The Bronze Bow Summary

The Bronze Bow is a novel about Daniel bar Jamin, a Jewish teenager living in Galilee, Israel, at the time of Jesus.

  • Daniel grows up suffering immense hardship at the hands of the Romans. His parents are crucified, and his sister, Leah, is traumatized. Daniel is forced to go to work for the village blacksmith.
  • Five years later, Daniel escapes to the mountains and joins a rebel band led by the zealot Rosh. Consumed by hatred for the Romans, he dedicates himself to vengeance.
  • Disillusioned with Rosh, Daniel turns to Jesus, who heals Leah and teaches that only love can liberate their people.


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Last Updated on May 4, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1351

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. Although he is studying to be a rabbi and is financially much better off than Daniel could ever hope to be,...

(This entire section contains 1351 words.)

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Joel, too, wants more than anything to rid Israel of Roman rule. His sister also wants them gone, but she is more concerned with Daniel’s estrangement from his family. She offers to get a message to his grandmother when they return to the village.

Word soon comes from his old acquaintance Simon the Zealot that Daniel’s grandmother is near death. Daniel has to make a choice: stay on the mountain and fight, or return to a life of slavery to care for his grandmother and sister. He decides to go home but vows to continue the fight and return as soon as possible.

Daniel is relieved to discover that Amalek, the blacksmith, has died and that he has been released from slavery. Returning home, Daniel finds that his grandmother has managed to hang on to life. Unfortunately, Leah still appears to be unreachable, lost in her madness or demons. Daniel does what he can to make his grandmother’s last days as comfortable as possible.

Though he is still committed to Rosh and the cause, Daniel is ashamed to see how impoverished and isolated his grandmother and sister became in his absence. Their home is crumbling around them, and they have little to eat. Because the neighbors are afraid that Leah is possessed by demons, they occasionally toss bread through the window. Leah must fight for the bread or surrender it to the rats in the little hovel.

It is not hard to understand, then, why Daniel would want to be relieved of such a burden and return to Rosh. But he still has enough empathy to stay in Galilee, to see that his grandmother is buried, and to assume responsibility for Leah.

Shortly after Daniel returns, Simon pays him a visit. He tells Daniel about Jesus of Nazareth, a carpenter by trade who is attracting hundreds of followers because of his preaching. Daniel accompanies Simon to hear Jesus speak. He is shocked to see a simple, plainly dressed man who speaks softly though powerfully. Jesus radiates authority and light, but Daniel cannot understand how one so simple and peaceful could really have any true plan to free the Jews. Though intrigued by Jesus, Daniel continues to put all his hopes for deliverance and justice in Rosh.

In the village, Daniel comes in close contact with the Romans. Their continued brutality does nothing to quell his burning hatred. One day, spurred by a demand from a solider, Daniel explodes with anger and throws a bowl of water in the man’s face. His punishment is immediate. Daniel is forcefully struck in the ribs and seriously injured.

In desperation, Daniel seeks out Joel and Malthace. They hide Daniel in a passageway in their sprawling home and nurse him back to health. The three bond, vowing to fight the Romans. They decide that their sign for communication will be the etching of a bronze bow above the entry to the passageway. The image comes from the biblical Song of David: “He trains my hands for war, / so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.”

The teenagers are convinced that attacks and other means of terror can eventually rid Israel of the occupation and that serving Rosh will lead to the Roman collapse. But most of the attacks are unsuccessful, and the people are no closer to liberation than before.

Both Daniel and Joel become increasingly blinded by their lust for revenge. Joel especially becomes cocky about his successes, and he ends up jailed. Although Joel has acted and risked his life under Rosh’s direction, when he is captured, Rosh will do absolutely nothing to save him. It is the final break in Daniel’s misplaced faith in the rebel. He knows now that Rosh is nothing but a self-serving egomaniac.

Still skeptical, Daniel begins to hear more and more about Jesus, but it is not until Daniel is at his lowest point that he finally makes the proverbial leap of faith. Leah has become gravely ill and is near death. Joel is in prison, and several of the village boys who had trusted Daniel die in a bungled attempt to free Joel. Though Joel survives, the weight of responsibility for all who have fallen seems insurmountable to Daniel. He turns to Jesus, who heals Leah and once again offers his message of love and hope. Finally, Daniel understands: only love is strong enough to bend the bow of bronze.


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