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.

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