The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
Recommended for: Ages 8 to Adult
He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. –from the Song of David (2 Samuel 22:35) The Bronze Bow, written by Elizabeth George Speare (author of The Witch of Blackbird Pond) won the Newbery Medal in 1962. This gripping, action-packed novel tells the story of eighteen-year-old Daniel bar Jamin—a fierce, hotheaded young man bent on revenging his father’s death by forcing the Romans from his land of Israel. Daniel’s palpable hatred for Romans wanes only when he starts to hear the gentle lessons of the traveling carpenter, Jesus of Nazareth. A fast-paced, suspenseful, vividly wrought tale of friendship, loyalty, the idea of home, community . . . and ultimately, as Jesus says to Daniel: “Can’t you see, Daniel, it is hate that is the enemy? Not men. Hate does not die with killing. It only springs up a hundredfold. The only thing stronger than hate is love.” A powerful, relevant read in turbulent times.
The Bronze Bow. My favorite fiction book about the times of Jesus, above Ben-Hur and The Silver Chalice. One of my three favorite historical fiction novels, all of which happen to be Newberies. I believe it was read to me multiple times and I have read it on my own several times as well. There was a day when I randomly picked up the book and flipped through it, realizing then that I had forgotten just how much I love it.
Daniel bar Jamin hates the Romans with a vengeance. It colors everything about him. He hates them for crucifying his father, the witnessing of which act is what caused his sister Leah to be possessed by a fear demon. Daniel is angry. And he is a part of a band of outlaws headed by a man named Rosh who robs travelers and plans someday to kick the Romans out of Israel. But things cannot remain as they are. Daniel's grandmother dies, forcing him to return home to take care of Leah. His friend Joel and Joel's sister Malthace (known as Thacia) reach out to him, re-familiarizing him with the Scriptures on which he turned his back so long ago. And there's a carpenter preaching to the people, healing them, to whom Daniel is encouraged to listen.
This book is well researched. The times and culture are so vividly portrayed and the history is clearly real. Elizabeth George Speare was a master storyteller, her two Newberies and one Newbery honor attest to that. Her characters are so real. Daniel has so much hate he struggles with, and he does struggle. His temper is real. Leah is so fearful, and there is so much tension caused by her demon possession. It is so hard to see progress made with her undone by a single incident. Joel is a devoted scholar and a good friend. Thacia is sweet and kind, even accepted by the timid Leah.
But this book is about more than the characters and Daniel's hatred of Romans. It's about Jesus. About getting to know Him. Loving your enemies. Forgiveness. Letting go of hatred. Learning to love.
It is a wonderful book, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
"He trains my hands for war,
so that my hands can bend a bow of bronze."