WE BRUSHED OURSELVES OFF and started again on the path. Looking further up the road we noticed the caravan had come to a stop. The merchants had caught up with Micah and it appeared the beastly official was in a verbal tug of war with the prophet. Their angry faces and threatening body gestures further fueled what was fast becoming a yelling match. And while we were still out of range from hearing them, we knew from the grappling tone of the man-beast, the battle of words had escalated to a blistering tongue lashing. The stabbing exchange of words motivated us to again break into a run.
“We are honest traders!” shouted the burly merchant who pointed and shook his whip like a sword in the face of the prophet.
“Honest!” Micah steamed. The word hurled from his lips after setting it aflame with heavy sarcasm. “No! The only thing honest about you is that you are all traitor’s! Traitors to your people and the laws of our God!”
Surprised by the prophet’s boldness he countered, “If only you would be more like your fellow prophets. They speak blessing and prosperity. Just look at the cargo of fine goods we carry.”
He proudly pointed to the long train of merchandise.
Then basking in self-glory he bragged, “We live in luxury and abundance…just as they say. But you! You bring nothing but bad news and omens of judgment.”
Wagging his whip in Micah’s face he sneered, “No Micah… your prophetic days are over.”
Then, forming his words into daggers, he slowly pushed them into the prophet’s heart. “You belong to a very small…unwanted group…of doomsday prophets—”
Micah’s eyes glowered like those of an angry bull.
Suddenly the merchant’s voice had raised to a violent pitch. “—who are now a dying breed !!!”
Then, like spectators at a game, the caravan drivers hurled mockery at Micah and applauded their captain.
Unmoved, Micah strongly replied, “I speak the oracles of Yahweh, freely, as his prophet, and not like those who speak falsely for their profit.”
“Ah Micah,” replied the captain cooly, “always quick of wit and sharp with word play, aren’t you? But I don’t think you’ll be able to escape the lick of my whip, nor the sting of its bite.”
Snarling like a rabid dog and baring his large crooked teeth he drew back his whip to strike Micah when we ran up to the prophet’s side.
“Wait a minute! Hold on there!” we shouted.
Startled by the interruption, the overgrown man-slug stopped his hand in mid-air.
Acting surprised, I attempted to diffuse what was fast becoming a life threatening situation.
“Master Micah? We’re so glad to have finally found you.”
The prophet looked us up and down with bewildering curiosity; his mind hopelessly searching to place our faces.
“Come,” I said, grabbing the prophet’s arm, “my brother and I have many questions.”
Despising the fact that he was being ignored, the vicious merchant grew restless and irritated.
“You two again,” he fumed, shooting his eyes at us as if preparing for a showdown. Then, like a lion spotting its prey he growled, “Are you with the prophet?”
“We are travelers from a far away land,” I said.
“Who’s land?” he demanded.
“The King’s Land,” I answered.
“So! You are from Jerusalem.”
“Leave these men alone!” Micah railed.
The sweaty faced brute leaned forward pointing his whip in our faces.
“Well, well…traveler’s eh? I assume you know the law when traveling on the king’s highway?”
With a peppered tongue Rafael answered, “Why do I have this feeling you’re going to tell us?”
Addressing the drivers with a hog-like snort the bombastic big mouth replied, “Look what we have here gentleman, a court clown.”
The men roared with laughter.
Proudly thumping his chest he turned to Rafael and said, “Listen…peasant…do you know who you’re talking to?”
Rafael snickered, “I sure do but I’d rather not say.”
“For that snide remark I order you to pay road taxes for traveling on the king’s highway.”
Then, continuing to wag his whip in Rafael’s face he demanded, “How much money do you carry?”
“We carry no money.”
“Don’t play me for a fool,” the big oaf grumbled. “If you have no money then you are required by law to surrender your robes as payment for traveling on a commercial highway.”
Immediately, Micah pulled out a small money pouch, looking for a few copper coins to pay the man. But Rafael stopped him and then looked at me. With a slight tilt of his head he signaled me for permission. Acknowledging his unspoken request I returned an approving nod.
Rafael stepped back and turned to face the burly man-beast. He was sitting smugly, impatiently tapping the whip in the palm of his hand. Then, with much drama, my brother took the ends of his robe and with outstretched arms opened it wide. The fat merchant, thinking Rafael was ready to hand over the garment, grinned like a winner in a boxing match. My brother’s eyes, like flame-tipped arrows, seared back at him.
Then in a calm voice he said, “Like I told you, we carry no coin.”
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a gust of wind rolled a tumbleweed across the dusty highway.
Just then, Rafael dropped the ends of his robe, and with his arms still outstretched he released a frightful power. Frightful, that is, to the horses. The Arabians whinnied and snorted, stamping and pawing their hooves nervously on the ground. Caught off guard by the sudden clamor, the caravan drivers held tightly to the reins attempting to restrain the team. The animals, however, were spooked, becoming jumpy and hard to control. Unexpectedly, the beastly merchant was violently jerked backward, as his horse lurched forward in a dreadful panic. Double wrapping the leather reins on his hands, they squeaked; sorely burning hot welts into his sweaty palms. His horse leapt up on its hind legs, yanking and shaking at the bit. In a flash, the horse and rider wildly sped off down the road. The booming big mouth was being tossed and slammed around in the chariot like a lump of clay on a fast spinning potter’s wheel. The team of Arabian horses then became agitated. With hitches chattering and clanking they frightfully ran after the runaway chariot. The caravan of donkey’s and camel’s then jumped in terror, recklessly taking off after the horses. Dust was flying everywhere. Rafael and I took hold of our shawls and pulled them up to cover our faces. The drivers were screaming and whipping in a vain attempt to gain control of the caravan. We watched as the team careened dangerously down the road from one side to the other. A certain satisfaction shown on our faces. Plumes of dust eventually erased the amusing scene from our sight.
Chuckling through a hand covered mouth, Rafael tried hard to hold back a mischievous grin.
With a few hearty slaps on his back I said, “Okay brother, you’ve had your fun for the day.”
“Fun?” Micah said. “It was as if those horses were spooked by a couple of ghosts.”
“Maybe they were,” I replied.
Rafael and I shared a secret wink.
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