Some quick (and maybe even interesting) insights about the recently completed Three Prophets Series
Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” Calvin Coolidge
If nothing else, I pressed on. Over fourteen years, four homes and two countries ago, I began to write, at my wife, Marcia’s, suggestion, a novel based on the Book of Daniel. I have only recently finished the third and final novel (based on the Book of Hosea) of what eventually evolved into the Three Prophets Series. (In between those two came a novel based on the accounts depicted in the Bible’s First and Second Books of Kings centered about the life of the prophet, Elijah.)
When I began writing the Three Prophets Series, only one book, about Daniel, was envisioned, but that was long ago. George W. Bush was in the second year of his first term as President of the United States, the U.S. national debt was a svelte $6.2 trillion, Spider Man topped the box office charts and Denzel Washington won the Oscar for Best Actor for his role in the film, Training Days. Early that year, the New England Patriots defeated the St. Louis Rams 20–17 for their first Super Bowl championship at the Superdome in New Orleans.
Thoroughly Modern Millie won the Tony Award for best musical.
Pausing briefly to look at the makeup of each of the three completed novels…
Book One, second written and published: The Ivory House
The Ivory House, the days of Elijah is derived entirely from First and Second Kings, filled with accounts of droughts, wars, miracles and the larger than life biblical characters of kings Ahab, Jehoshaphat and Jehu, wicked Queen Jezebel, the Widow of Zarephath, Naboth the vintner, the mighty king from Damascus, Ben-hadad, and Elijah’s eventual successor, the prophet, Elisha.
Little known facts regarding the applicable history…
- If one works through the timing of events depicted in the Elijah chronicles by relating the prophet’s encounters and prophecies to dated events (usually wars) and the king or kings in power at the time, he or she will discover that there were large gaps in time—several years in most cases—between Elijah’s recorded appearances. Where was the prophet and what did he do in the meantime?
…was first mentioned in a letter written from the land of Israel in 1626 by a Jewish visitor telling about the holy places, which described “Elijah’s large and magnificent cave” on Mount Carmel. Here, according to legend, Elijah came to pray before challenging the prophets of Baal and calling down fire from heaven (I Kings 18).
Perhaps Elijah lived there? It had a beautiful view.
- It appears that seven years passed between the time Elijah passed his mantle to Elisha and when Elisha became Israel’s principle prophet.
- “Sons of the Prophets,” a common term used in First and Second Kings, refers to students, guild members, not family members, who apparently studied under Elijah and/or Elisha in “schools” built by them in at least three different locations in Israel.
- Some of the town and place names near Mount Carmel in modern Israel—for example the township, Yokneam, and the Kishon Stream—were known by the same names in Biblical times and appear as such in First and Second Kings. When Marcia and I visited the Stella Maris Monastery on Mount Carmel, a map in the lobby of the current locale showed a modern village with an ancient place name, in Arabic, that referred to “heavenly fire.”
Book Two, third published: Faithless Heart
Faithless Heart, a love story is derived from one of the most popular and most often explored books of the Bible, the Book of Hosea. Unlike the Daniel and Elijah stories, Hosea has been the subject of numerous modern novels, some excellent, some atrocious, many apparently motivated simply because of the more sensational aspects of Hosea’s divine charge to marry a whore. Unlike the other two novels in the series, there are very few constraints to apply to a fiction based on the prophet’s life. They are…
- God gave Hosea clear instructions. Marry an adulterous woman, have children by her and give specific names to the kids.
- Hosea’s father’s name was Beeri.
- Gomer’s father’s name was Diblaim.
- Gomer and Hosea eventually separate and she ends up living with another man, as implied by God’s instructions to Hosea in chapter three; “Go show your love to your wife who is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”
These few facts comprise the only constraints. The challenge in writing the novel, then, was to heed honor them while combining imagination with and adhering to the fascinating, violent and momentous history of that period, the end of ancient, sovereign Israel.
Little known facts about Hosea’s time:
- Biblical experts do not agree—there exist several competing theories—on the succession of the last six kings of the Northern Kingdom because there are problems with the literal chronologies presented in scripture. (Simply adding the years of the kings’ reported reigns results in more years served than the nation actually survived.)
- Four of those last five kings of Israel murdered their successor.
- A great earthquake mentioned by the Prophet, Amos, and obliquely referred to by several other prophets, had an enormous impact on ancient Israel both physically and emotionally.
- The Northern Kingdom’s downfall followed armed conflict between sister states Israel and Judah. The enmity between the two Jewish entities can be at least partially credited to Judah’s decision to engage Assyria as an ally (by paying tribute) as a means of protecting itself against aggression from Israel to the north. A short time after Judah engaged Assyria, Assyria wiped Israel off the map, carryring much of “the ten lost tribes” into captivity and eventual, permanent anonymity.
Book Three, first written and published: For the Sake of His Name
The Book of Daniel is one of the most intriguing and challenging books in the Bible. Written in both Hebrew and Aramaic, the prophet Daniel’s story covers the seventy-year period from 609 BCE (King Josiah’s death) to 539 BCE (the fall of Babylon to Cyrus the Great and Persia)—the end of ancient sovereign Israel and the beginning of modern Israel’s ongoing, latter-day restoration.
Little known facts regarding the time of Daniel.
- When thrown into the lions’ den, Daniel was almost certainly in his eighties, not a young man as sometimes depicted, especially in children’s stories.
- Nebuchadnezzar II, the 2nd king of the Neo-Babylonian empire and author of the destruction of Solomon’s temple, reigned for forty-three years. His father, Nabopolassar, was apparently the first king to use asphalt to pave roads. Following in his father’s tracks, Nebuchadnezzar was a great builder as well as a accomplished general and superlative king.
- You may remember that “King” Belshazzar, the last Babylonian ruler in Chaldea, offered to promote Daniel to “third in the kingdom” if he could successfully interpret the famous handwriting on the palace wall. Why would Belshazzar not offer Daniel the second most important position in the kingdom? The answer, as explained in ancient extra-biblical cuneiform writings, is that “third in the kingdom” was the best Belshazzar was able to offer. Belshazzar was regent to his father, Nabonidus, the true king, who had abandoned the throne to live in the Arabian desert while worshiping the moon god, Sin. Being only second in rank in Babylon, Belshazzar offered Daniel the power spot immediately behind him.
- The original title of For the Sake of His Name was Daniel’s Passing. The first draft of the original story bears no resemblance to the final version.
Having finally finished the series I have begun thinking about whether it might be possible to write a similar fiction depicting the life of Jonah. Regardless, it will remain only an idea for at least the next few years. I have several projects planned ahead of it.
If curious, you can follow my progress on everything—such as it is—by scrolling to the bottom of this page and adding your name to the goodStories email list and/or subscribing to our newsletter.
Learn more about Faithless Heart, a love story HERE.