PART I CHAPTER 3:
ANSWERS AND QUESTIONS
In the present moment, the power and intelligence is always available to rightly handle any person or situation.
The road to Tiberius led first northeastward and then directly eastward. Why they made the route so indirect the stranger didn’t know. It would have been much quicker had it gone straight across. But, that’s how they did things these days.
At last, he reached the city. On he rode, through its main part, and up a steep hill to an obscure back entrance of the grayish grand palace that towered there forebodingly above the city. There he stopped. He stepped down from the chariot and tied the horses to one of the trees that grew there. Then he strode straight toward the door, which was almost hidden by the many vines and flowers that grew along the wall. He reached knowingly for the latch and entered.
On he strode until he reached another much bigger door, or pair of doors, massive, bleak and bare, yet separated by and enclosed with ornate columns. How ridiculous they looked to him, standing there amidst those towers of beauty! But, after all, that was the style! Pushing one aside, he entered a hallway. He passed by the wall paintings and fancy vases, which were, he thought, ridiculously lavish, and many just plain stupid, though, again, the style of the day. On he strode until he reached a great zigzagging staircase. It slanted first left and then right. What a waste of space, he thought, and, of time spent climbing the thing! But, it was what all the other noblemen and rulers had. He prevailed upon himself to ascend it. Then, on he strode until he reached a door, plain and brown among the rest, but bearing at its top a Roman eagle and a star of David. He raised the latch and in he strode.
In his huge, plush chair sat the king himself. Though only of medium height, he was quite impressive looking in his royal robe, with his full beard and his gold Jewelry. His short, golden crown was in his hand. When he was nervous, he would spend hours playing with it, placing it on his head and impulsively tearing it off again, then constantly turning it this way and that. Stopped short by the sound of the latch, he now simply held it still. Then, as the door opened, he raised his arm above his head and threw the crown at the black clothed personage who entered.
“Well, Manaheem! It’s about time! Where have you been, by Caesar?!”
The other stepped aside and the crown hit the wall and went rolling down the floor. “Why, carrying out your wishes, dear brother. But why, I do not know, except for the pure enjoyment of the intrigue, and the present emptiness of my pocket, in that order, of course.”
”Well, you certainly took your time about it!”
The other shrugged. “You failed to inform me of any rush. And, even if you had, I doubt I’d have taken heed. I’m not afraid of you, you know. Though everyone else may be, I am not.” The crown hit the back wall and started rolling back toward them.
Herod scowled. “I’ll overlook that for now. Well, out with it! What have you found?”
”Why a leader, of course, just as you requested – a certain blacksmith, whose heart is full of rebellion.”
Herod smiled broadly. ”Excellent! I knew you could do it.” Reaching into his robe, he pulled out a bag of money. “Here’s what we agreed upon. I’ve been holding it in expectation of your success.” He tossed the bag to the other.
Manaheem slipped the bag into his pitch-black robe and smiled. Then, he stooped and picked up the crown, now at his feet, and tossed it back to its owner. ”You’d best try holding onto your crown better in the future.”
Herod winced as he caught the crown. ”And just what is that supposed to mean?”
”Why, nothing! It was just a joke. Where’s your sense of humor, your Majesty? But, come to think of it, there may be more truth than falsehood in it.”
”What?! What do you mean?” Herod’s brow wrinkled deeply.
”Well, you intend to use this man to lead a revolt against Pilate, right?”
”--If, and when, I decide to do so. Pilate seems harmless enough, but, if his following continues to grow, he could try to force me out of office and claim Galilee and Perea for himself.”
”And so, you want me to keep our friend ready until such a time as you deem necessary or useful. And, if you decide to use him, and the revolt should fail, he would be the one to get in trouble and no one would ever suspect you had anything to do with it.”
”I always said you had a good head, Manaheem.”
The other smiled cynically. "But, you are playing with fire, as it were, brother dear. If this man can destroy Pilate, what’s to stop him from destroying you?”
”The law and my armies. For, once he has done away with Pilate, my armies shall join themselves to those of the former governor and the imperial forces of Rome in a combined effort to capture the traitor and his fellows. Of course, all of this is if I decide to go against Pilate.”
Manaheem again smiled cynically. ”An excellent plan, if it works. But, there’s always a chance that something might go wrong. The timing may get off. The revolt may be crushed before it has a chance to succeed. The insurgents may get to you before the army gets to them. Or, better yet, they may, for some odd reason, at the last moment, decide upon you as their first target, and not Pilate. Ha! Now that would be a fine turn of affairs, wouldn’t it? But, your Majesty looks worried. Do I frighten you? Does my jest fall too harshly upon your royal ears?”
”You delight in torturing me with words, don’t you, Manaheem? I thought we were friends. After all, we are foster brothers. I suppose you would rather enjoy it if they did turn on me.”
”Ah, let’s just say, I would find it most interesting.”
”Most interesting? Why, I’d be likely to lose my whole kingdom, and, perhaps my life, as well, and you’d find it most interesting! Huh! Some friend and brother you turned out to be!”
”Your life?” Manaheem cocked his head. “I wasn’t thinking of that! Really, I wasn’t! But, I suppose it’s possible. But you know me better than to think I’d relish that, Herod. Why, we are practically brothers, even if I am a Jew, and you, an Idumean. But, your kingdom– now, that’s a different matter. Perhaps if you lost your kingdom, you’d learn that life is more than material substance and position. The only reason I took that money from you is that I’m in great need, now that my regularly poor business has taken a turn for the worse. But you know that when I had money I always did what I could to help those in need. But what about you? How much have you given to the poor lately? You have great sums stored up here. For what? I believe in the superiority of spiritual good. I’m searching for the true meaning of life. But, in the meantime, I stand against the materialism and hypocrisy of this age. And I don’t make pretenses. I’m a non-conformist, remember?”
”Ah, yes!” Now it was Herod’s turn to be cynical. “You are a non-conformist, aren’t you? How could I ever forget it with those black tunics you wear all the time? You probably make the dyer very happy with your purchases of black. I suppose you consider that a necessity. And what about that fancy chariot and horses you drive?”
”A businessman must dress decently and be able to get around. I have simply chosen my own style. It hasn’t cost me that much more, and I consider the little extra it has cost well worth it, for it has brought me the supreme joy of being different.”
Herod stroked his beard. ”Well you certainly are different, though I fail to see what joy there is in it. That crazy way you shave your face! The Romans are clean-shaven, and the Jews are fully bearded, but you! You shave only the lower part of your face – and you, being a Jew at that!”
”It’s true, I was born a Jew.” Manaheem walked over to the wall and picked up one of the chairs that lined it. “But since your father adopted me, I’ve become a citizen of Rome, like you.” Pulling the chair up close to Herod, he slowly sat down. “So I am really both, and really neither. I choose to be identified with neither, but to be my own man. But you, dear Herod, are truly neither, not even by birth. So why imitate either in appearance or action? Why try to fit in where you don’t really fit?”
Herod winced. ”A public servant must bend to those he serves. And, after all, what else is there? Our old Idumean ways are gone for good.”
Manaheem nodded. ”True. And I don’t know if it would have been much better if you’d kept them either. It would have given you your identity as a people, true. But then, customs are customs and all are binding. A man must be free to be himself – to think, act and express himself according to the dictates of his own conscience, free from the scorn, or worse, of others.”
Herod placed the crown back on his head and sat with his chin resting in his hand. ”An interesting philosophy, I must admit, although highly impractical. But tell me, dear brother, just what was it that started you thinking along those lines?”
”A disgust with people, conditions, and conformity.” Manaheem leaned back in his chair. “Of course, the uniqueness of my situation may have contributed to my way of thinking. Being raised by a people not my own may have given me an edge of aloofness. I saw the way the royal family lived and wanted no part of it. I wasn’t sure I wanted the way my own people lived either. I wanted not form and show, but reality. Of course, my first real shove in that direction, so to speak, came when I was just ten years old. I shall remember those fateful days as long as I live. You, being part of the royal family, and being two years my senior, had been sent away to Rome for your formal schooling. You missed it, dear brother! And you may thank your lucky stars you were not roaming these streets in those days, for even the tales that came back would have curled your royal blood. We never talked of it because it was so horrible. But I think you should know of it, dear brother, since you are the tetrarch. Perhaps then, you may avoid the extreme cruelty of your father, who for his own selfish vanity sacrificed hundreds of tender, innocent young lives.”
”You have succeeded in arousing my curiosity. Please proceed. I shall have Linus bring in some wine.” Herod pulled a cord that hung from the ceiling and a male servant entered. “Wine for two, Linus.” The servant left as quickly as he had appeared, and, almost as quickly, reappeared, carrying a large pitcher of wine and two goblets. “Proceed, Manaheem, proceed,” insisted Herod. The servant filled the goblets and left.
”My pleasure,” said Manaheem, as he reached for his glass. “It all started with the arrival of those eastern dignitaries to the palace. What fear their words brought to Herod the great!” He took a sip. “Say, this wine is quite good!”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish