Looking for a new daily devotional?
Seeking an introduction to lesser-known women of the Bible?
Hoping to resource a Bible study group in your church?
The newly-released Bible Sisters: A Year of Devotions with the Women of the Bible by Gennifer Benjamin Brooks (Abingdon Press 2017) might be an excellent book for you, and I invite you to enter this week’s book giveaway to win your own free copy. Simply drop me an email with the subject “Bible Sisters” before 5:00pm eastern on Sunday, May 21, at which time all submitted names will be placed in a hat for a random drawing to win Bible Sisters.
I received Bible Sisters from its publisher for the purpose of reviewing and giving away the book, so let me turn to the review itself:
It’s important for our bookshelves to make substantial room for and give voice to women of the Bible, and I celebrate Bible Sisters for adding its attention to their stories — especially to the less familiar & unnamed women of scripture. Hopefully Bible Sisters will inspire you to dig deeper into your Bible and to research other retellings & histories & commentaries on these women, not only for your encouragement in faith but for your understanding of ancient & present-day experiences of women.
Gennifer Benjamin Brooks gives a fresh hearing to some scripture passages that have historically been injurious to women: Bathsheba is not blamed for her own rape, for example, nor is the violence against her romanticized. First Corinthians 14’s admonition that women should be quiet in church is rightly called out for its inspiration of sexist doctrines against women’s leadership, and Brooks shifts the question instead to ask what value silence in worship might have for all of us. And I’m glad for the attention given to Anna the Prophet, the Daughters of Zelophehad, Hannah, and so many others.
If some of the devotions are fresh & refreshing, however, others make me wince. The entries about Lot’s Daughters show no effort to question the mischaracterization of homosexuality as Sodom & Gomorrah’s sin (rather than the sin of violence against strangers and the poor). The moralistic assessment of single motherhood as the result of women settling for “a secondary role” in their relationships with men (based on the story of Esau’s son Eliphaz’s second wife Timna, who receives two nearly identical entries in what must surely be an editorial oversight) is a tired stereotype, speaking as a single parent. And Brooks’ overarching theological bent in favor of personal responsibility can seem to overlook injustice and abuse beyond individual control.
As a whole, the more I read Bible Sisters, the more I remember why I dislike 365-day devotionals: For the sake of printing a book of manageable size and marketable content, inevitably each day’s scripture reading cannot be fully examined for its rich complexities … each day’s reflection must likewise simplify & generalize its perspective on modern life for the sake of a daily nugget for readers … and each day’s prayer is compelled to function as a tidy “The End” bow on it all. Inevitably I find 365-day devotionals unsatisfying, and I regret that Bible Sisters doesn’t break this mold.
Still I affirm that Bible Sisters: A Year of Devotions with the Women of the Bible can be a useful starting place, and its well-organized indices are a great resource:
- for preachers brainstorming a summer sermon series on women of the Bible: skim the index of names and start with the women you know least;
- for small groups seeking a new approach to Bible study: have group members take turns presenting the full Bible story and corresponding devotional about biblical women they don’t know well;
- for personal encouragement, especially if you’re struggling to claim confidence in & hold fast to your identity in Christ or if you’re striving to clarify God’s call within you in contrast to life’s chaos & complications — themes that are strong throughout Bible Sisters.
Women of the Bible are pillars of our faith stories and essential to our understanding of the salvation narrative. If you’ve not yet found an accessible book for diving into their stories, let Bible Sisters get you started — even better, enter for a chance to win a free copy! Send me an email with the subject line “Bible Sisters” before Sunday, May 21 at 5:00pm eastern.
(None of the email addresses received as a result of folks entering the book giveaway will be shared, and you won’t receive unsolicited emails from me after the giveaway has ended.)