She really portrays well the pagan temptations the Jews faced in the magnificent city of Babylon. She also reminds us of their frustration at having prayed so long. It seemed like God's ears were closed. Then finally comes the decree from Cyrus. But not all the Jews wanted to go back. In some respects, their life in Babylon was not all that bad.
There were all kinds of issues that confronted the Jews after they had returned to Jerusalem. Do they rebuild the temple first, honoring God, or build their own houses, protecting their families? The place was in ruins. There were people opposing their work, people who had lived there for decades. Some of the children wanted to be friends with the surrounding pagan children. Some of the men wanted to marry the pagan women. It was such a struggle for the Jews to remain pure in a hostile land. Some even wanted to go back to the better life they had had in Babylon.
One of the many character studies in this novel is that of a priest who is bent on being obedient to the many rules God has given. The rules are more important than people, he thinks. But then he finally begins to understand God's love, a love that goes beyond the rules. Another well developed character is a young man who is being trained for the priesthood. Newly in Jerusalem, he wanted to pick up a sword and help defend his people against their enemies. But he is told he must continue his study of the Torah. “The way we conquer our enemies is by obeying God's word.” (123)
And did you ever wonder how the prophets received their visions? Austin tantalizes our imagine with a possible view of how a man moves into his prophetic role.
This novel so epitomizes what I like about biblical fiction. It brings to life the dreams and heartaches of biblical characters. If you want to find out what life was like for the Jews returning to Jerusalem from the exile, read this novel. This is the first in a new series by Austin and I'll be anxiously looking for the next one.
I am taking part in a blog tour of this book and you can read other reviews here.
Lynn Austin has sold more than one million copies of her books worldwide. A former teacher who now writes and speaks full time, she has won eight Christy Awards for her historical fiction. One of those novels, Hidden Places, has also been made into a Hallmark Channel movie. Lynn and her husband have raised three children and make their home near Chicago, Illinois. Learn more at www.lynnaustin.org.
Bethany House Publishers, 465 pages.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.