Lynn Austin. On This Foundation. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2015. See here to buy the book.
On This Foundation is the third novel of Lynn Austin’s
Restoration Chronicles, which is about Israel after the exile. One can
read, understand, and appreciate On This Foundation without
having read the previous two books of the series. Still, I do recommend
the previous two books because they are so good!
On This Foundation is set during the time of Nehemiah.
Ezra, the main character of the previous book, is now an old man.
Nehemiah’s father was killed during the time of Esther, and that makes
Nehemiah obsessed with security, both that of the king of Persia whom he
serves as cupbearer, and also that of Jerusalem, whose fallen walls
leave her vulnerable to attack. The king of Persia permits Nehemiah to
go to Jerusalem, to serve as the governor of Yehud, and to rebuild
Jerusalem’s walls. While Nehemiah is in Jerusalem, enemies are trying
to undermine Nehemiah’s attempts. These enemies seek to sow and exploit
discord and to make Nehemiah look bad to his people and the king of
Persia. These enemies are intermarried into prominent Jewish families,
so it is difficult for Nehemiah to know whom to trust.
Yehud is also beset by drought, and indebted Jewish families are
losing their land to Jewish nobles. People are becoming slaves to pay
off their family’s debts. One of these nobles is Malkijah, who comes
across as a compassionate man. Nana is sold into slavery to Malkijah to
help pay off her father’s debt, and Nana worries that she will never be
able to marry her sweetheart Dan. Meanwhile, Malkijah’s son Aaron is
continually leering at her.
There is also Shallum and his daughters. One of Shallum’s daughters
is Chana. Chana’s husband Yitzhak was murdered, and Shallum wants for
Chana to marry Malkijah. Chana is bitter about her late husband’s death
and is determined to see Jerusalem become secure, so she assists in the
rebuilding of the walls, to the consternation of Nehemiah, who thinks
that is too dangerous for a woman. Lynn Austin actually draws the idea
that Shallum’s daughters helped repair the walls from the Bible (see
I do not want to give away too many spoilers, for I want other
readers to enjoy seeing the mysteries resolved for themselves. One
question that kept me reading was what kind of man Malkijah was: Was he
outwardly good while inwardly bad? Was he a good man, yet one blinded
by his privilege, wealth, and elitism? Was he a good man who had
legitimate reasons for refusing to forgive people’s debts and release
I was also wondering whom Chana would marry in the end. Lynn Austin
actually surprised me here. Not all of her mysteries surprised me that
much: for example, why did Malkijah’s servant Shimon decide to stay with
Malkijah for life, as opposed to being released, and why has he
covenanted to pray for Malkijah and Malkijah’s sons?
The book had somewhat of a C-SPAN feel to it in places, since it went
into the technicalities of political intrigue. Some may find those
parts dry; others may find them authentic, believable, and, well,
The book also went into the complexities of the Torah: how the Torah
can promote compassion and justice, and yet how it could be used in an
oppressive manner, particularly when it came to slaves. My hunch is
that Lynn Austin believes that, taken all together, the Torah promotes
compassion and justice.
In this book, Nehemiah struggles with the question of whether God
wants him to be king. Nehemiah wants more for his people Israel, and
part of him wants more for himself. I do not know how realistic this is
(i.e., was Nehemiah a descendant of David?). But it was an interesting
dynamic, as Nehemiah interacted with issues such as a desire for God’s
glory, a desire for his own glory, and acceptance of God’s plan.
This book did not sweep me off my feet to the same extent as other
Lynn Austin books, particularly the ones that won Christy Awards. It is
still an excellent book.
Bethany House Publishers sent me a complimentary review copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review.