In one life-changing moment, the lives of the Jewish exiles in Babylon are thrown into confusion and despair when a decree arrives from the king's palace in Susa. It calls for the annihilation of every Jewish man, woman, and child throughout the empire on the thirteenth day of Adar, in less than one year. Ezra, a quiet Jewish scholar and teacher, is suddenly called upon to lead the community as they seek God for a reason for this catastrophe. When a second decree arrives, authorizing them to fight back, Ezra is thrust into the role of military leader as they defend themselves against their enemies.
When the battles come to an end, Ezra's brother Jude is dead and Ezra is required by the Law he so diligently studies to marry Jude's widow, Devorah, and provide an heir. Fatherhood changes Ezra, and he asks God to make a way for him and the other exiles to leave Babylon for good and return to Jerusalem. His prayers are answered and the exiles move to Judea to revitalize worship at the temple---but the fight to keep God's Law is never easy. As more and more of his community are tempted, a new battle emerges . . . this one for the survival of God's covenant and the souls of His chosen faithful.
Biblical fiction has never been my favorite genre', and is something I rarely read, but I have always been impressed with Lynn Austin's Biblical fiction, and am always eager to read it when it comes from her pen. Not only is she a master at this genre', thus far she has written about people and times in the Bible that most Biblical fiction authors doe not write about.
This is the second book in the Restoration Chronicles, set in the time of the Jewish captivity. This book starts out with the plot of Haman to have all of the Jews slaughtered. Although Esther is not in the book, her role is mentioned. For the first part of the book, it deals with the reactions of the Jews as they hear the news that they will be slaughtered and on what day. And then the second edict comes saying that they can defend themselves.
The main character in this book is Ezra. Even with all of my years in a Christian school, college, and church, he is someone I was not very familiar with. And I can't remember the last time I read anything from the book of Ezra. But as Lynn Austin does, she brought this not very well known Bible character to life, and the events surrounding his life. As with all Biblical fiction, not all characters in the book are from the Bible, and neither is everything that happens or is said is in the Bible. However, Biblical fiction of this caliber does not diminish from the Biblical narrative, nor does it add too much, but instead it brings it to life and helps the reader to better understand the life and times of Ezra and his contemporaries.
God's mercy and providence were big themes in the story, and I found myself encouraged as I realized this same God who provided and took His people back to Jerusalem as He had promised, is the same God today who will work in our lives.
I found this a very interesting and encouraging read. It is obvious that the author not only put a lot of time into writing this book, but also a lot of study. It shows.This book, and the one it follows, are not just entertaining reads that are clean and wholesome. They are encouraging reads that take us into the pages of the Bible and through the lens of Biblical fiction, show us what it might have been like for Ezra and the other Jews of his time as they lived under Babylonian rule, and were finally allowed to return to their home.
I definitely recommend this book, and the first book in the series. They do not need to be read in order, but they do follow each other chronologically.
Bestselling author Lynn Austin has sold more than one million copies of her books worldwide. She is an eight-time Christy Award winner for her historical novels, as well as a popular speaker at retreats and conventions. Lynn and her husband have raised three children and live near Chicago.
Keepers of the Covenant is available from Bethany House Publishers, part of the Baker Publishing Group.
Thanks to Litfuse for the review copy.