Hi there! I feel like we should be reintroduced. And I feel bad about it.
For the past month, I’ve been racking my brain for fun topics to share, but I kept coming up dry.
I’ve been spending my free time reading, watching my husband play Final Fantasy VII Remake, editing this sci-fi book series, or working on my own novel.
I don’t think I’ve given many details about my novel (it’s actually called a manuscript at this point, as it’s unfinished and unpublished. I don’t know the magical moment it becomes a novel, but it dreams of experiencing that promotion someday). I gave some writing tips here, but I figured I’d cut the intrigue and let y’all in on some fun facts.
I’m writing a fictional retelling of the biblical book of Daniel. If you haven’t read the first few chapters of Daniel in awhile (my entire 80,000-word novel will only cover chapters 1-2), take 10 minutes and read chapters 1-6. Seriously. There’s some crazy stuff happening.
OK, here we go. Consider this a mini-Spark Notes version of History of the Ancient Middle East 101, beginning in 605 B.C.
At this time, God’s chosen people, the Israelites, had split into two countries, Israel and Judah. While Judah was still intact with Jerusalem as its capital, the people of Israel were literally lost. Not wandering-in-the-wilderness lost, but lost lost. The Assyrians had come in, dominated everyone, and exiled the Israelites to surrounding countries. And, after about 100 years, Judah was going down next.
The prophet Jeremiah, who wrote the biblical book of Jeremiah and Lamentations, prophesied about a pending exile for the rest of God’s chosen people. He named very specific details, like the enemy coming from the north. The bad guys were coming because they people had turned from obeying God alone. (i.e. They liked pretend gods better than the real one.)
And an enemy came marching in from the north. If anyone wants a good protagonist, do some research on Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. Brilliant military mind. Strong leader. He was a military general’s son who ended the Assyrian monopoly and elevated Babylon to be the pinnacle of the world during his reign.
He took handsome young men from wealthy, powerful families as prisoners of war. They were fed from his table and trained by the Chaldeans, a wily race of people who ingratiated themselves to whoever was in charge.
There’s some wishy-washiness about some details during this time period. Thankfully, I’m a fiction author and can choose where I land on any debate.
- The original Tower of Babel (Genesis 11) was located in Babylon. (Yes, it took me waaay too long to pick up the Babel/Babylon connection.) When Nebuchadnezzar came in, he rebuilt the ruins and placed a temple to Babylon’s patron god, Marduk, at the top. It was known as the Etemenanki.
- Nebuchadnezzar built the Hanging Gardens for his wife, Amytis. There’s some dispute about this, as this Seven Wonder of the World could’ve been located in a different city. However, there’s still evidence it could’ve been in Babylon. Queen Amytis was a Median princess, and she was apparently homesick for the northern mountains of Mede. Nebuchadnezzar built the tower of gardens to appease her. Big, powerful king loving on his sad wife. Now isn’t that the story line you’d go with too?
- In ancient Israelite culture, when a young couple became betrothed, they exchanged gifts and vows, then spent the next year preparing themselves for their actual marriage. The groom would either build a house or a room onto his parents’ house. Yes, there are other details, but that’s as far as I went.
- One of the greatest libraries of all time, the Library of Ashurbanipal, existed right before Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. It was built by the last great Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal, and it contained more than 30,000 clay tablets, including the Epic of Gilgamesh, which was written in 1800 B.C. Since the Babylonians defeated the Assyrians to become the world’s greatest power, I’m making an assumption some of those items made their way into Nebuchadnezzar’s hands.
- Even ancient folks loved board games. Hounds and Jackals was a popular, as was Senet. Yes, I watched too many YouTube videos on how to play these games. Anyone care for a round of Senet? We’d get to travel to the Egyptian afterlife…
- Daniel was around 85-years-old when he was tossed into the lions’ den. Doesn’t every bit of Sunday-school material show him to be about 18? The man was ancient.
OK, I’m going to call it at six fun facts. I’m starting to feel like that wide-eyed, over-enthusiastic soul who trapped you in a corner at a party to tell you every detail. Or show you pictures of a vacation you never asked about…
Basically, if you ever want to learn a massive amount of information about a certain time period, attempt to write a novel. When you have to get a hundred Judean boys from Jerusalem to Babylon (540 miles/870 km) in a timely manner (and the Bible gives zero advice), you start researching all kinds of things. But, man, is that research making my Bible reading so much richer!
Someday, when I get to heaven, I expect to have long, wonderful chats with Daniel and his three buddies. After all, I want the juicy details!
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The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee – This book is an interesting read for today, as most conversations–real and digital–revolve around race. Set in post-Reconstruction Era (late 1800s) Atlanta, The Downstairs Girl follows Jo Kuan, a young, Chinese-American woman as she faces discrimination and injustice. She’s opinionated, but tries to stay invisible. She and her adopted father live in a secret basement under a newspaper office. When she hears the newspaper is struggling, she anonymously submits advice columns under the pseudonym “Miss Sweetie.”
I’ve read a lot of historical fiction, but this is such an unexpected twist. As African-Americans were slowly gaining more rights, Chinese immigrants were brought in to do the rougher jobs. Somehow, I missed that day in history class. And, as the book says, “An Eastern face in Western clothes always sets the game wheels to spinning between curiosity and disapproval.” It’s not the fastest-paced book, but I love Jo’s sass and the Southern-Belle sparkle of turn-of-the-century Atlanta.