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.
The period between the Old and New Testaments is one I know very little about. If asked, I could tell you that an event during the Maccabean Revolt is the reason for Hanukah, but that’s it. Thanks to this gripping new novel I now know a lot more, including some of the reasons for it.
I immediately noticed that the main theme was Judaism versus other religions. The Jews believed in one God, while the Greeks worshiped many gods. Some of the higher standing citizens felt Jerusalem could only advance if non-Jewish newcomers weren’t restricted by Jewish law. What started as a tolerance for all religions gradually became intolerance for the Jewish faith. The more the people of God protested the changes, the more the authorities cracked down on them and their beliefs. There were immense power struggles between various Greek officials, and a lot of regret and bewilderment over how an idea once considered a good thing snowballed into something so horrific. Could it be stopped peacefully? Could it be stopped at all?
Day of Atonement is like a slow crescendo. Each event gradually leads to a terrible finale which takes place in a desecrated temple. It’s described in brutal detail, and some readers will prefer not to read of such scenes, but we cannot pretend that atrocities such as these didn’t take place. Instead, we should contemplate the bravery of the victims. They did not surrender their faith when facing torture and death. Can we do the same?
This is a book rich in historical detail, and includes many people mentioned in ancient sources. Jason and his brother did exist, as did King Antiochus IV and several of the officials that appear. It’s a readable insight into this mysterious period and I’m a little disappointed that it ends where it does. I also think it’s a book that is very relevant considering contemporary events. What happens when we compromise our faith in small things? How often will that lead to compromises in bigger issues? The beginning of the Maccabean Revolt shows us that a slippery slope always gets steeper.
Thank you to Kregel Publications for my complimentary copy of Day of Atonement, which I received in exchange for my honest review.
Have you read Day of Atonement? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.
Publication Date: 27 June 2015
Page Count: 320
Read more on: Kregel Publications’ Website