Bethlehem's Brothers

Fiction - Action
324 Pages
Reviewed on 03/24/2020
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Bethlehem’s Brothers is a work of fiction in the action and historical genres and was penned by author Ronald Hera. The first novel in the Brothers Series, this compelling tale is set during biblical times in the earliest era of Christianity. The story centers around the titular brothers as they grow up in a time of deep unrest, battling conflict from an early age and struggling to understand where the solution to peace may come from. When the brothers meet a figure who offers that solution, they must decide whether to trust this new and enigmatic stranger and, in turn, challenge everything about the society they know in the process.

Author Ronald Hera brings a mysterious time in history to life through atmospheric writing and extensive research. It’s clear even from the opening pages that Hera has done this investigative work, bringing little details and big picture cinema descriptions together to fully flesh out the scenes in which his actors take their places. Whether you’re a Christian or not, the biblical setting comes to life and is fully explained, whilst the brothers weave in and out of its complexities and discover the verge of a new social, cultural and religious revolution. One of the things I liked the most about this tale was the fact that it felt relatable to modern-day humanity because the brothers face the same crises and dangers that many developing countries still do now. Overall, Bethlehem’s Brothers is a highly compelling and recommended read for one and all.

Darryl Greer

Bethlehem’s Brothers by author Ronald Hera is the first of a trilogy which he calls The Brothers Series. It is set in the Holy Land in the first century AD and, as its title suggests, revolves around two brothers, Simeon and Enoch, who hail from Bethlehem. The story opens with a gory scene when their family is blighted by Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents – unsurprisingly, it has a devastating effect on the lives of the boys and their mother. Later, the brothers go their separate ways and, as the story unfolds, we see their daily lives set against turbulent times that Christians and Jews will know so well. The brothers are as different as night and day. Enoch searches for a savior who will rid his country of the Roman occupation; Simeon is more interested in improving his life, becomes apprenticed to a former rabbi and learns his trade as a potter in Jerusalem. The brothers cross paths in later life with a most unusual character, a man from Nazareth who turns their world upside down. Will he be Enoch’s savior, lead the Jews to revolt and overthrow the Romans? Or will he be Simeon’s messiah, a man of peace?

It is impossible to write a story like this without a profound knowledge of biblical events depicted in the New Testament as well as their historical and geographical background. In Bethlehem’s Brothers, Ronald Hera has done well to combine these elements to create a historical thriller. There is never a boring moment throughout as history and imagination combine to hold the reader’s interest. The fictional characters are well rounded and believable and it is particularly gratifying to see how the Roman characters, even soldiers, are depicted as being human rather than the ogres Hollywood would have us believe they all were. Bethlehem’s Brothers is a fascinating insight into what life must have been like for the first-century inhabitants of Jerusalem, Capernaum, Bethlehem and other towns and cities from biblical times that we know so well.

Trudi LoPreto

Bethlehem’s Brothers by Ronald Hera is the story of two brothers and the very different lives that they are forced to follow. When Herod gives the order to kill all male children under two years old, it changes the lives of two small boys and their mother forever. When Roman soldiers kill Esther’s husband, it is up to her to take care of their two sons, nine-year-old Simeon and six-year-old Enoch, on her own. Esther soon is faced with sending Simeon to become a potter in Jerusalem with Thomas, the former Rabbi. Esther takes Enoch to Galilee where he will learn to be a fisherman with her brother-in-law, Lamech. The two brothers have to deal with very different situations and each does what he must to survive.

Bethlehem’s Brothers by Ronald Hera is a mixture of biblical facts and fictional characters that is hard to put down. It is the first century AD and Romans, zealots, and Jews are all present. Jesus’ journey has just begun and there is much controversy as to who he really is – Man, Prophet or Messiah. The politics of the day are not in agreement with religious beliefs and this creates a daily strain on all. I found Bethlehem’s Brothers to contain accurate biblical facts but also combining these facts with fictional characters, painting a picture of what very possibly was happening during this historic time. I am anxiously awaiting more books in this series. Bethlehem’s Brothers has something for everyone – history, suspense, action, politics, religion, both real and fictional characters – it is a five-star book.

Jamie Michele

Bethlehem's Brothers by Ronald Hera is a historical fiction tale set amongst first-century Christians, following the lives of two brothers who survive the Massacre of the Innocents according to the Gospel of Matthew. Fatherless and left alone with their now widowed mother Esther, she makes the decision to send the boys away; Simeon to work and learn a potter's trade in Jerusalem, and Enoch to his paternal uncle, a fisherman in Galilee. The narrative moves between the points of view of the two sons of Esther and Jacob as they grow up, as well as others who are bound to the chronology and story of Jesus Christ, the central figure in a story that offers a fictional peek into one of the most consequential stories of all time.

Bethlehem's Brothers by Ronald Hera creates an interesting construct of biblical history, diving deeper into the lives of those who walked the earth at the same time as Jesus Christ, whether it was alongside Him and His word, in His shadow as an everyday civilian of the time, or in search of Him for salvation or destruction. The story itself is good, with the right bone structure to forge the trilogy Hera is building. My favorite character was Marcus, a Roman in the sphere of Pontius Pilate, who through his point of view gives a reader access to the height of Roman politics. I'd recommend this book to those who enjoy historical and biblical fiction, and who aren't afraid of the grittier, more violent and human aspects of first-century Christianity.

Grant Leishman

Bethlehem’s Brothers by Ronald Hera is a real twist on the usual biblical tale of Jesus. Born in Bethlehem, brothers Enoch and Simeon are just young boys when Herod orders all male children under two years of age to be killed, in the hope of killing the one said to be born King of the Jews. Having witnessed the murder of their baby brother, the boys’ mother spirits the pair away from Bethlehem. Whilst Simeon finds a future and some sense of peace with a master potter, where he learns the trade, Enoch is sent to a relative where he learns to become a fisherman. Still holding a deep hatred for the Romans, Enoch is prime material for recruitment by the Jewish zealots who flourished in Palestine at that time. In different ways, both boys will come into contact with the one who Herod seeks to destroy and will experience the wonder and power that was Jesus of Nazareth. For many, doubts remain that he is who he claims to be and if he is indeed the savior that has been promised by the scriptures.

Bethlehem’s Brothers is an interesting take on a biblical story and Ronald Hera does an excellent job of creating the sense and environment of ancient Palestine. The two characters could not be more different in their outlook and their response to the atrocity that was committed upon their family and this provides a wonderful counterpoint to the tale. I particularly enjoyed how some of Jesus’ related exploits were perfectly woven into the story, especially some of the miracles. Writing fiction based around biblical characters can be fraught with danger as many people hold their religious beliefs tightly and with conviction; however, this story straddles the line exceptionally well and could hardly offend anyone’s sensibilities. This is a simple story of survival in a difficult time and it highlights well the social and customary conditions of the time. The tale of one people being dominated and lorded over by another group is as old as time itself and one can certainly see the appeal of a messiah or savior to lead the people in throwing off their oppressive yoke. I enjoyed this mainly gentle read and can recommend it.

Nino Lobiladze

A family is hiding in a house in Bethlehem, avoiding the attention of the Roman soldiers for they are killing every infant. Three travelers from the East had brought word of the birth of the King of Jews. The Romans got their orders from King Herod, who was afraid of losing his throne. On that horrible night, this particular family lost Jacob, the father who tried to protect them, and little David, who was just a baby. Devastated, Esther was left as the mother of two orphaned brothers, Enoch and Simeon. She still had enough strength to ask a neighbor about Mary and Josef, who had a little son and were in obvious danger. She was relieved to learn that they had escaped. Esther and her elder son Enoch would go to Bethsaida, where Lamech, her brother-in-law, would teach Enoch fishing. As for Simeon, he will become an apprentice of Thomas, a well-respected potter in Jerusalem. From then on, the brothers live separate lives, studying their trades and getting to know new people. When they meet again, Enoch will put his life in danger and Simeon will fall in love with the beautiful Rachel. Jerusalem, its Temple, and the whole of Palestine would be shaken by the revolutionary teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Bethlehem's Brothers by Ronald Hera, the first book in a series, invites us to look at biblical events from a unique perspective.

Ronald Hera's straightforward writing style made for smooth reading. The main characters of Bethlehem's Brothers are simple people. Hera writes about the events that changed the fate of humanity forever with amazing simplicity, bringing Jesus closer to his readers. Impressive prose makes us direct participants in the unfolding events. We walk up the old Jerusalem street toward the Temple with Simeon to meet a priest. We spy on Romans along with Enoch. We hear the voice of Jesus echoing from the Temple's walls. Hera allows us to feel the warmth of Jesus' hand on our shoulders and submerges us in the horror of the crucifixion. This is a page-turner with intriguing twists and turns. Thomas was one of my favorite characters, with his fatherly approach toward an orphaned boy and the deep wisdom of a teacher of the Scriptures. The author captures the rich cultural background of Jerusalem at that time. This is a book about choices and hope. Remarkably, the brothers see Christ from different points of view and must make important decisions at the end. I highly recommend this gem to fans of adventurous prose, historical novels, and books based on the Bible.

Michelle Robertson

In Bethlehem's Brothers by Ronald Hera, two brothers suffer a horrible experience during an era when the Romans wreaked havoc in their homeland and surrounding cities, forcing them to live out their childhood under different circumstances and on diverse paths from one another. Each brother tries to find the will to survive, hope, and a savior to guide them as challenges present themselves throughout their lives. One similarity reveals itself in both brothers. This is a tale that sweeps from city to city and tells of a boy who survives despite the parallel experiences they both had as children. The boy, now a man, is deemed a revolutionary who challenges the authority of the highest law. Is this the savior they have been so desperately searching for their entire lives?

Bethlehem’s Brothers by Ronald Hera is an incredible adventure based on events that took place during the biblical times of Jesus of Nazareth. The author bravely steps up to the challenge of incorporating a religious figure into this historical novel, with a phenomenal interpretation of events, people, miracles, and timelines threaded throughout the book. Each character is meticulously structured and developed to perfection to fit each event, adventure, and situation. The author has done his research into the historical events and the people portrayed. Hera has successfully taken a well-known story and brought it to life in a new, easy-to-read, and more relatable way, allowing us to engage with the story through the eyes of an ordinary, everyday person of the era.

Cheryl E. Rodriguez

Ronald Hera pens a daring tale of discovery in Bethlehem’s Brothers. Enoch and Simeon are brothers living in Bethlehem when Herod, fearing the birth of the King of the Jews, orders the murder of all babies two years old and younger. Soldiers barge into their home, killing their father and beheading their baby brother right before their eyes. The horrific massacre marks the brothers for life. Unable to care for her children alone, the boys' mother, Esther, seeks refuge for her family. Her late husband’s brother takes in Esther and Enoch. Simeon goes to work in Jerusalem to be trained as a potter by Thomas. The boys grow and mature into men. Enoch becomes a skilled fisherman in Galilee and Simeon a master potter in Jerusalem. Enoch remains angry at Rome’s rule and gets involved with the zealots, while Simeon finds solace under the tutelage of Thomas and falls in love with the girl next door. Events unfold, and on one fateful day, the brothers' paths intersect. Enoch and Simeon are both seeking the Messiah. The brothers unite in the search for the truth; could their prophesied Savior truly be Jesus of Nazareth?

Bethlehem’s Brothers by Ronald Hera is a story of devotion. The action explodes from the beginning, and immediately the reader is plunged into the lives of the two brothers. Terror and tragedy prove to be an engaging narrative hook: “Blood is not easily erased,” asserts Hera. With short chapters, the cast of characters brings life to the ancient setting, as you are taken into the streets of historic Jerusalem and the salty shores of Galilee. Not overly descriptive but enough to pique the imagination, you hear the busy marketplace, the spinning of the potter’s wheel, and the voices of the fishermen echoing, casting and hauling in their catch. Your senses are heightened as the lives of the characters evolve and are shaped by the overshadowing gloom and doom of Roman rule. The duality of conflicts of man against man and man against fate is depicted as the brothers take separate yet parallel paths. Two brothers. Two paths. One truth. The conclusion of Ronald Hera’s Bethlehem’s Brothers prepares you for the sequel Jerusalem’s Brothers. The stage has been set but what awaits the brothers is yet to be seen.

Helen Huini

Bethlehem’s Brothers by Ronald Hera is a fictional account of the period when King Herod learns that an alleged King of the Jews has been born in Bethlehem. He sets out to kill every infant Jew under the age of two years. That night, Esther and Jacob gather their three sons and wait. They can hear Roman soldiers lurking in their vicinity until they reach their door. After knocking without response, the soldiers burst through the door and challenge the family. When a soldier approaches Esther, Jacob intervenes with an action that leads to his death but not before the soldier chops off the head of their lastborn son, David. Esther and her two remaining sons, Enock and Simeon, decide they can no longer remain in Bethlehem. Unfortunately, Lamech, her brother-in-law, can only accommodate her and Enock. Simultaneously, Simeon is sent off to Jerusalem to learn the art of pottery.

What I loved about Bethlehem’s Brothers is the vivid descriptions employed by Ronald Hera in his recreation of the biblical account. The Gospels do not provide sufficient details of the scenes as they happened but Ronald compensates for this inadequacy and I felt as though I were watching a movie. I also liked the detailed descriptions of the landscape as Nathan led Esther and Enock to Bethsaida; this helped me keep track of the problems they faced during the journey. The scripture verses not only add aesthetic beauty but also give it a sense of authenticity. The verses are placed within the proper context and bring a sense of calmness. This book is an excellent tool for meditating on the political tension surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ.