About the Book
Noa, at sixteen, sets out with the twelve tribes of the Exodus, dreaming of a life of freedom and the Promised Land that her father says will be theirs. When religious fanatics kill her father, Noa and her four sisters are in danger of being sold into bondage. Noa vows to win women’s rights of inheritance to protect her sisters and herself. Pleading her case before ever-higher courts, Noa encounters a malicious judge and the dark side of power.
Gaining strength and complexity as she approaches the highest judge, Noa and her pursuit causes turmoil among the tribes: she is a notorious troublemaker, accused of witchery. And she is heroic. Based on a few biblical verses, the turbulence of Noa’s life is set against the sweeping turbulence of the Exodus. In Judging Noa, her quest for justice is a journey that has as much meaning today as it did then.
“Strutin authored a nonfiction book on the flora and fauna of Israel and succeeds very well in depicting both the Biblical landscape and women’s lives in this novel. Noa, her sisters, and even minor figures are well-rounded characters. I enjoyed experiencing the Bible stories about the Exodus from a different, female point of view. Fans of Biblical-themed fiction and those interested in women’s history will enjoy this book.” — Review by B. J. Sedlock, Historical Novels Review
IN THE SHADOW OF MOUNT SINAI
Noa walked alone, amid a chaos of bleating sheep, braying asses, clouds of dust, and a long shambling line of people. She preferred it. As the Israelites plodded into the desert, away from Egypt and slavery, being alone within the crowd gave Noa time to notice without being noticed.
Her mother saw her as ripe for marriage. At sixteen, Noa saw herself as ripe for the land her father promised, for streams splashing down verdant hills, for anything at all. She looked to the dry hills on the horizon, so different from the Nile delta. A tiny sunbird flashed overhead, catching her attention with its sapphire plumage. As she watched it fly to a red-flowered vine winding through a lone acacia tree, Noa heard a voice behind her.
“Like a jewel in flight . . . yes?”
Noa turned and saw a young woman about her age, stunningly different from most. Freckles sprinkled her nose and the crests of her cheeks. Golden, wavy hair framed her face. Noa stared. She had never seen anyone so pale and shiny.
“Everyone stares . . . at first.”
“I’m sorry, I did not mean . . .”
“I’m used to it,” she said. “My name is Yoela. Do you mind if I walk with you?”
Embarrassed that she had stared, Noa was, for once, without words, so simply said, “Please.”
“What do they call you?”
Noa could not seem to catch the rhythm of conversation.
“You know . . . your name,” Yoela urged.
“Noa. Noa! Oh, I’m not usually this blank.”
She looked at Yoela, who was biting the insides of her cheeks to keep from laughing. Then both burst into giggles.
As they walked, they told what they had brought out of Egypt and what they expected to find at the end of their journey.
“My father trained Malah and me to breed flocks for the best traits,” Noa said, leaking pride. “And he tells of the green land we are returning to. There I will lie on soft grasses under the shade of trees and watch goats I bred milk themselves.”
A smile lit Yoela’s face, pleasing Noa.
“You have a far different father than most. We have few sheep and goats, and no name to speak of. So, I will be happy with one tree. But anything is possible.”
They walked in silence for some moments, each imagining possibilities.
Then Yoela said, “I saw you with another maiden. Your sister?”
“Yes. That’s Malah. She ran up to walk with the daughters of Manasseh’s headmen. She prefers to walk with the highest of our tribe. My parents should have switched her name with my sister Milcah. Malah thinks she is the Queen.”
“So, there are more of you?”
“You ask a lot of questions. But, yes, three sisters besides Malah. Younger. And you?”
“A brother. Two years older.”
“Like my sister. But Malah would never marry a man with no name. Me? Noa is name enough for me.”
“I knew a Noa. She was married to a mouse.”
“Impossible!” Noa laughed.
“Truly. But she, too, was a mouse. And what happened to them in Pharaoh’s storehouse?”
“Better than what happened to us, I hope.”
“Listen. I will tell you . . .”
Yoela bubbled like a spring in the desert and was full of stories that helped pass the time.