Connilyn Cossette. Wings of the Wind. Bethany House, 2017. See here to buy the book.
Wings of the Wind is the third book of Connilyn Cossette’s “Out from Egypt” series. The series is about the Exodus and Israel’s time in the wilderness.
Wings of the Wind is set after the failed rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram against Moses. This book covers the incident in Numbers 21 in which God sends fiery serpents against the complaining Israelites, and the only way that they can be cured of snakebite is to look at a brass serpent. It goes through the Canaanite prostitute Rahab concealing the Israelite spies in the Book of Joshua, as well as the battle of Jericho.
Alanah is a Canaanite woman. She dresses as a man and goes to the battlefield to avenge her father and brothers, who were killed in battle against the Israelites. She is unconscious on the battlefield, and an Israelite, Tobiah, feels compassion for her and takes her to the Israelite camp. There, she is nursed by Shira. A la Deuteronomy 21:10-14, Tobiah wants to marry Alanah, and she undergoes the ritual prescribed under that law.
Alanah is ambivalent about marrying Tobiah and dwelling with the Israelite people. On the one hand, she resents that the Israelites are trying to conquer her land. She also has to deal with culture shock, since the Israelites do things differently from the Canaanites (e.g., in Israel, one can have a relationship with God without an idol or sacrifice). On the other hand, she thinks that Israelite society under the Torah is more compassionate, just, and humane than Canaanite society, and that the God of Israel seems more real than the mythical gods of Canaan. She develops relationships with Israelites in the camps, some of whom were foreigners who had joined the Israelite community. Israel is not a complete Shangri la for her, however, for she has to deal with the bigotry and hostility of Tobiah’s twin sister, Tzipi.
The book picks up speed after Alanah discovers something that can negatively affect some of her relationships with Israelites. In the course of the story, Cossette provides an explanation for why Rahab was so willing to help the Israelite spies.
My reactions to this book are mostly ambivalent.
The book, of course, portrays the Israelites as good (or Israelite society as good) and the Canaanites as bad. It is an evangelical Christian book, after all! And that is how the Israelite Conquest is justified in this book: it is God’s judgment on the sinful Canaanites, who had years to repent or to leave Canaan but failed to take advantage of the opportunity. Occasionally, we get some nuance. Although the book tries to argue that the Canaanites had time to leave Canaan and that it was primarily a few sinful die-hards who stayed behind, some of the Canaanites who are still in Canaan are not bad people: some are victims of the unjust system or life’s circumstances, and some are old.
The book portrays Canaanite society as rife with prostitution (cultic and otherwise), as violent and bloodthirsty, and as committed to child sacrifice. On one occasion, Alanah reflects that Canaanites ditch their elderly parents, whereas the Israelites are commanded to honor their father and mother. Cossette may be correct that there was cultic prostitution and child sacrifice in Canaan, but there are biblical scholars who have questioned the extent of those things in Canaan. While Cossette depicts Canaanites as unfaithful to their family, one should remember that they performed rituals to support their dead ancestors: can such people be categorized as unfaithful? And, while Cossette depicts the Torah as compassionate, just, and humane, there are people who would question that, seeing the Torah as patriarchal, brutal, and genocidal.
This is not to suggest that there is absolutely nothing to Cossette’s narrative. There are just and compassionate elements in the Torah, and one can make a case that Canaanite society had significant flaws. One can also read this book and appreciate the homiletical lesson that God gives us laws to restrain our base impulses and to move us in the direction of behaving more righteously (and, yes, grace is a significant factor in this book, too). Still, in reading this book, one should remember that there are additional nuances.
A point that Cossette tries to make is that the Canaanites had a genuine opportunity to repent. They knew about God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. They were aware of the Exodus and Israelites’ victories against overwhelming odds up to that point. Cossette even speculates in the appendix that God may have sent a prophet to Canaan to warn them to repent of their sinful behavior. Perhaps she would have done well to have mentioned Melchizedek, who was a priest-king in Salem during the time of Abraham and worshiped the Most High God. He may have been a light to the Canaanites! While she wants to portray the Canaanites as having the truth and rejecting it, as that would justify the Conquest (according to her), she also portrays them as having a distorted understanding of what was going on: they see Moses as a sorcerer, and Joshua as a descendant of Baal! Is Cossette’s point that they were suppressing the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18)?
As far as the story itself is concerned, it was pretty good. I think Cossette tried to create a sense of pathos, but she was not overly effective. Israelites in the story were trying to move on after the people in their families had been killed by God in Korah’s rebellion, but they usually dismissed their concerns and justified God with the usual apologetic answers. In addition, Alanah was won to the truth too quickly and too easily. It looked rather facile. There also seemed to be more telling than showing in the story. Some of the scenes (i.e., the raging river scene) could have been more vivid.
This book is too good to get a three, but it falls short of a five. I’ll give it a four!
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest!