Monday, September 29, 2014

Victory on the Walls (Bethlehem Books)

Most of us have heard the name Nehemiah before. Unfortunately, very little of us know anything about him or even where to find his book in the Bible. I can tell you that it appears in the Old Testament; after the book of Ezra, but not much else. That is pretty pitiful considering that I have actually read its contents. Unfortunately, it was when I was reading through the Bible in one year. If you've ever participated in one of those reading plans, you know how overwhelming it can be. The days come quickly, and you always feel like you are reading too many chapters in one day to appreciate what you are reading, let alone understand it. Therefore, when Bethlehem Books offered me the opportunity to review Victory on the Walls, I jumped at the chance.

Victory on the Walls: A Story of Nehemiah, to my surprise, is actually not a "Christian" book. In reality it is part of a series called Covenant Books, which were designed as an "expedition into the realms of Jewish experience," and to "stimulate the young reader's interest in his cultural heritage and prove a rewarding spiritual experience." That's not to say that a Christian audience won't benefit from reading this book, it's just they weren't the original audience. The two main characters in this book are Nehemiah and an author-created fictional nephew named Bani. True to the Bible, Nehemiah is cupbearer to the Persian King Artaxerxes. Bani is Jewish as well, but has lived in Susa (a Persian city) his whole life, so he identifies himself as Persian, not Jewish, which dismays his uncle.

The first 2+ chapters give us background for the main characters; introduce us to other minor fictional characters, such as Jadon and Oebazus; educate us on the city and culture of Susa; and give us a minor tease of the problems afflicting Jerusalem. In Chapter 3, we see passages in this book which are straight out of the Bible itself, including Nehemiah in ashes and beseeching the Lord. We also see Artaxerxes realizing Nehemiah was distraught in his presence and giving him permission to go rebuild Jerusalem. We then see the journey from Susa to Jerusalem, and are treated to an ancient history and geography lesson. Young boys will like some of these chapters because there are military tactics and battles as well. When they finally arrive in Jerusalem, we see politics abound and several people questioning and doubting Nehemiah or trying to persuade him to do things against God's will, as well as more battles. I won't divulge anymore of the book, so I don't completely give away the plot.

I found this book surprisingly enjoyable. I say surprisingly, because I am generally not a fan of Biblical stories that take such creative license. However, this book made the story of Nehemiah come alive. I found myself reading this book and reading the book of Nehemiah simultaneously, just to see what was actually in the Bible and what was not. This was great for building my interest in an important time in Jewish and Biblical history. I wish the Ms. Hyman's other work was in print as well. Be sure to check out Bethlehem Books for other great historical fiction works in their Living History Library series. Also like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter to keep track of their monthly free eStacks book. This month's selection is ending tomorrow and is entitled Wild Cat Ridge!

This book was provided to me for free by Bethlehem Books in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!