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Day of Atonement ~ Review

Day of Atonement
A Novel of the Maccabean Revolt
By David A. deSilva

I have to admit the Maccabean Revolt has always fascinated me. This is the empty space between the Old and New Testaments and to a young child somewhat confusing.  Why is there a gap in the story?  Raised within the Protestant church this wasn't touched on. And High School Ancient World History just briefly flew by it.

My father had a New Jerusalem Bible that contained the Apocrypha which I read at 12 years of age. I have to admit it was somewhat confusing.  Thanks to Day of Atonement I now have an understanding of this era that has been forgotten by most of the non-Jewish world.

Jerusalem is in a period of upheaval as those who live within this City of God fight for political and spiritual dominance.  Some still hold the Law of Moses in high regard while those with wealth are determined to follow the path of the Greeks who have surrounded the lands bringing with them their wealth and culture.

I'm amazed at the similarities between this world and our own at this time.  Peace has been fleeting throughout our history and the time of the Maccabean revolt is no different as brother challenges brother. A city is torn apart as territories are fought for and land and people of the One God are again caught up in their unwillingness to hold firm to the promises and laws of God.

Day of Atonement is a lesson in both history and human nature.  We, as a world, are for the most part unwilling to follow God's teachings especially if it might prevent us from finding enjoyment in something He has forbidden us from taking part in.

If you are interested in well-written historical fiction or have a curiosity about the Maccabean revolt pick-up a copy of this book and peruse it's pages, you may find yourself surprised by what you find.

I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher Kregel in exchange for my honest review.

About the Book:
In the blank pages between Malachi and Matthew, the course of an entire nation was changed . . .

His brother, the high priest Honiah, enjoyed the authority of the high priesthood, and all important decisions needed his approval. But it was Jason who was shaping the future of Jerusalem and, with it, all Judea. He breathed in again, imagining that he could feel the wave of destiny impelling him forward toward his vision as he exhaled . . .

The Greeks have taken over the world, but Jerusalem is still the same backwater city Jason has always known. He wants to help his hometown rise to a new age of prosperity and influence. If that means stretching the terms of the city's divine covenant, so be it. But how far is he willing to go to achieve Greek greatness for this Jewish city? It will take the willingness of a handful of Jews to die rather than violate the covenant in order to turn the tide back to God.

Written by an internationally recognized expert in the period between the Testaments, Day of Atonement invites readers into Judea during the tumultuous years leading up to the Maccabean Revolt. It was this pivotal decade that reminded Jews of the centrality of the covenant to their national security and taught them that the covenant was worth dying for. The story is so foundational, it is still told every year at Hanukkah. The lessons learned during this turbulent time also shed light on just what was at stake in the ministry of Jesus, whose radical message seemed to threaten the covenant once again.

Day of Atonement joins the perennially successful novels Pontius Pilate and The Flames of Rome by renowned historian Paul Maier on Kregel's premier list of captivating and historically accurate biblical novels.

"David deSilva combines his superb historical knowledge with deep religious understanding and literary sensitivity to create a story that does more than reconstruct the circumstances leading to the Maccabean rebellion. Day of Atonement compellingly explores issues that continue from antiquity to the present: the relationship between faith and politics, the struggle between national identity and cultural assimilation, the zeal of the martyr, the power of faith."
—Amy-Jill Levine, professor of New Testament and Jewish studies, Vanderbilt University

"Moving from the Mediterranean coast to Jerusalem, I pass Modein in the low foothills. Here I contemplate, and mystically relive, some dramatic events in our history. I look back westward to the coastal plain and imagine the foreign armies being defeated by Judas Maccabeus. Looking ahead to the Judean hills rising to the east, I often ponder the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple and the inauguration of Hanukkah. All these events spring to light in deSilva’s magisterial novel, crafted after decades of walking these hills and reading the historical accounts. History without imagination is dull; with informed sensitivity ancient heroes take on flesh. Echoing now is Ari’s question: 'Where are heroes like that now?'"
—James H. Charlesworth, director and editor of the Princeton Dead Sea Scrolls Project

"When it comes to the history of Israel or early Christianity, historically sound novels are few and far between. Sometimes a good writer doesn't know his religious history well enough; sometimes a good historian is not a skilled enough writer to pull off page-turner that both educates and entertains. David deSilva's new novel reflects a high level of skill on both counts. Applying his considerable expertise in intertestamental literature, deSilva provides us with a winsome tale about how Hellenized Jews sought not merely to recover their land from foreign rulers but to 'plunder the Greeks' when it came to art, education, and language. Highly recommended."
—Dr. Ben Witherington III, Amos Professor of NT for Doctoral Studies, Asbury Theological Seminary.