On this day, still running and walking as fast as we can, we caught up to Nee’s convoy, just as they were preparing and serving the evening meal. The tents were up and the smell of burning coals lingered in the air. We were not invited to the same circle as Nee to eat the prepared meal. There would be no warm food or tea for us. We took what we could scrounge up. But, we sat as close to the inner circle as possible.
Nee was discussing with his advisors their progress so far. They had some delays making the estimated two-week trip a little longer than expected. The letters the king gave to Nee were helpful, but only to a point. The convoy was stopped several times by soldiers of the other kings, Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite. They made the convoy wait while messengers were sent to the kings with the letters. The messengers came back quickly. Sanballat and Tobiah wanted Nee’s convoy out of their lands as soon as possible.
We had been grateful for the delays. They had given us chances to catch up. We mixed in with the messengers upon their returns. We were hoping we would be fed. We heard the messengers talking among themselves about the responses they received from Sanballat and Tobiah. Both rulers were angry, and a little afraid. They could not understand why anyone would do something to help those upstart Israelites; the same Israelites that had for years fought with them, killing their men and plundering their wealth. They couldn’t do anything rash with the Israelite convoy under guard by the soldiers, but they could get them out of their lands as soon as possible.
Listening to Nee and his advisors talk, we couldn’t tell if Nee knew about the animosity Sanballat and Tobiah felt toward the Israelites. As the light of the cooking fire danced over us, we sat in the shadows listening and wondering. Nee had been sad in the king’s presence, he had asked for permission to go to Jerusalem, and he had asked for help. All that took some kind of extraordinary courage. Yet, now, Nee was worried. He kept asking the leaders of the armed escort if they were there yet. He was afraid he would not be back at the time he promised his king. He didn’t know how long the job would take and he did not want to presume that the king would understand.
The advisors and soldiers compared notes and told Nee that the journey was almost over, maybe only a day’s journey left. It couldn’t come soon enough for us. We were tired of running. And when we got to Jerusalem, we would be in our own familiar town, and could eat and sleep in our own houses. We did not want to be too far away from Nee while in Jerusalem, but we could really use a good night sleep . . .