After several PM exchanges with some very good writers here at Our Salon I’ve decided to resume my attempt to complete the first draft of my historical novel People of the Book. This post follows the funeral of Bilqis, Baht bin Baht bin M’lakhim Saba Halivah, paternal grandmother of Sidon bin Jethro bin Midian which occurs about one third of the way along the journey of Sidon. Next will come The Seventh Sheet of the Second Book of his memoirs, which were unearthed by two boys of a Maronite Christian family from a bomb crater during the Israeli incursion into Lebanon in July of 2006. Inscribed on sheets of copper in Proto-Hebraic script, this remarkably complete chronicle of Sidon’s life may be the product of an intriguing archeological forgery; or it may provide definitive evidence of the formation of the first Kingdom of Israel and court life during the reigns of King David and King Solomon.
Transcribed for Proto-Hebraic into Modern Hebrew, the inscriptions read as very simple and some times confusing language. This augmented English translation is primarily the work of archeologist Itzhak Zukermann and cultural anthropologist Christiane Sitt Arslan. They came into possession of the artifacts in 2007 when they were purchased from that Maronite family (prominently associated with Hurrās al-Arz - The Guardians of the Cedars) with anonymous funding most likely provided by prominent American Fundamentalist Christians and Israel Jews.
Some background in Sidon’s life is required. He begins his story with The Last Sheet of the Third Book:
“Yebhārēkh-khā Adhōnāy weyishmerēkhā ....
May the L--D (YHWH) bless you and guard you -
"Yāēr Adhōnāy pānāw ēlekhā wihunnékkā ...
May the L--D make His face shed light upon you and be gracious unto you -
“Yissā Adhōnāy pānāw ēlekhā wiyāsēm lekhā shālōm.”
May the L--D lift up His face unto you and give you peace -
“These are the first words I learned to write. They were my beginning. I write them from memory because my eyes have failed me. Now I am grown old and though my mind and heart remain strong, my sight grows weaker each month and my hand trembles. I served as a messenger, scribe and judge in the Courts of David and Solomon. These are my words. They are among the last words I am able to inscribe. They are my ending. They are for my children and their children and all who follow.”
“Born in Canaan in the Valley of Succoth between the rivers of Jordan and Jabbok before the Anointment of Saul, my mother was named Azera after the Canaanite name of the Wife of G_D… Born in Midian, my father whose name was Jethro - after the great priest who was the father of Zipporah wife of Moses - was a pious man filled with great ambition for his G_D, for his family and for the Children of Israel.”
“In the winter of my fifth year snow fell through the night and into the morning and covered everything in white. With my hand in the hand of my father, we walked through the village out into the fields and orchards to the top of a hill, where we prayed with the sun rising beneath dark clouds and falling snow. After I finished repeating my father’s prayer to G_D, I added the prayer of my mother, and her mother, requesting the blessing of Asherah.”
“My father put his hands on my shoulders and asked in a calm but very firm voice, “In the First Commandment does not G_D tell us, ‘Thou shall have no other gods before ME?”
“To which I replied, “Father if I have offended you, please forgive me. G_D also commands that we must honor our father and our mother. When I pray with you, I honor you and G_D and when I ask the blessing of G_D’s Wife, I honor my mother and her father and mother. I mean no offense to anyone.”
“My father smiled and asked, “Do you think that the authority G_D’s First Commandment exceeds that of HIS Fifth?
“I smiled at him and answered, “I do not know. I am only a child of G_D with an open heart and I am trying to learn HIS Law.”
“This made my father laugh and he said, “So are we all HIS children and so we all must try to learn and obey HIS Law and every day we must all try to open our hearts to HIM.”
As a child Sidon traveled with his father who served G_D as a judge for small remote villages from Midian throughout the Levant to Canaan and beyond. As his reputation grew he came to the attention of the Court of King David, and he sent “ …the son of the High Priest Tzadok to summon my father to the City of David. Ahimaaz was a young, handsome, proud, and impatient man who rode in a chariot covered with white cloth shade drawn by two horses. Six warriors in three chariots served as his bodyguard and though they brought two donkeys for us to ride, my father refused them, “We have walked throughout the lands of Israel and Judah and we will walk back down this mountain to the City of David.”
“Although I did not want to embarrass my father, as we walked on that hot day I must admit that I questioned his refusal to ride to the City of David. He saw the question in my face and asked, “Have you ever seen me ride an animal or in a cart?”
“No Father,” I answered. “Have you ever wondered why,” he asked. I smiled sheepishly and said, “Not until today.”
“G_D has blessed us with two good legs and the strength to use them. If we ride to the City of David we might be there before sunset but we will itch from flea bites and smell like an ass. That is the price we pay for them to bear our weight. If we walk, we will arrive in the cool of the night and although we may be dusty and tired, we won’t stink. As long as we have the strength to walk, we should celebrate our blessing.”
“Although he smiled when he spoke, for the first time in my life I knew that he did not speak all that weighed on his mind and as if to free me from my worries, he prayed aloud, “G_D has blessed us with this day and we thank Him. G_D has blessed us with each other and we thank Him. G_D has blessed us with this life and we thank Him. As the L_RD is our shepherd we shall not want, for blessed is the Name of the L_RD and blessed are His children and the Nation of Israel.”
After they arrived in Jerusalem for their audience with King David, Sidon remained there as an apprentice (hostage to assure Jethro’s loyalty) of a goldsmith named Uzal and lived in the care of his family where he learned the mysterious art of writing by inscribing the Priestly Blessing on small scrolls of silver.
As he grew up Sidon came to the attention of the whole of King David’s court and became a favorite of the King and his family. He witnessed and recorded all the events of the era and under the tutelage of Shavsha (scribe of the court), Abiathar (High Priest of Judah), Hushai (warrior, diplomat and “Friend of the King”) and Joab (cousin and commander of “The Mighty Men” of David’s army), he rose to become an official scribe, then “The Messenger of the King” and member of the King’s counsel and finally assumed the office of Judge.
When he was still an adolescent, Sidon’s dreams bordered on prophesy and they brought him into the council of the King. He and his father Jethro were sent by David to bring the prophet Nathan to Jerusalem. Later Sidon served as a spy for Joab against the Phoenicians at Ashkalon and, at the risk of his young life, he helped bring about the defeat of the Serenim Enyal. As a reward for his courage he received land and wealth from King David and even more from their Phoenician ally, Serenim Ittai.
As a young man he married Yael, daughter of Uzal, and brought his mother and sister to Jerusalem to live in a fine home provided as a gift from King David. At the command of the king he traveled north with Absalom to the Kingdom of Gezer to meet with Tamar and Maachah and worked with Abiathar to try to bring about the reconciliation of King David and his murderous son to avoid rebellion in the fragile Kingdom.
After breaking down from the loss of his wife and many members of his family, Sidon is lost and David sends him into a gentle exile from Jerusalem to recover. He returns to serve as tutor to Solomon and other than Tzadok (High Priest to the Jebusites) and the Prophet Nathan, Sidon is the only member of David’s council to remain after the King’s death and the anointment of Solomon as King of Israel.
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