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A Passionate Hope

June 12, 2017






“Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in this page are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

by Jill Eileen Smith at 3:24 pm

Discussion Questions

November 3, 2016

To view a printable .pdf version of these questions, click here.

Reading Group Guide for

Redeeming Grace

by Jill Eileen Smith

(Spoiler alert—these questions assume you’ve already read the book)

1. Other than Mary, the mother of Jesus, Ruth shines as one of the most selfless women of Scripture. She is only one of two women with a book that bears her name. What one characteristic of Ruth did you find most endearing? How would you contrast her to her mother-in-law, Naomi?

2. The story begins from Naomi’s point of view. Given the life she knew among friends and family in Bethlehem, how do you think she felt when her husband announced they would be moving to Moab? Have you ever dealt with similar circumstances such as job relocation or a move to an unfamiliar country? How did you handle it?

3. Ruth grew up in the Moabite culture with their morals and beliefs, yet she marries an Israelite and later moves to Israel when she could have remained with the familiar—her family. Since we really don’t know what Ruth’s family was like, what reasons other than those posed in the story might have caused Ruth to marry outside her culture? What do you think drew her to choose Israel over Moab?

4. In the story and in Scripture, we learn that Naomi’s husband dies at some point after they have moved away from Israel. Naomi seems to consider his death punishment of some kind—she hints at God making her life bitter, indicating that she knew He held the power of life and death. Do you think she was blaming God for her bitter life? Do you think God allowed Elimelech to die because he moved to Moab? If not, how do you view his death?

5. Ruth and Orpah are married to Mahlon and Chilion for ten years, yet the Bible indicates that they had no children. Do you think it odd that both women appeared to be barren during those years? Do you also think it strange that once Mahlon and Chilion realized that, they did not take second wives or concubines to bear children? What might their actions or inactions in this matter say about these two men?

6. Do you think Mahlon and Chilion remained in Moab because of the famine or because they had succumbed to the Moabite culture? Have you ever faced culture shock by living in or visiting a place far different from your own? How did that make you feel, and did it change you in any way?

7. Have you ever faced a time in your life when you really wanted something and it seemed as though your dream would never become reality? How do you think Ruth felt when she realized she might never have children? Do you think having children was her greatest dream, or might something else have been her life’s focus?

8. Ten years into marriage, both Ruth and Orpah are widowed and Naomi has lost all but her two daughters-in-law. Apparently by custom or law, the younger women are bound to Naomi, which explains why she needs to release them once she decides to return to Bethlehem. Why do you think Orpah took that offer and left? Do you think her sorrow over leaving Naomi and Ruth was real?

9. Ruth gives a powerful plea to accompany Naomi to Israel. Why do you think she was so passionate in her plea? What might have prompted her to stick with an old, destitute woman rather than seek refuge from her family? Recall the reasons suggested in the story, then try to imagine the scenario another way. What if she had come from a loving home? Might her responses have been different?

10. The religious culture of Moab was one that practiced child sacrifice, which God considered an abomination. Do you know of any countries today that worship their gods in this way? Could abortion be considered a similar practice? Why or why not? In what way might it be similar? How is it different?

11. When Naomi and Ruth arrive in Bethlehem, the women recognize Naomi and seem glad to have her back. But Naomi is a broken, bitter woman. How do you think Ruth felt when she heard Naomi refer to herself as “Mara,” meaning “bitter” or “sorrow”? Do you think Ruth might have shared Naomi’s bitter grief? Have you ever suffered something so deeply that you got stuck in the grieving process? What comfort would you give someone who had endured so much?

12. In the fictional retelling of this biblical story, we have some symbolism, including the broken-down home the women return to and the dilapidated basket that Ruth manages to use in gleaning. How might these things signify life’s changes for these women? What happened later in the story to both the house and the basket, and what lesson do you think the basket taught Ruth?

13. Another symbol is one of redemption. What happens in the story involving Hamul that turns out to be a foreshadowing of the greater redemption Boaz would offer to Ruth? Did the incident surprise you? Have you ever sacrificed yourself to help another in such a personal way?

14. The Bible tells us little of Boaz until we meet him in the fields where Ruth gleans. From the story and from the biblical account, what kind of man do you picture Boaz to be?

15. Why do you think God commanded His people to leave the corners of their fields for the poor to glean? Do you think it was hard for Boaz to obey this after he’d watched his people suffer from famine for so many years? Have you ever trusted God in times of great need? What was the result?

16. Naomi knows she has relatives who can redeem her through Ruth, but she does not act on that knowledge immediately. Why do you think she waited? Why do you think the other “close relative” did not help Naomi and Ruth immediately upon their arrival?

17. Do you think Ruth’s foreign heritage made the people of Bethlehem uncomfortable? Have you ever been in the minority in a situation where you felt uncomfortable? How did you handle it?

18. Naomi at last decides on a plan for Ruth to seek redemption and marriage to Boaz. Why was it risky for Ruth to seek out Boaz in this way?

19. In essence Ruth ends up asking Boaz to marry her. Traditionally this went against all cultural norms. How do you think that made each of them feel? Have you ever had to take a similar risk?

20. What is the final outcome of Ruth’s marriage to Boaz? What is significant about her being included in the lineage of Jesus Christ? What does this tell us about God’s love for all people? Have you encountered that love for yourself?


by Jill Eileen Smith at 5:44 pm


November 3, 2016

1297 BC

Naomi lifted the hem of her robe as her feet fairly flew down Bethlehem’s streets toward the outskirts of town. Neta, second wife of her brother-in-law Melek, trailed two steps behind. The sun beat high overhead, its rays licking the sweat along her brow. Some of the townswomen who were not inside their homes resting at this hour hurried to catch up with her.

“What is it?” one of them shouted, breathless.

“Please, Naomi, slow down.” The voices included Neta’s, and Naomi realized the woman could not run nearly as fast as she, especially when something urgent beckoned. Memories of childhood races with her brothers surfaced, but she stopped the smile such thoughts always evoked. This was not a time to smile.

She slowed her steps and glanced behind her. “Boaz’s wife Adi is in trouble.” She turned and kept running, shouting as she went. “I’m going to see if I can help.”

The heat made breathing difficult but she pressed on. Surely Gilah and Liora and the midwife should have delivered Adi of the child by now. Surely Neta was wrong.

But the fear in her gut would not abate.

Click here to read the entire first chapter as a pdf.

by Jill Eileen Smith at 5:28 pm

Redeeming Grace

June 18, 2016


  • 4-Star Review RT Book Reviews

“Smith’s latest Biblical fiction offering is not so much the story of Ruth and Boaz together, though that is certainly part of it. Rather, it is more an account of Ruth and Boaz’s separate lives, woven with skill and imagination until they beautifully connect.”

RT Book Reviews

Smith (Wives of King David), beloved for her biblical fiction bringing new life to women from the pages of Scripture, turns her imagination to Ruth, a Moabite who returns with her mother-in-law, Naomi, to Israel. Naomi lost her husband and two sons in Moab after moving there to avoid famine in their hometown of Bethlehem. Readers familiar with the tale will enjoy this retelling of the love story between Ruth and Boaz, a kinsman who redeems the lost family’s land and finds a worthy wife in the process. Smith’s attention to detail regarding Moab and Israel’s feasts and laws makes the narrative believable without distracting from the engrossing narrative. Side plots such as that of Hamul and Hava will please readers deeply familiar with Scripture. Those who don’t know the story will learn a lot about ancient Bible lands, practices of the Jewish faith, and love and redemption in Smith’s fine rendition of this much-loved story. Agent: Wendy Lawton, Books & Such Literary (Feb.)

—Publisher’s Weekly

“Smith has brought the story to life in this richly descriptive and dramatic novel, enhancing it with colorful details about life in ancient Moab and Israel, including the political and religious climates of the time. Readers who enjoy historical biblical fiction will find this book. . . fascinating.”


“Smith breathes fresh life into the oft-told tale of Ruth. Redeeming Grace delves deeply into the psyches and experiences of the biblical characters. . .Highly recommend this well-crafted and well-researched tale to lovers of biblical fiction.”

Christian Market

Without straying from the Bible’s tale, Smith provides a retelling that gives a detailed look at what life might have been like in pagan Moab for the devout Hebrew, Naomi, and mirrors that with the Moabite Ruth’s struggle for acceptance when it’s her turn to leave her own land and dwell among strangers. Both women make the best of what life hands them, taking an active role in shaping their own futures. Likeable characters and a strong sense of place help make this another fine entry in Smith’s Daughters of the Promised Land series.

Historical Novel Society

Smith’s fresh retelling of the story of Ruth and Naomi portrays these strong biblical women in a thoughtful and reflective manner. Her impeccable research and richly detailed setting give readers a strong sense of life in ancient Israel. VERDICT Admirers of biblical historical fiction will love this uplifting third series outing (after The Crimson Cord and The Prophetess).

Library Journal



“Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in this page are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

by Jill Eileen Smith at 5:16 pm

Discussion Questions

November 3, 2015

Download these questions as a printable pdf.

Reading Group Guide for

The Prophetess

by Jill Eileen Smith

  1. Deborah’s story comes from Judges 4–5, in which we are told that Deborah was the wife of Lappidoth. What character qualities do you see in Lappidoth at the beginning of the book? What do you like about him? Dislike?
  1. Deborah is not pleased with her father’s choice of husband. Have you ever been in a situation where you were given something you did not desire? Or been in a situation you wish you could change? How did you handle it?
  1. In chapter 1, the land has been under oppression from Canaan, and Deborah is caught up in a vision of what is to come. How does she react to the knowledge that God is calling her to lead Israel? Why might this knowledge have been hard to accept in her day? Do you think women today still struggle with roles of leadership, especially in spiritual matters? Why?
  1. In chapter 2, Deborah’s children are grown and her daughter has become a thorn in her side, always challenging her authority. How does Talya’s introduction as Deborah’s beloved nemesis set the tone for the rest of the story? Have you ever dealt with a difficult person?
  1. In what ways does Talya make Deborah’s life better? In what ways does she make her life more difficult? Have you ever had to deal with a difficult child? Or have you ever felt smothered by a parent or wanted to escape from under their control? How did you handle these situations?
  1. In chapter 3, we are introduced to Barak (pronounced Bare-eck) and discover that he has lost his wife to the forces of Canaan’s commander, Sisera. How might her loss have fueled Barak’s anger and desire to rid Israel of this evil foe? Can you put yourself in his shoes and imagine what living with terrorism in that day might have felt like? How does this make you more empathetic to people of our day who face similar terrorism?
  1. In chapter 4, we are introduced to Jael and her family. Though the argument with Heber’s brother is an imagined reason for their move away from their tribe, could it be a plausible one? Have you ever had an argument come between you and someone you were once close to? Was it ever healed? If so, do you care to share it with the group? If not, what can yet be done about it?
  1. At one point Talya discovers her cousin Yiskah worshiping Asherah. How does Talya react? What does this tell us about her true heart? How does that play out later in the story?
  1. Talya gets lost in the woods in her attempt to find her cousin. How does this circumstance change her? How does it affect Deborah? Have you ever experienced some significant life scare? How has it changed the way you see life?
  1. In the story, Heber “befriends” both Canaan and Israel. Have you ever had to befriend an enemy in order to protect yourself or your family? What happened?
  1. Talya eventually finds rescue from Barak and returns home, but then she makes a foolish decision to try to force Barak to wed her. What character qualities in Talya might have caused her to do this? What do you think contributed to her thinking she could get her way?
  1. Idolatry was something Israel struggled with throughout the period of the judges. What kinds of idols do we face today in our country, in our lives? Do you ever feel like you are being tested for a greater purpose? If so, for what?
  1. Jael meets Sisera long before she has that one defining moment with him. What strikes the most fear in her heart where Sisera is concerned? Has anyone ever made you afraid? How did you handle it?
  1. In chapter 13, Deborah hears of more of Sisera’s destruction and says, “Oh Adonai, Adonai, how long? Will You forget us forever?” Have you ever felt like God has forgotten you? When have you prayed for something only to still wait for an answer?
  1. Deborah realizes that Sisera is trying to destroy the Israelites’ morale, to make them weak. Have you ever faced a difficult situation or person who tried to destroy your morale? How did you handle it? How did God grow you in those moments?
  1. How does the rescue of Yiskah later play into the story? Can a person like Yiskah be forgiven and allowed a second chance? Why do you think her husband struggled so much to give that to her?
  1. Barak grieves the loss of his wife Nessa for over three years. Why do you think it was so hard for him to move on with his life? How would you comfort someone going through grief or difficult trials?
  1. Barak is commanded to lead his men to fight Canaan. Why do you think he refuses to go unless Deborah goes with him? Have you ever lost out on an opportunity to do something because of fear or hesitancy? What happened?
  1. When the final victory is over and Israel is free once again, how do they celebrate? How does the war affect Deborah’s feelings for her husband, and what does she do about them? What causes Talya to change from rebellious to obedient, and how does that affect the way Barak sees her? Can you relate to any of these situations? How have life’s circumstances changed you?
  1. Deborah says in her victory song that “when new gods were chosen, then war was in the gates.” In the Ten Commandments, God makes it clear that He wants no other gods before Him. What can we learn about God from this, and why do you think He wants singular worship? How has worship of Him alone helped or blessed you?
by Jill Eileen Smith at 12:04 pm