Research- King Joash- Given By the Lord

It’s Thursday, the day when I’m supposed to talk about a research find. First, I’ll tell you researching for Biblical fiction isn’t easy. There are tons of varying theories on all sorts of things and whether we want to believe it or not there are some contradictory scriptures.

Let’s just look at these two scriptures.

Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Athaliah the granddaughter of Omri, king of Israel. II Kings 8:26 (NKJV)

Ahaziah was forty-twoyears old when he became king, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Athaliah the granddaughter of Omri. II Chronicles 22:2 (NKJV)

Does that mean the Bible isn’t God inspired? No, not at all. The inconsistency could be any number of things, most probable it is an error on man’s part through translation.

Ahaziah is the father of King Joash. My Biblical romance series is set during the beginning reign of Joash. Most of you know that Ahaziah’s mother, Athaliah, went on a murderous rampage when her son died. She killed all the princes, save one. Joash was rescued by his Aunt Jehosheba, the wife of high priest Jehoiada. According to scripture, Joash was hidden with them in a bedchamber in the temple.

Well, I found a bit of problem with that. First, when Athaliah took over the kingdom of Judah the temple was badly damaged. For those of you who don’t know, her parents where Ahab and Jezebel. Yeah, remember them? Elijah and God went head to head with Jezebel and Ba’al. Of course God won, as He always has and always will.

Athaliah couldn’t have taken too kindly to anything that had to do with YWHW. Her mother was humiliated and when she was killed by Jehu dogs devoured her flesh just as had been prophesied by Elijah. So, when you consider what happened to her mother, and given human nature to place blame, it’s not too far fetched to believe Athaliah despised anything and everything that had to do with God. Remember that damage to the temple I spoke about? It was in such disrepair it took over twenty years for the finances to  be raised and repairs to begin.

Was it habitable? I suppose, but perhaps not anymore so than a cave in the hills. And any activity within the temple probably would have been noticed. I believe she was that paranoid and delusional.

The other thing I had a bit of a problem with is that from every bit of research I’ve encountered the priests did not live in the temple. IN the First Temple Period the priests lived near Ophel. During the Second Temple Period some lived in the Herodian Quarter.

So, I took some creative license. Scripture says, “He (Joash) remained hidden with his nurse at the house of the Lord six years.”

That word house, bayith means the same thing as temple. According to Strong’s Concordance, temple can mean a range of things when it comes to the temple in the Old Testament.

1) house

a) house, dwelling habitation

b) shelter or abode of animals

c) human bodies (fig.)

d) of Sheol

e) of abode of light and darkness

f) of land of Ephraim

Considering Athaliah’s behavior, I mean seriously, she killed all of her husband’s children and nephews, even her own grandchildren, I didn’t think she’d allow any of the temple priests to move around freely without being watched. Then again she could have been so arrogant and confident that she thought she had nothing to worry about. Her mother was much the same way.

So back to the point, I took a great deal of creative license, and removed Joash from Jerusalem. I chose to see bayith c) human bodies and I’ll tell you why. Do you know what Joash’s name means? Given by the Lord. The first story in this series was totally, without a doubt given to me by the Lord.

I will also tell you that when I wrote this story, in a little over a month, not once did I stop and do research. The research came after the story was written and I was working on revisions. To me that is absolutely amazing.

I’ve already met with some controversy over this story. I had a critique partner who believed I needed to change certain aspects of the story. I understand the whole ‘not adding or taking away’ from scripture thing. I don’t think I did that. I think I interpreted it differently. One thing that scripture does say is that Joash’s nurse stayed with him and I did keep her with him. I tried to stay as true to form as possible. I also spent a lot of time in prayer over this story. A lot. Not only that, I know several faithful, not writing prayer warriors prayed over this story too. And since I totally believe God inspired this story, I’m going to trust Him to do what He does and use it to glorify His name.

So, I ask you, am I creating some great faux pas?

Exciting Research Find

As I was writing a scene yesterday I typed a word that I had no idea if it even existed during my time period. I was 99.9% positive it had, but I needed to be 100%.

scissors-origin 1350-1400 derives from the medieval Latin word cisoria ( wasn’t my first choice for research, instead I typed 1850 sewing scissors into my google bar. And what to my wondering eyes should appear? The Graphics Fairy!

Oh, yes! I’ve mentioned her before. She is a treasure trove when it comes to all kinds of vintage clipart. Why would this matter to an historical romance writer? Because I’m very visual. I love to see things. And check this out!!

Aren’t they fabulous? Yeah, I know, I’m a geek like that, but not only did I find out that scissors existed in the 1850s, but I get to see what they looked like as  The Graphics Fairy found these in an 1850s catalog. And there are more here. I love these images so much that I’m trying to figure out what kind of art work I’d like to create with them, and of course, where I would put them since I don’t have a sewing room. Although . . . we do own an upholstery shop. I wonder if hubs would be okay with these babies decorating his walls.

Anyway, instead of writing “She opened the bedside table and retrieved the scissors” I can now write, “She opened the bedside table and retrieved the fancy scrolled scissors”. Of course, this is all part of my first draft, a bit of what we writers call ‘vomitting on the page’. The fancy scrolled bit may not even stay, but at least I have a visual if I need it.

Kansas Pioneer Encounters

One of the best research tools I’ve found for Kansas Pioneers has been Books of the Kansas Collection. Most of them are diaries written by pioneers. Some are stories passed along. All the ones I’ve come across have been very entertaining.
The following excerpts come from one woman’s account. You can tell from her musings she was a woman who knew how to find humor in even the worse of situations. I have a feeling, though, that with constant cannon fire and cholera, rattlesnakes were the least of this author’s fears.
This first selection comes from Kansas: Its Interior and Exterior by Sara T. L. Robinson. The author, as you can see, seems to have been a guest of a state prison. For those of you who do not know much about this era in Kansas history, it was during a time known as Bleeding Kansas. A time when pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions warred fiercly. If Mrs. Sara Robinson was a prisoner at Lecompton, Kansas’ first capital, a pro-slavery capital, then she most likely held the values of the anti-slavery camp dear to her heart. Bleeding Kansas deserves many, many blogs of its own.

Its pages were penned during a three months’ residence of the authoress in the United States Camp, at Lecompton, with her husband, one of the state prisoners.

This first was written in the month of June possibly in the year 1856.

7th. — Mr. H. was very ill with an attack of pleurisy. Doctor being absent, I felt anxious, yet did the best I could. A mustard plaster and some simples removed the difficulty of breathing, and he slept quietly. He said he never was as sick before, but I was thinking he imagined himself sicker than he was just before night, and as I was wondering where E. could be, she came in, pale and almost breathless, with just enough left of life to say, “O, that rattlesnake!” I laughed at her at first; but being convinced that seeing a snake of some kind was a reality to her, and not quite liking the idea of their making a home in our neighborhood, we started out with shovel and hatchet for a battle. The spot where she saw him was very easily found, as the pail she had in her hand, while coming up the path from the spring, she set down when she came upon him. She had heard a buzzing noise, like that made by a large grasshopper, for some minutes; but her attention was attracted by a small bird flying backward and forward across the path, and no great height above it, and did not, therefore, perceive the snake until she was within a foot of him. Hastily setting down the pail, as he lay there coiled ready to spring, she took another path to the house. We looked along both paths, above and below, and far out on the hill-side, but found nothing. His fright was undoubtedly equal to hers, not being particularly partial to the cold bath she gave him in getting down her pail so hastily.

10th. — Was awakened by a little tree-toad on my pillow this morning. He must have climbed up the low roof of the ell part, and in at the window. I found a mouse in the tub, and a swallow came into the kitchen flapping his wings wildly, and seeming much frightened, as we were at breakfast. I am wondering if all the “four-footed beasts and creeping things ” have appointed a place of rendezvous upon our premises; and suggest, laughingly, that “the rattlesnakes will come next.” Scarcely had we finished breakfast, before the cry from near the wood-pile was, “Here’s a snake!” It measured about eighteen inches in length, was ugly looking, and had four rattles.

June 12th

Many people were in, in the evening. The wind was blowing, and I heard a rustling near me. I looked, but saw nothing. An hour later, as I relinquished my seat, and went to make arrangements for extra beds, a gentleman very positively said, “I hear a rattlesnake.” Near where I had been sitting, the yellow-spotted reptile had crawled in between the last floor-board and the siding, and already his head had reached the window-casing. We had serious objections to his farther progress towards the chambers, or to his greater length of days. After a moment’s more envenomed rattling, all was still. Like the other, he had four rattles, and was undoubtedly looking for his lost mate. One of the gentlemen, Judge Conway, to whom the front room had been appropriated as a sleeping apartment, the mattresses being removed each morning, felt nervous about such companions for bed-fellows, and, to be prepared against the possible contingency of another similar visit, turned his boot-tops into one another upon retiring.

Although this one does not speak of an encounter, it is interesting as you will see.

18th. — The morning sun never shone more brightly than now. We found everything in the house damp, but had taken no cold. The cholera patient was doing well. The gentleman of the house assured me he slept well, but it was a mystery to me where he found a dry nook. Had a fine ride home in the early morning light, which gives to every object a double value. “Old Gray” nibbled at the “compass plant,” which always points northward in these prairies, occasionally cropping its bright yellow flowers with a satisfied air as he trotted along. The rattlesnake weed was also blooming in profusion. Nature is ever mindful of the needs of her children, and provides an antidote against the bane of rattlesnakes, and a sure guide over the wide prairie in the compass plant. When I reached home, found the doctor gone to attend upon a broken limb. A man, in rafting logs down the river, had met with this misfortune. The doctor has many calls professionally, and, though he assures them all that he is not now a practicing physician, he looks in upon many to advise them.

A note on the compass plant. First, the picture came from Oklahoma Biological Survey. Second, I have found several occasions where pioneers often believed off the wall tales, or remedies. Like how tying a raw chicken to your abdomen would draw rattlesnake venom from the body after having been bittern. So when I saw the little tidbit about the compass plant alway pointing north, I had to investigate further. And they were at least partly right. The flowers do point in a north-south direction. Most of the time.

Insignificant Tree, What A Blessing

Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called upon the name of the Lord, the Eternal God.

Genesis 21:33

I had intended today’s blog to be on names, but during my morning devotions I came across the word tamarisk. Due to my curious nature, I couldn’t allow the word to pass by without a quick google. What I found quite surprised me. I had expected something exotic, maybe a palm tree, or a large flowering hibiscus.

Yes, a large flowering hibiscus is definitely what my mind’s eye conjured. Imagine lounging beneath the beauty of such a plant. Although not typically scented, the bright green leaves and delicate colored blooms would be enough to entice any weary to stop and rest in the heat of the day. Cut me a hole in a coconut and I’m in paradise.

Ha! My imaginings were far from reality.

There are so many different kinds of tamarisks that it is hard to pinpoint which one Abraham might have planted at Beersheba, although I’d like to think it looked something like this.

*photo came from here.

If you’re curious you can google tamarisk or eshel trees. Most of the visual images are no different than wayward dry looking shrubs that have a tendency to dot farm lands. They aren’t the prettiest site. Definitely not some place a weary traveler would seek to find shelter from the heat of the day. So, I’ll continue on with my belief that Abraham planted one like what you see here.  It’s still a little ferny looking, and you don’t see any blooms. The gnarly branches add character. It also looks like it provides decent shade.

But there is so much more to the tamarisk. Check out the following links. They are well worth the read. The first delves into some Hebrew giving some awesome insight into this God-given tree.

The Hebrew word for tamarisk is eshel, whose three letters (aleph, shin, and lamed) stand for food (ochel), drink (shtiyah), and lodging or escort (lina or levaya). The ultimate host not only satisfies guests� physical needs but also personally escorts them until they are safely on their way.

The author paints a picture of God meeting the needs of traveler in the middle of the desert. How awesome is God! Please, take a moment to read Propagating Kindness.

This second link comes from Jewish Heritage Online Magazine and pretty much reiterates the first article. It’s well worth the reading time.

Isn’t it absolutely amazing how God gives us something as insignificant looking as the tamerisk to provide our needs? But I’ve come to learn that nothing mentioned in God’s word is insignificant.

Kansas Rattlesnakes

Then I had my first introduction to rattlesnakes. I was sitting in the door, and the children were playing just outside when I heard that horrible rattle. I did not have to be told what it was. I grabbed the children into the house and put them up on the bed, and took hold of a board, as it was all I could get hold of. By the time I had done that it was inside the house and running across the floor. I kept striking at it and missing it for quite a while; I felt I must kill it or some of us would be bitten. At last I killed it, although I nearly killed myself. Then I told the children that I would never live in a place where the rattlesnakes came into the house, that we would get to the timber where their father was and tell him so. Well, we had not gone a hundred yards when we saw another one, stretched out sunning itself, so we passed by on the other side, but we had not crossed the field until we say the third one, all of them large. The one we killed had seven rattles; that is as large as they generally are on the prairies. Although that was our first sight of a rattlesnake, it was not our last. For a number of years, they were plentiful. They were round about us, sometimes under our feet, sometimes gathered up in a bundle of something we were handling, sometimes in our houses. The strangest part of it was that none of us were ever bitten.

I’m telling you up front there is no way on God’s green Earth I’m getting close enough to a rattlesnake to snap pictures. Not even through a glass window.

So for sanity’s sake, y’all can go here Great Plains Nature Preserve.

Kansas is home to three different species of rattlesnakes. One is found in the eastern half of the state. One is found in the eastern and central part of Kansas, and the last one is found only in the western part.

If you choose to use a rattlesnake in your book, then you need to be sure what part of the state your story is set.

Since my story is set in the eastern part of Kansas we’ll look at the Timber Rattlesnake first and then the Massasaugas (what a name). And wouldn’t you know that the Timber, the largest of the rattlers, would be found in my neck of the woods.  *shivers*

This one’s coloring is kind of a dull gray, but you can see the chevron markings.

This next one is vivid and you can clearly see the stripe down the center of its body. As far as rattlesnakes go, its kind of beautiful (never thought I’d say that)!

According to the Great Plains Nature Preserve, this baby is in need of conservation. Now, I’m all for conservation as long as its not in my backyard. If it comes down to me or the snake, the snake has got to go.

This next snake, the Massasaugas, is found throughout eastern and central Kansas. It also happens to be the smallest of the trio.

Again, this one has some beautiful coloring. They also tend toward browns, which I think would a little more difficult to spot in and amongst the brush. I think if I had a choice, I’d rather come across this one. It’s smaller than the Timber and easier to see than its brown sibling.
I can also say that this little rattler is doing just fine in the conservation area.
The last of Kansas’ rattlers can be found in the western half of the state, and for that I’m very grateful.

As you can see by his coloring he probably blends in nicely with the prairie landscape, even more so than the Massasauga. 
The Prairie Rattlesnake is also doing fine in the whole conservation area.
And, just in case you think these creatures are small, let me put it all in perspective for you.
The Massasauga, which is the smallest of the rattlers, measures up to 33 1/2 inches. Yeah, I’m thinking that’s a bit too long myself, but compared to the Prairie and the Timber, it’s a piece of cake. The Prairie, the one that takes up residence in the western half of Kansas measures up to 57 1/8. I suppose you’re wondering what the Timber measure in at. No? Well, I’m going to tell you anyway, if I don’t you’ll google, so I’ll save you the trouble. 63 1/2″! The record for the Timber is 74 1/2″

The Little Things

We spend hours filling out character sheets and plotting our story. We know each character has a job to do in order propel the story forward to the dramatic end. We plot carefully to make sure every chapter, scene, paragraph, sentence, and word does its job. But what about the little things?

 A few months ago, I had watched a show on NatGeo where an ancient Greek ship, believed to be 5 B. C.,  was found in the Black Sea. Over 20 amphorae jars were discovered on the deck. Amazingly, they were very well preserved. If you click on this link, you’ll find a few pictures, including fish bones that were discovered in one of the jars, giving you an idea what was being transported.

Containers such as those found at the bottom of the Black Sea, whether made of bronze, onxy, or earthenware, were used for hundreds, possibly thousands of years. You can even see one referenced in Genesis 24:14 when Abraham’s servent went in search of a wife for Isaac.

Genesis 23:11-14 He had the camels kneel down near the well outside the town; it was toward eveining the time the women go out to draw water.

Then he prayed, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. May it be that when I say to a girl, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’ –let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”

I quite imagine that the jar Rebekah carried upon her head had more of a flat bottom. There are a few illustrations of the different types of jars in Illustrated Dictionary of Bible Manners & Customs edited by A. Van Deursen. Some have pointed, rounded bottoms and some are flat.  

So, we know the jars were used in commerce and for carrying water. They were also used in households for storing things like olive oil. By keeping the oil in a cool dark place it kept it from being rancid.  The jars specific for olive oil usually had longer, thinner necks, which helped to keep the light from spoiling it. Other jars  probably stored grains, and possibly used to hold goat’s milk, as well as dyes for weaving and medicines.

Earthenware is just one of the many small things I’ve added into my story to give it a sense of rich authenticity. This one item can’t do it alone, but put together with a myraid of other items and it can sweep you away to another time and place.