Kabzeel, Southern Israel. Spring, 938BC.
Long before the horsemen could be seen, Ariel heard the thundering of hooves pounding the ground. The crisp, still morning allowed for the sound to be heard for miles around.
Tentatively, the boy stood in the doorway, waiting to see if it was friend or foe making the hasty approach to his ancestral home. Ariel’s keen eyes scanned the hilltop. What direction would they come from? Suddenly the horsemen appeared on the brow of the hill. Ten! Ariel counted.
“Soldiers!” he screamed. “Israelis!” There was no mistake. Ariel knew well the banners and uniform of Israel’s Elite Forces.
“Father! It’s Commander Joab!” Ariel yelled in stunned awe.
His father, Benaiah, hurried from the house and stood beside him.
“Shalom!” Ariel’s father greeted the soldiers as they dismounted. Joab and Benaiah greeting each other with a warm embrace and laughter.
“Looks like you have weathered the winter well, Benaiah!” Ariel heard Israel’s famous Commander tell his father.
Ariel carefully scrutinized each solider. Their colourful banners fluttered in the breeze, swords glinting in the morning light. They were numbered with David’s Elite just as his father was - a hero and prince among David’s Mighty Men.
Soon the friendly chatter shifted to talk of impending war. “David has summoned the army to re-group and advance against Ammon in ten days.” Joab told Benaiah, handing him his orders. The Royal seal was clearly visible on the scroll. Ariel gasped, realising the importance of the document. King David was personally commissioning his father.
Benaiah watched Ariel run his fingers over his battle armour.
“Father, why do you leave us and go to war every Spring? Can’t you take me hunting instead of going to war?” Ariel asked as he sharpened his magnificent ornamented sword. The rugged, war-tempered solider looked down into his son’s eyes reflecting the sadness and disappointment in his heart. Putting the sword aside, he lifted Ariel into his lap. I must spend time with him in the fields before leaving, he decided.
“Come Ariel, we’ll go hunting!” Ariel ran to get his father’s bow and arrows.
Together they strode out into the piercing morning sunlight. As they walked through the long grass, myriads of insects screeched and fluttered as they abandoned their secluded haunts, the air around them becoming a haze of enraged flying insects. Ariel gave chase to large butterflies. Benaiah delighted in the abandonment of his son’s childishness. The morning chorus of birds drew Ariel’s attention and he tried to mimic their happy songs. Laughing, Benaiah joined his son, their song resounding across the field.
Soon they reached the pristine springs at the end of the valley. Both enjoyed the sun’s warmth and the life that had emerged from winter hibernation. The valley was filled with the fragrance of flowers, busy bees darted from blossom to blossom assisting the germination process.
Benaiah carefully measured his thoughts before addressing his son, “Ariel, battles with our enemies cannot be fought during winter. There’s no food for the soldiers and many good men would die from exposure to freezing conditions. Just like the creation that Yahweh has made in His wisdom, we too must retreat, rest and patiently wait until Spring before we can return to full activity.”
Smiling, he continued, “Just as creation re-activates with new life in Spring, fresh energy courses through our veins. We are refreshed, ready for action...”
“But Father, hunting is best in Spring. The young deers and wood fowls are plenty. Can’t you stay home this time and take me hunting with you?”
Benaiah studied his son with love and pity.
“Ariel, at the commencement of Spring enemy armies would seek to conquer our land and ruin our food supplies ... destroy our fields. If that happens we would starve the following year. We must go to war in the Springtime to protect our borders and our future.”
Benaiah could see the disappointment on Ariel’s face, but also that he understood.
Slowly, lost in thought, they walked back to the house. Benaiah wondered if he would return to witness the emergence of Spring with Ariel next year.
Watching Benaiah don uniform and armour, Ariel thought his father to be an invincible warrior. His heart swelled with pride at the sight - his imagination swirling with images of heroic feats, fierce battles, enemies vanquished.
Looking across Ariel saw his mother’s tear-stained face as she waved good-bye to her husband.
It was Spring, the time that Kings go to war...
This story is adapted from 2 Samuel 23:20-23, and 2 Samuel 11:1: “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king's men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.”
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