23/03/2010

Smoke on the Mountain (by Joy Davidman)

It's many years since I first read this book. According to the front, I bought it in 1978, when I was in my late teens. At the time, I remember being thrilled that CS Lewis wrote the introduction... and it was only towards the end of the book that the lightbulb went on in my mind, and I realised that Joy Davidman was the woman who - shortly afterwards - became CS Lewis's wife.

'Smoke on the Mountain' is a contemporary exposition of the Ten Commandments. I have no hesitation in saying it's contemporary, despite having been written over fifty years ago, because human nature and society does not change all that much. Moreover the writing is fresh and insightful; while it's possibly a little old-fashioned in places, it loses nothing by the formality. It's an extremely readable book.

The foreword by CS Lewis - before he had any idea that they would get married - introduces the topic well; the introduction, by Joy Davidman, points out that much of the ancient Hebrew culture was rooted in fear. She gives a succinct explanation about the thousands of laws that were developed in order to help the Jewish people keep God's law, and the difficulties encountered in doing so. And then she explains how and why the Ten Commandments given at Sinai are still relevant for modern people.

There's then one chapter covering each of the ten, and a conclusion. The first time I read this I was expecting it to be rather dry - or, possibly, highly theoretical and theological. Despite Davidman having been a serious - and brilliant - academic, I'm glad to say it's neither. She uses metaphors, anecdotes and brilliant insights as she brings these laws to life, and shows exactly what relevance they have to modern people.

Highly recommended.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 23rd March 2010

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