Lost Women of the Bible: Finding Strength & Significance Through Their Stories, by Carolyn Custis James
I must admit that I greatly liked this book, enough that if I can find a reasonably priced volume it would be well worth having in my collection even though I have already read it, as a resource for my writing and messages. As a person with two many books and not enough space, that is not something I say lightly. Certainly, this is the sort of book that could raise a lot of questions among those who read it, and is likely to be read mainly by women. This is a bit of a shame, as this is precisely the sort of book that a fair-minded man who appreciates talking to and reading about women can appreciate without any sort of hostility. This is not the sort of book written by someone with axes to grind or the desire to put down others. Rather, this book is the sort of book written by a woman who has a great deal of sensitivity and interest in the lives other women have lived, and that is the sort of book to be appreciated by someone who reads a lot about women .
In terms of its contents, the author takes just over 200 pages to cover some of the most notable women of the Bible: Eve, Noah’s wife, Sarah, Hagar, Tamar, Hannah, Esther, Mary of Nazareth, Mary Magdalene, and the women of Philippi. At the heart of the author’s argument is that men and women are supposed to have a blessed alliance where they work together and complement each other and encourage each other towards God’s kingdom and in working God’s plans on this earth. Over and over again, the author points the reader to the ways in which godly women sought to follow God in the face of great difficulties. Particularly poignant is the way that the author talks about those women who have suffered lasting harm to their own reputation as a result of having sought to obey God in difficult circumstances–both Tamar and Mary of Nazareth are examples of women who have long been criticized and insulted for the ways in which divine grace showed itself through the behavior of both women in terms of the circumstances of the birth of their children. Likewise, the author’s discussion of Esther and her ability to blend in with heathen society is rather poignant, and ought to be a matter of reflection for many women, and not a few men: “When Esther said, “If I perish, I perish,” she was talking about having a conversation with her husband. That’s how dysfunctional their relationship was. Her husband didn’t want her spiritual partnership. He wasn’t interested in her faith or in her advice (156).” Let us hope this is not true for this book’s readers.
It is little surprise that this book deals with lost women, because the Bible is full of both men and women who are lost as a result of having their stories unread or misunderstood. If you like reading about women from a sympathetic biblical scholar who combines a great deal of insight about the lives of biblical women and the sort of empathy that comes from her own long period dealing with singlehood and barrenness, this book is precisely the sort of book that is easy to appreciate and immensely worthwhile. Knowing as I do a lot of women who struggle with harmony with others in their lives, this book provides a good picture of the perspective that women can bring without being strident or ungracious in their approach. Those men who are brave enough to read this book will find a great deal to appreciate as well, and perhaps some encouragement to act with love and understanding and a great deal of interest to what the women in their lives can provide as well.
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