Miriam’s Song (Heart of a King)

Written by Jill Eileen Smith
Review by J. Lynn Else

1526 BC. After Pharaoh’s decree that all Hebrew boys are to be killed at birth, Miriam must learn to trust God when her mother risks their lives hiding the newly born Moses. Her parents believe Moses is their “tikvah,” their hope, for deliverance. Placed in the waters and discovered by an Egyptian princess, Moses’s story from birth through life in the wilderness is explored through the eyes of his sister, Miriam.

The first word of the prologue floored me: Hatshepsut. Moses’ time in Egypt is regularly ascribed to Seti I or Rameses II, with his life primarily calculated to 1391–1271 BC. I was intrigued by this earlier time period and the unique political tension during Hatshepsut’s reign. The portrayal of Hatshepsut as a woman of strength and determination is brief but well done. However, as often occurs in Biblical fiction, details on Egypt aren’t always accurate. For example, characters travel from “Thebes” (note: Egyptians called it Waset) to a place called “Rameses.” Is this the mortuary temple built by Rameses II, reigning between 1279 to 1213 BC? If so, it’s a mention that’s 300 years too early. Conversely, Hebrew life is extensively researched, and the difficulties they faced are tangible.

As with Hatshepsut, I enjoyed how fleshed out Miriam, Moses, and Zipporah were. They pose faith-challenging questions (Why doesn’t God speak to Miriam as He does Moses? Why does God keep Moses from his family for so long?), and these struggles develop them into complex individuals. Yet, while there’s a strong focus on Miriam’s life in the first half, by the time of the plagues, she’s overshadowed by Moses. Including Moses’s and Zipporah’s voices draws the plot away from our title character. That being said, fans of Biblical fiction will enjoy a feminine retelling of the book of Exodus.