Happy Tuesday night. Below is the next installment of The Pledge, a few days late, but here for your liking. If you want to read from the beginning, you can click here. And thanks for stopping by my blog.
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They had passed other walled cities but none this close; and as they enter in through her gates, Judah marvels at the ingenuity of the structure. It is seamless – one large wall extends around the city with a sentry stationed at the gate, checking the wagons and possessions of travelers and guarding a secondary wall within the borders of the first. Judah knows how he appears to others, gawking as if he had never been out of the country before, but the truth was, he hadn’t. Padan-Aram was all spread out: fields and pastures. It was nothing compared to this.
Around him, city life moves on without paying him any attention. Merchants stand by their carts, yelling at passer-by’s to purchase their wares. Slaves walk through the market moving merchandise as veiled women wait by the road, enticing men with the curves of their bodies.
Judah tears away from the sights in front of him to look at the servant calling his attention.
“My lord,” the young man repeats. “We need to replenish supplies.”
He reminds Judah of his brother Asher. The son of a servant wife, he was fated for a lesser station in life, but was content with it.
“I would like to walk around,” Judah replies, using the same tone he often employed with his brothers, firm and bossy. It is unintentional, habit mostly, but garners the response he desires: the young nods, though hesitantly. He wants to warn him, Judah is certain, of the dangers of traveling on his own, but Judah was his own man now. He could do as he pleased.
The servant nods again and leads the others through the marketplace. Judah looks around again to see where he will go. The experience new, he decides to move towards the center of the city, opposite direction of the market. The streets are muddy from a recent rain, and there is animal excrement on the road. Judah carefully sidesteps the waste and lifts his head up to see a large structure before him. It is larger than most of the building around it and built of wood. Solid beams support the roof, while lavish drawings on the outer wall identify the building as a temple.
For which Ba’al, though? Judah asks himself. Anat? Athtart? El? Mot? Shapsu? Yarikh? His mother and aunt had been raised worshipping these gods, though that ended when his father wed the sisters. Still, it didn’t stop Rachel from keeping her vigil before whichever deity would grant her fertility…but that life was behind him and his father wasn’t there to tell him he couldn’t go inside the temple and see firsthand what he had heard from other shepherds who traveled outside Padan-Aram.