Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on May 4, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 550

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 lot to lose: his money, his career, and a loving family. Daniel, by comparison, has nothing. The conversation comes to an abrupt end when Malthace spots Rosh’s sentry, Ebol.


Immediately, a picture of Daniel’s outer appearance and inner resolve emerges. Daniel has “little trace of youth in his lean, hard body,” hinting at his life of meager food and muscle-shaping labor, as well as the events that have stamped out his childhood innocence.

Although Daniel has forgotten many of the sacred rituals that are important to Judaism, the three bond over shared biblical stories that help them to identify as a people and that give them hope for the promised messiah.

Malthace is an intelligent, strong, loving, supportive, and sometimes unconventional woman. For example, when the three share a meal, she divides the food into equal portions, not shorting herself so that the men might have more. Her parents are also somewhat outside of the traditional system; her mother inherits the family home, and her father does not care where he lives “so long as he has his books.” Further bucking conventionality, Malthace and Joel have been a team for a long time. She knows the biblical tales as well as he does. The symbolism of Malthace picking myrrh blossoms should be especially noted. Myrrh is one of the spices given to the baby Jesus, and Malthace is gathering the “crimson blossoms” in her arms. The act symbolizes both her loving nature as well as the nearness of Jesus.

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Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis