The wooded grove was quiet this time of night, the air was frigid cold, a surprising change given the desert heat that dominated during the day. Jethro, a man of forty and five years, remained hidden deep within a lush of palm fronds and bushes. He had seen much in his lifetime, you could tell by his grizzled skin and the scar that stretched across his breastbone. But he was as full of vitality and fire as the first time he had done this, waited inside the King's special grove, late in the night.
A movement, fully expected, caught Jethro's attention - and there emerged from a small walking path which led here from the royal palace a man clothed in pure white with a thin gold crown atop his head. Some yards behind him a duo of armored soldiers stopped short and waited, giving the man some privacy.
The crowned man took two steps into the grove and whistled, the signal for Jethro to show himself.
"My king," Jethro announced, emerging from the shadows silently, like a ghost, and genuflecting.
"Tell me what news you have acquired," the crowned man asked.
"My king, Hadad of Ammon looks to your lands with great hunger. He has amassed soldiers, chariots, and weapon-smiths numbering in the thousands. He has the love of his people, and he is not bothered by others save the Amalekites and the threat of Assyria to the east."
The king's left hand tugged at his full beard, a personal habit which Jethro had become accostumed to over the years. His king was a thinking man, a man who planned things out and mulled over the possibilities. In this, Solomon had Jethro's respect before he even ordered him to become his eyes and ears.
"Go on," Solomon said.
"Egypt is riddled with strife, Pharoah contends with the priests and minor official for full control. The Assyrians are ravaging our neighbors to the east, killing anyone who opposes them and demanding harsh tribute from their conquered territories."
"Is there anyone within my kingdom who favors the foreigners?"
"Alas, my king, there are a handful of men whose hearts grow cold at the thought of the Assyrians. And Babesh the Witch, the fugitive in the desert, seeks to introduce to the people rotten doctrines and strange teachings from the mountain people far to the north in the Caucases.'
"I should tell you, my king, that the greatest threat I see in the future does not come from without."
"The northern Tribes grow resentful of your rule, they see the heavy taxation as a form of tyranny."
"Has there been talk of rebellion?"
"None so far, not out in the open. But I suspect so, yes."
Solomon brooded on this for a moment. In his old age he was still a tall and impressive man, but his eyes sometimes seemed sunken and remote. "Jethro, you are my eyes and ears. If anyone can tell me what is going on in my kingdom, I belive it is you. You have sworn an oath to me, under the watchful eye of God Himself, to safeguard my throne and the establishment of all Israel. Go now and look into these rumors of rebellion in the northern tribes and report to me what you find."
"Yes, my king."