northeast of Bethel; the second turned west towards the valley lying between the upper and lower villages of Beth-horon; the third went east, following the border track above the gorge of Zeboim, one of the deep and rugged watercourses of that region, and infested with hyenas.

Thus they despoiled the land of Benjamin on every side, pillaging and burning as they went. So dire were the straits to which the people were reduced that they abandoned their villages, and with their wives and children fled for safety into the mountains. There, venturing out only after nightfall, they hid themselves, wheresoever they could find a refuge—in the caves and thickets, among the rocks of the lofty gorges, and even in the dried-up water-pits. Many crossed the Jordan and fled into the country of Gad and Gilead.

When the three companies of raiders had finished their work, they retired with their plunder to Michmash where the main garrison of the Philistines was stationed. They had left a deserted waste behind them. And traitors went with them, tribesmen of Israel who for terror or in hope of gain had forsaken the cause of the king and joined the ranks of his enemies.

Meanwhile Saul, with the few tried and trusty men left to him, remained in his camp on the outskirts of Geba. His tent, with his standard set up before it, was pitched near a pomegranate tree which grew—with its narrow leaves and bright red and crimson-cupped blossoms—not far distant from a threshing- floor on the bare open hill-top. Here, after harvest, the grain was trodden out by oxen to be winnowed by the wind. From this point of vantage watch could be kept on the neighbouring heights of Michmash across the valley.

And with the king at this time was a priest whose name was Ahiah. He was of the lineage of Eli, but not of direct descent, and he wore the ephod of the Lord.

Jonathan also was with his father. His wild deed of violence against the garrison at Geba had been the cause of the vengeance of the Philistines. He grieved bitterly at what had come of it. He had watched afar off the drifting flamelit smoke-clouds in the darkness above the peaceful villages which the raiders had left burning in their wake, and had listened to the tales of horror told by those who had escaped their vengeance and who had sought refuge in the camp.

The faces of his men, who loved and trusted him, were dark with despair. And though his father refrained from reproaching him, Jonathan knew how sharp the stroke of this disaster had been. For hours the king would sit without speech, his eyes downcast, his countenance heavy with gloom.

Jonathan yearned to bring him comfort, to find grace again in his sight, and above all to strike a reviving blow that would redeem what was past. But how could this be while the army of Israel remained inactive and sat idle in their tents; while not a trumpet sounded, and the people, homeless and terrified, shared the wilds with the beasts.

There came a day when a spy whom he had sent out from Geba brought him back word that the lords of the five cities had withdrawn part of the army they had sent against Israel. And though the forces of the Philistines that remained still far outnumbered those under the king, yet were they not so strong but that some valiant exploit, such as had given the victory to Gideon against the Midianites, might bring them low.

As he lay that night, brooding and sleepless, he devised a plan which, whether it succeeded or not, would almost assuredly cost him his life. The thought of it burned like a firebrand within him. The next morning early he drew aside his young squire or armour-bearer, and they went out together away from the camp where no man could see them, and where they could talk in secret.

And Jonathan told his armour-bearer all that was in his mind. Now between Geba and Michmash lay deep and wide ravines, with valleys debouching into them on either side. And on the one side was a lofty crag or peak of rock named Bozez or ‘the Shining’—because when the sun smote down upon it,

  By PanEris using Melati.

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