The Book of Voices

Biblical Microfictions by Joseph Zitt


(Context: 1 Kings 18:20.)

Jezebel cries when I hold her, late at night. She trembles and whispers, even as she sleeps. In the language of Tyre, the language that I learned when I found that I loved her, not long after we were wed, I hear her words repeating in a fearful, panicked stream: “My god is dying.”

I try to do what I can to comfort her, calm her, appease her, but she feels each challenge to her god as if she herself has been confronted, as if each challenge to her god has been a whip biting into her skin. In all other lands, the people have welcomed the gods of new arrivals as gifts, welcomed the building of shrines as embassies, as bonds between lands whose gods could share the world. Only here do the followers of the nation’s god, the god of my fathers, shout and threaten other gods, in the supposed voice of a deity so arrogant that he claims that only he exists.

Jezebel loves her god. When, at the moment that she was no longer a child, the necessary business of royalty tore her from her land, from her family, from the people that she loved, she clung zealously to the memory of the god of her land. Her ferocity, her anger when she lashes out against the people who deny her god, comes from this love, from this desire to protect him as she believes that he protects her. In my love for her, I cannot fight her rages. I have done what I can to protect whom I can. When she moved to purge the prophets of my fathers’ god, I saved those that I could, had my servant take them to the hidden schools where they could safely live and learn.

But still she cries and lashes out. As each person loses belief in her god and moves to the god of my fathers, she feels a piece of the soul of her god being cut away. She fears that when people no longer believe in her god, he will disappear.

Before her purge, the prophets had moved out into the land, had come to the people, family to family, flock to flock. For each small group they worked tiny miracles, little stunts that seemed to prove the power of their god. They prayed to their god and jugs of water were filled. They sacrificed a dove and wild fowl came to rest by the altar, to feed the family for a week.

And the prophets taunted the believers in Jezebel’s god, demanding miracles, claiming that he could not be a true god if he could not be called upon for miracles. Jezebel cried at these attacks but could not respond in kind. Her god, she says, is not a god of miracles. He protects his cities, he protects his people in quiet ways. That the winds continue to blow, that the sun continues to rise and set, that the seasons pass in a consistent order is a sign that her god continues to work for his people, that he is staving off the beasts of chaos that would scramble the world, that would turn the oceans to deserts of salt and the mountains to plains of dust.

Now I hold Jezebel as she sleeps. I hear her murmur and see the path of her tears on her face in this full moon’s light. From our window, I can hear the keepers of the city sweeping the temple grounds. The moon casts distorted shadows of the Nechoshet and Asherah from the temple yard to where the prophets of Jezebel’s god will gather in the morning. They will travel from there to Mount Carmel to meet Elijah, prophet of my fathers’ god, and debate the powers of each of their gods.

Jezebel shook when she learned of this. She demanded that Elijah die the moment that we see him, but I have granted him amnesty through the time of this debate. She screamed that her god is in pain from this doubt, from this challenge, that she must destroy those who would deny him, that she must protect her god.

But I am the king of all the people. I must be fair. Little harm can come of this meeting. The prophets will meet in full view of the people, will speak of the powers of each of their gods, will do what they can to convince the people to follow their gods. And then they will leave, and all will be as before.

Still Jezebel trembles in fear for her god, needing to protect her god, needing to show her love for him. I, too, tremble. I need to do the right thing for my people, to act from my royal love for my people, but still to act from and feel my almost overwhelming love for Jezebel, this need to protect her as I protect my people from her.

I watch the edges of the sky above the hills past my window, the whisper of dawn as it colors the sky with its glow. I wonder which god is controlling the sun, whether it might be either god, whether it might be both or neither, and whether I can know the answer or if I should care.

But I pray, as I lie awake stroking my Jezebel’s hair, to whichever god controls all this, whichever god will act or show himself tonight or at any future time. I pray that that god will be gentle with this difficult people, that that god will act not out of anger but out of love.

(Next: Zimri.)


August 4, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. […] was an administrator in the court of King Ahab, who took power twelve years after the death of Zimri. Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, began to […]

    Pingback by Obadiah « The Book of Voices | January 13, 2013 | Reply

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