Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Gods and Kings: A Book Review

Suddenly the wall of soldiers parted, and Hezekiah got his first glimpse of Molech.  He knew he wasn't dreaming. He knew the monster was real because he never could have imagined anything so horrible.  Molech stared down at him from a throne of brass as the fire in the pit beneath the hollow statue blazed with a loud roar.  Tongues of flame licked around the edges of his open mouth. His arms reached out as if waiting to be filled, forming a steep incline that ended in his open, waiting mouth. ... Hezekiah watched in horror as the man tossed his brother into the monster's waiting arms.  Eliab rolled down the incline toward the open mouth, clawing at the brazen arms to try to stop his fall, but the metal was hot and polished smooth.  He couldn't hold on.  Eliab's pitiful screams wailed above the  roar of the flames and the pounding drums, even after he had fallen over the rim and Molech had devoured him. (Austin, Lynn. Gods and Kings: Chronicles of the Kings #1, p 14-15.).  

How is that for a Halloween scare?  I wish I could say it were complete fiction, but the Bible relates this account in this way: "Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord his God, as his father David had done.  But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and even made his son pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had driven out from before the sons of Israel" (2 Kings 16:2-3).   How many times have I read those verses, knowing that they talked about human sacrifice, and just kept reading without much more thought?  I never tried to feel the heat of the fires of idolatry or imagine the terror of the children being sacrificed.  That's one of the things I really liked about this book, Gods and Kings, by Lynn Austin.  She was able to fill in the physical and emotional description missing from the Bible to make Israel's history more real to me.

The part of history that this book, the first in a series, elaborates on is the latter part of the reign of King Ahaz of Judah and includes the characters of Hezekiah, his mother Abijah, the priest Uriah, as well as some prophets like Isaiah.  At this point I should probably make a disclaimer.  I did NOT read this book with the belief that everything in it happened exactly as written, nor did I read it as if it is Inspired.  It is what it is, a fictionalized account of part of the history of Judah.  I don't know if Hezekiah's mother Abijah was killed by king Ahaz for refusing to worship idols, and if I needed the Holy Spirit to guide me away from such a sin, the Biblical accounts of what happens to idolaters will do the job.

Now that we all understand that I am not trying to promote "adding to the Bible," I'd like to say that this book was a really good read.  In addition to making the lands and times of the Bible more real to me, the author showed some frightening parallels between those times and ours.  For instance, we know that Uriah the priest introduced an idolatrous altar into the temple of Lord at Ahaz's command (2 Kings 16: 10-16).  The books shows the reasoning he could have used to make such a horrific step.

Our Temple worship must change as the world changes or it will eventually die out altogether. We're so bound to tradition that we no longer listen to the people.  I'm not talking about changing Yahweh's laws, I'm talking about examining our traditions.  If the men of Judah are drawn to the religions of the nations around us, then we need to ask ourselves why.  It's time we consider changing our outmoded traditions to fit the times instead of blindly clinging to old ways (Austin, Lynn. Gods and Kings: Chronicles of the Kings #1, p 63.).
Chilling, isn't it?  It almost sounds reasonable.  In context, Uriah was telling the priests that he was organizing a human sacrifice to idols in order to get on the king's good side.  He wanted to bring the priesthood and the temple into more prominence in Judah, and felt he should use any method necessary to reach that goal.  He may not have wanted to change Yahweh's laws, but he wasn't opposed to disobeying them either.  

Although we know more about Isaiah than we do Uriah the priest from the Biblical accounts, reading this book really helped me put the prophets more in the correct context.  I don't know about you, but sometimes I get this picture of my head of a prophet sitting in a room and writing down his prophecies by lamplight.  The Bible is pretty clear, though, that the prophecies were spoken aloud to people!  I never realized how strange the prophets must have seen to the general public, as well as to the people they prophesied to.  One memorable scene in the book is lifted from Isaiah 7:3-16, where Isaiah and his son meet King Ahaz at the "conduit of the upper pool" and prophesy to him.  The fictionalized account does a good job of showing Ahaz's frustration at this odd man coming to him at an odd place and saying strange things to him in the presence of the people.  It reminded me that following God's will does not always make you popular; it makes you weird.

Isaiah may have looked a little crazy, but he was always there to tell the people that all they had to do was turn back to Yahweh, and He would forgive them.  As in the Bible, the thread of God's providential care is woven throughout the story.  The beginning of the book, with it's idolatry and sacrifice was indeed frightening, but the end of the story, when Hezekiah remembers God's protection and realizes that his nation needs to return to Him, was full of comfort.  If you would like to have a full color story to help boost your imagination as you read the Scripture, I would recommend this book.  Right now, this first in the series is free on Amazon and Barnes and Noble for Kindle and Nook devices. If you have ever read a similar story, let us know in the comments.  We'd love to hear about it!


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

No comments:

Post a Comment