The Other Noah Hear me, you who may survive; hear me and know that I am, Nahum, twin brother

to Noah, son of Lamech, son of Methuselah, son of Enoch who walked with God, son of Jared, son of Mahalel, son of Kenan, son of Enosh, son of Seth who was the son of Adam, the first of the sons of God. I write in haste. The waters are rising quickly, and while this mountain is high, I do not believe it will be high enough. When the waters eventually reach me here I will place these pages in an earthen jar, seal it with pitch and thrust it into the waves, trusting that the Lord who has sent the flood will preserve it. The day that the mighty Lord of heaven spoke to my brother, we were together in our carpentry shop. He and I were partners: building and construction. I remember that it was warm that afternoon, warm enough to make a camel sweat. Usually we rested from our labor during the hottest parts of the day, enjoying a chilled cup of barley beer or even clear, cold water, but on that day we were anxious to finish planing several timbers needed for a house being built by one of the wealthier merchants of our town for his second wife. So it fell to Noah and me to finish shaping the timbers before the looming deadline. As we sweated in the sawdust all that afternoon we talked of all the things we would do when we became as wealthy as our customer. “I will build three houses, one for each of my three sons,” Noah said to me. “And I will build one more for me and my wife as well. Each will have a marvelous door, ornately carved, and roof-top patios shaded by a fine canopy. And I will give up building forever.” “What will you do with yourself?” I asked. “Your wife will quickly tire of your lounging around the hose. She isn’t nearly as tolerant of you as I am.” I blew a handful of wood shavings at him. He paused before responding, stretched his broad shoulders back and, looking out the workshop door which was propped open, said, “I will give up building and I will trade my saws and planes and mallets for the tools of a gardener.” “A gardener? You’d become a grimy fingered dirt grubber?” I couldn’t believe this, not from my brother. Noah had never seemed interested in anything except carpentry. “Yes. Most assuredly, a gardener. And I will plant the finest tasting cucumbers, and leeks, and melons, and garlic…” as he mentioned each luxurious vegetable he waved his sharpened tools through the air. “Cucumbers, and leeks, and grapes Fields and fields of grapes,” he sang as he danced wildly through the shop. I ducked to avoid being stabbed by the whirling instruments and laughed at his foolishness. Before nightfall we finished the work order and loaded the materials on the ox-cart we used for deliveries. Noah led the cart away while I stayed to sweep out the shop and to return the tools to their right places. The delivery should have taken only an hour or two at the most. But Noah did not return. I waited and waited. But when he did not return to the shop I assumed that he’d gone straight home to his wife and his sons and their wives. So I locked the workshop doors and made my way to my own home. This was always an exercise in caution as the streets were often swarmed with ruffians, thieves, and pick-pockets. Once home with the door bolted, I ate a meal kindly prepared for me by Noah’s wife and daughters-in-law. They had, in the years after the death of my wife, taken it upon themselves to make sure that I ate, and that I ate well. Darkness found me sleeping that night, exhausted but pleased with a long day of work.

Several hours after the moon had risen into the night’s sky, I was awakened by a pounding on my door. “Nahum! Uncle Nahum! Come quick!” I leapt from my sleeping pallet and threw on my robe. At the door stood my nephews: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. I saw their fear in the flickering torch light. “What is it boys?” “Father has not come home.” Their voices overlapped and interrupted each other. “We have checked the workshop, but he isn’t there either. Mother is frantic and sent us to ask if you know where to find him.” They were right to be afraid for their father. The city was a desperate place at night. Criminals and thieves prowled the dark streets, hiding in the shadows. It was far too common to find in the light of morning sun the corpses of their victims, cut and gashed by horrible knives. “We must find him, and soon.” We split into two pairs to search the streets; I with Japheth searched south towards the city gates while Shem and Ham went north towards the king’s palace. We took torches, holding them high above our heads so that we could see into every corner and alley. I knew that the torches only made us more visible targets to those we feared in the dark, but we had no choice. We searched, but we did not find him. The moon had gone her way and the morning sun had begun his climb into the sky, but we had still not found my missing brother, so we gathered back at Noah’s house. We hoped that we might find him there, having arrived before us; the sound of weeping of the women told us that he had not. We ate a breakfast meal of bread, and figs, and milk in silence. It filled our empty stomachs, but there was no comfort in it. Ham alone seemed unconcerned. When the woman had retreated to one of the inner rooms he drank a noisy gulp, wiped his mouth with his sleeve and said in a conspiratorial voice, “I didn’t dare say it with mother in the room, but I guess that he’s found himself a woman for the night. He’ll come home with some dog faced excuse.” Shem laughed, and nodded his approval at Ham’s ribaldry. Japheth, the youngest of the boys, smiled nervously to join with his brothers. “You should shut your mouth before any more of your brains fall out,” I said to Ham. “Your father is a good man; more honorable than any in this town, and apparently more honorable than his sons.” Ham glared at me in angry silence, but said nothing more. “We will finish here and go out again to search for your father,” I told them. We were making plans to search the river bank for his body when Noah stumbled through the door. I leaped to my feet to catch him before he could hurt himself falling to the hard stone floor. His face was red and blistered; his lips were cracked and bloodied. One eye was swollen shut. A shriek arose from the inner rooms of the hose when the women realized that he’d returned. Bowels of cool water and bandages were brought out and a flurry of activity began to restore and care for my brother. He slept all that day and long into the next, ignorant of the ministrations on his behalf. When he awoke he ate some food and asked for me.

“I have spoken to the Lord God,” he told me. His voice sounded as ragged and blistered as his face, as if he’d swallowed mouthfuls of sand from the noon-time desert. “Noah, rest. Don’t agitate yourself. Rest.” “There will be a flood. The Lord is sending a flood. We must make preparations. We must build a boat of enormous proportions.” “A flood?” I asked. “What are you talking about, Noah? What happened to you last night? Where did you go? Were you attacked?” He shook his head. “By looking at you I would think that you fell asleep in the heat of the sun, but it was evening when you left me, and the sun was already low in the sky. How did you receive these burns?” “It was God,” he said. “He was all light and burning heat. And he spoke to me.” I nodded for him to continue. “The Lord said that he was filled with regret because of the wickedness and violence that has filled the world. He said that he was grieved in his heart. That’s what he said. ‘grieved in his heart.’ And that he is going to send a flood to wipe everything out; human and animal, bird, and creeping lizard.” “A flood!” I interrupted. “the river floods every year, Noah, but that doesn’t destroy everything. The farmers count on the flooding of the river to restore life to the soil.” “No. Not a flood like that,” he coughed. He wheezed for several minutes and could not catch his breath. I forced another cup of water into his hands and insisted that he drink. When he was able, he continued, “not just the regular yearly flooding of the river. A flood of waters that will destroy the world. But we are to build a boat, a boat large enough to save some from the waters.” “How many?” I asked, already beginning to believe him. “How many people can be saved?” “Not just people, but animals too. Some of every kind so that the world can start over.” His wheezing became coughing once more and he laid back to rest. He was soon asleep again. The next day we began drawing the plans for Noah’s ship. It was the largest of its kind, larger than anything that preceded it. I could see from the dimensions described by Noah that it would dwarf the fishing boats that said the river and nearby lakes. It was gigantic. Shem, Ham, and Japheth assisted us, though their assistance before had been somewhat inconsistent. I expected that they would, as in previous projects, being earnestly enough but that they would soon find excuses to wander away. But they didn’t this time. Something about Noah’s intensity, perhaps, convinced them that this project was different from the projects that had employed us before. They understood that their lives depended upon the construction of this colossal craft. We turned away all of our previous clients and turned down bids for new homes. The ship became our solitary focus. Day after day we worked, shaping and cutting the resinous wood, preparing the boiling pitch to seal the planks. Each of us put everything we owned into its preparation. Every penny was used to buy timber and tools as well as food stores for the animals and people who would be delivered within.

But as we worked day after day on this ark, I began to wonder about its purpose. “The Lord God is grieved in his heart,” said Noah on repeated occasions, “grieved because of the wickedness of the hearts of men. So he’s sending a flood to destroy all living things so that he can start the world over.” “But is there no other way?” I argued. “Is a flood of such destruction really necessary?” “The Lord God is sending a flood. That is what he told me.” “I believe you, Noah. I do. But will he destroy everyone? How many will be brought aboard with us?” “It’s not for me to say.” He answered, but he wouldn’t look at me. He continued to pound the wooden pegs in silence. “What do you mean, ‘it’s not for you to say’? What is the great God of heaven planning?” I demanded. But Noah wouldn’t answer. “Noah!” I insisted. “What is God planning?” Noah huffed at me. “The Lord is distressed by the wickedness of men and will destroy everything because of it. A few will be saved in this ark; and some of every kind of animal. But more than that, I cannot say. Do not question, Nahum. Do not argue.” “How many, Noah?” I insisted. “How many will be brought aboard?” “Nine,” he said but he did not stop his incessant hammering. “Nine?” I shouted. “That would be you and your wife, your sons and theirs….and me?” Noah grunted but said nothing. “But what of our father, Lamech? What of grandfather, Methuselah? They are old, but shouldn’t they be preserved?” Noah paused from his hammering. His face was tight. “It is the Lord’s good pleasure to destroy the work of his hands. It is not ours to question. If he will destroy the wicked with a flood, then he will destroy them.” “Everyone? Vile men along with their innocent children with no discrimination? Is the Lord unable to make such distinctions?” I realized that I was shouting. “It is not for me to say,” he said and turned back to his work. It was several moments before I picked up my tools again and resumed the work on the ship that was gradually taking shape. The next afternoon as Noah and his sons continued to labor on the great boat, even through the hottest parts of the afternoon, I went into the city to purchase some necessary supplies from the market. We needed more pitch and rope and a number of other oddment of supplies. Since it was lat and the sun was high overhead the market was largely empty; most people having done their shopping during the cool morning hours. But there were still a few merchants at their stalls conduction business. I began the negotiations and haggling for materials and speedily concluded my business there. Though

distressed by my brother and the looming destruction, I was eager to return to the work. I arranged for the delivery of the purchased supplies and turned to head back to the work site when I was interrupted. “If you don’t mind my asking,” called the merchant, “what is it that you and your brother are building out there? It is astonishingly large and the city is full of questions.” I hesitated only briefly before turning back to answer him. The story gushed from my mouth like a torrent, like a flood. “It is an ark, a ship of salvation from the coming flood,” I said. “The great God of heaven has become grieved at the immensity of man’s wickedness and is preparing even now to destroy the world and all living things in an enormous flood. The ship that we are building is for the salvation of a few so that a remnant may be preserved for a new beginning when the waters have receded.” I surprised myself with the intensity of my declaration. The merchant, too, seemed overwhelmed. “That, Nahum,” the merchant finally responded, “is either a most amusing jest, or sheer stupidity.” “It is the truth,” I assured him. “Though, perhaps, if they were to repent of their wickedness, then perhaps the Lord of the flood would relent.” I said this as much to myself as to the merchant, and then with a sudden intensity, “They must be persuaded to call upon the Lord for forgiveness. Surely, that would ensure that the flood would not destroy them.” But the merchant was not interested. I think he was offended, but I was willing to risk offense. I ran to the center of the market square and called out with a loud voice to the few who still gathered there. “Listen everyone! Hear me. I am Nahum, younger brother to Noah, twin sons of Lamech, who is the son of Methuselah. You know us. You know me. Now, if you will, please hear me.” A small crowd had turned to listen so I continued. “A flood of unimaginable degree is being prepared for the destruction of all life. The God of heaven is ready to blot it all away. If you can hear my voice, then you must, even today, begin to seek his forgiveness. Perhaps he will stay his wrath. Perhaps the flood can be forestalled.” I would have said more but already I could see that they were leaving, shrugging their shoulders and laughing. One even snatched up a stone and flung it at me; striking me on the shoulder and knocking me backward off my feet. I landed in a cloud of dust and insults. By the time that I returned to our work site, which was necessarily some distance outside the city walls owing to the very large nature of the ship, a crowd had gathered. They were shouting insults and curses at Noah and his sons as they worked. I pressed through the crowed and rejoined the work in progress. “So you told them about the flood…” sneered Ham, his voice full of hatred. “I’d hoped that they would repent and that they could be spared.” “God said nothing about repentance,” said Noah from the other side of a long plank. “He only said to build an ark.” “But surely…” I began.

“”No!” my brother interrupted. “Only build an ark and gather the animals. And we will do exactly and only as the Lord has commanded. No less. And no more.” We worked the rest of that afternoon in silence. The mob soon tired of hurling insults and stones and went back to the city. The work on the ark continued. Every day it grew. Plank after plank was shaped and hammered into place and sealed with pitch both inside and out. Pens were constructed on the second and third decks to hold the animals that would be brought aboard and cabins for the few members of our family. The work was nearing completion, only the roof remained, and the last collection of animals. Japheth had been sent out to gather them- though, surprisingly, many were already gathering along the edges of the work site, as if responding to a secret, unheard call. It occurred to me then, that if I could delay the final completion of the ark, then I could perhaps delay the coming of the flood and allow more time to persuade others to join us. I conceived of a plan to delay the progress of the shipbuilding as much as I could. I slowed my labor. I lost tools. I dumped entire buckets of pitch into the dirt and knocked the construction plans into the cook fires when no one was looking. During the night, as the others slept, I snuck back to the ship and undid entire sections of completed work. And every day of delay I caused was another day to plead with the people of the city to join us. But Shem and Ham soon became aware of my sabotage. I was cutting the ropes that held a support beam when they caught me. “What are you doing?” shrieked Ham as he knocked the blade from my hand. Shem picked it up from the ground. “I think we’ve discovered the cause of all our recent mishaps.” He pointed the knife at me, threatening me. “You’ve caused problems from the beginning, uncle. But no more.” He approached me with the blade. “You won’t kill me,” I stammered, “you wouldn’t kill the brother of your father…” But I wasn’t sure that he wouldn’t. “No,” said Shem. “We won’t kill you. But we won’t allow you to continue with your interference.” Just then Ham struck me across the face, and Shem bashed his elbow into my throat. I fell to the ground gasping and choking for air. The two of them beat and kicked me furiously until I lost consciousness. I don’t know how long it was before I awoke but I could hear the bleating and squawking sound of animals on the move even before the darkness had completely faded. I sat up with care. My head was throbbing and I could feel that my face was swollen. I think some of my ribs were broken as well. Looking around I realized that the animals had been gathered and were now being herded up the ramp and into the completed ark. I tried to stand, but immediately collapsed in pain. I crawled gingerly to a nearby pile of stacked timbers and, using them to stand, I pulled myself upright. The sky above me was clouded and darkening quickly. Only a small corner of the sky betrayed any remains of blue; the rest was obscured by ominous thunderclouds. The dull rumble of thunder could be heard in the distance. The end had come; the flood was imminent upon us. Using a stout length of discarded timber as a crutch I hobbled to the ramp where Japheth was ushering the last of the pairs of animals up toward the expansive door in the side of the ship. Shem and Ham were there as well carrying bundles of food and fodder. When they saw me they passed the bundles to

their wives and stormed down the ramp towards me. “Get out of here, uncle. You’re not coming aboard,” shouted Ham. Shem grabbed my improvised crutch and shoved me to the ground. They turned and ran back up the ramp. The last of the animals had disappeared inside. Noah and his wife, his sons and their wives were all aboard. I remained outside. Shem and Ham, working together, pushed the ramp from the door and it crashed to the ground. “Noah!” I called out. “Noah!” I could see him standing there at the door against the darkness of the interior of the ship, his hair blowing in the rising wind. “Noah, do something. Help me aboard.” But he only turned his back and disappeared inside. Suddenly there was a groan of wooden joints as the doors of the ark swung shut. That was six days ago. This morning the rains began. I fled to the top of this mountain and here I have written this account. I will seal it now for whatever future there may be. May the Lord of the flood preserve my story.

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