And People Say The Bible is Boring…

As I was writing Part 27 to The Pledge, I noticed something that changes part of the story. Just after Judah’s friend Hirah (who is the ultimate example of an enabler and the worst friend ever, btw) advises him that he couldn’t find the prostitute Judah slept with, the Hebrew patriarch tells him:

“Let her keep the items for herself; otherwise we will become a laughingstock. After all, I did send this young goat, but you couldn’t find her.” Gen 38:23

I went back to the original text to get a feel for the conversation, but something jumped out that I didn’t notice before: Judah was worried about becoming a laughingstock in his adopted nation. He was afraid of becoming an object of ridicule by the Adullamites. And not just that, he grouped his faithful, enabling friend in that concern (which makes me wonder what else Hirah did for his friend).

I’d always read that passage to mean that he was a man who paid his debts, who, even though the items (staff, cord and seal, all representative of his identity) were important, he knew they were useless to her. But I think the implications are deeper here: here is a man, who grew up worshiping the one, nameless god of the Hebrews, but was now living in the land of the enemy, who worshipped their gods through sex. Perhaps he held himself above them and made it known. But that would be a problem if he had ‘sunk to their level’ and became an addict of the very thing he condemned. And you could argue that we don’t know that for sure, but the writer of Genesis gives us convincing evidence that he did:

He went over to [the prostitute] and said, “Come, let me sleep with you,”… She said, “What will you give me for sleeping with me?” “I will send you a young goat from my flock,” he replied. But she said, “Only if you leave something with me until you send it.” “What should I give you?” he asked. She answered, “Your signet ring, your cord, and the staff in your hand.” So he gave them to her and slept with her, and she got pregnant by him. Gen 38:15-18

Unless you’ve done it before, you don’t look at a prostitute on the side of the road and think, today is a good day to visit one. And going by the ease with which he did it, I would argue that Judah was quite adept at negotiating terms with a prostitute, making this a recurring issue he probably preferred to keep on the DL. Plus, if you go back to earlier verses, you find that the ‘prostitute’ (his widowed daughter-in-law, which brings up more issues that even Sigmund Freud would raise an eyebrow at) knew Judah would stop when he saw her. Hmm…

I think the man had done it so often, visiting prostitutes was second-nature to him. BUT he held himself above his countrymen and was vocal about it (making him a hypocrite), so that when this one ‘prostitute’ went missing with what was in essence his wallet, he was worried about a scandal ensuing.

And a scandal would follow, but it was much worse than Judah feared. Stay tuned. For the time being, I have amended the current post, and will go back and change the story to fit this new development.

And people say the Bible is boring…

The Pledge (6)

Greetings. Below is the next installment of my WIP, The Pledge. You can read it from the beginning by clicking hereThanks for stopping by my blog. 

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3.

Because it is late, Judah and his servants spend the night at Hirah’s house. The hospitality is unmatched; and they are treated to the finest wine, roasted goat and tender vegetables. Judah finds the attention intoxicating. He had always fought his brothers for attention – now it was being handed to him. Because of his grandfather, yes, but Judah didn’t care. He liked being able to stand on his own and when the servants go to him the next day, insisting that they get back on the road to Hebron, Judah decides, “Continue on to Hebron – I’m staying here in Adullam.”

The young servant boy that reminds Judah of Asher eyes him nervously.

“No, sir. This land is…” He hesitates, looking over Judah’s shoulder to Hirah. “They do not worship the god of your fathers.”

For a moment, Judah is stunned silent. How could this young man elevate himself above his newfound friend when he was only a servant?

“Know your place,” Judah states darkly through clenched teeth. He is aware of Hirah’s presence, and tries to avoid offending him any further.

The boy lowers his gaze to the floor.

“I will stay here in Adullam; and I am sure at some point, I will make my way to Hebron,” Judah firmly advises him.

“Then we will take our leave,” the servant says, though sadly. Judah knows he will have to account for leaving his master’s grandson in a strange land, but such was his burden as a servant.

The young man bows before Judah and leaves. Judah watches as he and the others lead their animals in the direction of the main gate, where the inhabitants of the city are already stirring. Maybe someday he would make it out to the land of Abraham, but for right now, his place was there in Adullam, with Hirah, enjoying his freedom.

“Are you ready?” he hears Hirah ask behind.

As the servants disappear into the sea of people, Judah nods his head.

 * * *

Back in the temple district, Judah follows his friend as he gives him a tour through the city. Certainly, he had seen much of Adullam the day before, but he was lost and not paying attention to his surroundings.

He is paying attention now, though, especially when Hirah tells him, “All girls have to serve a week in the Temple of Ba’al Mot when they come of age.”

Judah stops, his attention piqued.

“Serve?”

Hirah laughs at him.

“Sex, my friend.”

“With who?”

Hirah shrugs his shoulders.

“Priests. Faithful worshippers. Anyone with enough coin.”

“Oh,” is all Judah manages to say. His view is arrested as they come to the temple with the wooden façade and the lavish drawings. Judah couldn’t help imagine what went on behind those doors. No, he had never been with a woman before, but he was a shepherd. He knew what animals did. And his father sired ten sons.

“Come, let’s keep going,” Hirah says, putting his arm around Judah.

Though he would have liked to see more of the temple, Judah follows along. He doesn’t hear what Hirah is saying, because as they turn the corner of the street, Judah is again captivated – but this time it’s by a raven-haired, dark-eyed beauty.

Six Sentence Sunday

It’s time again for another edition of Six Sentence Sunday. My post this week comes from my work-in-progress, Ruth and Boaz, a retelling of the Biblical tale. Regarded as perhaps the greatest show of platonic love, Ruth leaves her home to follow her mother-in-law Naomi back to Israel, where she finds love with Boaz. In today’s selection, Ruth has made her declaration and left Moab behind her, except now she’s facing an unsure future with rules she’s not exactly sure of. Let me know what you think of today’s excerpt; I appreciate your comments and thank you for stopping by my blog.

 * * *

 There are few words between Ruth and Naomi as they travel to the Judean border. Even when she expressed her intent on following Naomi, the woman said little.

She just needs some time space, some time to mourn, Ruth tells herself, no different than you.

But with each step she takes towards her new life, it’s not the mourning she finds herself thinking about: how was she to show she was a true convert to G-d? She wasn’t worried about what others would think –she wanted only to please G-d by following his rules. Naomi had once told her that men were circumcised to show their devotion to G-d; so what did women do?

Six Sentence Sunday

In honor of its pending release, this week’s sentences come from my latest book, Full of Grace. Available on December 17, the novella covers the pregnancy of Mary. In today’s excerpt, Mary and Joseph are traveling to Bethlehem when Mary realizes she’s in labor. As always, I appreciate your comments and thank you for stopping by my blog.

* * *

Full of GraceShe had been experiencing similar pressure for the past few days, but this was by far the worst, almost like the pain her doda [aunt] felt when her time of fulfillment came and John was born.

Her breath catches in her throat as the realization hits her – the child was coming…now!

No, no, no, she thinks, her hands on the underside of her belly, as if holding him in.

“Mary, what’s wrong?”

The concern in his voice is unmistakable, as is the apprehension in his eyes. Mary doesn’t have to tell him she’s in labor – he sees it; and with a nervous push towards the donkey, he says, “Let’s find a room for you.”

Full of Grace (43)

Happy Friday! I hope it’s a good day, wherever you are. I’ve attached the next installment of Full of Grace. We’re quickly coming to the end of it. If you want to read it from the beginning, click here. Enjoy. 

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Going back to work was harder than Joseph imagined. When he wasn’t with Mary, he spent his days thinking of her. He understood now why King Solomon wrote, a man who finds a wife finds a good thing. She served him gladly, cleaning and cooking for him during the day and spending time with him in the evening – and all without complaint. Being with child was not easy and he knew that his mother could be hard to get along with; still Mary seemed to handle it all skillfully. She was a gift to him and he appreciated that, especially now as she removes his sandals and washes his feet. It had been a long day, most of which was spent working on his feet and though Joseph had objected to Mary bending down before him, she had insisted on doing so. He couldn’t deny he felt better now, though; and after a full meal, he was ready for sleep.

Mary stands upright, offering him that smile he had come to associate with her. She gazes at him as she did earlier when he came home and again, he is entranced by her…

With quite suddenness, Mary places her hand on her belly and lets out a cry.

“What’s wrong?” Joseph asks, reaching for her.

Her face goes from shock to surprise. Then the corners of her mouth inch up, forming a smile.

“I felt the baby,” she says with awe in her voice. Before Joseph can say anything, she takes his outstretched hand and places it on her belly, the most intimate they had been. He feels the warmth of her body beneath his hand and for a moment, he forgets why he is touching her.

Then he feels it – a jab against his hand. It’s just slight enough to be noticeable and Joseph looks away from Mary’s eyes to her belly. Something was growing in there. No, someone was growing within her. The Mashiac. This was more than just an idea or a claim – this child, this savior was real.

“Did you feel it?” she asks in the same tone.

Joseph looks up at her again. He wants to say yes; he wants to take her in his arms and hold her, but feeling the child has only made Mary seem more intangible. She was chosen of G-d. She carried his seed. She had no need of him.

He nods his head, releasing his hold on her.

Full of Grace (40)

Happy Monday and welcome back – or just welcome, if you’re just joining us. In today’s portion, Joseph and Mary spend their first night together. If you’re familiar with the tale, you know nothing happened, and while the Bible is silent on that subject, I believe it gives us a clue to why: Joseph was afraid. Of what, we can’t say for certain, but the angel Gabriel encouraged him to put his fear aside and wed Mary anyway. I mention this because as I wrote the part, it occurred to me there are two camps when it comes to Mary and her virginity that I need to keep in mind – 1. Mary remained a virgin for the remainder of her life; and 2. she and Joseph consummated their marriage after Jesus’ birth. I’m in the second camp and while this is something I will not be writing in this novella, it is something I will allude to as the story (and Mary’s pregnancy) progresses. Regardless of whatever camp you’re in, my hope is that you’ll enjoy the story. Thanks again for stopping by. 

* * *

Mary keeps her head down as Joseph leads her to his room (their room now, he thinks). Her modesty is charming and she can barely look into his face, anticipating, like him, what is to come next – the consummation of their marriage.

Still, even as he shuts the door, leaving their family and celebration downstairs, Joseph finds he is not as excited as he should be…and not because he didn’t want to be with Mary. There is something different about her, something special. She was still the same girl, yes, but knowing she was chosen of G-d to carry the Mashiac…well, who was he to venerate her as anything less? He didn’t fancy himself as less deserving, but having thought of the situation with greater clarity, who was he to treat the mother of the Mashiac as ordinary and pretend he knew what it would be like to be a father to the deliverer of Israel? What would he teach him? How to carve wood or make a table? Joseph had always been proud of his profession – it was what his father taught him and something Joseph hoped to pass onto his son one day too. But now things were different and he wasn’t sure there was anything he could offer beyond protection. That’s what Mary needed the most now, right? She was smaller, precious, more fragile and he just couldn’t think of her in anyway less than that.

Still facing the door, Joseph takes a deep breath and turns around. Mary stands quietly in the middle of the room, her hands in front of her, her gaze downward. She shifts her weight from one foot to the next. She is just as anxious as he. Perhaps…

“Mary.”

She eyes him briefly, with unease, before looking back down.

He clears his throat and begins again.

“I know we’ve been betrothed for some months now, but with everything’s that occurred, I thought…I mean, perhaps we…perhaps you would feel more comfortable if we waited…if we waited until you were more comfortable. I mean with this being so sudden…”

She gazes up at him again, but it’s no longer with worry or concern.

“Really?”

Joseph nods, relieved with her acquiescence.

“Until you’re ready,” he reiterates and steps closer to her. He takes her small, smooth hands into his calloused ones and holds on tightly.

“I like this,” Mary admits, with a shy smile, “when you hold me. I’m ready for that.”

Joseph smiles, and pulls her in closer.