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Prophecy. The whole concept boggles the mind. Imagine living with such future sight. The uninitiated might welcome visions as a blessing, promising success in almost every endeavor. But as quantum physics suggests, with this supernatural gift, one must weigh far more than probability and outcome. Each alternative action may raise a myriad of separate possibilities just within a household, much less a small community. Imagine juggling this burden when spread across a nation... or the entire world. The weight could cripple a soul, but for the patient guidance of a deity like the Hebrew God, who some believe sees all ends. In other hands, the gift of prophesy could prove ideal for spreading chaos, despair, and death.
This lays the groundwork for The Prophet and the Dove, the first entry in The Jonah Cycle, a four-novel series that examines a vital Old Testament era from its historical roots. Along the way, The Jonah Cycle leaps from tales of supernatural guidance to classic pursuit and demonic horror before ending with warfare on a global scale, as the ancient world posed it. The first novel sets the stage, taking readers back almost three thousand years to the kingdom of Israel and the expansion-minded reign of King Jeroboam II.
Those adverse to spoilers should read no farther.
As the Old Testament tells us, this is a time ripe with prophets, with the world primed for dynamic change. Let us quote a first-person account from The Prophet and the Dove, as one prophet reveals to Benjamin, our viewpoint character, just how turbulent his world will become:
“I don’t think you understand this darkness that awaits us. We face its vanguard, but it threatens to wage war against generations beyond generations, until the end of time itself.”
Terror carried through his words. Until the end of time?
“How can you know this?” I scoffed, not wanting to accept anything so horrible.
“Oh, I have seen much, and foreseen more. The Enemy is not idle in this world, Benjamin. Already he has chosen his champions for the great war to come.
“To the west, spilled blood flows from a splintered hill people. Fierce in their independence, their eyes ever seek the truth, and still their ambition deceives them. With each epoch, the Greek tribes devise new ways to dominate their tiny, insignificant realm. They are toys to the Enemy, playthings striving to annihilate each other, and yet from their many hard-fought battles they will discern great wisdom from the heart of the earth, and great folly, for in it will they place their hopes, ignoring God. But such is their reward for the bold pursuit of earthly desires. Still, they will find illusions of greatness. From their shores, the great conqueror comes to overrun the world, breaking all resistance, molding its will in his own proud fashion, spreading his faith in human virtues, in reason and logic.
“Far-reaching will be his influence, his touch, yet his time is already short. For the Enemy will use the Greek to but set his stage. Farther west, twin heroes forge a bloody throne on a mountainous sword thrust into the heart of the Great Sea. Generations from now, and those well beyond, all will fall under the seed these two now sow. The world will tremble under the boots of its legions. Its fist will crush all who oppose it, and its sword will put the faithful to death. Only when millions have fallen will this empire end, and yet even its passing will echo throughout time. For that is the Enemy’s true focus, to weave his darkness of deception, despair, and death. To misshape and steal the hearts of men.”
As Hosea revealed his cryptic nightmare, the blurry fog of entangled images burned themselves in my memory. I breathed in every paralyzing word, bound by the vision’s dramatic scope. Some of it made no sense to me, and yet I found myself trembling at the world’s peril... until Hosea realized my building agony and sought to comfort me.
“But take heart, Benjamin! At the very peak of his evil reign, when all we know falls under the empire, a man unlike any other will break the bonds of this world. Through him, God will rewrite all our notions of goodness and salvation. Through him, we will find grace, and everlasting life.”
“Then we should find him!” I blurted out.
What little hope I could see in Hosea’s weary eyes faded away.
“Ah, my son, him we will not see in our lifetimes, or in those of our children or their kin. Great evil must precede him for his life to have purpose. Our lands will lie in darkness and doom. That,” he admitted with heartfelt reluctance, “that is our fate. So be it.”
Mastering prophecy offers dynamic power, as Jeroboam understands. With the Hebrew people divided into two kingdoms, troops with this king’s northern tribes achieve repeated success under Jonah, a general known ironically as the Dove. Devoted to the Lord and his people, gifted with visions, Jonah guides the armies of Jeroboam as they reconquer the fabled empire of Solomon – which to the Hebrew people is a great realm indeed, nearly all the land promised to Moses and Joshua by God Himself. Yet with the Lord’s insight, Jonah knows just how small and unimportant this hilly region is. He lives in daily terror of a real global power, the Assyrian Empire – a vile enemy that thrives from its fortress Nineveh, far away at the edge of the known world. Having defeated their Assyrian invaders, Jeroboam and his advisors believe this titan is crumbling away. They foresee a new era of peace for the Hebrew tribes.
Jonah knows better.
This brings us to the central conflict propelling The Jonah Cycle. For with victory in sight, his military career apparently complete, Jonah receives a mission from God to reveal just how forgiving their Creator may be. The scope of this would-be ministry tears Jonah apart, as our seer admits to Benjamin in this quote from The Prophet and the Dove:
“How could anyone minister to those devils?” the Dove spat. “Masters of evil – that is what they are! They deserve no grace! Betray my own people? How could anyone make such a choice? With what those, those dogs have done, the evils they have committed…. the evils they will commit! No! It cannot be. He cannot ask it! I cannot do it!”
Caution held my tongue. The Dove collapsed in the sand, sobbing, broken by his torment. I began to lay a comforting hand about his shoulder, but I had no idea how he would take it. His rage seemed chaotic, unpredictable. Yet something had to be done.
“What….” I hesitated, struggling over what to say. “What has He asked of you?”
“Nineveh,” Jonah whispered.
It is hard to think of one word more hated by our people. Nineveh! One of many capitals of Assyria, but the most important, for it was perhaps the largest of all cities, the trading capital of the Gentiles, the bulwark of the Assyrian treasury and butcher’s army, all that and more… the center of the unholy.
I was terrified of what this could mean, but I managed to voice, “What of it?”
The Dove rose up, his tears cleaning damp trails in the dust of his cheeks.
“I am to go to Nineveh,” he growled. “Warn them the Lord has beheld their evil. That judgment is imminent.
“To Nineveh!” he cried out. “Can you believe it? The Assyrian Empire is collapsing. I have seen it with my own eyes! You saw it in the plains of Damascus! It could disappear in our lifetime! Can you imagine how glorious that would be?
“Yet it is a phantom hope, for I have foreseen its revival. I have beheld the hand of the demon marching across Israel, destroying Samaria, Bethel… a whole tribe of our people displaced, swept across the world to foreign lands for uncounted generations. Ah, such destruction! Evil rises again, Benjamin, snapping at Babylon, Egypt, Jordan! Even Jerusalem! There is no sanctuary against the slayer’s army.”
Trembling, he fell to his knees. Water flowed from his eyes.
“And how will it be done?” he wept. “By ministering to Nineveh. By my hands.”
All this raises one defense in Jonah’s mind: is this mission truly from God? Would their Lord turn His back on His chosen people, the sons and daughters of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all to save a vile enemy of unbelievers? Or could Jonah’s visions, his foresight, be manipulated or twisted to some other purpose? Could this mission be a deception of the Enemy, a device for destroying Jonah’s beloved brethren?
You must read The Jonah Cycle to find out.