CHAPTER 21 – JUNE AND JULY, 30 CE – ENSLAVED
When Hamath awoke, it was after dark. He tried to sit up. He groaned as he realized his hands were tied behind his back and his neck had a collar around it. He had been stripped to his inner tunic. A rope went through a ring on the collar, and the rope was tied to a tree. He stretched as far as he could reach, but the collar and the ropes held.
“Enoch. Are you there, Enoch?” Then he remembered—Enoch was probably dead.
A crack broke the silence accompanied by a sharp sting on his arm. Hamath yelped and the whip cracked again, this time connecting with his back, tearing the thin fabric of his tunic.
“You speak only when spoken to, slave.” A man with a whip with a stood about 10 feet away.
“There has been a mistake. I’m not a slave, I’m Hamath of Tyre—agh!” The whip cut him again.
“You used to be Hamath of Tyre. You are now the slave of Bildad. He may give you a different name if he wishes—or leave you without one if he doesn’t wish.”
Hamath opened his mouth to protest and received another cut of the whip.He gritted his teeth against another groan He lay on his side, quiet. The man with the whip nodded and sat down next to a nearby tree.
Hamath heard quiet voices coming from a rock building to his left. He strained to hear, but could discern nothing other than unintelligible murmurs. His discomfort kept him from sleep, so he laid still thinking about the words of Jesus. The more he thought, the more miserable he felt. He’d betrayed everyone who had ever loved or served him and made enemies of everyone else. Worse, he felt sure Enoch died defending him, or trying to. Otherwise, Enoch would surely have been taken into slavery, too, and he would have responded when Hamath called his name, even if it meant getting whipped. The last thing he remembered clearly was that someone hit him on the back of the head as Enoch rushed across the road with his short sword in his hand.
Shame swept over Hamath. He’d caused so much trouble. All this happened because he betrayed Paulos into slavery. Now, he was a captive, or more likely a slave, himself. Both Enoch and Paulos were dead. How could God ever forgive him for making such a mess of not only his own life but also the lives of so many people around him? Somehow, he had to get free and at least let Sarah know what happened. And apologize to her, acknowledge that it was his fault. Enoch wasn’t married and his parents were already gone, but that didn’t make him feel any better about Enoch’s death than Paulos’ death. And Dorcas, he’d beg her forgiveness, too. But would she want him back? He not only couldn’t get Paulos back, but lost Enoch as well. He deserved exactly what he’d gotten.
The next morning, the man Bildad had called Chilead kicked him awake. “On your feet, slave,” he growled. “We need firewood.”
Hamath struggled to get to his feet, no easy task with his hands tied behind his back. On his knees, he decided maybe he should try to convince this Chilead. “There has been a mistake.”
Chilead kicked him in the stomach, knocking him down.
“I said I need some firewood, slave. If I want conversation, I’ll talk to one of my companions, not to a slave.”
When Hamath got his breath back, he struggled to his feet. Chilead used his knife carelessly to cut Hamath’s bonds, nicking his thumb, which bled unchecked into the dirt at his feet. Hamath clenched his teeth and stood in subdued silence. Chilead untied the rope from the tree that led to Hamath’s collar.
“That way,” Chilead said, pointing towards the nearby woods with his chin.
Hamath wondered how he could hope to get free. The whip master from the night before wasn’t a big man, although the whip made up for his lack in stature. Chilead, however, was huge, most of his bulk muscle in thick arms, broad chest, and tree-trunk legs. He had to think of a way to get free. He decided to keep eyes and ears open for any opportunity.
The chance came sooner than he expected. That night they didn’t tie his hands. He smiled to himself, being careful not to let his jubilation show. All he needed was to find a sharp rock to cut the rope to the collar in two. After he was sure his captors were asleep, he felt around in the dark for a rock. Ah, there was one with rough edges. Perfect. And another large rounded rock. He pulled the rope over and placed it firmly on one rock and began to saw with the other one. When he finished, he rose, and took off through the woods. Was that a sound of laughter behind him?
Hamath found himself surrounded by a dozen grinning faces.
“Thought you’d get away so easily, slave?” Bildad said. “Instead, you will provide our sport for the evening.”