Rays from an unusually red sunrise filtered through the woven hangings over the bedroom windows of a two-story home. A pink glow spilled across the bed covers, waking a lady of renowned beauty. She stirred and reached for her husband, only to find his spot empty and cold. Tossing back the lightweight blankets, she called her handmaiden. The young servant kept her head bowed until her mistress spoke.
“Have you seen him this morning?”
“He is in the fields with his father. Would you like to bathe before eating?”
Clearly upset, the woman in charge shook her head. “Just help me dress. I want to take a walk through the city. Tell the others to prepare.”
With her robes adjusted and her head covered, the woman and her servants descended the stairs of her lavish home and walked across the courtyard. She glanced up at the opening in the roof, through which rain fell and was collected in the impluvium. The pool sparkled, reflecting the blue skies; it promised to be a good day. From there, they entered the paved lobby, where the masks of the demon god, Pazuzu, protector from the pestilence of the south wind, were visibly missing from the doorposts. She took a deep breath and followed her handmaiden out into the brick street.
Dark scowls followed her as she walked past the affluent homes and turned the corner. Shrines and statues of gods and goddesses leered at her from doorways and windows. “Dear one,” she breathed out softly, “I hope you know what you are doing.”
Saddened by the noticeable change in her neighbors, she held her head high, determined to see her home…perhaps for the last time. Canals and irrigation ditches, fed by the Euphrates River, surrounded the city and sent a cool breeze her way. With the West Harbor behind her, she faced the inner wall, enclosing the sacred grounds and palace. The sun illuminated the southeast corner of the imposing Ziggurat and lit up the shrine and temple of Ningal, consort to the moon god, Nannar. In the distance, at the edge of the North Harbor, loomed the temple of Enki, god of creation, and the palace of the high priestess, Bel-Shalti-Nannar. Connected to both of them was the Harbor Temple.
She wondered if her father-in-law’s god, El Echad, had the power to protect them, now that they no longer worshipped all of these deities. They were about to enter the gate near the palace, when a shout interrupted her thoughts. She saw her husband’s guards running toward her, and suddenly her courage failed. Out of breath, Eliezer, steward of the house, confirmed her fears. “The master is back from gathering the flocks and herds. He wants you home. Now.”
Hurrying, she ignored the menacing stares of those milling about and gave her handmaidens detailed instructions for packing their personal belongings. Then, each of the living rooms downstairs was emptied of its treasures, as were the contents of the kitchen, lavatory and laundry. When they finished that evening, the looks on the faces of her servants reflected her own heart. They would be nomads now, led by a god they had heard of only through stories passed down by family members.
Overwhelmed, she ran her hands along the elaborate walls of the liwan (receiving room). From there, she slipped into the chapel. The altar at the end of the room was empty, the incense burner cold. Her husband prayed beneath the skylight, his face illuminated by the starshine, his arms lifted to the heavens. She listened to the soft intoning of his voice as though he were talking to a friend.
In the darkness she glanced up at the stars. They would need their tangible light to navigate by in the unfamiliar land to which El had called them. Her heart stirred when she thought about leaving her family and friends. Her husband and his father had faith in this invisible god, who was asking them to forsake the comforts of their home and the way of life they’d always known. Could she, in time, learn to trust?
Aware of her presence, her husband grew quiet and came to her side. There was no child to make the journeying easier, but her barrenness had not diminished his love. He put his arms around her in a tender embrace. “Are you ready to leave Ur?”
Sarai turned her head when she nodded, lest Abram see her tears.
El (the basic name for God)~Strength, might, power…sovereign
El Echad~The One God
A wealthy home in Ur: http://s8int.com/phile/page45.html
Ur, Abraham’s home: http://history-world.org/genesis_narrative_in_the_light_o.htm
A map of ancient Ur: http://www.bibleorigins.net/UrofChaldeesPhotosTellMuqqayirIraqHrouda.html
More on Abraham: http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/bct/bct12.htm
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