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All stories have roots in the Bible

When someone asked novelist John Steinbeck where he got the plots for his stories, he didn't hedge in his answer.

"All I ever do," he said, "is rewrite the Bible."And if you've read Steinbeck's "East of Eden" (the Cain and Abel story) or "Grapes of Wrath" (the journey to the Promised Land), you know he was telling the truth.

But then most writers simply rewrite the Bible, because it's nearly impossible to do anything else. Bible stories are universal.

When an underdog triumphs, we compare it to "David and Goliath."

When somebody offers a helping hand, they're "a Good Samaritan."

Christine Durham is the "Deborah" of the Utah Supreme Court; Brigham Young was the "Moses" of the West, and Saddam Hussein has "Herod" written all over him.

Years ago, when my mother gave me a crystal heirloom and I gave it away, I became "Esau," the dumb son who swapped his birthright for mush.

Even lesser-known Biblical stories have parallels in today's world. I thought of one the other day, in fact.

Stop me if you've heard this one:

Once there was a powerful leader with an ambitious, strong-willed wife. In many ways she was his superior.

The two of them played fast and loose with the rules at times. They even got into a shady land deal at one point. The wife was able to manipulate the situation, however, and keep her husband happy.

But their woes began many years before that.

There was the nasty business with that prosecutor fellow, for instance - the "mouthpiece for justice" who'd been asked by a "higher authority" to speak out against their corruption.

The leader and his wife had little use for him at first. As long as he didn't cause too many headaches or heartaches, they could live with him. But once the guy began going after their friends and executing them, well, enough was enough.

As the husband cringed in silence, the wife jumped into the fray and took the "mouthpiece" on face to face. She mentioned her friends that the guy had done in, then she told him: "So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them."

The mouthpiece knew he'd met his match. He was dog meat.

The great leader himself had always had a reputation for competence. He even had widespread support of the people. Still, the mouthpiece had dared call him two-faced in public, accusing him of "limping with two different opinions."

That was when the leader's wife stepped in to shield her husband and make the prosecutor's life miserable.

So, the "mouthpiece for justice" decided to lie low for a while. He felt like a failure. Still, he'd been given a job to do, and he was determined to carry on. He vowed to fight to the bitter end.

Alas, the end would be a bitter one indeed.

During the little "integrity feud," an honest-to-goodness war broke out. The great leader was destroyed by the war.

His wife wielded some power for a time after his death. But eventually she, too, met her demise. And it was, shall we say, a messy one.

The mouthpiece lives in history as the hero.

As for the moral of the story, it was obvious then just as it's obvious now: When you play fast and loose with the rules in order to gain personal advantage, the truth will eventually do you in.

And the players in this tawdry little tale?

Felix Mendelssohn composed one of the world's greatest oratorios about them. And even Steinbeck would have trouble coming up with better characters.

The great leader was named Ahab.

The guy who got taken to the bank in the land swindle was Naboth.

The great leader's wife was named Jezebel.

And the mouthpiece - the dogged "special prosecutor" who looked like a loser but came out a winner - was the prophet Elijah.