The Fifth Mountain

Chapter 1
At the beginning of the year 870 B.C., a nation known as Phoenicia, which the Israelites called Lebanon, had marked almost three centuries of peace. Its inhabitants could take pride in their accomplishments; because they were not politically powerful, they had developed an enviable skill at negotiation as the only means of assuring survival in a world beset by constant war. An alliance made around the year 1000 B.C. with King Solomon of Israel had allowed the modernization of its merchant fleet and the expansion of trade. Since that time, Phoenicia had never stopped growing.

Its navigators had traveled to places as distant as Spain and the Atlantic Ocean, and there are theories - as yet unconfirmed - of their having left inscriptions in northeastern and southern Brazil. They carried glass, cedar, weapons, iron, and ivory. The inhabitants of the large cities such as Sidon, Tyre, and Byblos were familiar with numbers, astronomical calculations, the manufacture of wine, and for almost two hundred years had been using a set of characters for writing, which the Greeks knew as alphabet.

At the beginning of the year 870 B.C., a council of war was meeting in a distant place called Nineveh. A group of Assyrian generals had decided to send troops to conquer the nations located along the Mediterranean coast. Phoenicia had been selected as the first country to be invaded.

At the beginning of the year 870 B.C., two men hiding in a stable in Gilead, in Israel, expected to die in the next few hours.

"I HAVE SERVED A LORD WHO NOW ABANDONS ME INTO the hands of my enemies," said Elijah.

"God is God," the Levite replied. "He did not tell Moses whether He was good or evil; He simply said: I am. He is everything that exists under the sun - the lightning bolt that destroys a house, and the hand of man that rebuilds it."

Talking was the only way to ward off fear; at any moment, soldiers would open the door to the stable where they were hiding, discover them both, and offer the only choice possible: worship Baal, the Phoenician god, or be executed. They were searching house by house, converting the prophets or executing them.

Perhaps the Levite would convert and escape death. But for Elijah there was no choice: everything was happening through his own fault, and Jezebel wanted his head under all circumstances.

"It was an angel of the Lord who obliged me to speak to King Ahab and warn him that it would not rain so long as Baal was worshiped in Israel," he said, almost in a plea for absolution for having heeded what the angel had told him. "But God acts slowly; when the drought begins to take hold, Princess Jezebel will already have destroyed all who remain loyal to the Lord."

The Levite said nothing. He was reflecting on whether he should convert to Baal or die in the name of the Lord.

"Who is God?" Elijah continued. "Is it He who holds the sword of the soldier, the sword that executes those who will not betray the faith of our patriarchs? Was it He who placed a foreign princess on our country's throne, so that all this misfortune could befall our generation? Does God kill the faithful, the innocent, those who follow the law of Moses?"

The Levite made his decision: he preferred to die. Then he began to laugh, for the idea of death frightened him no longer. He turned to the young prophet beside him and attempted to calm him. "Ask God, since you doubt His decisions," he said. "I have accepted my fate."

"The Lord cannot wish us to be massacred without mercy," insisted Elijah.

The Fifth Mountain

"God is all-powerful. If He limited Himself to doing only...

"If He is all-powerful, why doesn't He spare the suffering of those who love Him? Why doesn't He save them, instead of giving might and glory to His enemies?"

"I don't know," said the Levite. "But a reason exists, and I hope to learn it soon."

"You have no answer to this question."


The two men fell silent. Elijah felt a cold sweat.

"You are terrified, but I have already accepted my fate," the Levite said. "I am going out, to bring an end to this agony. Each time I hear a scream out there, I suffer, imagining how it will be when my time comes. Since we've been locked in here, I have died a hundredfold, while I could have died just once. If I am to be beheaded, let it be as Copyright 2016 - 2024