It was a quiet, cool autumn morning. I watched as my eleven-year-old sister Mary poured water from the well into both of our jugs. Then we each took a jar to carry home, as we had done many times before. I was seven years old, old enough to help out around the house, Mommy said. Most other Jewish girls my age were doing the same, though, so I didn’t mind. In fact, I rather liked being grown up. Now that I was helping so much, I hoped my siblings would stop calling me baby.
I was the youngest of six kids. The oldest two, Joshua and Daniel, were both married, and fifteen-year-old Abigail was going to be married soon. Then came Mary, nine-year-old David, and me.
I paused for a moment to readjust my grip on the jar, and my stomach let out a growl. I began to think longingly about the breakfast of fruit and bread we would soon eat, even though I knew it wouldn’t be enough to fill me completely. It never was. Ever since the bad crops last year, my family had lacked enough food. We were all hoping for a better harvest this year.
“Hurry up, Elizabeth. Mommy’s waiting for us,” Mary’s voice interrupted my thoughts.
I grinned. “All right. Race you home!” Before Mary could protest, I took off down the path, giggling. I could hear my sister crying something, probably claiming we were spilling too much water, but after a moment she had caught up to me. I knew Mary was quite competitive and couldn’t let her little sister beat her at a race!
We arrived at our house red-cheeked, out of breath, and laughing. Mommy met us at the door, her hands on her hips. “Goodness, girls, I’m surprised there’s any water left, you were bouncing those jugs so much!” She pretended to frown, but I knew she wasn’t upset. “Come on in and help me prepare breakfast,” Mommy said. Mary and I followed her, still smiling.
“Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him.”* “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.”** Daddy looked into each of his children’s eyes. “Those are wise words from King Solomon, children. There are people out there who are our enemies; people who hate us and want to do us harm. However, we are called to help them when they are in need anyway. And I don’t think it just means to give them food and water; I believe we are called to help our enemies in any way they need it.”
“Even the citizens of Aram?” my nine-year-old brother David asked.
“Yes, even the citizens of Aram.”
I frowned. “What’s wrong, Elizabeth?” Daddy asked.
“It just doesn’t make sense to me, Daddy. Why are we supposed to love those who hurt us? Aren’t they getting what they deserve?”
Daddy leaned back thoughtfully. “Moses sang many years ago that God says, “‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay.’*** Elizabeth, we are not supposed to deal out vengeance. We are not supposed to make sure everyone gets what they deserve. We are simply supposed to trust God, his decisions, his timing, his actions. Our job is to love our enemies and leave the rest to God.”
“But, Daddy, what if your enemies are really mean?” I looked at him, confused.
Mary added, “Yes, how can we love the people of Aram? They’re really wicked; they hurt our people and Mommy says they’ve kidnapped some of the children. How could we give them water and food when they needed it?”
There was silence in the room for a moment. The four of us watched Daddy while Mommy looked into the distance as if she, too, was deep in thought.
Finally, Daddy spoke. “You just do.” I tilted my head, not understanding. “You choose to feed them and give them water. You choose to serve them. You choose to help them.”
“But they don’t deserve it,” Mary objected.
“Does it matter?” Daddy gazed into his daughter’s eyes. “Solomon’s words are simple: ‘Do not gloat when your enemy falls’, but rather help your enemy when he’s in need, ‘and the LORD will reward you’. That’s what we are told to do.”
Later that day, Mommy sent me to the fields with a jar of water for Daddy, David, Daniel, and Joshua, who were all working together today. Joshua was closest, so I approached him first. I slipped quietly through the wheat beside him, then jumped out. “Surprise!” I yelled, giggling.
My brother didn’t flinch. Every day I surprised him, and he had gotten used to it. Indeed, he only grinned as he turned towards me. “You try to surprise me so much, baby sister, that it’s not a surprise!”
I frowned. “I’m not a baby! I’m seven years old now. I’m a big girl.”
Joshua smiled but didn’t answer as he took a long drink from the jug. Sighing in satisfaction, he handed the jar back to me. “Ah, that was refreshing. Thank you, Elizabeth.” Then he turned back to work and I headed off towards David, still frowning.
We’d had this discussion before, and I couldn’t see why my siblings and my parents couldn’t get it. I wasn’t a baby! I might be the youngest child, but I was seven now! That was too old to be called baby.
David was equally glad for his drink, as were Daniel and Daddy. When they had all drank their fill, I headed back towards the house. I could walk faster now, since the jar wasn’t as heavy and there wasn’t any danger of the water sloshing out all over the ground. I didn’t walk directly back to the house, though. There was a patch of flowers on the edge of the field that I had discovered yesterday. They were quite beautiful, and I wanted to bring some back to Mommy. Kneeling down, I set my jar on the ground and pulled a few blossoms out. I breathed in their sweet scent and sighed softly. Mmmm, they smelled wonderful! “Mommy likes yellow flowers best,” I mused as I plucked a few flowers of the said color. Finally, I had a lovely bouquet in my hand and I pulled the ribbon out of my hair to tie around it. Then, just as I reached out to grab the jug and start on my way home, a scream split the air.
Startled, I looked up. The wheat beside me was so tall I couldn’t see over it. My heart began to beat a little faster. Suddenly I wanted to see Daddy or one of my brothers. I picked up the jar and held it close to my chest, shoving the flowers into my pocket.
Another scream split the air, and now I could hear horses approaching. “Daddy?” I called uncertainly and looked around in fear. “Daniel? Joshua?”
I began retreating towards the village, shaking. The pounding of horse hooves grew louder and I began to run. “Daddy!” I shrieked. “Daddy!” I stumbled over a root but managed to keep going. I could feel the ground pounding with the horses’ hooves. They were coming closer and closer and closer—and suddenly they were right behind me.
One man on a horse rode up next to me, bent down, and grabbed my arm. “No!” I screamed. “No, no, no, Daddy! Daddy! Joshua! Help me!”
My feet lifted off the ground. “No! Help me!” The jar slipped from my hands and shattered on the rocks as I was placed in front of the man on the horse. I tried to wrench free from his grasp, screaming as loud as I could. But my tugging and kicking didn’t help at all. The man was much stronger than I was, and there was no way I could escape him.
I began to cry. The man rode towards the town, then curved his horse so he rode by the outskirts of it. A man was on the edge of the crowd, hastily ushering his three sons away from the fields and into town. “Daddy!” I screamed.
Daddy turned, a look of shock and horror on his face. “Elizabeth!” he yelled and took off after me.
“Daddy!” I reached my hand towards him. Just then, though, another man on horseback grasped his sword and hit the end nearest his hand on Daddy’s head. He fell to the ground, gasping. “No, no, no!” I screamed. But there was nothing I could do. I could only watch in horror as my Daddy grew smaller and smaller and smaller until I couldn’t see him anymore.