An Interview with the Author
1. How much of this story is fact?
The basic story of Noah and the ark can be found in the Bible -- Genesis chapters six through ten. I also picked up a few other details from isolated verses throughout the Bible. Anything beyond that is fiction.
2. Did you consult any other sources?
I gleaned additional information from the Book of Enoch which was purportedly written by an ancestor of Noah. The Bible says Enoch not die, but was taken up alive into heaven by God. Enoch’s story can be found in Gen. 5:19 – 24.
3. Do you trust the truth of Enoch’s writing?
Several other books of the Bible refer to or quote Enoch’s writing, prompting some to argue that the people of Jesus’ time considered Enoch’s book to be scripture. In the New Testament, Jude 14 directly quotes the Book of Enoch and gives the source of the quote. My purpose in using background from the book was simply to enrich a fiction story.
4. Where did the concept of giants and the Nephilim originate?
God introduces those non-human creatures in Genesis six, compressing hundreds of years of history into a few sentences. The Book of Enoch doesn’t change the
biblical account, but adds detail to the story, explaining that giants and Nephilim comprise two separate groups / species with the giants resulting from the unions of Nephilim and human women. Enoch also says the giants are the evil spirits – the demons that roam the earth even today.
5. Why did you say the ark was “probably” 450 feet long?
The ark was measured in cubits, which is the distance from the tip of a man’s fingers to his elbow. Based on the size of today’s human, we consider that eighteen inches. But we can’t know precisely how long a cubit was then because we don’t know the size of the people at that time.
6. Why are some of your characters hundreds of years old?
Genesis clearly states that people before the Flood lived upwards of 1,000 years. Noah was a vibrant 600 when the Flood began and lived for another 350 years after that. His sons were all in their mid-to-late nineties yet young enough that none had yet fathered children. Isaiah prophesies that after God creates the new heavens and earth his people will again live as long as the trees (see Is.65:22).
7. Did the giants really have six fingers?
That detail comes not from the book of Genesis, but later historical books of the Old Testament which talk about giants from Gath who have six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot (see 1 Chron. 20:6).
8. How accurate is this novel?
I’ve striven to keep every detail from the Bible strictly true and to say nothing that contradicts God’s words. But since the Bible tells us very little about any of the people of that time I had to embellish the events and characters from my own imagination to make them come alive for the reader. For instance, the Bible tells us nothing about Shem’s wife except that she was on the ark and likely infertile for over two years. (A careful reading of Genesis 11 implies the infertility.) I based every other “fact” about Atarah on research or personal experience.
9. It seemed far-fetched to me that Atarah could recognize evil practices and call out to God in her circumstances. Can you explain why you think she would?
The idea that God would speak to Atarah when she knew nothing of him originated from a conversation I had with a woman who remembers calling to God for help as very young child -- even though no one had ever told her about him. But even more convincing proof comes from the suicide video recorded by Ricky Rodriquez, the cult murderer, who was raised from infancy in the “Christian” free love and pedophilia cult, the Family of God (now known simply as The Family). His testimony, along with the more than thirty suicides of other children born to cult members, demonstrates that even adults taught from birth that pedophilia is “normal” recognize that as a lie and are tormented because of the abuse they received.
10. Have you accurately portrayed the pagan worship of Noah’s time?
The Bible does not tell much about Noah’s contemporaries, simply saying God destroyed those people because of their wickedness. However, pagan worship down through history seems to fall into the same patterns again and again. I named the City of a Thousand Gods for a powerful Hittite city. The god Ninlel mimics Molech from the Old Testament. Priests of the Roman goddess Isis castrated themselves publicly. I deliberately glossed over details.
11. Do you know for certain that people used metal back then?
Yes. In the fourth chapter of the Bible, Genesis talks about Tubal-cain who forged instruments of iron and bronze and his brother Jubal who was “father of all who play the lyre and the pipes.” Those two men lived long before Noah.
12. How could ancient peoples have bathrooms with flushing toilets and showers?
While researching, I discovered ancient civilizations much more advanced than I expected. Thirty-five hundred years ago, Carthage boasted fancy tiled bathrooms with showers and flushing toilets that emptied into sewers flowing under the city.
13. Where are the names of Noah’s daughters-in-law recorded?
Noah’s daughter-in-laws are not mentioned by name in the biblical account or in the Book of Enoch. To give them names, I searched the Bible for female names that might fit. When I couldn’t find a feminine name I liked, I altered a masculine
moniker to create one that sounded female to my western ears. I found “Atarah” only once (see 1 Chron. 2:26 ). The Hebrew meaning of that word speaks of “crown” or the portion of the prayer shawl that covers the wearer’s head.
14. Was the underground complex in City of a Thousand Gods purely fiction?
Throughout history people have hidden in caves and holes during dangerous periods. The history channel filmed an entire series on underground cities.
The complex in my novel very closely resembles the rooms and churches dug twenty levels deep into the volcanic mounds of Cappadocia, Turkey. Sometimes as many as 20,000 Christians hid there at a time to escape persecution.
15. Is there anything in recorded history similar to Atarah’s ash storm?
The Oklahoma dust storms of the 1930’s. Winds whipped up dust that flashed with static electricity and buried cars overnight. On Black Sunday the sky in Washington D.C. turned dark with dust blown 1,000 miles from Oklahoma. I also gleaned details from my son’s experience of a sand storm in Al Asad, Iraq.
16. How did you come up with maggots as an effective way to cleanse wounds?
Doctors used that method to clear infections as late as World War II when antibiotics were unavailable.
17. How could Noah have known about clean and unclean animals when God didn’t give information concerning them until Leviticus eleven, hundreds of years later?
Noah’s entire life of 950 years is covered in about 2,000 words in the Bible. (That’s approximately two words per year of his life.) Those chapters record that God talked to Noah and gave him detailed plans for the ark. We can’t know everything God told Noah, but we can know God explained clean and unclean animals to him since Noah included the correct number of each on ark.
18. Do you think your credibility suffers when you place dinosaurs on the ark? Everyone knows they’ve been extinct for millions of years.
I agree with Ken Ham’s thoughts in his Answers in Genesis Series: Dinosaurs in the Bible. (Watch it free on the Internet.) There are numerous references to dinosaurs in God’s Word, indicating they lived after the Flood. The Bible refers to them as “dragons” or “leviathan” since the word “dinosaur” wasn’t coined until the 1800’s. There were only about fifty general types of dinosaurs that would have been on the ark. The average size: sheep-sized. Some no bigger than chickens. Plenty of room for all on the ark. As far as what killed them off . . . Ham believes they died off just like the animals mysteriously facing extinction today. The fossils we find were formed during the Flood. In addition, back in the 1700’s Matthew Henry said, “Notice the beasts going in each after his kind . . . to intimate just as many as were created at first were saved now, and no more” (see Gen. 1:21-25). We know God created dinosaurs since we’ve found the bones. So they must have been on the ark
Historical / Biblical Basis
Before the flood . . .
It had never rained; a mist came out of the ground to water the plants.
Humans lived nearly 1,000 years. Though the Bible doesn’t explain why, it may be that the ocean of water in the heavens somehow protected people. After that, water fell as rain and life expectancy declined within a few generations (see Gen. 11:10-25).
Many years before the Flood, people already formed weapons and musical instruments from brass and iron (see Gen. 4:21,22).
Only eight persons were rescued on the ark. Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives.
Noah was 600 year old when his family entered the ark.
His sons were all in their nineties yet still youthful; none fathered children until after the Flood. Shem’s first child was born when he was one hundred years old, two years after the Flood.
The Nephilim (singular Nephal), probably fallen angels, were on the earth in those days. They were supernatural giants who mated with human women and produced what the Bible refers to as “heroes of old.”
The Ark . . .
The unit of measure used in constructing the ark, the cubit, was approximately eighteen inches. It was the length from a man’s fingertips to his elbow.
Noah spent 120 years building the ark.
The ark had a roof, one door in the side and one window that ran all the way around ark a cubit from the top.
The ark stretched nearly a football field and a half long (450 feet), rose as high as a four-story building (45 feet), and was 75 feet wide.
According to a footnote in the Ryrie Study Bible, Moody Press, it is estimated that there are nearly 17,600 species of animals, making 45,000 a likely number Noah might have taken onto the ark.( Other sources estimate even higher numbers.)
That same footnote says that the ark had the capacity of 522 railroad stock cars and only 188 cars would be required to hold 45,000 sheep-sized animals.
The ark was constructed with three decks and waterproofed with pitch inside and out.
In addition to Noah’s family, the ark housed: two of each unclean animal, seven of each bird, and either seven or seven pairs of each clean animal (animals suitable for consumption).
The Flood . . .
Because humans had grown so wicked. God flooded the world, destroying everything that moved on the earth except Noah and his family,
Rain poured from the heavens and the “fountains of the deep” were opened.
The rains lasted forty days and forty nights.
Water rose higher than the highest mountain and the ark floated on the surface.
Noah and his family resided on the ark with the animals for over one year.
After the Flood, God placed a rainbow in the sky to assure Noah he would never again destroy the earth with water.
Please read the entire story of the Food in the Bible, Genesis 6 – 10.
Then go to Jeannie’s blog where you can read more about what is fact and fiction here.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Monday, December 5, 2011
“When Shem was 100 years old, he fathered Arpachshad two years after the flood. And Shem lived after he had Arpachshad 500 years and had other sons and daughters.” Genesis 11:10,
Atarah shaded her eyes with the flat of her hand and peered into the bright sunlight streaming through the open window overhead, waiting with bated breath. Not even Shem’s fingers intertwined with those of her free hand could draw her attention away from Noah who had his face to the window at the top of the ladder.
The quality of life on the ark vastly improved once the rains stopped and Noah was able to open that window -- which ran all the way around the top of their shelter. In accordance with God’s plan, the window occupied the perfect position for welcoming warmth and light during the day. And all that natural light was wonderful! They no longer needed artificial lights.
She sometimes wished she had time to drink in the azure blue view during the day, but that rarely happened because she spent every moment feeding animals and mucking out cages and stalls. Yet she didn’t mind. The work infused her with a sense of purpose she’d never felt before. The tiredness brought on by a hard day’s work helped her savor treasured times of cuddling with her husband beneath the portion of the window over their bed. They’d gaze at the glittering night sky and whisper about the future and their someday-babies and what the world would be like washed clean of evil.
However, the first forty days and nights on the ark had been anything but idyllic. Rain pounded ceaselessly against the watertight closed-up structure while unidentified explosions crashed in the distance and animals bellowed a cacophony of distress from the decks below. In rhythm with the perpetual noises of rain and thunder, the ark rose to great heights then plummeted downward. Constant nausea plagued Atarah. For an entire week the sharp odor of vomit permeated the family living quarters while Shem, bless his heart, cleaned up everyone’s messes.
Atarah momentarily looked away from Noah to smile gratefully at her husband but, squinting up at his father, he failed to catch the look. Her smile broadened and she rested her head contentedly on his shoulder.
“I see mountain tops,” Shem’s father exclaimed at length. “Several of them! The water is receding just as God said.”
Shem wrapped Atarah in a hug and swung her in a circle. “Ten months exactly!” Two and a half months after the ark had grated to a stop on the mountain his father named Ararat.
“Precisely as God told me,” Noah said as he descended. He nodded at Atarah, his eyes dancing. “Go ahead. Take a peek at the first mountains to lift their rocky peaks from the Flood.”
“Really? Me?” She’d been up the ladder before, but the only things visible then were gently undulating waves with sunlight filtering green through the tops. Breathtaking, but she longed for more.
Shem stepped forward to steady the ladder for her. Without hesitating, she placed one sandaled foot on the rough tread and climbed upward. At the top, she wrapped her fingers around the pitch-blackened frame of the gopher-wood window and stuck her head partially through the hole. Warm sunlight bathed her face. A gentle breeze carried the smell of fish and water. “There’s a warm wind,” she called down to the family who had gathered at the base of the ladder. She breathed deeply, briefly enjoying the moment before scanning the horizon. Sure enough, a few rocky peaks poked out of the water. “I see them,” she exclaimed before hurrying down so others could take a turn.
“Do you think I could safely stroll in and pet the lions?” Atarah asked as she shoved a portion of dried venison through the iron bars of the lion’s cage. The big cats pounced on the meat and she withdrew her hand quickly.
“Smart girl.” Her husband flashed a grin from outside the no-longer-hibernating bears’ room. “I’m afraid we’ll never be certain of the answer to that question.”
“But they might be tame. For now.”
“All we know is, they don’t eat pretty little lambs.”
“But they will again as soon as they leave the ark?”
“Almost certainly.” Shem stared intently into the bears’ room. “Hey look at that! Two more mouths to feed.”
Atarah hastened over to admire the cubs and nearly stepped on one of the hundreds of mice that scurried about these days. The whole ark bustled with new life. They’d moved many of the growing families up to the second floor to recently-emptied storage rooms, but the mice couldn’t be contained. And the sight of the rodents often transported her back to the cave and memories of Gadreel. She stood silently beside her husband admiring the mother bear with her cubs.
“Why so quiet?” Shem asked. Concern etched his features.
“I think I’m quiet because I’m so happy.”
“Why happy?” He slipped an arm around her waist.
“Happy because I no longer feel as sad when I think about Gadreel.” She kissed the dimple in his cheek. “Happy because God is helping me remember good things about my father and I seldom think about the bad ones.” She pulled down his head and kissed the furrows in his forehead. “Happy because we’re going to have children who love and obey the One True God.” She kissed an eyebrow.
“What!?” He tickled her in the ribs. “Not happy because I’m your husband?”
She giggled. “Happiest because you’re my husband and I love you.” She kissed the tip of his nose. “So happy I don’t care if I ever leave this musty place filled with manure and ferocious animals that may or may not be tame -- as long as you’re here with me.”
Shem cupped her face in his hands, but pulled back before his lips touched hers. “What would you say if I told you the last dove hasn’t returned?”
“The one that showed up with a fresh olive twig?” Anticipation pulsed in Atarah’s throat. “And your father sent it back out? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I wanted to share the news when we were alone and I could watch those sapphire eyes light up.” He gazed at her adoringly and she felt heat rush through her. “Know what that means?”
“That you like my eyes?”
“It means the dove won’t be coming back here because the earth is dry and
she found a place to nest.”
“And that means we’ll be leaving, too.” Atarah was so excited she could barely keep from bouncing up and down. After more than a year on the ark she was ready to start life with her husband on dry ground. “Soon, I hope.”
“As soon as God says it’s time,” Shem agreed.
Atarah smiled and closed her eyes as Shem kissed her.
I have loved spending these last forty-four weeks with you! Really loved it! I pray for you. Would you please pass the word about the novel around or review it on Amazon so that others will want to read Atarah's story of finding the One True God? And please visit me on my blog at http://blogspot.jeanniestjohntaylor.com/. If you are going through a difficult time and would like prayer, let me know about it on that blog and I will pray for you.
Would you pray for more readers from Muslim-dominated countries?
Check this blog again in the middle of the week for an Appendix to the novel which will help you sort out which parts of the novel are fiction.
Monday, November 28, 2011
This is Atarah's mother's last chance to make her decision. Will she believe in God and demonstrate that belief by entering the ark so God can save her?
Or will she choose death?Deciding to live seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?
In the same way, choosing Jesus and life seems like a no-brainer to me, but do you know someone who is refusing his help? What are you choosing?
In the same way, choosing Jesus and life seems like a no-brainer to me, but do you know someone who is refusing his help? What are you choosing?
© Jeannie St. John Taylor
“And the LORD shut him in. And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. Everything on dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died.” Genesis 7:16 c, 21,22
The sheer size of the imposing structure that rose into view as Elika and her camel crested the mountain took her breath away. The ark was simple. Rough. A rounded box that, even from this distance, radiated . . . what? A Presence. A feeling she’d never experienced before. Holiness?
She shuddered as the chilly winds of fear blew across her soul.
Pulling her scarf around her, she vaguely wondered why the weather had grown unseasonably cold. Elika rubbed her arms to infuse a little warmth into them.
Reaching behind, she tugged on the rope holding her rolled up carpet strapped to the camel. Still firmly attached. Fleeing the city early this morning had been surprisingly uncomplicated. After an all-night party at Rizpah’s, Ishan had assigned slaves to escort Elika home while he remained to enjoy himself a little longer. Once at the house, she instructed the slaves to load the rug for her, and then gave them a task across the city. As soon as they left, she left. Easy. No one had followed her, and with Ishan distracted by the goings-on at Rizpah’s, she should have plenty of time to find her daughter.
She prayed Atarah was still alive and on the ark.
Would Atarah accept the gift? Could she forgive her mother? Elika ached with the need to hug her daughter one last time. But first she must reach the ark, and right now she was exhausted.
For years she’d been transported only on slave-carried litters. Today she’d chosen to ride a camel because of the animal’s load-carrying potential and for anonymity, but the constant rocking and fighting against a wind that grew increasingly stronger had worn her down. Worse, the animal, suddenly unsteady on his feet, moved like he might collapse before she did.
The wind rose before her. Buffeting her. Moaning through leafless trees and bending them nearly to the ground. Blocking her way to the ark. The sky framing the ark swirled with black clouds. It seemed to Elika the earth’s atmosphere boiled with evil, as though the very earth and sky conspired against the Presence of the ark. But until the camel actually staggered and stumbled, Elika didn’t realize the earth beneath them was undulating.
A deep crack opened with a roar, running from a small house some distance away to the ark. The crevice tore around the side of the ark furthest from Elika. The packed dirt that had supported the ark broke away, leaving struts exposed and the intact structure tottering a few cubits from the edge of the fissure.
The camel side-stepped the crevice. She urged the beast forward with a burst of new courage born of the need to embrace her daughter one last time erasing every other thought and feeling.
She clung to the camel’s neck, her pulse bouncing in her throat. As soon as the quake passed, she slipped trembling from his back and led him on foot the final distance to the ark.
A wide ramp at the top of a man-made hill led to a broad open doorway in the ark’s side. She cautiously ascended the rise, then stopped at the base of the ramp, unable to move forward.
Imagined terrors held her back. The dark doorway loomed as a gaping mouth poised to swallow her alive. The dragons Dagaar had spoken of lurked just out of sight, waiting for hapless intruders.
She shook away the irrational thoughts, but still couldn’t make herself place one foot in front of the other. She gripped the camel’s rope and stared while the truth about the One True God revealed itself.
She had determined years ago to stay by Ishan’s side and serve his gods. No matter what he’d done. No matter what they were. And now something hard inside her didn’t want to change. Some illogical thing she could no longer control commanded her to continue on the path she’d always trod. She would return to the city and stay by her husband’s side no matter the consequences. She would persist in worshipping her husband’s gods. She could not change, could not relent. Or was it would not relent? Nothing made sense. She knew that. Her heart had formed into an inflexible ball that refused to budge.
It didn’t matter.
She was incapable of stepping inside that holy place. The Presence of the Holy God, Noah’s One True God was too fearsome. Entering the ark would be like stepping into the center of a consuming fire and she couldn’t – wouldn’t – do that. She would protect herself at all cost.
With a shock Elika realized that unless Atarah came out to her mother, Elika would never again look on her face. She lifted her heads to the roiling clouds, tempted to pray to them. A plump drop of water splattered on her chin.
“God of Noah,” she prayed desperately. “Grant me one request. Give me five minutes with my daughter.”
Even as the words left her mouth, Atarah materialized in the ark’s doorway. A smile lit her face and she ran weeping into her mother’s arms. They clung to one another. Finally, shouting to be heard above the howling wind, Elika poured out her heart. She asked for forgiveness, hoping desperately that Atarah could forgive her.
“I already forgave you.” Atarah said, taking her mother’s hand. “No more talk out here. I prayed for you to come. I’d almost given up, but I prayed one final time, looked out the door and there you were. God’s miracle.” Tears still poured down her cheeks. Or were the drops lingering on her lashes falling from the sky?
Atarah tugged her mother toward the door, but Elika set her feet, resisting. “I brought my carpet for you. Please don’t hang it on a wall. I want you to spread the rug across the floor so that every time your feet touch the yarn or your children play on the colors you’ll remember me.”
The man Elika had seen rescue Atarah at Gadreel’s sacrifice, appeared by her daughter’s side. She guessed him to be one of Noah’s sons. At Elika’s instruction, he untied the carpet from the camel and carried her life’s work into the ark.
The ramp began vibrating and the man rushed back toward them yelling, “You have to come inside now!”
She shook her head. “I’m going home.”
“No, please!” her daughter clutched her arm. “The Flood is starting!”
“I’ll be fine. Flood waters can’t reach our house. I won’t leave your father alone.”
The storm noises increased. Wind screamed. Wolves howled. Somewhere an elephant trumpeted. “Please come inside with us,” the man shouted in Elika’s ear. When she again refused, he turned to Atarah. “You can’t force her! God gave her free will and you have no right to take that from her.”
Several columns of angry clouds stretched toward the earth. The man grabbed Atarah’s hand and hastened her, sobbing hysterically, into the ark. The couple stopped just on the other side of the door where Elika could see them gesturing and shouting silently for her to follow. The roaring of earth and sky drowned out their voices.
Jagged regret ripped through Elika’s soul as the door of the ark slammed shut unassisted by human hand. Separating mother and daughter for eternity. The ramp dropped away. The sky burst forth like a waterfall, and the ground opened under her.
With a thundering boom! -- the door to the ark slammed and locked. The sound of wood on wood reverberated through the corridors. Wind that had been rushing in through the open doorway instantly ceased, and Atarah stared numbly at gopher-wood where the outside world and her mother used to exist. Her hands, which had frantically begged Mother to enter the ark, hung limply at her sides.
She felt Shem’s arms encircle her and she collapsed into him. Not crying. Barely thinking. Her senses blunted by shock.
“You okay?” he whispered into her hair.
The muffled clamor of a world in upheaval raged outside. While Shem patiently held her, Atarah absorbed the comfort of his arms. After a long moment she lifted her head. “Surprisingly, I think I’m fine.”
“Your mother . . . ?” Shem let the question trail off.
The rumblings and crashes outside informed them Mother had undoubtedly
died. Already. Sorrow clutched Atarah’s chest. “I’m sad she made that choice, but so grateful God was gracious and permitted me to tell her I forgave her.”
“She knew you loved her.”
Atarah laid her head on his chest again and nodded, unable to form words.
“The One True God shut the door and closed us in just Father said he would.”
“Shut us in with his own hand,” she marveled. “And he’s keeping us safe while the world falls apart around us.”
She refused to think about what might be going on outside. She couldn’t bear to picture the panic of the the people she’d known in the city. Not even the ones who harmed her. She felt no joy in knowing that Dagaar and the Nephilim would perish. “It may take me a long time to come to grips with all the tragedy, but I know they all chose their fate. Even Mahli.”
“The one you told me about? My Uncle Paseah’s wife?”
“Yes. She could have fled the underground.” The ark shifted and Atarah’s heart did a flip.
Shem placed an arm firmly around Atarah’s shoulders and they started toward the family quarters. “Also, she must have known about the One True God and the ark,” he said, “even if she only heard when Uncle’s and Father’s other siblings scorned him.”
“Do you think she understood her choice?”
“I think God makes right and wrong clear at some point.”
“But do people always recognize the choices they are making?”
Shem looked thoughtful. “I think they know they are choosing, but they may not understand the significance of the choice because Satan veils Truth.”
“Plus they sear their own consciences,” Atarah said. “Mother told me she had The Dream just as I did and she knew others who dreamed the same thing.”
“But they ignored the Truth that the Light revealed to them and you didn’t.” Shem’s eyes glowed with pride and gratitude.
The ark tilted at an angle causing the gopher wood to creak and groan and making walking difficult. Shem grasped Atarah’s hand and used the wall for support as they lurched along. “Walking around in a moving ark is going to take some getting used to.”
“Are we already floating?” she asked in amazement.
“We will be any moment. And you know what that means.” He squeezed her hand. “You ready to get married?”
There hadn’t been time for a marriage ceremony when Shem proposed three days earlier. So, because they understood they’d be too exhausted to enjoy their time together until all the animals were on board and settled, they’d agreed to postpone the marriage until the ark launched. A thrill shimmied up Atarah’s spine as she realized the time had arrived and Noah was waiting in the family quarters to perform the ceremony. “I’m more than ready.” She smiled with a slow sweep of lashes.
Emotion glistened in Shem’s eyes. “For so many years I feared I’d never meet someone like you,” he said his voice thick. “I lost hope that you existed. You’re so . . . so . . .” She could see him struggling for words. “Beautiful inside and out. So beautiful that . . . that . . .”
“Compared to me all other women who ever lived look like warty toads?” she finished for him, her eyes dancing.
He laughed, a warm rich sound that made her tingle all the way to her toes. “Yep. You make every one of them look like warty toads.” He lowered his head and kissed her. When he finally drew, back her bones felt like they were made of water. “I’ve been looking for you my whole life,” he said huskily, “and I don’t intend to wait one second longer.”
Don't miss the Epilogue coming this time next week!
I have enjoyed our time together so much and I'll miss you. I'd love for you to visit my blog and leave a comment from time to time.
If you have a prayer request, email me to keep it private and personal and I'll pray for you. http://jeanniestjohntaylor.blogspot.com
Sunday, November 20, 2011
“The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep.” Genesis 7:17b, 19 -20
Shem shook the fin of a smoked salmon between his thumb and forefinger. “You might want to stay by the door so one of these guys doesn’t smack you in the face.” Row after row of the large fish hung from racks rising all the way to the ceiling in this room.
A bemused smile lit Atarah’s face. “You expect a dead fish to wriggle over and slap me in the fa . . . Oof.” She pushed a salmon away from her nose with two fingers. “Yuck. Okay. Okay. I’m backing up. Standing by the door.”
“I tried to warn you.” Shem laughed as he walked over to her with two fish laying across his forearms arms.
“That thing swung over and whapped me,” she complained. She wiped oil off her nose before accepting the large smoked salmon then dropped one of them as she fumbled the other onto a wheeled flatbed just outside the door. “Heavy.” She retrieved the fish from the floor and tossed it onto the cart. “I find the sheer quantity of fish in here astounding.”
“This is nothing.” He grunted as he unhooked another fish. “There’s room after room chock full of them.”
“What’d you do, stick a sign outside the ark announcing, ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ and they all swam on?”
“So that’s what you think? We snapped our fingers and all the food here just magically appeared?” He rolled his eyes, feigning dismay. “I’ll have you know Ham and I caught every fish in this room from a river near here. Plus we personally stored buffalo and camel and hundreds of other kinds of meat. Some suitable for human consumption. Some appropriate only for enormous carnivorous beasts.”
“Most of the carnivorous beasts I’ve seen here are still young.” Atarah paused to make her point. “That means they’re small.”
“Okay. You made your point. I might have exaggerated a little with the ‘enormous’”.
“You just exaggerated again with the ‘a little’.”
He bunched his lips to hold back a smile, but his eyes danced.
“Did you know,” she asked, studying one of the fish, “that our city has an idol like this? A fish carved from wood, covered with hammered gold. And people bake cakes to the god and do evil things in his honor!”
“Hard to understand,” Shem agreed. He felt love for this woman surge through him anew. She’d come to understand the illogic of idol worship even though she’d been raised with false gods. God had protected her spirit and saved her for him.
“No matter how hard I try, I can’t figure out why people do evil when they worship. I mean, stupidity is one thing, but most gods demand outright evil, and that’s a whole different thing.”
Atarah’s statement that she didn’t know who Satan was stunned Shem. That should be elementary knowledge for everyone. “You’ve never heard about Satan?” For some reason Shem hadn’t even considered the possibility that no one had explained the source of evil to her. He kept forgetting that his upbringing had been entirely different from hers.
Piling a one last fish onto the cart, he put his back into pulling the load toward one of the lifts and Atarah fell into step alongside the cart. “So who’s Satan?”
Where should he start? “He was the evil spirit in the Garden of Eden who possessed the serpent and spoke through him to seduce Eve. He’s still the being behind everything bad and violent and wicked in the entire universe. Every evil thought or action on earth results from people surrendering to him.”
A fish tumbled from the cart and Atarah stooped to retrieve it. “I thought that was a myth.”
“No, the story is true.” Shem covered his surprise at her lack of knowledge. “Adam and Eve were actual people who walked and talked with the One True God in the Garden. Both were innocent and good until Eve changed everything by becoming the first human to cooperate with evil.”
“By taking a bite of the fruit?”
“Yes. When she disobeyed God by tasting the fruit she handed kingship of this world over to Satan.”
“Where do idols fit in?”
“All the idols and every one of your city’s thousand are nothing more than fronts for Satan. All paths lead to him.”
“What about the Nephilim?”
“Fallen angels who fought with Satan in a battle against the One True God.”
Shem pulled the cart onto the food elevator and Atarah stood back apprehensively, obviously afraid of heights. Shem understood how she’d feel that way after her awful day hugging the side of a cliff on her way to the underground.
“The lift is pretty full. Do you mind taking a ramp? I’ll meet you there.” He grabbed a rope to lower the elevator, calling after her. “Changed my mind, better take the stairs. The ramps will be jammed with animals.” All creatures but humans seemed to avoid stairs. Well, all but the pair of lions he’d seen when he was with Paseah. Plus, he’d spotted a couple raccoons lumbering down another stairway.
She walked backwards long enough to smile and wave.
Atarah located the first stairway and descended in a daze. The news about an actual evil being controlling every vicious violent thought and act on earth stunned her and made her desire to talk to Mother stronger and more urgent. She would leave tonight.
Mother had fought the evil just as Atarah had. If only Mother could understand that the invisible evil around her was a being, an entity who had enslaved her, she’d run from him and onto the ark. Atarah only had to clarify the facts for her.
But first Atarah herself needed to understand more. Question after question peppered her brain as she hurried toward Shem. When she reached the small alcove near a white-washed door where Shem was parking the cart, she immediately asked, “Who is Satan?”
“He was a powerful angel – a guardian cherub. The One True God created him ‘blameless and perfect with every precious stone adorning him and music in his wings.’ That’s a quote from Father.”
“What did he mean – ‘music in his wings?’”
“Well, . . .” Shem adopted a thoughtful pose, a fish dangling from each hand. “Music comes from our mouths and throats when we sing, so maybe the music in his wings was something like the music that comes from our bodies.”
“You don’t know?”
“I’m speculating,” Shem admitted sheepishly. “I only know for sure that Satan went astray because he grew proud over his own splendor.” He opened a door. “Hang on for a second.” He disappeared inside carrying the fish and she could hear seals barking. A walrus whoofed.
They’d transferred all animals to separate rooms earlier because Noah wanted the animals secure when rising water began violently rocking the ark. Even the crocodiles had their own space. Atarah didn’t understand the need to confine the animals so far ahead of time, but she trusted that Noah and Shem knew the proper procedures and she willingly followed instructions.
As soon as Shem returned, Atarah picked up the thread of conversation. “How did Satan ‘go astray?’”
“He tried to dethrone the One True God and take his place. A third of all the angels in heaven fought with him in a cosmic battle against God.” He continued lugging fish from door to door and tossing them into rooms.
Heavy sadness settled over her. “God’s own angels fought him? Betrayed the Creator who loved them? They hated him that much?” she whispered huskily. “It must have broken his heart.”
“His heart is broken now, too.” Shem stared pensively into space. “All the violence and wickedness.”
She would tell Mother all this. She had to make Mother see the truth about the One True God. Holding a fish in the crook of her arm, she placed a palm on the white-washed door and started to push.
“Yaaaaaaaaaaah!” Shem yelled. “Don’t open that door!”
“If you open that door, you’ll have to eat your words about no enormous dangerous animals on the ark.”
“What?” Her mind was a blank.
“That’s the room I told you about with the snakes that made Ham scream. They’re big enough to swallow you alive.” Shem leveled an I’ve-been-proven-right look at her. “Please note, they’re full grown.”
She yanked her hand back as if it had been resting on a hot surface. A herd of full-grown moose near enough to touch pounded past in the wooden corridor. The up-close snorting and strong smell of the animals startled her. She pressed a hand against her chest and counted. “One, two, three, four . . . seven adults.”
“Yes, adults.” Shem grinned triumphantly.
“No. I meant why seven?” She couldn’t tell if the snakes or the moose were making her heart beat.
“Seven of each clean animal, remember?” He grinned. “Theses guys meet the criteria since they have hooves and chew the cud.”
“At least they’re not carnivorous.” She regained her composure and chucked the last fish into a room.
“They won’t eat you, but their hooves can leave a nasty bruise.” Seven turkeys gobbled by in a loose clump. “Not to worry.” Shem straightened to his full height and squared his shoulders. “Your great protector is here.”
“Not to worry.” Atarah laughed. “I plan to eat them. Are we done with the feeding?”
“We are.” He smiled down at her and grabbed the cart handle. “Time for dinner.”
“Shouldn’t we haul a couple loads of water first? Those moose looked thirsty.”
“We’re done hauling water. The Flood’s so close we have enough.”
Her mind spun and emptied. “What?”
“We have enough water. The ark launches in less than three days.”
“What!?” Atarah’s legs threatened to buckle under her. She felt as if her bones had dissolved and her body was collapsing in on itself. “No!” She started first left, then right, then left again. Which way should she go? She couldn’t think. Mother!
What had come over Atarah? An iron clamp gripped Shem’s heart as he watched her stagger, ashen-faced, in a circle, her eyes dark stagnant pools. “Atarah.” He touched her arm to calm her. She shook him off causing his emotions to jolt and tumble. “You knew about the Flood.”
Didn’t she? Yes. They’d talked about it. He remembered talking with her about the Flood, but had he told her how soon?
Unseeing eyes shifted to his.
Shem’s feelings about the Flood before he met Atarah flashed into his mind. Though he had understood the inevitability of God’s punishment, he hadn’t been ready for the Flood. Not until he met Atarah. And even now he experienced occasional feelings of fear. Who knew if they would survive?
“You’re not ready for the Flood yet?”
She blinked. “My mother.”
At the sound of her voice, relief buoyed his emotions.
“I can’t let my mother die in the Flood.”
His understanding of her intent skipped ahead of her words and his heart plummeted to his stomach. “You know it’s impossible to find her and bring her here in three days.”
Her back stiffened and determination sparked from her eyes. “I can if I go through the underground.”
“No, you can’t!” Her illogic infuriated him. She knew the journey would take weeks. “You don’t know the way.”
“I know one of the tunnels down there leads to the city.”
“You may not be able to find it again. If you do, you could still be accosted by Peleg or Dagaar or . . .” Anger coagulated the names in his throat, preventing him from listing all the threats to her safety. “You don’t even know if your mother would want to come onto the ark.”
“She will when I explain everything.”
“You don’t know that. She’s had years.”
“She didn’t want to leave Father. Or the rest of us. But things are different now.”
“Why?” He saw hesitancy flicker in her eyes. “I don’t want you to go. I don’t want you to die!” The instant he heard the pathos in his own voice, Shem’s anger evaporated. What did Father say about anger? The emotion covers fear. Shem suddenly understood that his anger sprang from fear for Atarah’s safety and fear of losing her. He felt his eyes soften into a plea. “I love you!”
Unfortunately, his declaration came out as more desperate than romantic. He chided himself.
Liquid sapphire shimmered in Atarah’s eyes before she dropped her head. Tears fell to the plank floor where they grew into dark circles. “Mother thinks I hate her.”
What could he say? Atarah’s mother deserved her daughter’s disdain, so she couldn’t know Atarah had forgiven her. Silently, he put his arms around Atarah and pulled her close. With her head on his chest, he held her as she sobbed.
She would have to choose: God, Shem, and hard work on the ark followed by a new life in a new world -- or reconciliation with her mother. And death. Seemed like an obvious choice to Shem, but maybe not to Atarah. Guilt did strange things to people and she felt guilty about her mother.
When her crying finally quieted, Shem said very simply, “I want you to be my wife.” He wished he could be more dramatic. More persuasive. He wanted to proclaim his deep need for her. Tell her how he had longed for her his entire life. Dreamed about her. Made his room beautiful for her. He wanted to beg her to choose him. To love him.
He didn’t. Instead, he patiently waited while her face stayed buried in his chest.
He knew she had to make the choice of her own free will. He loved her too much to take that from her. Suddenly he understood for the first time why God had given humans free will. He didn’t want puppets who followed him reluctantly. God wanted love and respect. Relationship.
Those were the same things Shem wanted from Atarah, but only if she chose to give them. He couldn’t – wouldn’t – manipulate her into being what he wanted. The world may have fallen into chaos and violence because of free will, but Shem nevertheless understood the wisdom in God’s decision. Shem was grateful to be one of the few people on earth who had chosen God above everything else. He hoped Atarah would choose God, too. And choose Shem.
Finally, Atarah released a shivering sigh. He cupped her chin in his hand and lifted her face. Her eyes shone with grief.
“I do love you,” she said. “I’ve loved you since the first moment I saw you on the ark. I want to spend my life with you. I want to learn more about the One True God so I can serve him. I want to stay on the ark and live. I want to get to know your family better. I want to bear your children.” She paused and her eyes shifted back and forth over his face as though searching for something. “But I don’t know if I can live knowing my mother died without me at least trying to save her.”
For a brief moment, Shem considered tearing into the city on an elephant with Atarah to bring back her mother, but he knew he couldn’t. God had called him to the ark. Father needed his help to finish God’s work. Abandoning his mission would mean rejecting God, and Shem refused to do that.
“I love you.” Shem squared his shoulders and chose God over Atarah. “And I’ll never forget you. But if you decide to leave the ark, you’ll go without me.”
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Four More Days
“Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.” Gen.5:22 - 24
With only four days left until the Flood, animals no longer filed onto the ark two by two – pairs streamed on in a near-solid mass of creature-flesh. Shem dared not take a step without keeping his eyes on the floor to avoid tripping over a buggy-eyed aye-aye or crushing a grasshopper underfoot. As he stowed small mammals in cages, his gaze continuously shifted from metal bars to floor planks and back again so he wouldn’t accidentally damage a hedgehog or lemming or even a pointy-nosed shrew by stepping or reaching wrong.
Atarah had worked side by side with him ever since the night he found her in his bed. Though at first she possessed few skills and little idea how to do heavy work, she was a quick study who worked tirelessly and without complaint. Since the heaviest construction work had been done before they moved onto the ark, Father suggested couples work together while Mother took care of food and did final extra tasks like making a few last batches of soap outside the ark. Father roamed the corridors finishing up odds and ends and helping whoever needed an extra hand.
With so much time alone, Shem and Atarah chatted non-stop. He explained the workings of the ark and concepts about God to her and she eagerly drank it all up.
Atarah shared the details of her past life with Shem. He felt an overwhelming sense of awe at the courage she revealed by standing against everyone and refusing to worship false gods. Her stories about the underground stunned him since he had no idea anything but a solid mountain supported the city. He fought a strong urge to go wallop Dagaar.
Even while talking incessantly, they worked efficiently as a team. With so many animals drinking and bathing, the two took on the extra responsibility of hauling additional wagonloads of water onto the ark several times a day. No one but Japheth was willing to work with Buzz, so they used a tamer smaller camel. One time Ham filled in for Atarah for a couple of hours so she could dip tallow candles with the women. Shem missed her the entire time.
Atarah’s energy seemed boundless and she was proving invaluable. Not because of her willingness to work, but because of the way she made him feel. God had fulfilled his promise even though Shem doubted.
Nevertheless, Shem still hadn’t kissed Atarah or declared his love. For two reasons. First, he wanted to wait until he had time to give her more attention. Second, he hoped a friendship could grow before the romance commenced. The latter was a ridiculous idea, of course, since every accidental brush of their fingers left him aquiver. He shook his head at his foolishness.
“Hey!” She stood facing him, hands on her hips, head cocked, eyes dancing. “Am I supposed to address you as King Shem?”
“You’re wearing a green crown.” She rose on tiptoe and removed two lime-colored moths from the top of his head in cupped hands. Edged in purple, each moth was larger than Shem’s hand with long lobes trailing like wide tails from each wing. Huge and beautiful. Yet distracted by her, he hadn’t even noticed the insects.
She held the moths to the top of a cage where they stepped from her hands. Leaning forward she fingered the feather-like appendages growing from the head of one. “What are those?”
“I don’t know what they are,” Shem laughed. “But they let you know he’s a male. Female moths don’t have them.”
“Not fair. That makes him better looking than her. Why are the males always better looking?” She pointed at cardinals flying past, pretending to pout. “Those females don’t hold a candle to the males. Don’t you think they’d like to be bright red, too?”
Shem grinned and placed two bunnies into a cage. “That whole ‘males are better-looking than females’ law doesn’t fit the two of us.” He averted his eyes, but not before catching her blush.
“We’ve spent enough time down here for now.” He reached through the bars to stroke the white and sepia spotted bunny and noticed two skunks strolling toward them.
“Don’t move,” he whispered. “Stinkers.”
Atarah froze and her eyes grew wide.
Shem waited until the skunks almost reached her before swooping forward and snatching them up by the tails.” Keeping them upside-down and vertical he walked past a long row of cages, casually opened the door of last one, shoved the skunks inside, slammed the door of the cage and hurried away.
Atarah released a breath. “You did that without getting sprayed! Or getting me sprayed.” She grinned. “I’m impressed.”
“Don’t be,” he said, but the open admiration sparkling from her eyes made him stand a little taller. “If you keep their tails in the air they can’t share that lovely perfume with you.”
Walking ahead of Atarah to clear the way to the family quarters for the mid-day meal, Shem battled the oncoming flow of animals picking their way down to the lowest level. When two badgers waddled past, he stopped and held out a restraining arm to keep Atarah from running into one. “Need to be careful of badgers.”
“Thanks. I need all the help I can get,” she said. “I don’t want to squash anyone.” She kept her eyes fixed on the floor, concentrating.
He chuckled at the ‘anyone’ comment. “I meant the badgers might chomp your ankle. They’re cantankerous. You’re doing fine. This isn’t easy.”
“You’re telling me,” She side-stepped seven geese marching in a stately line, and nearly bumped into a pair of zebras. “Forty-five thousand animals, you say?”
“More or less.”
“The ark won’t be loaded for months.” She did a quick-step over and around a couple of centipedes.
He had just opened his mouth to let her know all the animals would be aboard and locked up in four days because that’s when God told Father the Flood would start, when a monkey landed on her shoulder. She dissolved with smiles of pleasure. “Ooooh, what a sweetie!” she cooed. She cuddled the animal while it purred like a kitty cat snuggled in her arms. “He’s purring! I didn’t know monkeys purred.”
“Only that kind purr,” Shem responded. “Weird, isn’t it?” The adoring glow on her face wiped his brain clean and all he could think about was what a good mother she’d be. He tried to erase the goofy smile he could feel on his face, but the silly thing stuck fast. He forgot all about the four-day deadline.
Stew bubbled in a pot on the flat top of the metal dome over the fire pit in the family area. Shem’s mother bustled through the room and out the door with a wave telling Atarah and Shem she was on her way to help Father and everyone else had already eaten.
An image of Atarah’s own mother flashed through her mind and she couldn’t help comparing the two parents. How different their lives had been! Though Atarah dreaded the idea of separation from Shem for even the few days it would take to find Mother, Atarah looked forward to bringing her to a place where she could experience peace. Atarah fretted over whether to let Shem know she was leaving. If she told him he might try to talk her out of going. If she didn’t tell him he might be hurt. It was a dilemma.
Atarah dished up the stew for both of them and they sat at the table together. A little closer than necessary. He loved her. She could tell. Wasn’t even worried about it, though she would like him to speed things up a little.
“What in the world?” she asked slicing off a piece of purple bread.
“I can see that.” She smiled at him. “I’ve just never tasted purple bread before.” She took a bite. “Nutty. What makes it purple?”
“Never heard of Taro, but it’s nice in bread.”
“You’ll sample all sorts of new breads here.” He took a bite of stew. “Mother’s specialty. She may put as many as fifteen different kinds of flour and a several spices in a single batch of bread. Her worst concoction included ground-up acorns. She boiled out the bitterness and then dried them before she ground them, but still . . .” He made a gagging sound.
“Yeah, you laugh now. Wait till the Flood starts and she has more time to experiment. We stored hundreds kinds of seeds and nuts she wants to grind them all into flour.” He rolled his eyes in mock dismay.
“Hundreds? I have a little trouble believing that. Name some.”
“Barley, rice, wheat, spelt, flax, coriander, wheat berry, chickpea, cornmeal, bulgar, Amaranth, Quinoa, kasha, rye berries, millet . . .” He paused and sucked in a dramatically-loud breath.
“That’s not several hundred.”
“I know. I meant thousands, but I can guarantee you’ve never heard of them.”
“Oh yeah? I told you my father deals in exotic luxuries. Try to name a grain I haven’t heard of.”
“Who said anything about grain? Mother grinds any kind of seed or dried tuber into flour. Ever had bamboo seeds in bread?”
He looked skeptical.
“No. I really have.” She slugged his upper arm and reached for a peach. “I traveled with Father, remember?”
“Okay. Tell me if you’ve heard of Masa Harina, Teff, Baobab, Lotus, Breadfruit, Pigweed . . .” He continued to rattle off names, stopping only when she interrupted.
“Enough! Enough! No one cultivates those.”
“Who said anything about cultivation? I merely stated that Mother adds anything and everything grind-able to bread.” He popped a bit of kohlrabi into his mouth. “If it grows or has ever grown or is edible or used medicinally, we stored it on the ark.”
“Every seed on earth?”
“Every seed from every corner of the earth.” He lifted his chin and smiled at her through shuttered lids. “We might have traveled even further than your father.”
His flirty smile stopped her heart and she rose on wobbly legs. “We better get back to work.”
He leaned back against the table, elbows propped behind him on the top surface, and stretched his legs into the room. “We also stored every tea imaginable. What’s your pleasure?”
“I don’t like tea,” she teased. “Got any chicory?”
“Chicory and chicory substitutes: Nutsedge, Dandelion, Juniper, Coffee. . . . Want me to go on?” He flashed a toothy smile, then sobered. “Father collected everything the One True God commanded and God will have nothing missing when he renews the earth.”
“After the Flood.” She completed his thought as though she’d known him forever. The sudden world-shattering shift of the conversation from bread to the end of the world left her dizzy. Suddenly, disaster loomed imminent. She knew with certainty she would have to hurry to bring Mother here.
“Want to know the purpose of that desk over there?” Shem asked.
She nodded. He led her into the alcove holding the elaborate desk and carefully lifted a scroll out of the largest pot. This is the desk where Father will sit when he inscribes copies of this scroll onto papyrus during the Flood. Shem reverently unrolled a portion. Letters of gold flowed across a vellum surface dyed darker purple than the Taro bread.
“Amazing.” She carefully stroked the letters with her fingertips. “Vellum, right?”
“Yes. The finest calfskin.”
“What is it?” She almost thought she could feel holiness rising from the scroll. “A scroll, I know. But who wrote it?”
"It’s the Book of Enoch, written by my great, great grandfather, Enoch. He’s the only man in history who didn’t die. Because he was righteous, God took him up in a whirlwind when he was only three hundred sixty-five years old. This scroll tells the story of everything Enoch saw and did.”
Such incredible information! It was almost more than Atarah could take in and Shem must have seen. “Do you read?” he asked.
“Yes.” She saw a glint of pride spark on his face. He must have assumed she hadn’t learned to read because most women couldn’t. To Father’s credit, he encouraged learning in the women of his household. Shem seemed to like the fact that she possessed that skill.
“Good. You can read this after the animals are settled in.” Shem rolled up the scroll and eased it back into the pot. “Meanwhile, the sea lions on the bottom floor need us.”
“Yes, there’s lots to do.” Sadly, she could tell time was flying past and the Flood would start soon. She would have to leave him to work alone for a week or two.