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An Old, Old Story
by [?]

It was a dark and rainy day when about the inn-fire, close to the great caravan way that led through Canaan, in the land of Palestine, a group of camel-drivers and travelers were gathered. They looked very different from what they do to-day, for nearly four thousand years have passed since then. But they were all huddled together listening to stories and songs.

In the group there were men from Egypt; there were men from Babylon, the great city far to the East; there were men from the land of Canaan; and then there were some wandering nomads who had lately come from the East and so were called by the Canaanites “Hebrews,” which means, “People from the Other Side.” Most of these men were shepherds, but they loved to meet with the camel-drivers and learn of the customs and habits of the people of other lands. ‘Twas a strange group of men sitting about the little fire.

In those days, as now, men loved to tell stories that had come down to them from their fathers and grandfathers, and often they found that a story from Egypt was but little different from one that had been told in Babylonia. So they loved to listen to the story-tellers.

But on this day it had rained and rained till the streams were full and the way was very hard to go. Thus there were very many men in the inn. ‘Twas the turn of the Babylonian, so he began,

“I will tell you one of the very oldest of our stories–about a great rain-storm.

“Years and years and years ago the Gods in heaven began to fear that the men of the earth were going to live forever and so they made a plan by which to destroy them. There should be a great rain for days and days and days, and all these men and women and children should be drowned. Then the Gods would be free from their worries.

“But one of the Gods named Ea had a friend who lived on the earth, and so he sent word to him to go with all his family into a big, big ship and take with him two of every kind of animals. Utnapishtim, the friend, did as he was told.

“Then the rain came and for six days and nights there was no let-up at all. Deeper and deeper it grew till the Gods in heaven grew afraid and cowered in the highest corner of heaven. By this time every living thing, except the ones in the big ship, was destroyed.

“But after six days, the rain ceased. Then the man sent out a dove, but it returned, for it could find no place to rest. Later he sent out a raven and it did not come back, so he knew the waters were going down. Then he made a great sacrifice to the Gods and they came, they saw the great destruction and they gloated over it, pleased that their plan had worked so well.”

There was applause when he had finished from many of the group, but the Hebrews did not applaud. They had been taught that there was one true God, not many Gods. They had been taught that God was kind to all and not one that gloated over destruction of men. They were not pleased with the story of the great flood.

Then there came nights out under the stars and they heard the stories of how the earth was made; of how man came to be; of the meaning of many of the things that they saw all about them. But in every story there were found Gods who were cruel, who were unkind, who quarreled and fought. There were many, many Gods, but none was like unto their God.

As the old Hebrews listened to all these old, old stories from the countries about them which were told so often, they shook their heads sadly and said,