“Idol Smashers” is a work of fiction set in the biblical era of the Judges. Apart from persons mentioned in the Bible, it is entirely fiction and presented here in serial form strictly for the entertainment of my readers. “Idol Smashers” is an original work, copyright Brett Best, 2011.
Installment One – Worship Delayed
Day One – Shiloh
No matter how many times he attended the Day of Atonement sacrifice at the tabernacle, Jezreel still found himself humbled by the experience. At dawn on the tenth day of Tishri, the seventh month of the year, the high priest personally selected the bullock, sheep and goat for sacrifice and the scapegoat to be released into the wilderness. He then withdrew to bathe and don his ceremonial garments. Emerging from his tent, the high priest Ulla seemed to take on a supernatural glow as the morning light glinted off his ceremonial headdress and breastplate. Jezreel felt the glory of the LORD radiate from within the twelve stones on the breastplate Ulla wore.
Surely the LORD Himself was powerfully present in this moment. He was at hand to forgive the sins of his people, restoring them to Him.
The men of Israel, including Jezreel ben Ebed, moved closer. They were eager to see the sacrifices, to hear the words and be comforted in knowing that Israel was once more firmly in the hand of their God.
But on this Day of Atonement, this Yom Hakkipurim, the traditional words, the familiar words, were not spoken by Ulla. Instead, expressions of surprise broke upon the faces of the worshipers as Ulla began, “Men of Israel, children of Abraham, heirs of Isaac, descendants of Jacob – before we begin this sacred moment, before the sacrifices, I have been prevailed upon to seek the LORD and ask Him to reveal seven of you whom He has chosen for a special act of service.”
Some were immediately indignant and cried out angrily, “What is this? Is today not Yom Hakkippurim? Why do you delay this most important moment? Who orders such a thing to be done?”
Not bothering to hide the disdain in his voice, Ulla merely said, “The Judge over Israel…Deborah.” It was no secret that Ulla believed Deborah had outlasted her jurisdiction in the time since Barak’s death. Many gossiped about the arguments fought between Ulla and Deborah. There was speculation that Ulla’s motive was more than the usual prejudice against women; it was his desire was to extend his own authority over the tribes of Israel.
An undercurrent of murmuring and growling conversations arose around Jezreel. Ulla silenced them with a wave of his hands over his head.
“Deborah’s servants walk among you now with baskets filled with clay tokens. Let all true-hearted men of Israel draw one token from the basket without looking. Let all those who draw forth a white token hold it over his head.”
This strange request produced a new round of complaints and arguments, but Ulla only glowered in the direction of Deborah’s tent. As a woman, she was not allowed to attend the sacrifices herself, but stood beside her tent, staying at a respectable distance. The banner flapping above her tent depicted a palm tree, her symbol. This standard identified the place where the Judge over all Israel currently resided.
Contrary to the high priest’s command, some men refused to draw a chit or even to touch the basket. Their faces betrayed outrage at this break from tradition. They folded their arms across their chests to make their defiance even more clear.
Seeing some of his elders act this way, Jezreel hesitated when a servant approached, holding the basket high. A look passed between them and the servant understood that Jezreel also refused to draw. He moved away, holding out the basket to other men who did draw from it. Jezreel instantly regretted his indecision, even though it seemed to him that he’d hesitated only for a split-second; the speed at which thoughts fly between hurried heartbeats.
Ulla raised his hand to indicate recognition of the first, second, third and fourth men to raise a white token over their heads. As the servants continued to distribute the chits to all who would take one, Ulla motioned these four men to come to him.
Some minutes passed as the servants worked through the crowd of men. A fifth hand was raised, bearing a white chit. This man too was beckoned to Ulla’s side. Nearly all of the men had been offered a chance to draw a clay token when the sixth hand went up.
Minutes later, the servants made their way to the front, bearing their baskets. One of them conferred with Ulla in whispers.
Anger rising in his voice, Ulla shouted, “I have not made myself clear. The sacrifice will NOT proceed until seven men have been chosen in this fashion. Refusal to draw is NOT an option!”
Jezreel only half-heard Ulla remonstrating them as “stiff-necked fools, reeking of their own stubbornness” as he stepped forward. Smitten by his earlier missed opportunity, Jezreel was resolved to do the right thing. He shouldered his way past the men ahead of him and said, “I will draw.”
Chagrined by the interruption, Ulla fixed him with a look. Speaking with clear irony he said, “At last, here is a true son of Israel. One who knows how to obey the leadership of the LORD’s people.”
With a hurried wave of his hand, Ulla gestured one of Deborah’s servants forward. The man stepped up and held the basket high enough to prevent Jezreel from looking within.
Drawing in a breath, Jezreel reached inside the basket and took the first token he touched. Withdrawing it, he looked down to the palm of his right hand. He held a clay token that had been painted white and bore the imprint of the palm tree. Tomer Deborah. The emblem of the palm tree under which she had judged Israel for more than a generation.
Jezreel had been chosen! He raised the white token aloft in a gesture of triumph. With a cry, the men of Israel rejoiced.
Ulla sullied the moment by angrily grabbing the baskets from the servants and throwing both the baskets and their tokens high into the air. The small clay tokens scattered over the assembly.
“The LORD has spoken!” Ulla shouted. “Let these men be removed to the tent of Deborah and may the LORD Almighty give strength to their right arms!”
The chief of Deborah’s servants, thus relieved of his basket, moved to Jezreel’s side and spoke softly to him. “Man of God, please accompany me,” he said. Repeating this to all those who bore the white tokens, the servant lead the group away from the worshippers.
A sudden pain of regret shadowed Jezreel’s heart as behind him Ulla intoned, “Let the faithful of Israel gather. Our bodies having been cleansed, let us now be cleansed in our hearts.” With these tradition-laden words the Day of Atonement ceremony began. Jezreel realized that though the cleansing would include him, he would not, for the first of many years, not be a witness to the Yom Hakkipurim.