About the Book (publisher’s description):
In Their Darkest Hour, Where Would Hope Be Found?
In one life-changing moment, the lives of the exiles in Babylon are thrown into despair when a decree from the king’s palace calls for the annihilation of every Jewish man, woman, and child throughout the empire in less than one year.
Ezra, a quiet but brilliant scholar, soon finds himself called upon to become the leader of his people. Forced to rally an army when all his training has been in the Torah, he struggles to bring hope in a time of utter despair, when dreams of the future–of family and love–seem impossible.
In Keepers of the Covenant, acclaimed novelist Lynn Austin weaves together the struggles and stories of both Jews and Gentiles, creating a tapestry of faith and doubt, love and loss. Here, the Old Testament comes to life, demonstrating the everlasting hope displayed in God’s unwavering love for His people.
My Thoughts on the Book:
This epic tale of Biblical fiction has so much to offer the reader. The story takes place in multiple locations in and near Babylon and Jerusalem, with several sets of characters and a variety of viewpoints whose stories intersect over the course of the book. And there are many valuable lessons the characters learn along the way, many of which are applicable in our own time period as well.
As second in the series, Keepers of the Covenant continues Austin’s retelling of the Jewish return from exile in Babylon that began with Return to Me. While the two stories follow chronologically, they’re not overly dependent on each other, so either could be read as a standalone (though I did enjoy seeing a few of the characters make a second appearance). This book picks up in the time of Queen Esther and tells the story of Ezra, a Torah scholar turned leader.
What I enjoyed most about this book, was that it gave me a greater appreciation for and understanding of Jewish history, and showed a consistency between certain aspects of the Old and New Covenants that hadn’t seemed quite so clear before. I loved the way the different story threads wove together to create a picture of God’s plan to save both Jew and Gentile.
Much as I liked Ezra, Reuben, Amina, and Hodaya, I think my favorite character was Devorah, Ezra’s wife. She was portrayed as a strong and intelligent woman, a trusted advisor to Ezra, and a voice for grace, balancing her husband’s focus on law, and I found her particularly relatable and likeable.
I’d like to end my review by sharing a couple of quotes from the book that I found particularly compelling. From page 240:
“It was easy to rise up in faith and heroism when we faced a clear-cut enemy. It’s much harder to resist the enemy of gradualism and assimilation, much harder to maintain a passion for God when we’re bogged down in the daily routine of life.”
And from page 471:
“If things ever look hopeless to you, remember how the Holy One answered our prayers. Don’t ever forget to call on Him in your time of need.”
Great advice, right? This is such a vivid and inspiring book! Highly recommended.
Thank you to Bethany House for providing a paperback copy free of charge.