A powerful race known as the Philistines, or “Sea People,” dominate the lands along the coast of the Great Sea. They are superior technologically and militarily in every way to the scattered tribes of Israelites who inhabit the mountains inland, primarily due to their mastery of the forging of iron, something of which the Israelites have little knowledge.

Saul, the first king of a united Israelite nation, and a tormented and troubled man, has nevertheless managed to keep the Philistines at bay for forty years. His brave son, Jonathan, is the crown prince. The two of them are encamped in the Jezreel Valley in the northern part of the kingdom, where the Philistine kings have united in an invasion attempt. It is the largest force yet assembled against the Israelites, and they have little hope that their army will prevail.

One of Saul’s former commanders — David, a close friend of Jonathan’s — has gathered and trained a personal army of outcasts and mercenaries after losing his position in the Israelite army, despite being the nation’s greatest champion, for crimes he didn’t commit. Rumors have spread throughout the kingdom for years that David was chosen as a boy by Samuel the prophet to be king after Saul one day. Fearing that the rumors are true, Saul has hunted him relentlessly for years, consumed with jealousy at David’s unique abilities (which some say are bestowed by Israel’s God, Yahweh) and with hatred for imagined treason. In desperation, David offered his services to Achish, the king of the Philistine capital of Gath. His most loyal warriors came with him, led by a mysterious group of fighters known as the Three.

News of David’s apparent defection has divided the Israelite population. Those of the tribe of Judah, Israel’s largest tribe, believe he is secretly fighting on their behalf, while those in the northern tribes view him as a traitor, regardless of how Saul has mistreated him.

But David has not been fighting for the Philistines. Rather, he has been raiding the towns and settlements of the Amalekites in an attempt to secure the southern borders. He has been sending plunder to Achish to make it appear that David has turned on his people, but secretly he has also been sending it as tribute to the Israelite tribal elders. Through David’s efforts, the Amalekites, among the oldest and most vicious enemies of the Israelites, have been subdued.

Now David marches north with his band of warriors alongside the Philistines. Many of his own men argue among themselves about marching against their kinsmen on behalf of their enemy. They wonder what will happen if David actually has to face Saul on the field of battle.

To foster goodwill among his people while continuing his deception of the Philistines, David dispatches a warrior, Benaiah, to a small town high in the southern mountains that has been ravaged by wild predators. David orders Benaiah to meet up with the army in the north when his task is finished.

It is the spring month of Aviv, the first of the campaign season. The weather has been unusually cold for that time of year.


Day of War
Copyright © 2011 by Cliff Graham
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