Abram lay awake, he was having a sleepless night and though he went to bed tired, he couldn’t sleep. His wife Sarai was asleep, snuggling beside him, one arm carelessly thrown across his chest; gently snoring away which made him even more fidgety. He lay there thinking about his brother Haran and his wife who had both died through a drowning accident. How his brother’s wife dived into the water and hit her head on a rock knocking her unconscious. He thought about how his brother dived in to rescue her, and how he became caught in the mud of the river bank, and while struggling to hold her head above the water he became so exhausted that after having to let his wife go they both drowned. As he lay there Saria turned away from him, grabbing hold of her pillow and continued snoring.
Free from her embrace he quietly left the bed, and made his way outside to sit on his chair outside the tent and looked up at the stars. He often enjoyed looking up at the stars, up at the heavens that his father told him were made by the Lord God, creator of the heavens and the earth. But the tonight the skies were cloudy and he could not see any stars, and it looked like it might rain. His thoughts went back to the story the old man Noah had told him about the time it rained. He had only ever met Noah once; and that at a family celebration. He was a very distant relative and apparently once had some importance to do with the survival of the human race. He wasn’t sure what to make of him and the stories about him, how his God spoke to him telling him to build an ark, that he would cause it to flood through rain and that he would keep his family safe on the ark. Surely there was a lot of myth to this story he thought, yet his grandfather Norah, told him it was all true. His grandfather used to gather them all around telling them the stories of how the heavens and earth were made, how in the beginning there was only God and nothing else.
That caused Abram some difficulty trying to image nothing, trying to imagine how all the countryside around him was made out of nothing except by this God speaking. While he sat there thinking about this God who spoke, the God who spoke every thing into being, the earth, skies, water, land, and trees, his dog came up to him, nuzzling him on the leg, and almost absentmindedly he scratched it behind the ears.
He thought about life and how hard it was, thinking about the stories of Adam and Eve how they had a perfect life living in the garden at Eden and because they disobeyed God he put them outside the garden and death came into the world because of their disobedience. This led him to think once again about his brother Haran. How he missed him, how he missed his antics. He was always adventurous, always brave and always getting into mischief. He thought about how he almost hero worshiped his older brother. He thought about his brother’s wife and how they soon married and gave birth to a son, naming him Lot, and his daughters Sarai and Milcah whom he and his other brother Nahor married.
Abram groaned, thinking about his own family, how though they tried time and time again Sarai would not fall pregnant. His wife was tired of the way the village women would look at her, as they went about looking after their children. He thought of her despair and his inability to protect her and comfort her from the gossip regarding how they must be cursed, because God had not blessed them with a child. He thought about his own manhood, how the men of the village would lift up their sons, placing them upon their shoulders, running, playing teaching them their trade.
Standing up, he stretched himself to his full height of just five foot six. Though lean, he was muscular and very fit. He was popular among the men of the village and his father’s servants considered him a fair man, never asking them to do something he wouldn’t do himself. His competitive nature when it came to working without a break was renowned and many a young man had been broken and beaten, dropping through exhaustion while trying to beat him at it. In thinking about the days work ahead of him, he let out a loud yawn and headed back inside to bed, where he soon fell asleep.
Sarai got up when she heard the rooster crowing, knowing she had a big day ahead of her. Today was the first day of the week long Spring Celebration and she was ready for it. For over the year she had been preparing the food, harvesting the garden, buying and trading what she didn’t have. She had grown beans and lentils through the year, allowing them to dry on the vine and had stored them in the large clay jars that were waist high. There were many other jars, filled with barley, wheat, corn and millet. There were cane baskets holding the sweet dried figs, potatoes, pumpkins and the sultanas from the previous years grape harvest that hadn’t been crushed for wine. Breathing deeply, smelling the fragrance of the bunches of garlic and onions that were hanging from the roof intermingled with the smell of coriander, basil and rosemary caused her to imagine the pleasure of those hungry workers sitting down to eat at the end of a hard days work.
There would be bread, eggs, cheese, fruit and vegetables, roast duck and goat, along with the normal lentil soup spiced with oil and garlic. And at the end of the week when the work had been done they would celebrate throughout the night with the preparing of the fatted calf. There would be the retelling of many stories of what happened during the week, Terah, Abrams father would gather all round him to retell the story of God and His creation, passing down to each generation the same story that had been passed down to him. Finally the night would finish with singing and dancing, perhaps someone will play their whistle. And Sarai allows herself to think, “Perhaps that will also be the night I come to be with child.” Then firmly putting those thoughts away from her she continues to think of the work that is needed to be done at the present, though not for very long.
Her sister Milcah came to her, yawning and rubbing her belly complaining of her aches and pains and the difficulty that she had in sleeping, stating loudly that she wished the pregnancy was over. Giving her sister a hug, with a hint of anger rising up in her, she rebukes her saying, “I wish I had your problems, but enough of this, go and organise the other servants to get the water, and enough wood for today’s cooking and I will start filling the bags with the lunches. With that she turned her back to her sister and grabbed a few of the leather bags that were threaded through the top and tied with a sinew. She filled some with olives, figs, cheese and sultanas. Others she filled with bread and jerky that had been made by cutting goat meat into long thin slices, salted and dried in the sun. And finally she made sure the water skins were filled, the bungs tight and not leaking ready for the days work. She filled up the bags, knowing that what ever was in there would have to last until nightfall.
Abram came shortly after into the food storeroom where he unplugged a water skin and drank deeply from it, water trickling down his beard. Soon followed by Lot, who also grabbed it off him and not only did he tip it up to drink, he allowed the water to flow over his face, spilling onto the floor. “Lot”, shrieked his sister Sarai, “Get outside and do that, your making a terrible mess, and I don’t have time to clean up after you, you too Abram, get out, out” and she made sweeping gestures towards them. “Take your food bags and go”
While laughing at his wife, he scooped up the food bags and called Lot to bring the water skin with him. They had a big week ahead of them, repairing and extending the sheep fold. It looked like they were in for a great spring with most of the does and ewes in full lamb. If every thing went as well as expected; the mob of sixty sheep and goats would be nearly doubled, perhaps more so if some had twins. This meant though that the current holding yard had to be extended, the existing one barely big enough as it was. They had already started on this, but the winter months were wet and cold making it hard to work in that weather. They had already laid the foundation of the extension next to the existing wall, and now all they had to do was to knock the right hand wall down and use the rock and stones to build the walls..
Deep in thought he walked quietly towards the pens, Lot still laughing behind him. He couldn’t help but think about children, what it would mean to him to have a son. It seemed that every one around him was blessed except for Sarai and himself. His brother’s wife was pregnant again, their third child. His older brother Haran who died also had three children, a son and two daughters, though he didn’t begrudge him this as Sarai after all was one of his daughters, and he deeply loved her more than he could explain. And not to mention the sheep and goats for this was the reason for the heavy work that was ahead of them. Every where he turned he was reminded of his own lack, and it burned deeply within. Nahor soon caught up to them, and taking the water skin off Lot he also took a drink from it. The sun was just starting to come up above the trees, the morning dew drying and the livestock were baaing waiting to be let out. It was Nahor’s turn to take them down the valley about two kilometres away, looking after them, returning that afternoon to lock them once again in the fold. Lot and Abram helped him to pull the branches away from the opening, and taking his staff that was leaning against the wall, called the mob to him and started walking away. Baaa, naaa, they cried, running after him, one of his favourites butting him softly in the leg.
Nahor knew this one well and how it had changed. It had been a wild and rebellious doe since birth, and he thought he would have to kill it before it corrupted the other young. He found it injured when it was three months old; its foot caught between two rocks and its leg broken. He thought back to when he cut up some strips of green hide and after wetting it bound the leg into place. When the leather dried it had shrunk hard forming a rigid plaster. Every day for the next two months, he picked up the doe, placing it over his shoulders and carried it with him when he took the mob out to the pasture. The hardest part was trying to cut the leather off the foot, when it had started to cut into the flesh, but eventually it came off and the doe had followed him around ever since. He enjoyed this type of work and didn’t envy his brother and nephew at all, grinning when he thought of the hard work that faced them. Whistling as he went, the goats and sheep followed him, down the track to the water hole they went to on a daily basis. Soon the flock smelt the water and once around the bend they saw the shimmer of the water and raced ahead of him to the edge of the pond, fighting and butting each other to get there first.
Nahor smiled, he knew their antics well and continued at his leisurely pace behind them, heading towards the Oak tree and the rock that he had spent so much time and effort last spring to place under its shade. He found it jutting out of the side of the hill about three hundred paces away, and it took him nearly a whole day just to dig it out. His only tools were his staff and another flat rock that he found that he could use like a shovel. Finally it came free and using a large tree branch and a smaller rock he was able to lever it up a bit and once there he had to prop it up more with another rock before he inched it up again. I took him two weeks to dig it out and move it to where it was under the tree. But the effort was worth it. Once there he continued to shape it, bashing more rocks against it until it was reasonably rectangular in shape and hollowed a little more out on top for where he would sit. On top of the rock he placed a lambskin, one that he also tanned the year before for it. Its soft wool and pliable leather made it such a comfortable place to sit and observe his animals.
Hanging his bags off a branch he took his staff and wandered around the pond, keeping an eye out for any thing unusual. Being spring it would mean that the snakes would be coming out of hibernation soon and the last thing he wanted was to tread on one. The other danger was bears and mountain lions. Though he had not seen one around for a number of years, he heard through the village grapevine last week, that a traveller had reported sight of a bear only two days walk from the village. His only defence against them would be his staff, the sling he carried tied around his waist and his antics, yelling, screaming and jumping up and down, trying to frighten them off. He had a pouch containing small round pebbles and was considered one of the better hunters amongst his family. He often brought home a pigeon or duck and if he was lucky even a hare. He sometimes daydreamed about killing a lion or bear, how he would stand up to it, with nerves of steel, quickly fit a rock to the sling, swinging it around his head a few times and then letting it fly, hitting the animal square on its temple dropping it dead. Yet in spite of his imagination he knew that he would be extremely afraid and didn’t really want to meet one.
It only took him about an hour to walk around the pond, which was fed by a small creek that snaked around the valley fed by various springs where water bubbled up out of the ground. Clean sweet, sparkling water and it was from one of those springs that he would fill his water skin from before the day was over. He looked downstream from the pond, where just over half a days travel was the village. They had a river running beside the village where they would do their washing, bathing and fishing. The river ran had a small sandy beach beside the village the rest was a mixture of rocky outcrops and mudflats. There was one spot that overhung the river, about a mile from the village where the more adventurous would dive off and climb back up the cliff once again. It was either that or swim back towards the village where the sandy beach was and that took time. The mudflats were treacherous and many animals had become stuck there, eventually dying.
He thought about that spot, for it was at this spot that his brother and his wife died. Spurred on by taunts and dares that she a mere woman would not have the courage to jump off, she did and it was here that she and his brother died.
They had been visiting; Haran had left home many years before for he was about thirty years older than Abram and himself. He returned with his wife, and three children; Lot his son, Milcah and Sarai his daughters. They came for the weddings that had been arranged sometime after the birth of his daughters. Haran said he could not imagine any one more suited to marrying them then his brothers, who were only about ten years older then them. The celebration of marriage went on for over a week. They celebrated the reunion of the family for it had been many years since they were last together. His father was excited when Haran told him about the village he started and how it was named after him. He also told him about a place called Canaan and how he had heard that it was a land flowing in milk and honey. His father said that he would like to go there one day and might even pack up the family and head to Canaan himself. Then tragedy struck, the festivities suddenly stopped with terrible grief replacing joy. That had been six years ago.
Nahor suddenly turned around, startled by a flock of ducks landing on the pond, relieved that that was all it was. He unwound the sling from his waist and taking a pebble from the pouch he swung it around his head, three or four times, each time the swing getting faster and suddenly he released it, the rock was true to its mark and hit the stump that was just poking out of the water beside the ducks, satisfied that he could have had one if he wanted, but had been told not to bring home any game today.