Thursday 30 August 2012

#OBSummer #Books - Ford 99 - Women for All Seasons

Genre - Christian Non-Fiction 
Rating - G
More details about this book
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As it happens, my book Women For All Seasons is only 94 pages long, so I had to choose between page 9 or 69. I chose the latter because it belongs to one of the more complex stories in the book. But before I begin to dissect this page, I must tell you that this is not a novel. It is a Christian non-fiction book written as creative non-fiction to render it more appealing to the reader.

Women For All Seasons features the stories of twelve women of the Bible, and even though you may have heard or read about women of the Bible, this is not another rehashing of those tales. It is, as I stated above, a creative non-fiction work, with each story written from the point of view of the main character so that each one takes on a personality of her own, so much so that the reader can identify strongly with her.

So, on to page 69. On this page, we come face to face with a young woman named Rachel. She is the younger daughter of Laban, brother of Rebekah, Isaac’s wife. Rachel is very beautiful and she has an older sister, Leah, described in the Bible as having “weak eyes.” We get the picture that Leah is not attractive and so when Jacob comes to town, he falls in love with Rachel and she with him, and the two expect to get married and live happily ever after.

However, on page 69, we meet Rachel weeping on her wedding night. The reason? Her scheming father has given Leah to Jacob, because, according to Laban, the older daughter has to be married first. I’m not sure if that was the custom in those days, but I think Laban saw this as his one opportunity to marry off Leah. How he was able to pull it off has always been a subject of discussion among theologians, and many theories have been promulgated. Suffice it to say, Jacob ends up in bed with the wrong girl, and Rachel’s troubles begin.

The morning after the wedding, Laban tells her that he will let Leah finish the week with Jacob and then he will give Rachel to him. Laban keeps his word, but the damage is already done. Leah becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son whom she names Reuben. Three more sons follow in quick succession, and by this time Rachel, who has been unable to conceive, is beside herself. One night she cries out to Jacob, “Give me children or I die.” Jacob lashes back at her, “Am I in the place of God. Did I shut up your womb?”

Desperation rises up in Rachel and she gives her maid to Jacob. The woman bares him two sons and Rachel feels vindicated, but she still has not given Jacob a child of her own. By the end of the page, Rachel strikes a deal with her sister. So desperate is Rachel, she asks Leah for some of Reuben’s mandrakes in exchange for a night with Jacob.  Mandrakes is a plant said to contain fertility properties. Leah, of course, readily agrees, but the plan backfires. Leah becomes pregnant – again!

This story reads like a modern-day opera, but there are many lessons we can take away from it. We see the bitter sibling rivalry between the two sisters, exacerbated by a scheming and thoughtless father. We see Rachel’s low self-esteem despite her beauty and the knowledge that her husband loves her. Instead of trusting God’s will for her life, she resorts to all kinds of tricks in order to give her husband a child. I wonder how many women can relate to this story. I have had readers tell me that Rachel’s story is their favorite. For me, it was difficult to write, because I had to stick to the truth of what the Bible says without adding my opinion or my thoughts. For example, I couldn’t say that Jacob was drunk or the room was too dark for Jacob to see who was in the bed with him. I have read this story in other books where the authors made all kinds of suggestions about what could have taken place. I did none of that.

In the Insights section that follows the story, I state my opinion of Rachel’s behavior and what could have contributed to her problems, then in the Reflections section that comes after, I invite the reader to answer a few questions on jealousy, sibling rivalry, infertility and accepting God’s will. Whether you are a Christian or not, I think you will find Women For All Seasons a valuable addition to your library and page 69 one of the more entertaining and thought-provoking pages in the book.

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