Read The Gate of Heaven Online

Authors: Gilbert Morris

Tags: #FIC042030, #FIC042000, #FIC026000

The Gate of Heaven (5 page)

BOOK: The Gate of Heaven
4.24Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“Why isn't Esau here?” Jacob asked suddenly. “He should be helping us unpack.”

“Oh, he's out hunting.”

“He's
always
hunting.” Jacob scowled and continued with his task. “I wish we hadn't had to come to the land of the Philistines.”

“So do I, but your father insists that God warned him not to go to Egypt.”

“To Egypt?! I didn't know Father was even thinking of going there.”

“Yes, he was. Water is plentiful along the Nile, but the Lord said we were to come here.”

“I don't know why. The Egyptians are more civilized than these Philistines,” Jacob argued. His eyes narrowed as he added, “They're a violent people.”

“I said the same thing to your father, but he was so certain that God told him to come here he wouldn't listen to me.”

Jacob faced his mother. “You know, Grandfather talked so much about the many times God spoke to him out in the desert. And God has spoken to Father too. Has He ever spoken to you?”

“Why do you ask, son?”

“Because He never speaks to me,” Jacob said petulantly, “even though I ask Him to.” Seeing that his mother was upset, he asked, “What's wrong?”

“Well…I've never told you this, my son, but God
did
speak to me once.”

Jacob's eyes lit up, and he gave Rebekah his full attention, firing questions at her. “Tell me about it. When was it? How old were you? What did He say?”

“I shouldn't have even mentioned it.”

“Well, you did, so now you'll have to tell me.”

Ever since the birth of her twin sons, Rebekah had kept God's prophetic words about them to herself. She had told Isaac of the vision immediately afterward, but he had been so disturbed by it that she had never mentioned it again. Now she hesitated at first, then relented and nodded. “All right. I think maybe you should know—but you must promise never to tell anyone else.”

“Of course I promise. Now, what happened, Mother?”

“I still remember God's visit to me so clearly! It was the night before you were born—a very hard time for me, son. In those final months of my pregnancy, when I was carrying you and your brother, there seemed to be a war going on inside of me, and that night was particularly bad. I remember lying alone in the darkness. Your father had gone out to check the flocks, and I was afraid. So I cried to the Lord and asked Him for help, and…and then He came to me.”

“What did He look like?” Jacob's eyes were intent, and he leaned forward breathlessly, awaiting her answer.

“Why, I didn't
see
Him, Jacob. There was a strange light—stranger than anything I'd ever seen before—but no form of a man or any other created being.”

“Well, what did He say?”

“I've never forgotten His words. ‘Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.'”

Jacob stared at his mother, his lips parted in wonder. “The older will serve the younger? Are you
certain
God said that?”

“I couldn't mistake it. I've thought about it for thirty years now, son.”

“But that—that's
impossible
! Esau should have the first place.”

“Yes, that's normally true, but God's word to me was very clear.” Rebekah suddenly gave a great sigh and looked at Jacob with a strange expression in her dark eyes. “Somehow God is going to make it happen. Now, remember, you must never tell anyone what I've just told you.”

“I won't, Mother.” Jacob got to his feet, leaned over and kissed his mother, then left the tent.

Rebekah sat for a long time, thinking about him.
He's so different from Esau, and Isaac can't see it. Now he'll go out and think about this—like he always thinks about things. When he gets something in his mind, he just can't get it out. But I'm glad I told him!

Jacob was stunned by this revelation from his mother. He quickly left the camp and made his way out into the hills, where he could sit and think about his mother's prophetic vision. He could not imagine how such a thing could come about. Now that he was alone, he pulled the medallion out from under his tunic and stared at it. Did this have something to do with his mother's vision? Why would God choose him? And how would such a vision be fulfilled? His father, Isaac, would never give him the blessing over his brother, who was the firstborn and legitimate heir of the birthright. With despair in his heart, he lifted his voice toward heaven and cried to the wind, “Oh, God, what would you have me to do?”

The only answer that returned to him was the distant echo of his own words.

The sun was settling down over the western horizon, melting into a formless blaze of gold as it touched the faraway mountains. Jacob had returned to camp wanting to talk with his father. After the burning heat of the day, this was ordinarily Jacob's favorite time. But now as he sat beside his aging father, his heart was heavy with the memories and revelations of this day. The smoke of the evening cook fires rose into the still air, and the aroma of roasting meat wafted over the camp. Jacob listened as Isaac related tales of his forebears, most of which he had learned from Abraham. There was still enough light to see the outlines of men on camels approaching. Jacob interrupted his father to say, “Look. There's a party coming.”

Isaac's vision had dimmed in recent years, and he squinted but shook his head. “Who are they? I can't make them out.”

“They're strangers. Philistines, I think. I can tell you that much.” Jacob got to his feet and helped Isaac stand. It saddened him to see his father wince as he put pressure on his weak and painful knees. “We'd better go out and greet them,” Jacob said, shaking his head. “I hope they're friendly. Most Philistines are not.” Jacob counted six men on camels. “I think they're soldiers or officials of some kind.”

When the men dismounted, Isaac advanced and bowed slightly. “Welcome to our camp, sirs. My name is Isaac. I am the chief of my people, and this is my son Jacob.”

The leader approached them. He was a short, broad man with strange yellow-brown eyes and a scar running down the side of his face. He wore a dark green robe with a wicked-looking sword by his side. The others were dressed much the same, as if they wore uniforms.

“My name is Hazor. I am the captain of King Abimelech's army.”

Both Isaac and Jacob bowed low to the Philistine king's officer. “We are strangers to this place, but we respect and honor the king,” Isaac said.

Hazor stared at the two men. “Where are you bound?” he demanded, his yellowish eyes taking in everything.

“We are shepherds, sir, as you see,” Isaac said, pointing toward their flocks. “The drought has driven us to find better pastures, and we intend to stay only until the rains return to our home country.”

“We will have to inspect your camp,” Hazor said.

“You're very welcome. The evening meal is almost ready. Would you care to dine with us?”

Hazor stared at the old man, then nodded. “Yes, I'm hungry—and have my men fed too.”

“Of course, Captain,” Jacob spoke up. “I will tend to your men, and my father will take you to his tent for a fine meal.”

Jacob left promptly and organized a meal for Hazor's men. As soon as the soldiers were settled with plenty of food and drink, he hurried back to his parents' tent. Finding Hazor already seated and his mother serving, he sat down too and listened as his father spoke with the captain. The Philistine's manners left much to be desired, Jacob thought, as they ate the freshly roasted kid with mint, olives, and
kemach
—a special bread his mother often baked. As was their custom, Rebekah was careful to remain out of sight while the men ate, returning only to bring the next course and fill their cups with fine Syrian wine, of which Hazor consumed a great deal. They exchanged pleasantries throughout the meal until after the final course—a compote of plums and raisins served in copper bowls. Rebekah refilled the captain's cup as the men got down to business.

“We wish to have good relations with the king and your people, Captain,” Isaac began.

Jacob could see that Hazor was only half listening to Isaac. Instead, the captain's eyes were fastened steadily on Rebekah as she moved in and out of the tent. Jacob was accustomed to this, for even in her later years, his mother was still an unusual beauty, and men of all ages enjoyed watching her.

“The king is a reasonable man.” Hazor finished the wine and wiped his lips with the back of his arm. “We will expect you to pay taxes, of course, like our own people.”

“Certainly, Captain. We will not abuse your hospitality.”

After carefully questioning Isaac, Hazor took his leave, bowing to his host and saying, “Thank you for an excellent meal. I will be back from time to time. You will need to be told about our laws. Every region differs, you know.”

“I would be most happy to hear them, sir.”

Darkness had fallen, and taking oil lamps, Isaac and Jacob escorted Hazor back to his men and the waiting animals. Hazor shouted for his men to move out, then turned again to Isaac, his yellowish eyes gleaming in the lamplight. “King Abimelech is a fair man, but he does like his women.”

Isaac nodded. “Well, that's as it should be, Captain.”

“Yes, it is. I wish I had my choice like he does! Any woman he fancies, he just takes!”

Isaac felt almost faint, and Hazor laughed. “Sometimes men object when the king takes their wives, but that's what he has me for. Poor fellows! I have no choice but to cut off their heads.” Hazor's brow knit tightly as he glanced back toward Isaac's tent. “That woman who served us—is she your wife?”

Isaac's breath caught in his throat, knowing he was in grave danger. Almost without thinking, he blurted out, “Oh, no indeed! That is my sister, Rebekah.”

“Your sister, eh? Well, it's a good thing she's not your wife. If Abimelech were to take a liking to her, you'd have to fight for her. And”—he grinned wickedly—“I don't lose fights with men who have good-looking wives.” He stared at Isaac to be certain that his meaning was clear, then turned away, saying, “You'll probably be seeing me again very soon.”

Isaac and Jacob watched the troop ride off; then Isaac's shoulders sagged. Jacob followed his father back to the tent.

When they stepped inside, Rebekah took one look at them and asked, “What's wrong?”

Isaac responded. “He said that the king likes women. That he takes whatever woman he wants, and if she is married, he kills her husband. I…I told them you were my sister.”

Rebekah took in a sharp breath. “That was the wise thing to do, but we must get away from this place at once.”

“We can't go back to Beersheba,” Isaac said. “The cattle were starving there.”

“Well, we can't stay here!” Jacob exclaimed. “That fellow will be sure to return for Mother.”

“Maybe not. There are lots of women here, and we're far out in the hills, away from the city. We'll probably never see him again.”

BOOK: The Gate of Heaven
4.24Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Vacuum by Bill James
The Last Oracle by James Rollins
Reaching for Sun by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer
Land of Dreams: A Novel by Kate Kerrigan
The Runaway Viper (Viper #2) by Kirsty-Anne Still