Hosea 2:19-20

Submitted by Anna on Thu, 06/16/2011 - 19:08

Kallah told herself he was nothing. The cloaked man was not following her, even though she had spotted him each day on the road. But why were his steps gaining on her?
If you run you’ll look guiltier. There is always the mantle…
No! She jerked her hand away from her pack.
Even if she hadn’t, it was too late. The stranger started to talk to her, coming to her side with fearsome speed. “Why are you crying?”
Kallah nearly froze up. “What? I’m not… I’m just traveling…”
“Yes, we’ve been on this road long enough that we clearly share a destination,” the tall man said when she didn’t finish her sentence. She couldn’t read his tone, for his huge hood muffled his voice. “But I heard you crying from down the road. Why?”
Kallah wished that he would leave or show his face, but she had only to mention her hometown to uncover his motives. “I am leaving the bridegroom’s estate.”
“I am familiar with it. In fact, I was there recently.”
“Then you will know about the prophet, the man I love.” Her voice dropped with each word.
The stranger stared at her from under his hood as if to say, “What prophet?” All he did say was, “If you love him, why do you leave him?”
“He’s dead,” Kallah cried, her head whipping around. “How have you not heard about this? The other slaves and our masters murdered him.”
The stranger paused. “I am sorry,” he said. “I think I have heard of this man. Was he not a commoner?”
“Yes. No.” Kallah began to shake. She squeezed her eyes shut. “I cannot know anymore.”
“Perhaps if you talk of him, you will be able to sort out your thoughts,” said the stranger. “It’s a long walk, you know.”
Kallah swung her pack from her left shoulder to her right, putting distance between herself and the stranger.
“I realize you are in pain,” he encouraged, “but we’re on the same road to the same place and will be here for a day at least. If you truly love this Joshua—for you speak of him, do you not?—speak to me of him. How did this prophetic carpenter win you?”
Kallah wiped her palm across her wet cheek. Strands of her hair clung to her face. “Joshua came to the bridegroom’s estate almost three years ago. He didn’t work as a carpenter long. At the time, I—I was a slave under the regent.”
“Were you born a slave, Kallah?” the stranger asked.
She looked skyward, rubbing her hands together to feel calluses, bruises, burns. “My parents and their parents and their parents before them have always been born in slavery. Each was given the laws of the estate to obey and, in time, to collect enough money to earn their way out of bondage through hard, faithful work and obedience. Because they could not keep the laws and still had to support themselves on what little they gathered, they only added to the debt that cast them into chains in the first place. As did I.” She paused, her chin cutting a sharp line in the air. She snapped out, “Is it not strange that I still believed that if I strove hard enough, I could free myself?”
“Strange indeed.” The stranger’s cloak billowed in the wind, and his gaze locked with hers—the very thing Kallah had tried to avoid. “Foolish one, the king, father of the bridegroom, gave you the law to show you that you could not keep it.”
Kallah’s throat constricted on memories. “That is nothing to what Joshua showed me. You see, when he came to us, he called me, sir. He said, ‘Kallah, come out and follow me.’”
The stranger laughed softly.
“You’re smiling for the first time.”
Her smile grew, but trembled. “It was a wonderful time. His words gave me an overwhelming desire to be near him. Even as I asked, ‘Where are you going, master?’ I left my work to be at his side.” Her smile faded. “And endured beatings for it. But he was worth it.”
“Funny thing”—the stranger’s tone was wry—“for a carpenter, he woodworked precious little.”
“Oh, but he was more!” Kallah looked up from the hem of her dress. “The things Joshua said about the king’s law shocked us. ‘The law says that,’ he would say, ‘but I say to you, this!’ The slave masters, who enforce the law, were furious with him for claiming such authority. He had to go into hiding, but I found ways to loosen my chains and meet with him.”
“Joshua wasn’t taking away from the king’s law, you know: he was fleshing it out,” the stranger told her. “It was directed at the outside of man, but he spoke to the heart, which no one can disguise with pious cosmetics. Joshua fulfilled your law by keeping it inside and outside.”
Kallah froze, her eyes narrowing. “Are you certain you didn’t hear more about him than his carpentry?”
She thought that the stranger smiled under his hood.
Her voice grew brittle as she pushed forward. “This is where the story becomes monstrous.”
“Go on anyway.”
She struggled to find her voice. It was lodged somewhere between her feet. “Joshua continued to teach me and some other slaves in hidden caves. But one of those others betrayed him, and the slave masters came and seized him. As they carried him away and his other followers scattered, I followed at a distance.”
She stopped trying to control her shaking. “I was terrified, but that cannot excuse my actions. I—met some slaves on the way. They were loyal to the slave masters, and one of them recognized me. She accused me of being with the rebellion leader, Joshua.” Kallah gave a strangled laugh. “‘Rebellion leader,’ she called him! As if he had spent the years murdering instead of shepherding. But I—I—I denied that I knew him. Over and over I protested, saying I had never heard of the man, though I once swore to Joshua that I would always follow him.”
Kallah sank to her knees in the middle of the road, holding her head in her hands. “Oh, that I could stop hearing my denial in my head!”
The stranger knelt in front of her and took her shoulders in his hands. “Kallah, go on.”
“I broke away,” she gasped. “I ran to the trial room. They had bound my Joshua and thrown him on the floor before the regent. Then slaves and masters alike accused him of outrageous crimes. I almost grew hopeful, because surely the regent could see how the witnesses contradicted each other! But in the end, Joshua sealed his own fate.
“He never said a word during the trial until the regent… The regent stopped the prosecution, turned to Joshua, and told him in wonder, ‘These people would have you slaughtered as a lawbreaker, an insurrectionist, a criminal, and worse—yet I cannot find that you have done any evil. Who are you?’
“And Joshua lifted his bloody face and said, ‘I am the bridegroom, the son of the king. I am your prince.’ I believed him. And I don’t regret it, I don’t!” Kallah doubled over, sobbing in the dust. “It was true.”
“You people never understood what the king said about the bridegroom,” the stranger said grimly, taking Kallah in his arms. “To you he was a clause in the law, not its hope and consummation. Not your immaculate prince. You all gave up on his return.”
“And when he did, we—killed—him,” she gasped between sobs. “He told me he would betroth me—me, a slave belonging to his enemies!—to himself. Betroth me to him forever, he vowed! Can you imagine it?”
“Yes,” whispered the stranger, “but you can’t.”
“They began to stone him like the worst of criminals. Stoning is the most shameful death under our law, which even calls those subjected to it cursed. A slave master shoved a rock at me, and I—terrified of discovery—threw it at him. It hit his forehead, marking him so I cannot even think of it without—”
As the stranger stroked Kallah’s hair, her sobbing calmed. She whispered, “As he lay dying, he called me to his side. I still don’t know how he knew, but I went to him. I couldn’t force myself to look at his crushed body. He told me to take his bloody mantle and wrap it around me. ‘Kallah,’ he shouted through his agony, ‘cover yourself in my blood. It will show everyone how I have freed you. I’ve finished your debt with this death. I love you.’
“Then… he died.”
“Why aren’t you wearing the mantle?” the stranger asked, as if he couldn’t understand. “Don’t you have it?”
“Of course! They let me go when they saw it—but they’re coming after me now, to take me back.”
“They can never take you back if the prince freed you.”
Kallah caught the stranger’s eyes flash even under his hood. She pulled back. “I am free, but I’m too unworthy to wear my dead beloved’s mantle. But his promise to betroth me to himself came to nothing anyway. How can he keep a promise if he’s dead?”
“‘If’ he’s dead,” the stranger repeated.
Startled at his tone, Kallah narrowed her eyes to glimpse his shadowed face.
“Your heart is so slow to believe!” he burst out. “Do you not see it? Did he not tell you? Have you not heard it in the law? He had to be murdered, Kallah! He could not betroth you to himself until you were free. You could never be free until your debt was paid. He alone could pay your debt.”
The stranger’s hood fell back, revealing a hideous mark on his forehead, a mark she had put there. His arms tightened around Kallah as her hands flew over her mouth.
“Impossible.” Her cry was hoarse.
“Kallah, do you not know that an unlawful death cannot keep the lawgiver’s son in the grave?” he murmured. “The law has shown you that you are unworthy to wear my mantle, but I say to you that my blood on it makes you worthy.” He drew it from her pack and wound it around her shoulders.
She stared, tears running down her cheeks. “How could I not have realized it was you all along?” she said, nearly laughing through her tears. “You even knew my name.”
“Come to my father with me!” he said with boyish eagerness.
“The king? I couldn’t!”
“I chose you out of all the other slaves. Marry me, Kallah. I died so you could. My father can let you in the gates now. Why did you doubt me? I said ‘forever.’”
“I denied you, and I’ve chased lovers before you,” Kallah whispered. The fingers of her right hand traced the scar on his forehead, which he had suffered for and from her and now would bear past the end of the age. “I betrayed you and killed you.”
“I want you for my bride anyway.”
She clung to him in worship. “I’m just like the slave masters, too blind to realize that by name alone the bridegroom must have a bride!”
“Another thing, Kallah. I am so much more than a carpenter and prophet. I have so much more to help you understand than that. You shall know your love, Kallah.” Joshua, the bridegroom, fulfiller of the law and son of the king, raised his betrothed to her feet with a crooked grin. “Good thing we still have a long walk.”
“Are we still going to Emmaus?” she asked.
“Come, and you will see.”
As they both laughed, Joshua took her hands in his and spun Kallah down the dirty road.

Author's age when written


I love it, absolutely love it, but one question--why'd you choose that title?

Formerly Kestrel

Thank you! 

These are the verses: "And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.  I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD."

I chose them for the title because they actually inspired the story. Joshua talks about betrothing her to him forever and about knowing him. So I thought it fit. :)

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief