A Lineage of Grace
A Lineage of Grace by Francine Rivers has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
This book is the collection of novellas that tell the stories of the five women mentioned in the lineage of Jesus. The first story, Unveiled, is about Tamar. This young Canaanite woman marries Er, the eldest son of Judah. Tamar’s life in Judah’s camp is not easy. Er often beats her, and his mother is spiteful toward her.
When Judah announces he has not decided who will inherit his wealth, Er explodes with anger. He vows he will give his first daughter to be a temple prostitute and his first son to the fires of Molech if the gods will bless him with his father’s wealth. After uttering the promise, Er is struck dead.
Tamar is given to Er’s brother, Onan, to be his wife. He enjoys his right to sleep with Tamar, but he spills his seed so that she will not become pregnant. Her first son would be given Er’s inheritance, lessening Onan’s wealth. Tamar begs Judah to intercede on her behalf, but he refuses.
When Onan continues to deny her a child, the Lord strikes him dead. Judah sends Tamar back to her family in disgrace to wait until his son, Shelah, is old enough to marry. She waits six years before learning that although Shelah is of age to wed, Judah has not called for her.
Tamar dons the dress of a temple priestess and tricks Judah, now widowed, into sleeping with her. Tamar asks for his staff, seal and cord as collateral until he brings her a goat as payment. Tamar takes the items and slips away before he returns.
When her pregnancy is discovered, her family plans on burning her alive for disgracing them. Judah agrees with the verdict, happy he does not have to give her Shelah. But when Tamar’s maid presents him his staff, cord and seal, he stops Tamar’s family from killing her. He takes her into his camp as a treasured wife, although he will never sleep with her again. She gives birth to twins, Perez and Zerah, and begs Judah to raise them to know the God of the Hebrews.
Unashamed tells the story of Rahab, a wealthy prostitute in the city of Jericho. As a concubine of the king, she eventually convinces him to give her a house along the wall of the city. She will entertain travelers and spy on them for the king. Although she has great wealth, Rahab longs to be accepted by the Hebrew God she has learned about from her customers. She knows this God to be the only true God. As the Israelites, who have been wandering for 40 years in the wilderness, finally make their way to Jericho, Rahab prays that she might be worthy to worship their God.
Salmon and Ephraim are spies sent by the Israelites to scope out the fortifications in Jericho. Rahab sees them at the city gate and suspects they are Hebrews. She hides them under some flax on her roof, as she knows the king will send his guards to arrest them. She convinces the guards to search the hills for the men.
Later, she tells Salmon and Ephraim that everyone in Jericho is terrified of them. She knows their God will give them victory and begs them to save her and her family from destruction. Smitten with her beauty and intrigued by her faith in a god she has only heard about, Salmon agrees. He tells her to tie a red cord outside her window to be a signal to the Israelites. The spies return to their camp, and Rahab calls her family to seek protection in her house.
As Rahab tries to keep her family from leaving and relying on their worthless gods, the Hebrews set up camp outside of the city. For six days Rahab watches as they march silently around Jericho. On the seventh day, they march seven times and then blow their trumpets. All around Rahab, the city is destroyed, but her house remains standing. Salmon leads her and her family to the outskirts of the Israelite camp.
Rahab begs to stay with the Israelites, but she is told to remain with her family. When they move away, Rahab stubbornly stays outside the Hebrew camp. After three days, Salmon is given permission to bring her into his tent and marry her.
In Unshaken, Ruth, a Moabite, marries a Hebrew man who came to Moab with his family to escape a famine in Israel. Ruth has grown not only to love her husband, but his mother, Naomi. Naomi’s strong faith in the Hebrew God inspires Ruth, and she learns as much as she can from her.
When Naomi’s husband and both of her sons die, she decides to return to her home in Bethlehem. Although she insists Ruth and her sister-in-law return to Moab, Ruth refuses. She promises to follow Naomi anywhere and that Naomi’s God will be her God. Naomi is welcomed back by her friends, but none offer to shelter her even though her house has been destroyed. And none of the Hebrews will talk to Ruth because she is from the hated land of Moab. Ruth and Naomi take shelter in a cave along the outskirts of the land that belonged to Naomi’s husband. The women draw strength from each other and God, and try not to fall into despair about their situation. When harvest begins, Naomi tells Ruth of God’s provision for the poor. They are allowed to glean along the edges of fields being harvested.
At first, workers run her off, but then Ruth comes to a field on the edge of town. The overseer has heard of her kindness toward Naomi, who is a relative of his master, Boaz. He allows her to work in the field.
When Boaz arrives to check on the harvest, he notices Ruth. He orders that she not be harmed in any way and that his workers should intentionally leave grain that she can collect. Naomi is shocked to see the amount Ruth has gathered on her first day. She learns where Ruth gleaned and tells her to continue to go to Boaz’s field.
When the time for threshing the wheat comes, Naomi arranges to have Ruth ask Boaz to be her kinsmen redeemer. This is a person who can redeem the land of a man who has died so that his widow or his mother will have money to survive. The redeemer must also provide an heir for the man.
Although there is another man who has first rights to Naomi’s land, he does not want to take Ruth as a second wife. Boaz agrees to marry her, but he cannot believe Ruth is willing to be his wife for any reason other than to provide for Naomi. After their son, Obed, is born, he is given to Naomi to be her redeemer.
Boaz stays away from Ruth, thinking she does not love him, but he is wrong. Eventually, Naomi talks to the couple individually and convinces them to admit their true feelings for each other. A marriage of obligation turns into a marriage of love.
Unspoken tells the story of Bathsheba. She has been in love with King David since she was a child. She is heartbroken when her father arranges a wedding with Uriah, one of David’s elite soldiers. She tries to be a good wife, but her heart yearns for the king.
One spring, when the soldiers go off to war without him, David sees Bathsheba bathing on her roof. Intoxicated by her beauty, he arranges for her to be brought to his bedroom. Although she knows it is against God’s law, Bathsheba succumbs to the king’s passion, hoping that once she has spent a night with him, she will be able to put him out of her mind. However, before her husband returns from battle, she sends word to David that she is pregnant.
David arranges for Uriah to come to Jerusalem on the pretense of giving him an update about the war. He then sends Uriah home to sleep with Bathsheba, but the soldier refuses. When David’s plot fails again, he sends Uriah back to the army with a note to make sure he falls in battle.
After he is killed, David brings Bathsheba into his palace as another wife. Nathan the prophet tells David that God is angry at his sin. Bathsheba’s son will die as punishment. David continues to love her and the three sons they later have, including Solomon. Bathsheba raises her sons to love and serve God. David eventually dies at an old age and gives his throne to Solomon.
Unafraid tells the story of a young betrothed woman named Mary. When an angel announces that she will conceive God’s Son, Mary willingly accepts her fate. At first her fiancé, Joseph, and her family, think she has betrayed her vows, but then the Lord gives Joseph a dream confirming the truth.
Joseph and Mary wed, and she gives birth to the Messiah. They name Him Jesus. Joseph is given another dream and warned that he must take Mary and Jesus to Egypt because the king is seeking to kill the baby. They return several years later after the king’s death.
As Jesus grows, Mary ponders the nature of Jesus and what He knows. Mary and Joseph have more children and she sees how the younger ones bicker and fight among themselves, while Jesus is obedient and more inquisitive. She and Joseph wonder when He might reveal His true identity.
Jesus’s ministry begins after John baptizes Him. Over the next three years, Mary tries to convince her other children that Jesus is the Messiah, but they do not believe her until after His crucifixion and resurrection. Her other sons are martyred along with many other disciples for declaring Jesus as the Messiah. Mary dies a peaceful death in Ephesus, under the care of John, another of Jesus’ disciples.
The book is based on the lives of the five women mentioned in the lineage of Jesus. The basic outline for each story is taken directly from the Bible. The author adds fictional dialogue and detail to flesh out the people and the conflicts, but does not stray from heart of the Bible. Tamar recalls the judgement God rained down on Sodom and Gomorrah, destroying them for their sin. Judah worries that the hand of God is against him for his part in selling Joseph into slavery. God kills Er when he swears an oath to sacrifice his children to Canaanite gods in order to gain his father’s land. Onan is killed for refusing to honor God’s law and help Tamar conceive a child to carry on his brother’s line.
Rahab recalls the stories she has heard about God’s plagues in Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea. Rahab calls God the true owner of everything in the world. God stops the water of the Jordan River so the Israelites can cross on dry land. He also causes the wall around Jericho to collapse.
Although a Moabite, Ruth prays repeatedly to God to meet her needs. She longs to learn everything she can about Him from Naomi. Naomi tried to keep God’s laws even in a foreign land. Both women pray for God to help them as they struggle to make a life in Bethlehem. Boaz follows God’s laws in finding a kinsman redeemer for Naomi.
David defends his decision not to kill King Saul because he is the Lord’s anointed king. God kills a man who touches the ark of the covenant. Nathan, a prophet, illuminates David’s sins of adultery and murder. God takes the life of Bathsheba’s child and promises that David’s household will rebel against him.
An angel visits Mary and tells her of God’s promise to conceive a child. Joseph receives several messages from angels in dreams. Mary’s baby is Jesus, God’s promised Messiah. Angels announce Jesus' birth. Joseph recognizes that Jesus will be the suffering servant prophesied by Isaiah. He will die for man’s sins. Jesus turns water into wine at a wedding. He casts the moneychangers from the temple.
Mary watches Jesus’ crucifixion and then hides with the disciples in Jerusalem. She tells the disciples that His death is not the end. She is present when Mary Magdalene proclaims Jesus’ resurrection. She is also there when Jesus appears in the upper room. On her deathbed, Mary prays for Jesus to forgive her sins and proclaims that His death and resurrection have given us all the chance for new life and relationship with God.
Other Belief Systems
Judah’s wife is a Canaanite and believes in other gods. She keeps teraphim, a collection of small idols, within the house and worships them. Tamar has a sister who was given to a temple to serve as a priestess. She had public intercourse with a priest as a way to arouse the god Baal to bring the spring. Tamar’s maid prepares her bedroom for her wedding night by singing prayers to other gods. She caulks holes in the wall to prevent evil spirits from entering. She places a mandrake root into a jug of wine to increase Tamar’s fertility. Judah considers Tamar a bad omen.
Rahab speaks of how the Canaanite gods demand constant sacrifices, including children. She says they are heartless stone idols. Rahab’s brother-in-law keeps the skull of his father as an idol. She insists he throw it away or leave her house. Ruth’s mother believes the Moabite gods are punishing Naomi because she will not worship them.
Ruth’s sister-in-law burns incense to the goddess Ashtoreth. Naomi’s husband told Ruth she should teach any children she had about the Moabite gods. It made no difference to him.
Uriah brings a clay idol home from battle, which he refuses to throw away. Bathsheba realizes David has been her idol.
Tamar will be stoned if she does not agree to the marriage her father has arranged for her, even though she knows Er to be a violent man, who eventually beats her as well. Her mother-in-law slaps her. Er laughs when telling how he stole the cane from a blind man and watched him grovel on the ground, trying to find it.
Er claws at his own throat, trying to draw breath, after promising to sacrifice his children to foreign gods. He dies in front of his family. Onan tells Tamar that Er used to beat him when they were younger.
Tamar’s father hits and kicks her when he discovers she is pregnant out of wedlock. Her brothers beat her and drag her out of her tent to be burned alive. The story of the Egyptians drowning Hebrew babies is told.
The walls of Jericho crumble, killing those who lived in or stood on them. Those who survived were slaughtered by the Israelites. Salmon kills a man with his sword. The carnage of Jericho is described, but not in graphic detail. Rahab sees dead bodies and hears the screams of her neighbors as Salmon leads her out of the city. Her mother speaks of smelling burning flesh.
A traveler warns Ruth that they risk being kidnapped and sold into slavery if they walk to Jericho without protection. Someone throws a rock at Ruth to keep her from gleaning a field.
Amalekites raid David’s camp while he and his men are away. A soldier knocks Bathsheba’s mother to the ground. Bathsheba jumps on his back, kicks and claws at him to stop him. She is thrown to the ground. The women and children are tied together around their necks and are forced to march.
David and his men rescue them after three days. Bathsheba sees a man’s arm sliced off. Another man is hacked across his shoulder to his sternum. As David lived during a time of war and political intrigue, Bathsheba overhears many stories of men being murdered by their enemies. David sends his friend, Uriah, to the front of the battle, specifically to kill him and hide his own sin with Bathsheba.
Her brother Amnon tells the reader of Tamar's rape. The news that Absalom killed Amnon in revenge is also told. Bathsheba is told that her grandfather hanged himself after he tried to help Absalom overthrow David.
The people of Nazareth drag Jesus out to a cliff and want to stone Him for blasphemy, but He escapes. Mary sees her son, battered and bruised, outside of Pontius Pilate’s home. Soldiers whip Him, as He carries His cross through the streets. His crucifixion, as well as that of two thieves, is graphically described.
Tamar witnessed her sister, a priestess serving at a temple, having intercourse with a priest. The act was done in public to arouse Baal to bring the spring. Judah tries to dull the pain of his guilt by sleeping with temple prostitutes. Tamar feels that Onan treats her as a harlot because he wants to sleep with her but “spills his seed” so that she will not become pregnant. Although Tamar dresses like a prostitute and beguiles Judah to sleep with her, the act is not described in detail.
Rahab was given to the king as a prostitute when she was a young girl. She lives now as a harlot, spying on the foreigners who come to her home. She is seen in bed with several men, but no intimacy besides unpassionate kissing and touching is described.
Ruth worries that she will have to prostitute herself in order to provide for Naomi. A worker propositions her when she tries to glean in a field. Ruth and Boaz share several kisses.
Bathsheba does not cover herself when she discovers David watching her bathe. David has her brought to his bedroom. Their encounter is passionate but not graphically described.
Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.
Alcohol: Wine is a common beverage at this time that most characters drink with meals. Some, like Judah, Er, David and his soldiers, occasionally drink to excess.
Lying: Bathsheba is willing to lie to Uriah to share one night with David.
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