How to Research the Bible’s Shady Ladies

The Research PuzzleFebruary is BFF month! My team of BFFs (Biblical Fiction Fans) opens its arms to include new members, which means it’s time to start talking about my fall 2017 release, Isaiahs Daughter! If you’re interested in finding out how to join our team, CLICK HERE!

A few weeks ago, I asked y’all on my Facebook page to ask some questions about Isaiahs Daughter, and you responded with some great ones! This month’s blog posts will answer those questions.

First Question:

Lots of folks are fascinated by research—as am I. It’s actually my favorite part of writing! Lynn Mills asked,

Where do you find information about the “lesser” known ladies of the Bible?

The internet is, of course, a fun place to start, but Abraham Lincoln said,

“You can’t trust everything you find on the internet.”Quotes(Get it? Abe Lincoln…1800’s…internet…Okay, moving on.)

 

I might use Wikipedia to get started with research, but I would never base my whole plot on information found there.

Biblical Research

The first place I look for information on those mysterious biblical women is in the Bible. It’s amazing how much we can learn by paying close attention to the silent clues in Scripture itself. For instance, what does the following verse tell us about the nameless shepherdess in Solomon’s Song of Songs?

“Come with me from Lebanon, my bride, come with me from Lebanon. Descend from the crest of Amana, from the top of Senir, the summit of Hermon, from the lions’ dens and the mountain haunts of leopards.” Song of Solomon 4:8

Solomon has arrived in a wedding carriage (4:1-7) and is inviting his new bride to leave her homeland and come back to Jerusalem with him. Verse eight tells us that her homeland was somewhere in the north (Lebanon, crest of Amana, top of Senir, summit of Hermon—all locations in or around ancient northern Israel). The tone of his words, “lions’ dens and the mountain haunts of leopards,” implies he’s frightened or intimidated by her land.

The secret to locating these subtle clues is repetition. After reading the full book of Song of Songs every day for a full year, Solomon’s shepherdess began to walk off the page into my heart. She became a living, breathing woman and Solomon the man who loved her. Scripture holds many clues to interpret itself if we are faithful to study it and trust the Counselor to teach us.

Other Sources Speak

I often begin serious research at home with my Logos Bible Software. It includes hundreds of resources, including Bible dictionaries, encyclopedias, commentaries, and dozens of Bible translations—all easily searchable. There is a special tool for “People of the Bible” that provides a family tree and related graphics. It’s my right arm for in-depth biblical research because I know every resource has been vetted by trusted scholars.

After discovering some interesting twists and turns from Logos to the biblical characters I thought I knew, I take my “cultural questions” to a nearby library. These are my FAVORITE days of all! I love the smell of books, the feel of yellowed pages between my fingers.

While at the library, I have access to worldwide databases (primarily JSTOR and EbscoHost) that always have interesting tidbits from masters and doctoral level theses. These scholarly works add fresh, new twists to my plot and stretch my mind.

Also at the library, I consult ancient texts (like the Pseudepigrapha, Legend of the Jews, Josephus, Aggadah, etc.). These sources are not biblical Truth, but they hold the fabric of Jewish tradition and culture that has been passed down for centuries.

After I’ve done a significant amount of research to get a clear picture of my major characters (usually two to four months), I then create an Excel worksheet with character names across the top and dates/events along the left-hand side. This gives me a clear picture of who was how old when certain events happened during the story. It’s absolutely FASCINATING to see some of the ages of biblical characters when these recorded events occurred in their lives.

The Inside Scoop!

If you become one of my BFFs, you’ll find out some of the fun things I’m learning while researching Isaiahs Daughter. For now, since February is all about BFFs, I’ll pretend you’re all my BFFs!  Here’s where I found a few of the fun facts about the shady ladies in my past books:

  • Dinah as a distant cousin of Job (Job (Jobab) as great-grandson to Esau—Genesis 36) – from a commentary in Multnomah University’s library.
  • Sitis – Job’s wife is named and her ethnicity given in the Pseudepigrapha, The Testament of Job.
  • Jehosheba – the 16-18 year-old princess that married the 90+ year-old high priest (Jehoiada) in In the Shadow of Jezebel. I figured out Jehosheba’s maximum age from the dates of both Israel’s and Judah’s kings’ reigns from my NIV Study Bible chart. I found the dates of the high priests’ service in Logos. When I placed them on my Excel sheet, I realized how BIG the age difference was! Aaagh! Believe me—I REALLY wanted to make their ages a little closer. Nonetheless, I’ve been told it’s one of the sweetest romances I’ve written so far!
  • Anippe – the main character in The Pharaohs Daughter was thought to be King Tut’s half-sister. A little tidbit of historical fact found in a book called The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt: A Genealogical Sourcebook of the Pharaohs.

Sometimes a single sentence can set your imagination on fire! The key is to remember these biblical people were real—with the same needs, upheaval, and emotions we experience. It just looks a little different in 900 B.C. Israel. *grin*

Tweet-A-Licious!

Todays Question:

  • What new questions did today’s post prompt in you?

About Mesu Andrews

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Comments

  1. Such wonderful insights to your studies. I can see how these characters become REAL to you-so that you can make them REAL to us. Keep up the good work and may our Lord continue and increase your receptivity. As well as your inspiration, revelation and illumination. Can’t wait for your next book.

  2. I would love to be your shadow on these research days! I love that you shared some of your sources here and your process for timelines! Makes me appreciate your books so much more!!!

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