Victory on the Walls – Book Review

{Thank you to Lindsay B. for this book review!}

Victory on the Walls by Frieda Clark Hyman is a fast paced fictional book set in the times of Nehemiah that grabs your attention with the opening chapter and holds it captive until you read the last word. Witness 13 year old Bani grow from a mischievous child to a responsible man as he travels from his childhood classroom of Master Jadin in Susa through the desert to Jerusalem with his uncle Nehemiah. Of all the many Jews in Persia at the time of Nehemiah we know only a remnant returned to build the temple with Ezra and then the walls with Nehemiah. Too many enjoyed their lives in Persia, this attitude is reflected in the stubbornness of Bani who derides the idea of returning to Jerusalem. He learns the importance of remaining separate from the world and clinging to faith in God, even at the risk of losing worldly ambitions and prestige.

As it is a work of fiction there are a couple things to note. Geshem, mentioned only in the context in Jerusalem in Scripture is introduced by the author earlier in the story in an attempt to kill Nehemiah as they travel from Susa to Jerusalem. As the book opens with Nehemiah in Susa, the author has used extensive research to paint a literary picture of what life may have been like for Nehemiah in his exalted position as cupbearer to the King.

From the preface “In telling this story, I have had to invent some characters that figure in it – Bani and Oebazus, notably – and have taken some liberties. The issue of Shabbat does not take place until Nehemiah’s second visit to Israel, and I have it figure during his first visit, for I believe it must certainly have arisen during the first twelve-year period. Oebazus, although my own invention, figures in no event that might not have happened to many Persians of the time, especially Persian noblemen. The prayer of Artaxerxes is, in history, attributed to Darius. The presentation of the letter in the Temple is related by Josephus. Though much of Josephus regarding Nehemiah is legend, this custom was an accepted one, so the incident as I relate it may be considered factual.”

Our children devoured this book, hardly putting it down for mealtimes! As a living book, we noticed that they gleaned important knowledge of the culture of ancient Persia and the extreme contrast between Susa and Jerusalem. The harshness of Persian society is placed in conflict with those that strive to live by the law of God, a lesson woven throughout the book which becomes more evident as Bani comes to its realization. As it is told in the first person of a 13 year old boy they easily identified with the lessons that he had to learn through the pages of this novel.

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