This book was provided for free for me for review and all opinions are my own.
***Special thanks to R. Frederick Riddle for sending me a review copy.***
Born in 1943 in the middle of WWII, R. Frederick Riddle early developed a love for history and literature. Reading was a great delight to him, especially when it concerned adventure.
In 1962 he joined the United States Navy and served as a radioman aboard two cruisers. After leaving the Navy, he worked in the telecommunications for 25 years. Owned Internet bookstore (Christian Writ Bookstore) for four years (2005-2009), while pursuing his writing career.
Mr. Riddle and his wife currently reside in Port Charlotte, Florida.
Through it all the reader follows Shem as he witnesses and experiences the events, and discovers that he has a role to play.
ON THE ARK
2350BC (pop. 8)
Beneath the raging seas the world was changing. Where once a single continent contained all of civilization, it was now being ripped apart to eventually become seven continents. The earth shuddered from these catastrophic events unseen by human eye.
On day forty one, Noah and his family had seen a calm sea, but that had changed with a suddenness that was both unexpected and violent! Like a man shivering from the cold the entire earth trembled. Entire mountain ranges had disappeared below the seas, while being replaced elsewhere with new mountain ranges. But all this was under the turbulent seas, not to be seen until the waters receded.
The storm passed, but the turbulent seas continued to roil though not quite as much. The entire globe was still covered with water. Looking out the window, Noah and his family could see what remained of the former civilization, that had existed for hundreds of years, now floating on the surface. Still much more was buried beneath the sea.
The bright sun, shining unimpeded upon the ocean surface, revealed this terrible destruction and judgment of God. The sight caused such tremendous grief that he ordered the shutters closed once again.
The Ark, having been subject to the powerful forces of nature, had completely survived. Its critics, now dead, would have been astonished with its sea worthiness. It would be another 4000 years before ships of comparable size traveled the ocean.
As the cataclysmic events under the sea continued, the ocean currents reacted with violence causing the Ark to ride the waves much as a man rides a raging bull. The ship was lifted up upon giant waves, only to be dropped with a sickening drop into a deep valley. Soon afterward another wave would lift the ship, which strained and groaned against such mistreatment. But it held together.
Inside, the human passengers found life on board to be terrifying and sickening. Although the ocean seemed gentle in comparison to the initial violence of the Flood, the ship was still like a cork upon the sea. Every one of them experienced the ship’s twisting movements. It seems that with each rise and fall, not to mention the rolling from side to side, their stomachs had an equally severe churning with bile rising to their throats. It drove them to their knees, sometimes ending with violent and terrifying heaves. Unfortunately, after awhile, there was no more food to throw up since no one had the strength to go down to the storage cells and bring more food up or to go to the “garden.” The mere thought of food made them feel worse.
Thus, began their first experience with dry heaves. Color left their cheeks, sweat bathed their faces, and they felt weak all over. During those first few days upon the angry sea, they felt this nausea repeatedly. It was the kind of sickness that the sea can cause for even the most experienced seafarers.
But, fortunately, this lasted only for a few days. Except for Hagaba, everyone’s stomach settled down and they began to eat once again. The three women would go each morning to the “garden” and gather vegetables.
This “garden” existed because of the command of God (“and take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten”) and the insistence of Naamah. Hiram had built the framework, Noah had filled it with fertile loam and planted small shrubs, and the sons had tilled it. All in the stern of the ship. Now it was the ladies work to reap the harvest.
Hagaba finally did eat and ceased to have the dry heaves, but she still had trouble keeping the food down. However, the rest of them showed definite signs of improvement as they began to get their sea legs.
Even so, the rough seas made it difficult to take care of the animals, most of which had slept through the storm. Although some turbulence would continue throughout the Flood, it did show signs of lessening with the gigantic waves shrinking and the violence easing.
Meanwhile, the Ark bobbed upon the still powerful currents, but not with the former violence. Still, the ship protested the violence and creaked with each twisting turn. Moreover, its constant rocking from side to side forced the family to grab any post or permanently secured structure to keep from falling.
This constant lurching caused them to stagger about like drunken men. But in the midst of this violence came laughter as one or another would sometimes end up in hilarious positions. Even so, it was with great relief that the turbulence finally settled down and everything returned to a semblance of order.
As the ship continued moving toward an unknown destination, a sense of peace crept over the family. These eight humans found a renewed sense of calmness and faith, although the recent turbulence had proved too much for Japheth’s wife Hagaba. She now lay sick upon her bed with Achsah, Shem’s wife, spending time comforting and cleaning up after her.
Achsah searched for and found a clean bucket, which she placed beside her sister-in-law’s bed. Hagaba lay there, her face dotted with drops of sweat and Achsah, sitting in a chair next to the bed, gently took Hagaba’s hand.
“Just lean over and throw up into it,” she instructed, trying to maintain a cheerful tone.
Tired and depressed by the overpowering smell, she eventually left Hagaba and found her husband in his private chamber recording the day’s events in the Writings. She softly knocked on the bulwark just outside his “writing” room.
“Yes, Achsah. Is something wrong?”
“No, my lord. I am just weary. Will you be much longer?
“I don’t think so. By the way, how is Hagaba doing?”
“She’s feeling a little better,” responded Achsah. “As long as she lays down, her stomach seems to be fine.”
“It sounds like what the sailors used to call sea sickness,” suggested Shem. “I’ve heard many stories of how that sickness felled even the strongest of men. That’s why so few entered that life and fewer yet that stayed in it.”
“Perhaps. I should probably get back to her.”
Shem quietly stood and walked over to his wife, placing his hands upon her shoulders. Gently, his lips brushed her forehead.
“Achsah, you are a blessing to father and mother. I heard Naamah tell father that she didn’t know what she would do without your strength. I am very proud of you.”
She smiled sheepishly.
“Thanks. I guess I was feeling unappreciated.”
“Don’t do that,” he responded. “You and mother are the glue that holds this family together. But don’t tell anyone I said that.”
She laughed as she embraced him. He tilted her head and kissed her on the nose before his lips finally locked onto hers. For several moments, the two lingered in this embrace.
During the night, Achsah slipped out of bed, put on her robe, and headed down the ramps to the first deck. Stopping by the lions cage, she watched as the lion and his mate slept peacefully. Such peace in the midst of a storm. Dear Lord, grant us such peace in our spirits.
Resuming her walk, she headed aft to a small storage chamber. Occasionally she would stop and watch as the large animals slept. It didn’t matter whether it was a lion, an elephant, a giraffe, or any other large animal. They were all asleep.
“Noah says you are hibernating. I don’t know what that really means other than you are asleep, but he says that is what God calls it.”
Continuing on, she finally reached the stern of the ship. Before her was a small enclosure that the men had set aside for storage. Parting the simple curtain that acted as a door, she entered. Carefully setting her lamp down, she looked around. From floor to ceiling were stacks of food and provender for the animals. Stepping into the middle of the room, she knelt and prostrated herself.
“Dear Father God,” she whispered, “I wish I had the faith of my husband or of Noah, but You know I am afraid. Hagaba is sick, Naamah doesn’t feel well, and while Bithiah is fine, she looks to me for leadership.
“Dear God, I feel so inadequate. I will do whatever You want, but I need Your constant presence.”
She paused a moment before adding “amen.” Then she lay there listening, hearing only her heart beat.
Suddenly she felt a hand upon her shoulder. Startled, she looked up, expecting to see Shem’s or Noah’s face, surprised they had found her so quickly. Instead, she found herself looking into the face of an angel!
“Fear not, Achsah. Your righteousness is known of God and He, the Almighty, has sent me, Gabriel, in response to your prayer. He loves you and will strengthen and guide you throughout your life. Indeed, others shall look to you for leadership, and Your God shall supply all your need. Only be thou faithful and not doubting.”
Tears flowing from her eyes, she looked at the angel.
“But what does God want of me?”
“He desires your heart and mind. Give yourself to Him and let Him take care of your fears. He has called you to be a strength to others. You shall know heart-ache, but He shall sustain and guide you.
“God is preparing your husband to serve Him. If he is faithful, he will live a long life and shall be a blessing to others. But he will need you by his side. Be strong and of good cheer; support your husband in all that he does.”
“I do; I will,” she said with rising conviction.
Just as suddenly as he had appeared, the angel was gone. Achsah got up, feeling a strength and a confidence she had not previously known.
A few days later, Hagaba recovered. Although weak from her agonizing sickness, she tried to get up and return to work. But she was thwarted as everyone insisted she take it easy for a couple more days. Reluctantly, she gave in.
Everything soon returned to normal; at least as normal as shipboard life can be. It soon became apparent that Achsah had become Naamah’s most reliable helper. The two women were often seen together, while Hagaba and Bithiah usually worked alone. Achsah enjoyed listening to Naamah’s conversation and her stories about the ancient world.
The two women were responsible for the care and feeding of the animals in the bow of the ship. Actually, Naamah was responsible for the most forward area of the bottom deck, while Achsah took care of the deck above. For years they had shared duties around Noah’s Vineyard, so it was quite natural for the two of them to work together on the ship.
“The animals are still sleeping,” Achsah commented. “It seems so wasteful to throw out their uneaten food.”
“Yes,” agreed Naamah. “I asked Noah about that and he doesn’t want to take any chances of disease. But at least we don’t have to put out much. He thinks they will sleep right on through the voyage.”
“So we just put out a little?”
“Yes. From now on we will just put out a handful of feed. Noah says he will inform the others.”
“How long do you think the voyage will be?” Achsah asked.
“At least one hundred and fifty days. That’s what Methuselah wrote. But Noah says it could be longer.”
“What do you think it will be like?”
“The world. When we finally leave the ship, what will we find?”
“I don’t know, Achsah. Nor does Noah. I have asked him and he just says we will have to trust the Lord.”
Achsah opened a cage door and gingerly stepped inside. Lying only a few feet away was a sleeping lion and a lioness. She carefully moved closer until only inches away. Pausing, her heart pounding, she watched for any movement. But the two beasts slept on, oblivious to her presence.
Using her broom, she began sweeping the floor, allowing the debris to fall through the slots in the floor, which led directly to the small waste compartment below. Meanwhile, Naamah emptied the food bowls before replenishing them.
Although the work was boring and hard on their backs, the time passed quickly as they talked and reminisced. Sometimes they were interrupted as one of the men would stop by and inspect the ship for leakage. Other times the men would come with buckets and shovels to clean out the waste compartments.
The women were also responsible for preparing foods and washing clothes. In other words, life had returned to normal for the women.
But for the men it wasn’t normal at all. All were farmers not used to shipboard life. They couldn’t farm land since it was under water, or engage in commerce. Fortunately none were seasick and had quickly developed a degree of “sea legs,” at least enough that they could move about the ship confidently.
But Noah, realizing how much out of their element his sons were, decreed that every day he and his sons would explore the ship and check for any leakage. They would descend to the first deck and slowly inspect for any sign of moisture. Whenever they encountered joints from the supporting beams, they would place their hands on the wood, feeling for moisture. This was time consuming, as they would carefully inspect the entire ship.
It was also their responsibility to make sure everything was secure. Like the women, they divided the ship into sections, four to be exact. Each day they would work a section, usually from its forward position and work aft. Because it required painstaking and minute inspections, it took the four men four weeks to do a full inspection. Even when they teamed up, it still took a month. But Noah felt the constant inspections were too important and they continued for several months before he was satisfied with their safety.
Combining waste pickup with inspections proved to be a wise decision. Although hibernating, the animals still managed to relieve themselves. The larger animals would do so every few days, while the smaller ones did so daily. The amazing thing was that some did this without waking up. Those that did wake up would move to a favorite spot, relieve themselves, and return to their straw beds.
Periodically, with bucket and shovel in hand, the men would visit each cell and clean the small compartments beneath the floors. They would then clean out these cells and dump the waste into leather buckets, which would then be carried outside and dumped.
This last chore was difficult, because the only door to the Ark was sealed shut and the window was only 1½ feet high. This meant that one of the men had to slip through the opening, have the small buckets passed through to him, and then dump the waste over the side. Unfortunately for Noah, he was the smallest of the men, so even his position as patriarch didn’t prevent him from this unsavory job.