I have a number of book reviews to catch up on, but I so enjoyed my most recent read, I couldn’t resist bumping it to the top of the list. The Biblical account of Joseph’s life has always ranked among my favorite of the Old Testament (David is a close second), but strangely, there are few offerings. I pre-ordered this book the moment I saw it, and hated for it to end. One of those books where you want to reach the end, but you don’t because then the story is finished. You know what I mean, right?
THE PRINCE AND THE PRODIGAL
BY Jill Eileen Smith
Joseph is the pampered favorite son of the patriarch Jacob. His older brothers, deeply resentful of his status in the family, take advantage of the chance to get rid of him, selling him to slave traders and deceiving their father about his fate. It seems like their troubles are over. But for Joseph and older brother Judah, they are just beginning.
While Joseph is accused of rape and imprisoned, Judah attempts to flee the memory of his complicity in the betrayal of his younger brother. After decades apart, the brothers will come face-to-face in a stunning role reversal that sees Joseph in a position of great power while Judah begs for mercy. Will forgiveness or vengeance win the day?
Bestselling and award-winning author Jill Eileen Smith brings her considerable research and imaginative skills to bear in this vivid retelling of one of the most popular stories found in Scripture–a story of jealousy, betrayal, and a reconciliation that only God could bring about.
For a long time, I’ve looked for a novel about Joseph, my favorite person from the Old Testament, but there are few to be found. I was therefore ecstatic when I learned about the release of The Prince and the Prodigal, and immediately placed it on pre-order. The book is everything I’d hoped it would be and more.
Anyone familiar with the Old Testament knows the animosity Joseph’s eleven brothers felt for him as the first son of Rachel and the favored firstborn of Jacob. Not everyone, however, may realize the role Judah played in Joseph’s being sold into slavery, or the guilt Leah’s fourth-born surely carried afterward for years. Smith uses this as the basis for his splitting off to start his own tribe.
Joseph’s story is shown side-by-side with Judah’s, revealing the tribulations and growth of both men—as Joseph goes from slave to ruler of all Egypt, second only to Pharaoh, and Judah learns to return to God only after years of strife within his own family. The story of Tamar and Judah is covered in detail (Tamar is one of only four women mentioned in the lineage of Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew).
While Dinah’s backstory with Shechem is hinted at, the events are set before The Prince and the Prodigal takes place, but Dinah (Jacob’s only daughter) is also a POV character.
From the dusty tents of Jacob to the confinement of Pharaoh’s prison and the lavish palaces and gardens of Egypt, scenes are painted with vivid detail. Chapters are short and keep the action moving forward at a brisk but engaging pace. The people who populate the narrative (both historical and fictional) are given depth that draws the reader into the struggles they face, both spiritual and physical. I loved the way Joseph and Judah are portrayed, and as the two female POV characters, Dinah and Tamar are equally well defined.
This is a story of family. Of brotherhood, forgiveness, and redemption. Strength in the face of adversity, healing, and most of all, the belief that God is ever faithful and will deliver. Old Testament fiction is one of my favorite genres. I rank this book as a favorite, not only in the genre, but among my favorite reads of all time. I will certainly go back and read this again. A superb retelling of Joseph’s story and one I highly recommended.