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After the Flood
By Leonard Smith
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2009 Leonard Smith
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The early morning mists slowly wafted across the landscape outside of a large village in the high foothills of northern Shinar. Except for a few curious dogs, nothing yet stirred in its streets. In a large encampment just beyond the settlement, however, shepherds moved about almost stealthily. The stirring and the soft but growing cacophony of the awaking goats, sheep, and kine prompted them to rouse the rest of the animals so that all could be inspected and attended to.
On a rise near the center of the encampment, a reclining figure sat in motionless contrast to the growing activity. The low silhouette of the man called Abram belied the stature of a tall and vigorous older man whose youthful visage contrasted his age. Additionally, his community status contradicted his appearance. Despite his regal bearing, the leading members of his clan did little to counter the demeaning criticism directed at him by his father. Even the aged patriarch of this clan occasionally sent edicts that expressed disappointment at his refusal to engage in offensive warfare.
As Abram continued to recline against a small boulder, other concerns than those criticisms troubled his mind. Many years ago his mother had overcome the scorn of his relatives against sending him to Damascus for tutoring. The currentfolklore asserted that Abram's mother threatened to reveal a shady action by his father to a local chieftain if her son wasn't sent to Damascus. At that school, he became good friends with Eliezer, the son of a government official. Upon returning home, this man Abram quickly demonstrated his abilities to care efficiently for the family flocks. The greed of his father Terah dictated the begrudging appointment of Abram to overseer.
Within weeks of his appointment, Abram had located his friend Eliezer and hired him as his chief assistant. His contrary father started to block the hiring, but relented when the whole community showed a rare displeasure toward the action of the autocratic Terah.
The prescient Terah realized that the combination of Abram and Eliezer would likely contest his methods of rulership. Abram's aversion to offensive warfare upon his return from Damascus immediately upset Terah; hence, he feared this association. Eliezer's religious convictions, however, proved to be a bigger problem than his passive ideas.
Abram had possessed a dislike for household gods from his earliest youth and suffered several depressive interludes because he couldn't enter worship of those gods as fervently as some in his community. He feigned worship to avoid the scolding that his father gave to others for refusing to worship them. The scolding usually carried warnings of some impending tragedy for shunning the gods. How relieved Abram was to find a friend like Eliezer at the tutoring school. Eliezer not only abhorred household gods, but he railed against them to all of his fellow students. Eliezer's example emboldened Abram to bury all of his personal gods immediately upon returning home from Damascus.
Within a moon of his casting away of household gods, Abram started to have strange dreams. The first dream involved a man obscured by brilliant light telling him that he would be chosen to fulfill a vital mission if he continued to shun pagan ways. Several more moons after the first dream, a tall shepherd appeared to him from behind a boulder and identified himself as Melchizedek, the man in his dreams. The man seemed to disappear into thin air after a very brief conversation whose words confused Abram even further.
Through all of these communications with this enigmatic man, Abram received no specific instructions-except to avoid false gods. Was this man or being the God that spared the family of his recently departed ancestor Noah? Could he be the God that his clan's oldest patriarch Shem declared to be the Eternal One? Abram instinctively and explicitly trusted this man and his messages, despite knowledge that others around had received messages in their dreams from malignant beings.
The sun had risen to bathe the countryside in its golden rays, making the verdant landscape an iridescent green. Suddenly everything was once again as it should be in his world. Abram could only wait for further instructions. It seemed that his life had been one long pattern of waiting. Just as he ended his reverie and stood to join the rest of the camp in the day's work, his wife Sarai addressed him.
"My dear Sarai, I can't see Eliezer now. I told him this morning that I must inspect the goods we are delivering to our herders on the northern shore of Ark Lake on the morrow."
"But my Lord Abram, he says that your father Terah is bringing your ancestor Eber to see you and he must consult with you before they arrive."
"Oh, all right. I hope General Eber doesn't have some conflict for me to join. It's interesting how my father's older four generations after Noah are still alive, but the next four generations have all perished in an attempt to stem the conquering rule of the Assurites and Nimrodites."
"Abram, don't be so judgmental! You know your father has entrusted you with the very considerate care of our family's livestock. Your function as a master husbandman is far more important than some warrior in Eber's army; probably more important than the general himself."
"Hush, Sarai. You must not criticize the office of the general."
"I am not criticizing; just look at the number of trained soldiers you help support. Need I cite more facts to prove otherwise?"
"Eliezer is here. I must leave. But we are not done with this conversation."
"Oh yes, we are! I have said all I am going to say on this matter, and there is nothing to retract on my part."
"Master Abram, I have received a message from a reliable source that your father is planning to move our residence to Haran. Doesn't he realize that the headwater streams of the great rivers can become dangerous at almost any time because of the unpredictable downpours?"
"Eliezer, first of all, how did you get this information, and how do you know it is reliable? And I suppose you have communicated this rumor to all the souls in our community?"
"Pardon me, sire, but I am sure that the information was overheard from a strategy meeting conducted by the general. And because I was sure of the validity of the plan, I thought it good that all affected know. Of course, I hoped that a negative response from my fellow servants would help your father and General Eber to change their minds."
"Eliezer, if you weren't so devious, you wouldn't be of any use to me! Nevertheless, I wonder if my father may want to fire you over this. You know he doesn't cater well to betrayals of confidence-this case being a prime example."
"I would be sad to leave your employ, but I consider this move a potential disaster to our extended family and community. It is not only the danger of losing many of our flock, but the move to Haran seems bad to me. I have considerable contact with the holy men of Arabia, and they tell me that Haran is a hotbed for the worship of false gods, especially the moon god Sin. I know I have convinced you that your father's continued worship of iconic gods is wrong. This move will only reinforce his worship tendencies by providing him access to temples of darkness."
"I appreciate your concerns. Given what you have told me, I think it best that you lead the caravan to Ark Lake tomorrow. I assume that they will be here soon, and it would be best if you weren't around to receive the wrath of them. I think that I can come nearer to soothing angry moods that can't be directly expressed. Don't worry about losing your position; I would resign before letting them fire you. I am certain that they don't want to lose my services. Nevertheless, there may be some reprimand that I will have to administer, but it will not be severe. Also, don't worry; I will broach all your major concerns with them, especially your comment about the god Sin. I am becoming more and more angry myself over emulating our enemies through the worship of iconic gods."
Eliezer felt enormous relief as they neared the encampment area by the lake. He had not only escaped the wrath of his high masters, but the weather had been unusually warm and dry for this time of the year. The plateau area to the east of the lake had very few snowdrifts to traverse. The strange feeling of a warm sun during the day while walking through the last remnants of snowfields made the chill of the nights almost a forgotten memory. Abruptly, his pleasant mood turned into apprehension as he approached the flocks. Had some Canaanite tribe, or even worse, some brutal Assurite band decimated the camp? If that were the case why did the flocks appear to be at a normal level? Any marauding band would surely have taken much livestock.
Being a fit man, Eliezer raced ahead of the caravan and came upon the nearest shepherd so quickly that the shepherd was barely able to halt his swing in time not to hurt Eliezer with a blow from his staff. Eliezer stumbled backward and fell more from the shock than its force. Eliezer was barely able to compose himself in time to avoid uttering a curse. He arose slowly, trying not to scare the shepherd who stood over him, seemingly in shock also.
Eliezer was the first to gain full speaking ability. "Where is everyone?" An interactive question seemed to be the best tactic to help calm the nerves of the stunned shepherd.
"Sire, I am so sorry to have hit you. We have been warned to be extra alert. The suddenness of your approach made me think that whoever was upon me must have done so by stealth and was therefore up to no good."
"Forget me. I am okay. Just answer my question."
"Many of my companions are at the south end of the lake trying to increase the size of the lake outlet. We don't want the lake to become brackish as the Vale of Siddim is."
"Very well, but why are so many of you involved with the project? Specific instructions were given to the diggers not to involve the shepherds or soldiers. If they needed more personnel they were supposed to wait for my visit, more specifically that of Lord Abram, who substituted me as the caravan leader just before departure time. Give me thorough directions to their location and I will send a runner to bring the others here immediately."
"Sire, that may not be necessary; smoke signals received this high meridian indicated they should be arriving by early post-meridian tomorrow. The past weeks have been so peaceful that our commander thought enough shepherds and soldiers could be spared to complete the outlet project, and everybody would be back in camp before your expected arrival on the day after tomorrow."
"It seems my early arrival has caught some dangerous practices by our company. In the meantime, where is the commander? I must speak with him at once."
The commander did not get a commendation for completion of the outlet project and was barely able to persuade Eliezer to let him remain in his position. A rework of security procedures included the assignment of perpetual sentries around the encampment before the caravan departed for headquarters at Ur of Chaldees.
As Eliezer's caravan started to disappear in the distance, Abram sat down on a stack of shorn wool and seemed lost in thought. Sarai, ever a curious lady, couldn't resist trying to find out what was troubling her husband.
"Abram, are you already lonesome for Eliezer, and he is not yet completely out of sight?" She knew this was a rhetorical question, but expressed ignorance of another's mood was sometimes the best way to get that person to divulge his true feelings.
"I was just thinking about Eliezer's rumor. I know him to be a man not given to flights of fancy. Therefore, I fully expect our move to Haran to take place; my father is resolute when he decides upon a plan or action."
"I sense that you are not pleased with the prospects of our move. Why would it be so bad? We would have a chance to live in a house, for which we could pave a courtyard with stones and get out of this mud. We could also live apart from our animals some of the time. I could even enjoy the perfumes from Egypt rather than the many and varied scents of animals."
"The city life is appealing to many, even a confirmed shepherd as I am. I understand a learned former tutor of mine from Babylon is setting up an observatory in Haran. This fact was communicated to me about a moon ago by another former tutor who stopped by our camp. The latter was sent specifically to offer me a job as an instructor in stellar alignments and mathematics. Of course, I turned him down, but if the move happens I may reconsider."
"Then it's settled! You need to sabotage Eliezer's efforts to prevent the move."
"Not so fast! I haven't mentioned many of the bad things about the move. As displeased as you are by animal scents, the cleanliness of our camp from waste will be hard to match in Haran. Some tribes no longer adhere to the standards of cleanliness that were observed by all before Babel. There will be no way of knowing whether your close neighbor is a slovenly person or not."
"But we can get the city rulers to pass living standards."
"My dear, it is one thing to pass laws and another one entirely to enforce them. One man's filth is another man's harmless dust. Also, we will be moving into a strategic location for control by world tyrants. Given the increasing turmoil, this move will be like jumping into the midst of a cockfight."
"But you have so many trained military servants that surely none would dare attack you."
"I would not be so sure of that! And the last thing I want to mention before I talk to Lot-I just realized he requested to see me about this time-is the worship centers for iconic gods. There is far too much of that going on in our camp already, and it will only get worse with the move to Haran."
"I think you are overly concerned, my Lord."
"Maybe so, maybe no. Well, we can't make a firm decision until our father arrives, so I will see you later. By the way, do you know where Lot has got to?"
In the late afternoon of the day following Eliezer's departure for Ark Lake, an ominous dark feature appeared on the horizon. Just as apprehension started to grow in the camp, an outpost runner arrived with the news that the approaching horde that was beginning to stir up visible dust was a band of warriors headed by Eber and Terah. Lot, who was once again talking to Abram over the allocation of grazing lands, exclaimed, "How are we going to manage to accommodate this huge army?"
"Easy. I believe the size of the approaching band indicates that they have brought supplies with them. Also, our stores are well stocked. I had a large area to the north of our camp cleared; I hope that will suffice for their residence."
The normally unflappable Abram suddenly exclaimed out loud, "Eliezer, where are you when I need you?" This barely audible expression at once puzzled and deflated Lot.
"Uncle Abram, what is it? What's the matter?"
"Oh, I am just perplexed about whether I should lead a greeting committee or just wait for them to enter camp."
"Uncle, may I suggest a small greeting committee would be overshadowed by the host we see on the horizon. Why don't you assemble two lines of soldiers as an honor guard near your tent and have them stand at attention when they arrive? I know none is dressed in finery, but what can one do on such short notice?"
Abram wasn't completely pleased with the suggestion, but he couldn't think of a better action. It seemed like an eternity for the band to arrive. As the band got close enough to identify individuals, the two expected dignitaries had another rather broad-shouldered and imposing figure riding slightly behind them and surrounded by a rectangular formation of asses decked in what appeared to be regal gear. Abram immediately recognized the third figure, but could hardly believe his eyes. Why would such an important personage, now quite aged, be wasting his time and endangering his health to come see his relatively insignificant camp?
"Nephew, do you recognize who is riding to the right of my father?"
Excerpted from After the Flood by Leonard Smith Copyright © 2009 by Leonard Smith. Excerpted by permission.
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