised his spear high above his head - poised to kill with fearsome eyes, and nostrils flaring like a raging bull.

The crowd of onlookers stepped aside as Salman and Othniel arrived on the scene with swords drawn.

In a moment of desperation, the whore embraced Zimri tightly to cover her nakedness, drawing drops of blood from his back with her painted black nails. The facade of modesty was merely a vain act of self preservation for fear of what might happen next.

And it did.

WHACK! Phinehas rammed his spear straight between her shoulder blades. The sheer force of impact threw the couple back to the ground.

“It's not my fault”, cried Zimri, “get her off me”.

Phinehas took one last sobering gaze into Zimri's drunken eyes, before glancing at the woman. Embedded deep in the whore’s back, his spear tip crushed the serpent’s head on her blasphemous tattoo. With a deep breath, Phinehas fastened his grip on the spear then rammed it through the whore’s chest and into Zimri’s lungs. If the thought of mercy ever crossed his mind, it vanished with the gruesome sound of cracking bones and cartillage.

It took a moment for Salman, Othniel and the entire crowd to realize exactly what Phinehas had done. Stunned silence gave way to gasps of shock and awe.

The two lovers lay skewered in a deathly shish kebab, drowning in their own blood. Phinehas leaned heavily down on the shaft forcing it through Zimri’s back and deep into the soil. Not even the convulsions of death could separate them.

Death was a fitting finale for the consummate act of sin.

Their gasping quickly turned to gurgling, as Salman grabbed a blanket to stem the flow of blood. It was too late to save them, but at least he could stop the blood from cursing the ground where they stood.

Joshua arrived out of breath and in complete shock at this barbaric sight.
“Good Lord! What have you done?

“What? I didn’t do anything,” Phinehas replied.

“Why don't you cut their heads off while you're at it?” said Joshua.

“It's not my fault.”

“I didn’t say it was your fault,” replied Joshua, “but a little discretion wouldn’t go astray.”

“Are you absolutely sure you found the right ones?” Othniel asked.

“Of course, stupid.”

“You don't do anything by halves, do you Phinehas?” Joshua continued. “You and Salman clean up this mess. Burn everything, their bodies, clothes, the tent - anything they touched.”

“Can I have my spear back?” Phinehas asked.

“Not here, wash it outside the camp. I don’t want any blood on the ground. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes Sir,” they replied.

The gurgling stopped as Salman continued wrapping the bodies in the groundsheet and binding them to the spear.

“Wait”, said Joshua abruptly.

Looking all around the camp, in every direction he saw the sick getting up off their death beds completely healed.

“Just as I expected,” continued Joshua as he stepped forward to get a better look at the bodies.

He carefully turned the woman’s head with the tip of his sword to get a better look at her face.

“Good Lord!” Joshua exclaimed, “you know who she is?”

The others responded with puzzled expressions.

“Who?” asked Othniel.

“And how do you know her?” Salman asked.

They were fair and simple questions, but Joshua dreaded their frightening answers.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Aschar, the daughter of Caleb, was burdened with shyness and stunning beauty. Her long jet black hair and fine features drew so much attention, she couldn’t hide her embarrassment behind an innocent smile.

Each day she delivered water in a small cart for the guards at every entrance to the camp. This was her responsibility since turning sixteen, which probably explained why Othniel was so diligent with his guard duty and so thirsty all the time.

Unfortunately for Joshua, Othniel’s infatuation with Caleb’s daughter was just another distraction in the hunt for the Midianite woman.

“You'll need a miracle to win her hand”, said Joshua.

Othniel shook his head in frustration.

“Caleb is an old far...”

“...father in the faith,” interrupted Joshua, as he dragged Othniel away before he made a fool of himself gawking at Aschar.

“Come on, there’s no time for chit chat. Look, Phinehas is destroying the whole camp.”

Phinehas, was indeed crashing through tents like a bull on a rampage. With no regard for life or property, he blazed a path of destruction wherever he went.

Barging through bystanders, turning over bales of straw and sending chickens flying into the air - it was easy to see where he had been by the chaos he left behind.

“Why is he so angry?” Othniel asked, in between two rows of tents.

Joshua thought carefully about his answer, with everything going on he wasn’t in the mood to give a speech.

“You never knew his grandfather, did you?” said Joshua.


“Then you don’t really know him.”

“You’ve lost me,” Othniel replied, looking completely dumbfounded.

“Don’t worry,” said Joshua, “there’s time for that later.”

In the secrecy of their tent, the naked Midianite woman rode her drunk companion like a wrangler taming a wild horse. The soft olive skin of her perfectly slender back was completely defaced with elaborate tattoos of mysterious symbols and demons.

One such marking, right between her shoulder blades, depicted a serpent devouring a newborn baby. It was so hideously offensive it would have shocked Zimri to his senses if he saw it, but he never did.

“What harm is it?” she softly whispered, like a black widow seducing her mate into the jaws of death.

“They'll kill me. This is bad idea, don’t you think?” replied Zimri, feeling particularly vulnerable where he lay pinned on the ground beneath her.

“It’s only bad if you get caught,” she replied, “besides, it's just a little baby. Why can’t I have our baby?”

Zimri's drunken stammering turned to sobbing as he realized the error of his ways. He sat up and struggled to squirm his way out from underneath her.

But it was too late.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Forbidden Fruit

Othniel shot off like a flash, ducking and weaving in between tents - he could easily check two or three in the same time it took Joshua to check one.

Although Joshua was mindful Othniel wanted to redeem himself, his tired old legs couldn’t keep up with the seventeen year old. Every now and then he caught glimpses of Othniel looking back through the rows of tents, but he couldn’t catch him, let alone predict where he was going.

Before long, the boy ran completely out of sight and Joshua was left with a sinking feeling in his stomach. Othniel was an accident waiting to happen; where, when and what were questions he would have to deal with later.

Or sooner.

The sound of shouting and smashing pottery nearby confirmed Joshua’s suspicions. Othniel stumbled quickly out of a tent, chased by an angry man and his wife wearing nothing but bedsheets.

“Get out! This is our tent, get out of here!” the husband yelled furiously. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“I’m so sorry,” replied Othniel, “I didn’t... I didn’t mean to. I mean feel free to continue...”

The husband charged and crash-tackled Othniel, down the path and onto the ground at Joshua’s feet.

“I think you have the wrong man,” remarked Joshua, extending his hand to lift Othniel up off the ground. “Please forgive the boy. We’re searching for a Midianite prostitute.”

“Alright,” the husband replied while hastily wrapping the bedsheet around his loins, “I suppose it was an honest mistake.”

“Honest and foolish”, said Joshua taking off cloak. “Please, take my robe as a gesture of good faith, and excuse us - we really must go.”

They continued their desperate search amongst rows of tents, occasionally intersecting paths with Phinehas and Salman (who were clearly covering more ground). With younger legs and a guilty conscience, Othniel often scurried ahead to check more tents, then dutifully doubled back to keep contact with Joshua.

“I don't understand”, Othniel exclaimed, “why would anyone want a foreigner”?

“Forbidden fruit”, Joshua replied.


“We want what we can't have. It's been like that since Adam."


“Adam and Eve; they chose the one tree that was forbidden.”

“What are you saying?”

“The Almighty doesn’t want us to starve.”

“But what if we could?” asked Othniel, as he stepped aside to avoid crashing into to Salman.

“What?” asked Salman - he couldn’t help but overhear their conversation.

“Marry a foreign woman” explained Othniel.

“Ha! Now that’s funny,” Salman laughed, “No good Hebrew would bother. Foreign women are immoral.”

“So they’re forbidden because they’re immoral?” asked Othniel, “not because they’re foreign?”

“Well, it’s not as simple as that,” replied Joshua.


“It’s not impossible,” Salman replied, “but it’d be a miracle.”

And with that Salman hurried off to catch up with Phinehas, stepping cordially aside to make way for Caleb’s daughter coming the other way.