Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Book Review: Really Bad Girls of the Bible

Liz Curtis Higgs is the award-winning author of the Bad Girls series.

In Really Bad Girls of the Bible: More Lessons from Less-Than-Perfect-Women, Higgs takes a fresh look at 8 more of the most infamous women of the Bible:  Jael, Bathsheba, Tamar, the bleeding woman, the adulteress, Athaliah, Herodias, and the medium of EnDor.

Higgs places each of these women in one of 4 categories:
  • Bad for a good reason (Jael & Tamar)
  • Bad, but not condemned (the adulteress & the bleeding woman)
  • Bad moon rising (Bathsheba & medium of EnDor)
  • Bad, and proud of it (Athaliah & Herodias)
Each chapter begins with a modern-day version of the historical account.  These proved very effective in bringing an ancient dilemma into perspective.  

I liked Higgs's writing style; she takes a sort of "girlfriend" approach that's very conversational.  You get a good feel for the kind of woman she is: a hilarious straight-talker, who spent her share of time in the pit before the Lord rescued her.  

I appreciated her attempts at digging deeply into the cultures and customs of the women she described.    It was evident that Higgs had "done her homework."  

Each chapter ends with 2 sections--"Lessons we can learn," and "Good girl thoughts worth considering," though the latter are nearly all questions to promote further introspection and study.  I found these helpful.

While she did take care to admit on several occasions that the Bible was not clear about such-and-such (for example, we do not know Bathsheba's thoughts or intentions when King David summoned her), I was a little concerned about some of Higgs's commentary about these women, with Tamar being the most blatant example of this.

After God took the lives of Tamar's first two evil husbands, she seduced her father-in-law in an effort to get pregnant by him and thereby secure her future and maintain her dignity.  It seems Higgs can't really make up her mind about Tamar.  Higgs calls her "brilliant" and "clever."On page 220, Higgs says, "Her method wasn't noble, but her motives were.  In God's economy that counts for something, simply because none of us gets either the actions or the motivations right much of the time."  

I was shocked when she said plainly, "Her sin was deliberate... That reality does not make her actions "good," but it does make her motivation clear.  Sex with her father-in-law was a necessary evil to produce a necessary good.  (It goes without saying, the rules have changed.  Don't try this at home. Ever.)"

But then, three pages later, Higgs again says plainly, "Tamar sinned too."  Higgs cautions us, "Yet if we allow the fact that she is in the lineage of Christ to excuse her "badness" in the situation, we lost the ability to learn a lesson from her story.  Tamar is not to be praised--God is."

Higgs's desire is to display God's sovereignty in each situation.  I believe she could have accomplished this without seeming to condone or excuse sin, whether intentionally or not.

I'd give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Waterbrook Multnomah as part of their Blogging For Books review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."