Sunday, March 20, 2011

Warrior at the Gate of Heaven

The stench of burning flesh rose from the smoking ruins of Rabbah as Josheb and Eleazar picked their way through its once bustling and prosperous streets. High above the remains of his capitol city, Hanun, king of the Ammonites, huddled with the remnants of his army in the citadel set on an outcropping of rock.

“What I don’t understand is why the young fool behaved in such a high-handed manner after the friendship between his father and David,” Eleazar spoke.

“Apparently the victim of bad companions, and advisors who were as young and foolish as he,” Josheb replied.”Besides, he figured the Arameans he hired would bolster his forces enough to defeat us.”

“What a waste of his gold!” Eleazar scoffed. “You and I alone could have defeated the Arameans. They fled at our first approach.”

“The Ammonites themselves weren’t much better…. Listen!” Josheb halted, raising a hand. From the direction of the citadel came the clash of battle.

Shammah raced toward them, dodging piles of shattered masonry and smoldering timbers.

“Brothers, come! Joab has assaulted the citadel,” Shammah urged his two comrades.

“Why would he begin the attack without us?” asked Eleazar.

The Three hurried upward through the winding streets of Rabbah and toward the royal citadel. The shouts and screams of battle increased, lending urgency to their steps. Arriving at the open marketplace before the citadel’s gate, they beheld a mass of struggling men contesting the opening.

“Who leads the assault?” Eleazar questioned a wounded soldier.

“Uriah the Hittite,” the man replied.

At that moment, Eleazar noticed Joab observing the assault from a pile of rubble some hundred paces from the gate and raced across the square, followed by his companions.

“Does Uriah lead the attack alone?” Eleazar shouted to the king’s general. “Where are the rest of the mighty men?”

“The king desires that Uriah should have the honor,” Joab answered.

“Look, more Ammonites issue from the citadel. Now’s the time to send up reinforcements and smash our way through.” Eleazar urged.

“The king desires that Uriah alone should have the honor,” Joab reiterated.

Something in the general’s tone aroused Eleazar’s suspicion.

“The honor of what? Dying uselessly for David?” he shouted. Shammah and Josheb gripped his arms as he seemed about to fling himself at Joab.

“The enemy is pressing about him now,” Josheb urged. “We must go to his aid.”

“You must obey the king’s orders,” Joab gazed calmly upon The Three. “Stand where you are.” Joab’s bodyguard, handpicked from among his kinsmen, closed around them.

In front of the gate, the Israelites gave way, bit by bit, before the furious counterattack. Only Uriah stood firm in the midst of the melee, striking right and left with his two handed sword. Swaying backward to avoid a whistling sword-stroke, he countered with a smashing thrust to his opponents face, then ducked as another blow passed over his head. From his crouched stance, he thrust upward under the breastplate and into the groin of the man facing him. The screaming warrior collapsed as Uriah kicked him into the legs of two other Ammonites. Stepping and weaving with predatory grace, Uriah dodged the blows of the enemy crowding about him while dealing death and mutilation in the gateway of the citadel.

“Look, they’re falling back,” Shammah yelled.

The Israelites of the assault party edged forward to aid their leader. Suddenly, the Ammonites fell back, and for a frozen moment in time, Uriah stood alone before the gateway, then drew himself up to pursue the retreating foe. A flight of arrows sang from the ramparts and thudded into the torso and neck of the Hittite. His gore-splattered sword slipped from his grasp and onto the bloodstained earth as he sank to his knees. Eyes glazing, Uriah the Hittite fell face forward and breathed no more. The warriors of Israel stood in shocked silence that was broken only by the metallic clang of the gate’s heavy iron bar falling into place.

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