November 18, 2009

Women of the Old Testament by Camille Fronk Olson

Review by Susan

Camille Fronk Olson is an associate professor at Brigham Young University who has put together this amazing book focusing on the women of the Old Testament. This book could be mistaken at first glance for an art book because of the beautiful paintings by Elspeth Young which bring the women of the Old Testament visually alive, but there is so much more. The book evolved from institute and religion courses on women in the scriptures, and the introduction was very helpful in understanding the structure of the material. Each chapter focuses on a different woman or group of women, some well-known, some obscure and some unnamed. The stories of these women are put in the context of the customs of the time and enriched by background from archaeological discoveries, historical writings from contemporary sources, other Bible translations and Jewish traditions. Illustrations, chronologies and maps provide enriching clarifications. Scriptural texts are not included due to size limitations, but scripture references are listed at the beginning of each chapter as well as points to ponder at the end of each chapter.

At first I was drawn most to the stories of women I knew little about (who were Shiphrah and Puah or the daughters of Zelophehad?), but then I began to read about the familiar names—Eve, Sarah & Hagar, and Hannah to name a few. I was fascinated by the additional insight and background that gave additional breadth and substance to my understanding of these well-known and less familiar foremothers, the world in which they lived and the faithful testimonies and examples of their lives. The author states she hopes readers will develop greater confidence in studying the Old Testament (the Sunday School course of study for 2010). This book is a great contribution in expanding our vision of circumstances of these faithful women and what we can learn from them to help us be more faithful in our own lives.

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