WE STROLLED across a lush grassy knoll toward the main highway. The weather was hot and humid. The noonday sun baked the Judean countryside with a blistering heat. It was late July, when grapevines grew into large clusters and summer fruit dripped with sweet nectar.
If my calculations were correct Micah was about a mile up the road so we needed to move quickly. Like runners in an Athenian race we sped across the soft green slopes and onto the highway. When our sandals slapped onto the dusty road we relaxed our pace to a steady stride. At some distance behind us we could hear the faint sound of approaching hoof beats. A large merchant caravan was moving at a better than average speed. Donkey’s were pulling a train of twelve carts with a number of heavily laden camels at the rear. In the front, hitched side by side, were two teams of four, pure white Arabian war horses. Tacked with gold studded saddles and red decorative neck trappings they trotted with a regal gait. In charge of the caravan was a bulky, over-weight state officer. He was bellowing orders to the driver captains from his bronze-hammered, horse drawn chariot. Judging from the size of the convoy and the wealth of merchandise they carried, there was no doubt it was a royal entourage. And they were rapidly coming toward us!
Even though the highway was wide enough for two caravans to pass each other, I was alarmed when I realized the large caravan was being directed to run us off the road. Rafael also noticed the royal train was not slowing down.
The cracking of whips and wild shouting from the caravan drivers were shrilling in our ears, breaking the silence of an otherwise quiet and pleasant afternoon. Rafael and I moved to the very edge of the road yielding to the oncoming caravan. As they thundered closer and closer we caught a good look at the man in charge. He was a loud, abominable, slobbering pig of a man!
He wielded a long whip and a snappy tongue. Purposely steering his chariot toward us, the wheels spun in the ground, throwing clumps of dirt up in the air.
“Out of the way! OUT OF THE WAY!! or I’ll run over the both of you,” he yelled with a booming threat.
“Is he talking to us?” Rafael said, glaring at the fat, curly haired man. “There’s plenty of road!”
“Take it easy brother, our issue is not with him.”
The tall, prickly underbrush that thickly lined the road prevented us from stepping completely off the highway, so we started to run.
Furious, the caravan leader rode his chariot up to the front of the train striking his leather whip several times on the horses’ backs. The whole team jumped, frantically sending the entire caravan to stampede over us.
Shouting at the top of his lungs he commanded, “I said MOVE!!! or I’ll add both of you to this team of horses; then you’ll feel the lick of my whip on your backs!”
We desperately looked for a break in the prickly underbrush but found no opening.
“How dare he speak to God’s Messenger’s in that arrogant tone! Brother, allow me to punish this disrespectful…beastly fool with blindness.”
“No!” I ordered. “Remember…we can’t interfere with the natural course of things. It’s just too dangerous.”
“And what do you call this?” Rafael shot back as we accelerated to a perspiring sprint.
As the caravan bore down upon us, we had no choice but to jump off road and dive into the high, thorny underbrush. As they stormed by with a rallying raucous, the official sneered and the drivers laughed out loud with fists of victory pounding the air. With furious speed they came within inches of running us over. The animals kicked up chunks of dirt, leaving a smoldering cloud of brown dust in their wake.