Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: See (07/22/10)
TITLE: God of Lions
By Phee Paradise
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“This will do.”
He turned to the man who had followed him into the room. “Find some scribes to look at those scrolls. I’ll want a report in the morning. And make sure that new priest finds a place to live while he looks for a suitable temple.” He headed for the door as he added, “As far from the palace as possible. I’ll inspect my quarters now.”
Early the next morning he paced in front of the table as he listened to reports from the province. After conquering Samaria, the king of Assyria had followed his usual empire building strategy, filling the land with people from all over the Empire. And, as always, conflict over religion arose among the different peoples. Ram Bail was confident he could handle this problem, but King Sargon had his own solution. The transplanted people had ignored the god of the Samaritans; the god was angry and had sent lions to roam the land and kill the people. So the king had sent a Hebrew priest to teach the new inhabitants his ways.
Satrap Ram Bail was not going to wait for the god to act.
“Send me General Bardisan. The army is going lion hunting.”
But when reports of lion attacks continued, the Satrap went to the new priest’s temple. When he ducked through the low door and glanced around, he turned to leave, convinced he had come to the wrong place. The bare walls and rows of low wooden benches looked nothing like a temple. Nor was there any smell of incense or blood to overwhelm the fresh rushes on the floor.
“Welcome to the synagogue of the Sovereign Lord.”
He turned and saw the priest standing by a door at the far end of the godless space. Like the room where he stood, his robe had no ornaments.
“I’ve come to see why you haven’t started teaching the people the ways of your god.”
“The people are coming. This is where I teach them to worship Him.”
“Here? Where’s the god? ”
The priest smiled and looked around. “Adonai is everywhere.”
“Yes, all the priests say that. But where do you keep it?”
There was no answer, as if the priest waited for a different question.
“The god, the idol. How will the people learn his ways if you don’t bring him out for them to worship?”
“There is no idol. Do you think the Sovereign God is like the pieces of bronze and stone you heathens worship? He is God in the heaven above and the earth below.”
The Satrap snorted. “King Sargon is the only sovereign in Assyria.” He looked around the bare room again. “You worship a god you cannot see? How do you know he’s there?”
“He sent the lions.”
“So he’s a god of lions. Like Tartak the ass-god and Nibhaz the dog headed man.”
The priest’s eyebrows lowered and his mouth formed a dark line across his face. “Do not speak those names in this place. The Most High demands all worship to Himself alone,” he hissed.
Ram Bail stiffened. “Just make sure the people learn his ways. If the lion attacks don’t stop, I’ll feed you to them and find a priest with a god the people can see.”
On returning to the palace and his other responsibilities, he dismissed thoughts of the strange religion until General Bardisan returned. After weeks of hunting, the army had seen no lions, nor heard of any attacks.
“No lions? Excellent. The people must be worshipping the new god.”
“Sir, it’s very strange. In every village, the people claim the attacks stopped when they began praying to a god they call the Sovereign Lord. But there are no high places.”
Ram Bail rubbed the back of his neck. “An invisible god. I don’t know how that can be, but as long as the people follow his ways, and the lions stay away, I don’t care. Let me know if the attacks return.”
As the general left, he turned back to the scribe who waited in the corner to give him a report about the harvest. Food was something he could touch and taste, something he could understand.
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