Study Guide

The Bronze Bow

by Elizabeth George Speare

The Bronze Bow Summary

Introduction

The Bronze Bow

Elizabeth George Speare's The Bronze Bow takes place in Galilee, Israel, during the time of Jesus. Eighteen-year-old Daniel bar Jamin has endured a life of unbelievable hardships. At the tender age of eight, Daniel witnesses his father’s and uncle’s crucifixion by Roman soldiers. His mother also dies shortly thereafter. Daniel’s younger sister, Leah, is so traumatized by their deaths that she appears to lose her mind. Daniel’s grandmother, poor and elderly, is unable to support the children, so she is forced to sell Daniel to the town’s blacksmith, Amalek.

Daniel works for Amalek for five years but then escapes. He flees to the hills above Galilee and becomes a member of a rebel group led by the zealot Rosh. Rosh despises the Romans who occupy Israel. It is his mission to drive them all from the land.

Daniel too is consumed by hatred of the Romans. He makes it his mission to kill as many as he can in order to avenge his parents’ deaths and to pay them back for the havoc they have wreaked on his country.

The longer he spends with Rosh, the more Daniel’s hatred grows. But he begins to hear about a man who has a different message, a message of love and tolerance. However, Daniel faces a long battle before he can give up his vow of hatred. He even puts his friends as well as his sister in danger. It seems that he will destroy them all in his single-minded pursuit for justice, but gradually, the words and actions of Jesus help Daniel understand that only love has the strength to “bend the bow of bronze.”

The Bronze Bow Extended Summary

The Bronze Bow is set in Roman-occupied Israel during the time of Jesus. Eighteen-year-old Daniel bar Jamin is living in the hills above Galilee. He has been there for five years, having escaped a life of slavery.

Daniel, however, also had other reasons for fleeing his home. At the age of eight, he witnesses the execution of his father and uncle by the Roman forces. His uncle’s original crime had been failure to pay taxes. Instead of saving money, Daniel’s uncle impetuously buys his wife a gold shawl for the naming ceremony of their first child. He intends to do extra work to make up the loss before the due date, but the tax collectors arrive early. He is arrested and destined for a short life of hard labor in the quarries. Daniel’s aunt nearly goes insane.

Moved to help them both, Daniel’s father and some friends plan to free the uncle as the troops lead their prisoners to the quarries. They attack, but all are captured. The punishment for the rebellion is crucifixion.

Daniel’s mother is inconsolable. She stays by the crosses for two days and nights to be near her husband. As a result, she contracts a deadly illness. She too dies a few weeks later.

But the tragedy does not stop there. Daniel’s sister, Leah, just five years old at the time, is so traumatized that she appears to lose her mind. Although it may appear obvious to modern readers that her condition is caused by the horror of losing her parents, the explanation for her subsequent odd behavior is that Leah is possessed by demons.

Care of the children falls to their aging grandmother. She tries to support Daniel and Leah, but she is little more than a peasant. Financial hardship forces the grandmother to sell Daniel to the local blacksmith, Amalek, for a period of ten years.

After the third year of his slavery, Daniel has had enough. Hatred for the Romans consumes him. He thinks of nothing but his desire to avenge his parents and to see his country free of Roman rule. He makes a solemn vow to God that he will fight until this is accomplished or until he dies.

In the mountains, Daniel meets a radical rebel leader, Rosh. Rosh too is fueled by hatred of the Romans. He leads a ragtag group that attack and usually kill any Roman who crosses their path. Rosh teaches Daniel that stealing is acceptable, even from fellow Jews, arguing that support for the rebel fighters is necessary and that no true Jew would resent the loss of a sheep or a few dollars if it helps support the cause.

To young Daniel, Rosh is just the sort of leader Israel has been waiting for: one who actively tries to oust the Romans instead of passively sitting by. Daniel is more than glad to contribute to the rebellion. He hones both his smithy skills and his hatred, sharpening them to lethal force every day that he spends serving Rosh.

Although Daniel shares with his rebel clan the bond of hatred, he feels alone. But one day, while out on watch on the mountain, Daniel spies two young people, a boy and a girl. Longing for contact, Daniel comes out from hiding, and the three teenagers meet face to face.

Daniel knows the pair—Joel bar Hezron and his sister, Malthace—from the synagogue school. Joel is excited to learn that Daniel is one of Rosh’s men....

(The entire section is 1351 words.)

The Bronze Bow Overview

The Bronze Bow's richly developed characters and universal themes make it one of the most extraordinary books ever written for young...

(The entire section is 113 words.)

The Bronze Bow Summary and Analysis

Summary and Analysis Chapter 1

New Characters
Daniel bar Jamin: an eighteen-year-old escaped slave living in the hills above Galilee.

Joel bar Hezron: also eighteen, son of a rabbi.

Malthace (also called “Thacia” or “Thace”): Joel’s twin sister.

Leah: Daniel’s fifteen-year-old sister, who seems to have lost her mind.

Grandmother: Daniel and Leah’s grandmother, to whom the children were entrusted after being orphaned.

Amalek: the blacksmith to whom Daniel had been sold.

Simon the Zealot: a kind man who had also been enslaved to Amalek.

Rosh: the rebel leader who finds Daniel and trains him to fight the Romans.

Ebol: a young sentry who works for Rosh.

Summary
Daniel bar Jamin is scanning the mountainside above the town of Galilee in Israel. He is waiting to catch another glimpse of two figures he had previously spied. Daniel sees that the pair must be brother and sister. He hears the girl’s voice clearly, and the sound jars his memory. He recognizes the teenaged boy as Joel bar Hezron, the rabbi’s son, and that the girl must be his twin sister, Malthace.

It has been five years since Daniel has seen anyone from his hometown. Daniel is hiding because he escaped a life of slavery. Discovery might return him to servitude, but he greets the pair anyway, longing for contact with his past life.

Joel returns Daniel’s greeting. He recognizes Daniel as the runaway slave but tells him that no one would blame him for escaping his owner, Amalek. Daniel asks for news of his family. Thacia knows only that Daniel’s sister, Leah, never comes out of the house.

Daniel describes his escape and life in the hills and how the zealot Rosh found him. Daniel thinks he has found a place and a purpose: fighting the Roman occupation of Israel and freeing the Jews.

Joel describes his own life in...

(The entire section is 658 words.)

Summary and Analysis Chapter 2

New Characters
Samson: a mute, freed slave rescued from a Roman prisoner caravan.

Summary
Daniel orders Malthace and Joel to wait. Daniel explains to Ebol that he knows them from Galilee and that they had wandered into Rosh’s territory inadvertently. The sentry orders Daniel to get rid of them because Daniel is needed to help free a slave from a Roman contingency. Rosh thinks the brute strength of the slave will be useful.

Joel begs to meet Rosh. Daniel refuses, but it is too late. The caravan is approaching. Joel recognizes the danger his sister would face if the Romans discover them. He listens to Daniel in regard to Thacia but refuses to hide himself. There...

(The entire section is 621 words.)

Summary and Analysis Chapter 3

New Characters
Joktan: a red-haired boy who is a member of Rosh’s rebels.

Summary
Daniel and Samson continue to work together, Samson relying totally on his appointed caretaker. However, Samson proves to be reliable and obedient. His eager servitude makes Daniel wonder if the man really knows he is free. Daniel cannot discover the least bit of information about his enormous companion. The other rebels in the camp make fun of Samson, but Daniel thinks they might be teasing him as well. He feels rejected and isolated.

One day, Rosh barks that Daniel has a visitor. Ebol brings in Simon the Zealot. Daniel is surprised to see him but grateful that his message has...

(The entire section is 613 words.)

Summary and Analysis Chapter 4

New Characters
Jesus of Nazareth: the unlikely preacher who may be the long-awaited Messiah, the savior of the Jewish people.

Summary
Simon arrives at Daniel’s doorstep on the morning of the Sabbath. Leah, terrified by the unexpected stranger, hides. In deference to her fear, Daniel steps outside to speak to Simon alone.

Simon invites Daniel to go to the synagogue with him. Daniel sees no point in going; he has not been in five years, but Simon insists. He wants Daniel to meet someone. Daniel is swayed by the fact that Simon is breaking Sabbath law by carrying a bundle on the holy day, work that is traditionally forbidden. If seeing this man at the synagogue is...

(The entire section is 661 words.)

Summary and Analysis Chapter 5

New Characters
Rabbi Hezron: Joel and Malthace’s father.

Summary
It is the month of Nisan, the “time of the first harvest.” Daniel is feeling restless, tied down to blacksmithing and longing for the action Rosh promises.

Rosh agrees to let Daniel try to locate Joel, for Joel “might be useful.” Rosh sends Daniel on the rather lengthy journey with no money, no food, and only scant advice.

Daniel encounters crowds of people waiting to see “the teacher.” He catches a glimpse of Jesus on the shore, speaking to the fishermen and eager throngs. He looks just as he had the first time Daniel saw him.

Jesus speaks in parables. He...

(The entire section is 618 words.)

Summary and Analysis Chapter 6

Summary
Forbidden to ever return to the Hezron home, Daniel forlornly heads back up the mountain. He does not look forward to telling Rosh that he has failed to enlist Joel’s help in the cause.

Two Roman soldiers come up behind Daniel, and they demand that he provide a drink of water for their horses. Daniel reacts without thinking. He throws water in one soldier’s face. The payback is immediate: Daniel is dealt a crushing blow to the ribs.

The injury is bad, but Daniel manages to escape. He runs away, but the pain is overwhelming. He decides that his only chance for help is to go back to Joel’s home. Malthace answers the door, but unaware of his injury, she tries to get rid of...

(The entire section is 603 words.)

Summary and Analysis Chapter 7

Summary
Joel is reading aloud to Daniel and Malthace. The verses from the Book of Enoch promise freedom and vengeance.

But Daniel is tired of waiting for freedom to come to Galilee. Joel too is tired of waiting. He wonders if Rosh might be the one who will deliver the Jews from Roman oppression. Daniel is sure, but Malthace is not. She insists that God would not choose an “outlaw” to free the Jews.

Daniel then tells them the gruesome details of his childhood trauma: the Romans killed both his father and his mother.

When Daniel was eight, his uncle and aunt were expecting the birth of their first child. His uncle decided to buy his wife a new shawl with money he had...

(The entire section is 654 words.)

Summary and Analysis Chapter 8

Summary
Daniel is less physically strong than he had imagined. Nevertheless, he makes his way back to the cave, where Samson cares for him. Having now experienced real friendship with Joel and Malthace, Daniel waits anxiously for the next opportunity he will have to visit them again.

A mishap with Rosh’s knife gives Daniel reason to return. Rosh wants him to impose on Simon to repair the damaged instrument. Rosh argues that Simon ought to be glad to donate the materials to the cause.

Daniel finds that Simon has left his shop, having gone to follow Jesus. Daniel decides to go after him and leaves the symbol of the bow for Joel to find. Once together, the two boys try to locate Simon....

(The entire section is 598 words.)

Summary and Analysis Chapter 9

Summary
Rosh assigns Daniel his first “job” alone. It is a test for Daniel to prove his usefulness to the rebel leader. Daniel is to attack an old Jewish traveler who is known to carry gold with him. Although Daniel tries to comfort himself with the moral relativism taught by Rosh, the reality of the deed is unpleasant. The man is elderly but puts up an unexpectedly strong resistance. Daniel is forced to strike him to make the man turn loose his grip on the bag full of money. The old man lies in a heap, wounded and looking helpless and forlorn in the road. Moved by pity, Daniel drags the old man out of the road and into the comforting shadow of a rock. He also returns one of the man’s two weapons so...

(The entire section is 419 words.)

Summary and Analysis Chapter 10

Summary
Daniel receives word from Ebol that his grandmother is close to death. Although time is of the essence, Daniel waits for half a day before he heads down the mountain and back to his old home. When he arrives, two women inform Daniel that his grandmother and sister have been locked in the house for ten days. They will not enter or offer any help other than tossing bread through the window because they say they fear the demons that possess Leah.

Daniel reluctantly forces his way into the hovel when Leah fails to respond. When he does enter, Leah shrinks away from him in fear. Daniel sees that his grandmother has not yet died. She is very weak but pleased that he has come. Daniel does what he...

(The entire section is 502 words.)

Summary and Analysis Chapter 11

New Characters
Marcus: a Roman soldier for whom Daniel must perform work in Simon’s shop.

Summary
Daniel leads his grandmother’s funeral procession. It is a meager affair. After the burial, Daniel runs into Simon, who has a proposition. Simon is intent on following Jesus around the countryside, but his shop will be idle; he asks Daniel to take it over.

Daniel is moved by Simon’s generosity, but he feels that accepting Simon’s offer will be one more responsibility tying him down. Daniel also continues to miss the freedom and excitement of life with Rosh.

Daniel also protests that no one will be available to care for Leah. When Simon offers his...

(The entire section is 609 words.)

Summary and Analysis Chapter 12

New Characters
Nathan: son of a Jewish tax collector; the first villager to join Daniel’s movement.

Kemuel: recruited by Joel to join the movement.

Summary
Chapter 12 finds Daniel and Joel adding new recruits to the cause. One of them is Nathan, a boy about the same age as Joel and Daniel. Daniel cannot help but notice the boy has suffered a recent beating. Nathan explains that a gang of Jewish boys beat him up because his father has had to become a tax collector for the Romans. Most of the community feels that taking such a job is beneath contempt, but Nathan says that his father had little choice. Their crops had been destroyed, and the family’s only...

(The entire section is 592 words.)

Summary and Analysis Chapter 13

Summary
Daniel finds that he has to be away from home more frequently due to the relocated meetings in the watchtower. He worries about Leah during his absences but is pleased to see that she is unexpectedly growing stronger. She does not tire as easily and is working at her loom more often. She seems to accept the time that he has to spend away from home.

Daniel gives to her the silver talent that had been given to him in payment for her work. Leah is quite pleased, and Daniel realizes his sister has never had any money of her own. She begins to care about her appearance more.

Joel and Malthace pay a visit to the shop and tell Daniel about Joel’s increasing visits to hear Jesus...

(The entire section is 502 words.)

Summary and Analysis Chapter 14

Summary
Chapter 14 finds Leah much interested in weddings. She has heard about Nathan’s nuptials and has many questions for her brother. He humors her with answers but reacts angrily when Leah wants to know what will happen to her if he ever marries. Daniel says that he will never marry: his oath is more important than having a wife.

Tentatively, Leah asks Daniel about the Roman soldier who frequently comes to the shop. Daniel is enflamed at the suggestion that any Roman might be his “master.” Leah tries to get Daniel to see that the young man is not much different from him, a suggestion Daniel finds despicable. Daniel rails against Leah’s claim that he is being too harsh and that the...

(The entire section is 466 words.)

Summary and Analysis Chapter 15

New Characters
Andrew: a fisherman.

James and John: two of Jesus’ disciples.

Jarius: a synagogue leader who turns to Jesus when his daughter is dying.

Summary
Daniel has decided that he must learn more about Jesus. He finds himself compelled to return again and again. He worries about the shop, but Simon urges him to hear the teacher. Daniel tells Leah all that he has heard. She is as hungry for the lessons and as eager to hear Jesus’ stories as her brother is.

Daniel is often hopeful when he is near Jesus, but it is hard to hold hope in his heart when he returns home. Leah, though, wants to hear the stories no matter what mood he is...

(The entire section is 625 words.)

Summary and Analysis Chapter 16

New Characters
Herod Antipas: the Roman ruler who had been appointed over the Jews.

Matthias: the banker who is to host the banquet.

Summary
Daniel, Joel, and Thacia meet in the secret passageway of the Hezron house to discuss Rosh’s latest plan. Rosh wants the names of the rich people who are scheduled to be away from home attending a banquet; while they are out of their homes, he intends to rob them.

Joel is eager to take the action Rosh demands, and the two boys discuss how Joel will go about the task. Thacia suggests that her brother get fish and “peddle them.” The slaves would buy the fish and in their excitement about the party, they might...

(The entire section is 627 words.)

Summary and Analysis Chapter 17

Summary
Rosh has carried out his plan. The village is abuzz with gossip about the robberies, and all suspect Rosh. Daniel wants to know how everyone is so sure. He discovers that Rosh’s reputation has suffered serious decline. Most of the villagers now believe that Rosh is just a bandit and his men a self-serving “pack of thieves.” One of the villagers points out that none of the poor has received a single penny of Rosh’s fortune. Daniel is growing more disillusioned as well, for he had not anticipated that Rosh’s plan would result in “wholesale looting.” He was expecting action more worthy of the cause.

The next meeting at the watchtower, however, is jubilant. Despite the protests...

(The entire section is 608 words.)

Summary and Analysis Chapter 18

Summary
Out of breath and frantic, Malthace arrives at Daniel’s shop with the news that Joel has been taken. Centurions had arrested him the previous day. Malthace fears that he will be sent to the galleys, where he could not possibly survive. Daniel is numb but tries to reassure her that Rosh will know what to do. Daniel asks Thacia to take care of Leah while he goes up the mountain to ask for the rebel leader’s help.

Rosh, however, shows no concern for Joel at all. Daniel cannot believe his ears. He urges Rosh to help plan an attack to retrieve Joel, but Rosh refuses, saying, “It’s not my affair.” Daniel is livid. He blows up at Rosh, but to no avail. Rosh turns ugly, telling Daniel...

(The entire section is 337 words.)

Summary and Analysis Chapter 19

Summary
Daniel leads his group into position in order to save Joel from the Romans. Daniel does not believe that he will survive the ordeal, but he means to see that Joel does. Daniel knows that all the boys are prepared to sacrifice themselves, but Daniel, as their leader, resolves that this will not occur. Still, he worries about walking into a trap.

Finally, Joel comes into view. Driving him forward is a guard with a whip. Daniel waits for the right moment and then gives the signal. They all hurl rocks at the Romans below, but Joel cannot find a way to escape.

Suddenly, an enormous rock tumbles down the hillside. Samson, who had been faithfully trailing Daniel, has dislodged the...

(The entire section is 368 words.)

Summary and Analysis Chapter 20

Summary
The gatherings at the watchtower have ceased. The boys vow to begin again, but they will no longer serve Rosh. As Daniel immerses himself in his lonely work, Jesus’ admonition echoes in his head: “They who live by the sword die by the sword.”

Joel surprises Daniel with the admission that he has told his father everything. Daniel fears that the rabbi must hate him, but Joel assures his friend that his father not only does not hate him but will welcome Daniel into his home at any time.

Joel feels that he must join Rosh immediately because his father is sending him away to a distant school. This will mean that Joel can no longer fight for freedom. Daniel tells Joel that Rosh...

(The entire section is 433 words.)

Summary and Analysis Chapter 21

Summary
Daniel has gone to find Jesus. Daniel tells Simon of Joel’s warning, but Jesus is aware of the perils he faces. Daniel is annoyed because now that he has found Jesus, Simon will not let him talk to the teacher. Simon tells his young friend that Jesus has been harassed by the priests for three solid days. Daniel asks why Jesus stays; Simon says that the people need him.

Daniel cannot bear to leave. He creeps toward the foot of the staircase. Jesus detects his presence and softly calls for Daniel to join him. Daniel hurriedly delivers his warning, but Jesus is less concerned about that than he is about Daniel. Gently, he prods the boy to tell him his worries. Daniel spills everything: his...

(The entire section is 374 words.)

Summary and Analysis Chapter 22

Summary
It is the Day of Atonement. Work has stopped for either worship or merriment. Daniel knows that Thacia will be among the women dancing in the village celebrations. He asks Leah to join him; she refuses but asks that her brother return with news of the festivities.

Daniel sees Thacia dancing. He is shaken by her grace and beauty. Daniel worries that his presence will embarrass her, so he runs away. Thacia follows him. She asks if he still considers her “just a pretty child.” Daniel confesses that he has seen her as a woman since the day he awoke in the passage, when she tended his wounds. Thacia does not try to hide her love, but Daniel is embarrassed again. He never meant for her to...

(The entire section is 536 words.)

Summary and Analysis Chapter 23

Summary
Leah completely withdraws from life. Daniel, “in a torment of remorse,” tries to do everything around the house. Leah refuses to eat much. Daniel pleads with her, but she is far-gone, her eyes “like empty windows.”

Just when things seem most dark, Daniel recalls all the people Jesus has healed, all the demons Jesus has cast out. Daniel remembers how Jesus had relieved the burden of his guilt about Samson and Nathan. He decides that he will beg him to heal Leah.

But when he finds Jesus, Daniel has his faith tested again. Simon tells him he unequivocally believes Jesus to be the Messiah, but that Jesus would never lead an army against Rome. If Jesus refuses to act for...

(The entire section is 299 words.)

Summary and Analysis Chapter 24

Summary
Still longing for action, Daniel thinks about forming a new insurgent resistance. However, he begins to reflect on what his hatred has actually done for him. Tangibly, it has gotten Samson and Nathan killed and it has taken Leah away from him. Daniel feels “imprisoned in a pit, raging and helpless.”

Convinced that Leah is near death, Daniel thinks that Thacia would want to know. He scratches out a message and hopes Thacia will come, but three days pass with no sign of her. He sees Marcus, the soldier whom Leah has fallen in love with. He wants to kill him but decides he could not do so while Leah lies dying.

Marcus is aware of Daniel’s spite but still wants news of Leah....

(The entire section is 557 words.)