November 28, 2016

31 Women of the Bible

If you like to read books for Christians and have a relevant blog, you might want to sign up (free) to be a B&H/Lifeway Blogger. Broadman published my first books years ago, so I joined their bloggers and soon received a review copy of 31 Women of the Bible by Len Woods.

As the Introduction says, the book includes, “A concise summary of each woman’s appearance in Scripture, viewed through the lens of our modern culture.” In addition, the hefty, slick-paper pages in this quality edition present “Helpful prompts for applying the principles of each woman’s story to your own life” and “Thought-provoking questions to help you find common ground with heroes of the Christian faith.”

For example, a quick study of the first woman Eve offers “The Takeaway” of how “life works best when we trust and obey the explicit Word of God.” Then, a sidebar entitled “Food For Thought” asks questions related to the text such as “We’ve all experienced loss, but Eve lost paradise. What do you think that was like?

Those of us who had an idyllic childhood have probably felt the same way, especially in preteen and teen years when we were caught between being little kids and grownups. (No wonder that age group often has a hard time!)

Christians in general, however, often have a hard time dealing with difficult Bible people or situations. Because of this tendency, the book’s goal of viewing Bible people “through the lens of our modern culture” could add fuel to disturbances that already inflame, rather than helping us to understand more about where Bible people were coming from in a particular time and place.

For instance, the profile on Hagar, Sarah’s maid and mother of Abraham’s child Ishmael, ends with a takeaway that offers no insight into the situation yet states the obvious way this story is now viewed: “As a servant and concubine, she was treated like property…. And she was sent into the desert by the father of her child.” Although it’s true for most of us that “You can’t study Hagar’s life without wincing,” many of us want to get beyond that tragedy and find out things like why were women in Egypt sold into slavery in the first place or why did Hagar think it would be okay to make Sarah feel worse about being childless or why is Hagar – a woman from the continent of Africa – illustrated as an overwrought white woman?

Indeed, almost every beautiful painting used as an illustration in this book shows tones from stark white to ruddy skin but does not feature women who look like they’re from countries in Africa or the Middle East. Also, I recognized some of the paintings from ones I’ve seen in art books or museums, so I tried to find acknowledgements of the artists and titles, but the “Art Credits” in the back matter merely point to stock photo companies found online.

Regardless of these shortcomings, the book makes an interesting one-month devotional to help readers see how human nature hasn’t changed, nor has our need for God. Each woman portrayed in this book comes with a unique personality and strong character from which we can learn more about ourselves or the women in our lives.

However, I’d most recommend this book as a 31-week (or more) guide for a Bible discussion group where members are encouraged to read the text, consider the questions prior to meeting, and come up with questions of their own. Then, oh, what lively discussions would most likely occur!

Reviewed by Mary Harwell Sayler, poet-writer, Bible reviewer, ©2016

31 Women of the Bible, hardback with ribbon bookmarker

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