The Bold Testament: Stones of Tribulation

One of the stories in The Bold Testament, forthcoming in early 2017 for the Amazon Kindle and print. Seth Andrews read this story in its entirety on the June 7, 2016 episode of his The Thinking Atheist podcast.
But if this charge is true, that the girl was not found a virgin, then they shall bring out the girl to the doorway of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death because she has committed an act of folly in Israel by playing the harlot in her father’s house; thus you shall purge the evil from among you.
—Deuteronomy 22:20
The Levite Bearing Away the Body of the Woman, Gustav Doré

The stones in that pile were way too small. Jacob had searched frantically for big knockout rocks down at the river bed, but the shale broke off all wrong from the cliff and nothing loose or near the water was any bigger than a fist.

He was being spared from having to throw any stones, because it was his sister. “You go fetch some instead,” Levi had told him. But he still had to witness, along with everybody else, watching the jagged fruits of his morning’s labor pass into the hands of his father, his cousins, and the only friends he’d ever had.

Levi raised a chunk of shale in the air and held it high and menacing as he walked over to the cabin and stepped onto the porch. The planks were stained dark and blotchy when Jacob and Leah first followed their folks onto that porch ten years ago. Later, when they asked about it, they got read a Bible verse about utterly destroying the men, and the women, and the little ones.1 That was all anyone ever said of it from then on. Now Levi Harding was standing there on that porch, newly anointed prophet of the Deuteronomic Church of Holy Reconstruction, ready to render the latest verdict from God’s holy law.2

Jacob took a quick look over at Leah, tied to a hickory snag about twenty feet from the cabin. She slouched against the dead trunk, head tilted back, eyes open slack to the hazy hot sky. Levi’s prick of a brother went over and shoved her head down, because you weren’t supposed to lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and be drawn away to worship them–still a concern, it seemed, even if you were about to die.3

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” Levi yelled, leaning out from the edge of the porch with the flat shale in his hand like he had one of the law tablets right there fresh from Sinai. “Almighty God brought us to this river and gave us this land of hills and valleys to the restored glory of his holy name!”4

Amen, shouted the men hefting their stones. Amen shouted the women behind them. Standing off to one side, not nearly as far away as he wished he were, Jacob moved his lips with the amen but made no sound.

“When he commanded our fathers to leave Harrison for the Hill Country, the Lord said, ‘Fear not, neither be discouraged.’ He fought for us as we took possession of this land and the spoils of it.”5 Levi rapped the knuckles of his free hand on the gray wood of a post holding up the metal porch roof, a mighty king with his conquest.

Jacob joined in with the Amen this time, seeing Levi swing his gaze over to him, checking. He was going to be watched closely for a while after this. The Bible included no provisions for shooting deserters, but Levi had found it a good practice to adopt just the same. The guns were never very far away from any of Levi’s main guys, and they still had plenty of rounds left. And those boys could track.

Levi paused his litany for a moment, holding the air quiet and heavy. Well, so much for the good news, thought Jacob. Here comes the bad.

“But he didn’t just give us these blessings in the days of tribulation, did he?” Levi said, voice rising now, punctuating the words with urgency. Murmurs and no sir from the men. “He also said, ‘Ye shall observe to do therefore as the Lord your God hath commanded you.’” A pause, then he went on plowing through the hard old text Jacob had heard hundreds of times: “‘Ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. Ye shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess.’”6

Levi turned to his brother. “Caleb Harding, did you find this woman to be a virgin when you bedded her upon your marriage, night before last?”

“No sir, I did not,” Caleb said, stepping away from Leah and handing Levi a brownish wad of cloth. It was a bedsheet, Jacob knew, plenty the worse for wear since being found folded and crisp in the fancy place up on the ridge behind them. Once the destruction of the enemy got done with, God chose the ridge house for the Hardings to occupy.7 The absentee owner–probably once a higher-up at some Wal-Mart supplier over in Bentonville–no doubt disagreed with the decision. But by that point, the cops and National Guard had their hands full in the cities and the only law out here was guns and Deuteronomy.

Levi balanced his chunk of shale on the porch railing and shook open the sheet with both hands. He held it up in front of everybody, making a show of scrutinizing every sweat-stained square inch for evidence of hymen rupture.

“We stand at the door of her father’s house,” he said finally. He wadded up the bedsheet, half-turned toward the cabin door behind him, and tossed the sheet onto the threshold. Then he picked his rock back up and jabbed it in Leah’s direction. “Now, the Scripture commands us to carry out the judgment of a jealous and righteous God: ‘The men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father’s house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.’”8

The crowd of men shifted around slightly as legs sought better footing and throwing arms raised and tensed. Jacob looked at the rocks in the men’s hands and wished yet again that he could have found bigger ones to get this over with faster for Leah. The screaming could go on awfully long sometimes, without a knockout to the head.

And there was something else he felt, besides regret about the puny rocks. It was creeping upwards from his gut and landing in his face with a hot flush that sat there silently accusing him. He was ashamed, and not the usual Bible shame for failing to love God or breaking one of his commandments, in thought if not deed. It was for going along with what he was seeing right there in front of him. He had fetched the rocks.

That was his big sister tied up there, waiting for the rocks to hit her in the face because Levi and his Bible said so. It just didn’t figure. And here Jacob was, only just now coming to terms with that.

He hadn’t read much other than the Bible–books were hard to come by. They were supposed to burn any worldly literature they found in some heathen’s living room after getting their killing done. Same for electronic stuff, which didn’t work anyhow without power. The last time he saw anything from what still made it onto the Internet was the day before they headed out of Harrison. The words of Scripture–especially Deuteronomy, of course–oozed across his mind with little else there as competition. The Hardings, father and now the son after him, boomed out those words day after day, making you sick of the hearing of it. But nothing else seemed worth considering.

A few stray ideas from the old world had gotten through to Jacob back when he was little, though, past the home-schooling wall. He knew people didn’t act this way before the tribulation. Maybe they didn’t act this way now, past these hills.

Levi did a big overhand throw of his arm, leaning back and all, and hurled his rock, missing Leah entirely. She lifted her head back up, spitting out angry words that Jacob barely remembered from the old world. “You fuckers”, she shouted at the men, her voice shrieking angry and clear above the thud-thud-whack of the rocks that started landing hard on her head and chest. “Fuck you! Fuck you all!

Maybe she really hadn’t been a virgin. Yeah, fuckers, fuck you all, Jacob repeated in silence to the men hurling rocks at her–their father, too–and the compliant women watching behind them. He liked the sound of the profanity in his head. He almost opened his mouth to let it out, loud and strong like his sister. But then he would’ve been tied to that tree next, for rebellion.9 Levi would be looking hard for that kind of thing from him now.

There was sort of a pause as the men reloaded their arms with their remaining rocks. Leah’s voice slurred into a long raspy howl as her mouth gaped open, her jaw probably broken now. Levi watched from the porch with folded arms. Jacob stared at his sister, his crude and brave and dying sister, and did not look away. Not from the blood that was trickling out of her nose and gaping mouth. Not from the one eye that was now hooded and bruised. He thought he saw blood coming from there, too. A spinning piece of shale caught her on the cheek, tearing open another gash. A couple of crows rustled and flew out of the pines behind her, spooked by all the noise.

Then the dark and jagged hailstorm opened up again. He watched Leah’s body jerk and flinch and sag with each impact. Every line and color and detail was vivid, and impossibly wrong. He’d seen stonings before, but this one he would remember. There was no call for this. He decided with a sudden spurt of silent rebellion, unfamiliar and shocking and strong in his throat, that he would make it right somehow.

The howling finally stopped. Leah stared up at the sky through the one open eye, her final act a breaking of the endless rules. Jacob figured the last thing she saw was the sun, burning its forbidden image onto her retina until her head slumped forward and hung against her chest, bleeding.


Next day was Sabbath. They’d had to work fast to get the body buried before sundown. Jacob had held back from the shoveling, his eyes tearing up even though he didn’t want them to, something lit inside him that wasn’t there before. He didn’t look at Levi or Caleb or his father. He planned not to speak to any of them again more than necessary. He was none too happy with his friends who’d also thrown their rocks, but he understood they were just part of it all, like he’d always been.

After Levi’s sermon–shorter than usual, owing to all the commotion–Jacob walked down to the river with his Bible and saw Emma sitting there, leaning against the cliff. She wasn’t far from where he’d knocked out some of the shale. It was hot already but of course she wore the same dress and long sleeves. He wouldn’t be here if any girls were swimming.

“You all right?” Emma asked, squinting up at him.

He sat as near her as respectable. “Naw, not really. Being honest.”

“No shame in it. Your sister and all.”

How much could he say to her? There’d always be a risk with any frank talk, but they’d been sweet for a year now and she was always going to be sort of an outsider anyhow.

She and her mother had been squatters at Dogpatch USA, in a pretty good spot right by the Wild Water Rampage pond with a garden going and everything. The chosen people camped there on the way out of Harrison and wanted some spotters posted on top of the waterslide. It was still in one piece. They found Emma’s mom in her shed at the bottom, pretty much undressed in the heat. One of the spotters really liked what he saw. The rest of it got kind of ugly but Levi’s dad sorted things out with a Bible passage that said you could take a beautiful woman as a captive and make her your wife. When they finally made it here to the river, after her month of mourning had gone by, the guy had his way with her and that went about as badly as one would expect, too. But after all that, he wound up letting her go and it was just Emma and her mom ever since.10

“Gotta say,” Jacob finally allowed, “it don’t sit right with me. Been giving it some thought, and what happened to your mom don’t sit right either.”

She studied his face. “Jacob Davis, that really you talking?”

“Something’s just not right about it. Your mom getting dragged here and raped neither.” The word raped hung awkward in the air, not forbidden but not commonly encountered either, like yesterday’s accusing bedsheet slumped on the porch. Jacob looked back at Emma hard and slowly put his Bible down in the grass, as far away as his arm would reach. Not something he wanted nearby just then.

Emma broke the stare and looked around. There was nobody else here yet. That itself was a bit out of line, the two of them being alone like this. “I don’t like to think about it. It just is.”

“It got you here, at least.”

She reached across the space between them and put her hand on his, briefly. “Glad I got you, whatever else happened,” she said. “You tell me whatever you want, but some things you ought not say generally.”

“I know. I won’t.”

They sat quiet for a while, looking up and down the river and along the ridge for strangers, a habit long established and kept up even with less fighting breaking out nowadays. At this particular moment, they were watching for familiar faces, too. This conversation was on dangerous footing.

Emma slid a few inches closer to Jacob, turning toward him. He did not draw back. “I didn’t like seeing it neither, Jacob. No concern of mine if she’d slept with a man before. And mama said the sheet don’t always tell the story.”

Jacob wanted desperately to kiss her. She was very close. “I wouldn’t tell nobody, no matter what the sheet said.”

“I know,” she said, a smile flickering along those lips Jacob was studying, then going right out. “Listen. You maybe oughta do something.”

This surprised him. Do something? What could he possibly do? He wasn’t keen on getting acquainted with those rocks or a round from Levi’s remaining stockpile of 223 Remington. Then he heard rustling along the path and stood up fast, continuing to ponder the question as he picked up his Bible and got some proper space between him and Emma. He made for the cabin, nodding to two girls who emerged from the brush where the path opened up. Emma’s eyes were still on him every time he looked back.

When he got to the cabin, his options for the rest of the Sabbath were to sit on the porch and stare at the pines, go see his friends and do pretty much the same thing with them, talk to his father, or just read his Bible. He sure didn’t want to talk to his father right now, or his friends.

It was when he got to reading that the idea of what to do made its way into his head. He was thumbing through Deuteronomy (what else?) and all of a sudden started trying very hard to remember a sticker he’d seen on the bumper of a rusted-out car in the weeds somewhere. Probably during a salvage run down to Jasper with his father. The sticker said something about the end of the world and repent now before it’s too late. What was memorable about it was that there had been a particular date included.

Jacob couldn’t remember the date, but it was in the past even when he was checking out the car and he wondered what the people who put that bumper sticker on there thought after the Last Day came and went. Maybe they’d already junked the car by then. He’d always looked forward to the end of days, because when it finally came the chosen people would get their chance to really reconstruct society and get it all brought under Christ’s dominion.11 God’s Kingdom wouldn’t just be in this Hill Country anymore. Jacob figured that might make all the rules and unpleasant judgments worthwhile.

But the thing was that the date had come and gone. Here was the passage he had been thinking of: “But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.”12 The prophet shall die. Jacob really liked the sound of that. It gave him a strong feeling that was all happy and angry at the same time to think of Levi tied to that snag where Leah was. He liked the feeling a lot right now.

He’d read this verse a bunch of times along with all the rest of it, not paying much attention. But remembering the bumper sticker is what made him think of it now, along with the next part: “And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken?”13

It was a question, and a pretty good one, he thought: How d’you know if God said it when you only hear it from somebody who clearly ain’t God? Jacob wasn’t much for coming up with questions, or even daring to ask the ones that presented plain as day.

And then the Bible answered its own question, right there in the next verse. Jacob gave the text some considerable study, reading it over and over again: “When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.”14

If the thing follow not, nor come to pass. He looked up and smiled and finally noticed that it was getting dark. Sabbath was over. He didn’t have to just sit here and read anymore. But he stayed on the bed and thought and thought. He really wanted to not be afraid of the prophet anymore, as much as he wanted to see him tied up to that tree.


Congregational lunch at the ridge house was usually something Jacob looked forward to. It was a chance to eat well despite the lean times and hear the latest news about God’s curses on the world outside the Hill Country. In between all the prayers and Bible and serious talk, there’d be swapping of everyday stories and even some laughs. Plus, they were letting him sit by Emma now, as their courting was well established and this was about the safest place around for them to be near each other.

But Jacob Davis was no longer the wide-eyed kid he’d been all the other times here. He was disgusted at the way he’d sat in awe of Levi and Caleb, wondering if he might someday get called into the inner circle. He was ashamed at how hard he’d worked at doing all the right things and letting all the right people see it. Kissing ass is how Leah would’ve put it, with the former Jacob shaking his head and telling her not to talk that way. Well, the only ass-kissing he was going to do now was what it took to stay alive and carry out his plan.

Levi made his grand appearance and did his prayer and sat himself down at the head of the long table in the main room. After an amen and respectable silence, everybody else pulled out their chairs and sat down, too. It was the inner circle guys at the main table, plus the rotation of a few everyday members there, with everybody else at tables on the deck and in the other rooms. For an Ozark vacation house, it did serve its modified purpose pretty well.

Jacob wasn’t particularly surprised that he been invited to the big table this time. It gave Levi a way to make an appeasement gesture and also probe him for signs of rebellion. Jacob’s father, who had been stupidly happy about the invitation but otherwise allowed Jacob his silence after the stoning, sat across the table from him. Emma was of course seated next to Jacob, with one of the respectable ladies on her other side to make woman talk while the menfolk pondered deeper matters. Emma’s mother never came to the lunches and nobody pressed her on it.

The Harding servants15 brought the food out from the kitchen–hominy, cooked greens with eggs, venison, and pork chops.16 Jacob took one of the chops as the plate made its way down to him and remembered yet another heated discussion at Levi’s house in Harrison. He knew his Bible even back then and followed most of what was said.

Some of the men said Jesus overrode Deuteronomy when it came to what you could eat.17 The others reminded everybody what the Biblical Blueprint Series said about the Old and New Testaments. One guy kept quoting the line Jacob knew all too well: “God’s counsel and judgments are not divided!”18 That old coot probably couldn’t even taste bacon anymore. Somebody else wondered if Deuteronomy really needed to be taken “whole hog” when it came to the rules even Jesus said weren’t important. Then Levi’s dad recalled that the guy who edited Biblical Blueprint figured the food laws didn’t apply, and that was the view that finally won out.19 Truth be told, the whole thing might’ve come down to hunger more than doctrine: There’d been a lot of hogs left rooting around when they got done burying the bodies.

Jacob chewed on his pork chop. They’d need to find some more salt soon. He thought about the way everybody held real strong to the Old Testament at this table, except when it came to things they liked being able to eat. He hoped they wouldn’t make that kind of an exception when it came to what he was planning.

The clanking of dishes and silverware died down and Levi made a comment about being thankful for the food God had given, amen, along with his usual rant about the ungodly starving masses getting what was coming to them, sweating it out and dying down in the cities. “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them!” he recited.20

Amen, everybody answered, at all the tables inside and out on the deck. Amen, Jacob agreed, loud enough for Levi to notice. He did, and smiled down the table from his big chair.

William Duncan leaned forward, looked left and right and then at Levi. “We sure got knowance a’ the curses of the Almighty down there, sir.” A veteran ass-kisser, this good ol’ boy was. Inner circle, tight with Levi’s dad back in the day. Didn’t seem to bother him how young the new prophet in that chair was–it was sir this and sir that, from the get-go.

Levi twisted to face Duncan and leaned sideways onto an elbow, padded armrest holding his weight, hands folded. “What ya’ll seen, Bill?”

“We hadta go all the ways to Harrison last holin’ up run. Sir, it’s bad. Real bad. Slathers a’ skeletons everywhere. More dead than alive nowadays. Folks’ve taken to eatin’ whatever they kin find, and it ain’t much. Nossir, I reckon the women eatin’ their afterbirth ain’t long in comin’.”21

“So it’s finally come to that.”

“Yessir, it has. Even hotter’n here, a’course, an’ humid as all get-out besides. Death hangin’ in the air. Sickness an’ hunger. Was real glad to see the camp of the saints again, lemme tellya sir.” Duncan speared another chunk of venison from a plate nearby. Jacob could not recall him ever eating the pork, come to think of it.

“Afterbirth,” Levi said, shaking his head.

“Not right seen that particular thing yet, sir, I was just sayin’ . . . ”

“No, no, I get it, Bill.” Levi unclasped his hands and interrupted Duncan with a little sideways wave. “It’s OK, you just got me thinking there.”

The table waited through a pause and Duncan chewed his venison and then Levi added, “Birth pangs. Beginning of sorrows. The great tribulation. May we soon see it. We join John in saying, ‘Even so, come, Lord Jesus!’”

As those present said Amen, Jacob felt a tap on his foot and turned to Emma. She was looking at him very serious and she mouthed the word Now. Now? She’d been the one counseling patience when they went over his plan the other night. He was pleased at how much she’d liked it, and didn’t mind much at all when she added ideas that, he had to admit, were pretty good. But this could take weeks, maybe months, she’d warned. Gotta get this right, there won’t be a second chance.

He kept looking at her. Now, her mouth went again.

It made sense, he supposed, with the end times talk going on right then, though that was fairly common at this table. He wondered what made Emma so sure that the moment was right. This was a big step. He didn’t feel ready. Maybe he never would. He kept looking at her. She nodded just a little at him. It was time, she was telling him. Now.

Jacob stirred up everything inside himself and sat up straighter and looked down the table at Levi and heard his voice stick itself deep into the silence. “Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.” He could fetch up some Revelation when the occasion arose, he could. Not bad at all. “Praise the Lord,” he said, extending an open hand toward Levi, “for blessing us with a prophet to render his righteous judgments and tell the signs of the times!”

It wasn’t exactly speaking out of turn, sounding off like that with a Bible quote and all, right after Levi. But it sure wasn’t expected. There was a surprised little Amen from those at the big table–the others held off. Levi took in Jacob’s eyes and said, “Glad to hear you say it, Jacob. Friend and brother.”

“I feel moved to do so, sir.” Jacob held out both hands over the table. “The Lord has preserved us through his chosen prophets in perilous times.” He opened his hands wider, palms upward. There was spirit to be caught here, supplication. He had to make this look good. Just one chance.

Then Emma said Amen, alone, with the others joining after a moment, weak and hesitant. Levi looked over at her, then back at Jacob. Was that a smirk on his face, or just a pleased smile bestowed upon members of his loyal flock? Too late to back out now.

Jacob got to his feet, arms going wide, one hand grabbing Emma’s. Emma took his hand firm and reached her other one over to the woman whose garden she’d been discussing. The woman had been a Pentecostal before gathering with the chosen, and that was a lucky break. When Emma got up, the woman did, too, right away. There was prayin’ and swayin’ to be done. Across the table, Jacob’s father got hold of the spirit and beamed. His son had finally seen the wisdom of God’s ways, far above our own, hallelujah. He stood, too.

Levi looked up at everybody standing around him, even Bill Duncan half out of his chair. It would not look good for the prophet to be the only one still seated at such a moment. He grabbed Duncan’s hand and Caleb’s on his other side and stood.

Jacob listened to the creaking and rustling of everybody standing now. Outside on the deck, he saw silhouettes hand in hand against the sunlit trees. “Praise the Lord Almighty,” he said. “For the wisdom of his prophet in this blessed land of hills. Praise him! Unto him and the prophet be praise, Amen!”

He got a nice strong Amen this time. It must have seemed official enough now. Levi, after all, was standing and holding hands in the chain, too. Jacob winced at having just called for all that praise unto the prophet along with God himself–not exactly biblical–but it’d probably be OK.

“Lord, we seek guidance from your holy prophet!” he said, looking upwards. The view to heaven was blocked by the varnished wood of Levi’s vaulted ceiling. Others started looking up as well. “‘Many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many,’ says your Holy Word. But not here, Lord, not here!”

Levi’s black eyebrows furrowed at Jacob, who continued his frantic petition to the ceiling. “We see the tribulation of these days. Past the hills are famines and pestilences. Great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” He’d read Matthew 24 a few times yesterday, expecting he might need it. “And now,” he said, moving his eyes slowly down, sliding them over to Levi, “we ask, Lord, to know the day when Jesus returns. The very day.”

“Ye know not what hour your Lord doth come,” Levi said. He knew his Matthew, too.

“Lord, enlighten your prophet as to the day and the hour,” Jacob asked the ceiling. “That we might prepare ourselves.” Then he shook and flailed, struck hard by the spirit. He began swaying, and Emma backed him up with her own powerful burst of spirit and then the once-Pentecostal lady did some swaying of her own. Jacob’s father had tears streaming down his face, and his hands that had also thrown the rocks started pulling left and right on the chain of hands from his side of the table, too. There was pulling from both sides of the table and much praise directed upwards, not just from Jacob and Emma anymore, and finally all of it got Levi moving as well.

Jacob let it go on for a few moments and then shook his hands free. He kicked his chair out of the way and let himself collapse into a broken heap beside the table, wailing as loud as he could manage. “The day and the hour!” he cried.

“The day and the hour, Lord!” Emma joined in, and it did not take more than once or twice more and then everybody except Levi was shouting, in full-throated gospel cadence, “The day and the hour, Lord! The day and the hour!” And then it stopped and all was silent except for Jacob’s sobbing, authentic now in terror at what he’d made himself do.


The day and the hour, determined by Levi during a prophetic moment following the outburst at the ridge house, took a good fifteen months to arrive. Jacob and Emma had about died with suspense wondering if he’d follow through. But the combination of expectation and ego, stirred up with some powerful spirit, proved irresistible. When everybody had sat back down and Jacob got himself pulled back together, Levi closed his eyes and held up his arms for some long minutes and then informed his flock precisely when the end of days would occur.

Jacob found two occasions to repeat the date out loud before everybody finally got up from the long table. He wanted the day if not the hour carefully noted by all present. And then he dove straight into helping his beloved prophet–friend and brother–prepare for the imminent end.

It was a hard slog, but Jacob’s hide and happiness depended on him kissing Levi’s prophetic ass longer and more convincingly than he ever could have imagined. In the darkest hours of the nights following all the stressful days of holing up stores and praying, he found an outlet for the stress in Emma. He was unable to propose marriage considering the times and Paul’s example.22 But the two of them experienced a surprising lack of guilt about following through with the consummation nonetheless, on some old quilts Emma stashed a safe distance down the river.

Then the day and the hour came, and went. Neither he nor Emma was greatly surprised. But Jacob, actor and survivor, went full-on apocalyptic about it, bewailing their continued presence with no Jesus in sight. He walked from house to cabin to shack, banging on doors and yelling about false prophecy to the occupants while jabbing an accusing finger at his hand-printed calendar. All the days after the prophesied one he’d dramatically marked out in black, and yet there they stood–Jacob and whichever puzzled members of the chosen he was talking to–looking at the blacked-out date right in front of them. They heard no trumpets, just insects in the tall grass that kept right on growing.


To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence.23 Jacob turned the Lord’s words over in his mind, savoring them, keeping a piece of them for himself. It ain’t just yours, Lord, he thought, watching Levi’s head sag against his bloodied chest, picking up one last rock from the porch, feeling the heft and sharp edges of it in his hand before he raised his arm to throw.

This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance between characters and living persons is purely coincidental.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB unless otherwise indicated. Quotes in the story narrative are from the KJV; the Deuteronomic Church of Holy Reconstruction would no doubt be sticklers for the King James translation.


  1. Deut. 2:34 (“So we captured all his cities at that time and utterly destroyed the men, women and children of every city. We left no survivor”). 

  2. Deut. 22:20-21 (“But if this charge is true, that the girl was not found a virgin, then they shall bring out the girl to the doorway of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death because she has committed an act of folly in Israel by playing the harlot in her father’s house; thus you shall purge the evil from among you”). 

  3. Deut. 4:19 (“And beware not to lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven”). 

  4. Deut. 6:4 (“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!”), 9:1 (“Hear, O Israel! You are crossing over the Jordan today to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, great cities fortified to heaven”), 11:11 (“But the land into which you are about to cross to possess it, a land of hills and valleys, drinks water from the rain of heaven”). 

  5. Deut. 1:20-21 (“I said to you, ‘You have come to the hill country of the Amorites which the LORD our God is about to give us. See, the LORD your God has placed the land before you; go up, take possession, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has spoken to you. Do not fear or be dismayed.’”), 30 (“The LORD your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes”). 

  6. Deut. 5:32-33 (“So you shall observe to do just as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left. You shall walk in all the way which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you will possess”). 

  7. Deut. 7:1-2 (“When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them”). 

  8. Deut. 22:21 (KJV). 

  9. Deut. 17:12 (“The man who acts presumptuously by not listening to the priest who stands there to serve the LORD your God, nor to the judge, that man shall die; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel”), 21:18-21 (“If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his hometown. They shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear of it and fear”). 

  10. Deut. 21:10-14 (“When you go out to battle against your enemies, and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take them away captive, and see among the captives a beautiful woman, and have a desire for her and would take her as a wife for yourself, then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and trim her nails. She shall also remove the clothes of her captivity and shall remain in your house, and mourn her father and mother a full month; and after that you may go in to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. It shall be, if you are not pleased with her, then you shall let her go wherever she wishes; but you shall certainly not sell her for money, you shall not mistreat her, because you have humbled her”). 

  11. Julie J. Ingersoll, Building Gods Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstruction (Oxford University Press, 2015), p. 37. 

  12. Deut. 18:20 (KJV). 

  13. Deut. 18:21 (KJV). 

  14. Deut. 18:22 (KJV). 

  15. Deut. 12:12 (“And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates, since he has no portion or inheritance with you”), 18 (“you and your son and daughter, and your male and female servants”). 

  16. Brian C. Campbell, “‘Closest to Everlastin’: Ozark Agricultural Biodiversity and Subsistence Traditions,” Southern Spaces (University of Central Arkansas, Sept. 20, 2010). 

  17. Mark 7:19. 

  18. Ingersoll at pp. 54-55, quoting the Biblical Blueprint Series edited by Gary North of Fayetteville, Arkansas: “We must never doubt that whatever God did in the Old Testament era, the Second Person of the Trinity also did. God’s counsel and judgments are not divided . . . . If we as Christians can accept what is a very hard principle of the Bible, that Christ was a blood sacrifice for our individual sins, then we shouldn’t flinch at accepting any of the rest of God’s principles. As we joyfully accepted His salvation, so we must joyfully embrace all of His principles that affect any and every area of our lives.” 

  19. Gary North, “The Annulment of the Dietary Laws,”
    I.C.E. Position Paper No. 2 (Nov. 1984),​freebooks/docs/a_pdfs/​newslet/position/​8411.pdf

  20. Deut. 27:26 (KJV). 

  21. Deut. 28:56-57 (the “refined and delicate woman” will be hostile “toward her afterbirth which issues from between her legs and toward her children whom she bears; for she will eat them secretly for lack of anything else”). 

  22. 1 Cor. 7:29 (“But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none”). 

  23. Deut. 32:35 (KJV).