The Sixty First Scroll
The funeral of King David was a momentous occasion. As the aged queen Mikhal watched from the wall of her tower, the whole of Jerusalem and hundreds more poured out onto the dusty streets of the City of David to follow the King’s family and everyone who had ever served him in procession from the palace to his tomb. Too weak to travel, old King Talmai sent his sons to join their sister the Lady Maacah in the ceremony. King Hiram of Tyre rode through the night and came alone without any escort to honor his old friend and mentor. Delegations from Edom and Aram arrived and Achish, the grandson of the King of Gath, came to honor the House of David. Obed-edom brought his family down from Kiriath-Jearim and the indomitable Deborah walked beside her husband Uzal followed by our entire family. Friend and foe alike gathered to honor the passage of King David and to recognize his son King Solomon as the anointed heir to the throne of the United Kingdoms of Judah and Israel.
The High Priests Tzadok and my old friend Abiathar entered the Tabernacle and prepared the ARK of the COVENANT so that it could be carried by the Levite Kohanim who led the levayah (procession) from the palace to King David’s modest tomb carved into the bedrock below the unfinished foundation of the Temple. There they led us all in prayer and each of David’s sons spoke in praise of their father. King Solomon spoke last, repeating the Psalm of his father: “Behold dear father and mother, and sovereign of all mercies, this man who wished to be quit of war… Behold him, our father descendent of the Lion of Judah and chosen by You to become King over all the children of Israel, a man who did his best to unite us into one nation. For blessed are You, L_RD, our G_D, King of the universe, the one True Judge; therefore we plead for You to have mercy upon his memory and inscribe the name of King David on the pages of life.”
The opening of the tomb was carved between two inclines and on the right hand side there was a massive block of stone secured by wedges of wood. After David’s sons placed his shrouded body into its final resting place, they poured oil over the surface of the incline and set the wedges ablaze so that when they burned away to ash, the stone slid into place and sealed the tomb. From any point of view, the unadorned block appeared to be nothing more than another of the many stones that made up the unfinished foundation of the Temple. No sooner than the tomb was sealed than a dozen men set to work breaking away the bedrock that formed the inclines, so that, in the passage of time, no man could remove that block or break the seal.
While the Levites returned the ARK to the Tabernacle, all of the family of the House of David returned to the palace and it was then that I glimpsed Joab among the throngs of who’d gathered around the tomb. Dressed in a plain grey woolen robe with no sign of his exalted service to King David, he openly wept for his beloved cousin. I left my family and went to where he stood and there I embraced him. He put his hands on my shoulders and pushed me away saying, “Sidon, don’t be a fool. Nathan and Bathsheba have eyes everywhere and you should not be seen with me.”
I took his hand in mine and replied, “I am pledged to the service of the House of David and Solomon observes shiva. In obedience to his father’s last wishes, he will not resume his reign until a month from today when shloshim has come to an end. You have that time to make your escape.”
Joab wiped away his tears and chuckled, “And where could I go without meeting old enemies? If not assassins sent by Benaiah from Bathsheba, then any number of others would gladly take my blood. Such is the destiny of old warriors for as it has been said many times over, the man who lives by his sword will almost certainly die at the sword of another. I am far too familiar with blood on the ground to have any fear for the sight my own. Go to your home Sidon and be with your family and leave me to my fate.”
As I left him I said, “I will send you honeyed dates,” to which Joab laughed and added, “Have them brought to me by naked women and I will die in peace.”
That was the last time we exchanged jokes for my old friend and mentor would die at the hands of assassins just before the end of the month.
I rejoined my family and we went to the palace where we expressed our condolences and good wishes to Solomon and his family. Deborah insisted that we all return to the house of Uzal where we could be properly fed and though the meal was delicious, as always, none of us had much appetite. I left my daughter and son in the tender care of their loving grandparents and returned to my home with Erin-Hushai, who asked, “How can we serve those who would have their friends murdered?”
I thought for a long moment before I answered him: “The House of David was born in the blood of the enemies of the nation of Israel. It has survived forty years of conflict and betrayal and at the end of his long reign King David entreated G_D to bring an end to war. G_D has chosen young Solomon to inherit his father’s Kingdoms and to secure his throne against those enemies and the ambitions of his own family; Solomon must demonstrate his strength and wisdom. It is sad to say that too often in this world the price of strength is bloodshed and wisdom is measured by how little blood must be poured out on the ground to pay that price.”
Except for attributed photos and text, all content is copyrighted © 2013 JKM (an apparently ineffectual boilerplate joke?)