In the Shadow of Sinai by Carole Towers
Come and meet Bezalel, son of Uri, son of Hur, son of Caleb. He possesses a gift given him by El Shaddai, the little known God of the Hebrew slaves living in the land of Egypt. His skilled hands craft beautiful works of art for the household of Ramses II, a supposed god of the Nile. Bezalel was recognized early for his talents, removed from his home to live in the King’s palace and trained by the head artisan to serve the Pharaoh. When he can, he returns home for a couple of days to his Abba and Imma who live in Goshan among other Hebrews. His father had died in the field making bricks for the Pharaoh’s building projects. But Bezalel has learned much from his grandfather, the Abba, who lives with his mother.
Still, as a young adult living in the palace, how could he believe in such an elusive god, who had been mostly silent for the past 400 years that his people had dwelt among the Egyptians and been enslaved by them? He certainly didn’t understand the faith his Abba possessed for Yahweh, the God Almighty. But things began to change when two brothers, Aaron and Moses, appeared before Ramses. Since part of his day was working on his craft in the huge throne room, Bezalel had a front row seat to the dramatic events that changed his life.
Through her well-researched fictional tale of a young artist, the author has woven in the context of the Biblical event of the Exodus. This gives her readers a closer look at it from a different point of view. She has given faces to her readers to gain a more personal perspective of the descendants of Israel. She has given heart to her story to assist us in understanding the ignorance, the bewilderment and the gradual spiritual awakening of the Hebrews during the course of the plagues that led to a massive flight out of a country they had come to know as home.
Bezalel wins our admiration when his caring nature leads him to help alleviate the suffering of his palace friends when they are subjected to the bites of gnats and flies, the pain of the boils afflicting their skin, and the destruction of their food supply from the bloody Nile, the frogs, the locusts, and the death of livestock belonging to the Egyptians. He adopts a little boy who had been beaten by a cruel master in the palace and eventually takes him with his family as they flee Egypt, even though the young lad is an Egyptian himself. Bezalel’s own reaction to El Shaddai in the course of the trauma can be seen as a reflection of the spiritual struggle most Hebrews may have been experiencing.
To Bezalel, God Almighty had only been a shadow of reality to this point. In his mind shadows were cold and damp, full of isolation and loneliness. It wasn’t until he met Meri, a very young Egyptian living in the harem of the Pharaoh, that his perception of shadows changed. One day she shares her loving memories of her mother with him. She would feel such contentment in her presence,deriving comfort even from sitting in her mother’s shadow. She felt safe and protected there. Bezalel told Meri his name meant “in the shadow of God Almighty”. Perhaps he had been mistaken in his perspective about living in such a shadow.
God manifested His presence in a pillar of cloud and fire, placing Himself between the Hebrews at the Red Sea and the Egyptians in their war chariots, allowing the mass of people to cross the Sea safely. Bezalel may not have been the only one who experienced a renewal of faith in Yahweh that day. God was keeping His people in the shadow of His protection and many trusted Him to keep them safe and secure. There were even some Egyptians in those numbers passing through the waters who had voluntarily placed their lives in El Shaddai’s protective hands.
But there were also others who loudly complained whenever things didn’t work out as they expected. Their complaints caused hardship for Moses and Aaron and eventually led to reprisal from Mt. Sinai where God’s presence had settled for a time. He made it clear that this covenant (agreement) went both ways. He would be their Protector and Provider, but they must also agree to follow His ways and become His unique people. They didn’t learn this overnight.
I am impressed with the amount of historical detail the author placed into the storyline. She included descriptions of dress and hairstyles, the contrast of customs from the two predominant cultures including language and vocabulary, geographical locations, diet and herbology, worship practices, warfare, and other details that added to this story’s authenticity.
The reader is drawn into Bezalel’s world and family through their trials and triumphs. The relationships he built around him were sincere and realistic. He marries Meri and by the end of the book she gives birth to a daughter whom they name Adi, which means jewel. Even though Bezalel suffered the loss of his grandfather in a conflict, his closest friends notice that he had also lost much of the seething anger that had been part of his life so many years. He had begun to realize that to dwell in the shadow of the Almighty was to live in a warm, safe place.
I highly recommend this book for all ages to enjoy. If there are to be more books to follow in a series by this author, I will be looking forward to reading those as well.
- Write to the Point with Carole Towriss (5020genesis.wordpress.com)