Have you ever wondered what the backstory of some minor Bible characters was? Mesu Andrews wondered about Queen Hephzibah. She did some research of other historical writings and the Bible and wrote Isaiah’s Daughter.
Hephzibah is a semi obscure character. She is found only twice in the Bible, in 2 Kings and in Isaiah. However her life was important as she was wife to one King of Judah, Hezekiah, and mother to another, Manasseh. In the author’s words on her website (www.mesuandrews.com), Hezekiah was the most righteous king while Manasseh was the most wicked king.
The story opens with young Hephzibah, known as Ishma, who is an orphan being taken to work in the household of the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah is a teacher who among others teaches the young princes, including Hezekiah. Ishma is mute from seeing her parents murdered, and Hezekiah struggles from seeing his older brother sacrificed to a pagan god. Isaiah quickly realizes that the pair could learn to depend on each other and begins to bring Ishma to class.
As the pair grows their friendship grows into love. They begin to depend on each other. Isaiah watches the relationship grow and realizes that as a servant girl, Ishma could never marry the prince. He formally adopts her and changes her name to Hephzibah. Hephzibah calls Hezekiah, Hezi and he nicknames her Zibah.
Hezekiah is named co regent with his father, King Ahaz (a king who has led Judah into the worship of pagan gods). He is sent to rebuild all the temples that have been destroyed. While he doesn’t follow the beliefs of his father, he agrees to rebuild things and stay away until his father dies.
Meanwhile, King Ahaz beats his wife, the mother of Hezi, who prefers to follow Yahweh to the pagan gods. He also tries to take advantage of Zibah. Hezi hears of this and returns home to defend these women he cares for. Ahaz scorns Hezi and says he must stay away or give up his right to the crown.
Ahaz dies and Hezi returns. He becomes king and marries Zibah. The pair change the way of the country. The temples that Ahaz ordered rebuilt are destroyed and Yahweh is brought back to the forefront of the belief of the country.
Zibah and those she loves face many trials in their quest to bring Judah back to faith. They all remain strong following Yahweh’s laws and teachings. Eventually after many years and miscarriages she is blessed with a son. Life seems happy for the time being.
Storytelling and Characterization
The story is told through three viewpoints. We have Hezekiah, Hephzibah and Isaiah taking turns telling this story. Each lends their viewpoint to the story.
Hezekiah as the second son never expected to lead the country of Judah. However, he is forced to watch his older brother sent to be sacrificed to the pagan gods to bring back peace to Judah. When he is telling the story, we get a glimpse into the life of this devout man of God. Not only does he want the best for Judah, he leads with a love that comes from God. He shows himself to be very faithful and devout even in the face of harlots and other painted women that are brought to him. His leadership brings Judah back to Yahweh and restores the great nation.
Hepzibah/Ishma has had an interesting life. She begins as a desolate orphan and rises to be the queen of Judah. She is a loving woman who gains the trust of subjects and animals alike. Her insights into what is happening around her bring the story through. It is great to hear her voice as well as the voices of these two great Biblical men.
Isaiah is a prophet of the Lord. He brings his prophecies in to the king and also has the responsibility of teaching the young royals about not only faith but the nation of Judah. He appears to be a bit of an eccentric at times, but we always know that his faith is true and he is definitely receiving messages from the Lord.
I loved this book. Hephzibah has long been one of those Biblical women that I wondered about. What was it in her past that gave her the strength to face the things that she faced? Her story shows that no matter what life throws at us, God will get us through everything with his strength. This book will be published in January of 2018 and will be available at all booksellers.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The opinions expressed in this review are mine alone.