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Books by Connilyn Cossette

Out From Egypt
Counted With the Stars
Shadow of the Storm
Wings of the Wind

Cities of Refuge
A Light on the Hill

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Cities of R efuge • 1

on the

Connilyn Cossette

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© 2018 by Connilyn Cossette

Published by Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South
Bloomington, Minnesota 55438

Bethany House Publishers is a division of
Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Printed in the United States of America

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval
system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy,
recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is
brief quotations in printed reviews.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Cossette, Connilyn, author.
Title: A light on the hill / Connilyn Cossette.
Description: Minneapolis, Minnesota : Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing
Group, [2018] | Series: Cities of refuge ; 1
Identifiers: LCCN 2017036489| ISBN 9780764219863 (softcover) | ISBN
9780764231483 (hardcover : acid-free paper)
Subjects: LCSH: Bible. Old Testament—History of Biblical events—Fiction. |
GSAFD: Christian fiction. | Bible fiction.
Classification: LCC PS3603.O8655 L54 2018 | DDC 813/.6—dc23
LC record available at

Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible®, copyright © 1960, 1962,
1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by
permission. (

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the
author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events
or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Cover design by Jennifer Parker
Cover photography by Mike Habermann Photography, LLC
Map illustration by Samuel T. Campione

Author is represented by The Steve Laube Agency.

18 19 20 21 22 23 24   7 6 5 4 3 2 1

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To Collin,
whose multitude of freckles are more precious
than all the stars in the universe.
Being called your mother is a precious gift
and a high honor.

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Then the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying, “Speak to the sons of Is-
rael, saying, ‘Designate the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to
you through Moses, that the manslayer who kills any person un-
intentionally, without premeditation, may flee there, and they shall
become your refuge from the avenger of blood.’”
Joshua 20:1–3

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1406 BC
The priest’s kohl-lined eyes glazed over as he held the iron brand
in the center of cedar-fueled flames. Pressing my back against the
column I was tied to, I clawed my nails into the wood.
“It will be over soon, little Hebrew,” said the man with painted
lips, blood-red and curving with false tenderness. “And then you
will belong to our Great Goddess, Ashtoreth.” He gestured to the
crescent moon hovering low in the black sky. “There is no greater
mistress. No higher calling than to be one with the Divine Lady of
the Night. The Queen of Heaven. The Consort of Our Lord Ba’al.”
From the moment my friend Alanah and I had been kidnapped
by Midianite traders from the Hebrew camp, I’d determined to cling
to Yahweh—to the hope that somehow my people would rescue us
from Jericho before they invaded. But after being stolen from the
home of Alanah’s sister Rahab, where we’d taken refuge for the past
few months, and tied to this Asherah pole in the courtyard of the
temple, I’d been forced to acknowledge that Yahweh may not have
heard my pleas, or deigned to answer.


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A L IG H T on the H I L L

“Stop toying with the girl, Reshbal. Finish it.” The ancient High
Priestess looked on from the bottom step of the temple porch, dis-
dain slathered across her face as thick as her overdone cosmetics.
She flicked hennaed talons at me. “The king wants her first thing
in the morning.”
The triumphant gleam in the woman’s black-rimmed eyes made
my skin prickle. What would they do to me after they branded me
like a beast? And why would the king of Jericho want to speak to a
thirteen-year-old girl?
The priest tipped his head to his mistress, lifted the rod from the
fire built upon a tall bronze brazier, and held it aloft as he sauntered
toward me, bare-chested and tattoos swirling down his arms and up
the sides of his shaved head. The branding iron glowed red-orange,
outlining the symbols of Ba’al and Ashtoreth that would forever
mark my flesh. I whimpered and slammed the back of my head
against the wood, gripping the carved surface with desperation.
If only there were something else to cling to instead of a towering
cedar pole engraved with hideous gods.
The man’s kohl-blackened brows, stark against his pale skin, lifted
as he dragged his dark eyes up and down my body. My shoulders
jerked forward, as if by curving inward I could shield myself from
his leering. Nausea flamed in my chest as my mind caught up with
their earlier conversation. Now I knew. I knew what their plans
were for me.
Yahweh! Yahweh!
“Now. My lovely. I would advise holding still. We wouldn’t want
those fascinating silver eyes to be blinded, would we? Turn your face
to the side now, like a good little girl.”
I could not have turned my head if I wanted to, convulsions
paralyzed me. Yahweh . . . Yahweh . . .
“Please . . .” The silent entreaty formed on my lips, and I tasted
the salt of my terror as tears slipped into my mouth. “No.”
The flames of the enormous brazier framed the priest on either


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Conn i ly n Cosse t t e

side and the temple loomed behind, a many-toothed monster of
stone and cedar waiting to consume me.
Yahweh . . . Yah . . . Even my prayers shuddered to a stop as the
priest lifted the brand in the air with one hand and shoved my cheek
against the column with a snarl. The metallic smell of the brand
filled my nostrils as he chanted a foul blessing to his foul goddess.
The metal slammed against my cheek, searing my flesh in an
explosion of pain that spiked to the soles of my feet and to every
fingertip. I screamed as my head jerked and the edge of the brand
slipped across the corner of my eyelid, digging fiery teeth into the
tender skin. My knees gave way and I slumped sideways, the rope
chafe on my wrists overtaken by fire-breathed agony. My addled
mind floated my parents’ images across my hazed sight. “Abba! Ima!”
I moaned, as if their hearts could hear my own. The fire dug deeper
into my skin. It would never stop burning.
Kill me. Kill me, Yahweh. Have mercy.
A shout echoed across the temple courtyard, but I could see
nothing past tears and fire. Someone was screaming at the priestess.
Someone whose voice reminded me of home. I managed to pry my
right eye open and push back against the haze that threatened to drag
me into unconsciousness and recoiled again at the sight before me.
Mercy had arrived—not in the form of relief from my blazing
torment, but in the form of an arrow through the eye of the priest
on the ground in front of me. . . . I blinked again, attempting to clear
my vision. . . . Alanah strode across the void, another copper-tipped
missile nocked in her bow, aimed directly at the High Priestess of


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7 Av
1399 BC
Shiloh, Israel
With one finger I followed the rippled path of shame down my
face. The scarred ridge of the crescent moon of Ashtoreth cupped
my cheekbone in a cruel embrace. One ray of the sun-wheel of Ba’al
above it slashed across the corner of my eyelid, a constant reminder
of how easily I could have been blinded when the High Priestess
ordered me branded as a temple slave seven years ago. The fact that
she’d been buried beneath the rubble of Jericho the next morning
was no consolation. It did not erase the false accusation permanently
burned into my skin—prostitute.
Shaking the word from my head, along with the memories of
my time of captivity in Jericho before it fell, I knelt in front of the
open-mouthed tannur oven. The flames that had sparked the horrific
memory had died down, the coals now pulsing a steady glow within.
After a wave of my hand over the embers to ensure the temperature
was even, I slapped a few circles of dough around the walls of the
oven and waited for them to begin to curl away from the blackened


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A L IG H T on the H I L L

surface. The smell of acrid smoke tinged with yeasty bread was a
comfort, completing the work of bringing me back to the present.
Built for some Canaanite woman and situated beneath a small
hole in the ceiling to release smoke, this round, clay oven was the
centerpiece of the house. Although I was grateful to no longer cook
our daily bread on a flat rock next to a campfire in the wilderness,
whenever I used the oven I wondered about the enemy woman whose
hands used to press dough to its sides. Had she too looked out the
same window, longing to be free of these four walls?
A sudden knock at the door halted my musings. I placed the
last round of warm bread into a basket, my heart tapping out a
tremulous beat as I called out “a moment please.” Then layering
my linen headscarf over my hair, I twisted, tucked, and tied until
most of my face was hidden behind a swath of sky blue. The ritual,
accomplished every day for the last seven years without a mirror,
was as familiar as it was frustrating. Only my eyes would be visible.
Nothing left to judge.
I unlatched the door and pulled it open a handspan, enough to
see that it was merely Yuval, my father’s steward. Relief steadied
my runaway pulse.
“Shalom.” He dipped his head with his usual deference, a few
threads of early silver hair glinting among his dark brown curls.
Although Yuval rarely smiled, his narrow-set brown eyes commu-
nicated kindness and patience with my reluctance to open the door
wider. “Your father asked that you come find him. He would like
to speak with you.”
“In the vineyard? Why?” For the past few weeks my father had
spent every waking moment among his vines, checking and recheck-
ing for the precise moment the grapes would be ready for harvest.
“He is not feeling poorly again, is he?”
My father’s most trusted servant shrugged without revealing his
thoughts, although his relaxed manner assured me the summons
was not overly urgent. Yuval would no more discuss my father’s


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Conn i ly n Cosse t t e

secrets than cut off his own hand, even with me. With a gesture
toward where I would find my father among the vines, he turned
and walked away, his loyalty intact. I longed to run after him and
beg for more information, but I could not chance coming across one
of the new field hands who had not seen me before. I’d had enough
of the staring and the pointing and the disparaging looks. These
walls were as much a refuge as they were a prison.
Stalling, I placed a few pieces of bread into a small basket for
my father, alongside a handful of briny olives and the herb-infused
goat cheese he loved wrapped in a square of linen. Then I scooped
the still-warm ashes from the oven into a large pot and tidied the
room until I had nothing else to prevent me from venturing outside.
With a white-knuckled grip on the door handle, I took a few slow,
deep breaths before stepping over the threshold into the blinding
sunlight, basket in hand. Only after scanning the field for move-
ment and listening for any nearby voices did I head for the place
Yuval had indicated, counting each step to keep my mind occupied.
Long lines of vines trailed past our home, drenched in sunlight
and heavy with fruit, sloping down the hillside. Just below the
boundaries of our land, the Mishkan perched atop a small rise,
the white linen fences of the Tent of Meeting undulating in the
ever-present breeze that whispered through this valley. Squinting,
I could still envision the shekinah presence of Yahweh that used to
hover over its black covering until we’d entered Canaan and now
resided only above the ark within the holiest place, hidden from view.
After searching row after row, I found my father with his back
toward me, his knowing hands surveying the fruit of his tireless
work of rebuilding the vineyard since the Amorites fled this valley
nearly four years ago, leaving many charred and burning fields in
their wake. Seeing the abundance possible after such deliberate
destruction by our enemies gave me hope that our people might
eventually flourish in this new land, yielding fruit for countless
generations to come.


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A L IG H T on the H I L L

I walked down the path shaded by sprawling, twisted vines, inhal-
ing the rich scent of the earth mixed with the sweet tinge of grapes
readying for harvest. My father’s workers had been harvesting the
crops and treading the grapes for days now. Only this small section
remained unharvested, the vines that had been planted from seeds
carried from Egypt. After three years of training the spindly new
tendrils on piled rocks and low fences, pruning carefully, nourish-
ing roots with ash, and coddling the buds when they finally poked
tentative faces toward the sun—his labors had finally yielded wine-
worthy grapes.
My abba had learned such techniques at the knee of his own
father, an Egyptian vintner who’d tended Pharaoh’s own vines and
who’d insisted he recite the steps, again and again, throughout the
forty years they’d traveled in the wilderness.
My grandfather, having joined the Hebrews during the Great
Exodus and committing his path to Yahweh, had hoped that some-
day his legacy would be planted in the Land of Promise—but his
own eyes never saw the day. Instead my father, born at the foot of
the mountain where our people entered into covenant with Yahweh,
had completed the journey for him.
“Will the field hands begin picking these today?” I grasped a
bunch, the red skins warm and silky in my palm. I twisted one of
the globes from its home and popped it into my mouth. Sweetness
exploded against my tongue, a reminder of the first time I’d ever
eaten a grape whisking through my memory—a tantalizing taste
while running through the Canaanite countryside with my friend
Alanah, as we had tried to find our way back to the Hebrew camps—
a moment that had sparked my fascination with every flavor and
texture available in this land.
My father hummed as he bit a grape in half and checked the
color of the flesh with his little finger. “Yes. These are finally ready.”
No matter that he was approaching his fiftieth year and that
his attire was thoroughly Hebrew, my father’s posture and lanky


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Conn i ly n Cosse t t e

build still announced his full-blooded Egyptian heritage. His black
hair, although silvering at the temples, was thick and bound at the
nape of his neck with a leather tie. His full beard brushed the top
of his broad chest. A sudden memory of tangling my small fingers
in his beard whispered through my mind, along with the honeyed
memory of my mother’s laughter at his ridiculous antics and loud
Since her death only a few months before, shortly after we’d left
Gilgal to join my father here in Shiloh, the vineyard had become his
solace. He buried his grief beneath the vines, watered the soil with
silent tears, and spent hours every day walking up and down the
rows, checking each plant with the same tenderness he’d offered my
frail mother as she’d withered into nothing after a sudden illness
had stripped her of strength.
Coming alongside him, I peered out of the corner of my eye to
catch the curve of his smile before it diminished beneath the weight
of his memories. What I wouldn’t do to hear the full breadth of his
enveloping laughter again. “She would have been so proud. I wish
she were here to see the first grapes from the seeds Grandfather
carried out from Egypt being harvested.”
The pause before he spoke was louder than his words, as was the
grief still fresh on his face. “As do I,” he said, reaching out to slip
his arm about my shoulder. “She had faith, even when I did not,
that this vineyard could be salvaged and that my father’s withered,
forty-year-old seeds would miraculously sprout.”
We stood together, breathing in tandem. The safety I’d always
felt beneath the shelter of my father’s arm was no different now than
it had been when I was a little girl. Even when I’d been a captive in
Jericho, I had only to summon the sensation of being tucked against
his body, with the warm rumble of his voice against my cheek, to
feel a measure of calm.
He cleared his throat before speaking. “Yehoshua will be calling
an assembly this afternoon.”


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A L IG H T on the H I L L

“Have the men surveying the tribal lands finally returned?” A
team of soldiers, mapmakers, and scribes—three men from each of
the seven tribes that had yet to receive their portion of the land—had
set out months ago to walk the length and breadth of this newly
conquered country. They had been due back for weeks and feared
captured along the way.
“They have.” His gaze slipped away from me and toward the
ground, his fingers feathering through the end of his long beard.
“Yehoshua has been debriefing them for the past couple of days.
Soon they will begin casting lots to determine which cities will be
allotted to each tribe.”
“So it will all be up to chance?”
“No, daughter, it will be up to Yahweh which tribe settles in
which area.”
“We won’t be forced to move, will we? Not after Yehoshua re-
warded you for your faithful service with this land? After all the
work you’ve done to revive this vineyard?”
“No. Shiloh is to remain the permanent home of the Mishkan,
a holy place tended by the Levites, and this vineyard will continue
to supply wine for the offerings and celebrations.”
“But aren’t you concerned that—”
He turned to me, cutting me off with a sweep of his long arm
toward the Mishkan. “Let us leave those worries to Yehoshua. For
now . . . I must speak with you about a matter.” He pulled in a
wavering breath through his nose, as if his thoughts pained him.
Worry pattered through my mind with quick steps. “Are you
feeling ill again?” I swayed toward him, hand outstretched to grasp
his. “The pain in your chest?” The image of my father, pale-faced,
sweat drenched, and gasping for breath a few weeks ago, surfaced.
Panic outpaced worry and my lungs constricted.
“Oh, no—No.” He squeezed my fingers with a reassuring smile.
“I am much stronger today than I have been in a long while. But . . .
the episode reminded me that I have been lacking in my duties.”


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“Your duties? There is no one that works harder than you in this
vineyard. Are you sure Yuval has enough men lined up to begin the
harvest? You must not overexert—”
“Moriyah,” he interrupted. “I am not speaking of my vineyard.
I am speaking of you.”
He curved a callused palm over my veiled cheek. “I must ensure
you are provided for, should I not recover next time.”
My limbs went slack, and I nearly dropped the food basket. “There
won’t be a next time. You said you are feeling stronger.”
“Daughter.” Censure lowered his voice. “I will not live forever.
Your brother is gone. Your younger sisters are all married. When
I am gathered to my fathers, you will have no one to care for you.”
The reminder of my older brother Shimon, killed in battle before
even setting foot in Canaan, pierced me through. If only he’d lived,
he would no doubt have protected and provided for his castoff sister.
Shimon had been a warrior, unwavering in his fierce defense of his
family and his God. The space he’d left behind still vibrated with
“I have Yahweh to care for me,” I said, feigning confidence. “And
perhaps one of the cousin’s families will allow me to live with them.
Elisheva in particular enjoys my cooking, and his wife is kind—”
My father shook his head, halting my arguments. “You need a
husband. This land is too perilous, my daughter. You must have
someone to protect you. I would be remiss as a father if I did not
ensure that you were safe. Cared for. You will be a wonderful mother.
At twenty years of age you should already be a mother.” His lips
flattened. “It is my fault that you are not.”
“It is not your fault that no one will have me, Abba. Nor your
fault that this happened.” I gestured to my veil. “You have tried
your best to find a match.” I shrugged the thought away. “It is no
use. This brand will forever mark me as a temple harlot. What man
would choose to bind himself to such?”


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A L IG H T on the H I L L

His eyes brightened, a secret brewing in their silver depths. “I
have found you a husband.”
“You what?” I tripped back a step. “But who?” At a loss for words,
and breath, I longed to yank the suffocating veil from my face.
“He is one of the men who has been surveying the land for Ye-
hoshua for the past few months. His father Pekah is a reputable
man of the tribe of Naftali—a man who fought well under the
leadership of Calev at the battle of Ai and sacrificed much. I have
come to know him quite well in the past few weeks.”
“But what of the son?” The words scratched to the surface. “Does
he know . . . ?” Instinct drew my hand to my cheek.
“He does. And he does not care.”
“But . . . why? When he has not even seen me, why would he
My father’s expression twisted with stark guilt. “I ensured your
dowry was sufficient.”
How much would cause a man to brush aside my affliction? “You
said all the gold our family carried from Egypt is gone. You used
the last of it to rebuild the vineyard.”
He paused, his gaze drifting over the valley. “I offered the vine-
yard itself.”
My hand flew to my veiled mouth. “Abba, no!”
“What use is a vineyard when I am in the grave? My firstborn
son is dead. It was always my plan to use this land to provide for
you, to ensure some man would . . .”
“Accept a wife with a blasphemous scar on her face?”
He lowered his voice. “Perhaps it is the vineyard he desires now, my
beautiful daughter. But no one could resist loving you, if they give it a
chance. I believe that Yahweh is providing a man who will see beyond
the veil, past the mark, and into your heart.” He pulled me close and
kissed my ruined cheek through the linen. “I will not let any harm
come to you, my beautiful daughter. I would give everything I have and
more to see you cared for and cherished, the way you deserve to be.”


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Lured by the inviting scent of leeks and onions, I paused at the
market stall to survey the farmer’s goods. The colorful array of
vegetables displayed on the table beckoned me, stirring ideas for new
dishes in my imagination. Lifting a head of red cabbage, I examined
it from every angle. Once satisfied with its weight, firmness, and
lack of browned edges, I offered the farmer’s wife a fair price for
it and for a bunch of leeks that was so fresh the soil on its tangled
roots was still damp.
With a nod of her white head and a smile, she accepted. I drank in
the kind gesture like cool water. So few people even bothered to look
me in the eye anymore, as if connecting with my gaze would taint
them somehow. Or perhaps to most people I was simply invisible.
Tucking the goods in the basket at my elbow, next to my other
purchases, I moved along to the next stall. Yuval walked beside me,
as he always did when I ventured to the crowded marketplace. If I
could avoid coming here to purchase ingredients, I would do so, but
the last two times I asked him to select a few things, I’d received
unripe fruit and flavorless spices. I needed to see, touch, smell, and


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A L IG H T on the H I L L

taste for myself. Besides, I had need of a distraction from thoughts
of my upcoming betrothal.
Due to the overwhelming business of completing the harvest and
preparing the wine, along with the ongoing negotiations between
the tribes over the land, formal introductions would not be made
until after the grape-harvest festival in a few days.
Despite my misgivings and questions about the man my father
had chosen for me, the bustle of the many bodies pressing in to
peruse the goods, the layered chatter, and the insistent bartering
made my blood race with anticipation. Since I’d been a small girl
and caravans of traders would come through the Hebrew camps
out in the wilderness, I’d always adored market days.
“Look, Yuval!” I gestured toward the next stand, which nearly
sagged beneath the weight of pots mounded high with spices. The
mingling of the disparate aromas enticed me, and I leaned in to
inhale the strangely pleasant combination. “What is this one?” I
asked the grizzled trader beside the booth.
“Cumin.” His rheumy eyes took in my veil with cool disaffection.
“Brought in from the western coast.”
“Such an interesting smell!” I gestured toward the tiny seedpods.
“May I?”
With a nod, he indicated that I was welcome to sample, so I
scooped up two seeds, smashed them between my fingers, and
then snaked my hand beneath my veil to taste. I closed my eyes,
imagining what flavors the cumin would pair best with. Lamb?
“Oh, I know!” I said to Yuval as I tucked my veil back into place,
as if he’d been privy to my imaginings. “I’ll use this spice in that
stew Ora loves so much. It will complement it so well!” I asked the
trader for two handfuls of the seedpods, and with a sniff he turned
to search out a square of linen to wrap them in.
Someone called out to Yuval, and we both turned to search out
the origin of the summons. One of my father’s young workers, barely


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Conn i ly n Cosse t t e

grown into his sparse beard, darted through the crowd to reach us.
“I was sent to find you. The largest of the treading vats cracked. Juice
is seeping into the ground. We need you!”
Yuval glanced at me with concern but I waved a hand. “Go! My
father is likely beside himself. He’ll need your expertise. I have only
a few more things to purchase. I’ll be fine.”
“Your father instructed me to ensure your safe return.”
Still raw from thoughts of my father’s decision to send me away,
I held back a loud sigh. “I will be fine. Go. Save the wine.”
“You will come straight back when you are finished?”
“I am a grown woman, Yuval.” I put a hand on my hip, frustration
building. “I made it out of Jericho alive, I am certain I can walk up
the hill on my own.”
Yuval scanned the market, his gaze wandering over the crowd
and whatever threat he perceived to be among them. But he nod-
ded his head and followed after the young man, the blue and white
tassels at the corners of his garment swaying with his long stride.
Since the day my father had spared his life during the invasion
of Shiloh, Yuval had been a loyal servant, even so far as abiding by
every Torah regulation—from wearing the tzitzit on his clothes in
reminder of the laws he’d vowed to follow, to circumcision, to wor-
shipping Yahweh alongside his master. He’d thrown off everything
of his former life to become an Israelite and was now four years into
a voluntary six-year indenture period. I wondered where he would
go when set free, once his time was fulfilled.
I turned to search the nearest stall for some scallions and pep-
percorns for the surprise I was preparing for my blind friend Ora.
“ . . . must be hideous.” The hissed words sliced into my meal
planning, and against my will, my eyes traveled to their origin. Two
girls, possibly three or four years younger than me, stood near a
pottery stand, scrutinizing me.
Seeing they’d captured my attention, the taller one leaned toward
her companion, without taking her eyes off of me, her golden-brown


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A L IG H T on the H I L L

hair shimmering in the bright sun. “I heard they carved her face like
they carve one of those idolatrous Asherah poles.”
The story of my rescue from Jericho was a popular one, told
around campfires for the last seven years. There were many varia-
tions of the story, each one more exaggerated than the next. None
of them the entire truth. Although there were many who regarded
Alanah and me as heroines for surviving Jericho and all its perils,
some assumed that a girl taken prisoner, hidden away in the home
of a prostitute for months, and then marked as a temple harlot by
the High Priestess of Jericho could in no way remain a maiden. In
their minds I’d been sullied over and over by depraved worshipers
in the temple of Ba’al, even though in truth I’d never even stepped
foot inside.
White-hot flashes of shame pulsed through my body, through
every extremity. This was why I loathed venturing away from
the vineyard, away from the safety of our home, the comforting
smell of my spice pots, and the distraction of baking and cooking
for my family and friends. Although most people ignored me,
content to let their eyes slide past the girl in the veil, there were
a few who took it upon themselves to trumpet their opinions,
regardless of fact.
The chatter in the marketplace dissolved into awkward silence;
even the few children who had been playing chase among the stalls
stopped to stare. Stomach swirling with dread, I turned to head
home, wishing that my veil could block me completely from sight—
as if I’d never even existed. Why had I not left with Yuval?
The girl behind me delivered one last lash, her tone arched with
derision. “That’s right. Go back and hide among your ill-gotten
vines, zonah. Your Egyptian whore-bred father didn’t deserve that
land in the first place.”
By sheer force of will I held my tongue, restrained the hot tears
that threatened to expose my weakness, and placed one foot after
another until I was free of the market. I trudged up the steep path


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Conn i ly n Cosse t t e

that led to the vineyard, feeling as though I was dragging that girl
and her vicious words behind me in the dirt. Just as I neared the
top of the ridge and the boundary stone that marked my father’s
land, something slammed into the back of my head.
Disoriented, I spun around, and two rocks thwacked into my
chest. With a sharp cry, I lifted my arms, hoping to block the assault
as more rocks hurtled toward me. The high-pitched insults of two
boys followed the missiles. With cackling laughter, they repeated
the accusation they’d obviously heard the girl toss over her shoulder
in the market and added in a few of their own.
A roar of juvenile anger echoed behind me as a small boy raced
by, wielding a long leaf-laden branch that he wielded like a giant’s
sword. “Get away from her!” he screamed, shaking his weapon at
the boys. “Leave her alone!”
Although Eitan was smaller than both of my assailants, he’d
surprised them with his ferocity. They dropped their handfuls of
stones and ran down the hillside, dodging tree stumps and tripping
over their sandals as they fled.
“Don’t ever come near her again!” my rescuer hollered after the
little cowards, before turning to offer me his usual freckle-cheeked
grin. “Told you I would protect you.”
I could not restrain the laugh that escaped, a mixed product of
relief, release of my tumultuous emotions after the market, and the
hilarity of a scrawny nine-year-old boy with shoulder-length tangles
of dark hair chasing off two older boys with a tree branch.
When I finally reined in my outburst, Eitan’s face was screwed
into a scowl. “Are you laughing at me?”
The question washed the humor from my face. “Oh. No, Eitan.
You rescued me. I am laughing at those two field mice, scuttling
away as if a wildcat were on the prowl. You terrified them with
your big stick!”
His lips quirked. “I’ve been using this to scare the birds away
from the grapes. It works better than just flapping my arms. Your


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abba said I was a smart young man to think of such a thing.” Pride
lifted his nearly concave chest.
“And he is correct.” I stepped closer and knelt to put my arms
around his bony body, wincing at the fragility of his build. “You are
smart and very courageous to come to my aid. Thank you, Eitan.”
He leaned his head on my shoulder and returned my hug, ex-
posing the tortuously curled earlobe that normally stayed hidden
beneath his wild, overlong hair. The underdeveloped ear had kept
him from hearing anything on his right side since birth.
“You’d better return to the fields. My father will wonder what
happened to you. He relies on you to keep those birds out of his
His shoulders straightened with pride. “He promised I could
help tread grapes tonight, if I work hard today.” His hazel eyes
sparkled with anticipation.
“I’m not sure if I’d enjoy grape juice oozing through my toes.” I
wrinkled my nose. “And you’d best wash those feet before you step
in the vat.” I pointed at his grimy toes. “Dirt-infused wine does not
sound appetizing.”
With a grin he turned away to return to his bird-scattering job
among the vines, which was no more than an excuse for my father
and me to feed him extra food every day, since his uncle seemed
unconcerned whether his half-sister’s orphan wasted to nothing.
When my father had caught Eitan pilfering grapes one morning last
year, he’d chosen to give the scruffy boy an occupation instead of
running him off. There had not been one day since that Eitan did not
appear, eager to please. At the time I’d wondered if his uncle would
forbid his constant presence in the vineyard, but since the man had
not uttered one word of complaint, I assumed he preferred to keep
the boy, his deformity, and his myriad questions out in the fields.
Just before Eitan reached the top of the ridge, I remembered the
items in my market basket. I called out his name and he swung back
around, his leafy branch swaying.


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Conn i ly n Cosse t t e

“I am making chickpea stew for Ora. I’ll need your help this
His lips rounded in surprise. “Truly?”
“You said you wanted to learn. Tonight is as good a night as any
to begin our cooking lessons.”
Dropping his stick, he ran back and hugged me around the waist.
“Thank you, Moriyah. I promise to listen and be a good helper.”
“I know you will.” I bent to kiss his disheveled head. “Now, go,
scare some birds! Or there will not be one grape left to tread tonight.”
After a wave of his retrieved weapon, he disappeared into the
green sea of vines, ready to plunge into battle with the crows and
grackles that were the bane of my father’s existence.
Although I wished I could offer the sweet boy a home, my father
had insisted Eitan’s uncle would learn to care for the boy in time.
The fraying tunic Eitan wore contradicted that assessment. As I
made my way to our little house, I plotted how to alter one of my
father’s old tunics as payment, of course, for his “invaluable” help
treading wine with feet that would do little more than bruise the
top layer of grapes.
I paused, my hand on the wooden door handle. Oh, how I wish I
could see Eitan hopping about in the vat tonight, trying to keep up
with the men! But as soon as the juice-soaked image came to mind,
the words of the market girl and the two rock throwers clashed
against the humor, layered atop my anxiety over whomever it was
that my father had selected for me to marry. No. I would not chance
another public encounter today, even to drink in the sight of Eitan
enjoying his reward.
I entered the house and closed the door, ensuring the latch was
secure on this morning’s ill-fated excursion. My stew pot, my spices,
and my bread oven silently awaited me in the shadows. I had cooking
to do, and a new spice to experiment with. I would be content with
such things for now. For all too soon, a stranger would lift my veil
and I’d have nowhere to hide and no Eitan to rescue me.


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If it were not for the linen-covered bowl in my hands, I would have
sprinted down the hill between vines, where my blind friend Ora
and her young son Tevel, who worked as a field hand for my father,
lived in one of the mud-brick hovels at the far edge of the vineyard.
Only for Ora would I emerge after my disastrous trip to the
market yesterday. Since she could not come to me on her own, I’d
slipped down through the vineyard, keeping an eye out for any
workers before darting to her door from the shelter of the tall vines.
Ora had carried her son Tevel, along with the weight of shame,
after suffering an attack by the drunk stranger who’d fathered him
fifteen years ago—a man whose face she could never identify. The
injustice never failed to spark hot anger in my belly.
At my knock on the door, Ora’s bright voice greeted me from
within. “Moriyah! Is that you? Come in! Come in!”
Across the room Ora sat at a large loom, her capable hands work-
ing the woolen threads with uncanny ease for a woman who could
not see the results. Although accomplished completely by touch,
Ora’s work was second to none. She once informed me that she dif-
ferentiated yarn colors by using her keen sense of smell.


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Conn i ly n Cosse t t e

Putting aside the saffron-dyed yarn she was winding around a
shuttle, she pulled in a noisy breath through that perceptive nose.
“I know what that is! Chickpea stew! I can smell the capers and
onions. Oh my sweet girl, you spoil me.” Ora dropped the shuttle
and clapped her hands like a child, sightless eyes searching for the
origin of the smell. I could not help but laugh as she reached both
hands out, grasping greedily in the air for the bowl I’d brought her.
“And why not? You deserve such high treatment.”
After handing Ora the linen-covered bowl and two still-warm
loaves of barley bread, I folded myself down to sit beside her as she
devoured the stew, using the bread to scoop the flavorful mixture into
her mouth and humming with satisfaction. Her eyelashes blinked
rapidly as she chewed. There was no greater pleasure than watch-
ing someone truly savor one of my meals—especially if they were
discovering a new dish I’d concocted for the first time.
With full lips, olive skin, and a graceful curve to her brows, Ora
was one of the loveliest women I’d ever seen. The clouding of her
dark eyes announced her blindness, but detracted nothing from
her beauty.
“This is even more delicious than the last time.” Ora wiped a drip
from her chin with the back of her hand. “Did little Eitan help you?”
“He did. You know he’s been after me to teach him. We used a
new spice I purchased in the market yesterday, although I was afraid
to add too much. And it’s missing scallions and peppercorns.” No
thanks to that girl in the market . . .
She waved off my misgivings. “It has wonderful flavor, Moriyah,
just as everything you prepare.” She used the last piece of bread to
sop up the remainder of broth from the bowl. “But I agree it could
use more of that new spice, to balance the coriander.” Ora always
had a way of wrapping a suggestion within a compliment to soften
its edge, her mind as quick as her heart was soft.
“Then I will have to make it again soon and adjust, won’t I?”
“That you will! How about tomorrow?” Her mischievous grin


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A L IG H T on the H I L L

provoked me to laugh again and agree to return with another bowl
of the stew.
“Now,” she said. “Let’s walk. I am desperate for a drink of sun-
shine to finish off my meal.”
Ora and I emerged from the hut, and she squeezed my arm as
we plunged into the leafy maze of vines and fences. “Tell me, my
girl. Tell me about the day.”
Ora had not been born blind, but when her parents purchased an
eye salve from a trader, to supposedly cure her of an infection she’d
picked up from the blowing sands in the desert, the salve had instead
blinded her permanently. Five years old and never again able to see
a flower, a bird, a sunset. She’d never seen the face of her only child.
“It is a beautiful day,” I said. “The sky is the color of a robin’s egg,
a soft blue. There are a few wispy clouds way high. To your right is
a vine that towers above us, one left unscathed after the Amorites
burned these fields. The fruit is dark purple, frosted with a white
Although I attempted to focus on describing our surroundings
to Ora, my father’s revelation continued to press into my thoughts
time and again.
Throughout the long, restless night on my bed, I conjured up all
manner of doubts, trying to imagine what sort of man my father had
chosen for me, what he might look like, and what he would think of
me. Had he heard rumors like the ones that market girl had flung at
me? And when he did, would he change his mind or ignore them?
I was not sure which outcome I feared more.
“Where have you gone, my friend?” Ora elbowed me gently, snap-
ping me back into awareness. “You stopped talking.”
Embarrassed, and yet relieved to have someone to unload the
burden upon, I sighed. “My father has selected a husband for me.”
Somehow, saying the words out loud made them more solid, more
“Ah. Yes. I knew he could not hold on to you much longer.”


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Conn i ly n Cosse t t e

“Hold on to me?”
“You need a family, Moriyah. A good husband to bless you with
children. Your father adores you of course, but he has gripped you
tightly for far too long.”
“Regardless, I am content the way things are. I want to help my
father; he has no one else. Besides,” I shook my head. “I have no
need of a husband. You never married.”
“Moriyah. You know it is not the same. No one would have mar-
ried a blind woman with an illegitimate child. You are a vibrant
young woman with an extraordinary talent for cooking.”
“Have you forgotten that I have a hideous brand seared into my
skin? One that tells the world I am sullied and a slave to those foul
Canaanite gods?”
Her brows bunched. “No, dear, I have not forgotten. But neither
has Yahweh.”
I did not respond to that assertion—Yahweh had absolutely for-
gotten me. His silence reverberated deep within my soul.
“Who is this man? What is he like?”
I lifted a shrug she could not see. “I know very little, other than
he is marrying me for this vineyard, which my father offered as a
dowry, and that he traveled with the surveyors. When they are
finished meeting with Yehoshua to discuss tribal boundaries, I will
be introduced to him. Most likely after the festival on Tu B’Av.”
“Oh, yes! I heard about the festival. Tevel says there is to be danc-
ing!” She clasped her hands to her chest and then swung them back
and forth by her sides. “Oh how I wish I could dance all night long!
You will have such a wonderful time.”
The rapture on her face fueled my own desire for such a thing,
but just as quickly the memory of the girl in the market who’d
vocalized what people thought of me drowned out the spark. “I’m
not going.”
“Not going?” She jerked me to a stop. “You must go, Moriyah.
And even more so now that you are to be married.”


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“I have no desire to endure a night of blatant stares and behind-
hand whispers.”
“But didn’t you hear? That won’t matter! All the girls will be
“What do you mean?”
“Tevel said that the maidens have been asked to wear white and
to veil themselves to allow all the girls to mingle with the unmar-
ried men, without regard to tribe, station, or heritage, at least for
this one night.”
“Veiled? So no one would . . . ?”
“That’s right, everyone will look the same, dear girl, rich or poor.
You would be free to enjoy the dancing without fear. And just think,
this may be your very last chance to enjoy such a thing as an unmar-
ried woman. And you won’t have the hindrance of trying to impress
a man, since your father has already made arrangements. You can
simply enjoy.”
Pressing my lips together, I considered her argument. The mem-
ory of dancing around the campfire in the wilderness was made
fresh in my mind. The swirl. The heat. The freedom. I could nearly
feel the rush of wind in my hair and the flush of pleasure in my
Could I dare? Would I? Ora was right that this would be the
last time I’d attend a festival as a maiden. The last time I’d be free
to choose something for myself before a husband took the reins of
authority from my father.
Entertaining the idea, I slipped my arm into hers and tugged her
to my side. “You should come with me. We could dance together.”
“No.” She laughed, slapping at me playfully. “I am no young
maiden. I am an old woman.”
“You are nothing of the sort, Ora. You are beautiful and have
not even seen thirty-five years.”
“No more talk of that now.” She waved a hand at me with a loud
scoff. “It is you who must enjoy the festival. If you won’t go for your­


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self, then . . .” she groped about for a moment, before finding my
hand and gripping it tightly. “Go for me. Dance for me, pretend I
am with you, seeing everything through your eyes, and then come
home and describe every detail.”
How could someone who’d endured such suffering remain so
untainted? I felt the oily sheen of shame on my soul at every moment.
I was weary of its darkness. Weary of its weight. I had no idea how
to leave it behind, even for one night.
“I’ll think on it,” I said.
“Why are you here, Moriyah?”
I startled. “What do you mean? Do you want me to leave?”
“Of course not. Your visits are the best part of my day while I
wait for Tevel to return from the fields.” She squeezed my arm.
“What I mean is that you need to be among others your own age.”
“You know it’s not easy for me. Not with this . . . thing on my face.”
“Why is it so difficult?”
I told her what happened in the market yesterday, the shame I’d
felt when at the mercy of that girl, and then the attack by the boys
and the way Eitan had come to my rescue.
“And does everyone treat you this way? Were the rest of the
people in the market unkind?”
“Well, no. Most everyone keeps to themselves. And the woman
who sold me the vegetables was very kind.”
“Have you always hidden yourself away like this?”
“No. . . .”
“You are a vivacious and lovely young woman whose personality
and wit bring color to my dark world. Why do you hide in your
home? I know for a fact that Yuval delivers meals from your hands
to many people in Shiloh who are hurting or suffering. Perhaps
you should deliver them instead? Bring some of your cheer to their
homes along with your delicious food?”
The more she spoke, the more my stomach twisted with fear and
guilt. How had I come to be this way? To the point that leaving


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my home and walking among my own people had become some-
thing that made my palms sweat and my nerves jangle like dented
Ora’s long pause and pointed silence goaded me to confess.
“At first it was for my mother. It was she who suggested the veil
in the first place. A way to keep the enflamed wound hidden when
it was still so raw and red those first couple of months. But then,
when it finally healed, I tried to go without the linen across my face
and the stares began. The whispers. The prodding questions about
what went on in the temple.” I shifted foot to foot. “I am sure that
most of it was mere curiosity, but some of the young men made
advances on me, assuming that I had more knowledge of what goes
on between men and women than I did.” My voice rasped to a stop
as the painful memories surfaced: the groping hands, the leering,
the lurid whispers in the marketplace. A throbbing wound echoed
in my chest.
Ora turned and placed her hands on my veiled face. “I am so
sorry, dear one.” Indeed, out of anyone, Ora would understand.
I smiled and patted her hands. She slipped her arm back through
mine, and we continued walking.
“And so,” I said, “my mother suggested I remain veiled, for my
own protection. And to be honest, it was a relief to not have wary
looks directed my way, to not have to constantly explain what the
brand was and how I’d gotten it. Over time it became easier to fade
into the background, to stay in my home and cook where I can take
off the veil and be myself, instead of ‘that girl who was taken captive
and marred in Jericho.’”
“What did you say to that girl in the market? Did you defend
“I left.”
Ora’s pursed lips challenged my cowardice.
“It would have done nothing to change her mind about me.”
“Perhaps not. But at least you would have been able to finish


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Conn i ly n Cosse t t e

purchasing your goods. And I would have some scallions and pepper­
corns in my stew.”
I tilted my head back and laughed, and Ora joined me.
She lifted my hand and kissed my palm. “You are a joy, sweet
Moriyah. A young woman with a heart that is loyal and strong
and a talent for cooking beyond anything I’ve ever known. I know
your mother meant to protect you, as any mother would when she
sees her precious child suffering. . . . But you must not keep that
sweetness, that vibrance, or that brilliance hidden, my dear. I’d like
nothing more than to keep you all for myself, but I fear that unless
you stop hiding yourself away, in body and mind, Yahweh will not
be able to use such gifts for his glory.”

9 Av
Drawing my knees to my chest, I leaned back into the hidden curve
of my fig tree. This spot, overlooking the entire valley, was my refuge
whenever the urge to escape the confines of our house drove me
outside. And today thoughts of my father’s choice to marry me to
a stranger combined with the challenge Ora had tossed at my feet
drew me to this secret place, desperate for air and answers. Only
here could I breathe easy.
The tree behind me was bent to one side, its trunk twisted into
a strange angle. The wide spread of leaves shaded me well, and its
enormous gnarled roots hid me on either side, giving me a private
place to look northwest, toward the Mishkan.
Surrounded by a vast assortment of Hebrew tents—the leftover
tribes that had not yet received their portion of this land of Avra-
ham’s promise—the black-topped sanctuary stood enclosed by the
white linen fences, a number of priests and Levitical workers moving
about its courtyard as they fulfilled their daily duties. Smoke lifted
from the four-horned altar and sunlight flashed against the bronze


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laver where the men washed their hands and feet in preparation
for worship.
As a young girl I’d been fascinated by how quickly the Levites
raised the sanctuary at each long-term encampment in the wilder-
ness, each one performing their assigned job with efficient precision
that enabled the entire project to be completed in a matter of hours.
Although the Cloud did not hover over the Mishkan anymore,
there were times when I could almost feel its presence. I’d been
drawn to it throughout my childhood, begging my brother Shimon
to take me closer for a better look. Would I hear the Voice, I’d
wondered, if I could get as close as Mosheh had?
Even during the times when the Cloud had rumbled and sparked
and caused the earth to shake, I’d always been comforted by its pro-
tective presence. After our people had crossed the river into Canaan,
the Cloud had disappeared, hidden from sight. I missed it, even more
than I missed my brother, if that were possible. Lowering my veil, I
slowed my breathing to a crawl and whispered the name “Yahweh”
with reverence. Concentrating on the breeze against my face and
the faint smell of incense from the Mishkan, I repeated the Name.
From the time I’d been a little girl I’d been convinced that Yahweh
was so near to me that, like a father on bended knee, he’d heard
my simple prayers. Over the years there’d been times when I’d sat
in silence, listening to songs of the birds and feeling the soft wind
caress my cheeks, allowing the magnificence of creation to permeate
every heartbeat—that I’d felt the weight, the glory of his presence all
around me. And even more shocking were the moments when such
strong impressions of truth built within my soul or echoed within
my dreams that I could not deny it was the Creator speaking to me.
But now there was nothing but awful, empty silence.
The scar on my cheek seemed to flare, hot and angry, and in-
stinctively I laid my palm there. I’d seen Jericho fall with my own
eyes, felt the otherworldly shaking as it tumbled down—I knew
Yahweh was there, but the gap between myself and his presence


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Conn i ly n Cosse t t e

seemed even larger today than it had before. Perhaps, like the girl
in the marketplace, Yahweh had no tolerance for a woman branded
with the symbols of false gods.
All the years between Jericho and now seemed to be charred
beyond redemption, as though the brand had sunk deep into my
soul, burning away even the roots of hope I’d once clung to, and
leaving behind only a barren patch of ashy dust.
The only path laid out before me was obedience to my father,
even though the thought of leaving him made me bereft. He’d lost
Shimon nearly eight years ago, and my mother shortly after we’d
arrived in Shiloh. Why was he so determined to live out the rest
of his life alone?
Down below, the sound of the Shema prayer arose from the lips
of Eleazar, the High Priest, the words somehow amplified by the
close embrace of the hills. “Shema Israel, Adonai Elohenu, Adonai
Echad . . . Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One . . .”
As the daily reminder of Yahweh’s commandments continued,
I tilted my face toward the dappled light filtering through the fig
leaves, soaking up the warmth on my skin, reciting the familiar words
along with the priest. Yet somehow the words seemed only vapor
today, not the drenching rain they’d once been for my thirsty soul.
Closing my eyes, I imagined the brand, too, dissolving in the sun,
dissipating into the blue sky, leaving my face whole again, reveal-
ing the girl behind the wound, whoever that was. Would Yahweh
speak to me then?
Perhaps Ora was right. I should go to the festival, seize upon
these last few days of freedom, and maybe, for just a moment, I
could remember who I’d been before that fiery brand touched my
cheek and even my God had turned his face away.


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