The three companions circled around to the north of Bethlehem through a series of ravines. They stepped onto the road leading toward Jebus and approached the village of Bethlehem at a trot, eyes alert for any enemy movement.
As Eleazar had observed earlier, there were no sentries posted on the northern end of town. They jogged down the village’s single street, weapons at the ready. The commander of the Philistine detachment never saw them. He stepped from a house in the center of Bethlehem and a well-cast spear caught him in the chest and protruded out his back. The two officers trailing him found themselves in a fight for their lives. Shammah’s battleaxe felled the first and Eleazar nearly decapitated the second with a whistling sword stroke.
Others of the Philistine detachment were likewise cut down without a chance to defend themselves as the three raced through the village like a torrent of death. The soldiers facing to thesouth became aware of the clash of weapons behind them when the three came upon the ten men guarding the supply carts. The comrades made quick work of them, but now the garrison was alerted and those not engaged in watching the southern approach to the town converged upon them.
Eleazar charged straight at a group of Philistines as they rounded the corner of a building. The gutting knife came out of its hiding place and was plunged into the throat of an enemy. His sword swirled in an intricate pattern and a well-timed thrust found its target in an opponent’s vitals. Eleazar pulled it back and spun in the same motion, parrying an enemy blow. Twisting his blade, he disarmed his foe and a slashing stroke sliced the Philistine’s throat. Eleazar caught him as he pitched forward in gouts of blood and using him as a shield, rammed the stabbing knife through the eye of the next man and into his brain.
Shammah retreated halfway up the stairs outside a nearby house, then turned on his pursuers. The double-bladed axe bit into the arm of one warrior. A backhand blow cleft the helmet of one attempting to slash at his legs from below. He retreated up several more steps then, planting the shaft of the weapon on the step below, vaulted over the heads of the lunging enemies. Landing behind them, he spun and swinging the axe in a wide arc maimed four men. One of them stood, mouth open in a silent scream, staring at his arm lying on the ground before him, sword still gripped in the twitching fingers.
The warriors facing Josheb could not overcome the reach advantage of his spear. He parried the blows on the metal-clad shaft, then thrust the point into the face or chest of his attacker, the razor tip slicing through chain mail like a hot knife through butter. Three screaming Philistines charged him at once. Side-stepping, he pivoted and lunged, putting all his weight behind the spear thrust. All three fell, pierced through by the spear, wrenching it from his hands. Grabbing up a sword from one of them, he charged down the street toward where Eleazar was held at bay by a group of the enemy. He hurled himself at the nearest, catching him from the side and stabbing him as they tumbled down. The others, startled by the attack from another quarter, were distracted for a moment and Eleazar, knife in one hand and sword in the other, danced in among them, slaying as he went.
Shammah retreated down the street toward his comrades, the whirling axe forming a curtain of steel between him and his opponents. The Philistines hesitated, perplexed at the sight of the three standing back to back to back. Josheb, sensing an opening, charged through it, toward the city gate and the well.
Seeing a small water jar on the bottom step of the well, he ran down, scooped it up left-handed and dipped it into the cool water, still holding the captured sword in his right hand. Above him, Shammah and Eleazar held off the swarming Philistines, the ground before them slippery with the blood of their foes.
By this time, David and his warrior band stood on the height above the town, in plain sight of the Philistines on the southern edge of Bethlehem. They dared not turn and join the fight taking place behind them. Josheb dashed up the steps of the well and toward the gate. Eleazar and Shammah followed close upon his heels. A spear rattled off the gate post as they departed Bethlehem.