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.
Sweat dripped from Shem’s forehead, stinging his eyes. He paused to rub his face against one shoulder before lifting another chunk of stone from the rubble beneath his feet. Exhaustion pulled at him and the next rock slipped from his numb fingers, clattering down the pile. The muffled voice pleading for help from under the pile was growing faint and chaos all around him had swelled to a fever pitch.
More destructive than the stampede were those clambering in and out of shops, taking what they could, fighting one another for anything of value. A woman darted by, an assortment of valuables in her arms. A man grabbed her hair from behind and she grabbed a chunk of stone from the pile and turned to slam it against the man’s face. He lost his grip on her tunic as he fell back. She fled, laughing.
Despair burned through Shem.
Beneath the next stone, he saw a small fist. Adrenaline surged and Shem called out to his brother Japheth. Together they pulled a small woman from the rubble. Her cloak was torn and covered in dust. Tangled black hair veiled her face and neck.
Shem’s attention was pulled away as a mob began to form down the street.
“We need to get her out of here.”
The woman groaned in pain as they lifted her. Dark eyes rolled back in her head and she went still. Together they carried her down the street. Their father Noah and brother Ham waited near the edge of the city.
“We couldn’t get to anyone else,” Noah said.
It wasn’t until they had brought the woman into the main house and settled her on a mat near the stove that Shem realized she was one of the women that had tried to rob him.
Light and shadow danced behind Zahara’s closed eyelids. She began to open them only to slam them shut against the bright sunshine.
Then she remembered – the loud roar as the brontosauruses rushed through the city. Her sister Magara pulling at her, but Zahara dropping to the ground in fear, scrambling back against a shop wall. Magara left her, disappearing around a corner just as the herd thundered up the street. One slammed into the corner of the building and a wall of stones fell on top of Zahara before she could flee. As sounds of chaos erupted all over and hope began to fade, light penetrated her prison and a hand reached down to save her.
Zahara tried opening her eyes again, slowly adjusting to the sunlight that filtered in from a window. She laid in the corner of a large room near a weaver’s loom. Shelves lined one wall, filled with different sizes of pottery. In the opposite corner an older woman was seated at a potter’s wheel. Stone ground against stone as she turned a jar on the wheel, humming to herself. She exuded a peace Zahara had never known. She watched, unnoticed as the woman formed the clay into a jar.
When the woman was finished, she turned the wheel again, hands running over the outside. She paused, a frown pulling at her lips. Without warning, she mashed the creation back to a shapeless lump of clay. Zahara gasped and the woman looked up. A smile broke over her face and she stood, wiping her hands on a cloth.
“It’s so good to see you awake. We’ve been praying…” She stood and ladled soup from a pot perched on the edge of the stove’s opening into a bowl and brought it to Zahara.
“I’m Emzara. Can you can drink some of this soup?” She set the bowl on a small table nearby and reached to help Zahara move into a sitting position. Zahara was sore all over, but her stomach cramped as the tantalizing aroma of the broth wafted on the air.
“Let’s start with just a little bit, okay? You’ve certainly been through something. God must have been watching over you.”
Emzara lifted the edge of the bowl to Zahara’s mouth.
“Why?” Zahara finally whispered, once she’d eaten what she could.
Emzara wrinkled her forehead. “Why, what?”
“Why did you destroy it?”
Emzara only smiled and helped Zahara lie back down. “It spoiled in my hand. I’ll remake it into another.”
Puzzled, Zahara fell back to sleep. For the next few days each time she awoke, Emzara or one of the other women in the home would bring her water or soup. She began to stay awake longer, watching the family move throughout their strange routines.
They spoke of food storage, animal care, and more that she couldn’t understand. Such an odd family. She’d never known anyone like them. From the way they behaved, always a basket to weave, pitch to mix, herbs to dry, and scrolls to consult, it was clear they were working on something. They repeatedly spoke of an “ark.”
Most intriguing was their nightly routine. They sat together each evening after dinner while Noah read to them from various scrolls before they prayed together. For peace, for the repentance of the people of earth, for stamina and direction as they built the ark.
Ten days after the stampede, after Japheth’s wife Adah had brought Zahara her portion of the meal, she finally asked the questions that had plagued her for days: what they were reading, who they were praying to, and, most importantly, what was the ark they spoke of? All eyes turned to Noah. A warm smile lit his eyes and he came close to sit near her and began to recite the words she had read on Shem’s scroll before the stampede.
“We read the account of creation as told by Adam. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and all that roam on the land and in the sea. Everything that has been made was by Him and for Him. That is who we pray to – the One true God. He formed Adam – the first man – from the dust and breathed life into him; then fashioned Eve – his wife – from Adam’s rib. God made them in His image…”
Zahara listened as Noah spoke of Adam and Eve living in fellowship with God, before they sinned and were separated from Him. He spoke of God’s promise of a future man to crush the head of the serpent who had deceived Eve, and of the difficulty that followed them outside of the garden. Their sin had spread to taint the earth; even animals had grown violent as they had seen just days ago with the stampede.
“Though the world is filled with sin, some have remained righteous. My ancestor, Enoch, walked with God and didn’t taste death because the Lord took him. Years ago, the Lord told me He is sending a flood to cleanse the earth and make it new. He instructed me to build an ark so that I, my sons and our wives would be saved from the wrath to come. We’ve spent nearly one hundred years devoting our lives to this work.”
Zahara looked to Emzara. “You believed him?”
“What Noah didn’t tell you is that when the Lord spoke to him, we had been married many years and had no children, yet the Lord spoke of sons. Soon after this, Japheth was born, my first confirmation that it was true. I know it’s hard to take in; even harder to believe. God is the Potter, the Creator of all things. By His grace, He’s not just destroying it all. He’s provided the plans and means for us to make this. We’ve had years to store food and prepare. He will make His creation into something new.”
Zahara thought of the jar she’d seen Emzara crush that first morning. “But you’re saying God will destroy everyone who lives; what of mercy?”
Noah spoke up. “The people of earth have had one hundred years of mercy. Day after day men and women have come from all around to see the ark and to mock us. I preach righteousness daily but no one will listen. If they would repent, perhaps the Lord would stay His plans.”
An ache pushed inside of her, so strong it felt she would tear in two. “I want to see it.”
Noah nodded. “Tomorrow.”
The next morning Emzara removed the bindings around Zahara’s bruised ribs and helped her to stand. Embarrassed by her stiff, awkward movements, she concentrated on what she would find outside.
The courtyard outside of the main house was just as busy as inside. Japheth and Ham were scraping large boards; their wives, Adah and Keziah were tending a large garden. A kiln stood at the edge of the house, a large fire pit for the second firing next to it. Both were lit and full of Emzara’s pots Shem had taken from the house that morning.
Beyond the busy courtyard was a large, looming structure. It stretched wide and stood over three stories tall with a large opening in the center, a ramp leading to it. Hammering echoed from inside.
“The ark?” Zahara asked, awestruck by its size.
“God’s mercy,” Emzara corrected.
The others joined as Emzara helped her up the ramp. The inside was even more impressive than the outside. Three decks rose above them, circling the walls with an opening in the middle from floor to ceiling. Windows at the top filtered light down through the space. The lower deck was filled wall-to-wall with stone jars, neatly organized and secured with rope.
“Food and water storage,” Emzara explained.
They found Shem on the second deck, hammering a gate into place on a cage. The deck was filled with hundreds of similar cages. “God told us to take animals; two of each kind, male and female, and enough food for all of us during the Flood, and after.”
Some cages were small and stacked on one another, others nearly as tall as the ceiling. Each was fitted with a clay jar that opened to a trough at the bottom. A pipe stretched from the pot to large funnels at the top. Ramps above them gave access to the tops of the cages and more funnels with each cage.
“To get food to the animals more efficiently,” they said.
On the upper deck were separate living spaces for each couple, and one for Shem. She refrained from asking why Shem would be the only one that didn’t have a mate in the “new world.” But the red in his cheeks told her he knew what she was thinking.
The rest of the upper deck held a shared kitchen, large pantry, a room for woodworking, another for metal works, and a library filled with scrolls.
Zahara wanted to flee from their words and frightening predictions. And yet, the truth held her in place. She stood on one hundred years of toil, sweat, and devotion that spoke of unwavering faith in their God. She’d lain awake all night thinking of it; seeing it in living color was overwhelming.
What if it was all true?
“I need to find my sister.”