The Second Battle
The next morning Nathan expressed his intention to return home that day. “The chaos caused by the recent battle with the Philistines makes me anxious to return home,” he said. “One can never know for sure how this will affect the country as a whole—or even how the Philistines will react.”
“My dear,” Sipporah whispered to me, “I miss my friend Rebekah. Why don’t we accompany Nathan and visit her?”
“Yes, that is a good idea,” I replied in a low voice. Then to the others, I said aloud, “If you do not mind, Nathan, we would love to accompany you on your journey home. We have not seen your mother in many years—at least, not by your reckoning.”
“I would love that,” Nathan replied, “and I know my mother would rejoice to see you again while she yet lives.”
We said our farewells to Naamah and Azzah and mounted the horses. “Are you ready?” I asked Dogma.
“Master, if you please, I believe that this is my new home and that I should remain here with Azzah. I have work to do here. Azzah can understand my language, and I believe that I am called to be her guardian and companion. May I remain here with them?”
“Yes, I understand,” I replied with a twinge of sadness. We will miss you greatly, for you have proven that love is a four-legged word.”
“I do hope to see you again before you leave Israel,” Dogma said.
“We go as the wind takes us,” I said. “We cannot say for sure where heaven will bring us. But if we do not meet again in this life, we will see you in the Kingdom, where we will never again be parted from the friends we love. Even so, it is not yet time for us to leave this land.”
We were soon on our way down the road. Passing the tomb of Manoah and Samson, we stopped at the house of Bocheru, to greet them and to say farewell to them, too, before continuing our journey.
“It is always hard to part with dear friends,” Sipporah said. “It is good to know that separation is temporary.”
“Yes, but it is that very sadness that gives us hope for the future,” Nathan interjected. “Hope is necessary only for a time, and the time of faith ends when the promise is fulfilled. Only love never ends.”
“That sounds like a new song in the making,” I mused.
“It is sad,” Sipporah whispered to me, “that his songs will be lost for so long. Someday you will have to write them in a book, so that future generations can enjoy them as well.”
“That is a great idea!” I said. “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Sippore flew ahead of us to scout the path. We had hardly gotten out of sight of Bocheru’s house when a mist arose around us. The air grew still, and we saw a dim figure walking ahead of us. “It appears that we are about to be transported from here,” I said. “I am not sure where we will go, but if we are parted, be assured that we will see you again.”
When the mist lifted, Sippore descended and perched upon Sipporah’s shoulder. We found ourselves at the edge of an army camp. I recognized the place, for an army had gathered again at the Rock of Etam overlooking the Valley of Sorek. Perhaps they felt inspired by that place, given its history with Samson’s slaughter of the Philistine army nineteen years earlier. At any rate, they did not seem to be discouraged that 4,000 of their countrymen had already lost their lives there in the battle just a short time earlier.
A great shout went up from the army, and as we approached, we saw the priests, Hophni and Phinehas, in the distance standing by the Ark of the Covenant. 124 They stood on a ledge where the whole army could see the Ark from the upper end of the valley.
A tall Israelite sentry saw us and came running in our direction. He was a young man who appeared to be in his mid-twenties. I held up my hand, saying, “Shalom! I come in peace.”
“Identify yourself,” he demanded.
“I am Anava, an Ephraimite from a far country,” I said, “and this is my wife Sipporah.”
“What is your business here?” he asked.
“We are just passing through,” I said.
“Do you not know that a great battle is about to begin?” the soldier asked again. “You should not be here unless you intend to fight with us. If not, I will escort you to the other side of the camp. Come now!”
The sentry led us quickly through the camp and past the Ark. The priests glared at us as we passed, and it appeared that they remembered us and especially Pegasus. However, since the death and resurrection of Pegasus had occurred so many years earlier, they could not believe that the horse that passed before them was indeed the same one. Yet it appeared to worry them, for this could hardly be a good sign to them.
“Why is the Ark of the Covenant with you here?” I asked the soldier who was escorting us. “Is it not supposed to remain in Shiloh?”
“The priests received word from Yahweh at the recent feast of Sukkoth,” he replied, “that if they took the Ark into battle, Israel would be set free from Philistine rule.”
“Ah, yes, I understand,” I said. “When the priests take up the Ark, they pray, “Rise up, O Yahweh! And let Thine enemies be scattered, and let those who hate Thee flee before Thee’. 125 You expect, then, that the Philistines will flee from the presence of the Ark. Is that correct?”
“Yes,” he replied, “for that is written in the law, and I, for one, have faith in the Mighty One of Israel. I, Saul, son of Kish, do not follow false gods, for my father is a godly man who has taught me the law of God since I was a child.”
“So you are Saul,” I said thoughtfully. “I remember when God healed you nearly twenty years ago. I remember when your father asked the prophet Samuel to pray for you and how God raised you up from your deathbed.”
“You were there?” Saul asked with a surprised look.
“Yes, I was there,” I said, “for I am one of Samuel’s friends.”
“Samuel is not with us, for our priests sent him away some time ago,” Saul said. “Have you any word from Samuel concerning this battle? What has he told you?”
“I have not seen him for many years,” I said. “But I can say that the meaning of the word of God is not always what is seems. I hope that your leaders understand God’s word correctly. Even so, if I may give you a word of caution, let me say that Israel’s idolatry brought them into captivity to the Philistines many years ago. When many Israelites turned away from the true God and worshiped other gods, God treated Israel as an enemy. 126 Are you sure that this underlying problem has been resolved? If not, then you may find that Israel is the enemy whom God will scatter.”
“But the priests consulted the ephod, and we know that God has led us to take the Ark into battle,” he said, unmoved by my warning.
“God does not always reveal His plans to men, even when they inquire of Him,” I said. “If they inquire with iniquity in their hearts, God will answer them according to the idol in their hearts. Personally, I have little confidence in the priests of Shiloh. If you find that this battle goes against Israel, remember my words and escape while you can. If God brings judgment upon Israel, let Him at least have mercy upon you, for I perceive that God has a calling upon your life, which you have not yet fulfilled.”
“What do you mean?” Saul asked with a puzzled look.
“It is not for me to say,” I replied evasively. “I only know that God intends for you to live for another day. Whatever the outcome of this battle, be assured that Israel’s forty-year captivity is nearly completed.”
“That is good to know,” Saul answered with some relief.
“We must go now,” I said. “We do not want to be caught in the middle of a battle.”
By this time we had reached the far edge of the camp, and we continued our way toward the land of Judah.
“It appears that we are being led back to the house of Boaz,” Sipporah said.
“Indeed,” I replied. “Let us hear what news our friend in Judah has to tell us.”
- 1 Samuel 4:4, 5
- Numbers 10:35
- Leviticus 26:40-42; Isaiah 63:10