By Bethany Riehl
A note from the author: The Days of Noah is a three-part fictional work based on biblical truth. Every effort has been made to stay within the confines of Scripture while exercising creative liberty to bring this time in human history to life. While the Bible tells us very little about this era, we can piece together a vibrant picture from what we know of the nature of man and of God as is told throughout Scripture. My hope is that you’ll be inspired to seek out the truth for yourself and see the ways our current times parallel the time of the Flood just as Jesus predicted in Matthew 24.
“Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually…But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.
Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence.
Then God said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth. Make for yourself an ark…’ Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did.”
Two hooded figures stood in the shadows and waited. Their eyes were sharp, the blades hooked into their belts sharper; their minds quick, the feet that could scurry them away even quicker.
Clumsy footsteps sounded down the dark, quiet street, uneven and faltering. One figure raised a hand in the air and held it. The steps grew louder and the hand sliced downward. In a flash they surrounded the man, too drunk to do much more than widen his eyes and swing his fists ineffectually. He was knocked unconscious and drug back into the alley, where they stripped him of his money belt and cloak. A near full wineskin was held up victoriously before the figures ran back further into the shadows and around a corner.
Zahara breathed a sigh of relief as they exited the alley and onto a brightly lit street; she hated the dark. A man bumped into her as she stopped to pull the hood of her cloak from around her face. She cursed at his retreating back, accentuating the nouns with hair-raising adjectives when he waved an obscene gesture. She turned back to her sister, “Please tell me we have enough for bread. I’m starving.”
Magara stopped beneath a street lamp to look through the pouch. A breeze kicked up, flickering the flame above them, shadow and light dancing across Magara’s face, accentuating her frown. She threw the belt down in frustration. “Nothing.”
Zahara kicked at the dirt and leaned against a stone wall behind her. So far the city of Enoch – the city that beckoned to them through their years of wandering – held nothing but cold disappointment. Her stomach gnawed at her, making her feel hollow of heart and spirit, as well as food. Seeking distraction, she focused on the temple, looking to resurrect the awe she felt when she first saw it hours ago.
Built by the son of Cain to honor the goddess of grain, it was the largest temple known to man. With its sharp angles, intricately carved pillars, and high stone steps leading to the great goddess, it seemed to reach the heavens. The goddess herself was carved of white marble. She sat, legs crossed, one hand outstretched to receive sacrifices, the other raised high. Snakes, the symbol of wisdom and power, encircled her head and twisted around her torso. Forged from gold, the diamond patterns along their backs trimmed in emeralds, eyes made of rubies, they sparkled in the evening lamplight, the torches carried by the priests guiding worshipers up the steps giving life to the cold, stone eyes of the goddess. Yet, the eyes were just that – cold stone. Not a flicker of hope or encouragement for the weary traveler.
A sharp whistle caught Zahara’s attention and she met Magara’s eyes just as a man with a strong stride turned the corner. He was simply dressed, but unlike the drunk in the alley, Zahara could see what Magara already had – a full money belt tied at his waist. She nodded as Magara sauntered into his path.
“Stranger, you look like a man that could help me,” she said. Zahara only caught fragments of the conversation as she wove through the throng of people on the street to circle around.
The man spoke, his voice gravelly, and Magara responded, the seductive tone clear, although the breeze grabbed their words from Zahara’s hearing. She drew close enough to slip a hand through the opening of the man’s cloak opposite from where his attention was fixed on her sister. Her fingers closed over the belt, lifting it carefully. Before she could retreat, Zahara’s wrist was caught in a strong, calloused hand, the heavy money belt dangling from her fingers.
“I believe that’s mine.” He took the pouch before he released Zahara’s hand. Hungry and embarrassed, she shoved him hard in frustration. The man gave a huff of shocked laughter and held up his hands.
“You seek to deceive me and steal my money and yet you shove me?”
Magara placed herself between them. “You’ll have to excuse my sister. We’ve been on a long journey, denying ourselves every pleasure to arrive in the great city of Enoch during the Festival of the Seed. But,” she stepped closer, softening her tone, and reaching to run a finger down his chin, “for a price, we could both be happy.”
A rumble echoed around them and only then did Zahara notice that a crowd had circled around to watch the exchange. At Magara’s suggestion, ribald suggestions flew between the spectators.
A muscle moved in the man’s jaw and he looked past Magara to Zahara. She had no interest in what her sister was promising, but knew it would never come to that. It was a ploy to get the man alone. Then they could put their blades to good use and be done with it. Zahara raised her chin to meet the man’s gaze, noticing a warmth in his hazel eyes that she’d never seen in anyone before. It unnerved her and she dropped her gaze, convinced it was her hunger – not intimidation – that made her knees tremble. She crossed her arms over her growling stomach and met his gaze again when he spoke in a low rumble.
“Not interested. But here you go,” he held up the leather bag between two fingers before flicking it to Zahara.
Zahara caught it, staring at him in amazement. The crowd grew louder, some booing, others calling out more obscene suggestions. She barely heard the man’s last words before he turned away. “If you want to know how to find lasting sustenance – and a job with good pay – you’ll know where to find me.” He gestured to the crowd that clearly knew him before turning to walk down the street.
Men mocked and called out as he moved past them.
“Come on, Shem! Don’t you want to tell them about that ark your father is building?”
“Why don’t you tell them about the flood that’s coming?”
“Don’t you want to save them? Shem!”
“Shem! The Festival begins – you could contribute to society for once.”
Zahara and Magara stood bewildered as the insults grew louder. They spit at him, then followed throwing fruit and vegetables – even dung left in the street – at his retreating back. He continued his slow and steady stride, ducking his head slightly to avoid the assault.
The crowd eventually dispersed, leaving the sisters to look into the bag on their own. “There’s enough silver here for ten meals!” Magara gasped. Zahara furrowed her brow and reached into the bag, pulling out a scroll tucked between the coins. She unrolled it and scanned the contents: a drawing of a large building, measurements and figures, a list of building supplies. Along the edge, etched in small letters she read, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…”
Zahara looked for Shem again, but he had turned off of the main road.
Shem followed the path that he knew by heart, pulse pounding in his ears, unable to concentrate. It wasn’t often that he left the valley where his people had lived for generations. Yet it wasn’t the three-day journey for supplies that had unnerved him, nor the reaction of the people. He was used to that.
It was looking into the eyes of those that, after nearly one hundred years of his father Noah’s warnings, still denied the wrath that was coming. The closer the ark came to completion, the more the household of Noah could feel the heaviness of what was to come. And the more the people around them sunk deeper into wickedness.
Shem’s family walked a precarious line of hope for a new earth, and despair that no one would be spared unless they repented.
He was nearly to the valley when the low rumble began. Distant shouts and screams echoed from the city, slicing through his thoughts, turning his blood to ice. The ground vibrated beneath his feet and he turned back, knowing that until God Himself poured out His wrath, Shem could not turn his back on people in need.
Especially in the destructive wake of a brontosaurus stampede.