Salman always hoped Ahijah would be able to thwart their eviction. Being King Shlomo’s Royal Secretary his brother had many friends in high places.
His heart fell when he heard the loud knock on the door of his house in the Lower City of Jerusalem. Too late, Salman knew.
“Message from the King!” The gruff soldier handed Salman a sealed document. “Read it now,” the man ordered. “I must report back you’ve understood the message.”
Salman’s hand shook when he broke the seals. He knew its content, for he had seen his neighbor’s standard eviction notices. Now it was his turn.
He always expected to live and die in Jerusalem. Instead, he’d have to leave his fields and house behind while still alive.
“I understand the notice.” Composed, Salman looked at the soldier. “Tell your officer he won’t need to evict us by force.”
Without another word the soldier turned and left.
“It has come?”
Salman saw the fear in his wife’s eyes. “Oh, Serah!” His voice broke.
While they comforted each other, Merari burst in.
“Is it true?” He panted. “We’re thrown out?”
Salman saw his son’s balled fists and was grateful this hot-headed youngster had not been present when the soldier arrived.
“Nobody throws us out, son. We leave of our own.” Salman’s shoulders slumped. “Next week.”
“King Shlomo’s cruel!” Merari shouted. “Confiscating houses. Taking away family possessions!” He paced through the small room whose plastered walls showed cracks. “And then our fields!” He hit the low ceiling, made up from packed grass and earth, sending down a shower of dust. “I hate him!” He ripped off his headdress and raked his fingers through his long hair.
“A king can do as he pleases, son.” Salman stroked his beard. “Not always people are compensated for their losses. We are.”
“Abba! This house belongs to your family! For generations!” Merari’s eyes blazed. “No price can compensate such loss!”
Salman sighed. “I know son.” Suddenly feeling tired and old, he sank down on a low stool.
“We’ll start anew in Sataf, my husband!” Serah gently put her hand on his shoulder. “With help from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. We must trust in Him.” She turned to her son. “You too, Merari! Don’t resist and bring shame on your father!”
Merari looked at his sandaled feet. “I’ll try,” he grumbled and slammed the door behind him when he ran out of the house.
“Let’s pray nobody will provoke him to do something rash.” Serah sighed.
At daybreak a week later, Salman stood with heavy heart next to the cart carrying their belongings to their new home in the Judean Mountains.
“How do we get those oxen back to Jerusalem?” Merari sounded like a wineskin ready to burst.
“They’re ours, son.” Salman’s voice was clipped.
“Who paid for them? The king?” Merari’s eyes blazed. “To appease his conscience?”
“Shh! Not so loud!” Salman nervously looked towards the gate. “It doesn’t matter, they’re ours.” He took the oxen’s rope and began to walk down the path.
“Who, Abba?” Merari ran after him.
“Tell him, Salman.” Her face drawn, Serah held on to her daughter while the cart wobbled over the Kidron Valley’s uneven dirt road.
Salman sighed. “Ahijah.”
“Oh!” Merari kicked against a stone.
When they reached the Kidron and Hinnom Valley crossroads, Salman halted the oxen. For the last time he looked at the city where he had lived all of his life. There, behind the wall, stood his two-room house. Built by his ancestors, it even had a small courtyard. Standing on the flat roof you could see the Outer Valley and Mount Zion.
Behind him he heard the women sob. Salman sighed deeply and prodded the oxen on.
Merari looked grim. “I’ll never forgive him!” He hissed through clenched teeth.
“Son! Don’t live up to your name. Don’t become bitter!” Salman admonished him. “Many farmers have been evicted, and more will follow.”
“You’ll see!” Merari spat. “Our house will be razed to make room for a mansion.”
Merari could be right, Salman thought.
Jerusalem was to become the administrative centre for king Shlomo’s growing kingdom.
Salman looked at the mountains surrounding Jerusalem and suddenly felt his heavy heart become lighter.
“As we come, and go, the LORD watches over us…,” he began to sing, “Both now and forevermore!”
“Amen!” Serah responded in a choked voice.
With renewed hope Salman led his family on the road to Sataf. Towards their new life.
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