Bible Sisters is a collection of 365 daily devotions about women in the Bible. The author is The Rev. Dr. Gennifer Benjamin Brooks. She is the Ernest and Bernice Styberg Professor of Preaching and the director of the Styberg Preaching Institute, both at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois.
I received two copies of the book from Abingdon Press, one to use in my review, and one to give away. Here’s how you can be part of the giveaway: Simply leave a comment on this review. While you’re commenting, I’d love it if you’d tell me who is your favorite woman in the Bible. (That’s not required to enter the drawing; I’d just be curious which women get mentioned.) You may leave your comment on my blog (fireopalpastor.com) or on this review on Facebook. Please leave your comments by 5PM (Central) on Thursday, May 25. I’ll randomly select one person to receive the book and contact you to get your mailing address.
There are about 250 women or groups of women represented in this book (some of the women are discussed on more than one day. You will find women who are likely familiar to you (Eve, Mary, Ruth, Naomi) along with quite a few women whose names may be unfamiliar (Meshullemeth, Euodia, Syntyche). Many of the women are not cited in Scripture by their names, so we meet them by their description (the wife of Jeroboam, the woman who married seven brothers). Each day’s devotional includes a scripture passage (usually one or two verses), a reflection on how this woman’s story might intersect with our lives, and a short prayer. Each page is titled with a day number (Day 1 through Day 365) rather than a specific date. The back of the book contains an index by scripture reference as well as an index by the women’s names.
As I sampled several of the daily devotionals, I found that the author’s reflections often took non-traditional approaches. Sometimes, she offered a counterpoint to our usual understanding. On Day 114, for instance, the reflection begins “Eve has been blamed often for the fall of humanity. Interestingly, the Apostle Paul wrote that it is through Adam that all die.” Sometimes, the author provides us with more information about who this woman is before offering a connection to our lives. There were times when this (Lutheran) reader was uncomfortable with the author’s language that seemed to describe God’s favor as being conditional, depending on our actions. Overall, a reader will find something in nearly every page that will inform you, inspire you, or challenge you.
Of course, you could use this book in the usual way, starting at Day 1 and reading one page each day for a year. Since the pages are numbered, not dated, you don’t need to wait until January to begin. Additionally, you could use the indexes to pull together several days around a specific theme, to use in a Bible study. Or it could serve as a reference, allowing you to look up the passage(s) that speak of a particular woman. In any case, you will almost certainly want to keep your favorite Bible close at hand; with only one or two verses printed on each page of Bible Sisters, you often won’t know the whole story of that woman. You may want to look up the quoted verse in your Bible, and then explore the passages before and after to set the verse in context.
Finally, I have a couple of observations about the physical book itself. The book’s compact size makes it easy to keep on a nightstand or end table, or even to tuck into a purse or bag. That same compact size, however, limits the nuance that can be included in each devotion and occasionally results in an oversimplified reading. The type face used in the printed book is just small enough to be troublesome for readers whose eyesight is failing. And somewhat more problematic is that the Bible verses are printed in even smaller type on a gray shaded background, leading to even less legibility. Out of curiosity, I downloaded the sample pages from the eBook version. While the size of the font can be adjusted, the gray shading behind the Bible verses may still present a problem for some readers (another reason to keep your favorite Bible nearby when using this book).
A final reminder: if you would like to be included in the drawing for the Bible Sisters giveaway, leave a comment on this review before 5PM (Central) on Thursday, May 25. I will contact the winner on Friday morning.