Fleeing King Manasseh's tyranny, Joshua leads the faithful remnant to their new home in Egypt. But as years pass, Joshua's desire for vengeance becomes an obsession. Blinded by hatred, he makes rash decisions, placing his loved ones in jeopardy.
Amid Joshua's turmoil comes an unexpected awakening of lovea love that burns so intensely it draws him from the dark inner seclusion where he often retreats. But what will it take for him to grasp the great love his Heavenly Father has for him...and for the chosen people of Judah?
(Chronicles of the King Book 5)
About the Author
LYNN AUSTIN, a former teacher who now writes and speaks full time, has won three Christy Awards for her historical fiction. One of those novels, Hidden Places, has also been made into a Hallmark Channel movie. Lynn and her husband have raised three children and make their home near Chicago, Illinois.
Read an Excerpt
Among the Gods
By Lynn Austin Beacon Hill Press
Copyright © 1998 Lynn Austin
All right reserved.
Waning candlelight bathed
the family dinner table with a sleepy glow as the Passover meal drew to a close. But Joshua shifted restlessly in his seat as he listened to the familiar story of deliverance. This was the first Passover that his community of exiles had celebrated since escaping from Jerusalem a year ago, and the festive meal stirred unwelcome memories.
"'Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,'" Joshua's older brother Jerimoth recited, "'his love endures forever.... In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.'"
Joshua didn't feel free. He would never feel free until his enemy, King Manasseh, was dead. He swallowed a sip of his wine and said, "I wonder if Manasseh is celebrating Passover tonight in Jerusalem." Jerimoth turned to him in surprise, as if the king's name had been a bucket of cold water dashed across their festive table.
"What difference does it make, Joshua? I thank God for the privilege of celebrating with my family for the first time in our new home." Jerimoth spread his arms wide as if to embrace all the family members and friends gathered around the table. He had worked hard to turn the musty, mud-brick dwelling on Elephantine Island into a comfortable home for his wife and children; he and Joshua had built a compound of adjoining mud-brickhouses with a common courtyard for their extended family. Their sister Tirza lived in one of the houses with her husband, Joel, the high priest. Joshua shared a third house with his mother, Jerusha, and his sister Dinah. Joshua loved his sister, but every time he looked at Dinah he was reminded of Manasseh and how he had held her captive, made her his concubine, then sacrificed her son to Molech.
The servant girl, Miriam, and her brother Nathan also shared Joshua's home. Miriam did more than her share of the work, but her presence was another irritant to Joshua, a daily reminder of how his stupid mistakes had caused the death of Maki, Miriam's father.
"Am I the only one who sees how insane all this is?" Joshua asked. "We're thanking God for delivering us from the Egyptians while living in the heart of Egypt!" He looked to the others gathered around the low table for confirmation, but they returned his gaze with embarrassed silence. "I don't mean to spoil your fun, but we've been stuck here for a year already. I guess I'm getting a little tired of waiting for God to act."
He sat back in his seat again, resting his chin on his hand, covering his scarred face with his fingers. He was self-conscious about his disfigurement; the wide, jagged scar stretched down the right side of his face from above his eyebrow to his jaw, leaving him with only a ragged beard on that side. Every now and then, he would touch the leather patch to reassure himself that it was still in place over his ravaged eye. Prince Amariah said the wound made him look older, battle-hardened, tough. Joshua was the community's hero, and the young soldiers-in-training stood in awe of him, even though he was only a few years older than they were. They had chosen the ox-Joshua's nickname-as the island regiment's symbol, decorating their banners and shields with it.
"I apologize to my esteemed guests for my brother's behavior," Jerimoth said with a tight smile. "Please, allow me to refill your cup, Your Majesty."
Joshua's impatience soared as Prince Amariah held out his own cup to Jerimoth instead of demanding to be served. Even though the priests had anointed Amariah as their king and the rightful heir to King David's throne, he lacked the assertive bearing and authority of a true king. Joshua knew that he, not the prince, was the island's true leader in every respect.
Jerimoth turned to his other guest. "Would you like some more wine, Colonel Hadad?"
"It's excellent-but no thanks," Hadad replied. He was yet another reminder to Joshua of all that he had lost. Hadad's grandfather, Shebna, had served with Joshua's father as the king's top two officials until King Manasseh had begun his bloody purge. Because of Hadad's extensive military training in Jerusalem, he had been given command of the garrison with the rank of colonel. He had abandoned strong drink after their escape and had worked hard for the past year to turn the Levites' scholarly sons into an active fighting force, skilled with spear, bow, and sword.
As Joshua watched, Hadad wiped the palms of his hands on his thighs for what seemed like the hundredth time. Why was he acting so nervous tonight? He'd been a frequent guest at their family's table, so it couldn't be shyness. Joshua noticed that Hadad had scarcely touched his meal. "Is something the matter with your food?" he asked.
"No, nothing. I've eaten my fill, that's all." Hadad turned to Jerimoth, their host, and a smile spread across his handsome face. "I want to thank you again for inviting me tonight. I've never known what it is to be part of a large family, having lived alone with my grandfather most of my life."
"You're always welcome in our home, Hadad, you know that. And now, if you know the words, please sing the closing hymn with us."
Joshua didn't join in with the others as they sang. Instead he watched Hadad carefully, certain that he had something on his mind. Jerimoth ended the Passover celebration with a prayer, and the women left the room to clean up the kitchen and put the sleepy children to bed. Hadad rose to his feet.
"There's something I'd like to say," he began, confirming Joshua's suspicions. All the men turned to Hadad as he expelled the air from his lungs with an uneasy laugh. "Phew! This is worse than going into battle. My stomach feels like I'm back on board the ship that brought us here."
"You're among friends," Jerimoth assured him. "Please, tell us what's on your mind."
Hadad nodded, grinning nervously. "What I want to say is that my life really began a year ago at Passover. Before then I didn't know who I was or what I wanted to do with my life. But ever since our escape from Jerusalem I've finally found meaning and purpose here in Egypt. I enjoy my work at the garrison. Military command suits me, and I think I've finally earned a good name for myself. Now I lack only one thing to make my life complete." His voice grew hushed. "To marry the woman I love. Jerimoth, I'm asking you, as head of this family, for your sister Dinah's hand in marriage."
Hadad's request was so unexpected that it took Joshua a moment to digest it. Hadad couldn't be serious! Surely everyone knew why such a marriage was impossible. But before Joshua could react, Jerimoth's face split into a wide grin as if he was about to accept Hadad's proposal. "My dear friend Hadad, I'd be honored to-"
"Jerimoth, stop!" Joshua sprang to his feet, cutting off his brother's words.
"You can't let him marry Dinah!"
"Joshua, if this is a joke-"
"It's not a joke," he told his brother. "I assumed you knew. I assumed all of you knew.... Dinah has to marry Prince Amariah."
"What?" Hadad looked as though Joshua had punched him in the stomach. "What are you talking about?"
"Dinah was once part of King Manasseh's harem," Joshua explained. "She bore his son. Now she belongs to the House of David. Anyone who marries her will be challenging Manasseh's right to rule and officially claiming the throne of Judah. She has to marry Prince Amariah."
Hadad's hands knotted into fists. "She isn't a piece of property that gets passed from one man to the next! You can't force Dinah to marry him!"
Joshua took an aggressive stance to match Hadad's. "It's not up to you or me to decide. It's written in God's Law."
"Just a minute," Prince Amariah said, rising from his seat. "Don't I have any say in this?"
"No. You don't," Joshua told him. "God is the one who put royal blood in your veins. This is His plan for revenge. The only choice you have is whether you're going to fight for your father's throne or let Manasseh have it."
"I'm not certain I have a right to my father's throne," Amariah said. "Manasseh is the firstborn and-"
"Manasseh forfeited his right when he committed idolatry," Joshua retorted. "He sacrificed his own son! If your father were alive, who do you think he would choose as his successor? You or your brother?"
"I-I see your point." Amariah shrank back, as if fearful of Joshua's anger.
Hadad grabbed the prince's arms. "Amariah, no! Don't listen to him. You're my friend! You know Dinah cares for me, not you. Ask her! Bring her in here and ask her who she wants to marry."
"What she wants doesn't matter," Joshua said.
"It certainly does matter!" Jerimoth told him. "Abba never would have forced Dinah to marry against her will, and neither will we! Of course we'll ask her." He rose and hurried from the room, returning a few minutes later with Dinah in tow. She looked uneasy as she entered the room full of arguing men. Then Joshua saw her expression soften as she looked up at Hadad. Joshua hadn't realized that their feelings for each other had grown since Hadad had helped Dinah escape from Jerusalem a year ago. He should have paid closer attention.
"Dinah, please," Hadad begged. "Tell Joshua how we feel about each other. He's trying to prevent us from being married."
Joshua interrupted before she could reply. He couldn't let her spoil God's flawless plan. "I can see that you have feelings for him, Dinah, but your responsibilities to God and to our family must come first."
"I ... I don't understand."
He took a step toward her, barely able to control his voice as his anger welled up along with his memories. "Do you remember the night Manasseh's men killed our grandfather in cold blood? Do you remember how helpless you felt because you couldn't fight back? You had to watch them beat a gentle, defenseless old man to death, and you couldn't help him!"
Dinah's hands went to her face. "I'm sorry ... I couldn't ..."
"Joshua, stop this!" Jerimoth said.
"No, I won't stop. None of us has spoken to her about Manasseh for almost a year, but our silence doesn't erase what he did. Dinah needs to remember it-all of it-before she decides who she wants to marry." Joshua gripped her wrists and pulled her hands away from her face, forcing her to look at him.
"Manasseh murdered our father, too. Abba did nothing wrong, nothing to deserve execution, but Manasseh lashed his back open with a bone-tipped whip, then pummeled him beyond recognition with his stones."
"Stop ...!" Jerimoth begged. He had witnessed their father's torture, and Joshua knew it was cruel to remind him of it, yet he continued just the same.
"Manasseh raped you, Dinah. He held you captive for a year, and he raped you-how many times? Then he took your newborn son away from you, and he-"
"Enough, Joshua! That's enough!" Jerimoth shouted. "I won't allow this in my house!" His face was white as he pushed Joshua aside and gathered Dinah into his arms. "What are you doing to her? To all of us?"
"I'm reminding her of the facts. If Dinah wants to let Manasseh get away with murder and rape, then she can go ahead and marry Hadad. But if she wants to avenge her son's death-and our father's death and Grandpa's death-then she can fight back by marrying Amariah."
"No," Hadad moaned. "No, don't listen to him, Dinah."
"Look, we all want to fight Manasseh," Jerimoth said. "That's why we're here in Egypt. But we'll fight him by preserving our faith and our heritage. For now, that's all Yahweh has asked us to do. Revenge is God's to repay, not ours."
"And Dinah is God's instrument of revenge," Joshua said, "whether she likes it or not. Why do you think He allowed her to be rescued?"
"But I helped rescue her, remember?" Hadad asked. "She loves me. Tell him, Dinah. Tell him what you already told me."
Joshua watched, ready to intervene, as Dinah turned to Hadad again. "I-I'm sorry," she whispered. "I never should have promised you.... Joshua's right. I can't marry you."
"No ..." Hadad shook his head in stunned disbelief. "No ... please don't do this, Dinah."
"I do love you," she told him as her tears fell. "But I hate Manasseh even more. He killed my son. I need to marry Prince Amariah."
Hadad closed his eyes. Joshua watched him warily, afraid of what he might do. When Hadad was able to speak again, he faced Joshua, his voice trembling with rage. "I'll kill you for this, Joshua! As God is my witness, you'll pay for what you've done!" He stormed from the house, letting the door slam behind him like an explosion.
* * *
Miriam felt the shock waves in the kitchen as Hadad left the house, slamming the door. She had never celebrated the Feast of Passover before and had looked forward to it for weeks. Now the night had ended in ruin. She and the other women had heard every word of the argument, and as soon as Hadad left, Jerusha had taken Dinah to another room to calm her. Miriam knew that Dinah loved Hadad, not the prince, and she hoped Jerusha would talk some sense into her daughter.
Miriam wished she could flee to another room, too, and escape from the men's angry shouts, but she had work to do. She drew a calming breath, then entered the main room to finish clearing the table. She hoped that the argument would end now that Hadad was gone, but Joshua's face was still filled with anger. He stood poised as if for a fight as Jerimoth continued to plead with him.
"Joshua, don't force Dinah and Amariah to marry. It's wrong."
"I'm not forcing them. They're free to make their own decisions." He turned to the prince as if challenging him. "Amariah, did I force you to come with us to Egypt? You aren't naive; you must have known when you left Jerusalem that siding with me meant fighting Manasseh."
"I don't know what I thought," Amariah mumbled. "I just wanted to get away from my brother. I hated what he was doing, and I wanted no part in it. I never chose to-"
"Did you leave my potsherd with the symbol of the ox where Manasseh would find it?"
"Then you made your decision. You've cast your lot with me, and I'm Manasseh's sworn enemy."
"How has this turned into talk of enemies and hatred?" Jerimoth asked with a groan. "We were celebrating Passover ... there was a proposal of marriage.... Please, Joshua. Let's stop all of this."
Joshua ignored him. Miriam knew that kind, gentle Jerimoth could never hope to win against Joshua's relentless anger. No one could.
"It's up to you, Amariah," Joshua said. "Are you willing to marry our sister or not?"
Miriam stopped stacking the dishes and bowls and looked up. Joshua stood in front of the prince, as if challenging him to a duel, his arms folded defiantly across his chest. Amariah's head was lowered in defeat. Miriam longed to enter the fight, to plead for Hadad's rights and urge the prince to do the same, but she knew her place.
"Dinah is a very beautiful woman," Amariah finally said. "I would have to be a fool to refuse to marry her. But Hadad is my friend. He loves her. I can't do this to him."
"You have to," Joshua said. "It's the Law."
"What law?" Jerimoth asked. "There is no such law."
"Yes! If an older brother dies without an heir, his younger brother must marry his wife in order to provide one. Dinah's first son by Amariah will be considered Manasseh's heir, and heir to the throne."
"But my brother isn't dead."
"He's dead in God's eyes!"
The prince exhaled, shaking his head. "Hadad is my friend," he repeated. "The only reason he got involved in this mess was to help rescue me. He risked his life. He'll never forgive me if I marry the woman he loves. You heard what he said."
Miriam saw the anguish on Amariah's face and looked away. Joshua turned away from him, too. "There are other women for Hadad to marry," he said. "He'll get over her."
"For shame, Joshua!" Jerimoth said. "You of all people should understand how Hadad feels after what happened with you and Yael!"
Miriam watched to see what Joshua's reaction would be to the name of the woman he had once loved and lost, but he had his back turned. It was the first time since they'd moved to Egypt that Miriam had heard anyone dare to mention Yael's name. Everyone who knew Joshua feared his anger, which was always barely contained. They avoided provoking him, keeping their distance from him as if he were a hungry lion on a leash.
When Joshua answered, his voice was as hard as iron. "Yes. I do know how Hadad feels. But I got over it."
"Did you?" Jerimoth asked. "Then why have you refused to discuss any of the offers of betrothal that have been made this past year?"
The news stunned Miriam. Several of the chief elders had visited their house, but Miriam had no idea it was to talk to Joshua about their daughters. It made sense to her now. Joshua governed the island; naturally the elders would seek to promote themselves by marrying into this powerful family. And it underscored the truth that she still struggled to accept: She would never be considered a suitable wife for him. Joshua would never return her love.
"We're discussing Dinah's betrothal, not mine," Joshua said. "What are you going to do, Amariah? You need to decide."
The prince gaped at him. "Now? Tonight? But Hadad-"
"Dinah has already consented to marry you, not Hadad."
Excerpted from Among the Gods by Lynn Austin Copyright © 1998 by Lynn Austin. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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It was truly the providence of God that I came across the Chronicles of the Kings Series as I searched for my next book to read. This is the fifth and final book in the series. It has changed my life. I wish that she would continue the series. Her research and Historical accuracy is astounding and helped me to remember that these Kings lives and breathed. They were not just Bible stories and secular history proves it. She has renewed my passion for History and for MY GOD.
This series of books have got the be the best books I have ever read. I am a fan forever of Lynn Austin. I also read the Refiner's Fire series and loved them equally. If you love christian historical fiction, this author delivers everytime. Francine Rivers is also a great author, and I love her books too. I highly recommend this series to anyone who is searching for God, or trying to make sense of their own story and all that we humans go through, Lynn Austin takes you into the journey and renews/strengthens your faith along the way.
I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN!
Really enjoyed this whole series! Would highly recommend to any who enjoy Biblical fiction. Very easy to read the Biblical account fictionalized in these books while reading the books. Makes the Bible come alive in ways one woyld not expect.
This was a great book! I loved all of them and was sad to end the journey.
I have loved this 5 book series so much that I truly wish she wouls just keep going, what a grest idea this was!
I am so sad that this was the final book of Austin's series (Chronicles of the Kings). I have immensely enjoyed this series. She has enabled us to see the characters as real people who did live and deal with issues we would never have thought of. A must read if you enjoy ancient fiction. I couldn't put any of them down until I finished them. Very well written and believable.
This is book 5 in the series and it is interesting and captivating as the other books. I could not put the book down. Definitely gets the reader to reflect more on God as our Abba.
Ms Austin is very talented at relating the historical fiction of the old testament characters and weaving the stories into extremely valid points of common sense. This story is very interesting. I highly recommend the book to all that are interested in not only historical fiction, but Biblical history also.
This was my favorite book in this series. Lynn austin brought to life the story of manessah from the Bible. The story, characters, everything was just amazing! I highly recommend reading this entire series.
Among the Gods is the last in a five-book series by this author. I wasn't so sure I would like this type of book, and the historical timeline was intimidating. But I thought I would give it a try. It by far surpassed my expectations. I highly recommend Chronicles of the Kings. I was so engrossed with each book, and by the fifth one, I was sad to be finished. I could go on and on, but then my review would be too extensive! Just try this series. Among the Gods was a fitting end to an amazing, meaningful story.
I loved the entire series of these books and I fell deeper in love with Jehovah God while reading them. Lynn Austin brings the characters to life so vividly that you feel like you're right there living their lives with them. I will definitely read these books again!
Loved it. I loved being able to look up the bible versus and know what was gonna happen next!
Lynn Austin is a great author. I loved this series of books. She follows the Bible very closely, but yet adds her own touches to the story to make you want to keep reading and reading.
I’ve read all the books in The Chronicles of the Kings, couldn’t put it down. Great read and written very well. I learned a great deal about the Old Testament kings and their lives in these books. A must read!
Another GREAT story. This whole series grabed me and wouldn't let go. I am simply heartbroken it is over!!! Thank you, for such wonderful reading. Can't wait to explore the rest of your books. Review by: Pamisue
If you enjoy historical fiction then this whole series is a must read. As always Lynn Austin delivers a wonderful story based on either authentic events or true historical characters, or both! I enjoy reading any book written by Lynn Austin.
The finale book . Book five. I am so sorry to leave this scripturally accurate series of the kings. Based on events from second kings , Torah and Old testament . And the chronicles of both book , respectivelly . King Mannasseh did evil in the eyes of God, more evil than even his grandfather , King Ahaz. He was filthy and vile. The streets of Jerusalem literally ran ankle deep in the blood of human sacrafice and murder at the hands of a evil evil king. The levites were killed or fled for their lives , along with the righteous. Yahew if God and Yaweh is the only God. End quote. Will King Manasseh ever purge himself of sin and put Judah's people back on track ? Read this incredible ending to find out. Or read your Bible or Torah. The same stories are right there. Ms. Austin simply relates them to a modern world in modern language. Thank you God, Israel, and Ms. Austin for giving us the insight to read judahs history.
LOVE LOVE LOVE this series! Lynn Austin never disappoints. LOVE all of her books!!!
Lynn Austin has inspired me in so many ways with her ( Chronicles of kings Series)...I could not wait till the little guy would lay down for a nap or the night so I could start reading my Chronicles of Kings Series<3 Lynn Austin brought the Bible to life for me! ! Thanks Lynn Austin:)