On April 30, A.D. 66, Gessius Florus, the Roman governor of Judea, randomly selected hundreds of Jews from the streets of Jerusalem and crucified them in the public market. In retribution. For an insult. Two time-travelers from the far future, Rivka Meyers and her husband, Ari Kazan, were present in Jerusalem to witness this horror.
The City of God seethes with rage against imperial Rome. Rivka and Ari know their only hope is to leave Jerusalem before war breaks out. But how can they abandon their beloved Christian community?
Rivka knows from her study of history that the church is destined to leave Jerusalem after it receives a prophetic message from an “oracle.” She doesn’t know that this oracle will be Rivka herself. But will her people follow the word of a mere woman?
Meanwhile, Jewish zealots apply more and more pressure on Ari to use his engineering skills to build machines of war. Will Ari join them in their hopeless quest for freedom? Or will he abandon them to die at the hands of Nero’s legions?
What deep personal sacrifices will Ari and Rivka be forced to make when Rome unleashes her terrible fist of retribution?
Prequels: Transgression; Premonition (first in City of God series)
Volume 2 of City of God
Zondervan (September 2004). Trade paperback. 333 pages.
Author Web Site(s): http://www.rsingermanson.com/
Author Interview: See the August 13, 2003 Edenstar interview with Randall Ingermanson.
Check out reviews at Amazon.com of Retribution.
Randall Ingermanson’s Retribution picks up a few years after the close of Premonition. Ari has used his knowledge of physics to land well-paying work as a first-century construction engineer, but there are those who want him to use this knowledge to build war machines to fight the Romans. His continuing rejection of Rabban Yeshua (Jesus) adds to the stress between him and his wife Rivka, a believer. (The couple were born and raised in the twentieth century, but a botched time-travel experiment stranded them irreversibly in first-century Judea.)
Rivka is an outcast—a witch-woman. A student of history, her familiarity with Josephus’ writings lets her make prophecies that usually come true. Her recollections aren’t perfect, and Josephus was selective in his reporting and accuracy. So her misses have labeled her unreliable and suspect. In spite of this, Berenike (sister of Agrippa, the last of the Herods) often consults with her about the future. It’s an uneasy relationship.
Baruch’s gentle insistence that Ari pray about Yeshua threatens their intimate friendship. He loves Ari like a brother, without knowing that Ari has personal reasons to be repelled by anything Christian. His persistence and his passionate love for Yeshua brings results that neither could anticipate.
Meanwhile, Hanan ben Hanan, the high priest who engineered the execution of James in Premonition, is now without influence due to his abuse of power. Blaming Ari and Rivka, he has Ari flogged to within a millimeter of his life.
While all this is happening, Rome’s grasp on Judea tightens. Gessius Florus has replaced Lucceius Albinus as governor, and has brought an entirely new dimension to the concept of cruelty. In the year A.D. 66 he reached his zenith with an act of spectacular viciousness, as retaliation for an insult by unknown offenders. This became the foundation of the Jewish revolt.
Retribution is more than the typical modern-person-trapped-in-the-past tale. Mr. Ingermanson takes a familiar idea and gives it a depth and content that brings a real significance to his book.
One of the most compelling paradoxes of Christianity involves the seeming contradiction between God’s sovereignty and our free will. Add to the mix two individuals who know the future, even if imperfectly, and the question becomes more complex.
A compelling subthread is the contrast between Rivka and Baruch on the one hand, and Ari on the other. They cannot understand his adamant refusal to consider Yeshua, and he cannot accept their acknowledgment of Jesus as Messiah. Like many, he blames Jesus for the failings of Christians. The more they submit their lives to the lordship of Christ, the more he stubbornly insists on his approach. The consequences of living an ungodly life become increasingly clear as the story progresses. Too late, Ari sees how the results of godlessness contrast with a life of utter faith.
Like most Judeans, Ari and the others resent Rome’s growing dictatorial control over the city. Having rejected Yeshua and doubting God more and more, Ari connects with Eleazar ben Hananyah, the Pharisee who triggered the Jewish revolt in A.D. 66. Eleazar has heard of Ari’s skill with construction and recruits him to design and build mechanical devices that he believes will make the Jews invincible when they rise up against Rome. Ari faces a difficult choice: participate in the doomed rebellion he knows will happen, or trust God in spite of his misgivings.
Forgiveness and sacrifice come to the front in the climax of Retribution. Through his characters, Mr. Ingermanson demonstrates how far followers of Jesus might go to forgive their enemies. One of them in particular shows a Christlike sacrifice that stuns both Ari and the reader.
Mr. Ingermanson carries the story by using different points of view. He does so clearly, without destroying the narrative flow. He intertwines multiple plot lines, keeping them clear and relevant to each other.
The characters themselves are strong. The leads dominate in their scenes. Their children (Rachel and Dov, the daughter and son of Ari and Rivka, and Baruch and Hana, respectively) provide a light, innocent comic relief in an otherwise gripping story. Eleazar ben Arakh, a young mystic who befriends Rivka, adds a profoundly spiritual element to a story that’s already rich with faith. Various peripheral individuals add to the book’s satisfying realism as well.
I rated this book PG-13. The intense violence near the end, and the adult elements to the relationship between Agrippa and Berenike, are historically sound and essential. However, the author presents the issues without sensationalizing them, but without diluting them either.
Reviewed January 15, 2005 for Edenstar by Bill Bader.