Two years ago, I asked God to help me read the Bible with fresh eyes. As I studied the creation story and women in the Bible in-depth, I realized how much my study was influenced by the lessons I learned as a girl from my parents and church, my current church environment, and secular culture. I kept at it and trusted God to reveal the truth as I sought to know Him better and understand His heart towards us.
Through my personal study and with the help of Aimee Byrd, Marg Mowczko, Marlena Graves, Tish Harrison Warren, and Scot McKnight, I’ve learned about God and His heart toward women, specifically through the Creation story, Old Testament stories, and how Jesus interacted with women. Considering I’ve served the church for over 25 years, it’s revealing and heartbreaking that I’ve learned more on these subjects in the last two years than I did in all the previous years combined.
Another one I plan to learn from is William Witt who McKnight references on his blog. We need to learn from others in order to challenge our beliefs and sharpen our critical thinking skills.
A Creative Perspective
So, when I saw the opportunity to read and review She Walked Before Us: Grace, Courage, and Strength from 12 Women of the Old Testament by Jill Eileen Smith, I jumped at it. I was curious to learn about Old Testament women from another perspective.
The most notable part of the book is the list of women the author studies. I’ve read a lot of books about women in the Bible, but I’ve never read one that included some in this book. Rahab – yes. Ruth – of course. Hannah – always. But her rival Peninnah? Never. Three lesser known wives of King David? Not usually. Not until the newest book by Jill Eileen Smith have I considered the life of Michal, Ahinoam, or Maacah.
The author uses what we know from Scripture to imagine a realistic narrative of each woman’s life, her thoughts, hopes, and dreams. We learn they aren’t too different from us. They wanted to be known and loved. They loved their families. Each woman dealt with circumstances she didn’t choose, many of them tragic. They mourned their losses and rejoiced in their blessings. Most acknowledged the goodness of God, even through their pain.
Like a Good Friend
Jill takes us on a journey with each woman and leads us to ponder their lives. She feels like a good friend as she weaves parts of her own story throughout the book. Together we discover the beauty and brokenness of each woman, as well as our own. We learn from their mistakes and their wise choices.
One of my favorite women in the Bible is Abigail, and I was glad her story made it into the book. The strength and courage of Abigail in the face of danger inspires me to think about how to handle difficult situations with wisdom and dignity.
“She didn’t cower. She didn’t run. She didn’t lie. She didn’t back down. She spoke. And she waited. Perhaps she waited on God.”— Jill Eileen Smith, She Walked Before us
She Walked Before Us is ideal for personal or group study. The author includes a “Taking it Further” section at the end of each chapter to prompt personal reflection and deeper study. I appreciate Jill’s commitment to dig deeper into what the Bible tells us, her willingness to imagine life from each woman’s perspective, and the creative way she tells the stories.
This was my first time reading Jill Eileen Smith, but it won’t be my last.
I have an extra copy of the book to giveaway! Comment on this post to enter. I’d love to hear why you’d like to win a copy of the book. I’ll draw the winner on Wednesday and announce on social media.