8

Yeoman for Caiaphas

Clearing his throat as he walked, the priest began, "My name is Haman, and I have been in charge of keeping the records stored in this room for the past twenty years. Recently, I was notified by Caiaphas that he wants me to turn the room over to a yeoman, so I can spend more time at our booths in the Temple."

Having reached the shelf, Haman pulled a scroll from one of the pigeonholes and unrolled it on the stand-up table in the center of the room. "This scroll is a record of our cattle. You can see what our buying and selling prices have been. As you work with the records, you will find a scroll for sheep and another for wheat."

"So there is a scroll for each of the farm products?"

"Yes, but that isnít all. There is a scroll that lists all the people on the compound, both slave and free. There are records for the raw materials and for the sold linens. The high priest gets some money from that collected at the temple, but in order to maintain this household, we must make a profit in our buying and selling."

"Where do you get the numbers to enter in the records?"

"As yeoman, you will be doing much of the buying and selling, so you will have the figures. Any others involved in our commerce will tell you. Do you have any questions?

"Not yet. Maybe once I look more closely at the records Iíll have a few."

"I hope you understand that I am a bit reluctant to turn this responsibility over to a young gentile, but what do I know? Caiaphas is the high priest around here, and what he says goes. I just follow orders."

"I understand your concern, but I donít think there is as much to fear as you believe."

"Time will tell, wonít it?"

"Iíll do my best, sir."

"Well, letís hope your best is good enough."

"Yes, sir."

Haman scrutinized Malchus for any flaws, then turned to place some of the scrolls back in their pigeonholes.

"Now you stay here and examine each scroll. That will get you familiar with the operation. In a few hours Iíll return to see how you are coming along."

When the door closed behind Haman, Malchus unrolled one of the scrolls in front of him and began the slow, tedious task of reviewing it in Hebrew. After Malchus had read through about half of them, Haman returned to tell him that it was time for lunch.

"You can go out the same way you came in and walk around back for your food. Caiaphas has let me know that he would like to talk to you later this afternoon."

Once outside Malchus breathed a little more freely. "Haman was sure uptight about me taking over the scrolls," he thought to himself. As he rounded the corner of the main house, he saw Clement and Elmo in line at the kitchen door and hailed them.

Once he had gone through the line, he joined them in the tool shed. Their familiar faces made him feel at ease.

"So," began Clement, "how is Caiaphasís yeoman?"

"The yeoman is fine. It is Haman that Iím concerned about."

"What did I tell you?" exclaimed Elmo. "He is some peculiar character."

"Well, he certainly is skeptical about me handling the scrolls. I guess since he has been doing it for twenty years, it is hard for him to relinquish his duties."

"I wonder why Caiaphas is getting rid of him?" Clement asked. "Maybe he suspects that Haman has been dipping into the pot himself at times."

"Yeah, maybe that is why he spends so much time in that little room. He is probably trying to cover up his tracks in the records," glimmered Elmo as if he thought he were a detective uncovering some important clue in an unsolved mystery.

"Now wait just one second here," said Malchus calmly. "We have convicted and hung the poor guy before he has even been brought to trial. Iíve been through half of the records already, and I havenít seen anything that looks like incriminating evidence."

"Maybe itís because you arenít experienced enough," chided Elmo.

"That has nothing to do with it. It doesnít take experience to see if someone has scratched a figure out or not."

"Letís hope you arenít being set up by Haman. He is quite a crafty fellow," said Clement in a low voice, so no one outside the tool shed would hear him.

"Listen, I think you two are taking your suspicions about Haman a bit too far. He is an unusual fellow, but I think we need to give him the benefit of the doubt in this situation. Maybe he is just an exceptionally hard worker. In any case, I will be seeing Caiaphas this afternoon, and he will explain a little more to me about my new job."

After finishing eating, Clement and Elmo returned to the stables and Malchus to the record room. Malchus went right to the scrolls and looked them over for any sign of figures that might have been changed, but found nothing that looked unusual. The afternoon was half gone when Malchus was interrupted by the guard who came to say that Caiaphas was ready to see him.

The grandeur of the Great Hall was more striking than Malchus remembered from his first visit. As he sat in the chair opposite Caiaphasís desk, his eyes examined the finely woven hanging cloths and the gold canisters positioned along the walls.

Caiaphas began, "I have instructed Haman to show you the scrolls that record all business transactions for the compound. As yeoman you will keep these records. You will also be responsible for negotiating with the traders for goods of all kinds."

"Do the traders all come to Jerusalem?"

"Most do, but several times a year you will go to Caesarea to buy and sell with traders who work from their ships tied up in the harbor. Clement and Elmo will go with you to help with the donkeys and carts. As a matter of fact, you should plan a trip to the port in the next few weeks."

"What kinds of goods do we buy?"

"Just about anything that will turn a profit. Tomorrow I will have Haman take you to the marketplace here in Jerusalem to buy from the traders that have come to our city. He will also show you some of the booths in the Temple where we sell animals for sacrifice. We make a nice profit on the animals, especially on the doves for the poor. They have the highest markup. Now do you have any questions?"

"Will Clement and Elmo know that they are expected to go with me to Caesarea?"

"Those two slaves will be told that they report to you and that they are to do whatever you tell them. You will need to learn a little about the cattle and sheep so you can direct the buying, selling, and caring for the animals. Do you have any more questions?"

"None that I can think of at the moment."

"Fine, then that is all I have to say. You are dismissed."

Malchus returned to the record room and finished reviewing the scrolls before the evening meal, where he met again with Clement and Elmo in the tool shed. He held off telling them what Caiaphas had said, figuring that they would find out soon enough.

After the meal, they stopped at the stable to be sure that the livestock all had water. Malchus continued walking on to his room. The sun was setting on the hillside when he thought to himself, "Father would be proud if he knew of the responsibility I have. Iíll treat Clement and Elmo just as he treats his soldiers, so they will work for me out of respect rather than fear. Someone has to be the leader, and my father has trained me to be one. Iím looking forward to the challenge. I wonder if Ruth and Rachel have heard yet?"

The busy days as yeoman filled the week. Soon the month had come and gone. Malchus knew that it was past the time for him to make a trip to Caesarea, so in his mind he began the preparations. He would make it a point to talk to Clement and Elmo about the trip soon.

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