After Abel and Oth­er Stories

  • Review
By – April 6, 2015

In After Abel and Oth­er Sto­ries, author and schol­ar Michal Lem­berg­er recre­ates the lives of nine Bib­li­cal women. In telling their tales, she enrich­es the voic­es of well known women like Miri­am, and brings out from silence those less hon­ored. Most impres­sive about Lem­berg­er’s sto­ries is her abil­i­ty to place the women in their time. She does not aggran­dize them or turn them into hero­ines. Rather, she tries to por­tray their lives in such a way as to give them the oppor­tu­ni­ty to explain why they took the actions that they are not­ed for in the Bible. It is refresh­ing that her sto­ries include a wide range of bib­li­cal women — not only famil­iar Jew­ish hero­ines such as Miri­am and Han­nah, but also Hagar, Yael the Ken­ite, and Zeresh from the Book of Esther.

The com­pact­ness of each sto­ry makes each strong enough to stand on its own. Lem­berg­er’s appar­ent deci­sion to approach each woman as an indi­vid­ual pre­vents the col­lec­tion from becom­ing a sim­plis­tic car­i­ca­ture of the life of bib­li­cal women. Read­ing the sto­ries one at a time actu­al­ly makes them much more sat­is­fy­ing. It is like­ly that not all sto­ries will res­onate equal­ly with all read­ers. I con­sid­ered the sto­ries of Miri­am (“Drawn from Water”) and Michal (“Saul’s Daugh­ter”) to be the book’s gems. In the for­mer, Lem­berg­er cap­tures the youth­ful Miri­am with just the right bal­ance of inno­cence and matu­ri­ty. The lat­ter is a most beau­ti­ful descrip­tion of the pow­er of love and hope in the face of brute pow­er and vio­lence. Not to be neglect­ed is the book’s after­word in which the author grace­ful­ly explains her approach to writ­ing and the Bible itself. Using the Book of Ruth as her tem­plate, this is a sto­ry as com­pelling as any oth­ers in the collection.

After Abel and Oth­er Sto­ries will appeal to read­ers with even the most basic intro­duc­tion to the Bib­li­cal canon, but espe­cial­ly to those whose imag­i­na­tions are piqued by the mys­tery of an untold story.

Deb­o­rah Miller received rab­bini­cal ordi­na­tion at the Jew­ish The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary. She lives in New Jer­sey with her hus­band and daugh­ter, where she serves as a hos­pice chap­lain and teacher.

Discussion Questions