One Starry Night–A Christmas Poem (part 3)

One Starry Night (part 3)

A manger, they knew, would be found where the

animals were fed, so they made their way

behind the first inn and followed the sounds

(and smells) of animals whose nightly slumber

had been disturbed. Quietly, they approached

a cave carved into a small hill where the

soft, smoky glow of an oil lamp cast a

shadow. They stopped as one when they reached the

entrance, suddenly unsure of their next

move. Just as Reuben decided to go

forward, the cry of a baby broke the

stillness of the night. The shepherds gasped and

several of them surprised themselves with tears.

Going in together, they peered in awe

at the sight. A young woman (a girl to

their eyes) along with a man dressed in

garments plain, crouched over a manger where

a newborn infant lay wrapped in cloths just

as the Messenger had told them. They crept

as close as they dared, wondering at the

babe whose birth had been declared to them by

a heavenly being and even sung

about by a heavenly choir. “We

were told to come here,” the old shepherd broke

the silence. “By a . . .” He stopped, unable

to continue and unsure of how to

explain the phenomenon they had witnessed.

The young woman smiled at them. “An angel?”

she suggested. “Yes!” they all said at once.

Then, mindful of the sleeping babe, they told

their story in excited, though hushed whispers.

“Yes, yes! An angel, that’s what he was. A

messenger sent from God. He told us he

had good news.” “Good news for everyone. The

whole world.” “He said it was great joy.” “For

everyone.” “He said we would find a baby.”

“A baby wrapped in cloths.” “In a manger.”

They stopped for breath and gazed anew at the

sleeping babe. How could such a small, helpless

newborn baby be the cause of such a

revelation? Of a heavenly

announcement? The promise of good news for

all people? “He said,” the old shepherd, Asa,

cleared his throat. “He said, the Messenger, I

mean, that this baby is the Christ. Our

Messiah.” Tears filled his eyes. “I never

thought he’d come for me.” The plain-dressed

man, who seemed to be the baby’s guardian,

placed an arm around the old shepherd’s shoulders.

“We were as amazed as you when the

Messenger came to us and gave us the

same good news. This baby is God’s gift to

us and will do more for us than we can

ever imagine.” “We must go and tell

everyone what we have seen and heard,” Asa

declared. His companions, though mildly

amused at the old shepherd’s change of heart,

joyfully agreed. With a final look

at the Christ child and a farewell to the

young couple–whom they all knew would face times

of trouble and sorrow as they raised this

baby in this sin-struck world–they set out

to walk the streets of Bethlehem as morning

broke and people began to stir. They stopped

and told everyone they met of the

celestial announcement they had received

about the baby and the significance

of his arrival. Though some had no interest

in hearing news of any kind from lowly

shepherds, many others marveled at their

story and spread the word throughout their town

and still others carried the story to

their homes in places near and far throughout

Israel. “A baby has been born to you.”                  P.M. Gilmer     Soli Deo gloria

One Starry Night–A Christmas Poem (part 2)

One Starry Night (part 2)

The shepherds all gathered together to

discuss this news that had been given to

them. “Could this be true?” one old grizzled

veteran shepherd asked. “A baby who

is the Christ?” “Did you ever hear such

singing?” asked another, his eyes still on

the sky and his ears still ringing with the

fading heavenly melody. “What should

we do?” worried a third. “Go and see!”

exclaimed one eager shepherd. This shepherd

put on his sandals, grabbed his cloak and staff,

and made ready to leave for Bethlehem,

not caring if anyone joined him

or not. He wanted to see this baby

whose birth had launched a choir of heavenly

messengers. “Now, wait,” the old veteran

cautioned. “We can’t just run off and leave our

sheep, especially when we’re not sure who

those creatures were or even where they came

from.” The rest of the shepherds looked at him

aghast. “Why, they surely came from heaven.

Where else could they be from?” “They were angels,

I be certain,” declared another. “And

I am with Reuben. To Bethlehem, I

am bound.” And he, too, put on his sandals

and took up his sack and staff. Soon, they were

all picking up their things, murmuring with

excitement. “A message from heaven, did

you ever hear of such a thing?” “No!” said

the old shepherd. “I never have and neither

have any of you. Why would someone from

heaven want to speak to the likes of us?”

Reuben placed a hand on the old man’s shoulder.

Good news for all people. Come with us, Asa,

and see if this baby is where the

Messenger said he would be. Our sheep will

be fine until we return.” The old shepherd

considered his companions, shrugged, and fell

in line. A trip to Bethlehem in the

middle of the night seemed like madness to

the old shepherd, but this whole night had been

unlike any he had ever encountered

in his eighty some years. A messenger

from heaven? Or a demon to mislead

and taunt them? His friends seemed certain the word

came from Heaven, but he had experienced

more of the latter than the former. Still,

a surge of hope went through him as he

tottered after his fellow shepherds,

listening to their excited chatter

as they made their way along the moon-lit

road to Bethlehem, the city of David.

They entered through the gates of Bethlehem,

(How did those shepherds know which way to go?)

and walked unerringly through the darkened

streets. Shops were closed and houses still, but from

overflowing inns, light and noise spilled out

and in front of one of these the shepherds

stopped and considered again the words of

the Messenger. “You will find a baby

wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”               P.M. Gilmer

One Starry Night–A Christmas Poem (part 1)

One Starry Night  (part 1)

A long day finally over, the sheep

now settled to sleep. The weary shepherds

found places to rest–some to lay their heads;

others to keep watch over their flocks (many

of them destined to be a sacrifice

for man’s sins), alert for any dangers

that might be lurking or for any sheep

that might decide to take a midnight stroll.

Under a clear sky with stars so bright,

the night air took on a chill, causing the

sheep to huddle together and the shepherds

to wrap their cloaks around themselves and most

stayed near one of the fires kept burning throughout

the night. The men on the first watch neither

saw nor heard anything to make them believe

this night would be any different than hundreds

of others. When their time was ended, they

went to wake their companions for the second

watch. Before they could rouse the slumbering

shepherds, a light so bright filled the sky and

caused the poor shepherds to gasp and cover

their faces. Some fell to their knees and one

even stumbled into the companion

he had come to waken causing a stir

amongst the others whose dreams had just been

shattered. But when they tried to open their

eyes and grumble at their rude awakening,

they too were blinded by the light and covered

their faces in fear. Barely able to

think or breathe, they heard a Voice speak from–

where? The Light? The sky? It seemed to fill the

very air. “Do not be afraid!” the Voice

cried out. Though still they trembled, they slowly

lowered their arms and their hands from their

faces; and their eyes began to make out

a form. A form so majestic they knew

it was no ordinary being and

had to have come from Heaven. “Behold!”

the Being proclaimed and as he continued

to speak, the shepherds ceased their trembling and

stared and listened in awe. Even the sheep

had shaken off their drowsiness and seemed

to be listening as well. “I bring you

good news that will bring great joy to all

people. Today in Bethlehem, the city

of David, a Savior has been born to

you. He is the Christ, the Messiah, the

Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you

will find a baby wrapped in cloths and

lying in a manger.” Before the shepherds

could marvel at these words, the Messenger

Being was, in an instant, joined by a

whole host of more of these Heavenly Beings.

They began to sing in voices so sweet,

the shepherds stood entranced and the sheep

bleated softly as if in accord with

their song. “Glory to God in the highest

of heavens, and peace on earth among all

those who delight Him.” And as suddenly

as they had appeared, the messenger choir

was gone, leaving the shepherds to stare up

into the star-filled sky as if waiting

for more miracles to appear. The sheep,

however, knew the heavenly show

was over and so settled themselves to

to return to their peaceful slumber.            P.M. Gilmer

 

NC Christian Writers Conference 18

Last week I attended a writers’ conference in Liberty, N.C. put on by Serious Writer (www.seriouswriter.com) Going to a conference can be a big commitment as well as an extra expense–especially for struggling writers. What are some reasons for attending a writers’ conference?

  1. To meet other writers. Why is this important? We writers spend our working hours alone and a lot of time just in our own heads. To meet others who also have this strange way of living is refreshing and encouraging. As C.S. Lewis put it: “Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another ‘What, you, too? I thought that no one but myself . . .'”
  2. To meet people in the “business.” You know, editors, agents, publishers, and, did I mention other writers?
  3. To attend workshops that will help you better your craft.
  4. To have your questions answered. To learn what your questions should be in the first place.
  5. To hear other people’s stories. You know, other writers.
  6. Encouragement. I had to force myself to make some appointments to pitch my book, but I’m glad I did. I don’t know yet what may come of the appointments, but I did get some positive feedback.
  7. Worship. As Christians, we should worship God in whatever we do. Attending a conference with other Christians makes this easier and is a good reminder of Who we’re working for.

I’m already looking forward to next year. What about you? Have you been to a writers’ conference this year? Making plans to go soon?

Dorothy L. Sayers: Apologist and Mystery Writer

“I always have a quotation for everything; it saves original thinking.” Dorothy Sayers.

Dorothy Sayers (1893-1957) wore many hats, but it is the labeling her as “apologist and mystery writer” by one article which makes me smile, and I believe would amuse her as well.

Born at Oxford, the only child of the Rev. Henry Sayers, she won a scholarship to Somerville College (a college of Oxford, started specifically for women). She graduated in 1915 with first class honors in modern languages.

She wrote her first “Lord Peter Wimsey” mystery, Whose Body?, while working at a London advertising firm. She went on to write several novels and short stories featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. The books are still being published today and many of her readers are unaware of her many other accomplishments.

Sayers considered her best work her translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Sayers was 51 when she first read the Divine Comedy, and she became consumed with it. “I bolted my meals, neglected my sleep, work, and correspondence, drove my friends crazy . . .” Deciding to make a fresh translation of his work, she learned the Italian necessary, and the translation remains in print.

Of all her writings, it is concerning a particular play–The Man Born to be King–I want to write about today. She wrote her first play, The Zeal of Thy House, for the Canterbury Festival. She then wrote six more plays including The Man Born to be King. I read this play over ten years ago, and have decided to reread it this year as part of my “Christmas reading.”

This play was originally written for the BBC for broadcasting in the children’s hour. Sayers’ depiction of Christ has him speaking in modern English (since her audience would hardly know Greek) which caused a great outcry of protests. Didn’t she know Jesus (and all those around him) spoke in King James English? One newspaper editor put it this way: “In quoting the Bible we must take the Authorized Version, and not the interpretation of scholars, however wise.” Sayers response: “Of this singular piece of idolatry I will only say that it imposes difficulties upon the English playwright from which the Greek tragic poets are free.” She further explains that as the Incarnation really happened–meaning God became a man and lived among common, ordinary people–he, consequently, spoke a common, ordinary language.

This speaks to me as a writer as I have been wrestling with criticism concerning some of my dialogue. Some say my dialogue sounds too modern, and I wonder if they’re expecting King James English (the Authorized Version) as well? I understand the characters shouldn’t sound like 21st century Americans, but I do not know the Hebrew language and do not believe my characters spoke in any superior sort of way. The whole point of writing about Biblical characters is to remind us that they were real people and not merely “characters.” The sons of King David, though sons of a king, were also shepherds and warriors. Yes, David was a poet and a song writer, but does anyone really think he went around speaking poetically to his sons? Or that Solomon spoke in proverbs in his every day life?

When Sayers wrote her play, she wanted her audience to remember also that these characters did not know what they were doing. “We are so much accustomed to viewing the whole story from a post-Resurrection, . . .point of view, that we are apt, without realising it, to attribute to all the New Testament characters the same kind of detailed theological awareness which we have ourselves. We judge their behavior as though all of them–disciples, Pharisees, Romans, and men-in-the-street–had known with Whom they were dealing . . . But they did not know it.”

Sayers goes on to explain that when we show how real the people were who “made vulgar jokes about Him, called Him filthy names, taunted Him, . . .”, we are shocked, and we should be. However, when we pretty up the language and think of it all as in a culture and people far removed from us, we are not quite as shocked and do not see ourselves as those very people (as we should). “It is curious that people who are filled with horrified indignation whenever a cat kills a sparrow can hear that story of the killing of God told Sunday after Sunday and not experience any shock at all.”

In the same way, I wish for people who read my stories to see themselves in these Bible characters. To understand that we are just as sinful, just as fallen, and just as in need of a Savior. If a reader does not relate to the characters as people like themselves, they will only view the stories as just that–stories.

I’m looking forward to rereading these plays with a new eye than when I read them before. If you want to join along, please comment and let me know!

“The only Christian work is good work, well done.” Dorothy L. Sayers

 

“My Name is Absalom” Part Seven (and the End) by P.M. Gilmer

If you still haven’t read part six of this story, here is the link:

https://pmgilmer.com/2017/09/01/my-name-is-absalom-part-6-by-p-m-gilmer/

And now for the conclusion of “My Name is Absalom.”

 

I woke well before the sun on the morning of my planned dinner. I tried to eat some bread before I tended to my duties, but anticipation kept my stomach rolling. My plans were all falling into place though I did encounter one unforeseen problem: the early return of my mother. I had expected her to stay with her father for another month or so, but two days ago, I received word of her return. Fortunately, Tamar had stayed with our grandfather.

My mother heard (naturally) of the dinner I planned and of my invitation to my father (who had, predictably, declined). She knew me well enough to be suspicious of my show of generosity, but as I refused her commands to come visit her, she had no chance to question me. I’m not saying she would have disapproved of my plan, but she hated to be left out of anything, and I’m sure if I let her know what I was doing, she would demand a front row seat. Her drama I could live without. This was my revenge, and she would just have to hear of it second-hand.

I reminded my servants of their roles until satisfied each one was prepared to play their part. Under my directions, they had put up a tent the day before and were now bringing in a table, cushions, and whatever else should be necessary to make everything ready for this evening. All I needed to do now was continue to oversee the preparations and to wait. Waiting can be difficult, but when you know what you’ve been waiting for is truly about to happen, the waiting becomes a sort of deliciousness.

I tried to rest during the heat of the afternoon, but my excitement was too great for either my body or my mind to settle. I rechecked everything again–made sure my knives were sharpened to a keen edge, counted the skins of wine, and made sure (again) that my servants–Ramiah and Kedar–knew where each brother was to sit. Nothing would be left to chance.

Finally, the sun began to fall through the sky, leaving bright red and orange splashes in its wake. The first of my brothers arrived–Ithream and Adonijah, followed by Solomon and Shammua. I gave them all hearty greetings, making sure my servants seated them properly and served them some wine. In a matter of minutes, all my brothers and a few of our cousins had arrived with the exceptions of Amnon and Jonadab. Jonadab knew to wait until the others had time to arrive before he brought Amnon here. It would not do for them to be the first to arrive. No, let Amnon see his brothers already settled, so that he, too, could settle in and be comfortable.

I waited by the door, along with Kedar, trying to hide my increasing anxiety. What if Jonadab couldn’t convince Amnon to come? After all, Amnon knows me as well as anyone, and, truly, he would be a fool to trust me. I could only hope that imbecile, Jonadab, could convince him of my sincerity in wanting to heal the rift between us. The very thought made me gag. Jonadab would need to be pretty convincing in his deceit, but he was good at that.

Then–I saw them. Walking together, Jonadab seemed to be his usual animated self while Amnon walked silently beside him. My brothers behind me were in a boisterous mood, but I hardly heard them as I kept my eyes on my prize. Then I looked over at Kedar who was also watching the two coming towards us.

“Is it him?” he asked quietly.

“Yes,” I murmured. “You already know the loud-mouth next to him, but the other is Amnon.”

When they were close enough to make out their faces, Kedar raised an eyebrow and looked at me. “He is much like you–your brother.”

My face tightened, and I nodded. Yes, people often commented on that. Though we had different mothers, our eyes and facial features were quite similar, and many people could only tell us apart by our hair. My hair was often compared to a lion’s mane because of its thickness and rapid growth while Amnon kept his lighter colored hair cut short, almost shaven. Though I could see it was now much longer than usual, it still was nothing compared to mine.

I plastered a huge smile on my face as Jonadab and Amnon approached us. Amnon seemed to shrink back at the sight of me, but Jonadab kept a firm grip on his elbow and kept him moving forward.

“Brother!” I called out, then pulled Amnon to me in a tight hug. “It has been too long!”

“Amnon has missed being with his brothers, Absalom,” Jonadab said in a loud voice. “We are both grateful for this invitation.”

“Well, come on in. Ramiah will show you to your seats.” I turned to motion to Ramiah, but he was already at Amnon’s side, leading him and Jonadab to their seats.

I watched them–Jonadab strutting past my brothers and Amnon slinking behind him. My brothers had become quiet–only nodding to Jonadab who called out loud greetings–then looking gravely at Amnon who said nothing.

Once they were seated, one of my brothers called out for more wine and another asked, “When is the food going to be ready, Brother? We are starving here!”

As the laughter rang out, I ordered the servants to pour more wine (they had instructions not to water the wine unless asked) and assured my brothers the food would be ready soon. “Patience, my brothers. Good food must be cooked to perfection.” Before they could make more demands, I left the tent–ostensibly to check on the food, but actually to make sure Kedar and Ramiah were ready. They were, and it was finally time to put my plan into play.

From the back of the tent, I gave a nod to Jonadab, and he casually rose from his seat and left the tent just as two of my servants began bringing in baskets of bread and platters of roasted vegetables.

“Come on, Brother!” bellowed one of my brothers. “Where’s the meat?”

With the wine flowing freely, my brothers were getting louder–laughing and teasing one another. Since I wanted them drunk, this brought me some satisfaction (though I knew a fine line existed before they became belligerent and more demanding) until I noticed two exceptions: my two younger brothers, Solomon and Shammua. Both were quiet and seemed not to be drinking as much as the others. I frowned, wondering what could be wrong with that sanctimonious Solomon. I should go over to them and encourage them to drink more, but that would probably only arouse suspicions and, besides, it was far too late for that. Time for execution.

My servants were ready to bring in the roasted lamb, so I nodded for them to come on. My eyes met those of Kedar, and he nodded his readiness. The servants brought in the lamb and my brothers cheered, though one said something about ‘where was something for the others?’

As soon as my brothers began diving into the lamb, Kedar and Ramiah came in behind Amnon. They each grabbed him by an arm and pulled him up, then Kedar drove his knife into my oldest brother’s chest. Amnon looked up at me, and I smiled, watching the shock, then the light fade from his eyes. So great was my pleasure, I was barely aware of my other brothers as–in a flurry–they all jumped up as if the tent was on fire, almost trampling each other as they raced out of the tent.

Once they were gone, my servants and I began to act quickly. We made sure the oil lamps were all put out, then began gathering up the cushions, cups, etc.

“We should be away, my lord,” Kedar said to me, cleaning off his knife.

I nodded, looking around the tent with both pride and contentment. Jonadab would soon be telling my father how I had killed all his sons, and it wouldn’t be long before the great king sent men here. I would be going to my grandfather’s, along with Kedar and Ramiah. I had other servants assigned to take care of the food and take down the tent. Two others would attend to my brother’s body and wait for my father’s men to arrive.

“Very well,” I said. “Let us be off.” I took a last look at my brother’s face before my servants covered it. “Be at peace, Brother,” I said softly. “Your debt is now paid.”

Soli Deo gloria

 

“My Name is Absalom” Part 6 by P. M. Gilmer

If you missed last week’s post, here is part five: https://declaretonextgeneration.com/2017/08/25/my-name-is-absalom-part-5-by-p-m-gilmer/

 

After many obstacles and hindrances, I finally began to formulate my plans for revenge. A knife in the dark would probably be easiest, but not nearly as satisfying. No, my revenge must be public as well as complete. I not only wanted my brother to know of my hatred, but also my father. If he had done his duty as a father by protecting Tamar–or failing that, in punishing Amnon–I could have, perhaps, forgiven him. Not that he seemed to want or need my forgiveness. He seemed to have pushed the whole incident from his mind, like an unpleasant taste or a childhood illness. Something difficult and heart-wrenching at the time, but now in the past and best forgotten. But, I would not forget if for no other reason than this: Tamar would certainly never forget.

You may be wondering how Tamar fared by this time. Since she still did not want to leave my home, even to visit our sisters and mother, I made plans for her to visit our grandfather, our mother’s father. As I said earlier, my mother’s father is king of the small country, Geshur, and Tamar could feel both comfortable and cared for there. I wanted my mother to accompany her (I needed both of them out of the city), and though at first she balked at this suggestion (why must she be so difficult?), she eventually consented. Not for any concern for Tamar, but rather because of her own present difficulties at the palace. She never felt she received enough respect there, and since the incident with Tamar, things had only gotten worse. The other wives (with the exception of Amnon’s mother who pretended nothing had changed) tried to express sympathy to her, but she flared up at their offers of “pity.” Also, as my mother could not bring herself to express much compassion toward Tamar, this caused the other wives to go from sympathy to puzzlement to scorn. Anyway, once I had both my mother and Tamar conveniently out of the way, I began to finalize my plans.

My brothers and I all had our own pieces of land where we raised sheep, wheat, barley, and a few even had their own bee hives. With the weather turning warmer and the rains ceasing, the time to begin sheep-shearing was upon us. My brothers often shared chores with each other, so I decided to ask my brothers to come and help me with my sheep-shearing. To make manifest my generous and forgiving spirit, I would promise to first give them a big dinner and to even include Amnon and our father.

Since my brothers and I had not been on the friendliest of terms, I needed to find a way to ask them that would seem casual, yet deliberate; friendly and non-threatening. For some reason, my brothers didn’t totally trust me and a friendly gesture from me could possibly be construed as suspicious. It’s true I didn’t often invite them over for a meal, but again, sheep-shearing was a chore often shared, so, hopefully, they would just see it as my way of getting free labor. Or cheap labor. I would be providing a meal, after all.

Since I needed some help, I decided to make use of Jonadab and his eagerness to be of any assistance and to somehow make amends for his part in my sister’s tragedy. Not that I thought for a moment he truly wanted to make amends except as a way to get in my good graces, but having him at my side would lessen my brothers’ suspicions, and I also needed him to convince Amnon to come.

Obviously, after spending almost two years avoiding Amnon and having nothing good to say about him, it would be difficult for me to just saunter up to him and say, “Hey, Brother! Long time, no see. How about coming over to my place for dinner?” No, even Amnon wasn’t that gullible. But, as Jonadab so aptly put it, for whatever reason, Amnon did trust him, so if anyone could convince Amnon to come to a dinner with all his brothers at my invitation, it would have to be Jonadab.

I found several of my brothers at target practice one morning (thanks to Jonadab who ran to my house with the news). One of my younger brothers, Solomon, was showing off a bow he made during the rainy months, and, of course, I couldn’t resist issuing him a small challenge. The kid takes things too seriously, and I knew he would be eager to try and beat me. He is smart in some ways, but dumb in so many others. I mean, I’m a warrior and was pulling bows before he could even pull himself up. I don’t think a new bow, no matter how well he made it, is going to be much of a test for my superior skills. Still, a little competition between brothers keeps things interesting and could make my brothers believe I wanted to be part of the family again.

After spending a couple of hours with my brothers shooting arrows, (I was on one team and Solomon on the other), I decided to end the match and extended the dinner invitation to my brothers. As I had feared, they first expressed skepticism, but I pleaded with them, telling them I thought it would be good for us to get together and have some family time, blah, blah. Seriously? Family time? I suppose I’m lucky they didn’t laugh in my face, but I finally managed to convince them of my sincerity. I’m sure it helped when I added I would help them later with their own sheep.

Jonadab and I left together, Jonadab wanting to jabber the whole way while I preferred to rethink and go over every detail of my plan. But I had to make sure Jonadab knew his part and was ready to play it, so I let him talk, only half listening.

“Did you see Solomon’s face when you asked them all to dinner? And Adonijah’s? Especially when you said you planned to ask Amnon, too? They both looked like they had drunk some sour wine. Do you think they’ll really come? And are you really going to ask Uncle David to come?”

I smiled, reliving the moments of my brothers’ faces when I said I intended to ask Amnon to the dinner. “Oh, they’ll come all right. A free meal? A chance to see if me and Amnon will reconcile? You just better make sure you get Amnon to come. And, yes, I will ask my father, though I know he won’t come.”

My mind continued to race with the details of my plan. Inviting my father would be a bit tricky, and it was hard for me to decide if I wanted him to come or not. Since he would not come alone (having at least one guard, if not several), my plan’s chance of success would be greater without him. However, without him there, I would never have the satisfaction of seeing his face when he learned what I had done to his beloved eldest son.

We came to where we needed to part ways that Jonadab might make his way to Amnon’s house, and I would go on to my own home. I turned to face Jonadab, grabbing one of his shoulders.

“I will expect to hear from you tomorrow about how you fared with Amnon. No one, and I mean, no one had better suspect a thing.”

Jonadab nodded, his pain from my grip on his shoulder evident on his face, though he tried to mask it. “Don’t worry, Absalom. I know how to talk to Amnon, and I would never betray you.”

I smirked at that. Did he really think I trusted him? My little weasel of a cousin had his uses, but I was not such a fool as to trust someone who turned his affections as quickly as this one. A pity for Amnon that he trusted him, but that’s what happened when you committed such a heinous crime against someone in your own family. It left you with few friends.

“I will see you tomorrow,” I said, releasing his shoulder with a final push, then turned from him to walk home.

“My Name is Absalom” Part 5 by P. M. Gilmer

If you missed last week of this continuing story, here’s the link for part four:

https://declaretonextgeneration.com/2017/08/18/my-name-is-absalom-part-4-by-p-m-gilmer/

Unfortunately, my plans had to be delayed when another tragedy occurred in my family. It is not my intention to speak of this event now. I only mention it to partially explain why it took me almost two years to carry out my revenge.

Once things had settled, I felt free to pursue my plans again with, I admit, an even greater sense of urgency and desire. I began again to consider my need to befriend (or re-befriend) my cousin, Jonadab. As I said earlier, he avoided me when possible, so I knew well enough to take things slowly as I did not want to arouse his suspicion. Since I do not willingly seek to befriend people in the best of times, I knew this to be a great possibility–even for someone as eager to make friends as Jonadab.

So for several months, I would nod my head pleasantly towards him whenever our paths should cross. (I thought I looked pleasant anyway, though the way he always skittered away made me feel I should perhaps work a little harder on my “pleasant look.”) Eventually, I took to waving and calling out to him. He would respond with a quick nod, but he certainly made no effort to come any closer and start up a conversation.

Finally one day, I sent one of my servants to his house to ask him to meet me at an inn that evening where we could share a meal together. Alas, I couldn’t invite him to my own home as he probably wouldn’t come, and also because Tamar still refused to leave. Though she could easily stay out of sight (and did when I had other company), I did not want her to know of my plans. She would never understand, and I was afraid she might feel betrayed if she knew I was meeting Jonadab for any reason.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure if Jonadab would even show up. I sat at a table outside where I ordered a skin of wine and two cups. Halfway through drinking my first cup, Jonadab walked up behind me. Now, you might wonder why I would sit with my back to the road, and if Jonadab was thinking at all, he would have wondered at it too. But, I was giving Jonadab a chance to change his mind when he saw me, and I also wanted him to believe I trusted him. Of course, I didn’t trust him–not for a minute. And if he had any sense, he wouldn’t have trusted me. But, Jonadab wanted to please people too much. A dangerous attribute to have and, thankfully, not one I was ever cursed with.

“Absalom?”

I turned and gave him my biggest smile. “Cousin! It has been too long! Come, sit. Innkeeper! How is that rack of lamb coming?”

I pushed a stool towards Jonadab, then poured him some wine. I continued to chatter–asking him about his family, if he had been hunting lately, what did he think about the Ammonites and their refusal to pay Father tribute, etc.–while the food came and we continued to drink. Jonadab answered in monosyllables, eating hungrily, and drinking at least two cups to every one of mine.

By the time we finished our meal, night had fallen, the streets were deserted, and Jonadab had relaxed and even laughed at a few of my not-so-funny jokes. In the middle of one of his loud guffaws, I pulled out my knife, laid it on the table, and leaned over closer to him. “It is said that you were the mastermind behind my sister’s disgrace.”

He blanched, and I feared he might lose the meal I had just bought him all over the wooden table. Fortunately for him he didn’t as I would have been sorely tempted to make him eat his vomit if he had.

“No, Absalom,” he finally managed to get out. “That is, it is not what you think or what people are saying. I never expected Amnon to hurt Tamar. I knew he loved her. I thought he respected her! I did encourage him to speak with your father. I thought he would ask to marry her. I couldn’t believe it when he grabbed her like that, and then when he threw her out . . .”

He stopped, his eyes pleading, while I continued to look at him coolly. Inside, I felt anything but cool. It was all I could do not to grab him by his neck and choke those words out of him. Though I remained determined to get my revenge, I did not need the scene described to me. It would be enough to know who to blame.

“I know well enough the sins of Amnon; it is you I want to hear about now. Did you do anything to defend my sister and her honor? Or did you sit idly by? Or perhaps you were the one who threw her out and bolted the door?”

Even with only a flickering oil lamp on our table, I could see Jonadab’s face turn from a scarlet red to an ash gray. It amused me to see a face turn so many different shades. I hadn’t realized this was possible.

He reached for his wine cup, but it was empty as was our wine skin. “Sorry, Jonadab,” I said affably, though not sorry at all, of course. “But we seem to be out of wine. Why don’t you just answer my questions, and we can both go home?”

“It was his servants who threw her out and bolted the door, though Amnon commanded them to. I . . .”

“Did nothing. As I thought.” I picked up my knife and moved it back and forth so the flame would reflect in its blade, then lightly touched my thumb to the blade as if testing its sharpness, though Jonadab well knew I kept my knives and swords sharpened at all times. Then I slammed the blade into the table and leaned towards Jonadab, so close I could hear his rapid breathing and smell his fear-soaked sweat.

“You did nothing,” I whispered, “and I should kill you right now for that alone. However, . . .” I stopped and sat back, giving him time to catch his breath and consider.

Eyes wide, he said, “I’ll do whatever you want, Absalom. I can help you take your revenge on Amnon. He still trusts me. Truly, I’m one of the few people he still trusts.”

I smiled with no attempt to look pleasant now. “More fool him, it would seem. Very well, you shall have a chance to redeem yourself, but you must do everything I say.”

Jonadab nodded so eagerly, I was minded of a dog I had once seen groveling for his Hittite master.

I jerked my knife out of the table and leaned towards him again. “You’ll be hearing from me soon–and, in the meantime, don’t even think of going outside the walls of Jerusalem.” And I left him there, sitting in the darkness.

“My Name is Absalom” Part 4 by P.M. Gilmer

If you missed part three last week, here’s your chance to catch up: https://declaretonextgeneration.com/2017/08/11/my-name-is-absalom-part-3-by-p-m-gilmer/

It took almost two years for me to exact my revenge. Tamar continued to live with me and refused to go out in public. Though my father tried to enforce some type of peace between Amnon and myself, we avoided each other and never took part in family dinners together. I wondered sometimes at my father’s naivete. He seemed to think he could just tell me and Amnon to give each other the kiss of friendship as he did after we had quarreled as boys. That never worked then and would certainly not work now.

For at least six months, my father (and others, I’m sure) kept a close eye on me. Though I did not hide my anger, I let people think I was willing to let God exact revenge on my brother and had no intention of causing more trouble in Jerusalem. In this way, my father’s vigilance eventually relaxed, and I had time to begin carefully laying my plans.

The only person I’m sure I never fooled was my mother. Though she said no more about expecting Tamar to marry Amnon, she made little effort to see her daughter or expressed any concern for her. I felt she was an unnatural mother at times, but I kept my thoughts focused on Amnon and on how I could have my revenge in the most promising way.

Before I could get very far with my plans, I knew I needed to gain the trust of Jonadab– not only to learn of his possible complicity, but also to use him for my own advantage. To even establish contact with him, however, took me almost a year. Though still unsure of his part in the defiling of my sister, whenever he saw me–even from a distance–he cringed in fear and would not come near me, so I knew his guilt must be great. Surprisingly, it turned out to be Chileab who let me know exactly what Jonadab had done.

Chileab often came to my home for a meal, an event Tamar looked forward to as Chileab remained one of the few people with whom she felt at ease. I was grateful for his willingness to visit us on a regular basis as Tamar seemed to have few pleasures left in life. Though it had only been a few months since her ordeal, I still hoped she would heal in her mind and someday be once again the sister I adored and cherished. As I watched her this particular evening, laughing and talking to Chileab, that hope burned brighter than usual.

After our meal, the three of us went up and onto my roof to enjoy the cool evening while my servants cleaned up below. After an hour or so, Tamar said she was tired, gave both Chileab and myself a kiss, then went back down to her bedchamber. Chileab and I sat in silence for several minutes, nursing our cup of wine and watching the stars. I caught myself dozing off when Chileab spoke.

“She seems a little better tonight. How has she been faring?”

I sighed, thinking again of the care-free, laughing young girl Tamar had been a few short months ago. “She is calmer–seems to cry less often–but she still won’t go out at all, and that can’t be good for her. She did finally let Elisheba and Naarah visit her a couple of days ago. Hopefully, they will be able to coax her out of her shell a bit more.” Elisheba was Chileab’s sister and Naarah, Adonijah’s. They both were quite close to Tamar.

Chileab nodded. “Elisheba told me. She was glad Tamar finally agreed to let them visit, but was rather forlorn when she came home. She misses the ‘old Tamar,’ but I told her she must be patient.”

“It is hard to be patient. I just want to go and smash Amnon’s head in. What was he thinking anyway? Don’t you think if he had just asked Father if he could marry Tamar that Father would have agreed?”

Chileab said nothing for a few moments, then, “Maybe, but I think he was afraid Tamar would not accept him, but if Jonadab hadn’t . . .” He stopped, glanced over at me, then looked down.

As I said, I knew of Jonadab’s presence in Amnon’s house, and was eager to learn exactly why he was there. Chileab’s look of guilt confirmed to me that Jonadab had something to hide. Anyone but Chileab would be dying to tell me every detail they knew and even those they didn’t. But that was Chileab–noble through and through. Could be rather sickening, actually.

“What about Jonadab?” I asked slowly and in a low voice.

Chileab squirmed a bit, but he knew I would not let him leave until I heard what he knew. If Chileab knew, then so did others, and I would rather hear it from him than anyone else.

“It was his idea,” he finally answered, his voice low as well. “We all knew Amnon was moping around, whining about how beautiful Tamar is but how she only laughed at him and saw him as a ‘silly boy.’ Finally one evening, Jonadab told him he should stop moping and do something. I thought he was going to suggest–as you said–to go to Father and ask to marry Tamar. I was late for choir practice, so I left before he made his suggestion. It wasn’t until the next day that I heard Amnon played sick, and Father went to see him.”

He stopped again, obviously reluctant to continue, but I needed to know. I could no more ignore the part Jonadab played in this story than I could ignore my need for food. If I was to have revenge for Tamar’s honor, I must make sure of everyone involved.

As casually as I could, I said, “I know Father commanded Tamar to go and wait on Amnon. I have never understood that, and he refuses to discuss it with me. I’m sure he realizes how stupid it was, but that changes nothing. I can’t believe Father would be taken in by either Amnon or Jonadab. So, Amnon pretended he was sick? And, I suppose the only thing that would make him feel better would be Tamar coming to wait on him. Tamar already told me Jondab was there, so you are not telling me something totally new. She has wondered as well what part Jonadab had in this.”

I added the last because I knew Chileab would feel Tamar had a right to know the truth about Jonadab even if he wasn’t so sure I did. I can be sneaky that way.

Chileab looked up at me, and though there remained little light left from our flickering oil lamps, I could see he was studying me carefully. “Perhaps the less she knows, the better,” he said cautiously.

I shook my head, trying not to appear too eager or impatient. “Right now, she fears almost everyone. It would be better if she could just see this as something concocted by Jonadab and Amnon and that no one else was involved–including our father.” Even though I would still blame my father for his part, I saw no need for Tamar to carry that burden as well.

Chileab nodded slowly, taking in my words. “I agree our father behaved foolishly and irresponsibly, but I don’t believe he ever meant for any harm to come to Tamar. You must make her see that.”

I shrugged, still tamping down my impatience. I was beginning to see Jonadab’s part in this, but still wanted Chileab to confirm it. I would not want my revenge to be incomplete.

Chileab frowned, but said, “Very well. Yes, from what I’ve heard, the whole thing was Jonadab’s idea. He told Amnon he should pretend to be sick, then when our father came to see him, he should tell him that the only thing he wanted was for Tamar to come and wait on him. Now, whether Jonadab meant for things to go as far as they did, I cannot say. Of course, Jonadab is saying he did not mean for Amnon to do what he did. He just thought if Amnon had a chance to be alone with Tamar, he could then convince her of his love.”

I took a long swallow of my wine. I could almost believe that, but that hardly made Jonadab innocent. “Of course,” I said, my thoughts darker than ever. I would need to have words with Jonadab. Soon. Very soon.

“My Name is Absalom” Part 3 by P.M. Gilmer

This is part three of “My Name is Absalom”. If you haven’t read parts one and two, please go back and read my last two blogs:

https://declaretonextgeneration.com/2017/07/28/my-name-is-absalom-part-1/

https://declaretonextgeneration.com/2017/08/04/my-name-is-absalom-part-2-by-p-m-gilmer/

I arrived at the palace and headed straight for the dining hall. I didn’t see either of my parents–only a few of my younger siblings as well as a couple of my father’s other wives quietly lingering. No one seemed to be eating; a few looked up at me as I entered, but just as quickly looked back down again. It seemed they had heard something of what happened to Tamar. I walked over to Chileab’s mother, Abigail, the most level-headed of my father’s wives.

“Where is my mother?”

“She has retired for the evening. As has your father.” At first, she wouldn’t look at me, but I stood there until she did. Her eyes shone with tears of pity. “How is Tamar?” she asked quietly.

“How do you think?” I answered harshly. I had no grievance with Abigail, but I was in no mood for commiseration or possible platitudes. Abigail was as bad as her son in that she too often tried to see the good where none could possibly exist. I turned and left, not willing to answer questions or see sympathy from anyone else.

Pushing past servants, I made my way to my mother’s room. I knocked on the door, and her maid servant opened the door slightly to see who was there. When she recognized me, she turned and said, “It’s your son, Absalom, my lady.”

Without waiting for my mother’s response, I shoved the servant aside and went in. The room was dark with only one small oil lamp lit in one corner. My mother was reclining on her couch, and even in the darkness, I could see her eyes were puffy and red.

“My darling boy,” she said, reaching out her arms towards me.

I leaned down, kissed her, then found a stool to sit on. “What did you hear?” My mother was prone to histrionics, and I did not want to give her a chance to make this situation about her. I was undoubtedly too late for that.

She regarded me, her eyes glittering and calculating. “That your sister made a spectacle of herself in the streets of Jerusalem. That she went to Amnon’s house, threw herself at him, and is now refusing to marry him.”

I stared at her. “Are you mad? Tamar went to Amnon’s house at our father’s insistence where she was attacked. And you now think she should marry him?”

She sniffed. “Tamar has always been a little dramatic, don’t you think? Oh, yes, I’m sure I’ve spoiled her, but she is old enough to take responsibility for her own actions. And what would be so bad about being married to your brother? Better that than some foreign prince or an Israelite merchant. There have been several of those sniffing around her already, but now with her making her shame so public, it’s unlikely anyone else will have her.”

My stomach churned, and I had to swallow the bile threatening to choke me. “You would put the blame on Tamar? Your own daughter?” A suspicion grew in my mind. “Did you know Father told Tamar to wait on Amnon?”

My mother gave a small shrug, then yawned. “I was there when your Father spoke to Tamar, yes. She didn’t really want to go, but Amnon had asked for her, and your Father wanted to please him. Do you think I should have stopped her? Really, Absalom, Tamar cannot be babied forever. Now, I am tired and ready to retire. If you are so determined to put blame on someone, speak with your father. Though you should probably wait until the morning. Your father was quite distressed when he heard about Tamar’s street exhibition and asked not to be disturbed. He will not appreciate being bothered at this hour, especially as you didn’t even show up for a dinner at which you were expected.”

Not for the first time, my mother rendered me speechless. Should I have been surprised at her attitude? No, in all honesty–yet I was. I did not want to go home and tell Tamar what our mother had said, but I feared she would not be a bit surprised. Disappointed, yes, and hurt as well, but not surprised. She believed our mother to be jealous of her beauty, but I always scoffed at such a notion. Now, I was not so sure.

Frustrated, I got up and left my mother’s room and almost ran out of the palace. I was tempted to go and see my father in spite of my mother’s warning, but I knew if he refused to see me, I would not be able to control my temper any longer.

So, I fled down the dark streets of Jerusalem, running with no real purpose. I thought of going to Amnon’s house, but assumed he would be well guarded. I could try and find Jonadab, but doubted he would see me either. Somehow, though, I knew I would not let Amnon get away with hurting my sister. I consoled myself with the well-said proverb: revenge is a dish best served cold.