Jill Eileen Smith expertly brings the intriguing Old Testament character of Deborah to life in The Prophetess. As a young woman in 1126 BC Israel, Deborah expects to live a typical life taking care of her home, a husband, and children. When the male members of her family are killed by the ruthless Caananite Sisera, she finds herself married to a man she never would have chosen, and with the special, God-given gift of prophecy. Will Deborah find the courage to let go of her expectations and become the wife, mother, prophetess, judge, and leader of Israel that God has called her to be?
While relying on what little narrative is available about Deborah in Judges, Smith masterfully paints her protagonist— who can easily be perceived as perfect and untouchable— as a woman who struggles with the doubts and insecurities that plague most women. Can she learn to love and respect her husband as the man he is, rather than what she wishes he would be? How should she deal with a daughter who displays the same stubbornness and fearlessness she herself has been accused of? Why would God choose her to judge His people?
In addition to Deborah herself, Smith tells the compelling stories of many other Israelites. The leader of Israel’s army, Barak, fights for justice and healing after his young wife’s brutal death at the hands of the Caananites. Deborah’s daughter, Talya, gradually learns to trust the wisdom of her parents, rather than her own impetuous desires. Fellow Israelite Shet struggles with bitterness and pride after his wife’s betrayal. And Deborah’s own husband waits with excruciating patience and kindness to finally win his wife’s whole heart.
Along with a beautifully realistic cast of characters and entertaining story-telling, Smith also prods her readers to delve into the very nature of God’s character, His promises, and His unfailing love for His people.
I received a copy of this novel for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.