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  • Walt Shakes

    Walt Shakes

    Walter Ude (@Walt_Shakes) is an award-winning Nigerian writer, poet and veteran blogger. He is a lover of the written word. the faint whiff of nature, the flashing vista of movies, the warmth of companionship and the happy sound of laughter. He blogs at mymindsnaps.wordpress.com.

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THE HEART OF A KING (Part 7)

David felt his home beckoning to him before he reached it. His heart swelled with joy as he took in the familiar slopes and curves of his homeland. The house was more or less as he left it months back. He wondered about his flock, aching to go and check on them and bask in the peace and tranquility of the hillside. As much as he had been able to communicate with Yahweh during his stay in the palace, he felt that he was never closer to his Creator than when he sat in the midst of his creation with the only sounds being those of the birds, sheep, wind and bubbling brooks. It was good to be home.

He came home to meet the house in preparation for Eliab, Shimea and Abinadab’s conscription into the Israelite army. The servants scurried about, the house in a near uproar. Ozem was in the fields watching the sheep, albeit reluctantly. Ozem had never been particularly fond of that duty and David was eager to relieve him of it. Jesse embraced David, asked him a few questions about his time in service, the King and palace politics before hurrying off with the aim of overlooking a few activities outside. David had no doubt that Jesse just wanted a way of escape as he seemed uneasy about getting into deep conversation with his youngest son.

The brothers sat around the open eating chamber, each engrossed in their particular chores ranging from polishing leather straps to de-seeding a pomegranate. They feigned indifference but David knew they were eager to hear news of the palace. Shimea in particular seemed curious about David’s dealings and conduct in the palace.

“I hope you did not let Saul know about your anointing…” he said, his brow creasing in worry.

“No I did not. I was summoned to serve and that is just what I did.”

“Oh yes, we know all about your service” Eliab smirked. “Playing the harp and singing…a musician.”

“A musician in the service of the King of Israel, no less,” Nethanel countered.

David looked at him in surprise, for he did not expect Nethanel to defend him.

Nethanel looked back at him with his usual indifference and continued to speak to Eliab. “The boy has lived in the palace, which is more than any of us can say. Serving the King as a musician is no less noble than serving him in the army.”

“Is it true his daughters are among the most beautiful in the land?” Raddai asked with a glint in his eye.

David’s mind was immediately flooded with images of Michal, with her sapphire eyes filled with tears, pleading for him to return to her…for her. “Well, I only caught a glimpse of the elder, Princess Merab and she is indeed beautiful. She didn’t have much to say though, which I suppose is the correct conduct for one in her position. The younger, Princess Michal…now her beauty is beyond compare. She has eyes that would rival the blue of the sea and hair like silk spun from tar and…’

“My, what poetic words! It would seem our brother is enamored of royalty,” Abinadab mocked. “What chance could you possibly have with one such as her?”

“I never said I was looking for a chance. I was merely extolling her beauty,” David reasoned.

“Come now, surely we have better things to discuss rather than women?” Shimea asked in a bid to cut through the tension.

David opened his mouth to respond when he heard a shriek and turned around to see Abigail hurtling toward him, her arms open. He caught her as she talked, stumbling over her words. “Oh David, you are back! I missed you so much. You must tell me everything that happened. Is the palace really as beautiful as people say? What was your room like? Is the King really as handsome as they say? Do they wear jewels in their hair?”

“Slow down, sister. I can barely understand your words as you rush through them as fast as the wind,” David laughed.

“Can’t you see we are discussing men’s issues here? Go away and tend to your duties with the women,” Eliab said in annoyance.

Abigail turned toward him, her face flushed in anger. “David is my brother as well as yours and I have the perfect right to welcome him home.”

Eliab started to speak and David cut him off. “Yes, well, I have some gifts for you and Zeruiah from the princess,” he said, reaching into the folds of his robe and pulling out the silk-covered package. Abigail shrieked and clapped her hands in delight before reaching out and collecting the gift.

“You do? Oh surely you jest,” she said to David before turning around to face Eliab, her hands on her hips. “You see, Eliab, I have a gift from the princess herself and you have nothing. Nobody even knows your name.”

“I have no need of cheap trinkets and baubles that only empty-headed females have use for,” he retorted.

Abigail ignored him and spoke to David. “I hear the Philistines are fast approaching Israel. Indeed, we in the villages around fear for our lives. I have heard of scattered raids and that the Philistine army is filled with huge and fierce warriors.”

“Nothing is impossible for Yahweh to do, to overcome, sister,” David said in an attempt to allay her fears. “Even now the King has gathered the army and they are headed out to battle. I have no doubt that victory is indeed on our side, for we are Yahweh’s Chosen people.”

“Chosen or not, having a competent army is of utmost import, David,” Abinadab said.

“Yes of course, but we must not lose sight of He Who grants victory. We must submit the battle to Him.”

“Oh, go back to the sheepfold and leave the fighting to real men,” Eliab snapped.

“The measure of being a ‘real’ man is directly tied to submission to the will of the Creator. How do you think you measure up, Eliab?” David said as he stood to go to his sleeping area, leaving Eliab fuming and Abigail and Shimea trying their best to hide their smiles.

***

The days dragged into weeks with an impasse between the armies of Philistia and Israel. It seemed that no one side was ready to make the first move into battle. Rumours abounded about a giant named Goliath who openly defied the Israelite army and Yahweh Himself. David listened to the rumours with a growing feeling of irritation. Why wouldn’t Saul just grab his destiny as a King and show courage against these pagans? How could an army of unclean heathens camp in the hills of Israel?

Jesse sent servants to the Israelite camp on a regular basis to deliver messages to Eliab, Shimea and Abinadab. David wondered how his brothers were faring. He worried mostly about Shimea because he had not the disposition to fight, his gentle character more suited to oversee issues at home. He was more at home with a staff than a sword. Eliab and Abinadab on the other hand were made for battle, their aggressive spirits built for confrontation. He also thought of his good friend Jonathan who was most certainly with his father. David prayed for his brothers and friend daily, pleading with Yahweh for their lives. He worried about the infiltration of the Philistines into Israel. They were known to be a ruthless people, sparing no one and showing no mercy. They were also reputed to be brutal to women and David gritted his teeth thinking about the fate that would befall his sisters should the Philistines overrun Bethlehem. It took every ounce of faith he possessed to believe in victory for Israel, especially with the way Saul was handling the challenge.

One day, Jesse summoned him and said, “Take this ephah of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp. Take along these ten cheeses for the commander of their unit. See how your brothers are and bring back some assurance from them. They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.”

David found it needless to point out that there was no fighting going on, only waiting.

The next morning, he loaded the items on his horse and set out toward the camp. He heard the shouting before he crested the hill and tensed, bracing himself for viewing the battle. The armies were taking their positions but still there was no charge to begin the fight. David rode into camp, weaving in between the tents, looking for the keeper of supplies. After locating him, he dropped the supplies and asked where he could find his brothers.

“I don’t know exactly where they are but I’d try the east side, if I were you,” the man puffed, looking harassed as he rushed away to the supply tent. David tethered his horse and set out on foot. After what seemed like hours of searching, he finally caught a glimpse of Eliab from afar.

In the meantime, he heard a voice booming over the hillside from the Philistine camp, although he couldn’t decipher the words. He guessed that this was the giant of whom people spoke, the Goliath Philistine. It was said he rained curses on both Saul and the God whom he served. The thought of such insult directed at Yahweh made David’s blood boil. How dare he? And why didn’t anyone challenge the filthy beast? How could they cower in fear as a heathen cursed their GOD? David shook his head in frustration as he slowly made his way to where his brothers stood, overlooking the Philistine side of camp on the other side of the valley. He overheard some soldiers clustered around in a group talking loudly and he managed to catch a bit of the conversation.

“…See how this man keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel. The King will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his father’s family from taxes in Israel.”

David’s ears pricked at the news. True he was drawn to the idea of great wealth, connection to the royal household via marriage, but it was more of the honour brought to the family of such a man that drew his attention. In order not to seem like he had been eavesdropping, he casually sauntered up to the group and greeted them. They barely registered his presence as they spoke until he finally asked them a question.

“What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the Living God?”

Slowly, all conversation ground to a halt as the soldiers turned surprised eyes at David. One of them repeated what David had earlier heard and he slowly nodded. He did not see Eliab striding purposefully toward him, his face a mask of anger and indignation. Shimea and Abinadab followed behind, Shimea with a look of surprise and Abinadab embarrassment. Eliab had obviously overheard the latter part of David’s conversation with the men as he approached. He shoved David so hard he almost lost his balance.

“Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”

In that moment, something inside David changed. He had been maligned and maltreated by his eldest brother all his life and never once had he retaliated. But this time, he had had enough. He would not resort to physical violence against Eliab; no, he had too much respect for his father’s name for that, but he would take a stand once and for all.

He drew himself to his full height and flexed his muscles slightly, narrowing his eyes and taking a step toward Eliab. Eliab moved back almost involuntarily, his eyes widening in surprise with a hint of fear for he had never seen David like this. Shimea rushed forward and put his hand on David’s shoulder. The other soldiers kept silent, watching.

“Brother, please I implore, do not do anything rash…” Shimea said under his breath.

“Now what have I done? Can’t I even speak?” David hissed, his eyes flashing fire.

Eliab clenched his jaw and after a moment turned and walked away. A few soldiers went away too, leaving David with some other soldiers and Shimea.

“Hey! You there, young man. The one with the red hair,” David heard someone shouting and turned around to see a man running toward him. The man stopped, panting in front of David. “The King summons you to his tent” he said.

Shimea and Abinadab looked at each other with fear but David felt none. He turned and followed the man. Soon he was standing in the presence of the King in his tent. Saul had that faraway look in his eyes again and stared at David without a hint of recognition. He fidgeted with the rings on his fingers as he paced up and down the tent, murmuring under his breath. His attendants had carefully-placed masks of indifference on their faces, although David could feel their unease from where he stood. He said a prayer in his mind, beseeching Yahweh for wisdom. Saul finally plopped down on one of the cushions with his head in his hands, the very picture of despondency.

Suddenly David got an urge, a release in his spirit, as though Yahweh had spoken to him audibly. He knew exactly what to say.

“Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine, your servant will go and fight him,” he said, his voice strong and confident.

The King’s bodyguard looked at him with his eyes wide, and the attendants couldn’t stop their mouths from swinging open in surprise. Indeed one of the guards guarding the tent whispered the news to a passing soldier, who then proceeded to spread the news around camp. Forty days the giant had defied Israel, and no one had had the boldness to go up against him. And now this youth had decided to face him?

Saul’s head came up, his brow creased in question. “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth.”

“Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the Living God,” David said, his heart filled with valour from the Lord.

He continued as Saul looked on in amazement: “The Lord Who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

There was silence all around, no one daring to make a sound lest they intrude on the moment, for it was not often that someone David’s age showed such courage…or foolhardiness as the case may seem.

Saul looked at him, studying him and David remained silent. Then Saul said, “Go, and the Lord be with you.” And with that, he put his head back in his hands, signaling dismissal.

David nodded and left the tent. As soon as he stepped out, he knew that the news had spread, because everyone looked at him as though he had taken leave of his senses. He heard whispering and saw men pointing at him. Shimea and Abinadab ran up to him, their eyes wild with fear.

“Boy are you mad? Have you even seen this Goliath of whom you so carelessly speak?” Shimea asked, grabbing David by the shoulders.

“Do you want us to take your torn carcass back to our father?” Abinadab asked, less out of concern for David’s welfare than the explaining he would have to do to Jesse upon David’s untimely demise.

“Boy, you had better go back and apologize to the King at once and cite excitement as the reason for your foolish burst of courage,” Shimea said. “Tell him it was the sun, or that you were struck with foolish valour…for goodness sake, tell him you drank poisoned sheep’s milk, if you like! Whatever you do, do not go out and face that Philistine, David.”

David opened his mouth to respond when he heard the King’s bodyguard calling out to him. “Hey boy, I think you forgot something. Do you intend to go out into battle armed with your tunic and wits only? Come over here.”

David obeyed and found himself surrounded by the King’s armor bearers, being fitted with Saul’s helmet, breastplate and even given the sword with the royal insignia. David felt awkward in them as they did not fit, moreso because he knew within himself that it was not Yahweh’s Will that he don the armor. He shifted uneasily as Saul came out of his tent to inspect him.

David turned to him, distress evident in his eyes. “I cannot go in these,” he said apologetically to Saul, “because I am not used to them.”

Saul nodded and David took the armour off. He then turned and jogged to the side of the valley where a small brook flowed between rocks. Upon reaching the brook, he knelt on the banks and prayed, choosing the round stones that would best suit his sling which he had tucked in his tunic. He knew it was foolish for him to go out with a slingshot against an armed Philistine giant; foolish in the natural sense, anyway. He shut out the distant noise of the camp, narrowing his mind and focusing on the task before him and on the One Who sent him to fulfill it. Something in him knew that he would defeat this Philistine and he would do so with the weapon he was accustomed to. Yahweh would do the rest, of that he was certain.

As he jogged back, the crest of the hill had filled with soldiers and they parted as he approached. Some of them reached out to pat him reassuringly on the back while others scoffed at his seeming foolishness. Shimea was at the front, his eyes awash with tears.

He grasped David’s arm and said to him, “I don’t know if you are brave or simply foolish, but I want you to know that our father would be proud to call you son…as I am proud to be called your brother.”

David clasped Shimea’s hand, his eyes communicating what he could not articulate into words. He turned and then ran down the hill toward his opponent.

There was silence around as every soldier directed his gaze to the solitary figure of David striding purposefully toward Goliath. Eliab spoke, his voice betraying his trepidation, his face showing worry for David for the very first time. “That fool boy is going to get himself killed.”

“Perhaps he will die but at least he will die a man of courage and not a coward,” Shimea said, his voice husky with tears. And they stood and watched.The Story of David

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Leave a comment

14 Comments

  1. alexie

     /  December 8, 2013

    Nw im teary eyed……one wld tink i hadnt read dis in d bible before

    Reply
  2. simi

     /  December 8, 2013

    @ alexie, i understand hw u feel. readn dis series has bin wow. d writer describes d events so vividly, u’d think she witnessed them. Great talent, great work

    Reply
  3. doris

     /  December 8, 2013

    Sifa,may God bless you

    Reply
  4. I love this

    Reply
  5. This is so beautiful…..and it has portrayed dis bible story in a practical and day to day manner. I’m anxioius for d next episode

    Reply
  6. abikoye

     /  December 8, 2013

    🙂

    Reply
  7. Gold

     /  December 8, 2013

    Such a nice piece!thumbs up

    Reply
  8. Excellency

     /  December 8, 2013

    Perfectly written in royal slendour. The story is just so vivid! Welldone ma’am…

    Reply
  9. Ha! Ghen ghen! Action time…it’s almost like I can’t wait to know what’s gonna happen next even though I do. It’s that real and captivating…brilliant!

    Reply
  10. Izuchukwu

     /  December 9, 2013

    I love creativity, and this is one of it.

    Reply
  11. Beautifully written
    Brings to life a well known story
    Well done

    Reply
  12. Nurain

     /  December 9, 2013

    Exceptional

    Reply
  13. Adeline Kasper

     /  December 10, 2013

    Wow! Dis is d part av bin patiently waitin for. Cnt wait 4 part 8.

    Reply
  14. @topazo. I agree absolutely – “Beautifully written
    Brings to life a well known story”
    Thumbs up!

    Reply

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