Spring planting would begin soon and it was time to make the yearly sacrifice. Pagiel’s father had died so it was now his job to make the pilgrimage to the Temple. At age 19 he had never been to Jerusalem, but he had heard the stories. He took a donkey loaded with grain offerings and led a lamb by a rope fastened around its neck.
After several days, Pagiel joined several other pilgrims who were also on their way to Jerusalem.
“What is your name young traveler?” A large man asked.
“Pagiel, son of Tola” Pagiel replied.
“Tola?” The man’s eyes brightened. “Of the Shelah clan?”
“Yes! Do you know him?”
“We fought in the war together. My name is Elizur” the man smiled.
“God asks little of us Pagiel son of Tola. He pours blessings on those who know how to make the right sacrifices. I have gone to Jerusalem every year and never has my family gone without food. Ba’al brings the rain and The Lord God keeps the Philistines away.”
“You sacrifice to Ba’al?” Pagiel asked, surprised.
“Of course young man as did your father. Ba’al is the king of the winds and the rain. If you want a fertile soil you sacrifice to him, everyone does.” An awkward silence followed. Pagiel expected someone to confront Elizur but no one did.
Elizer had never seen as many people as he did on Mount Zion. He followed Elizur through the city to the temple.
“That is an Asheroth Poll” Elizur said pointing to a tall wooden poll that stood outside the temple walls. “That’s where we make sacrifices to Ba’al.” Pagiel stared at the intricate carvings that covered the length of the poll. The people around it were smiling and seemed to be having a great time.
“Welcome to the sacred meeting place, would you like to make an offering?” Pagiel turned to see a young veiled woman. Pagiel stammered not knowing how to respond. “Have you ever offered a sacrifice to Ba’al before?” The girl asked with a smile in her eyes.
“Uh, no” Pagiel replied, not wanting to appear ignorant.
“We ask Ba’al for blessing though both offerings and a demonstration of what we wish him to do for us.” The girl looked Pagiel in the eyes. “What would you like Ba’al to do for you?”
“Can he really bring rain and make the soil fertile?” Pagiel asked. The girl laughed.
“Of course! Why else is everyone here? Give me your lamb and we will ask Ba’al together.” She led him through the crowds to a tent attached to the outside of the temple wall. Come, lay with me and we will show Ba’al what we want him to do for your farm. Let us drink our fill of love and fulfill all righteousness. She took off her veil revealing to Pagiel one of the prettiest faces he had ever seen. He wanted to say “no” but everything in him cried “yes.” His field needed rain and this was just too easy not to try.
The next morning Pagiel felt nothing but a cold numbness. The girl gave him a wooden figurine that she said would allow Ba’al to find him for blessing. Pagiel tucked it into his saddlebag as he led his donkey into the temple courtyard. He gave the grain offering to the Levites who looked somewhat surprised that he didn’t have a lamb but they didn’t say anything about it. “I guess I can please both gods.” He thought as he headed for home.
As he headed for home he passed a disheveled man shouting in the streets about idolatry, the wickedness of temple prostitutes and a coming judgment. Everyone ignored him and Pagiel decided to do the same.