Monday, May 09, 2016

Book Review: MIRIAM

Title: Miriam
Author: Mesu Andrews
Publisher: Waterbrook Press
Pages: 320

Miriam holds a very significant place in the Bible. She was a woman who was not afraid to take risks and she was instrumental in saving the life of her baby brother, Moses, in what was a highly ingenious manner. 

Here, Mesu Andrews breathes life into the character of Miriam, imbuing her with strength born of her faith in God, El Shaddai. At 86, long past her prime according to our standards, and even according to the standards of the time, she is a most unlikely heroine. A respected seer, healer and midwife, her abilities are thrust into the limelight when she is brought to the court of Pharoah Ramesses to interpret his nightmares.

At Pharoah’s court, she and Eleazar, the son of her brother Aaron, who is also the personal guard of Pharoah’s second firstborn son, Prince Ram, meet Taliah, a young girl who is punished by Pharoah for her failure to protect his young son from getting hurt while playing. Miriam offers to interpret Pharoah’s nightmares in exchange for Taliah’s life. She foretells ruin for Egypt.

Both Miriam and Aaron long to meet Moses, but Eleazar no longer believes in the God of his forefathers, nor cares much for Moses, the Hebrew man who was raised an Egyptian and who abandoned his family.

Miriam, having lived a lifetime in the shadow of God’s grace, suddenly experiences God’s silence, at the beginning of the story. She is further upset when it becomes clear that He has chosen her brothers, and not her, to lead their people to deliverance.

Soon Moses and Aaron, driven by God, ask Pharoah to let the Hebrew people go. But Pharoah is unwilling to offer the Israelites their freedom. And so, God smites them, visiting upon the Egyptians a series of plagues, each worse than the last, culminating finally in the smiting of the firstborn among all of Egypt’s males, man and beast alike.

Through it all, the Hebrew people, bent under four centuries of servitude to Egypt, learn to renew their faith in Yahweh and to await their deliverance with bated breath.

There are many who doubt, but Yahweh shows that He has the answers to all their questions and that His might can overpower ever hurdle.

Eleazar, in particular, is also stubborn and wilful, and he refuses to acknowledge God's intervention in his life. As a proud soldier whose loyalty to Pharoah is unquestionable, Eleazar faces the tyranny of not being able to decide whether Pharoah deserves his loyalty, or whether God does.

While the focus is on the plagues that God brings upon Egypt, until the great Exodus when God’s chosen people are freed spectacularly from Pharoah’s oppression, we receive a detailed look at everyday life, and how the people lived their lives, living under oppression yet trusting in their ultimate deliverance.

Interestingly, the author does not re-tell the Biblical story. Instead she focuses on what might have transpired behind the scenes and with the other characters in the story.

I admired Miriam as a character. Her unrequited love for Hur added a shade of realism to her character and made her more likeable. She was feisty and not afraid to speak her mind. But she is not the only strong woman here. 

Taliah is an independent minded young woman, fiercely resentful of the slights she is dealt and unwilling to rely on others.

In many ways, Miriam and Taliah are alike. The quick retort, the humour with which they often deflect unpleasant situations, the sense of family. They differ only in their age and the amount of reliance they place in Yahweh, in Taliah’s case, none. Between them, there grows a bond of sisterhood.

Each chapter begins with a verse from the Old Testament, Genesis or Exodus, as also from the Psalms, Chronicles, Proverbs or Ecclesiastes, reminding us of the fact behind the fiction.

What I found most heartening was that Miriam, Aaron and Moses, all began from a place of confusion and doubting. It was a reminder that faith does not come easy. It makes too many demands of us, and at least in the initial stages, it makes no attempt to meet us halfway.

As God reveals His grace and His love, each of them learn to live their faith and to believe that the Lord will provide what they need, no matter how dire their circumstances.

There is a breath of humour that suffuses this story, that makes it all the more real, saving it from becoming too serious and bending under the weight of the gravity that its subject imposes.

The author’s own faith shines through Miriam, particularly as the latter realizes the wonder of an all-powerful God letting His people choose not to love Him, instead of forcing our obedience and imposing His will. Truly, only a God-sized love could restrain His power.

This is a beautifully written story that stays with you.

"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

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