clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Ancient Testaments: Before His Manger, Chapter 52: On the way of the Patriarchs

In Chapter 51, Joseph learned of his important part in the Messiah's coming, which meant that he should complete his marital contract with Mary. This he did obediently, gladly and immediately. Now, in Chapter 52, we follow this couple's day by day migration toward Bethlehem.Chapter 52: On the Way of the PatriarchsEhud would try to be subtle about it, but his only desire for this trip was to keep an eye on Mary. Otherwise, he would not have come at all. Passover held no fascination for him, that was certain.If only she had stayed behind in Nazareth. But no. She would not be separated from her precious Joseph, who was going to register his Bethlehem property for the tax.True, Ehud also had ancestry from that little city of kings. He came from some sort of prince named Elrad who long ago conspired against David for the throne. And to this day, the family still had property in Bethlehem. So it was true that someone from his clan needed to for the same purpose that drew Joseph there. Ehud could have persuaded his father, Gad, to take care of it.But the fact remained that, ever since the day he heard that Joseph had completed the espousal, Ehud had not been able to get Mary off his mind.So now the journey had begun. Little more than an hour ago, the band of Nazareth travelers had left the village gate and started descending their mountain into the Jezreel Valley.Then came a surprise. Joseph had insisted on giving Mary a rest, urging the rest of the group to go ahead to their first stop in Nain."We'll be stopping like this every hour," Joseph had said."All the way to Bethlehem, you're going to stop every hour?" a man had asked.Joseph's only answer had been a settled nod. Mary explained that her husband was being very protective of her condition as usual, and that the hourly stops were out of her control. She laughed, in that musical way of hers, and said she would just have to live with it.But Ehud was not willing to give up the luxury of being near Mary. He responded to the announcement by saying, "I'd feel terrible if something bad happened to you two, so I'll just stop with you, just in case. ""Something bad?" Joseph asked. "Like what?"Ehud started to answer that there were robbers out at Passover time. But then his eyes fell upon the weapons Joseph kept at hand on the tool cart being pulled by one of his trusted donkeys. He also considered Joseph's iron-hard frame and his reputation for alertness, and wondered what sort of robber would be daring enough to choose Joseph as prey.Ehud considered saying that the other donkey, the one that carried Mary, might perhaps stumble or wear out. But he remembered that the name, "Yetsiv" — which means the faithful or steady one — was known to fit this particular donkey perfectly.He ended up giving an excuse that seemed reasonable enough, one that might even confound Joseph. "Tzefa," Ehud said simply. He was referring to the species of venomous snake that had taken the life of Joseph's father only a year before.But for some reason, Joseph was neither shaken nor confounded by Ehud's logic. While Mary looked on, Joseph said, "Yes, we must watch for tzefa, for tzefa will be watching also — and the bigger a leg is, the more likely he is to strike it."At this, Ehud had taken a quick glance at his famously large legs, and instinctively scanned the ground nearby.But nothing would persuade him to go on with the rest of the group.During Mary's rest, while she and her husband sat on a rock looking out across the valley, Ehud waited, from a distance. And while he waited, he thought back to a midmorning several months before.Gad, Ehud's father had come up to their little building on the hill north of Nazareth, leading a donkey colt.He tied up the animal just outside and came in saying, "It's here."Ehud, who had been sleeping, didn't move as he responded. "Uh huh.""Well?" Gad said."Well what?" Ehud muttered."I thought it would be good news," his father said. "You've been looking forward to it.""Yeah," said the bulky young man, still motionless on his mat. "But it is Heli's daughter, not just a donkey, that I must have.""Well, one thing at a time," Gad said. He opened a large woolen sack and set out some cheese and bread he had brought from town. "You'd better eat something and then figure out somewhere to keep the donkey. It's tied up right outside, but we don't want it near the winepresses. That wouldn't go over too well with customers.""Don't worry," Ehud replied impatiently. He rolled over, his eyes still shut. "There aren't any customers around today to see it, so who cares?""Well, if they did see, we'd have no customers, that's sure."Ehud sighed impatiently, "Don't worry, I said!"Gad knew there was no point in arguing with his groggy son, so he tore off a corner of bread and cut a slice of cheese for himself.Ehud turned from his side to his back, yawned, and stretched his arms. "So, what's new in town?"Gad stopped eating, but said nothing.Ehud looked up. "What's new, I said!"Finally, Gad spoke. "It's not going to happen.""What's not going to happen?""The marriage you've been wanting, with the girl Mary."Ehud sat up, his eyes wide in a challenging glare. "What?!""Well, I guess Joseph decided to marry her. But when I asked people, there seems to be no word about who actually fathered the child.""I'll put a stop to that," Ehud yelled as he stood and began to dress. "She is to be mine! My little Jewish doll! Do you hear?"After a pained pause, Gad added, softly, "Too late.""Why? It's not too late. I'll go down there right now...." "They've already had the nissuin. Last night, or early this morning sometime. The marriage is completed."Ehud had been on his way out when he heard these words. He stopped and turned around in disbelief.Gad didn't like moments like these. He was getting old, and Ehud was a very big boy. It never helped to try to comfort Ehud in his anger, but Gad tried anyway: "Besides, now that you have a donkey, you should be...."Ehud picked up the table, the table that held their breakfast, the table that had been built by Joseph's father Jacob. He threw it across the room and then stomped over to where it had landed and kicked it against the wall. That table would never be the same. Ehud charged through the doorway, and saw the little donkey colt just outside. It looked up curiously, even affectionately, as if perhaps this human might be willing to be its new mother. But for this all it got was a mighty shove, which sent it flying and grunting. It landed on its side in one of the stone winepresses in the dooryard before its tether yanked it to a stop.Gad peeked out of the doorway, and saw Ehud breathing heavily, staring down upon the village. The donkey was also panting, struggling to regain its feet. Gad was relieved that things had not gone worse. In his mind he wondered how to go about ridding the winepress of donkey taste.In Ehud's mind was the thought that Mary, the perfect little doll, was still his.

Notes to Chapter 52** Regarding the story of Joseph at Dothan, before entering Egypt as a slave, being considered as dead, later becoming a commanding figure in the king's court, having power to save the very brothers who once hated him — Genesis 37:13-36; 45:1-28.** The hymn Mary sang to Amos is Psalm 8.See Chapter 53 part 1 and part 2 in next week's Mormon Times