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...
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The Bronze Bow's richly developed characters and universal themes make it one of the most extraordinary books ever written for young adults. Speare creates a story that reveals her respect for the minds of young readers; the novel invites deep thought and contemplation of such fundamental human concerns as love, friendship, religious faith, and how to lead a meaningful life. At the same time, the book is a suspenseful, romantic adventure set in a time of political and religious upheaval. The believable adolescent characters battle their own feelings as they fight Roman oppression. Speare's realistic descriptions of how people lived then bring alive the ancient biblical time in which the action takes place.
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Summary and Analysis
Summary and Analysis Chapter 1
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.
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 Galilee and says his family is about to move to Capernaum. Joel is bitterly opposed to doing so. He wants to stay in Galilee; he is certain that deliverance for the Jews is soon coming and will begin in Galilee. Joel has heard of Rosh, and like many others, he believes Rosh to be the Messiah for whom the Jews have been waiting.
Daniel and Joel bond over their mutual hatred of the Romans and admiration of Rosh. Joel seems prepared to give up everything to join the cause. But Joel has a...
(The entire section is 658 words.)
Summary and Analysis Chapter 2
Samson: a mute, freed slave rescued from a Roman prisoner caravan.
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 is no time to argue. Joel is told to keep quiet and out of the way but defiantly insists on participating. The fight ensues and Daniel easily overcomes the fat, scared guard. The black slave is freed.
Daniel tries to convince Rosh that they have “a new recruit,” but Joel says that he did not come to stay. Rosh threatens that after what Joel has seen, he must. Joel’s fortitude in resisting Rosh pleases Daniel. He is not intimidated by Rosh and insists that he must take his sister home. Rosh agrees that Joel may be of use to him when Joel’s family moves to Capernaum. Daniel is disheartened that Rosh is more interested in Joel’s future ability to help than the task Daniel has just accomplished.
Joel and Malthace leave. The rebels gather for dinner; the freed slave, newly christened “Samson,” is among them. Rosh orders Daniel to remove Samson’s shackles; Daniel knows this will take all night. When he finally manages to saw through the iron, Samson is so grateful that he falls to his knees. Daniel is irritated and tells Samson that it is Rosh to whom he owes his gratitude.
Several key issues are broached in this chapter: the treatment of women, the fate of slaves, the reality of the Roman soldiers who carry out the Empire’s commands, and the dark side of the character Rosh.
Joel flies into a panic when he sees the caravan approaching. It is soon understood what Joel fears. As the soldiers and prisoners pass by, the boys see “a drab cluster of women, herded close together, urged on by the flicking whips of two or more guards in the rear.” If caught, Malthace assuredly would face a life of sexual enslavement.
(The entire section is 621 words.)
Summary and Analysis Chapter 3
Joktan: a red-haired boy who is a member of Rosh’s rebels.
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 been delivered. Daniel takes pride in showing his handiwork to a fellow blacksmith.
Simon has news, both good and bad. First, he tells Daniel that Amalek has died. He need not worry about serving his remaining four years, for Amalek passed away with no one to whom he could pass on his “property.” Daniel is free to return to his grandmother and sister.
Daniel, though, is not sure he wants to go. He knows that a return home will force him to care for his aging grandmother and mentally challenged sister and to a life of tradesman’s work. He prefers freedom and purpose on the mountain.
Eventually, Daniel is persuaded to return, if just for a visit. He finds that Samson is following them, and Daniel orders him back to the cave. Daniel tries to get Simon to join Rosh’s cause, but the older blacksmith refuses, saying that he is waiting for “the one … who will lead us” and that he and Rosh “don’t see eye to eye.” Daniel feels Simon has insulted Rosh when he says, “I prefer to earn my own bread and meat.”
Daniel finds his grandmother and sister nearly destitute, but a Sabbath dinner has been laid out, awaiting his return. Leah does not seem to recognize her brother. Daniel does not want to fully acknowledge their need for his help, and he finds himself homesick for Rosh, and even Samson, the family he has chosen rather than the one into which he was born.
It is a pivotal time for Daniel. He must make a tough decision: stay and fight for the cause he believes in or be tied down to his family who desperately needs his help.
The only person who seems to care about him at Rosh’s camp is Samson. Daniel...
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Summary and Analysis Chapter 4
Jesus of Nazareth: the unlikely preacher who may be the long-awaited Messiah, the savior of the Jewish people.
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 important enough to cause Simon to break his adherence to Jewish law, then Daniel reasons that he too should go.
The pair travel to the synagogue where it is rumored that Jesus will appear. Daniel tries to find out more about this man; he asks if Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth is proud to boast of such a powerful preacher. Simon tells him that this is far from the case; in fact, the leaders of Nazareth have accused Jesus of blasphemy and have tried to kill him. This information puzzles Daniel, and he is even more confused once he actually sees Jesus. He looks nothing like the important religious figures that Daniel knows. Jesus has the hard-working physique of a laborer; he is dressed plainly and in pure white.
As Simon tells him more about Jesus and how the man escaped the clutches of his foes, Daniel again becomes confused. The passive resistance of Jesus does not fit Daniel’s expectations of a rebel leader. Still, Daniel is moved by the quiet power of Jesus’ voice, a sound that “carried to every corner of the room.”
Daniel returns to the village and encounters some of the loathsome Roman soldiers. He hurls a rock, shouting, “Infidels!” One of the soldiers immediately reacts and strikes Daniel. Local villagers who witness the beating are not sympathetic. They accuse Daniel and his fellow zealots of stirring up trouble. After being attacked, Daniel cannot believe that the peaceful resistance taught by Jesus will be able to free the Jews. Daniel returns to Rosh, the one who he thinks will actively resist the Romans.
In chapter 4, Daniel continues his emotional growth. For the first time, he has to grapple with considering a new...
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Summary and Analysis Chapter 5
Rabbi Hezron: Joel and Malthace’s father.
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 compares the kingdom of heaven to a “pearl of great value.” Roman soldiers interrupt Jesus’ sermon. Their very presence is unsettling, and Daniel’s hatred of them is rekindled. Daniel continues to desire the active rebellion that Rosh promises.
Daniel makes his way to Joel’s home. He is counting on the “unwritten law” that says strangers must always be afforded food and shelter. What he has not counted on, however, is the enormous wealth of Joel’s family. A slave opens the elaborate doors to the home. Malthace, a bit taken aback by the filthy and travel-weary Daniel, does not exactly give him a warm welcome. Joel, however, displays none of his sister’s reluctance. Still, Daniel is made to feel inferior as he is asked to leave his cloak in the hallway lest he, “the unclean,” infect a Pharisee’s home.
An uncomfortable exchange takes place between Daniel and Rabbi Hezron, Joel’s father. Hezron believes that the Law is what will save the Jews; Daniel, on the other hand, wants to pursue active rebellion. The rabbi tells Daniel to never return to his home. Daniel feels that he has lost more than a recruit in Joel but also his first real friend.
Enthusiasm for Jesus’ teaching is growing exponentially. Belief systems are being challenged, including those of the Pharisees, who feel that the Law will be their deliverance. Jesus does not dismiss the Law, but neither does he preach that it will free the people. Also being challenged are those who believe hatred and violent opposition will win freedom from tyranny. Instead, Jesus preaches tolerance and forgiveness, something Daniel at this point is wholly unable to accept.
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Summary and Analysis Chapter 6
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 Daniel, citing her father’s injunction. But it is not only her father Malthace is worried about. She knows that Joel is pulled in two directions: either a safe life of studying or Daniel’s decidedly unsafe life of active rebellion. Fearing for Joel’s safety, Malthace begs Daniel to “leave him alone.”
Before he can retreat, unconsciousness overtakes Daniel. When he awakens, Malthace is standing over him. She has hidden him in a storage room, accessible through a secret passageway. Malthace dresses his wounds and tries to ease his pain. Joel joins them, pleased that Daniel has come. They assure Daniel that he can recuperate there and that even if Rabbi Hezron found out, he would never hand Daniel over to the Romans. Daniel accepts the twins’ kindness.
Although Daniel has a physical set back in this chapter, he moves forward spiritually and emotionally. His impulsiveness, fueled by long-nurtured hatred, nearly kills him. He has not yet learned the lessons of Jesus, nor has he matured enough to harness his anger. This time, Daniel’s rash actions physically harm only him, but by going to Joel and Malthace’s house, he also endangers the Hezron family. His discovery there would be akin to harboring a fugitive.
Daniel’s injury, however, propels the story forward. Having nowhere else to turn, Daniel physically and emotionally seeks out the only people he knows who truly seem to care. It helps him form a human bond beyond the one he shares with his immediate family. The twins embrace him with love, Joel even saying, “Thank God you came here!”
Joel reassures Daniel that even if his father found out about him, he would not turn...
(The entire section is 603 words.)
Summary and Analysis Chapter 7
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 saved to pay his taxes. The tax collectors, however, arrived early, and his uncle was arrested and sentenced to a short life of hard labor in the quarries.
Daniel’s father and some friends planned to free Daniel’s uncle as the Roman troops led their prisoners to the quarries. The attack failed, and all the men were captured. The punishment for the rebellion was crucifixion.
Daniel’s mother stayed by the crosses for two days and contracted a deadly illness. Daniel tells Malthace and Joel that Leah, just five years old at the time, became so traumatized that she lost her mind. It was then that Daniel made a solemn vow to avenge the death of his parents, to pay back the Romans for what they had done to his family and his country.
At the time, Daniel’s grandmother tried to care for the children, but financial hardships forced her to sell Daniel into slavery. His sister remained traumatized, never venturing outside the house.
After hearing Daniel’s story, Joel too takes an oath, swearing to fight the Romans for as long as he lives. Thacia also takes the vow.
The three come up with a means of communication, a way to share information secretly. They will etch a “bow” above the entrance to the passageway. The image comes from the Song of David. Joel and Thacia leave; Daniel decides to return to the mountain and slips away.
The three teenagers bond even more in this chapter. They find strength in the Book of Enoch and purpose in Daniel’s story.
Daniel’s lust for revenge is finally revealed. His experiences are indeed horrific. Imagine being eight years old, losing both parents, and witnessing your...
(The entire section is 654 words.)
Summary and Analysis Chapter 8
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. They hear about Jesus’ miraculous healings. One woman is so filled with faith that she does not find it necessary to even inspect her son’s injury for proof of healing.
Simon greets them with “genuine pleasure” and ushers them inside for a meal. Daniel comes face to face with Jesus. Again, he is struck by the teacher’s luminous compassion. Joel and Daniel are surprised, however, that Jesus dismisses the women’s ritual cleansing of hands before eating.
Jesus ministers to both the body and the mind. After the meal, he repeats his message of tolerance and love. Jesus intends to include everyone in his grace, and this portion of his message troubles Joel greatly. Joel does not understand how people who are “unclean from the moment they are born” could be considered children of God. Jesus’ message of complete inclusion convinces Joel that the man “is not a true Rabbi.”
The true nature of Rosh continues to be developed. The incident with the knife allows Daniel to understand how Rosh’s moral relativism threatens innocent people. Not only are the rich and the Romans being asked to “sacrifice” but so too are the poor. Moreover, Daniel is beginning to comprehend Rosh’s lack of caring in any form. Daniel is commanded to take advantage of his friend Simon; he is sent on yet another of Rosh’s missions without money or food. Though he has not yet consciously voiced these concerns, the distinction between Rosh and Jesus as leaders is becoming ever more apparent.
Challenges to the traditional roles of women also continue. Jesus does not discriminate, calling the women who attend him at the meal “my daughters” and...
(The entire section is 598 words.)
Summary and Analysis Chapter 9
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 that he may defend himself on his dangerous trek.
Daniel returns the money to Rosh but is ashamed of his actions. Rosh is none too pleased that Daniel has allowed his victim to live. He accuses Daniel of weakness and of having a “soft streak.” Though Daniel argues that it is Roman blood they are after, not Jewish blood, he is aware that his softness is problematic for someone who wishes to be in service to Rosh. Even while Daniel tries to work the weakness out of his character, it begins to occur to him that there may be flaws in Rosh’s arguments.
This is a brief chapter but an important one. Daniel’s empathy is growing, and he begins to challenge the tenets of the rebel leader Rosh. Even the descriptions of Rosh start to change and he becomes more devil-like. Rosh has a “horny palm,” for example, and Daniel now sees Rosh’s face as “weather-pitted.”
Even more glaringly apparent is Daniel’s awakening morality and identification with the pain of others. He cannot kill the old Jewish traveler because he is reminded of the frailty of his own grandfather. He starts to see that there is more tethering him to life than simply the cause. In one beautiful description, Speare writes, “Rosh did not know about the other things that bound him like cobwebs when he woke in the night. Leah. His grandmother.”
Furthermore, Daniel begins consciously comparing the way Jesus views mankind versus the way Rosh does. Rosh sees another human being as “a thing to be used,” whereas “Jesus saw only a child of God.” Daniel begins to open his heart to the promises of Jesus.
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Summary and Analysis Chapter 10
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 can, but he has no knowledge of nursing, and it is difficult. One neighbor eventually offers him a saucer of oil and a wick. Daniel is touched by the gesture, having forgotten that though many of the neighbors had acted callously, they were capable of kindness too.
His grandmother is slipping away. With Leah kneeling at his side, Daniel offers his grandmother comfort in the form of Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd.” Sometime during the night, her breathing ceases and she passes away.
The symbolism of the number three appears once again. Ebol waits three days before giving Daniel his message, three neighbors await Daniel’s return, and Daniel recalls the Bible story his grandmother had told him about three martyrs who escape the fiery furnace. Whereas the number three previously has symbolized the Holy Trinity, here it takes on another meaning: waiting for divine intervention. For example, in Exodus 10:22, the people must wait three days for God to deliver them from darkness; in Exodus 19:10, God instructs the Israelites to wait for three days for his sign of safety. In Daniel’s case, each set of the number three in this chapter finds him waiting for such divine intervention: getting the three-day-old message that will send him back to Galilee, discovering the three neighbors whose hearts need to be softened, and being reminded of the three historical figures who trusted in God and awaited his deliverance.
In chapter 10, Daniel also continues to mature both emotionally and spiritually. Emotionally, he must decide that the burden of care is worth his effort and sacrifice. He...
(The entire section is 502 words.)
Summary and Analysis Chapter 11
Marcus: a Roman soldier for whom Daniel must perform work in Simon’s shop.
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 house, which is connected to the shop, Daniel decides that he must stay to take care of his sister. Leah, “the weakest of them all,” had defeated him.
Simon amends his offer with one condition: Daniel must agree to repair items brought into the shop by Roman soldiers. Daniel refuses at first, but Simon insists. He argues that refusing to do the work “could cost half the lives of the town.” Simon sees how defeated Daniel looks but assures him that there “are Zealots in the blacksmith shops too.”
Leah is afraid to move into her new home because she must venture outside. Malthace convinces her that riding in a cart with curtains drawn “like the Queen of Sheba” will give the girl privacy and dignity. Leah agrees to go and takes with her a loom, the only item of value that the family possesses.
Daniel tries to do all the chores typically divided on gender lines. He does not think Leah can or will do them, but she surprises him. She has knowledge of weaving, baking, and gardening.
Soon, Daniel faces his first test of Simon’s order when a Roman comes into the shop. Daniel is surprised by the soldier’s youth. The soldier waits patiently while Daniel stalls as long as possible.
Evident in Leah’s “defeat” of Daniel are the parallels to Jesus, for he too possesses none of the brute strength of Rosh or the consuming hatred of Daniel. By all human standards, Jesus is weak. But by becoming the leader the Jews have long awaited, Jesus will defeat those who seem much mightier than he does.
Daniel’s (albeit grudging) compliance to serve the Roman...
(The entire section is 609 words.)
Summary and Analysis Chapter 12
Nathan: son of a Jewish tax collector; the first villager to join Daniel’s movement.
Kemuel: recruited by Joel to join the movement.
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 alternative was to sell his sister into slavery. His father decided to take the job, even though he knew the backlash that would follow.
Daniel offers to help Nathan get revenge on those who had beaten him, and Nathan agrees. They attack the other boys in darkness. Daniel is pleased to see how effective Nathan is as a fighter. Daniel proposes that he join him in the fight for the cause, and Nathan accepts. Shortly thereafter, Joel brings in another new recruit, Kemuel. Like Daniel and Joel, Kemuel is tired of words and is ready for action. Kemuel has a fiery spirit and strong muscles. Daniel is pleased with Joel’s selection. The boys, without Simon’s knowledge, agree to meet at the smithy each week. Although there are probably dozens who would also like to be a part of the movement, Daniel argues for careful consideration of any potentially new member. They agree that only a select few will be told the secret password: the “bronze bow,” the symbol from the Song of David.
The Roman soldier who had first brought Daniel work three weeks earlier appears at his forge once again, much to Daniel’s chagrin. Daniel fears that the soldier suspects the group’s activities, and the boys move the meeting place to a watchtower. Almost as soon as they do so, the Roman soldier stops coming. It appears to Daniel that his suspicions were correct.
Although Daniel has made strides in his development, this chapter returns him to his vow for revenge. He enjoys his newly discovered ability to lead people, and the plans the group begins to construct whet his appetite for real action.
Nathan, the first recruit, has a biblically symbolic name. The prophet Nathan...
(The entire section is 592 words.)
Summary and Analysis Chapter 13
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 speak. Daniel is surprised that the simple carpenter is able to answer questions that have puzzled Joel about the Law, for Joel himself is a rabbi-in-training. Daniel is even more surprised to discover that Thacia has been accompanying her brother to hear the sermons.
Malthace is making good progress with Leah, who has come to trust and allow the older girl into her very narrow circle. Leah even expresses her pleasure at Thacia’s visit. Daniel has trouble believing that the two have a real friendship because they are so very different, but Thacia says that they do have something very important in common: Daniel. Thacia makes a gift of a beautiful shawl to Leah and promises more visits.
Daniel becomes aware of the lack of feminine objects of beauty in Leah’s life. He decides to buy a fine piece of cloth and a needle and to make her something nice but practical. Leah watches him bungle the work with amused fascination and then laughingly asks if she can do it. She also asks if he would mind if she makes a dress out of the material.
This chapter showcases Leah and her own emotional growth. She begins to value herself and take pleasure in being rewarded monetarily for her work on the loom. She reaches out to Thacia in genuine friendship and accepts with pleasure the gift of the shawl. Unbeknownst to Daniel, she is also nurturing a budding romance with the Roman soldier. It is for him that she wants to make the dress and appear becoming.
Joel and Malthace grow as well in this chapter. They are becoming sensitive to the ways and teachings of Jesus. The feminist theme returns, evidenced by Thacia’s inclusion in the trips to hear Jesus speak. She...
(The entire section is 502 words.)
Summary and Analysis Chapter 14
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 solider is “homesick.” Tired of the discussion and of having to defend his hatred, Daniel leaves Leah to go up the hill and check in with Rosh.
Joktan’s immediate question is, “Did you bring anything to eat?” Daniel faces a morally uncomfortable moment when Joktan tells him that the rebels have had to reduce their food intake because the shepherds have been actively defending their flocks. Now that Daniel knows the men intimately who tend the beasts, the loss of income and food is more real to him.
Samson is overjoyed to see Daniel. Daniel too is pleased to see the enormous man who cannot hide his love.
Rosh immediately informs Daniel that he is “going to need him soon.” Rosh barely listens as Daniel explains recent events. The rebel leader is busy devouring mutton, a feast that Samson has procured, while the other men hungrily wait. That night, as Daniel sleeps on the uncomfortable ground, he ponders Simon’s choice of leaders. He also thinks about the stolen sheep the band had just consumed and wonders how Leah would fare if she lost her beloved goat. Daniel is at odds with himself, wondering where he belongs.
Despite the obvious signs, Daniel is still unaware that Leah is falling in love with the Roman soldier. Her interest in weddings is very telling, and her defense of the soldier speaks volumes, but Daniel is deaf to her inner needs.
The behavior of Jesus versus Rosh continues to become more sharply defined. As Rosh excludes his men from his personal feast, Daniel remembers how Jesus fed all of his followers and how each person in the crowd was considerate of his fellow man. Questions are becoming more prominent...
(The entire section is 466 words.)
Summary and Analysis Chapter 15
Andrew: a fisherman.
James and John: two of Jesus’ disciples.
Jarius: a synagogue leader who turns to Jesus when his daughter is dying.
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 in; her favorite concerns a little girl. Daniel recounts the following story:
The only daughter of Jarius, a local religious leader, is dying. He turns to Jesus for help when it appears that no one and nothing can save her. When Jesus reaches their home, he is told that the child has died. It does not seem possible, but Jesus takes the little girl by the hand and raises her up.
Leah asks if women and children are present at the sermons; they are, and Daniel tells her that Jesus even listens to children as if they have something worth saying. Daniel attributes the change in his sister to Thacia’s friendship and ministrations. He assumes that the many small gifts Leah has received are from Thacia.
Daniel finds that his blacksmith skills extend beyond sheer brute labor. He creates a slender broach in the shape of a bow. Daniel wonders if Jesus might really be the one for whom the people have been waiting. Does Jesus have the will and the strength to “bend the bow of bronze”?
The symbolism of the number three is repeated, for Daniel must walk “three miles” to find Jesus.
In contention again is Jesus’ way versus the Law. Jesus ranks earthly concerns a distant second to heavenly ones. He tells the story of the Good Samaritan, a man who disregards the Law regarding fraternization with the “unclean” in order to help a fellow human being. For Daniel, the problem of this parable has little to do with the Law but everything to do with his hatred. Jesus’ message of inclusion rankles Daniel; he cannot conceive of a world in which Jews and Samaritans are equal.
Another telling biblical allusion occurs in this...
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Summary and Analysis Chapter 16
Herod Antipas: the Roman ruler who had been appointed over the Jews.
Matthias: the banker who is to host the banquet.
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 let slip the names of the rich people who will be away. But Joel cannot be in two places at once. If he goes missing for too long, others might notice. Thacia provides the solution, proposing that she dress up in male garb and let herself be seen in the city, thus providing an alibi for her brother. Thacia’s only reservation is that she does not want to face Jesus’ disappointment should he catch her in the lie. Joel suggests that Jesus would understand, but Thacia knows this is not so. Despite her better judgment, the three proceed.
Dressed as a man, Thacia goes with Daniel into the city. They accidentally cross paths with two Roman soldiers. The soldiers assume both are Jewish men, they are ordered to carry the Romans’ packs. Daniel spits on one of the soldiers, who delivers a staggering blow. But Thacia hoists the heavy pack to her shoulder. Though furious, Daniel picks up the other pack. The two manage to carry the packs for one mile. Later, Thacia tells Daniel that his actions might have gotten him killed. If dead, he could not help his country. Still, Thacia admits that she admires Daniel for being brave enough to stand up to the bullying soldier. Daniel is gratified by her praise. Safe back at home, Daniel gives Thacia a gift—the bronze broach that he had made.
Thacia remarks on how much Leah is “like a flower opening slowly.” She wonders if Jesus might be able to reach Leah even more. Daniel wonders if her healing is worth the effort. “Yes!” Thacia exclaims. The conversation precipitates a moment of physical connection—the holding of hands—that hints at their growing love.
Joel is excited to be the key player in Rosh’s new...
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Summary and Analysis Chapter 17
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 of the villagers and Daniel’s own doubts, the other boys are energized and naively debate what wonderful things Rosh will do for the people with his stolen wealth. Joel has found his fish-peddling scam so successful that he continues it. The boys are thrilled that at last they are actively participating in the cause. None of them feels “the slightest pity” for any of the wealthy victims that are attacked. Daniel, however, is filled with dismay.
A Roman catapult is then discovered by the boys, who rashly propose using it as a weapon to kill Roman guards. But Daniel instructs them to disassemble it, to make the catapult “disappear.” The success of this operation goes to the boys’ heads; they begin to lust for more action.
Their activities, however, do not go undetected. Two villagers come to Daniel’s shop and give Daniel a warning: Rosh must not steal any sheep again. Daniel tries to convince them that their losses serve the cause. But the men have had enough and insist that they will no longer tolerate Rosh’s raids. Rosh disregards the warning entirely.
Much of the action is straightforward here. Daniel needs only look to see Rosh’s true nature. The rich are getting poorer, and the poor are too. Rosh does not care whom he robs, so long as the spoils come to him. He does not care whom he puts in danger, because he is safely hidden and protected. Rosh has become so cocky that he no longer even makes much effort to hide his activities. Daniel now sees just how much the people are suffering to support a cause they have never benefited from in the slightest.
Daniel also shows his own leadership skills in this chapter. He protects...
(The entire section is 608 words.)
Summary and Analysis Chapter 18
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 that his “soft streak” has always been his fatal flaw. Finally, Daniel makes the break with Rosh. His eyes are opened and he sees a man he “had never really looked at before.” Daniel now knows that he is finished with “the mountain forever.” He does not leave alone, however. Joktan decides to come with him. Daniel is glad to have Joktan but regrets that Samson did not follow him too.
Back at the watchtower, Daniel tells the other boys that they will get Joel. The boys select Daniel as their leader through a democratic vote. He accepts, but there is no joy in assuming the heavy mantle of responsibility.
Daniel begins to act as a true leader, one who is concerned for his people and makes decisions from a place of love rather than hate. He realizes all too well that hate has gotten both himself and his people nowhere. When Rosh says that “every man is responsible for himself,” Daniel understands that a cause that is truly for the people could never be successful with a selfish leader.
Daniel exemplifies Jesus’ teachings by becoming a “fisher of men.” He now understands the ramifications of violence. He assumes leadership without pleasure but with resolve.
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Summary and Analysis Chapter 19
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 rock. Daniel suffers injuries in the melee and soon passes out. When he awakens, Kemuel is attending to his injuries. Joel is unhurt and by his side. Daniel learns how Samson heroically saved them. The giant of a man removed Joel’s shackles with his bare hands and then threw Joel atop Daniel. Nathan and Kemuel, who were behind the large rock, pulled them to safety.
But Daniel realizes that something is wrong. Nathan has died in the fighting. And Joel tells Daniel how Samson also met his death. He had been hit by a spear and dragged away by the soldiers.
They are all aware that without Samson, they might be dead. Any idea of youthful romanticism in regard to war is lost.
Unlike Rosh, Daniel is ready to give up his own life to save Joel’s. His willingness to sacrifice himself echoes Jesus’ words: “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
There are many biblical allusions in this chapter. As the boys launch the rocks, their action is reminiscent of the biblical battle between David and Goliath. When Samson heaves the rock and surrenders his life, he lives up to his biblical namesake.
Grateful for their lives but considerably older and wiser after this battle, the boys—now almost men—return with Joel. They leave behind Nathan and Samson, who truly did “lay down their lives” for the sake of their friends.
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Summary and Analysis Chapter 20
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 is no longer their leader. Joel fears that he personally has caused the break, but Daniel explains that Rosh is not the leader they thought he was. Joel says, “Then we must wait for a new leader.”
Daniel tells his friend to return to school. Joel is finally swayed by Daniel’s contention that the cause will require more than the support of farmers and laborers. “We’ll need priests and scribes too,” Daniel says, “and you can win them over because you understand them.”
Joel, however, has one more request before leaving. Jesus is in danger, he claims, and must be informed of the plots against him. He wants Daniel to warn Jesus.
This chapter opens in the month of Tishri, the traditional start of the Jewish New Year. Placing the action to come in this month is symbolic, for it is finally also a new year for Daniel spiritually. He has broken all mental and physical ties to Rosh.
Joel experiences growth too. He opts to tell his father all that has transpired, and the result is that his friend Daniel now has a safe haven in the Hezron home. Daniel helps Joel grow as well, showing him the error of Rosh’s ways and the need for educated men. Even Rabbi Hezron is shown to grow by offering shelter to Daniel and Leah, whom he had previously considered “unclean.” All the characters have made progress toward letting go of old ideas and embracing the real leader they find in Jesus.
A realistic picture in regard to how Daniel might feel emerges here. Speare does not gloss over the development of her protagonist; everything is not suddenly easy for Daniel because he has turned away from Rosh and toward Jesus. Daniel has put his...
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Summary and Analysis Chapter 21
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 sadness, his sense of failure, everything he “had hoped and lived for.” Jesus asks what “everything” means to Daniel, who responds “freedom for my people … vengeance for my father’s death.” Jesus presses him to examine his feelings. Daniel recalls how both Samson and Nathan had given their lives for his. Jesus points out that their lives were not given in hate but in love.
Daniel wants to know when the Jews will be free. “How long must we wait?” the desperate boy asks. Jesus does not give Daniel an answer. Instead, he first asks Daniel to follow him. Daniel enthusiastically agrees. Then Jesus makes a harder request: will Daniel love him to the end? The boy exclaims, “I will fight for you to the end! I will give you everything I have.” With humor and patience, Jesus tells Daniel that “riches are not keeping you from the kingdom of heaven.” Instead, he asks Daniel to do something much more difficult and important: to surrender his hate.
Jesus’ message of love and tolerance, so inconceivable to Daniel just a few months ago, now seems not only possible but right. Daniel has matured spiritually, and he understands that to Jesus, he is more than a cog to the cause, as he was to Rosh.
Jesus is also carefully humanized. He is weary. He needs time alone and secludes himself, but even so, he makes time for Daniel. Jesus is even shown to have a sense of humor.
(The entire section is 374 words.)
Summary and Analysis Chapter 22
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 know of his love; he wanted to protect her. Thacia reminds him that she too took the vow. Daniel, though, is not ready to accept his feelings. Thacia sees his discomfort and lets him go.
When Daniel returns home, Leah wants to know everything, especially how Thacia looked. She asks Daniel to describe how she had danced and then takes a few steps herself. Daniel is impressed and pleased. He compliments Leah, saying, “You’re as pretty as any of them.” Leah clings to the praise and presses Daniel for more. She and Daniel sit down to an elaborate dinner. Daniel wonders what neighbor could have donated such an abundance of delicacies.
The answer shocks Daniel. Leah confesses that Marcus, the Roman soldier, has been paying regular visits to the house. It is he who brought the gifts.
The revelation inflames the embers of Daniel’s hatred. Daniel threatens to kill the soldier, but Leah pleads with her brother to not harm Marcus. Daniel agrees to let Marcus live if she will agree to never speak to him again. Daniel has no pity for Leah as she weeps. He storms out of their home. When he returns, Leah has retreated back into her depression.
The Day of Atonement is symbolically significant, but it is also ironic. While Daniel has atoned for his sins with Jesus, he fails to take the opportunity clearly presented to him to experience Thacia’s love. He further fails in his resolve to let go of his hate when he lashes out at Leah. Daniel “has his foot on the path,” but he still has a long way to go.
Traditional gender roles are contrasted with Thacia’s stance as a freethinking and acting woman. Thacia has determined that should she...
(The entire section is 536 words.)
Summary and Analysis Chapter 23
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 freedom, Daniel wonders, why would Simon stay with him? Simon explains that with Jesus, you do not need to worry about earthly powers or concerns. Simon reminds Daniel of Jesus’ love, care, healing, and nurturing of the people. “I know now with a God like that I am safe,” Simon says.
But Daniel is unconvinced and struggles to give up his vow to fight for freedom. He has to make the proverbial leap of faith. He must “choose without knowing.”
Daniel longs for the comfort he has experienced with Jesus. He comes to the apex of his moral and spiritual crisis. There is not much more Jesus can teach him. Daniel has witnessed the power of love on both a large and on a personal scale. But Jesus requires that those who choose him let go of not only earthly possessions but also earthly allegiances, whether those ties be to another “leader” like Rosh or to any emotions other than love and acceptance.
Daniel leaves with the weight of the choice heavy on his heart and mind.
(The entire section is 299 words.)
Summary and Analysis Chapter 24
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. His fear is evident as he stammers and asks how she is faring. Daniel snaps at him: “What is it to you if another Jew is dying?” Three days later, the soldier returns. Again he approaches Daniel. Marcus says that he is not Roman but German, a conquered people just as Daniel’s people have been conquered. Daniel does not care. The fact that Marcus serves the oppressors is enough reason for Daniel to sustain his hatred. Unabashed, Marcus goes ahead with his message. He tells Daniel that he is to be transferred. He wants to see Leah one last time before he must leave. Daniel is unmoved.
Meanwhile, Leah tentatively clings to life. Just when Daniel has all but given up hope, Jesus appears. Thacia is with him. Jesus instantly knows what has happened. He smiles at Daniel. Daniel feels his heart leap and asks himself, “Was it possible that only love could bend the bow of bronze?” He now knows the answer beyond any doubt.
Leah is revived. Jesus leaves, but his light remains. Daniel takes the last leap of faith, proving to himself and to Jesus that he has embraced the kingdom. In a final act, he stops Marcus in the street and invites the soldier into his home.
This concluding chapter begins with Daniel at the peak of his spiritual crisis and concludes with his redemption. As he watches Leah slip away, he focuses his energy on saving his sister. When his own efforts fail, he desperately seeks out Jesus.
Jesus, unlike Rosh, answers his call with understanding, love, and caring. He heals Leah. Daniel does not change his mind about Jesus from gratitude alone, however. He now understands that hate has done nothing for him, but love has had the...
(The entire section is 557 words.)