At eighty-six, Miriam had devoted her entire life to loving El Shaddai and serving His people as both midwife and messenger. Yet when her brother Moses returns to Egypt from exile, he brings a disruptive message. God has a new name – Yahweh – and has declared a radical deliverance for the Israelites.
Miriam and her beloved family face an impossible choice: cling to familiar bondage or embrace uncharted freedom at an unimaginable cost. Even if the Hebrews survive the plagues set to turn the Nile to blood and unleash a maelstrom of frogs and locusts, can they weather the resulting fury of the Pharaoh?
Enter an exotic land where a cruel Pharaoh reigns, pagan priests wield black arts, and the Israelites cry out to a God they only think they know.
“Will you come?” Moses asked.
All eyes were focused on Miriam, and her cheeks warmed. “I’m sorry. Will I come where?”
“To the meeting. The elders will be more inclined to believe if you stand with us.” Moses reached for her hand. “Maybe you could sing. Do you still sing, Miriam? Your songs were the only thing that could calm me before I went to war.”
Her throat tightened, and the weathered Midian shepherd before her suddenly became the child she’d played with a lifetime ago in the Amira’s bathhouse. He was the boy Amira Anippe sent to the noblemen’s School of the Kap, the young man traumatized by King Horemheb’s blood-thirsty reign. He was Prince Mehy, torn between his Egyptian pharaoh upbringing and his Hebrew heritage. “Yes, Moses. I still sing.”
But could she sing here? Now? She dropped her gaze and let tears fall with it. Miriam felt betrayed by El Shaddai, but perhaps more troubling – she felt like a betrayer for her selfishness. Why couldn’t she rejoice at God’s promised deliverance? Why did it matter that the instrument of deliverance would be Moses and Aaron – and not her? A sob escaped before she could restrain it.
“Can’t you see what you’re doing to her?” Eleazar shouted, startling everyone, his gaze fixed on Moses. “Doda has been El Shaddai’s prophetess her whole life. She served Israel while you lied in a palace. She’s suffered in Egypt while you ran to safety in Midian. Doda should be the one to speak to the elders, not you, not Abba.”
Moses was on his feet and in Eleazar’s face before Miriam could stop him. “I’ve told you, this is not my choice. If it were up to me, I wouldn’t even be here.”
Moses seemed utterly transparent and candid. Any pretense of the Egyptian prince who fled forty years ago gone.
When she glanced at Eleazar, she found him still fuming. Her nephew was Moses – thirty-three years younger. Same height, same build, same stubborn nature, same protective instincts, but he would bite his tongue off before expressing any emotion but anger. Yahweh, if you still hear my prayers, help my Eleazar to find You, love well, and learn to obey You as his uncle has.
She nudged Moses. “I’d like to go to the elders’ meeting, and Eleazar will accompany me.”
Eleazar started to protest, but she lifted her hand and spoke directly to him. “I need your help climbing the plateau, and we both need to see why Yahweh has chosen your abba and Moses to deliver Israel. Perhaps then I’ll understand why Yahweh has been silent toward me.”
The fire in her nephew’s eyes dwindled, and he nodded his surrender. “All right, Doda. I’ll escort you.”
The short take
This was a fantastic read; rich in emotional and historical details and peppered with nuggets of spiritual insight. A must-read for Biblical fiction lovers.
Israel’s exodus from Egypt has to be one of the most fascinating events in history, not to mention one of the best-known Bible stories, but how often do we actually stop to think about what it would have been like to witness it? How often do we fully comprehend the magnitude of what God was asking of the Hebrews? Of Moses? Of Miriam? This book depicts all that and more, but as spectacular as the events were, it was Mesu Andrews’ emotionally complex characters and vivid historical detail that really brought this story to life for me. I will never read the Exodus story with the same eyes, or heart, again.
When the story opens, Miriam is eighty-six years old. She is a slave, a midwife, a healer of herbs, and the messenger of El Shaddai. When he speaks to her in dreams, she interprets. When he whispers a melody, she sings. She is the only person El Shaddai has spoken through since the time of Joseph; until the day He seemingly falls silent and she cannot hear him speaking to her spirit the way He always has. That’s when Moses, the brother who fled Egypt forty years earlier, returns with Aaron to tell them that he has met with God on His mountain, and has been sent to deliver the children of Israel. She should rejoice, but instead she feels abandoned by God, and then guilty at her selfishness.
The other primary character in this novel is Eleazar, Aaron’s third son and therefore the nephew of Miriam. Unlike his Doda Miriam, he cannot trust in a God who allows His people to suffer as the Hebrews have. He is the slave commander at Rameses and a bodyguard to Pharaoh’s second firstborn (that is, the firstborn from the second of Pharaoh’s wives), and is therefore perfectly placed to witness the effect of the plagues on the Egyptian court – not to mention bear the brunt of their displeasure as the plagues intensify. He walks a fine line between loyalty to his master and loyalty to his kinsmen, but even so, that seems a whole lot easier than understanding the beautiful and spirited young woman he’s just married.
Watching these characters grow through the novel, both personally and spiritually, was richly rewarding on a personal level, let alone as a reading experience, and Mesu Andrews wrote her secondary characters so well that we know and identify with their struggles as well, even if we don’t actually get their point of view. Each character’s responses to the events taking place were unique to their situation, and yet they also complemented one another’s journeys, allowing one to build up where another was struggling.
One of the things that hit home as I read this novel was that, despite the uniqueness of their circumstances, these people faced the same personal and spiritual struggles that we do today. Where is God in the midst of our trouble? How do we respond when God takes us out of our comfort zone? When he asks us to leave behind everything we’ve ever known and follow him into the unknown? It’s easy to look back now and see what God was doing, but it isn’t always easy to trust Him when we’re in the middle, and that was very true of the characters in this novel. But trust they did, however imperfectly. Having faith in God does not mean we do not struggle and doubt; it means we’re willing to obey in spite of our struggles and doubts, just as these characters did.
This book reminded me yet again why I love Biblical fiction so much. There is a visceral sense of wonderment that comes from connecting so strongly with real people from history; real people who encounter God in powerful ways, and yet struggle with exactly the same conflicts that we face. I came away not only having enjoyed a fine novel, but encouraged in my walk with God. Thank you Mesu Andrews!
I received a complimentary copy of this novel through Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.
Release date: 15 March 2016
Publisher: WaterBrook Multnomah
Author’s website: http://www.mesuandrews.com/