Bestselling author Jill Eileen Smith is well revered for her imaginative retellings of biblical stories. Her in-depth research and creative flair have offered a fresh approach to some of the most popular stories found in Scripture. In The Prince and the Prodigal, Smith weaves together the lives of two brothers, Joseph and Judah, who overcome jealousy and betrayal in order to obtain reconciliation that only God could bring about. In this interview Jill talks with us about this new biblical novel.

FF: Can you please provide a brief description of your new novel, The Prince and the Prodigal?
Joseph is the pampered favorite son of the patriarch Jacob. His older brothers, deeply resentful of his status in the family, take advantage of the chance to get rid of him, selling him to slave traders and deceiving their father about his fate. It seems like their troubles are over. But for Joseph and older brother Judah, they are just beginning.

While Joseph is accused of rape and imprisoned, Judah attempts to flee the memory of his complicity in the betrayal of his younger brother. After decades apart, the brothers will come face-to-face in a stunning role reversal that sees Joseph in a position of great power while Judah begs for mercy. Will forgiveness or vengeance win the day?

FF: Joseph had eleven brothers. Why did you choose to focus on his relationship with Judah?
Judah was the brother who suggested they sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites. If not for him, Reuben would have rescued Joseph, who would have been returned to his father. The Bible includes an entire chapter on Judah’s life, including his move away from home. As I explored Judah’s possible reasons for leaving his family, the biggest motive that stood out to me was his guilt over what he did to Joseph and the pain it caused his father. In the end, it was Judah who repented, returned to his father, and protected Joseph’s brother Benjamin. Of all Joseph’s brothers, Judah was likely the one he needed to forgive most.

FF: Why do you refer to Judah as the prodigal?
Judah left home after Joseph was sold into slavery and stayed away for twenty-two years. He married and had three sons and still didn’t return home. That seems like a really long time for a man to ignore his family. I see him as one of several prodigals in the Bible, but perhaps his story was both the most tragic and the most hopeful, as he went on to become the one blessed to be the patriarch of kings. The line of Christ comes from Judah. Prodigals can become amazingly blessed if they return to the God who loves them.

FF: Joseph was enslaved in Egypt for over twenty years before he encountered his brothers once again. How did he use his elevated position to offer grace to a family that rejected him?
I think that once Joseph could truly forgive his brothers, his focus shifted to wanting to spare their lives during the famine that he knew would continue for many more years. If he hadn’t been put in charge of Egypt as he was, he never could have offered them help or grace. God planned it all out for Israel to live in Egypt for a time. Why He wanted them there is really something only He knows.

FF: Joseph’s early life was filled with accusations and ultimately imprisonment. How did Joseph respond to his trials, and what can we learn from his response?
The Bible is rather sparse on Joseph’s feelings during his life in Egypt. We know he rose to a respected position in Potiphar’s house. But when he refused the temptations thrown at him by Potiphar’s wife, we can only guess how it felt for him to suddenly find himself imprisoned for fleeing her advances. I think we see him learning to wait on God, though I imagine he had to wonder why he was suffering so much when he had been given those dreams and come from such a favored position in his youth.

Suffering is never easy to understand. I think Joseph met it with at least some kind of grace because we don’t see him complaining. He does ask to be remembered by the cupbearer so he can get out of prison, but he doesn’t whine about his place, unless he did so behind the scenes. Only God knows what he was really thinking. But I also believed he struggled to forgive and forget the family who betrayed him, which is revealed in the naming of his sons. So the Bible shows a very human side to him as well. Perhaps the best thing we can learn from him is that he was human and struggled, but ultimately he forgave, which we all need to do if we want to be whole and used of God.

FF: What themes are embedded in the pages of The Prince and the Prodigal?
Reconciliation, forgiveness, repentance, acceptance, betrayal, and love. Favoritism and its downside are also pretty clear in the story.

FF: Family dynamics are a huge component of your new work. What insights can we learn from reading about Joseph and his family?
Well, the fact that polygamy doesn’t work is a biggie! While we don’t see much polygamy today, especially in the United States, we do know of parents who play favorites with their kids. How much better would it have been for Jacob if he had fostered kindness between his sons and praised each one for their strengths instead of elevating one above the others? But we cannot rewrite what happened. Hopefully we can learn from Jacob’s example what not to do.

FF: What do you hope readers will experience when reading your new novel?
I always hope that readers will realize the importance of loving forgiveness for the people in their lives. If we know the Lord, then we know we are forgiven people who need to forgive people. God has a lot to say about an unforgiving heart, and He’s not a fan of it. Forgiveness, even when we can’t forget, matters to God, and it helps us more than we will ever know.

FF: What are you working on next?
I’m working on Eve’s story, which spans more years than any book I’ve yet tackled. It’s daunting but interesting to ponder.

The Prince and the Prodigal
Jill Eileen Smith
Genres: Biblical Fiction, Historical Fiction
Release Date: February 1, 2022

ISBN-10: ‎ 0800737636
ISBN-13: ‎ 978-0800737634

Book Summary:
Seventeen-year-old Joseph is the favored son of the patriarch Jacob. His older brothers are deeply resentful of Joseph’s status in the family and look for opportunities to get rid of him. When they encounter some slave traders, they take advantage of this opportunity and sell Joseph. Although it appears that their troubles are behind them, they are really just beginning—not only for Joseph but also for his brother Judah.

Joseph’s early life in Egypt is fraught with accusations and imprisonment. But a twist of fate moves Joseph through the ranks from slave to trusted servant and ultimately to second-in-command behind Pharaoh. Meanwhile, Judah is running from his past and is haunted by the betrayal that changed all of their lives and the grief that has been brought upon their father.

When a famine brings the brothers together, they are faced with a stunning role reversal. Now Joseph is the one in charge and Judah and his brothers must beg for mercy. Hatred, pride, and favoritism have cost this family greatly. Will forgiveness or vengeance win the day?


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About The Author

Jill Eileen Smith is the bestselling and award-winning author of the biblical fiction series The Wives of King David, Wives of the Patriarchs, and Daughters of the Promised Land, as well as The Heart of a King and Star of Persia: Esther's Story. She is also the author of the nonfiction book When Life Doesn't Match Your Dreams. Her research into the lives of biblical women has taken her from the Bible to Israel, and she particularly enjoys learning how women lived in Old Testament times. Jill lives with her family in southeast Michigan.