The Book of Voices

Biblical Microfictions by Joseph Zitt

Sihon

(Context: Deuteronomy 2:30)

Ours is the city of intelligence. Those whom we protect call us giants, claim we hold the ancient knowledge from before the flood.

Here we sit, behind our machines: arms crossed, feet planted, eyes forward, absorbing the world that we detect. The figures show the threats, the possibilities; our perfect information tells us what we must do to protect our homeland, to secure our borders from invaders and from within.

Yet I cannot reconcile my knowledge and my heart.

I see that these travellers intend no threat. They ask to walk through our country,keeping to the king’s highway, buying all the food and water that they will consume.

But my heart refuses to let them pass. It defies my reason, the data, all rational views of what the travellers might do. My heart commands me, but with a new voice that I have never heard before.

What fracture in my soul moves me to unfounded judgment? What strange new god works its magic here to override my mind?

I think of where these travellers had been, a generation ago when they entered their desert from the other side. There, too, did they ask the king to let them pass. Then, too, did the Pharaoh clearly see that he should let these people go. And he, too, learned that his heart was growing hard, and he could not do what his reason knew was right. And he signed his decree, and he led his army, and he died there with them at the sea of reeds, as the travellers went free.

Then the rumors and the whispers began, that his heart had been possessed by the god of these strange travellers, that the one who asked the Pharaoh to let them free had not wanted that at all, that this god wanted to leave a path of destruction in the wake of his people as a sign and as a warning.

And the whispers and the rumors began, too, that the king had merely gone insane, and led the best of his people to be pointlessly destroyed.

And I feel that I, too, am going insane, whether by act of a god or through some more natural and frightening dissolution of my soul. For as my right hand writes these words, I feel my left hand moving forward with a white quill of its own, reaching the parchment that bears the command to block these travellers from entering our territory, signing the decree with a harsh yet valid parody of my own royal glyph.

And I see my left hand reaching for my sword. And I feel this alien hardness that has possessed my heart and my hand flow through to take command of the rest of my being. And I know that my soul is lost.

I will call for the people to defend our land.

There, by the banks of the three rivers that surround our city of intelligence, believing that my mind is whole and that my will is sane, they will stand with me by my command.

There we will fight.

There we will die.

(Next: Abraham.)

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April 14, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. I knew nothing at all of Sihon beginning this, other than a vague memory of running across his name. But there turn out to be plenty of legends about him. And seeing that the name of his city, Heshbon חֶשְׁבּוֹן means “intelligence” in Hebrew led me to the image of his surveilance systems.

    In this story, like that of Pharaoh, God is said to have hardened the person’s heart so that, even though he might have normally acceded to the Israelites’ request, he refused. In each case, the person and many others were killed. One hopes that God would have had a good reason for causing this.

    Comment by bookofvoices | May 4, 2007 | Reply


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