Today we’ll meet a woman who has no name in the Bible. Tradition, and Hebrew Midrash, name her Naamah. She is the wife of Noah. Let’s listen to her story. It is about a new beginning and a renewed promise.
We lived in a violent place. It was said that the sons of God visited human women. The children of these unions were Nephilim-giants who towered over the rest of us. They warred with one another and we were caught up in the conflicts. Many also followed the example of these half-breeds and did all kinds of wicked things.
My father did not participate in the evil. I was given in marriage to Noah, son of Lamech. He was also righteous. In fact, Noah was one of the few who still looked to the Lord God for guidance and who continued to worship as his ancestors had taught. From him I learned the story of Adam and Eve, and their sons. Noah was descended from Seth, third son of Adam.
We had 3 sons. We named them Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Together we taught them to look to the Lord God for guidance.
“How long can this evil persist and grow worse?” I asked myself, Noah, and even the Lord God.
Noah shook his head. “I do not know, Wife. Surely the Lord God will do something.”
What happened was something I would never have predicted. It was terrible, and scenes still haunt my dreams.
One day Noah came to me and said, “I have to build a giant boat.”
I know my mouth dropped open at his statement, then I frowned. “There is no water here. What do you need a boat for? There is much other work that needs to be done.”
“It is what the Lord God told me to do,” my husband explained patiently. “I was praying today, and as clear as can be, I heard the Lord God speak in my heart. The Lord God told me that his is going to destroy the earth with a flood because of the violence of men.”
I gasped, “A flood!” We had experienced flooding only last year when the spring rains had come to swiftly for the water to drain into the rivers. It was devastating, but I could not really comprehend a flood that would affect all life.
“The Lord God told me to make it of cypress wood with rooms and gave me the size,” my husband interrupted my thoughts as he continued to explain. “The Lord God promised ‘I will establish my covenant with you. You, Naamah, and your sons and their wives will be safe in the ark. You will also take 2 of every living thing into the ark with you-a male and a female.' We are to gather up all the grains and other food seeds to make a new start, too.”
I could not understand all the sizes of lumber that Noah thought I would be interested in. He and our sons went to work building the huge boat. With my daughters-in-law, I set about gathering up food and seeds and other provisions. Eventually the work was done.
“It is time to load up animals,” Noah informed me one morning.
There was not a cloud in the sky, but I nodded anyway.
Somehow we did get animals on board. The domestic ones were easy, the wild ones were more difficult and the birds were hardest of all. Then the rain started. The same people who had scoffed at Noah’s work, now battered on the sides of the boat pleading for safety. As the boat rose on the water and lifted off the platform, their pleas became screams that too soon were silenced as the water claimed them. I lay on my mat and wept for the loss of life.
It rained and rained. Noah kept a tally on the side of the cabin. After 40 days and nights the rain stopped. There was water from horizon to horizon.
“How will we live with all this water?” I asked. “Where are we?”
“The water will go away,” my husband replied.
He sounded confident but I wondered if he was really as certain as he sounded.
Still the man continued his tally, and the 40 marks became 80, then 100, then 150 before we saw any land again. It was the jolt of not moving that wakened me that morning. We were no longer rocking on the water. We were stopped, stuck on some rock. Later we discovered it was really a mountain we were on.
When we stopped, Noah told us, “I will send out the raven to see if it can find dry land.” The bird did not return.
“Why don’t you try the dove?” I asked. “She is much tamer, and will probably come back if she cannot find any land or trees.”
My husband considered the idea and then released one of the doves. Sure enough, she did return because there was no place to land. After a few days, he tried again, and this time she came back with a branch in her beak.
“There is dry land and growing things to be found!” Noah was ecstatic. He waited another 7 days and this time the bird did not return.
“She must have found a place to roost,” I suggested to the man who kept scanning the skies. “Look, you can see that all around the boat, the ground is drying and green sprouts are appearing. Surely we can leave the boat, too.”
“Not until the Lord God says so,” admonished Noah.
Soon, though, he informed us that the Lord God had indeed told him to leave the boat and release the animals. The first thing he did was sacrifice to the Lord God.
“The Lord God is pleased with the sacrifice,” Noah told us. “The Lord God promises ‘Never again destroy every living creature as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.’ See the Lord God has set his bow in the sky as a reminder and a token of this promise.”
We all looked up and there was a beautiful arch of many colors. It was a beautiful promise.
Are there times when things have looked really ‘black’ and desperate? Has a rainbow or other promise helped you get through the difficult time?
How can you live as a holy promise to someone else?
(Image is a scale model of the ark made by the Incarnation School students in Dallas, TX)
(c) Cynthia Davis 2017