Verdict: In GIDEON: THE SOUND AND THE GLORY, Joseph Ganci effectively transports the reader back to the Old Testament era, where violence of the most extreme sort by the Israelites was sanctified by God.
Joseph Ganci’s novel takes on the character of the reluctant and self-deprecating warrior Gideon who, as instructed by Yahweh, freed the ungrateful, idol-worshipping Israelites from their seven-year servitude to the Midian Empire. Rejecting their offer to be their king, Gideon instead presided over the Israelites as a judge. Upon his death, however, the Israelites proved themselves unworthy again as they returned to idol worship.
One of the reasons even secularists prefer the New Testament to the Old was the former’s gentle, non-violent message (Thomas Jefferson, an atheist, cut out the sections of the Bible dealing with such themes and stuck them on his wall). “Turn the other cheek” is the phrase that sums up the New Testament best. The phrase that sums up the violent, vengeful, angry, prejudicial (only Israelites are the “chosen of God) tone of the Old Testament would be “God is on our side, and because of that we can commit horrifying murders.” This tone would be the main reason the Jewish establishment, trapped in Old Testament mode, rejected Jesus as the Son of God because he came as a lamb and not a lion.
Ganci perfectly captures the era of the Old Testament, where Israelite women hammered tent pegs through the skulls of sleeping enemies and near genocide was visited upon unbelievers by God- directed armies. It is clear he knows his subject, and the inner monologues of his characters ring true. An example of which is the Israelite Heber’s thoughts regarding the martial law imposed on him by the Midianites: “Heber could feel the road to Mount Tabor trembling under the pounding stride of so many soldiers, and he looked to the skies that had filled with dark clouds as the tears of heaven also gathered.”
But for those who are not devout believers in Yahweh, and thus don’t subscribe to the notion present even today in Israel that the Jews are the chosen of God, Ganci has selected a perfect figure that has a universal appeal: that of the reluctant and self-deprecating warrior doubting his destiny. From Spartacus to George Washington to the cinema image of Humphrey Bogart, the theme of a figure denying God or fate choosing him for greatness, and would rather sit destiny out, democratizes them for audiences, who may secretly feel that destiny might very well select them no matter what their station in life.
The character of Gideon may have pioneered this reluctant figure, and this very reluctance is a nice set-up for what is to follow. Having garnered this appeal, the figure can engage in the most brutal of violence because God or destiny, or in the case of Lenin, History, is on their side. But even more so for Gideon, as it apparent to his foot soldiers that God is directing Gideon when Yahweh reduces Gideon’s assembled army to a mere 300 against the much larger numbers of the Midian Empire. Ganci doesn’t dilate as much on the famous “battle by Trumpet” that expels Israel’s conquerors. Instead he strikes a tragic note, as upon Gideon’s death, after ruling over the Israelites for decades as a judge, the Israelites return immediately to worshipping idols.
Ganci doesn’t end the novel on such a depressing, “it-was-all-for-nothing” note, however. He concludes with the biblical character David taking up the baton to once again free the Israelites. Ganci is clearly a believer, and knows the Old Testament well, a section of the Bible many religious scholars view as the most complex and opaque. Nevertheless, he has pulled off the feat of making this era understandable to modern readers by using the universal theme of the leader initially feeling himself unworthy when destiny calls.
~Ron Capshaw for IndieReader