Friday, February 08, 2008

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Book Review: The Days of Peleg

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

The Days of Peleg, by Jon Saboe, is a massive tome, and that's the wrong way to start for a tome brings thoughts of boring reference material, and The Days of Peleg is anything but boring.

The author warns you right at the beginning he's going to do something unusual, he's going to immerse you in a different world view. He builds a image of our ancient world based on the narrative from the Torah and Jewish Midrashim, blending it together with history, archeology, and ancient oddities that have been discovered.

We meet his main character, Peleg, in ancient Babylon, the Babylon after the fall of the Tower of Babel, a flourishing civilization of academies where, as the Midrashim teach, people don't age! (For we are before the time of Avraham avenu.) However, people are beginning to die, a new experience for society, and the academies are trying to figure out what in the world is going on.

The first third of the book is spent in Babylon, as the academies debate reality and prepare research teams to travel the world, a 10 year mission (when old age is a foreign concept, decade long travels are...normal.) This opening segment is intriguing, but with the number of foreign concepts presented takes a while to absorb. In some ways this is a sad thing for us, as it brings the realization that our world view is remarkably tied to current societal and scientific assumptions, and these are not so in line with traditional sources.

The second third of the book is spent on Peleg's travels. We journey with Peleg around the ancient world, encountering ancient civilizations or the seeds of them in their early days. Again, following the words from the Torah and the Midrashim, these civilizations are all dispersed from Bavel and/or the time of Noah. All mankind is related, separated by only a few generations. In this section, the author weaves a very engaging tale, excitement and adventure, danger and escape, while tying in links to ancient mysteries that befuddle current science (my personal favorite is a reference to the massive statues on Easter Island).

The final third of the book brings Peleg's return to Babylon. It's a time of turmoil, Nimrod and Tamuz are on the rise. Knowledge that contradicts the propagated world view of the leaders is no longer welcome. Here we find Peleg interacting with people we know of from the Torah, Shem, Eber (sons of Noah who maintain the knowledge of G-d), and even Terach and a young Avram. Escape, chase, capture are the focus of this time.

The author does an incredible job of bringing these times alive, and bringing these historical figures to life. He places us in a world that we know from the Torah and Midrashim, but never spend the time to imagine how it could be alive according to the words of those Midrashim. Near the end of the story, we encounter Avram and the war of the kings, and pass through Shalem, the early Jerusalem, truly bringing these times to life.

But, while sourced on the Torah and Jewish Midrashim, in the final third the author brings his own religious world view. And that view involves the main character learning and adhering to a theological concept from Christianity. Parts of the midrashic based story are adjusted to support the development of this position and to lay a historical Midrashic groundwork for Christianity, and we end with the main character suddenly making a major mental shift to a very Christian position.

In summary, I found the book to be very engaging and interesting, and an exciting story at the same time. Truly enjoyable and a book you can't put down once you get into it. For the size of the book (huge), the price is excellent (it's softback). However, the theological concepts in the final third of the book prevent me from recommending the book to a Jewish audience.

The author maintains a website on the book, here.

(Disclosure: The author has been an active advertiser on Mystical Paths, and sent me the book free for review.)

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