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Power of the Flame

Samson's ministry as a judge was both colorful and tragic. This novel will teach you much about the religion of the Philistines and how their beliefs intertwined with the story of Samson. This novel covers the last 20 years of the Philistine captivity.

Category - Biblical Novels

Chapter 3

The Tipsy Tavern

We rode with Manoah and Naamah as far as the crossroad where we had met them earlier. Sipporah and I stopped there. “Here is where we must part from you,” I said to Manoah. “We have business in Timnah. Now that you have dropped off the dowry, you should be in no danger of being robbed as you return home.”

“It was good to see you again, Naamah,” Sipporah said.

“Yes, I enjoyed it very much,” she responded. “Shalom!”

With that, Manoah coaxed the donkey forward and continued the journey back to Zorah. We turned south and crossed the bridge, taking the road toward the gate of Timnah. “Did you have a good visit with Dogma?” I asked Pegasus.

“It’s Dugma,” Pegasus said with a laugh.

“Dogma, Dugma—it’s spelled the same in Hebrew,” I said. “Somehow, Dogma seems more fitting. I will call him Dogma.”

“Then Dogma it is,” Pegasus replied, “for you have the authority to name the animals. 17 Dogma told me that Samson has known Eglah since they were children and that Samson has always loved her. Dogs understand love, you know, for it comes naturally to them. Love has a sweet scent, which their noses can distinguish from all other smells.”

“Really?” I said with surprise. “They are indeed blessed.”

“Dogs are faithful by nature,” Pleiades added, but when they smell love, they become man’s best friend.”

“With the possible exception of horses,” Pegasus added quickly.

“Of course,” I said. “But horses have other special gifts, such as swift feet, eyes to see far, and ears to hear that which is yet unseen.”

“Don’t forget our sharp minds,” Pegasus replied. “We are also better mathematicians and physicists than dogs.”

“We all have different gifts from the Creator,” I said. “Each is unique and wonderful, well suited to all, great and small. I think that Dogma will be our eyes and ears in this land.”

We arrived at the gate of Timnah, and the guard recognized us from our previous trip. No one could forget the beautiful horses we rode, and all Philistines admired their strength and valued their swiftness. After a greeting, we passed through the gate into the town and made our way to the stable next to the inn.

Looking down the street we could see the Power Tower, where the Council of Giants gathered occasionally. It was the tallest building in Timnah and was the place where we had set forth the laws which bound the Philistines during the time they were given to rule Israel.

We walked down the main street past the blacksmith’s shop, who was busy sharpening tools. Across the street was a shrine to Thuban, where pilgrims could come to pay homage to the great Python, and, for a fee, gain some good luck in an otherwise unlucky world.

The street then brought us to the stable next to The Tipsy Tavern. “Give the horses your best stall, and be sure it is clean,” I told the stable boy. “If you take good care of them, I will pay you well.”

“Yes, sir!” the boy said enthusiastically. I could see that he loved horses, which, no doubt, was why he worked at the stable.

Sippore flew down and landed upon Sipporah’s shoulder. We then walked into the inn. On the ground floor was the tavern, full of tables and chairs. It smelled of wine, but seemed to be clean by the normal standards of that time and place. A few guests sat at tables eating a late lunch, and we knew that more would come after the sun had set. A young woman was serving drinks.

“We would like your best room for the night,” I told the owner.

“That will be one pey,” he replied. “Meals are included; drinks are extra. And if your dove makes a mess, you must clean up after her or pay extra. I run a clean inn and tavern here!”

“I understand,” I said. “We are glad to hear of your concern for cleanliness, and we will keep everything as clean as we found it.”

We concluded the deal and were shown to our room above the tavern. It was sparse, but clean. Coarse mattresses on the beds were stuffed with straw and cotton, making them surprisingly comfortable. The evening would probably not be so quiet, I thought, as the coarse laughter and drunken cheers could not be muffled by the wooden floor.

 I opened the crude window so that Sippore could come and go as she pleased. But she was content to remain perched on Sipporah’s shoulder. Throwing our tote bag upon one of the beds, I said, “Why don’t we go downstairs and see if we can talk to Eglah before she is too busy with guests to talk to us?”

“I would like to meet her,” Sipporah answered. “I did not have a chance to meet her when she was a child.”

We walked down the stairs, found an open table, and sat down. The few guests who had been there on our arrival were now gone.

“May I help you?” a woman’s voice asked pleasantly.

“You must be Eglah,” I said.

“Yes, I am,” she replied with a surprised look. “Do I know you?”

“I am Anava, and this is my wife, Sipporah.” Then pointing to the dove on Sippore’s shoulder, I added, “And I believe you met Sippore many years ago when you were a child.”

Eglah’s eyes widened, and her mouth dropped open. “Yes!” she exclaimed. “Is it really the same dove? But—that was more than fifteen years ago! How can it be?? I had begun to think that it was all just the happy dream of an unhappy child!”

With a quick flap of her wings, Sippore flew to Eglah’s shoulder and rubbed her beak on her neck. “I told you that this was a very special dove,” I replied. “She loved you then, if you recall, and she loves you even now.”

“Oh, I love you, too!” Eglah said, stroking the dove lightly. “Oh, this is so wonderful!” Looking back at us, Eglah asked, “So where are you from, and what are you doing in Timnah? I have a thousand questions for you! You were so kind to me when I needed it. I heard others say that you were from one of the tribes of Israel, but that you did not consider us to be your enemies. They said that your God loves all people from every nation. But does not each god or goddess love his or her own people?”

“Wait, wait!” I said. “One question at a time, please! We are Israelites from a far country. Many families from the tribe of Dan had no land here, because they were not strong enough to displace the Philistines. So they became seafarers and established many colonies around the Great Western Sea. In time, many people from other tribes later went with them, including my ancestors from Ephraim.”

“As for the God we worship,” Sipporah added, “He is the Creator of all men and women everywhere, regardless of their nationality or race. He loves all of His children. He has chosen to reveal Himself to a few, but He made them responsible to bless His other children.”

“Yes,” I continued. “The Creator revealed Himself to one of our fathers many centuries ago and commissioned him to bless all nations. We have been sent from afar to be a blessing to the Philistines as well as the Israelites. The Israelites possess sacred writings which speak of this, but they do not understand their meaning. We are here to impart greater understanding to those who will listen and, perhaps, to build a better relationship between our people.”

“And we are here,” Sipporah said, “to share the truth with you as well, so that you may come to know the Creator as we do.”

“I do want to know Him.” She paused. “I have an important question for you. It is said that the name of Israel’s God is Yahweh,” Eglah said. “I have heard that He does not require any Israelites to sacrifice their first-born sons. Is that really true?”

“Yes, that is true,” Sipporah said. “Many have misunderstood the ancient prophecies and have twisted the truth. You know from the priests in your temples that only the sacrifice of the first-born can truly pay for the sins of the people. However, what is little known today is that God Himself intends to send His first-born Son to die for the sins of the whole world.”

“What? How can God have a son?” Eglah asked. “And how could he die? Would he not be immortal?”

“You recall,” I responded, “how the giants, who rule Philistia and other nations, were called sons of God. 18 They came down from heaven and cohabited with earthly women, producing giants. They were not authorized by the Creator to do this, but it does show that it is possible for heavenly beings to bring forth children on earth. Yet the true Son of God has not yet come to earth. When He does, He will offer Himself as a willing sacrifice for the sin of the world. Because He will be a perfect Man, His sacrifice—and His alone—will be acceptable to the Creator and will satisfy all the demands of the divine law.”

“The Israelites,” Sipporah said, “have been instructed to offer animal sacrifices as an interim way to cover sins until the first-born Son of God comes to remove those sins. Animal sacrifices are temporary, because they are insufficient to meet the demands of the law. And most certainly, it was never the will or desire of God that anyone should offer his own first-born son.” 19

“But why would it be necessary for God to sacrifice His own first-born Son?” she asked with a puzzled look. “Is He not above such pain? Would He not instead command others to do this? After all, He has the power to do anything, and we exist only to serve Him.”

“The original sin of Earthyman polluted all blood on the earth,” I explained. “The soul is in the blood, 20 and mortality resides in every soul. 21 Death is the great polluter of the soul, and no man is immortal. For this reason, the blood of no man on earth—not even the most innocent of babies—has the power to cleanse a person. Indeed, have you witnessed anyone coming into immortality after sacrificing their first-born son?”

“No,” Eglah admitted. “It seems that their soul remains polluted by death.”

“Only unpolluted blood,” Sipporah added, “blood that is untainted by the seed of Earthyman, can cleanse men and women, their houses, or the land on which they dwell. For this reason, a virgin must conceive a son by the seed of the Creator Himself. 22 This son alone will have blood unpolluted by the seed of the first sinner, the ancestor of us all. Only His sacrifice will have the power to cleanse all things and restore us to the image of God for which we were created.”

As she spoke, I saw a tiny Seed of Elyon fly toward Eglah and implant itself in her ear. Eglah burst into tears. It was as if a great weight had fallen from her shoulders, for in her heart she had never been able to reconcile the inherent contradiction of a good God demanding child sacrifice. So she believed the promise of God, and it was counted to her for righteousness. 23 Sippore comforted her soul with soothing whispers.

When Eglah was able to regain her composure, she said brokenly, “It has always been my nightmare that I would have to give up my first-born son and to watch as he was burned in the fire. I did not know how I could bear this! But neither did I know how to avoid it, other than to remain single and have no children at all.”

“You will not have to endure that pain,” I assured her. “Samson knows this truth and would never sacrifice his first-born son.”

“Samson!” she exclaimed with surprise. “Do you know him? Do you know of our betrothal?”

“Yes,” I replied, “for we just came from your father’s house, where your dowry was paid today. Congratulations on your betrothal!”

“Did my father tell you,” she asked, “that Samson would not allow me to be purified in the temple in Ashdod to prepare for our wedding?”

“He said nothing about this,” I informed her, “but this instruction does not surprise me. Samson would never allow you to lose your virginity to a temple priest before he claimed you as his bride. Such purification rites are an abomination to the Israelites and to the true God Himself. Theirs is a religion that forces all men to marry harlots. This is not the Creator’s design for marriage.”

“Yes,” Eglah said, “I am glad to hear this, for I have lived in fear that the priest would impregnate me, and that I would then be required to give up my first-born to be burned as a sacrifice.”

“The god of Ashdod is not a god of love, but of power and violence,” I said. “Such gods ought to be overthrown, not worshiped.”

“I recall now,” Eglah said, “that you knew Samson many years ago when he defended me from Baasha, 24 when he was still a bully.”

“Has he changed his ways, then?” I inquired.

“He has grown up now,” she replied. “In fact, he and Samson are now good friends, and Baasha will be the Friend of the Bridegroom at our wedding.”

“I am glad to hear that Baasha has grown up,” I said. “I hope that his heart has changed as well.”

Eglah hesitated and bit her lip.

“Yes?” I said, looking at her. “You were going to say something?”

“My heart is uneasy around him,” she said slowly. “I do not know what it is, because he seems nice enough. In fact, before Samson expressed his interest in marrying me, Baasha asked my father for my hand. I pleaded with my father to turn him down.”

“That is interesting,” Sipporah said. “If you are uncomfortable around him, it could be a difficult life being married to him. I trust that Samson will make you happier.”

“I do love Samson,” she replied, “and I believe that he will treat me right, even though I am not a Danite by birth.”

“We have heard that he loves you very much,” Sipporah told her.

I added, “Many years ago when I first met you, if you had stayed longer, you would have met my wife as well. She came to find me just after you and your sister ran off. But it was sufficient that you heard the voice of the dove. Your heart was pure, and you were obedient in releasing your two doves.”

“Yes,” she said. “Sippore told me that the Creator had need of my two doves. Yet I never discovered the purpose He had for them.”

“Your doves accompanied Sippore and followed us on our journey,” I informed her. “They were used later in the healing of a very miserable leper. The love of God turned his life around and caused him to understand the true nature of God. His life was changed from the bondage of despair to freedom as a son of God. He rose to become a wise judge in Israel. Abdon was his name.”

“Abdon!” Eglah said. “I remember hearing of him. Our rulers had great respect for him, because he treated all men with dignity and did not hate us. He was known as a man of peace and equal justice for all.”

“Your doves served a great purpose,” Sipporah said. “Many great things are started by small acts of kindness. One never knows how such a chain reaction will end, but we all have the ability to make the world a better place. When the world has run its course, and we all stand in the final judgment, the vast majority of the Creator’s rewards will go to those who did little things, long-forgotten acts of kindness, moments that were important to God, but which no one memorialized in great songs or in the chronicles of nations.”

Two men walked into the tavern at that moment and sat down at a table, waiting to be served. “I must go,” Eglah said, “but I hope that we may talk more later.”


Footnotes

  1. Genesis 2:19
  2. Genesis 6:4
  3. Jeremiah 19:5
  4. Leviticus 17:11, which says (literally), “the fleshly soul is in the blood.”
  5. Romans 5:12
  6. Isaiah 7:14
  7. Genesis 15:6
  8. Baasha means “wicked” in Hebrew.