Thursday, March 4, 2010

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.”

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