In the Shadow of Jezebel
By Mesu Andrews
Princess Jehosheba wants nothing more than to please the harsh and demanding Queen Athaliah, daughter of the notorious Queen Jezebel. Her work as a priestess in the temple of Baal seems to do the trick. But when a mysterious letter from the dead prophet Elijah predicts doom for the royal household, Jehosheba realizes that the dark arts she practices reach beyond the realm of earthly governments.
To further Athaliah and Jezebel's strategies, she is forced to marry Yahweh's high priest and enters the unfamiliar world of Yahweh's temple. Can her new husband show her the truth and love she craves? And can Jehosheba overcome her fear and save the family--and the nation--she loves?
Mesu Andrews writes the type of fiction that makes you hunger to know more, eager to search the Scripture and maybe even a few commentaries. In the Shadow of Jezebel is the chilling story of the shadow cast by one evil woman on future generations, contrasted with the power of God's unconditional and faithful Covenant love. Not only does Mesu exhibit a passion for biblical fiction, she has a talent for fleshing out Old Testament accounts and making them come alive. Much of this story's plot is outlined in Scripture; so to get the most out of it, I would suggest reading the biblical account first. Mesu begins each chapter with a corresponding Scripture passage, which added so much to the narrative.
It's hard to believe one person can be so incredibly evil, and have such an effect on future generations, yet we've seen this many times throughout history. In the Shadow of Jezebel is a plot-driven page turner, and characterization is strong:
Athaliah - Jezebel's daughter in every sense of the word, scheming and manipulative, the evil Athaliah exhibits no glimmer of conscience or mercy. Her burning desire was to see Yahweh's power and presence in Judah destroyed, and the only thing that surprised me was the amount of patience she showed in seeing this accomplished.
Jehosheba (Sheba) - Stepdaughter of Athaliah and trained as a Baal priestess, Jehosheba rises above the abuse and deceit she had experienced, showing intelligence, bravery, and an openness to the ways of Yahweh.
Jehoiada - Judah's high priest, Jehoiada is a patient, wise and persevering servant who tends to let anger rule his emotions at times. The caring love and tenderness he shows toward Sheba makes him an inspiring character.
Ahaziah (Hazi) - Youngest son of King Jehoram and Queen Athaliah, Hazi is a survivor who loves his wives and his sister, Sheba. Although fun and likeable, he is weak when he needs to be strong, and falls victim to Athaliah's manipulation.
"I don't believe Judah's fate ultimately lies in Jehoram's
hands. The Yahweh I serve is bigger than
Jehoram's failures and Athaliah's influence."
The marriage between Athaliah's stepdaughter and Judah's high priest was for the purpose of slowly sneaking in elements of Baal worship, and I couldn't help but think how relevant, almost like a warning, Jezebel's words to Sheba are for us today: "When you marry Yahweh's high priest, you'll influence him to be, shall we say, tolerant of new styles of worship in Judah. He need not turn his back on Yahweh to be useful. He need only invite other gods into Solomon's Temple."
Another theme that spoke to me is that God sees us, not as we are, but as we can be - and how He can work through a heart that is totally yielded. Athaliah did her best to nullify God's Covenant's with David, but through Jehosheba's brave act, the way was prepared for the restoration of Yahweh worship in Judah and the earthly lineage of Christ was preserved.
"Shadow" is defined as a dark shape that appears on a surface when someone or something moves between the surface and a source of light, and this term is so descriptive of a story that emphasizes the contrast between the spiritual darkness of Baal with God's light and salvation. I love Jehoida's words to Sheba toward the end: "I suppose we'll always remember her evil because we live with its consequences daily, but we need not live in Jezebel's shadow unless we let her block Yahweh's light."
I think if the writing had been a little tighter, less wordy maybe, the flow would have been smoother - but the story is powerful and Mesu did a great job at combining historical and biblical elements with her vivid imagination, which resulted in a thoroughly enjoyable read that made me think. In the Shadow of Jezebel is not only excellent biblical fiction, but it is a drama that will keep readers turning the pages and should therefore be enjoyed by all.
Mesu Andrews’ deep understanding of and love for God’s Word brings the biblical world alive for her readers. She and her husband, Roy, enjoyed fourteen years of pastoral ministry before moving to the Pacific Northwest, where Roy now serves as Academic Dean at Multnomah Biblical Seminary. Mesu writes full-time, snuggled in her recliner beside a cozy fire on rainy Northwest days. The Andrews’ enjoy visiting their two married daughters and a growing tribe of grandkids. Mesu loves movies, football, waterfalls, and travel.
Biblical fiction is her favorite genre to read and write. Her first novel, Love Amid the Ashes (Revell, 2011), won the 2012 ECPA Book of the Year for a Debut Author. Love’s Sacred Song (Revell, 2012), the Song of Solomon in story form, received a 4 ½ star rating from RT Reviews. And Love in a Broken Vessel (Revell, 2013), the story of Hosea and Gomer, received a 4 ½ star TOP PICK rating from RT Reviews. The Shadow of Jezebel released on March 4, 2014.
Meet Mesu online at mesuandrews.com, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google+, and Pinterest.
Thank you to Revell for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.