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.
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)
It was a moonless night, and the stars shone brightly against an inky black sky. Shem walked a familiar path, not needing the light he lacked. How many nights in his lifetime had he climbed this hill? As a child he had followed his father here, scurrying to keep up with his long strides. Noah would bring he and his brothers and their mother to this spot where he had first heard from the Lord. Here, overlooking the city on one side and the ark in the valley on the other, Noah would recount the commands and promises of the Lord.
As he grew, Shem wrestled with rebellious doubt for a while. He’d stand on this hill, torn between two worlds. What if his father was wrong? He’d watch as the sun went down and the people of the city lit their lamps, and wonder what it would be like to be one of them.
He would sink to his knees in prayer, searching for answers. Eventually Shem’s gaze would catch on the temple, large and looming, glittering with reflected light on its gold surfaces. He knew well what happened there; how worshippers lit fires beneath the outstretched hands of the goddess and sacrificed their own children—their flesh and blood—to an idol of stone who had eyes that couldn’t see, ears that couldn’t hear, and hands that couldn’t cleanse them of their wickedness.
Shem’s eyes would then turn to the heavens, where the consistent patterns of time and seasons were displayed. God had spoken into existence the vast sky above him and rolling earth beneath him, not with hands of stone or the will of man; but with wisdom beyond understanding and the power of His Word. Shem would hear his father’s hammer as it ricocheted off the stones around his sanctuary and he would again be uplifted by the testimony of his father’s faith.
Over the decades, his own faith strengthened as he built the ark with his family and watched his brothers’ wives come to them, just as the Lord promised. Though the years had marched on and no wife had come to share life with Shem, he still believed. He still worked on his living quarters, planning for a bride to share them with. His family also spoke and planned for an eighth person to join them when God brought her.
That morning, God had spoken to his father again for the first time in one hundred years, putting Shem’s faith to the test as never before. Noah had come from his morning worship, voice overcome with emotion as he shared what he heard:
“Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation. Take with you…”
Shem worked the words over in his spirit. You and all your household.
“I thought I would find you here.”
Shem smiled as his father clapped him on the shoulder and stood next to him, following his gaze. They stood for a while, both lost in their thoughts. Finally, Noah spoke, “This was your favorite spot as a boy.”
Shem’s lips twitched. “I thought maybe if I stood here long enough, God would speak to me, too.” He rubbed his palms together and looked down at his work-worn hands. “My faith has not been nearly as strong as yours.”
Noah lifted his eyes to the heavens. “That’s not true. I have an advantage over you and the rest—I’ve actually heard the voice of God.” He paused. “I am so unworthy.”
Shem faced him. “How can you say that? You have believed and obeyed the Word of God and have brought us all along with you. You are the most righteous man on earth, Father.”
Noah didn’t respond and Shem looked back to the heavens, admiring the handiwork of the Lord. Beneath him in the city were many impressive structures and carvings. But this? The heavens, the earth, all of creation from the largest animal to the smallest leaf—spoken into existence by the power of God’s Word. Established and kept in place by His might and wisdom. Shem could scarcely take it in.
“You know what was the hardest thing for me to build for the ark?” Noah asked, pulling Shem from his thoughts.
“Ham’s waste removal system?” Shem joked.
Noah chuckled, no doubt remembered the first time they’d tried the system and wound up with a mess. Thank goodness it was just water that time.
“No,” he sobered and faced Shem, eyes catching in the starlight. “The door.”
Shem’s smile wilted and he swallowed. “Yeah.”
Father and son fell quiet again, processing what the flood would mean for the rest of the world. Would eight people truly be all that was left? Of course the Lord would bless them in the world after the flood and soon there would be more than eight. Once again Shem had to lean on his faith. We didn’t misunderstand you, did we Lord? Surely I won’t be the only one without a mate in the world to come.
“I wonder how Zahara fares with her sister?” Noah said.
Shem felt an ache in his spirit. Zahara had found her way into Shem’s thoughts often since he’d taken her back to the city. When she’d first seen the ark, Zahara had wanted to go right back to the city to find her sister; but the family convinced her to rest and heal first. By the time Shem walked her back, he’d grown accustomed to her dark brown eyes meeting his as he passed bread at meals, to her soft voice asking his father questions that deepened his own faith. He had hoped that she and her sister would soon be back to learn more…and maybe to stay?
The Lord had said Noah, his wife, his sons and their wives would be on the ark; but did that mean no one else would join them? They’d asked that question among themselves often and finally decided it was something they wouldn’t know for sure until it was time. Shem wondered about it again as he watched the path to the city each day, expecting to see Zahara and her sister come into the camp, ready to join them.
But a month had gone by and he hadn’t seen them again.
And now the clock was counting down.
Noah clapped his son on the shoulder again. “The Lord will not forget His promises, Shem. I don’t know who or where she is, but your wife will come, just as He said.”
Shem swallowed hard and nodded.
Zahara laid on her back on the rooftop where she lived with her sister, eyes on the heavens, heart back at the ark. Soul looking to the Lord for answers.
She believed Noah. Believed that she needed to repent from her wickedness. Believed that unless all inhabitants of the earth repented, God would follow through on His promise to send a flood to destroy them all.
A muffled burst of laughter broke free from below, grating on her. In the month she had spent recuperating with Shem and his family, her sister Magara had also made friends. Before Zahara knew the truth, she would have fit right in with them. They were funny, cunning, and interesting. When they learned that she was trying to get Magara to go listen to Noah with her, they quickly came to Magara’s defense. They agreed when she told them she thought Zahara had been put under a spell.
Zahara knew that the time had come for her to leave, even if that meant she might not see her sister again. If she stayed, she would be Eve eying the forbidden tree, considering its fruit until she was easily deceived into believing the serpent rather than God.
If she didn’t leave tomorrow, she might not ever have the courage.
Shem couldn’t believe his eyes. Though they had built cages for the animals, watching them come to them on their own was sobering.
For many years, animals had been too aggressive to control. Attacks and stampedes had become common. Shem had always wondered how they were going to find any animals tame enough to get on the ark, let alone a male and female from each species. But when Noah heard from the Lord that the flood would come in seven days, all the plans Shem had made through the years of how to capture the animals were rendered worthless.
That second morning, as his mother and sisters-in-law carried jars of seed and corn into the ark where Ham waited to secure them, a pair of bear cubs had wandered into the clearing and made eye contact with Shem. He backed up, looking around for a quick escape should they charge. He’d backed himself into the high fencing around the gardens. Stuck there, he braced himself, sticking out a booted foot to hold them back. Though they were juveniles, they were strong. He’d been clawed by one before and didn’t want to relive the experience.
The male led the way over and stopped close to Shem. Hesitatingly, Shem lowered his foot and slowly reached out a hand, palm out. The bear pushed his nose into it. Shem moved his hand back over its nose and head, clasping the scruff of his neck lightly. The bear and his mate followed as Shem walked them to the ramp leading to the ark’s entrance. With a slight shove, they walked on. Before Shem could follow them, movement caught his eye, and two small giraffes appeared where the bears had been. Shem called out to his brothers inside.
“Hey guys? I think we’re about to get busy!”
Zahara felt that her heart would rip in two, so filled with despair and hope that it beat hard in her chest beneath the weight of her choice. That morning, she had told Magara that she needed to act on her belief and go to the ark to work on it with Noah’s family until the flood came, if God would have her. And if He wouldn’t, she still couldn’t go back to her life as it was. If she died in the flood that she believed was coming, she would deserve it.
Magara had stared at her in shock, hurt flashing in her eyes. “You would leave me for strangers?”
“No, Sister. I am surrendering my life to God. Not leaving you. You can come too; I beg you to come with me.”
When Magara didn’t respond, Zahara rushed on to convey everything she’d learned from Emzara, Noah, Shem and the rest. But the more she talked, the more firmly Magara set herself against the words. At last, she commanded Zahara out of her sight.
Zahara prayed as she walked, not knowing if God would accept her prayers, wondering if she was a brazen fool for thinking she could join herself with His people.
But in spite of the ache she felt leaving her sister, a warm assurance pushed her onward. Each step that drew her closer to the edge of the city was made with more certainty. As she stepped into the woods, a twig snapped behind her. She turned to see a young elephant and started, eyes darting around for a path of escape. Her knife was strapped to her ankle; if she stooped for it, she wasn’t sure there was time to get it before the animal charged. She knew better than to trust a wild animal. Especially after her brush with death months before.
The elephant was soon joined by another, but they walked past Zahara as if they didn’t know—or care—that she was there. They stayed ahead of her as she walked hesitantly behind. As she crested the hill her breath caught. Pairs of animals—too numerous to count— spread out in the meadow in front of her, all walking steadily on toward the ark.
As the massive structure came into sight, Zahara saw Shem, and felt a different kind of hope stir in her spirit. Could it be…that God had chosen her for him? That this was the way it was meant to be all along? He stood near the ramp of the ark, watching the woods. His gaze caught on hers and he went still.
In a heartbeat he was running toward her, scooping her into his arms, their laughter mingling as he turned them in circles.
Shem and Zahara were married on the top deck of the ark that evening. For the following five days, they worked with the family to bring the animals and storage into the ark. Each night they spent in prayer and worship, watching the horizon as the animals came, hoping more people would repent and join them. When Zahara learned how soon the flood’s coming would be, she spent her nights outside Magara’s home begging her to listen.
Her sister would not relent.
Magara knew Zahara would be back. They were too closely knit. No ark, no family—no God—could drive a wedge between them. They had argued many times over the years, and Magara always proved to be more stubborn than Zahara. It might take weeks or even months for her sister to work through whatever this new obsession was. Magara simply needed to wait her out.
She set her mind to her new life—the one she’d always dreamt of, worked for. She was a treasurer for the temple of the great goddess; if she played her cards right, she would one day be a priestess.
Zahara didn’t know that Magara, too, believed in the God of Creation and that the accounts from Adam were true. When her sister came back to her, Magara would tell her what she had learned from her friends, the Daughters of Eve. While Adam, they taught her, may have spun the story that Eve had sinned and cursed them all, the truth was that she had risen above the suppression of her Maker and had taken hold of her own destiny. When Zahara tired of being under the thumb of Shem and his God—or when no flood came as Zahara had been deceived into believing—she would come back to her and they would conquer the world, together. As they had always planned.
Magara was at the money tables when she felt the first drop on her head. Glancing up to see if a bird had flown above, she saw a dark, menacing sky, with more raindrops falling from thick clouds that swirled above. The wind began to push at her, knocking her table over. A loud crack rang out behind her followed by blood-curdling screams. Magara turned to see a fountain of water that had broken through the stones, shooting water high into the air. Another spring broke through next to her.
Understanding dawned, and she ran toward the ark, sobbing and scrambling. Others ran with her, driven by the same thought: Noah had been right. She crested the hill and saw the ark in the valley below. Others ran ahead, but Magara stopped short when she saw that the door was closing. It was so massive that no one from the inside could be pulling at it. An invisible hand closed the only path to salvation.
The water was coming from all sides, falling from below, gushing forth from beneath. It swelled around Magara’s knees. All around her people cursed Noah, cursed his God. Magara thought of how her sister had begged for her to repent. She searched her memories for something good and wonderful to think of to comfort her. Instead, her years of stealing, lying, rebellion, and violence were all she could remember.
Hadn’t Zahara been right there with her in her transgressions? Why, then, did they stand on opposite sides of this wrath, one suffering as God’s enemy, the other held in mercy as His daughter?
Magara let out a guttural scream, knowing the answer: Zahara had believed.
When the rain began to fall and the springs of water burst forth, Zahara clung to Shem and cried as an invisible hand shut the door to the ark from the outside. The terrible screams nearly drowned out the rain as it thundered against the roof of the ark. The animals had all gone still. Gathered in Noah and Emzara’s quarters, the family sat in tangible silence, holding one another close, tears slipping down faces void of emotion.
The screams of fear had turned to curses of fury. As they drowned, the people continued to mock Noah and rage at the Lord until they could no longer cry out.
“Fools,” Noah whispered, a sob fell from his lips as the screams faded.
Judgement came to the wicked world, but mercy to righteous Noah, and all of his household with him, just as the Lord promised. Through the line of Shem came Jesus the Messiah, the promised Seed of Eve, the Savior who came to save His people from their sin and crush the head of the serpent. “The LORD is righteous in all His ways, and kind in all His works.” (Psalm 145:17)
“The LORD sat as King at the flood;
Yes the LORD sits as King forever.
The LORD will give strength to His people;
The LORD will bless His people with peace.” (Psalm 29:10,11)