Shammah’s adopted father, King Aikah, commissions him to lead a military expedition because Mikana warriors are stirring on the edge of Aikah’s kingdom. The military expedition begins in a victory but leads to disaster and a loss of men. Tragedy occurs because Shammah defies his father’s military rules and lets his intellectual curiosity influence his decisions.
Shammah’s defeat galls Aikah. The king has a reputation for being a military genius who crushed the Mikana in the past. Shammah’s failure enrages Aikah so much he exiles Shammah and dallies with the idea of naming a new heir to his throne. Humiliated, Shammah wanders the known world, a man without throne or country. He collects knowledge for sport and remains skeptical of the divine and the mortal.
Like Shammah, many of us have made awful decisions that have affected others. I know I have! In this portion of the story, Shammah’s name can give us clues about how we can recover from mistakes. Shammah means waste or appalling desolation. Mistakes can make us feel that way, can’t they? We replay events and retrace steps as if we can redo the past event with the wisdom we have in the present. But we never can go backward. We can, however, move forward.
Which brings us to the other meaning of Shammah’s name. When paired with Yahweh or Jehovah, the name for God, Shammah’s name becomes “The LORD is there.” It’s the name of the city given in Ezekiel’s vision in Ezekiel 48:35. Some scholars believe it is the new Jerusalem.
When we give ourselves to God, we open the door to the opportunity for Him to rectify the past and create new things. He alone can take the snagged and dirtied cloth of our past and transform it into a tapestry that is pure and beautiful to behold. In “The Gate of Aleph,” Shammah learns this truth on his path to be king.