"Twelve Unlikely Heroes", by Dr. John MacArthur

Usually, whenever I see a John MacArthur book up for grabs, I jump at the chance to read-review it. After reading his last 4 books, however, I’m beginning to change my mind. It’s not that Dr. MacArthur isn’t a gifted teacher, speaker, and theologian. It’s simply the case that his books are taking the form of mass-produce for his publisher’s greed. The heavy, heady MacArthur books of old are being replaced by the by the simple, dumbed-down books of today’s Christian culture.

Twelve Unlikely Heroes” is biblically accurate and safe. But it’s just that: Safe. It didn’t challenge my thinking, my pursuit to conquer sin in my life, or inspire me to greatness. Instead, it served more like a commentary of 12 bible heroes. MacArthur spent a lot of time in each story simply retelling it in a different way than what the bible has already told. He explained a few things that make a few portions of some stories a bit more understandable, but nothing drastic.

LIKES: I’ll likely continue reading future Dr. MacArthur books because his theology and application is trustworthy. One of the things I liked about “Twelve Unlikely Heroes” is that he didn’t choose only male heroes, but included 2 females as well – Miriam and Esther. We often forget to include our ladies in these epic adventures, relegating them to the sidelines in thought that only men can be influential in God’s kingdom.

MacArthur inspired me to slow down when I read these all-too-familiar accounts. The majority of us have heard most of these stories in Sunday school. Unfortunately, the simple teaching in those settings causes most of us to glaze over the details each time we read them. Instead, it would be good to slow down and excavate deeper into the story to understand its immediate intent as well as its global one.

DISLIKES: Dr. MacArthur, you didn’t challenge me in this one – neither my brain nor my spirit. I hate to say it, but if I picked up this book and the spine didn’t contain the author’s name, I would have thought a less-experienced person had written it. It came across as a lazy attempt to quickly put together a book for the publisher. Sorry, Dr. MacArthur. I just think you can do better.

RECOMMENDATIONS: I think this book would be good for a new believer, or even someone who doesn’t grasp the big-picture story of the bible very well. It reads at a high-school level, so it would even be a good study for student groups.

I would like to see fewer books published with MacArthur’s name. Not because I don’t like or trust his teaching, but because I would like the ones he publishes to contain more substance and quality. There are some authors who just shouldn’t be writing books. MacArthur is not one of them. But his books are kind of like Aerosmith songs; they keep getting released, but they fail to inspire.

CONCLUSION: I appreciate the idea behind the book. As mentioned in the epilogue, “the Lord does not limit his kingdom work to one kind of person.” One doesn’t need to be one of God’s star performers, just one of His faithful. That point was clear.

RATING: Although I appreciate MacArthur’s direct way of speaking/teaching, I honestly cannot give this one more than 2 ½ stars.

Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge from Thomas Nelson Publishers ("Booksneeze") in exchange for my unbiased review of it. I was not threatened or coerced or promised favors in exchange for a favorable review of it. All opinions are mine.


  1. Thanks for the review, very helpful.

  2. riahjoy6:02 PM

    I heard from an author that McArthur is NOT writing these but that they are done by a ghostwriter...why would he lend his name to something like this? Biblical error had me giving it a one star on booksneeze...

    1. I had not heard that. Therefore, I must assume that the books are coming from his own brain, to his own fingers, to his own computer. That would be interesting to know, though.

  3. The following comment was posted by a visitor to discussions:

    K. Wiggins says:

    Well Michael Lee, apparently your mind is much more educated than us low-life uneducated high school boys. Has it even occured < s > to you that there are thousands if not millions of us (your Brothers and Sisters) that never went to Sunday School or even High School. Heck, I had been through a war and rode with an outlaw mortorcycle club for quite a while not even wanting to hear anything about ANY religion. I went to a Sunday School for about six or seven weeks when I was about ten years old. I learned John 3:16 and the Lord's Prayer.....but that was only so I could win a Lapel Pin if I could memorize them.......although I did win the pin and I NEVER forgot the verses , I didn't have any idea what either of the verses meant! BUT they really came in handy in Vietnam when we were hetting hammered and it didn't look as though we were going to see tomorrow. I was finally Born Again in the seventies and only then began to understand spiritual matters. The writings of John MacArthur have been and always will be a true Godsend to most of appears to me that you have risen to a Doctorate's level of understanding wishing to read a book on Biology or Anatomy written at a Baccalaureate level......I believe our dear brother John wishes to put the "cookies" down on the lower shelf so all us "little" ones could get to them!!! :)

    1. The following was my reply:

      Michael Lee says:

      Mr. Wiggins, I am truly sorry you didn't like my review. It sounds like you are bitter about it, in fact. I'm sorry for that.

      If you don't mind re-reading my review, you'll notice you're not thinking clearly about what I've written.

      I never ever said or implied that I was "much more educated" than others, or that you are a "low-life uneducated high school boy." You've, unfortunately, read way too far into that. If that is your opinion of yourself, I am sorry you're thinking that about God's creation. You've served our country well, and you shouldn't feel that way about yourself.

      Additionally, if you'll recall one of my statements, you'll notice I said this book is GOOD for new believers or for those who don't yet understand the big-picture biblical narrative. If that's you, I'm glad you've come to the Cross. I love Dr. MacArthur and I think of all the sources you could read, he is one of the most trusted. KEEP READING HIS MATERIAL. My father, a VietNam combat veteran and relatively new believer is in a similar position -- this book would be good for those just like him.

      I have read a LOT of Dr. MacArthur's books, and over time they have grown to simply resemble regurgitated material. Do you remember what I wrote about this being one of those books quickly put together so the publisher can make more money? That's my opinion based on what I've read. Just like you're allowed your opinion, I, too, am allowed mine. That says nothing about you being less than intelligent.

      Please re-read my review. I think you'll see that you are angry with me without good reason. The publisher asked for my honest opinion in my reviews, and that's just what I provided.

      May God bless you, and may you experience His joy and faithfulness every day.