They burned incense to the Queen of Heaven: A story

(I used to write short stories a long time ago)

Year:  587 B.C.
Place:  Judah

Yakov was inspecting his vineyard one day when Halachi came by.  “Yakov ,” Halachi said, “Do you care to join me for worship this week?”
“I have regular worship meetings in my family and village. You know that,” replied Yakov .
“Yes, but you aren’t worshiping according to the traditions,” Countered Halachi.
“What traditions?”  Why?  We have Moses’ writings.”
Halachi was ready for this response.   “True, but Moses’ writings have to be interpreted properly.  How do you know you are reading them correctly?”  The truth was, Yakov didn’t know.   He admitted there were some hard passages in Torah.  “I’ll tell you what,”  Halachi offered, “Just come and see.  I’ll answer any questions you have”
“Okay,” Yakov agreed.

(Later that evening)

Yakov was met by clouds of strange incense and different orders of worship.  Then he paled noticeably.  “Halachi,” asked Yakov in a heated voice, “Why are your friends worshiping that cow?”  Yakov pointed to a bronze cow in the corner.
“Yakov ,”  replied Halachi condescendingly, “They aren’t worshiping that cow.  Don’t be silly.  They are worshiping God.”
“So God looks like a cow?”
“No.  They are worshiping God through that cow.”
“I don’t understand the difference,” said Yakov .
“Okay.  Basics.  Is creation good?” asked Halachi.
“So God wants us to honor his good creation,” pressed Halachi.
“I suppose so,” conceded Yakov .
“Yakov , I know Torah as well as any.   Worshipping metal images is wrong.   But we aren’t doing that.  We are worshiping God through the image.”

One year later

“Yakov , what news from the front?” yelled Shaul, a leader in the Jerusalem militia.

“Nebuchadnezzar has not yet advanced.  I guess he is waiting for us to weaken a little more he throws everything at a final assault,” mused Yakov .   It wasn’t a bad plan, he admitted.  It was one he would have done.   Jerusalem couldn’t last much longer.   Yakov ‘s plan changed from a simple resistance and hoping Nebuchadnezzar got distracted, or Pharaoh got involved, or something.  Now, instead of winning Yakov could only think of getting out of here alive.    Both options seemed dim.

“How long do you give us?”  Yakov noticed that Shaul asked that question out of earshot of the others.

“Maybe a week.  No longer than a fortnight, certainly.”

“How did we get here, Yakov ?   Why did Jehovah-Baal forsake us?   Weren’t we faithful to the traditions of our fathers?”

Yakov had trouble focusing on Shaul’s question through the thick incense.   “Must we have all this incense going,” he asked?

“Come now, Yakov.   All sides agree that incense is proper in worship.”

“But this incense seems different.”

“Yes, it is the incense of extreme prayer and hope.  This incense is to the Queen of Heaven.  She will deliver this city.”

Yakov wasn’t sure anymore.  Halachi’s arguments seemed good at the time.   The crops were better than usual and it made sense of the chaos in Yakov’s life.  Something still felt off with the worship, though.  If God was spiritual and created heaven and earth, then it seemed odd that he would be so constricted to a metal cow.   What did a cow have to do with God anyway?

Yakov didn’t get to find the answer to that question, as the wall beneath him shook.

“I guess that week turned into today” shouted Shaul.   Yakov couldn’t shout back as the wall rumbled again.


“The Garden-Gate has been breached!” Someone shouted. Yakov looked up to see Babylonian troops spilling in through the breach.   Shaul died in a hail of arrows.   The soldiers advanced upon Yakov.   Given the narrow alley, Yakov could fight them one at a time.  Their numbers would make the difference.   And then the first line fell to unseen arrows.


“Quick lad.  We have a few minutes.  Come this way.”

“Who are you?

“My name is Willie-Rechab.   I can get you out if we leave now.”

“But what about the city, my men–

“They are dead men, and you will be, too.”

“But why do you care about me?”

“I noticed you didna burn incense to the Queen of Heaven.   But don’t think it is cause ya deserve rescue.  You don’t, but ne’ertheless, here is an out if ya will tak it.

Metal cow-gods be damned, Yakov thought, here is life.