Religious Warfare


Rabbith looked over the wall at the returning invaders. No one had yet broken through into the city, and Rabbith didn’t fear that changing now. Whatever rumors rattled the courage of his countrymen, he did not fear them. They had a god who fought for them? Fine. So did Rabbith and his people. Better, they had the wall. The blood of slaves had built the wall; the blood of firstborns had consecrated it; the blood of enemies had strengthened it. All gods feasted on blood. The god of the wall was sated and mighty.

Others were gathering on the walls to view the enemy. They came every day to gawk and fret. Rabbith was tired of their fear, sick of their cowardice. “Go!” he shouted. He raised his sword. “What are you staring at? Those fools? Those mockers? What for?”

“They say—”

“Who says?” Rabbith smacked the man with the flat of his blade.

“They’ve conquered others,” another said. “They are a mighty people, with a mighty god.”

Did the other nations have our wall? Our defenses? Our gods? On the plains, these fools conquered, but these are not plains. This is not a city ripe for the picking. Don’t you see they’re mocking us? They come day after day to stare at us, to ridicule our sacred traditions! They can’t defeat us, so they stick out their tongues and deface our idols. Now go!” He roared and rushed at the people, swinging his sword and drawing blood.

Alone again, he turned, fuming, toward the army. They mocked the great god Yerach, who founded the city, and his people. Day after day these invaders marched to the city, circling it, mocking Keret, the honored king, who marched seven days in silence in response to a vision. What would these invaders do today, shout, like in the story of Keret? This was religious warfare, and it ate at the faith of those who waited inside.

Rabbith declared an oath and spit over the wall’s edge.

Someone else was on the wall now, walking quickly toward him. His sister—a true believer. She had worked in the temple for a time, and she still served Yerach with her body, for the good of  the men.

“Rabbith, you must come with me.”

“Why? What is the matter?”

She looked over the wall. The army was marching outside of arrow range, starting their circuit of the wall. “I—these people worry me. Come and stay with me this day, at least until they leave. It will make me feel safer.”

Rabbith laughed. “You’ve never feared anything, sister. The priests removed you because you challenged his authority. Are you really wetting yourself because of these foreigners? I expect better of you.”

“You heard about the spies. They were in the city. Maybe they found a weakness.”

“There is no weakness!”

“Why stand here and watch then? Come away with me.”

“If one of them comes within range, I will kill him.”

She took his hand. “Come with me.”

He studied her. “I heard they searched your quarters for the spies.”

“They did. They found nothing.”

“Your rooms are on the wall.”

“Yes.” She met his eyes. “Will you come with me?”

“Do you fear these people?”

“I fear their god. He has chosen them. You heard what happened in Egypt.”

“You believe that propaganda? Leave me. I will remain here. I stand here to show them I am not afraid. I stand here to represent the strength of our god. Now leave me before I kill you.”

She looked at him fearfully and backed up a step. Without a word, she hurried away. Rabbith turned away, hands trembling with anger. Even his sister Rahab had crumbled

Slowly, he calmed himself as he waited for the army to finish its circuit. Normally, they turned away, but this time they began to circle again. They meant to play the mockery to the fullest. It didn’t matter. Rabbith let his anger grow again, bathing in the heat of it. A third time around the army marched, and a fourth. Rabbith laughed. He began spewing curses at the men below.

He was drunk in rage as they completed the seventh circuit, but their shouts drowned his rage as it washed over the walls of Jericho.

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