Benjamin Bar-Jonah was ready to take on the serious day’s task with youthful vigor. Father, recovering from a recent fever, trusted Ben to fulfill the duties as Messenger Number 10 in his stead.
“Remember, son, do not deviate from the route I have mapped out. Not only does it bypass Robber’s Ridge, it also takes you by three watering spots to refill your goatskin gourd.”
Traveling rough and dusty roads under the intense noonday sun created an almost unquenchable thirst. A few months back, Jesse was found unconscious at Marker Number 5, his holey water bag dry-baked at his side. He had survived, but his mind was addled.
While they spoke, Bartholomew Ben-Jara, Runner Number 9, was trotting toward them in an even-gaited lope, his sandals dirt-caked. He rapidly removed the written missive wrapped carefully in lamb’s wool from the folds of his robe into Benjamin’s outstretched hand, falling softly on the grassy knoll for a hasty luncheon of bread and cheese before retracing his steps.
“All possible speed for this one—Caesar’s seal--priority delivery,” the words lingered in the trailing dust as Benjamin took flight.
“What’s it all about then, Bartholomew?” the older man queried as he offered the spent messenger a cup of well water and a clay platter of grapes and figs.
Bartholomew lowered his voice warningly, “Don’t know for certain. It’s whispered that King Herod has gone mad—that he’s demanding all Hebrew male babies be killed!”
“In God’s Name, and all that is holy, WHY?”
“All I know is what the herald proclaimed in Bethlehem. If you ask me, the King’s fearful of a Hebrew uprising.”
“My niece, Sarah, just birthed their first man child. I must send word to her at once! Will these Romans ever cease to torment us?”
“It would put anyone’s life in grave danger to disobey, so be very careful . . . I heard of an incident outside the city gates that will encourage you, though. Remember Caleb, Ezekiel’s son? He intercepted the entourage of the King’s herald departing from Jerusalem by pretending to be a robber—and stole the trumpet! The whole caravan was detained while a servant scrounged up a silversmith.”
“What audacity! How proud his family must be! I’ll be honored to share my table with him the next time he comes through,” Benjamin’s father shook his head, chuckling in spite of himself, “I will be meeting with our neighbors to try to come up with ways to overturn this newest diabolical plan of our ‘king’,” spitting in disgust.
Unaware of the message contents he had just delivered to Bethphage, Benjamin was ambling back home to his father. Taking a deep drink from his almost empty gourd, and loosening the cloth belt around his waist, he took a few moments to rest on a comfortable hillside rock. Soon he was wakened by a trumpet blast so loud he nearly jumped out of his skin!
“Caleb, you rascal! What are you doing with that thing? Come to think of it, where did you get it? And, “ suspiciously, “Why aren’t you yonder minding your uncle’s sheep?”
“Oh, I put my little brother in charge for awhile. The herd didn’t appreciate my music. I heard you were running for your father and I couldn’t resist coming across to see you,” brandishing the shiny, be-tasseled instrument as he spoke.
“Today’s journey was taking a message sealed by the King’s own hand,” Benjamin puffed out his chest in pretended nonchalance.
“You must not have known, then, of Herod’s plans to murder our babies,” Caleb explaining the King’s latest madness.
“Bah, these Romans! If they cannot tax us or work us to death, now they are murdering Hebrews at birth?! Would that they would all hang in the marketplace for all to watch their hypocritical necks breaking!”
“With the tax collectors along side them,” Caleb’s frustrated voice echoing most Hebrews’ thoughts, “See here, Ben, I confiscated this herald trumpet to slow them down. But, what would you say about going on a journey with me and using it for our own little announcement?”
Midwives and parents all over the region, given foreknowledge of King Herod’s outrageous demand, began making elaborate plans to save their precious sons. Some were successful. Most were not.
Matthew 2:18: "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more." (The Bible, New International Version)
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