Rev. Baden Stanley

Rev. Baden Stanley

Each week we hope to post a blog on a Monday or Tuesday. These blogs will hopefully stimulate thought, discussion and even debate around key topic that are affecting our society at this time of great change and challenge.

A Man Called Noah, Chapter 9: The Gates of Hell

Noah and his sons were frantic. They had spent hours searching the former forest, all of Naamah’s favourite pathways, but they found no trace of her. Even Methuselah was worried, he stood beside the fire pit, his eyes closed as he prayed and searched in his mind where she might be. They could hear the cries of jubilation and celebration from the Oasis below them, the noises added to their fears, something terrible was happening, but what? Suddenly Ham gave a strangled cry, as the whisper of a thought burst into clarity; ‘Bennai!’ he cried aloud. His distracted mind had thought it had sensed someone nearby as he bade farewell to her, only hours before, now, as the all too familiar screams of sacrifice echoed up through the valley, a terrible realisation hit him. ‘We have to go to the Oasis’, he shouted, as he scurried off to gather the three long iron spikes. Noah looked up sharply, ‘What do you mean?’ he asked his second son. ‘It’s Bennai,’ cried Ham, ‘Bennai is the one to be sacrificed, don’t you understand?’ ‘But your mother…’ began Noah, ‘….is here!’ called Naamah softly, making them all jump. ‘And I am not alone!’ Out of the shadows stumbled Naamah, her face blackened with soot, her left arm hanging loosely at her side, while her right arm was draped over a shivering, visibly terrified Bennai.

Naamah winced as Noah rushed to help her, Ham gently moved her arm from Bennai’s shuddering shoulders, and replaced it with his own. Shem and Japeth rushed to prepare water for them to drink and to clear their blackened faces. Old Methuselah wept silent heavy tears of thanks to God as he watched his family tend and care for each other. He walked over to Naamah and started to examine her arm, her face was pale but set firm as her sons washed the dark soot off her. There were no cuts or bruises on her arm, but every time they tried to move it, Naamah moaned in pain. Noah and his grandfather exchanged anxious looks, a broken arm could be fatal. And yet, Methuselah sensed no break in her arm as he gently probed and searched. To distract Naamah from the pain he began to question her as to what had happened, his hands probing her shoulder as he spoke. Naamah spoke softly, but strongly as she explained her intent in going to the Oasis to ask for ‘Bennai’ to be allowed to live with them as Ham’s wife. Ham looked up in wonder, but Noah’s face darkened. Before he could challenge his wife for her foolish actions, Methuselah put a hand on his shoulder, a silent signal, ‘Let her speak’.

‘When I realised it was Bennai who was to be sacrificed, I couldn’t walk away, btu I also knew there wasn’t time to call you to help us’, she suddenly screamed as Methuselah wrenched her arm upwards and sideways in a fluid movement. They all heard the loud click as her shoulder slipped back into its socket. Naamah fainted into her husband’s arms but it was clear that her arm was somehow fixed. A terrible stillness filled the camp as everyone looked at eachother, wondering what to do next.

It was Bennai who broke the silence, her voice faint but clear. ‘She was magnificent, she…she…challenged my grandfather as he prepared his knife to sacrifice me’. A shudder passed through her young body as she remembered the horror, the feeling of utter helplessness. ‘The first I knew that she was there was when her voice rang out from the baying crowd, my own kin were screaming for my blood, but her voice rang true and clear – ‘Stop!’ Everyone froze, my grandfather’s face reddening in rage as he searched to find who would dare to interrupt his appeasement of his gods.’ She looked at Ham as she spoke, ‘Your mother stepped out from the crowd, who had fallen dangerously silent. I could see she was terrified but she moved with purpose up the slope to the firepit that my grandfather had prepared. ‘I am Naamah, wife of Noah, daughter of Lamech from the tribe of Cain. I bear his mark of shame and betrayal in my blood. Cursed be anyone who will harm me or mine.’ She then glared deeply into my grandfather’s astonished eyes. ‘And this girl is mine, she will be wife of my son and I warn you that you will die if you harm her’. An uneasy silence hung heavy on my kinsmen as they took in what was happening. I could see my grandfather’s eyes burning red with the reflection of the fire. I felt like I was staring into the gates of fire and damnation. He raised his hand to strike your mother, but hesitated as if a new thought had come to him. I saw that cruel smile of his break into his face as he grabbed her by her arm and made ready to cast her onto the fire of sacrifice. Your mother screamed with the pain as he twisted her body towards the flames which he still intended for me. I could hear her shoulder pop, such was the force he was using. But she didn’t try to resist him, rather a sad look of pity filled her face. It almost made my grandfather stop what he was doing such was the force of the look on her face. He made to lift her high above his head, I had seen him do this too many times before, but suddenly it was as if his arms became heavy. He stumbled, a look of shock filling his face, as your mother slipped out of his reach to stand in front of me. He looked slowly around the hushed gathering, a look of confusion and terror filling his face, and then, and then it was as if an invisible hand lifted him up and dropped him into the roaring flames. I looked away, as your mother quickly untied my bonds, her voice ringing loud above the death screams of my grandfather.

‘You have seen for yourselves what power the God that we serve has above your gods. He is a God of anger, yes, but also of love. Our boat will be built, you will not hinder us! There will be room for any who wish to join us, but be aware, a storm is coming, you will have need of our ARK before too long, or you too will die!’

With that she led me from the village, my home, my family and my kin. They all stood back in fear, but also hatred. I could see it in their eyes, they will not join you, but neither will they hinder you’. Bennai looked at Noah as she said this, fresh tears falling on her soot-stained face. ‘I have no right to ask this, my people have not been kind to you, but if you will have me as your daughter, I would like very much to help you build this ARK.’

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