Greetings. Welcome to another new installment of The Pledge. If you’re new to the story, you can click here to read from the beginning. And if you’re back, thanks for visiting my blog.
Judah is numb. Sitting across from Er, his cold, dead body on the table in the outbuilding on his land, awaiting the funeral pyre, Judah can barely remember his son as a boy. And he supposes there is a reason for that – he wasn’t around as often as he should have been; still, this was his firstborn son and here he was, dead. Why? Were the gods punishing him for something? If he was honest enough, he would admit he didn’t believe in his wife’s gods. They were nothing but stone and wood.
Was his father’s god punishing him then? Elohim.
The name had not crossed his lips in years. He had not called on him, nor offered any kind of gift to him. He had neglected him, though his intent, if he remembered correctly, was to come to this land to discover the promises of Elohim.
Judah hangs his head and sighs, bringing the bottle of wine to his lips again. So much for those promises: he had made his way to Canaan, only to bury his firstborn, his strength. Was that what Elohim required of him? Then he was no better than Ba’al Mot, who received his own quota of human sacrifices.
Judah lifts his head. Though his brothers had moved from Padan-Arams, along with their father, to Hebron years earlier, there was only one man he considered his brother: his friend Hirah. He could count on him for anything, unlike Reuben, Simeon or Joseph, Rachel’s progeny. Her womb had finally opened, only to deliver a spoiled son, who would place himself above the sons of the proper wife, Leah, but she was dead and he was gone, leaving him with the brothers he had left twenty some years earlier. And they would be here in Adullam later in the week, but for now, only Hirah could bring him comfort.
“I came when I heard,” Hirah says with empathy. He pats Judah on the arms. “I’m sorry. He was a good boy. It’s a pity.”
“No, it is a disgrace,” Judah states. “The boy shouldn’t have died.”
Hirah takes a few slow steps towards Er, looking over his body. Judah notes the care in his eyes, as he walks around the table.
“You believe he was killed?” Hirah asks. “His wife, perhaps?”
Judah shakes his head, turning away from the sight in front of him.
“The girl is loyal; she would have never hurt him.”
“Then perhaps an enemy?”
“No, this is the work of a vengeful god.” His disdain is obvious in every word he spews. But he doesn’t care anymore. “After all these years, he comes like a thief to take my firstborn, snatch him away from his life. My son should have been a father. He should have been running my business, retiring me the way I retired Shua.” Judah is shaking now, his voice louder, his eyes stinging with tears. “He was a good boy, a good boy!”
Even in the presence of his friend, Judah finds he doesn’t know how to react. He turns away from Hirah and Er, intent on leaving, but he can’t. This was his flesh and blood on the table, the only thing that made his life, his marriage livable, and he was gone.
The bottle drops from his hand. It doesn’t shatter, but the wine is wasted, its contents spreading across the floor. Judah watches the rivulets flow, distracted for a moment; but the loss of his drink weighs just as heavy on him and the tears begin streaming down his face.
Hirah takes him in his arms.
“Even the gods envy you, my friend.”