She had been gone for nearly two months now on an unimaginable trip, while he sought to gather the strength and courage to do what he had promised. But as the time grew near, he knew nothing in his life would even be the same again. As he stoked the dying embers of the fire in front of him, he looked at his aging hands. Scarred with remembrances of battles fought, he had brought death to many people with these hands, but it was his words and his heart which had brought mourning into the camp.
He remembered the night of his last return every night. Despite the metallic smell of blood and the ache in his muscles, he had pressed his way home; certain word had reached the camp concerning the victory of their battles. He could not help grinning inwardly about how things had turned out. No one would have guessed that he would have defeated their enemies with such success. Twenty cities and vineyards, spanning Palestine to east of the Jordan River! The destruction was total and Israel would no longer be bullied under his rule…yes, his rule.
He was now head of all those who had rejected this son of a harlot. They had come to him for salvation and he was able to name his price! He turned his head to see the remainder of the troops he had lead into victory. They were great men of valor, but he was the greatest of them all! All praise to the Lord for hearing his cry. It was a small price for all he had inherited. Yes, he had been cheated out of his inheritance through no fault of his own. Who can change the nature of his conception? ‘No, not even I,’ he thought. Yet, a turn of events had brought those same men to him, promising headship if he would come and lead them into battle.
Oh, how he and those vain friends had celebrated the groveling of the elders! The slight grumbling of his stomach interrupted his thoughts and caused him to place a hand on the battered armor covering his midsection. Certain a feast would be prepared upon his arrival, he busied his mind with thoughts of good drink, good meat, music and dancing.
He could see the camp in the distance. Smoke from several fires smudged the sky above the camp with a light haze as the fires warmed the horizon with an orange glow. He was beginning to see figures moving about and as they drew closer; music and the sweet smell of smoked meats. He was home!
As he neared his tent, he remembered the words that had brought them swift and complete victory. Death was a small price for the victory and the power he had inherited. Yes, indeed --- a small price. As the flap of the tent began to move, he heard her before he saw her.
No! Oh Lord, no! He opened his mouth to speak but the words would not come fast enough. She came running from the tent, smiling with her timbrel in her hand as his eyes burned with tears and he dropped to his knees. Oh God, what have I done? What have I done?
He will never forget the sound that escaped his lips when he heard her voice first --- a low guttural cry that started from his gut then grew loud and hard. He cradled his head in his hands and wept bitterly right where he sat. A father who had killed his only child with a misspoken promise!
“I have made a promise that I must keep,” he whispered.
Embracing her, they both wept, daughter missing her father and a father grieving the loss of his daughter. As he spoke to her concerning his promise to the Lord to sacrifice the first person to come out of his tent, they wept. Victory had turned to grief. Death had come to their camp and not even his rule could fight the judgment of God. His daughter wept bitterly, mourning a life yet unlived and by her father’s hands! The hands that had played with her and comforted her as a child would now have to take her life.
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