Read an Excerpt
By Randall Ingermanson
ZondervanCopyright © 2004 Zondervan
All right reserved.
Rivka woke from a light sleep, her heart aching. The room was pitch black and smelled of incense and sweat and cheap wine. Like her apartment building back home in Berkeley.
A dull sigh caught in Rivka's throat. She was not in Berkeley. Not even in America. She was in Jerusalem, a city of shimmering white stone, simmering with rage. And she was in the biggest trouble of her life.
Beside her, Ari moaned quietly. Dear, sweet, opinionated, lovable, infuriating Ari Kazan. They had been married for five years, and she knew now why people said it was a mistake to marry an unbeliever. More accurately, a half-believer. Ari believed in God. He did not believe in Yeshua. Three days ago, that unbelief had saved his life.
Deep grief welled up in Rivka's heart. She felt so very grateful Ari had been saved. But not that way.
She could smell him in the deep darkness, the stale sweat rank on his naked body. Rivka touched a gentle finger to his jagged back. Thank God, Ari had survived the flogging. Blessed be HaShem, as they said here in Jerusalem, where they were too polite to say God's name, but they had no qualms about torturing in his name.
"Rivka, are you awake?" Ari's voice was a tight whisper.
"I'm sorry, did I hurt you?"
"A little." Ari rolled to face her. His labored breathing rasped in Rivka's ear. "Please forgive me for bringing you to this city."
"There's nothing to forgive." Rivka clutched his hands to her chest. "It was my fault, not yours." She closed her eyes, too late to stop the hot tears.
Five years ago, thanks to a physics experiment gone horribly wrong, they had come through a wormhole and ended up trapped forever in a world they could never have imagined. First-century Jerusalem.
It was a world that treated women like children. Rivka had hated it at first. Slowly, slowly, she had gotten used to the men who would not deign to speak to a woman, the women who looked askance at her. But she would never feel at home in this world.
Unlike Rivka, Ari had quickly found a niche in this city of God. Trained as a physicist at the Hebrew University, MIT, and Princeton, Ari had floundered when he first came to this primitive culture. Then certain young men had found him a job with a builder, and before long, Ari's talents as an engineer had blossomed into a lucrative consulting career. Now he had a great many friends.
Plus one very powerful enemy. Hanan ben Hanan, leader of the great and powerful House of Hanan, a man with no conscience at all, a conservative who despised the unorthodox, the strange, the new. Most of all, Hanan hated a stranger named Ari the Kazan, a "magician" who knew deep secrets of the universe that were surely forbidden by HaShem.
A few months ago, Hanan ben Hanan had been appointed high priest. This past week, he had arrested fifteen men he hated and tried them in his kangaroo court. Thirteen of them were now dead - killed in a stoning pit in the Hinnom Valley. One, Brother Baruch, had escaped entirely. The fifteenth - Ari - had received a flogging intended to kill him.
A flogging that should have killed him. Ari would be dead now, except for a miracle. Wracked by fever and loss of blood, Ari had slipped into unconsciousness, had found himself before the Throne, had exchanged words with HaShem, and then ...
... and then had been sent back because of the intercession of Brother Baruch, a man gifted in healing. HaShem had sent Ari back, but he had asked Ari to do some great and mysterious task. Neither Rivka nor Ari had any idea what that task might be.
Rivka felt a spasm of rage rush through her body. She hated Hanan ben Hanan. The man was evil, pure evil. She would never breathe easily until she saw him dead.
Ari sighed deeply. "Your thoughts are dark."
"I'm scared." Rivka felt nausea well up in her throat. She'd been trying not to admit it to herself, but now she couldn't keep quiet anymore. "Please, don't be mad at me, but ... I think I might be pregnant again."
A sudden intake of breath. "Are you sure?"
"Not a hundred percent," Rivka said. "I was due to start my niddah uncleanness three days ago. Last time I was this late, I was pregnant with Rachel. We need to get out of this city - go somewhere safe."
"Perhaps a son this time." Ari's voice sounded thick, husky. Thrilled. "Rachel has been asking for a brother."
"You're not angry?" Rivka couldn't believe he was taking this so calmly. She was furious with herself. They did not dare get pregnant at a time like this. She would love to have another child - but at the right time. Not now.
"It is a gift from HaShem." Ari pulled Rivka's hands to his lips and kissed them.
"Are you crazy?" Rivka felt so relieved, she wanted to cry. Ari wasn't angry. But he would be if he understood. "This is the worst possible time to get pregnant."
"My grandfather's sister became pregnant four months before they put her on the train to Auschwitz. She went straight to the showers. Please, you will remember that there is always a worse thing than what you are enduring."
Rivka knew all that, but Ari was wrong. In Berkeley, she had specialized in the history of this time period, and she knew that a thing worse than Auschwitz was coming to this city. "Listen, we have less than four years until the war begins. Eight years from now, the Romans are going to slaughter everybody in this city. Everybody. I want you to take me away from here. Now."
"And will we abandon our friends to die?"
Panic shoved a dagger into Rivka's heart. "If they won't come with us."
"We must persuade them." Ari's voice was infuriatingly calm. "You will tell them what is to come."
"Ari, nobody believes a word I say, remember? They call me the witch woman." And I am a witch woman. Everytime I turn around, I'm using my knowledge to manipulate people. I'm a scheming, deceitful -
"Our friends will believe you now." Ari's voice sounded tired and sad. "You foretold what would befall at the hands of Hanan ben Hanan, and none believed you. Now thirteen good men are dead."
"Will you talk to Shimon for me?" Rivka knew no man would listen to her, but they would listen to Ari, because he was a man. It wasn't fair, but she couldn't fight the system anymore.
"Which Shimon should I speak to?"
"Sorry, I guess I haven't told you about that yet. Shimon ben Klopas will be our new leader. According to Eusebius, he'll lead our people to safety."
"When?" Ari's voice sounded tight.
"I don't know. I'm assuming we'll leave before the war. For sure before the Romans destroy the city. You'll talk to Shimon?"
A long pause. "Yes, I will speak with Shimon, but I must know what to tell him."
"I'll try to figure it out, but ..." Rivka felt her throat tighten. She could not imagine giving birth to another child in this wretched city of God. "Ari, if I'm really pregnant, then I want you to take me somewhere safe right away."
"I will pray on the matter."
Rivka had never heard Ari say he would pray about anything before. It caught her like a slap, because ... she hadn't prayed about it. What was there to pray about? Of course God wanted them to get away from here. It said so in the Bible. Yeshua said to leave.
"You will pray on the matter also, Rivkaleh?"
Rivka held her breath for a long moment. "Yes."
"Then sleep." Ari kissed her fingers again. "All is in the hands of HaShem."
Which was exactly what Rivka was afraid of.
Rivka, wake up! There is trouble."
Rivka forced her eyes open. Her best friend Hana knelt over her, holding an olive-oil lamp, her face tight with anxiety.
Hana handed Rivka a tunic and cloak. "Please, you must come. Do not wake Ari the Kazan."
Rivka felt her heart thumping against her ribs. She pulled on her tunic and slid out onto the cold stone floor. Hana flung the cloak around her. Rivka stepped into her stiff camel-leather sandals, wrapped her hair in a head-covering, and followed Hana out into the corridor.
Surprise sparked through her. Where was Hana's husband? If there was trouble, they would need him. "Where's Baruch?" Rivka whispered.
"Hurry!" Hana pattered down the hall.
Rivka hurried. She reckoned it was still an hour before dawn. Every few feet, olive-oil lamps flickered in small insets in the stone walls. Rich tapestries of silk hung on the walls. The floor was inlaid with polished marble. The owner of this compound was an extremely wealthy man named Mattityahu, one of the most powerful men in Jerusalem. He had sworn to protect them all. Rivka was not sure he could keep his oath.
They reached the door and went out into the early morning chill. Rivka snugged her cloak tighter around her shoulders. Hana led her across the large courtyard toward the outer gate of the palace. Outside the iron gate stood two dozen men in the linen garb of Temple guards. In their center, Rivka spotted a sixtyish-looking man in aristocrat's clothing. Hanan ben Hanan, the high priest. Her heart skipped a beat.
Hanan ben Hanan was the reason they had taken refuge here. Now he must have come for Ari. Rivka would scratch his eyes out first.
Hanan ben Hanan took absolutely no notice of Rivka or Hana. In this city, women were of no consequence. Empty heads, vessels for bearing children, property to be hidden from the eyes of other men. A man of honor did not speak to a woman. Rivka bit her lip to keep from shrieking at the stupidity of a culture that made so much of wretched honor.
Flickering shadows sprang out in front of her. Rivka turned and saw several torches hurrying toward her from the palace. Shapes behind them. Men. Ari's friend, Yoseph. Yoseph's father, Mattityahu, the master of this palace. Several other men followed them, and in their center was ...
Hana's husband, Baruch.
Rivka's heart lurched. Suddenly, it was all clear. Her breath began coming in short gasps, and her head felt strangely light. Rivka stumbled over to Hana and put her hand around her shoulders. "Hana, they're not going to -"
"Why have you disturbed my gate, Hanan ben Hanan?" The old man, Mattityahu, stopped just inside the iron gate and put his hands on his hips, his gray beard quivering with anger. "I have sworn protection to these. What is the meaning of this?"
Hanan ben Hanan stepped forward, and the bitter gleam in his eyes frightened Rivka. He gave Mattityahu a cold smile. "You have sworn protection to certain women and children and to Kazan, is this correct?"
"You know it is," Mattityahu said. "I have sworn by the Temple of the living God. Leave now. I will not violate my oath."
"I do not ask for those under your protection." Hanan turned and pointed his finger at Baruch. "You are harboring this man who stands under sentence of death. I know with certainty that you have not sworn to protect him. He entered your palace yesterday, not at your invitation, and not under promise of protection. He stands under the curse of the court, and you will give him to me now."
Mattityahu said nothing. In that moment, Rivka saw that Baruch was lost. Everything Hanan ben Hanan had said was true.
"Baruch!" Hana screamed and ran to clutch him.
Baruch's face was calm, placid. He threw his arms around her. "Hanaleh, Hanaleh." He stroked her head softly and held her for a long moment. "Kiss my son Dov for me."
"No!" Hana shrieked. "Take me instead!" She flung herself at the iron gate. "Take me and leave him alone!"
Baruch signaled to Rivka. "Please, you will give comfort to her."
Feeling sick with rage, Rivka hurried to Hana's side.
Hana screamed a long wail of despair.
Baruch put his hands on Hana and calm seemed to flow from his fingers. Hana stopped screaming. Her frame shook with silent sobs.
Baruch turned to Rivka. "Please, you and Brother Ari will take care of Hana and my son."
Rivka stared at him and she read in his eyes that he had seen this coming, had known all along when he came back into the city to heal Ari that he would die. And yet he had come. To save Ari.
Hanan ben Hanan spit at her feet. "Mattityahu, you will give me the man called Baruch now."
Cold fury stuck a sword through Rivka's heart. Boldness welled up inside her. She jabbed a finger at Hanan ben Hanan. "You ... you son of Satan! Hear now the curse of the seer woman. Before the third month of your high priesthood, you will be deposed. Before seven years have passed, you will see the destruction of all you hold dear, and you will die in your own house at the hand of an Edomite!" Rivka put her face up to the bars in the gate and spat in Hanan's beard. "I am unclean with niddah uncleanness, and now you also are unclean until evening!"
Black rage slashed across Hanan's face.
For an instant, Rivka felt certain he would slip a dagger through the bars into her heart. Instead he spun away and stalked into the blackness of the night.
Rivka sagged against the iron gate. What had she done? Cursing the high priest - that was foolishness.
Hana put a quivering hand on Rivka's cheek. "You were very brave."
Rivka heard whispering behind her, and it was clear that the men thought she had acted foolishly. One did not antagonize Hanan ben Hanan. Shame pierced her heart. She had done it again - used her knowledge of the future to manipulate people. That was wrong, but what else could she have done? Hanan ben Hanan was an evil man, a murderer. Had she done nothing, he would have killed Baruch tonight - right now.
"Sister Rivka." Baruch's voice, very strong, unafraid. He was looking directly at her, contrary to the customs of this city. Baruch put a hand on her arm.
Rivka felt a little shiver run through her. In this society, a man did not look a woman in the eye, nor talk to her in public, not even to his wife. Certainly, a man would never touch another man's wife in public. Rivka could not remember Baruch ever doing any of these things, though he often spoke to her in private, knowing that the customs were different in the far country from which she came. But to touch her now in public? That was dishonor. Furthermore, she had said she was unclean. Therefore, Baruch had now made himself unclean. What could have got into him? Baruch had always been a man of honor.
Baruch took both of Rivka's hands in his and knelt before her. "I have spent much time in prayer since Brother Yaakov was murdered, and HaShem has told me that I must ask a thing of you."
Rivka felt her ears glowing as hot as the torches in the hands of the men around her. She risked a look at them. They were all staring at Baruch as if he had a demon.
"Please, my sister ..." Baruch began weeping. "I ask your forgiveness for treating you as the men of this world treat women, as less than a child. I beg your forgiveness."
Rivka felt a rush of heat in her frozen heart.
Excerpted from Retribution by Randall Ingermanson Copyright © 2004 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.