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They finished their packing and the Israelites wandered away from Elah to their homes. It had been a long battle and they walked or rode slowly talking about all that had happened and what they would be doing in the next few days. Hannah took Ishmael's arm and the other girls did the same to their men and together they picked their way across the desert. Ishmael had ten donkeys after the plundering of the Philistines and when they grew tired they rode their new animals.
Eventually, they came to a stream and broke their journey with a stop to paddle.
'Oh, Ishmael this is a beautiful place; let us call it 'stream of happiness.' She sat on the path and pulled up her dress and removed her shoes. Ishmael removed his too. The water was wonderfully cool on their tired feet and they paddled, hugged and then sat on the rocks beside the stream to dangle their feet in the water. They kissed passionately in the slowly setting sun. They stayed there for a while resting and letting the atmosphere of the stream fill their bodies.
'Come my love let us eat,' said Ishmael.
He led her by the arm back to the animals and pulled out their packs with fresh bread and roasted barley with wine.
The donkeys ate the green grass by the stream.
Ishmael broke and blessed the bread and they ate their fill.
Some passers-by turned off the track and stopped to look at the stream: they were few and far between and the place was desolate so Ishmael and Hannah offered to share their food with them.
'Peace to you, friends,' called Ishmael to the couple as they approached.
'May the Lord be with you, we are Zedekiah and Elizabeth and we are travelling to town. May we share the stream with you?'
Ishmael waved his hand at the stream, 'Of course, and won't you join us for bread, barley and wine? We have plenty.'
'Why thank you we shall.'
Hannah had spread her shawl in the afternoon sun and there was still plenty of food left after they had eaten.
Elizabeth and Zedekiah paddled while Ishmael and Hannah waited for them. Their feet were soon refreshed and they were ready to eat.
The two couples sat at the picnic and Zedekiah spoke of the purpose of their journey which was arranging transport for some precious stones and silver and also spices.
'We have to meet an agent friend in town by midday tomorrow to arrange safe transport for spices, silver and stones,' told Zedekiah to Ishmael and Hannah.
This was their trade.
'We have had many problems in the past with secure transport,' said Zedekiah between mouthfuls. Hannah passed the wineskin to him again.
'There are bandits everywhere with fast horses who raid the trains. Nothing is really safe. We hire big men in the hope of big protection but the bandits hide in the rocks and take them out with ropes,' said Zedekiah.
Hannah said, 'The last train got through with our loads but our friends lost two donkey loads of cloth and we lost silver the time before last.' The losses are large but the profits are good too. If you are ever over our way then please visit us and we can enjoy time together again.'
'Why thank you that's most kind,' remarked Hannah and Ishmael.
They ate in silence for a while.
Ishmael said, 'We can camp in the rocks tonight and tomorrow be on our way. Any objections?'
It was getting dark and they all agreed.
So after clearing the food Hannah selected a place in the rocks and spread a large blanket between them to form a small booth or tent between the rocks.
Hannah called, 'Ishmael my love please help?'
Ishmael held the blanket firmly with more stones on the corners.
Ishmael said, 'Let's put our bags and extra clothes across the entrance to keep the wild animals out.'
They started to stack them.
'That's it stack them up straight and high,' said Ishmael.
Pretty soon their tents were finished and as it was now dark they said goodnight and then retired.
The moon was almost full though so there was just enough light to see.
Ishmael and Hannah got into their tent. How Ishmael loved Hannah. He watched her undress in the darkness from his side of the tent. He just could n't keep his hands off her breasts as she fixed the covers. He caressed them gently. He moved across behind her and slid his hands all over her tummy and breasts. This soon aroused Hannah and she took the hint and decided this was a good time to make love. She let Ishmael proceed and she remembered what a nice day it had been. She turned to face him and they met in an embrace in the middle of the tent. They lay there in the dark fondling and kissing and Ishmael took her as his wife.
The next morning Zedekiah and Elizabeth rose first and bid them goodbye through the gap between their packs and the blanket roof.
'God be with you two and may you be blessed in all you do,' said Elizabeth, 'and thank you for the food.'
'Bye Ishmael, bye Hannah we have to leave and get to town by midday. The weather is fine so we must go. The hilly route will be fine in this,' said Zedekiah pointing to the high ground to the east.
Hannah and Ishmael said goodbye from a doze.
After they had left Ishmael said, 'Let's go for a swim together then get some breakfast and be off to my parent's place.'
Hannah agreed and they pushed past their bags and ran to the stream. It was cool but they jumped in the part which was about four feet deep. They were completely refreshed and invigorated and they hugged each other closely under water as the morning sun shone down on the rippled surface.
'I love you Hannah, marry me and have my children.'
It was a command not a request.
Hannah pondered, 'Ishmael I love you too and the Lord is with us so I have no choice but to say 'yes'.
She giggled and then laughed. Ishmael was grinning. Hannah splashed water all over everywhere and dived back in the pool exposing her breasts white in the sunlight.
They kissed again.
After some minutes they decided to get out.
They dried themselves on some blankets and dressed.
'Let's eat,' said Hannah.
She spread another blanket and Ishmael blessed the bread.
The Lord was indeed with them and blessed them in all things. His glory filled the glade with the stream and kept it Holy.
Ishmael started to load their ten donkeys and they were soon ready to leave. Hannah led the first of a string of five out of the glade up onto the main road. Ishmael followed. They looked back at the glade one more time and then departed the donkeys snorting as they climbed the hill.
'Rope yourselves together, tie your packs to your backs,' commanded David as the men came to the dry ravine. The rocks were crumbly and quite treacherous in places. They slid and half fell to the bottom.
David commanded, 'Now the hard part, let the best climbers lead in groups of six. Don't follow the leader until he tells you to or you'll both fall off. Stay roped together. Don't look down unless you really need to. Take your shoes off if necessary but tie them on to your pack.'
David lead Amos, Josiah, Jonam and two others. They came to a wall of rock with a two inch crack running about 40 degrees to the vertical. David removed his shoes and proceeded to hand jam up the crack with his feet gripping the rock comfortably. He got to a ledge about 60 feet above and belayed to a tree that had found a home there.
He called down to Amos, 'Follow me to this ledge - you can rest here Amos.'
Just as Amos started to climb the man in the team next to them fell about five feet and jerked to an abrupt halt dangling by his rope. Luckily he was unhurt but his friends had to lower him down. They did n't all have the strength to make it. David looked sideways as Amos climbed and saw men dangling and teams giving up all along the cliff.
Amos made it to the ledge followed by Jonam. Then it was Josiah's turn. He tugged on the rope before starting the climb and made it to the crack. Half way along the crack he lost grip with both feet and was dangling by two hands. David took the strain at the ledge as Josiah had to let go.
'Quick, Amos, grab me and the rope...pull,' said David as he struggled to hold onto Josiah.
Amos and Jonam joined David and they managed to haul Josiah up to let him regain his foothold. It was touch and go for a while but he managed to get to the ledge. The last two also made it to the ledge. David carried on up the cliff but there was nothing as difficult as that crack and they clambered up to safety.
Only four hundred had the strength and fitness to climb up the very steep cliffs of the Besor Ravine. The rest had to stay behind and walk along the bottom of the ravine to its start. The fit climbers assembled at the top to continue the pursuit.
David commanded, 'Scouts go on ahead, ten of you in pairs; one reports anything unusual the other stays to watch. We 'll travel fairly fast; I want to catch up as soon as possible.' The army rode off in search of the raiders.
Nathaniel son of Eliphaz approached David with two other shepherds and beckoned him over to the fire. He wore a brown and blue cloak over his pale undergarment and a reddish brown headpiece. He had his crook with him and David knew him to be an influential farmer around Israel's border with Philistine. He was a friend of the family but David had n't seen him for years. He handed David a skin of his finest wine and they all drank together. He also promised David two lambs from his flocks as a gift.
'David, David,' he asked eventually; 'Where is the best place to water my flocks with the Philistines so close to my land? Do you think that it would be advantageous to take them at night or is the risk of ambush too high?' He took a stick and drew a map of his territory and the Philistine border, his camp and the two wells he used.
David studied the ground carefully and decided to send men to help. 'I will send five men to act as lookouts until the cropping is over in this area and also ten men to dig another well here;' he pointed to a location further south. David knew the area well as the Philistines were constantly trespassing on Israel's territory in this area and he had had to fight them back before.
'With the new well further away from them the Philistines should leave you in peace. It will take about 10 days to sink so until then take care,' said David.
Nathaniel grinned and shook David's hand until it felt it was going to drop off. 'May the Lord watch over you and your men and you are welcome to come to my camp any time.'
David grinned back and moved to the next group who were discussing the army.
'Ah, David do stay, we were just discussing the strength of your army and whether to start a recruiting campaign for you and your cause: I am Pekah your servant.' He bowed graciously.
'My army is up to full strength Pekah, but we could possibly find work for any men with experience of digging wells. I have a new one to dig Gath way for Nathaniel son of Eliphaz.'
Pekah stroked his beard and said, 'I can think of two families who have had to dig wells of late so I will send word to them to enquire as to whether they want some extra work for the cause.'
'Good,' said David and he clapped his hands together: and now I will sing another song for you all. Enjoy your wine.' He left to find his harp.
Psalms sung and played by David.
'Hellfire and damnation! Naggai, Naggai bring me more wine.' Saul bellowed to his servant in the adjoining room. Naggai scuttled into Saul's presence followed by another servant, Tobiah, who wanted to know what the trouble was.
'What is it sire, do you need a fan?' asked Naggai.
'No you stupid oaf I do not need a fan I need more wine. Look.' Saul pointed to the ground.
Naggai examined the goblet and wine stain and his face screwed up.
'See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the harp. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes upon you, and you will feel better.'
Saul laughed as he got out of his seat.
'A harp player! (laughs)..........you know Naggai for a good for nothing who would n't say boo to a Philistine cat that's not a bad idea....
(twitches and convulses).....find someone who plays well and bring him to me! Oh and Naggai, bring two goblets for my friends here.'
Tobiah left to attend to Saul's needs leaving Naggai trying to humour the half mad King of Israel.
'I can fetch someone who knows how to play the harp. I know of somebody sire?' Naggai led Saul back to his seat and Tobiah returned with three goblets and a flagon of wine.
'What sort of songs does he sing? Does he play in tune? I don't want any old minstrel who sounds like a pregnant cow now do I Naggai?' Saul leapt out of his seat and tried to grab Naggai by the throat, but Naggai was too quick and danced aside.
'Sire I saw him and he's good: this man had the servant girls dancing and singing all round when I was in Bethlehem. I know he could help you...and your two friends like him already.' Naggai looked Saul right in the eye.
Saul reached for the wine and poured a goblet down his throat. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
'Very well Naggai, arrange for him to be brought here so we too can sing with him. Make haste.' Saul sat back down and stared at the horizon motionless. Naggai set out the wine and goblets and left with the other servant.