Title: Day of Atonement:
A Novel of the Maccabean Revolt
Author: David deSilva
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Prior to reading this book, my knowledge of intertestamental history of the Holy Land was fairly limited. It included the high (and low) points of Antiochus Epiphanes, Abomination of Desolation, Maccabean Revolt, and Hanukkah with a few sketchy details. This book has helped fill in some of the details in a memorable way.
Ever since reading The Scribes by Peter Rodgers (an informative but hokey book), I have been a bit leery of biblical scholars who decide to write a novel to introduce their pet topic to the public. However, DeSilva does a a fine job in bringing to life the events leading up to the Maccabean revolt. Most of his characters are a little flat with few distinguishing character traits other than their their political and religious beliefs and actions, but his writing was otherwise clear and engaging (and frequently moving).
There were a couple aspects of the story that I found surprising and want to look into a little more to see if they were artistic license or based on research. The first was that the hellenizing, apostate high priest Menelaus rather than Antiochus Epiphanies is presented as the driving force behind the worst abuses and desecration. The other is the existence and acceptance of prophets during this period. I know there were people out there producing pseudepigraphal apocalyptic works (e.g. Jubilees & the Apocalypse of Enoch), but some previous reading/studying I have done has suggested that there were no recognized authoritative prophets at this time.
Overall, this was a fun way to learn a bit more about this period of history, and if deSilva writes a sequel detailing the rest of the Maccabean Revolt through the cleansing of the temple I will definitely read it!