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I couldn’t believe how little I knew about the women in the lineage of Jesus Christ until I read this book. I always had a rather shallow understanding about them as either virtuous or wicked. But what I learned is that all of them wanted to be good daughters of God. Some were able to hold fast to their values, and some struggled with temptations and distractions. But they ALL were forgiven and loved, and became valiant in their faith.

These stories are about real women. Jo Ann Skousen has brought them to life, as if they were our neighbors; their families and our families share amazing kinship with each other. In reading this book, their struggles become very familiar, thanks to Jo Ann’s fascinating approach to describing the details of their lives. I found myself relating to what they were going through with the problems in my own life, and those of my mother and sisters. The essential issues in life seem never to change, and when you live in these women’s circumstances, and learn how they overcame obstacles, you will comprehend answers to your own problems. Every one of these women’s stories left me with a feeling of great hope, and certainty that there is a loving God and Savior wanting to help us reach the great goal of returning to our heavenly surroundings.

I believe that men and women everywhere will love these women, since they will grow to know them as they would any friend today. There is so much to appreciate about them: their gentle spirits, clever social skills, loyalty to their families, bravery against tormentors, and great strength in all aspects of living. These women are wonderful examples of how to be valiant in these modern times. I repeat: The essential issues in life seem never to change. I love this book!

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Reading Matriarchs of the Messiah was eye popping. Stories and lessons came into focus with the prose. The analysis of these women, their motivations, their ambitions, their strengths, their weaknesses, and their skills as ezerim kenegdo provided so many ‘aha’ moments it was almost embarrassing…. Whether it was because it enhanced my rudimentary understanding of the topic and my natural inclination to love learning, or because it spoke to my inherent love for the Savior….I’m not sure. But, I LOVED IT.”

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I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. It was a very interesting combination of scholarship and storytelling. Ms. Skousen clearly has deep knowledge of the subject and, I’d warrant, much practice in sharing it for spiritual illumination and to impart moral lessons.

I loved how she tied the old “stories,” re-imagined and reinterpreted, to modern life (with a feminist twist). The voice of the Sunday school teacher came through loud and clear. But this voice held relevance not just for children; but for grownups as well. I “heard” that one can (and ought to) have agency even if of lower status; that one is not powerless, even if others (males, masters) have more power. And, she resurrected the rep of some maligned women!

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I was thrilled and inspired by this book. it was well researched and finely crafted. subject not often approached but certainly needed.

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Celebrating 400 Years of Shakespeare: Did the Bard’s Greatest Play Come from the Bible?


Today we celebrate the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. Normally we celebrate the anniversary of a great person’s birth, of course, but Shakespeare was born in such obscurity that there is no record of his birthdate. However, it seems ironically fitting that we would celebrate the death of the bard, who so often ended his plays with a dozen dead bodies on the stage!

Macbeth is one of those carnage-laden tragedies, and many scholars consider it has greatest work. Its story is particularly poignant: Macbeth is a good man in the beginning, loyal to King Duncan and content to serve Scotland as a respected general, until he is overcome by ambition when three witches tell him that he is destined to become the king. Spurred on by his ambitious wife, Macbeth hastens the day of his coronation by conspiring with Lady Macbeth to murder the king in his sleep while Duncan is a guest in his home at Cawdor Castle. Macbeth also contrives to have his best friend and colleague, Banquo, murdered because those same witches have prophesied that Banquo will beget a line of Scottish kings, and that makes Banquo a potential rival as well. By the end of the play, Macbeth has killed (or tried to kill) everyone who might thwart him. He is finally killed in battle and beheaded by Macduff, a Scottish nobleman who has opposed Macbeth’s ascension to the throne. Such a tragic ending to someone who had shown such promise.

Shakespeare often reworked other source material for his plays; Romeo & Juliet, for example, is based on the Greek myth “Pyramus and Thisbe.” What was the source of Macbeth? I believe he was influenced by a similar story he found in the Bible: The conflict between David and Saul in the book of 1 Samuel. Both Saul and David are chosen by God and ordained by Samuel the prophet to become future kings of Israel. Like Macbeth, David is selected as Saul’s successor while King Saul is still alive. But unlike Macbeth, David does not hasten the day when he will become king—even though Saul, jealous of David’s popularity with the Israelites, makes several attempts to kill David by throwing a javelin at him, chasing him with his armies, and even sending him to the frontlines of battle with the order to bring back “one hundred foreskins of the Philistines” (which should have guaranteed David’s death). David returns victoriously, however, and the Israelites continue to cheer, “Saul has his thousands, but David has his ten thousands!”

At one point David and his compatriots come across Saul fast asleep in a cave, just as Duncan is asleep at Cawdor Castle on the fateful night of his death. David’s soldiers urge David to kill Saul, saying, “God has delivered him into your hands,” just as Lady Macbeth urges her husband to fulfill the prophecy of the witches. David refuses, however, proclaiming honorably, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord.” Despite Saul’s treachery toward him, David remains determined to serve the king and waits patiently for God to decide when he should take Saul’s place on the throne.

David cuts off the bottom of Saul’s robe, and after leaving the cave he calls out to Saul, “I cut off the skirt of thy robe, and killed thee not; know thou and see that there is neither evil nor transgression in mine hand, and I have not sinned against thee. Yet thou huntest my soul to take it. The Lord judge between me and thee, and the Lord avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee.”

Humbled by David’s loyalty, Saul weeps as he admits, “Thou art more righteous than I, for thou hast rewarded me with good, whereas I have rewarded thee with evil.” Saul promises to make amends and trust David in the future, but his contrition is short-lived; soon he is back to throwing javelins at David and chasing him with his armies.

David with Saul's skirt

Other similarities with Macbeth appear in the story. The loyalty and friendship of Saul’s son Jonathan is mirrored in Macbeth’s good friend and fellow general, Banquo. Like Jonathan, who is the heir apparent to the throne, Banquo has been told by the witches that his descendants will become the kings of Scotland. But unlike Macbeth, who turns on Banquo, David and Jonathan remain true friends throughout the story. And a precursor to Shakespeare’s three “toiling witches” appears in the Bible story, when Saul consults the witch of En-dor for a prophecy.

Eventually Saul’s army is surrounded in a heated battle with the Philistines, and his sons are killed, along with most of his men. Certain that he will be tortured and mutilated if the Philistines capture him, Saul falls on his own sword and dies. Frightened by the death of the king, his armor bearer does the same. In a ghastly scene worthy of a Shakespearean tragedy, “Saul died, and his three sons, and his armourbearer, and all his men, that same day together.” When the Philistines find Saul’s body among the fallen, they cut off his head and parade it around the countryside to mock the great king of Israel, just as Macduff cuts off the head of Macbeth.

Death of Saul

Shakespeare seems to have been so moved by this story and impressed by David’s humility and patience that he patterned Macbeth on both characters, David as the heroic foil and Saul as the tainted king. He reimagined the story however, exploring how a less noble person might react to knowing what his future holds. His Macbeth would be overcome by ambition and lust for power, taking the fulfillment of the prophecy into his own hands instead of waiting patiently for it to play out.

David, too, would soon forget the lesson that was so dearly won, for as king he would succumb to lust and then send his own loyal general, Uriah, to the front lines to be killed in battle in order to hide the paternity of the baby Bathsheba carried—David’s own baby. As a result of that decision, the prophet Nathan told David, “the sword shall never depart from thine house,” and that is how Macbeth ends too.

david and bathsheba

Unlike Macbeth, who sank deeper and deeper into evil after the murder of Duncan, David would spend the rest of his life drawing closer to God and seeking forgiveness for his sins. His psalms bear testimony of the sincerity of his repentance and the depth of his sorrow. He and Bathsheba repented together, married, and produced several children, including one whom they named Nathan in honor of the prophet who helped them with their repentance. Another they named Solomon, and this son would be a direct ancestor of Jesus Christ.

Rest in Peace Will!


You can read more about David, Bathsheba, and the maternal ancestors of Jesus Christ in Matriarchs of the Messiah: Valiant Women in the Lineage of Jesus Christ, by Jo Ann Skousen, available at Costco, amazon.com and selected bookstores.



Symbols of the Passover

Symbols are an important aspect of religious worship, because they help us to express the inexpressible. We can draw nearer to our understanding of our relationship with God by saying what it’s like, especially when we don’t have the words to say what it is. Symbols play a significant role in the Passover seder, which will be celebrated by Jews (and remembered by many Christians) during Passover week.

Symbols of the Traditional Seder Plate:

passover-seder-plate-usableKarpas—a vegetable, usually celery, parsley, or boiled potato, dipped in salt water before eating to symbolize the salty tears of the Israelites.

Zeroah— the shank bone of a lamb, to symbolize the unblemished firstborn lamb that was sacrificed and roasted over a fire on the night of the first Passover.

Charoset—a sweet brown mixture of apples, nuts and spices to represent the mortar the Israelites used as they were forced to work and build for the Egyptians.

Beitzah—a roasted or hardboiled egg to represent mourning and the hard things we must often bear; hard boiled eggs are traditionally served at a funeral.

Maror—Bitter herbs, to represent the bitterness of slavery.

Matzah—a flat, yeastless bread that represents the unleavened bread eaten at the first Passover and the homelessness of their exodus through the desert.

The Haggadah is a parable or tale created as a guide throughout the seder celebration. Each part of the meal is accompanied by prayers and scripture readings.

elijah-place-settingElijah—Jews leave the front door ajar and set a place at the table as an invitation to the prophet Elijah, whose honor it is to restore the sealing power with which he was entrusted and herald the coming of the Messiah.


passover-nightThe story of the Passover is both wonderful and dreadful. After 430 years of bondage in Egypt, God was finally ready to lead them back to the land of Abraham’s covenant. But Pharaoh was not yet ready to let them go. Nine plagues had yet not convinced Pharaoh of God’s power. But the tenth plague would: The firstborn son of every household would die that night—including Pharaoh’s own household. Even the Israelites would suffer the plague, unless they obeyed the commandment to substitute a lamb “without blemish, a male of the first year….and take of the blood and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it” (Exodus 12:4-11). This simple demonstration of faith would allow the destroying angel to “pass over” the homes where the blood of the lambs had been smeared.

Additional instructions for that evening were just as precise. They were told to “eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread, and with bitter herbs…and let nothing of it remain until morning….And thus shall ye eat it: with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord’s Passover.”

All of these instructions reflect a sense of urgency and haste. There was no time to mix bread, knead it, and set it to rise; no time to let meat simmer in a crock pot; no time even to change clothing. These preparations remind us symbolically to be urgently engaged in the work of the Lord, to be prepared at all times for His coming, and to obey His commandments precisely. Such an easy, simple task, to smear blood on a door lintel. Yet how many would reject that commandment, or one like it, precisely because of its simplicity and possible embarrassment?

red-sea-passoverThe symbol of “passing over” returns again and again in the story of the Bible. Moses led the Israelites as they passed over the Red Sea from Egypt into the desert, and Joshua led their descendants as they passed over the River Jordan into Jericho forty years later. There the harlot Rahab recognized the Spirit and power of God when she met the Israelite spies and protected them from the soldiers of Jericho. She too was given a simple task to perform as a symbol of her faith; when the Israelites returned to utterly destroy Jericho and everything in it, they promised to rescue Rahab and her family if she simply dangled a scarlet thread from the window of her home in the wall of the city.

This she did, trusting that they would keep their promise. It must have been with great relief—and with some fear—that she heard them call her name as the battle began and Jericho’s walls crumbled. Her neighbors would know of her treachery, and if the Israelites did not come for her, she would be killed. But they did remember their promise, and after the rescue Rahab joined with the Israelites and married Salmon. Their son Boaz would marry the lovely Moabite widow, Ruth, whose grandson David would become the greatest king of Israel—and an ancestor of Jesus Christ.

jesus-as-shepherdThe most significant symbol in the Passover story is, of course, the Messiah Himself, Jesus Christ, whom Elijah has the privilege to announce. He is the paschal Lamb. He is the firstborn male without blemish, the only begotten Son of the Father, who gave His own life so that the destroying angel might pass over us. His crucifixion took place on Passover.

Our part—our privilege—is to accept His will and follow His commandments. It is as easy—and as difficult—as rubbing blood into the lentil of a doorway, or hanging a scarlet thread outside a window, or stepping into the raging river with confidence that the waters will be stopped. May we all have our loins girded, our shoes on our feet, and our staff in our hands, when that moment comes.

You can learn more about Rahab and the other women who are direct ancestors of Jesus Christ in Matriarchs of the Messiah: Valiant Women in the Lineage of Jesus Christ by Jo Ann Skousen. Available at Costco, Amazon.com and selected bookstores.

“God Is Love”

good samaritan.php

The Bible is filled with allegories that point toward the mission of the Messiah. For example, we see the Crucifixion foreshadowed within the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac. In that heart-wrenching allegory, Abraham represents God, Isaac represents Christ, and the angel who arrives to stop the raised hand of Abraham is the Holy Ghost (see Genesis 22).

John W. Welch discovered a similar allegory of the Savior’s mission in the parable of the Good Samaritan. In this story a man “went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves” (Luke 10:30). A priest and a Levite passed by the wounded man “on the other side,” indicating allegorically that neither the church nor the law could save the man. Only the Samaritan “had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and . . . brought him to an inn, and took care of him” (Luke 10:32–34). Before leaving, the Samaritan gave the innkeeper “two pence” and said, “Whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee” (Luke 10:35).

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is a powerful story that inspires readers to develop compassion and offer service to strangers. But it is also a powerful allegory. As Welch explains, Jerusalem represents heaven, Jericho represents the world, the thieves represent worldly corruption, and the man represents each of us. The oil used by the Samaritan to soothe the man’s wounds is a symbol of Christ’s priesthood, and the purifying wine is a symbol of His atoning blood. A penny was the price of a day’s labor at that time, so the “two pence” and the day the Samaritan spent with the man represent Christ’s time in the tomb, while the Samaritan’s promise to repay “whatsoever thou spendest more” represents His infinite Atonement (see Luke 10:32–35). Nestled within these eight verses about the selfless Samaritan we find the entire plan of salvation.

I have found a similar allegory of Christ’s mission in the short epistle to Philemon that Paul wrote to Philemon from his prison cell in Rome. Modern Christians often feel uncomfortable about this short letter because it seems to support slavery, but a closer reading reveals a more profound meaning. In it Paul beseeches Philemon to “receive . . . for ever” the runaway servant Onesimus, but he uses the unexpected phrase, “for love’s sake,” indicating there is more to the story than a labor or property dispute.

Onesimus had gone from Philemon’s service to Rome (like Jericho, a symbol of the world), where he met Paul and was transformed from a man “in times past . . . unprofitable, but now profitable” to Philemon. Paul asks Philemon to receive Onesimus not as a slave but as “a brother beloved” and promises, “If he hath wronged thee, put that on mine account; . . . I will repay it.”

In this surprising allegory, Onesimus represents each of us “departed for a season” from the love of God but redeemed by the infinite Atonement of the Savior. Philemon, whose very name means Love, represents God in this story. All of us are His servants, “in times past unprofitable,” but “made profitable” through the saving grace of Jesus Christ. And, like the Samaritan, Paul is the Christ figure in this story, pleading the case of a sinner and offering to pay his debts in full. Once again we find the entire plan of salvation hidden within a small epistle that is often overlooked or misunderstood.

Similarly, the story of Rebekah is an allegory of the day when the Messiah will return in all His glory to redeem the world. Eliezer, whose name suggests that he is not an ordinary servant but an ezer, or “Godly helper,” is more than a messenger sent to Haran by Abraham to find a righteous bride for Isaac; he represents the Holy Ghost sent to earth by God the Father to seek out the righteous “bride of Christ”—the members of His church. Allegorically Isaac represents the resurrected Messiah, and Rebekah represents each of us—clothed, as we can be, in “the glorious mantle He has given her, the robe of His own perfect righteousness” (James Neil, Everyday Life in the Holy Land (London: Cassel and Co., 1913, 259-60).

Scattered throughout the scriptures, these allegories resonate deeply within us, subtly reminding us of the mission of the Messiah to redeem His people and bring the safely home to God, whose name, like Philemon’s, is Love (1 John 4:8).

To learn more about the fascinating allegories found in the Bible, read Matriarchs of the Messiah: Valiant Women in the Lineage of Jesus Christ, by Jo Ann Skousen. Available at amazon.com and selected bookstores.