The animals and humans all woke early on that final morning aboard the ARK. There was an air of eager anticipation as Noah and his family began to release the animals into the dawning sunrise. Most of the animals may have entered ‘two by two’, but many were joined by young gambolling offspring. As well as building the makeshift ramp, Shem and Ham had used the wood from the top of the ARK to build enclosures, into which most of the ‘clean’ animals were directed. After all the grass eaters were released, they watched in awe at the energy and joy of the released animals as they ran, leaped and played on the rich green pasture. An impatient roar from the large male lion shattered the peace of the moment, and the animals outside seemed to sense it was time to move on. Meanwhile Japheth and Ham wormed their way into the upper canopied level of the ARK, they were astounded at the sheer number of birds that were perched there. The smell of waste was so strong that they nearly fainted, so they punched holes into the canopy through which the smaller birds could fly, and also through which fresh air could come into the rank enclosed area. Again leaving time for the smaller birds to get away before the meat eaters, they concentrated on getting the tree trunk that had blocked the trapdoor for so many months safely removed. Thereby letting Noah and Shem join them to survey the scene. Literally thousands of birds had made their perch within the canopy. Japheth explained that the bird waste would be rich in nutrients and perfect for fertilising the gardens and vines that Noah was planning to plant for his old age.
Painful screams from below brought all of them racing back to the living space, where Bennai, Miriam and Deborah were all looking scared and anxious. ‘I don’t want my grandsons born on this ARK’, muttered Naamah as she fussed over each soon to be mother. ‘Boys, bring your wives down the ramp, we’ll set up a tent for these beautiful mothers to deliver safely, quickly now’. She urged the men into bewildered action. Noah got the large tent that he and Naamah had used for so many years and quickly followed his panting daughters. By early afternoon Naamah and her daughters were safely ensconced in the hastily erected tent, the three iron spikes holding it in place against the still strong wind that was blowing across the mountain top. Noah stood guard outside the tent as the larger animals were released from the ARK. He watched in wonder as the huge beasts of burden slowly stomped down the creaking but holding ramp. Creatures of all shapes and sizes were trumpeting loudly when their feet touched dry land, before they ambled off to find food before nightfall.
High above them, the larger birds had grown impatient and pecked larger holes in the canopy. Wave upon wave of large winged birds emerged from the roof of the ARK, arching majestically around their wooden home of so many months before soaring off to distant places to begin to build nests for their soon to arrive chicks.
As darkness drew in, the large meat eaters were finally released, hungry and wary, they snarled at Noah as they passed but made no attempt to attack, instead they raced off into the gathering gloom to search out food and shelter for the night. Noah suddenly felt very, very tired. It was done, all had been achieved, and yet a dark gloom gathered within him as a flood of memories rushed into his fevered mind. It was delayed shock and deep sadness that made him steal back up the ramp as his anxious sons set a fire to prepare food for a long night of pacing and waiting. They could hear their mother calmly assuring their terrified wives that all would be well, that they were not the first to deliver new life, and thank God, they would not be the last. Meanwhile Noah searched the living space for that which he had hidden all those months before. He found it stuffed into a corner under old soiled robes from their first terrifying night aboard the ARK. He silently carried the large bulging wineskin down the ramp, past his pacing sons, unnoticed by any except his middle son who rolled his eyes up to heaven in disgust before Bennai’s cries brought his mind back to more pressing matters. Shem had mentioned a cave near the top of the mountain, and Noah made his way there, his ancient body shivering in anticipation of a taste of his long-preserved wine. The first mouthful tasted rank, but by the fourth, he cared less about the taste and more about freeing himself from anything that would constrain him. He realised, in his drunken stupor, that he never wanted to be closed in again, even the clothes that clung to him felt overwhelmingly smothering. Standing at the mouth of the cave, watching a whole new world unfold beneath him, he began to strip, ripping every layer of clothing from him until he was as naked as the day he was born. His drunken dance was cathartic as it moved him from the death and devastation of the past, towards the life, hope and joy of a newly cleaned world, ready to be explored.
When he awoke in the morning, it was to a pounding headache and the contemptuous laughter of his second son who had brought him breakfast and the news that he was grandfather to three healthy grandsons. Embarrassed and ashamed, Noah struggled to stand. The laughter of their brother brought Shem and Japheth running, but when they realised what was happening, they quickly grabbed Noah’s robe. Walking backward into the cave to preserve their father’s dignity and modesty, they silently stood guard while Noah quickly dressed himself. The dam on pent up bitterness between Noah and Ham burst that morning, creating a chasm between them that would take many years to heal. Noah cursed his son and his offspring that day, pushing Ham further from him so that in time, he, Bennai, and their children were the first to move away.
Before that though, proper etiquette was restored, albeit on a surface level, as Noah and Naamah, Shem and Miriam, Ham and Bennai, Japheth and Deborah, gathered at the foot of the giant ARK the next evening. Noah used some large nearby stones and wood from the already crumbling ARK to make an altar. Lighting a fire, his sons slaughtered one of each of the extra clean animals that had been enclosed, and some of the birds that had not yet flown away. Their blood was offered to the God who had saved them as a thanks offering and a heartfelt acknowledgement that the God of Noah had indeed delivered them. They all trembled in holy fear when a voice, rich as thunder, spoke to them out of the heavens. ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of the evil of humans, even now there is evil in your thoughts and actions!’ Ham and Noah quaked with remorse. ‘I will find a better way to save you from your wretchedness, one that delivers you, but does not curse you. But I will never again destroy all living things. As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.’ The fading sun seemed to shine ever brighter as God spoke these words. He warned them how to live a God-honouring life, and then declared all creation to be theirs to care for and to protect. ‘You are stewards of my creation, on you and your children’s children lies the duty of care and provision. And I will establish a sign of my promise to you and with all living creatures. All future generations will see this sign and know I am God who keeps his promise’. As He spoke, the searing sun bounced off a bank of gathering rain clouds creating a majestic multi-coloured bow across the sky. Rich in colours and beautiful to behold, Noah’s heart repented of his harsh words about Ham, and he turned and embraced his startled son, who shed tears of repentance with his father.
Each of his sons and daughters came forward and stood before Noah and Naamah after God had spoken. They finally presented their sons, born on dry land. Noah and Naamah wept openly as Japheth and Deborah presented Gomer, a tribute to a man who had made them all smile. Ham and Bennai presented Cush, which means ‘wealth’, he was already longer in form than his two cousins. Noah realised that the blood of the Tallermen still ran across this new earth, but Bennai’s beautiful spirit and her son’s soft face made him hope that all would be well. Shem and Miriam stepped forward with Elam; even though he was hardly a day old, Noah swore he could see the hint of a secret smile on his grandson’s face, as if he already knew and understood the deeper mysteries of life. Noah and Naamah blessed their grandsons and got to see their children’s children grow and become parents themselves.
Noah lived another 350 years after leaving the ARK, he got to grow the vineyards he had once dreamed of, but was less inclined to drink so much of the wine they produced. The last forty years of his life were without his beloved Naamah who returned to the garden of Eden in her sleep one night. As a man of nearly 950 years, he no longer desired to live longer than his grandfather Methuselah. He loved telling the stories of the ARK to his children’s children, and their children too, but he could see the splintering of his beloved family as the seeds of evil first consumed by Adam and Eve lived on in him and his family. In his last days he sought solace in picturing God’s garden which would soon welcome him in to meet his beloved Naamah again, but also to finally meet his God, face to face.
The lesson of the bible is that we humans have a choice, to do evil, or to do good. God refused to take that choice from us even though it would ultimately cost him everything. Many, many years after this story ended, a descendant of Shem, a mere slip of a lad would stand in a battlefield, staring steadily at one of the last of the line of the Tallermen, whose giantness had survived through the bloodline of Ham and Bennai. In his eyes would be the twinkling of a secret smile, an awareness of a truth that removed any fear of the heavily armed giant before him; that truth that God saves his people sustained him as he bent to pick up five smooth round stones, he remembered the stories his father told him at the fireside of his younger years, he remembered the ARK, and he smiled confident in his faith….