I was drawn by shadows cast on the tent wall by the oil lamp burning inside the tent. I could hear the voices of my grandfather Lamech, Papa's father, and Papa talking softly inside grandfather's tent.
I heard grandfather ask, "Rain? What is it this rain? No one has ever heard of this thing before."
Papa explained that rain is water falling from the sky. Grandfather chuckled. "Where did you come by this idea my Son? Is it not ludicrous on the face of it? Water does not come from the sky. Water is in the rivers and the sea."
I almost laughed aloud myself but stifled it so I could eavesdrop. I wanted to see how the conversation went. Papa replied, sounding quite serious, "The Lord told me of this and showed me it in a vision."
They were quiet for a time, then grandfather asked, "And why would God tell you this? And show you this? What purpose can it serve to have such a vision?"
Papa said, "He, the Lord God, intends to wash away all life from all the land by sending water from the sky to drown everything. Every creature which lives on the land. All humans and animals, except ...?"
"Except what? Who?"
"Except my wife and me and our sons and their wives", Papa answered.
I didn't think this was funny at all. I knew it was not a prank Papa was playing on his father. I could sense Papa believed what he was saying.
Grandfather again, "Why would God save your family from this 'rain' no one has ever seen? More importantly, why will God destroy all living things on the earth?"
"Because", Papa said, "the earth is filled with every kind of violence which is an affront to the Lord. We have seen it ourselves, have we not?
"I do not know why God chose my family. Who knows the mind of the Lord? I know only what God has said to me. He gave me instructions to build what He calls an ark; a very large house that will float on the waters when they come", said Papa. "God told me the dimensions. It is very large indeed. Four hundred fifty feet long. Seventy five feet wide. Forty five feet tall. It will be enormous."
"I see", said grandfather. "Why so large if only eight people will survive?"
"God has told me to take with us two of every living land and sky creature ... a pair, and also seven pair of some of them ... and food for us all."
Another period of quiet, then grandfather Lamech said, "If God has so told you my son then you must do as He has said. But how you will do this I can not conceive. I pray He will spare me from seeing this terrible thing that is coming." As I heard this I also could not conceive how it could be done.
I stole away in silence to my own tent. My sleep was troubled by thoughts of the ark my father planned to build. My two brothers and I would be pressed into service for this project. What would become of our fields and flocks while we pursued his silly dream, I wondered.
I kept all I had heard to myself. A few days later, Papa summoned the three of us, with our wives, to his tent. Mama was there with him. Before he spoke he led us in prayers of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord God Almighty. Then he told us all of his vision and instructions from the Lord God.
My brothers and I were strapping young men but Papa was old; more than five hundred years old. I was concerned for his sanity. The task he outlined seemed impossible. I said so. I expected a sharp rebuke for my impertinence, but instead,
Papa said, "Whatever the Lord commands men to do is possible, else He would not command it. He would do it himself in the same way He created all the earth and the heavens. We will build the ark as He commanded."
I underestimated Papa, or the Lord, or both. Papa choose a large flat place in our fields. The construction required much planning so we did not begin actual work on the ark until after harvest. The area set aside for the ark would not again be sown with seed but left fallow.
I knew my father's character. I knew he walked blameless before the Lord and that the Lord has blessed him richly with earthly things. He had more fields and flocks than anyone for many miles. Our fields and vineyards produced an abundance at every harvest. We kept large stores of grain and produce and cheese.
During the next few years we maintained our lands through seed time and harvest. We used our abundance to hire workmen to build 'Noah's Folly' as they liked to all it. In the beginning I told them it was to be a grand house. They laughed heartily but did the work for the generous pay.
The workmen went into the forest and cut tall trees. They used our oxen to haul the trunks to the site of the ark. Papa saw what they brought and upbraided them. "Not these logs. Gopher wood. Bring only the trunks of gopher trees."
They grumbled but obeyed. It took longer to find the specific trees but find them they did. They trimmed off the bark and smoothed the logs with axes. Logs were lashed together with leather strips wound through axe-cut notches.
After years of labor, the floor was completed. You can not imagine how large it was. In your time you can envision it as a long city block ... one and one times the length of a football field.
A frame was erected above the floor. Every so many cubits, a vertical beam was placed and held upright by other logs slanted against it. Beams were connected across the uprights to support another floor which would become the deck, or as the workmen thought of it, the roof.
Months, and years, went by. The work progressed each day for six days, then a day of rest as Papa demanded. The walls of the ark rose plank by plank up the frame. A space was left for a very large door/ The door was built and laid as a ramp going into the ark from ground level. Grandfather Lamech was gathered to his ancestors. We abated work while we held a memorial for him and buried him there. He was seven hundred seventy seven years of age. God had spared him the coming disaster.
After all the walls were in place but the roof still open, work began on the interior. First, all the joints between parts were filled with thick tar to make a seal against water. The sealing of the ark, inside and outside caused much consternation among the workmen.
"Who builds a house and seals it with pitch", they muttered among themselves. They then demanded to know the truth or they would put down their tools and cease work on 'Noah's Folly'. Papa met with a group of the leaders and told them the truth of his vision from the Lord.
That's all they needed to hear. They laughed and laughed at the crazy old man. "We will work on your ark for as long as you keep paying our wages Master Noah."
A sort of merriment set in among the workmen. On the day of rest, when they returned to their homes, they regaled others with tales of the mad man and his house. My brothers and I were embarrassed by the notoriety. People from all around journeyed to see the absurdity resting in our field. They pointed and laughed among themselves.
When Papa came out to see the progress, they jeered him. He took it all with good humor. He never wavered in his commitment to God. I'm certain he expected he would have the last laugh.
More floors and ramps were built inside so animals could enter and gain access to their assigned places. I felt great trepidation about the issue of animals. I figured that when it came time to gather and load animals, the fiasco would unravel. A person who is insane believes intently in that which is not true.
In time, the roof deck was laid on. Then, on the deck, was built a smaller house for our families to occupy for the duration of the supposed 'rain'.
Next came the loading of foodstuffs. One year's supply of grain and hay for the animals. Seeds of every kind for planting new crops. Food for our family. Lamps and oil. Jars of pitch lest there be leaks. Every imaginable provision for a long journey was loaded into the ark.
The work was finished.
The majestic floating house sat there on the field in the bright sunlight. People came every day to marvel at it and make snide comments. The workmen, though finished, seemed unable to depart from what they had devoted so many years to making.
Papa called us all together for prayers of thanksgiving that the Lord's command was fulfilled. It was during this prayer time that my brothers and I, our wives, and our mother and father, all heard the voice from the air saying,
"Enter the ark, you and all your household, for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time. You shall take with you of every clean animal by sevens, a male and his female; and of the animals that are not clean two, a male and his female; also of the birds of the sky, by sevens, male and female, to keep offspring alive on the face of all the earth. For after seven more days, I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights; and I will blot out from the face of the land every living thing that I have made.”
Seven days the Lord said.
I said, "Papa. How are we going to gather these animals and birds?" He told me God would take care of it as it was the Lord's plan. Our part was done for now.
We moved our families into the ark and waited for something; anything. I felt ridiculous going out on deck, looking out over endless fields and hundreds of onlookers gawking at the crazies in the floating house.
A couple of days later my younger brother rushed in from the deck and shouted, "Come and see this!" We dutifully paraded out the cabin onto the deck. I fully expected to see an even larger crowd than before. Behold the wonder. Animals, animals, and more animals, were plodding across our fields toward the ark.
From the sky came birds of every kind. Many were kinds we had never seen before. The birds lighted on the cabin roof and watched the oncoming animals with us. There was much cooing and chirping and singing all about us.
As the animals moved closer the gawkers fell back in fear. There were cattle of many kinds, and antelopes walking side by side with lions. Wild zebras walked in harmony instead of their usual frenzy. It was astonishing to behold. I shall never forget the sight.
It was even more amazing to watch them climb the ramp and enter the ark. They knew where to go and what to do. No one has even seen a thing like this and likely never will again. I saw the Hand of God at work in His creation and I was dumbfounded. Who knew? Papa did.
For two days at least, animals came and entered the ark. The last pair I saw was some type of slow moving, very large, tortoise. When all the animals were inside, the birds left the roof and deck and flew in through the door.
The gawkers were returning now, feeling safe from the animals. They were looking but not laughing. We heard the sound of straining wood and felt the vibration as the huge ramp door rose of its own accord and slammed shut, making the hull a solid wall. Papa told us to seal the door with tar. We did.
We ran up the ramps to the cabin. Along the way I noticed that the animals were in their places and quiet. They seemed to be asleep or in some sort of dream state. From the deck we saw the gawkers looking skyward with fear on their faces.
I looked up. The ugliest, darkest, cloud formation I ever have seen formed above us. I felt the first drop of water fall on my upturned face. I was stunned; paralyzed for a moment. Just as the Lord God told Papa it would, water began falling from the sky.
It fell furiously. Papa hollered at me to come into the cabin. Inside the doors and windows that opened to the deck were all battened down. The rain pelted the cabin roof. There was thunder and lightning.
Above the roar of the rain we could hear pounding and screaming. I'm pretty sure I heard people begging to be let inside. It was too late. The ark was sealed and the rain had come.
Day and night the rain fell without interruption. We felt the ark lift from the earth, borne on the flood waters. After a month it seemed there must have been enough water to cover the earth. Apparently not. The rain kept falling.
By the grace of God and the faith of my father, we huddled secure and warm in our cabin. The wind howled and the rain fell in torrents. The ark floated wobbly on the churning surface. I assume the waters were churning because of the ark's yawing. We dared not open a window while rain fell.
The rain stopped as suddenly as it began.
The only sound was of waves lapping at the sides of the ark. Papa ordered a window be opened. Outside was an endless sea glistening in the bright sunlight. I wondered if we were doomed to end our lives entombed inside the ark.
For five months all we saw was the sea.
Then one day we felt a bump. The ark shuddered then remained still. We were no longer in motion. We sat and waited more than a month. Mountain peaks were visible in the distance. We waited some more. Papa sent out a raven which did not return. He released a dove who returned after a while. Seven days later he sent her out again. She returned carrying an olive leaf in her beak.
Seven days later he sent her out once more. She did not return.
Papa opened the windows and doors allowing us to venture out on deck. We saw dry land where before had been water. It was as if the rain had never come. The Lord God spoke again to Papa.
"Go out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you, birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, that they may breed abundantly on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth."
We did as God said. Papa built an altar of rough stones and thereon offered sacrifice to the Lord. Then in the sky appeared an arc of many colors. The Lord said it is a sign of His covenant with Papa. That never again would He destroy all life. He promised,
"While the earth remains,
Seedtime and harvest,
And cold and heat,
And summer and winter,
And day and night
Shall not cease."
The promise is clear. It applies "While the earth remains".
There you have it. The record of the first rain upon the earth. Many times after our journey I saw rain again but remembered God's promise and did not fear. As long as the Lord allows the earth to exist, life will survive.
And I have learned this wondrous thing; that even after the earth has passed away, there will be a new earth and all who believe and trust the Lord God will inhabit it. Forever.
Genesis 5:28 - 8:22, 2 Peter 3:13, Rev 21:1
Written by © Wayne Hepburn, October 2012