Qumran: A Carta Field Guide by Hanan Eshel

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Let’s load up the buses and ride! I want to visit Qumran after seeing this fine book by Hanan Eshel. Somehow I missed visiting Qumran when I was in Israel, and now I regret it after seeing what the site has to offer. This Carta field guide covers history, biblical archaeology, and serves as a nice tour guide as well.

Eshel was a professor in Israel and has the historical and archaeological credentials to be the ideal writer of this book. He has personally led several excavations in Israel and knows how to lead the reader around a site of archaeological significance.

There’s a short introduction that outlines the importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Next, we get a thorough description of the near turbulent acquisition of the scrolls. That story would make a movie and it must’ve been the providence of God that they were attained!

As it turns out, there were 11 caves involved (see the map on page 83) so there’s a lot of stories to tell. The photos are gorgeous throughout! By page 96, the book shifts focus to helping you plan a trip to Qumran. Without this book, you would miss so much of what can be seen at Qumran National Park. Don’t miss the panoramic view provided by the photo on pages 138-139.

As you would expect, you will also find those awesome Carta maps and illustrations throughout. This book is the second Carta field guide that I’ve seen (En Gedi being the other) and I think we need these field guides done for every major site in Israel. I assure you that whenever I get to visit Qumran, this book will be in my hand!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Ein Gedi: A Carta Field Guide by Hanan Eshel

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I want to go back! Ein Gedi was one of the most beautiful and interesting sites for me when I visited Israel. Now that I’ve had the chance to look at this Carta field guide by respected author Hanan Eshel, I realize I missed so much.

This attractive resource with its sumptuous photography, fine illustrations, and superb maps as you would expect in a Carta title enables you to have an intense tour of Ein Gedi from your armchair. I will review this work again before any subsequent trips.

The book begins with a topographical map and introduction that gives a broad overview. The first half of the book is an outstanding historical survey of the site. The history is placed within accepted archaeological periods and the archaeological evidence is carefully presented. The section that covers the biblical period is, for most of us, the most insightful. Don’t miss the map of David’s wanderings on pages 16 and 17. Beyond David’s time, Ein Gedi’s archaeological evidence continues to unlock its history all the way to the Hasmonean Period.

The second section provides an actual tour of Ein Gedi. A map covering pages 72 and 73 show the extensive possibilities of a visit to the site. The photo on page 76 that gives an aerial view of Ein Gedi looking west is breathtaking. What follows is a thorough coverage of all that can be seen there. There’s a final section that covers things to visit that are nearby to Ein Gedi.

This is a perfect title for either Bible students or travelers to Israel. I can’t imagine ever studying or planning to visit this site again without turning to this volume. It’s beautiful in every way.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Life in Biblical Israel by King and Stager

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I love this type of book. Though this book has been around for a while and often receives glowing recommendations, somehow I had overlooked it. I’m glad that’s no longer the case. I don’t subscribe to the authors’ chronology or critical assumptions, but there’s much treasure to be found in what they’ve put together here.

The authors provide a fine introduction that explains the importance of everyday life, what must be worked with to arrive at an understanding of that everyday life, and an overview of archaeology and other things. The next extensive chapter covers an Israelite house and household. Homes, family members, meals, and medical information are all addressed. The next chapter looks at farming, climate, vegetation, water sources, arts and crafts, travel, transport, and trade. From there, there’s a chapter that looks at the city, water systems, and warfare and armies. There’s a helpful chapter on culture that looks at dress and adornments, music, literacy, and education. The last chapter covers religious institutions including temples, shrines, objects associated with these places, religious practices, death, burial, and the afterlife.

The maps section is a little weak, but the bibliography, the indices, and the photography and illustration throughout the work are superb. This is a fine resource where you will find many opportunities in your studies to consult. Warmly recommended.

 

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Understanding Biblical Archaeology by Wright

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At this point, Carta has several introductory atlases that could serve as a personal class on some important topics of Bible study. Paul Wright has contributed several of these outstanding introductory atlases covering the New Testament, geography, biblical kingdoms, important people groups mentioned in the Bible, as well as writing a well-received major Bible Atlas. This title gives an excellent overview of biblical archaeology. When you finish this book, you will have a working knowledge of what biblical archaeology is and what has been discovered in Israel from various archaeological periods.

Other works may probe more deeply the broader assumptions of archaeological work while this one focuses more on what we have found. These findings are presented through clear text, gorgeous pictures, and effectively chosen Bible maps. This book could have a secondary use as a guide to what archaeological sites might be worth visiting on your next trip to the holy land too. For example, on a trip, I did I enjoyed immensely visiting biblical Shechem of which there’s a fine picture on page 15.

The diagram on page 9 is worth pages of text in describing how we have such levels of archaeological finds available at many sites in Israel. We also find there an overview of archaeological periods.

The balance of the book takes us from the Early Bronze Age through the Early Roman or Herodian Era. Fortunately, there have been many wonderful archaeological finds in every major era between those two and none are given short shrift here.

This book is worth your time and I highly recommend it.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Bible and Archaeology by Richelle

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Here’s the perfect book for either pastors or Bible students to get a clear overview of the connection between Bible and archaeology. This book succeeds because it strikes the perfect balance between archaeological detail and basic understanding. In other words, you will not drown in the minutia of archaeology, but you will have an informed grasp of both the value and limitations of archaeology in your Bible studies.

Matthieu Richelle, a respected professor of Old Testament, has a nice list of credentials to be able to produce this work on archaeology. I appreciated his respect of the Bible, his academic integrity, and his civility toward other archaeologists with whom he might disagree. In the same vein, while I might disagree with him on a few points myself, I respect greatly what he has produced here. To take something as complex as archaeological methodology and make it accessible to a popular audience is a gift. It’s a gift that’s present in this book. He will walk you through some subjects you might normally dodge, but he will guide you in a way that you can both learn and easily comprehend.

In the introduction, he describes his disdain for sensationalists and his desire to give us the tools to understand the clearly divisive controversies of biblical archaeology. Chapter 1 explains what archaeologists are looking for, or at least what they usually find. He guides us through archaeological sites, he explains what a “Tell” is, and uses some popular Bible sites to explain. He explains why these “Tells” have developed the way that they have and why they make it possible for archaeological discoveries. He explains the important difference between relative and absolute chronology and commonly accepted archaeological periods. He describes the main tools that archaeologists use to make their conclusions. Further, he explains what they tell us about the people, the architecture of the time, and what can be learned about life in ancient Israel.

Since chapter 1 only took us through what can be learned about life in general, the rest of the book must take us into the things that archaeologists discover that help with the more critical subjects of dating and verification of historical information. You will learn about the principal types of inscriptions and the difficulties of epigraphy. He doesn’t hide the dark side of the archaeological world that includes things like forgeries and other unscrupulous behavior.

Chapter 3 is outstanding and proves his balance. In this chapter, he discusses the limits of archaeology. He confesses the lack of certainty that exists, how that sometimes we can only say what is possible and not what is proven, and that there is much interpretation of the findings that can truly be biased. He talks about other natural limitations like the fact that what is excavated is ruins in the first place.

Chapter 4 finally broaches the subject of the Bible and archaeology. He is very gentle in this chapter and explains some of what I would call the more radical beliefs in the archaeological world. Those radical theories show a true bias to the Bible. He’s almost fair to them than seems reasonable, but he lays out the information so kindly that you will be able to come to the right conclusion. Chapter 5 is a case study involving David and Solomon. Because of their centrality to the story of Israel, their historicity is commonly attacked. Chapter 6 is a little more technical in that it describes writing in the times of David and Solomon and how that might help arrive at dating. The conclusion is short and to the point yet is reasonable. There’s a final listing for further reading if you’re interested in extending your studies.

This book is a complete success in what it sets out to do. Not only is it a perfect book for pastors and Bible students, but I imagine for most of them it will be all they want or need.

 

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Understanding Biblical Kingdoms & Empires

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These Carta introductory atlases are a lot of fun. This title introduces and compares the biblical kingdoms and empires that framed the Old and New Testaments. It’s written by Paul H. Wright who has produced a major atlas and other of these introductory atlases. I’ve found all his works accessible, helpful, and well-written. This title is no exception.

After briefly describing the world of the Bible on a physical map, he describes the origin of the people of Israel as well as the earlier kingdoms around them that influenced their history. From there, he gives a good overview of the rising kingdom of Egypt as well as their famous interaction with Israel. After that interaction, Egypt, as you well know, greatly declined and Israel went from a tribal nation to a monarchy. The heights of her glory were the empires of David and Solomon. This is all well described. Next, we have the Assyrian Empire (after this point Israel always had to deal with the dominant world power to some degree) and Israel’s divided kingdom. You will learn about the Assyrian Empire, the Babylonian Empire, the Persian Empire, and Israel’s trials during these periods. Perhaps lesser-known to some Bible students, you will then learn of the Greek Empire of Alexander the Great, the Ptolemaic and Seleucid Empires as well as the Hasmonean Kingdom. The balance of this book of 40 attractive pages introduces us to the Roman Empire that brings us into the New Testament.

The work is the expected Carta experience. Beautiful photographs, timely illustrations, and the best maps in the business. When you factor in the essential nature of understanding the kingdoms that affected Israel during the Old Testament, this book meets a real need and I highly recommend it!

I received this map free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Understanding the Holy Temple of the Old Testament

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Leen Ritmeyer is my favorite modern writer on the Tabernacle in Israel’s earlier history and the Temple from Solomon’s Temple all the way to Herod’s Temple. His earlier major work, The Quest, is the gold standard on the Temple from either a historical or an archaeological perspective. Now Carta gives us one of their fine introductory atlases (They have a whole series of these helpful books) on the Holy Temple of the Old Testament. For this colorful, attractive work Mr. Ritmeyer is joined by his capable wife, Kathleen, to produce this helpful book that you will find incredibly enlightening.

The book begins with an introduction that reminds us that holiness is a key element in thinking about the Tabernacle. That’s followed by a section called the Genesis Sanctuary as the authors describe what they call the Proto-Tabernacle. That’s an interesting perspective that I hadn’t thought of. Next, we have some information on Melchizedek and Abraham, followed by great information on the Tabernacle. Every major component is explained and profusely illustrated. There’s even a section on the journeys of the Tabernacle and how that was done.

Solomon’s Temple is carefully explained, as well as the differences we find in its description between Kings and Chronicles. There are some great explanations of the rock at the top of Mount Moriah and its relation to the current Dome of the Rock. They will explain Hezekiah’s Temple as well as Ezekiel’s Temple and the Temple Scroll. Next, we will learn about the Post-exilic Temple, the Hellenistic Temple Mount, and the Hasmonean Temple Mount.

This book is the perfect way to learn a clear overview of the Tabernacle and Temple in 48 large pages. The word that comes to my mind for this book is “ideal”. You will want to look up its companion volume, Understanding the Holy Temple Jesus Knew, which is also an outstanding asset.

As with any Carta resource, there are outstanding pictures and maps. What stands out especially in this book is the diagrams of the Temple as well as pictures of reconstructed models. This book is well done!

I received this map free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Jeremiah: An Archaeological Companion by Philip King

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Here’s a fine supplement to your commentaries on the Book of Jeremiah. Philip King has envisioned a true resource that takes archaeology and shines it upon the text with skill. It strikes me that most books of the Bible could benefit from a volume designed as this one.

While Mr. King takes a critical stance (three of his favorite Jeremiah commentators are Robert Carrol, William Holladay, and William McKane), I was pleasantly surprised by many things he had to say. His chronological chart at the beginning of the book is not extreme at all. Though he follows some critical suppositions on sources, he upheld the widely accepted chronology and historical background of Jeremiah in most places.

In a brief introduction, he makes a good case for the value of archaeology and biblical studies. The first chapter gives the background of both the prophet Jeremiah and his book. In relating that history, he shares some pictures and information about archaeological discoveries or key places in the life and Book of Jeremiah. The historical background continued in chapter 2 and looked at superpowers that surrounded and impacted Israel in Jeremiah’s time. Chapter 4 gave a whole chapter to the relationship of Edom and Judah since it’s mentioned in detail in Jeremiah. There’s more great pictures and information throughout that chapter.

Chapter 5 brings us back to the cities of Judah and includes some in-depth information on Jerusalem. Again, pictures, drawings, and descriptions of archaeological digs provide wonderful information to the Bible student. Chapter 6 looks at inscriptions and literacy and everything that has to do with writing. Chapter 7 presents worship and architecture. Chapter 8 explains funeral customs with a good description of tombs. Chapter 9 enlightens agriculture while chapter 10 looks at crafts.

The quality of the archaeological information, pictures, illustrations, and historical insights never flag between the covers of this book. I wasn’t sure what I’d find in this book when I picked it up but I was pleasantly surprised.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

 

 

Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology

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This Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology is a real gem. Not only is it attractive, but it assists in the very area that many Bible students struggle: archaeology. Randall Price has both taught and participated in archaeological excavations, and is the perfect candidate to produce this book. H. Wayne House, a prolific biblical writer, assists.

Whatever you do, don’t skip the introduction to biblical archaeology provided in this volume. It defines terms, helps you see were biblical archaeology is today, explains the major difference between minimalists and maximalists, explains the limitations of archaeology, its value, and its methodology. There’s a good description of what archaeology contributes to biblical studies too. That’s followed by a fascinating explanation of an archaeological site. It really brings archaeology to life. The introduction ends with an overview of archaeological periods.

The book is divided into three main sections, you have archaeology in the Old Testament, archaeology and the intertestamental period, and archaeology in the New Testament. This enables the reader to approach the Bible chronologically and apply archaeology to it.

You will love all the vivid, color photos, the helpful charts and diagrams, and the text itself. As a bonus, each of the main sections has a detailed chart of archaeological discoveries from that time. There are several helpful color maps at the end, as well as a thorough glossary.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book and highly recommended!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

A History of Israel (Revised Edition) by Kaiser and Wegner

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We have here a massive revision of a much-beloved history of Israel textbook. Don’t allow the word “textbook” to cause you to think this book is only designed for college students. It’s an extraordinary resource for any Bible student or pastor. The amount of information is incredible. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. is known for his helpful conservative scholarship and has been a trusted name for many for years. You might say this volume has been made fresh with the addition of Paul Wegner as a co-author.  The addition of many color pictures and maps from the B&H Publishing collection helps immensely as well. It’s large 7” X 10” size allows the font and picture/map dimensions to add to its enjoyment. The only downside is the fact that it’s in paperback and that its type of printing removes some of the sharpness of the illustrations. My hope is that this volume will meet with such success that the publisher might consider an attractive hardback with slick pages. That is, though, the only shortcoming of this book that I found.

As much as I enjoyed the bells and whistles of this volume, it’s the well written conservative viewpoint that makes it stand out. I’ve seen most of the other histories of Israel in print by academic publishers today, and this volume far exceeds them all. The others may have some commendable features but always come with a pile of caveats because of their consistently twisted chronology and skeptical nature. This volume contains all the academic and biblical information on the history of Israel that a sincere Bible believer could desire.

After three introductory chapters that describe the scholarly mess that academia has made of the history of Israel, the book has nine major parts with 30 more chapters that take us from Israel’s beginning to the Intertestamental period. You might quibble over some date or conclusion, but you will greatly appreciate the bedrock assumption behind every conclusion drawn from the evidence found that the Old Testament is a trustworthy source and the basis of our study. I especially appreciated the archaeological proof of Israel and the Old Testament, which is substantial, that is presented in this volume.

Without a doubt, this volume will take pride of place in my library on the subject of the history of Israel. I highly recommend it!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.