Like a heavy tunic, Midnight draped our city in darkness. I blinked sleepily and stared into the inky blackness around me. My heart was pumping wildly. I reached with sweaty palms for the tiny form of my newborn son. I felt the soft lump of his body, relieved yet confused. Blinking again, I realized it must have only been a dream; that I had felt him being pulled from beside me. I lay awake for a few moments, pondering on the birth of my first son. Only three days old, and already, he had twined himself tightly about my heart. Sweet Benjamin!
I closed my eyes and was soon breathing evenly.
The sun was rising outside our window when I awoke. Across the damp earth floor of our room, I noticed Tirza’s shadowy form stirring. I heard her own infant’s muffled cries and felt suddenly for the baby beside me. How strange that he was not nestling against me to nurse! Instead, he was cold, almost lifeless! I gasped. I turned him on his side but he remained stiff. Tiny lips unmoving, pale skin gray in the twilight. Horrified, I stroked his cold cheeks with numbing fingers. I called his name; “Benjamin! Benjamin!” And then, hopelessly, I bent over him and wept aloud.
“Rachel!” Tirza’s voice was cool and low. “Is something wrong?”
I looked up in anguish to see her pulling her baby close.
Gulping, I tried to speak but I could not.
“Your baby,” Tirza’s voice was unnaturally calm; “Is he alright?”
“No!” I wailed, sobbing brokenly, “He’s not! He’s not all right! Benjamin is dead!”
For some time I sat weeping and ever so slowly, my mind began to clear. Silently, I reviewed the past hours. How could it be that Benjamin was dead? I probed his little body, searching for some explanation.
Tirza must have read the questions on my face for she spoke nervously.
“Now Rachel, haven’t we been taught not to lay on our babes in sleep?
The words sent chills running up my spine. Could it be that I had rolled on Benjamin in my sleep and smothered him?!
I bent closer over the still baby. And then suddenly, I knew the truth. This was not my son! I sprang with eagerness from my pallet and darted toward Tirza.
As I did so, she drew her Tunic over the child beside her and eyed me with a foreboding look.
“Tirza!” My voice was desperate. “Let me see that baby!”
Tirza smiled an evil grin. “As you wish, Rachel.” She pulled the Tunic back.
The baby pulled loose from her breast and opened bright dark eyes. A wash of joy ran over me.
“Tirza! You wretch! Truly you have sought to decieve me! That child is my son!”
Tirza pulled the baby closer. “This child is mine!” She insisted angrily.
“Don’t lie to me Tirza! I know my own child’s face! I felt someone pulling my baby from me as I slept; now I know the truth! It was you, Tirza!
“How dare you accuse me!” Tirza cried wickedly. “Your baby is dead!”
“That is my baby!” I insisted tearfully.
Tirzah stood up decidedly. “We go before the king with this matter!” She hissed.
It was midday by the time we had spoken our story before the king. He looked from Tirza to me and then back to Tirza and the small child in her arms. Thoughtfully, he stroked his chin. Then he turned sternly to the soldier beside him. “Emmaus! Cut the child in half! Give half to her, and half to her!”
The blood drained from my face. Tirza and I gasped in unison.
In a minute, the soldier had removed the baby from Tirza’s grasp and held him below the wielded sword.
I glanced quickly at Tirza, but her lips were stubbornly set.
“That’s fine with me, she shrugged.
“No!” I screamed, running forward, “Give her the baby! Please, my Lord! Don’t kill him!”
I lifted my face to the King’s and our eyes met. I read understanding in his searching expression.
The sword was lifted above my son’s body.
“Stop!” The King commanded.
“Emmaus,” His voice boomed, “Give the baby to her! She is the real mother.” The King was pointing at me!
Happy tears coursed down my cheeks as Emmaus placed the baby in my arms.
“Thank you!Oh Thank you!” I whispered.
I marveled at the wisdom of this great King.
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