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Baker Academic Old Testament Backgrounds (16 vols.)

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The Baker Old Testament Backgrounds collection gives you 16 volumes of timely, intriguing research on Old Testament cultural context. This comprehensive collection provides recent, extensive research and background studies on Old Testament times, covering topics from archaeology to sociology and weaving together a tapestry that fully describes the ancient world and its influence on Scripture.

Please note that this collection is available as part of the Baker Academic Old Testament Bundle (29 vols.) and the Baker Academic Biblical Studies Bundle (86 vols.).

  • Analysis of archaeological methods
  • Exploration of African and Persian influence
  • In-depth research on Ancient Near Eastern thought
  • Title: Baker Academic Old Testament Backgrounds
  • Publisher:Baker Academic
  • Volumes: 16
  • Pages: 6,042
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The Logos Bible Software edition of the Baker Academic Old Testament Backgrounds collection is designed to encourage and stimulate your OT study and understanding. Scripture passages link directly to your English translations and to the original-language texts, and important theological concepts link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. In addition, you can perform powerful searches by topic and find what other authors, scholars, and theologians have to say about the Old Testament.

Africa and the Bible

  • Author: Edwin Yamauchi
  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • Publication Date: 2006
  • Pages: 304

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Two hundred years ago, the “curse of Ham” was used to legitimize slavery. Both Ethiopians and Arabians claim the queen of Sheba, and it is thought that Moses and Jesus may have been black.

Much has been said about the connection between Africa and the Bible. Unfortunately, despite numerous references to Africa and Africans in the Bible, most scholarly works exploring ancient Africa ignore biblical references. On the other hand, contemporary afrocentric biblical studies often ignore the wealth of archaeological discoveries and historical discussions bearing on the subject. With Africa and the Bible, well-respected scholar Edwin Yamauchi fills these voids, offering a scholarly interpretation that integrates biblical exegesis, archaeological evidence, and recent historical discussions.

Africa and the Bible explores the historical and archaeological background of biblical texts that deal with Africa and the Bible, examines the exegesis of these texts, and traces the ramifications of later interpretations and misinterpretations of these texts. Yamauchi deals with such topics as the curse of Ham'’s son Canaan, Moses’ Cushite wife, the Ethiopian eunuch, Simon the Cyrene, and afrocentric biblical interpretation. Along the way, he dispels myths, interacts with current theories, and provides sound judgments as to what the Bible does and does not say.

Students and scholars of the Bible, of African studies, and of global Christianity will appreciate the extra features Yamauchi employs. He includes photographs, maps, charts, an appendix critiquing Martin Bernal’s Black Athena, and Scripture, author, and subject indexes. An extensive bibliography of more than 300 entries will guide readers to the diverse literature associated with the connections between Africa and the Bible. Lay readers interested in history and the Bible will enjoy the book’s insightful comments and accessible style.

Africa and the Bible was a 2005 Christianity Today Book Award winner.

Sensitive both to Afrocentric interests and to data from ancient Egypt and elsewhere, this work reveals, as his works always do, Professor Yamauchi’s brilliant multidisciplinary competence. He interacts respectfully with different views, and even those who disagree with some elements of his approach or would welcome an even fuller exploration of some issues will find the book a rich treasure of resources. Few readers of the Bible have had access to the information he provides about Nubia and the Nubian Pharohs of Egypt.

Craig Keener, Palmer Theological Seminary

Writing in a refreshing style that carefully abstains from scholarly obfuscation, Yamauchi has collated an extraordinary range of scholarly data on the historical and archaeological background of the biblical texts dealing with Africa. His efforts provide the reader with a primary source of information for everything from the Queen of Sheba to Black Athena.

—Donald White, University of Pennsylvania

Drawing on a vast range of sources—ancient and modern, literary and archaeological—Yamauchi offers a superb discussion of the major questions concerning the relationships between the Bible and Africa. His final chapter presents an especially helpful response to contemporary Afrocentric approaches to the Scriptures. This fascinating study will be welcomed by those who need an introduction to the issues and those who are looking for a foundation for further study.

Daniel I. Block, Gunther H. Knoedler Professor of Old Testament, Wheaton College

At a time when Africans are forming an increasing proportion of the world’s Christians and Africa is becoming one of the major theaters of Christian life and activity, the issue of Africa’s place in the Bible takes on a new importance. How valuable it is, then, to have such a volume as this—thorough, sober, succint, learned and judicious.

—Andrew F. Walls, University of Edinburgh

Edwin Yamauchi is professor of history emeritus at Miami University, Ohio. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including Persia and the Bible, Greece and Babylon, The Archaeology of New Testament Cities in Asia Minor, Harper’s World of the New Testament, and Africa and Africans in Antiquity. A co-edited work of his, Peoples of the Old Testament World, won a Biblical Archaeological Society Award.

Persia and the Bible

  • Authors: Edwin Yamauchi
  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • Publication Date: 1997
  • Pages: 584

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Cyrus, Darius, and Xerxes—who were these Persian kings? Internationally noted historian Edwin Yamauchi uses the latest archaeological information from Iran, along with over 100 photos and maps, to paint an illuminating portrait of Persia’s people, kings, cities, and role in Old Testament history. An invaluable guide to traversing the books of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah.

In his historical-archaeological study, Yamauchi. . .attempts to explain Persian history and culture in the context of biblical accounts, enlarging upon this connection in brief discussions of numerous topics surrounding Persian rulers, seats of government, and religion. The brevity of the discussions and summary presentations of controversial and contradictory theories may prove frustrating for the serious student of Persian history. Still, the book contains many useful elements: a broad survey of the literature and recent archaeological findings; indexes including biblical issues; pertinent maps, diagrams, and illustrations; a large, select bibliography; and meticulous documentation. A valuable basic biblical reference tool or a point of departure for more advanced historical research.

—Paula I. Nielson, Loyola Marymount University

Persia and the Bible represents an impressive achievement.

Biblical Archaeologist

A superb survey. The author’s unique contribution is in providing constant interaction with the Bible, both in terms of how the Scripture serves as a primary source for Persian history and especially by demonstrating how a knowledge of Persian civilization will deepen the reader’s understanding of Scripture.

Near East Archaeological Society Bulletin

Archaeology provides vital, if sometimes scanty, clues that enable the reader and teacher to understand the background of the relevant biblical passages with their distinctive theological viewpoint. This book will enable us all to relate the appropriate and abiding message of the Bible to our own world with its similar problems.

Donald Wiseman

The people, places, and religion discussed in the book are important for understanding the post-exilic history of Israel. Yamauchi explores all of these areas in great depth in what is undoubtedly a standard text in the field.

Ashland Theological Journal

Edwin Yamauchi is professor of history emeritus at Miami University, Ohio. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including Persia and the Bible, Greece and Babylon, The Archaeology of New Testament Cities in Asia Minor, Harper’s World of the New Testament, and Africa and Africans in Antiquity. A co-edited work of his, Peoples of the Old Testament World, won a Biblical Archaeological Society Award.

Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament

  • Author: John D. Currid
  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • Publication Date: 1997
  • Pages: 208

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The role of Egypt in the Old Testament, particularly in the Pentateuch, is a significant one. John Currid’s in-depth study of that role sheds valuable light on this important aspect of Israel's history and Scriptures.

Currid observes that more biblical scholars today are returning to the study of Egypt and its texts. “My hope,” he writes, “is that this volume will add to the growing interest in and understanding of the Egyptian connections with the Old Testament.”

After surveying the scholarly interest in Egypt and the Bible and highlighting the uniqueness of the Hebrew worldview, Currid proceeds through the Old Testament canonically, showing Egyptian influences throughout. He explores the creation story, Joseph narrative, Serpent confrontation, ten plagues, and route of the Exodus, plus Solomon’s contacts with Egypt, the relationship of Hebrew poetry to Egyptian wisdom literature, and the links between Hebrew prophecy and Egyptian magic and soothsaying. The result is an enlightening guide to Egyptian influences on Israelite history.

This valuable study offers the most up-to-date information available on archaeological discoveries and includes Currid’s original translation of Egyptian hieroglyphics. Photographs, indexes, and a bibliography enhance the study.

Kenneth Kitchen writes in the foreword: “In the increasingly erratic world of Old Testament studies, where there is still too often a stubborn refusal to pay proper attention to the firm factual framework of reference that the ancient Near Eastern world offers us in assessing the nature and worth of the biblical writings, Currid’s well-documented book is a breath of fresh air and represents a valuable contribution.”

Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament will serve as a text in courses on archaeology and the Old Testament, Old Testament history, and Old Testament backgrounds.

John Currid has written an excellent study of the Egyptian background of certain parts of the Old Testament. The author has read widely and commented judiciously on a number of very interesting topics, such as the itinerary of the Israelitesa as they fled Egypt, the plagues, Solomon’s marriage to an Egyptian princess, the invasion of the pharoh Shishak, and comparisons with Egyptian wisdom literature.

Edwin Yamauchi, Miami University

The evidence that Currid presents is quite persuasive. . . . He is quite skillful in detecting reflections of Egyptian culture in the biblical text.

Catholic Biblical Quarterly

An interesting book on a subject that very few people have the courage to discuss.

—Francesca Jourdan

Professor Currid has provided a thorough, stimulating, and informed study of the many ways that the world of ancient Egypt can illumine the pages of the Old Testament. Those who take seriously the importance of reading the Old Testament in light of its cultural context will welcome his balanced assessment of the data. This is a valuable tool for background studies.

John H. Walton, Moody Bible Institute

John D. Currid (PhD, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago) is Carl W. McMurray Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary. He has served on several archaeological excavations, and he is author of Doing Archaeology in the Land of the Bible: A Basic Guide.

Doing Archaeology in the Land of the Bible: A Basic Guide

  • Author: John D. Currid
  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • Publication Date: 1999
  • Pages: 128

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Many people today are familiar with archaeological undertakings in the land of the Bible and the fascinating objects that have been discovered. However, the process of archaeology is generally not well understood. How do excavators know where to dig? How do they identify what they’ve found? John Currid provides many answers in this basic guide to Palestinian archaeology.

Currid, a field archaeologist and Old Testament scholar, surveys the history of archaeological work in the Holy Land and the development of excavation methodology. He highlights pioneering individuals and their contributions, and explains the purposes of topographical survey, site identification, digging techniques, and find analysis. Utilizing the book’s practical outline of archaeological investigation, the final chapter describes the site identification, history of excavation, and finds at et-Tell (Bethsaida). Complete with color photographs, line drawings, and sidebars, this book offers a concise introduction to Palestinian archaeology useful for college classes, study groups, and excavation teams.

Currid’s volume is a useful introduction to archaeology—its history, vocabulary, and methods—for the beginner. The systematic unveiling of these themes provides a ‘stratigraphy’ for study that many students and laypersons will find fascinating. In addition, the short bibliographies add substance to the work, allowing readers to take the additional step of further study. Such aids to first-time student excavators have often taken the form of xeroxed handouts. Currid has provided them with an easy reference work that they can read on the plane to Israel and pull out during the excavation to explain what is happening around them.

Victor H. Matthews, Southwest Missouri State University

At last, a book on the basics of Palestinian archaeology! John Currid’s much-needed text fills a significant gap in the currently available literature in the field. Doing Archaeology in the Land of the Bible is an excellent introduction that will be of great assistance to the beginning student as well as to the interested layperson.

Bryant G. Wood, Associates for Biblical Research

Professor Currid has written an excellent manual for the history and practice of archaeological excavation in the Middle East, systematically outlined with considerable bibliographical documentation. I recommend the work as supplementary reading for courses requiring a knowledge of the history and methodology of ancient Near Eastern archaeology. I plan to use it as a supplementary text in my classes, both on the introductory and advanced levels.

John McRay, Wheaton College Graduate School

In this brief study, Currid sketches the birth and development of archaeological method and answers many of the basic questions having to do with field work. The book should be a ‘must read’ for anyone intersested in volunteering to participate on a dig in Palestine. The bibliographies concluding each chapter will greatly help the reader who wishes to know more.

—Alfred J. Hoerth, author of Archaeology and the Old Testament

John D. Currid (PhD, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago) is Carl W. McMurray Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary. He has served on several archaeological excavations, and he is author of Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament.

Jeroboam’s Wife: The Enduring Contributions of the Old Testament’s Least-Known Women

  • Author: Robin Gallaher Branch
  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • Publication Date: 2009
  • Pages: 288

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Much has been written about prominent women of biblical history like Sarah, Ruth, and Esther. However, relatively little attention has been paid to the obscure women of the Old Testament whose words are not recorded in the Bible and some of whom aren’t even named. Yet often these less prominent women played important roles in the unfolding of God’s plan. Indeed, the appearance of such obscure women sometimes signals the emergence of some great event. More than that, these lesser-known women, frequently faced with seemingly impossible circumstances, modeled unflinching integrity and moral courage.

In Jeroboam’s Wife, Robin Gallagher Branch introduces us to seven obscure yet notable biblical women. By examining their historical and cultural settings with scholarly care and penetrating insight, she brings these women out of obscurity and highlights both the unique challenges they face and their indelible contributions. By interacting with contemporary biblical, social, and psychological scholarship, she presents ancient biblical history in fresh and relevant ways.

Thoughtful questions for personal reflection or group discussion guide contemporary readers to ponder the deeper significance of these women’s contributions and to reflect on points of personal application.

Robin Gallaher Branch has taken a series of humble Scripture passages, generally overlooked and passed by, and revealed the wisdom and insight waiting for one who will simply give herself to them. Her careful scholarship, combined with a child-like joy in discovery, makes these women, many of whom Jesus would consider among “the least of these,” come alive.

—Mike Gatliff, pastor, Second Presbyterian Church, Memphis TN

A welcome addition to the growing literature that explores the significance of female biblical characters, major and minor, who are vital participants in biblical salvation history.

Catholic Biblical Review

Dr. Robin Gallaher Branch joyfully draws forth portraits of women and girls who find the middle road between being timidly inarticulate and stridently verbose. in separate chapters, Dr. Branch reveals the paths the seven least-known women and girls took to meet different life-challenges. She shows how each grew emotionally and spiritually to reach hope and finally to achieve surprising courage.

—Mary V. Battle, associate professor of English, University of Memphis

Robin Gallaher Branch’s penetrating probe into the stories of some of the forgotten—and even silent—women of the Old Testament is a tour de force, combining feminist hermeneutic with careful narrative and character analysis. There is a lot more here than most readers will expect. Branch’s careful and illuminating interpretation of these texts is a necessary resource for all future attempts to understand them.

—Stephen G. Dempster, Stuart E. Murray Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Atlantic Baptist University

Robin Gallaher Branch has been writing extensively on the women of the Bible, especially those mentioned in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. This book is the fruit of many endeavors in this regard. It is well-written and brings some of the most obscure women of the Hebrew Bible to light. This major contribution should be read by everybody interested in the role of women in the Bible and society.

—Herrie van Rooy, professor of Old Testament, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa

Robin Gallaher Branch deftly walks the reader through a historically-informed, imaginative characterization of these relatively unknown women, thus introducing us to them. The cadre of women are silent no more! Their places within the story of God are overlooked no longer! Branch’s love of stories is readily observable in her sensitivity to detail in the biblical accounts, as well as in her care and creativity as a (re-)teller of these stories.

Troy A. Miller, associate professor of Bible and Theology, Crichton College

Robin Gallaher Branch received her PhD in Hebrew Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. She was a Fulbright scholar, and later, an associate professor at the University in Potchefstroom, South Africa. She is currently a professor of Bible and Theology at Crichton College in Memphis, Tennessee.

Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible

  • Author: John H. Walton
  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • Publication Date: 2006
  • Pages: 368

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This volume provides a thoughtful introduction to the literature of the ancient Near East and a well-considered apology for its importance to exegetical work. John Walton suggests that there are three important roles comparative studies can play in biblical interpretation: critical analysis, defense of the biblical text, and exegesis. He focuses particularly on the third aspect and its importance for preventing misinterpretation through the imposition of modern worldviews.

In the main body of the text, Walton offers a thoughtful introduction to ancient Near Eastern literature and the “common cognitive environment” that it provides for understanding the world of ancient Israel. After surveying types of literature, he considers the perspectives they offer on beliefs about gods, religion, the cosmos, people, and history. Throughout his study, helpful comparative sidebars focus on Old Testament interpretation to illumine the continuities and discontinuities between the Israelites and their neighbors. This study provides an excellent introduction to the field of comparative studies and will be an important guide for students, scholars, and clergy who want to make use of extrabiblical resources to enrich their understanding of ancient Israel and its scriptures.

Comparisons between the culture of biblical Israel and the other cultures of the ancient Near East have long been a fundamental part of biblical scholarship, but more often than not, they have been presented in piecemeal, isolated fashion. In his new book, John Walton offers a much broader reach, giving us arguably the most extensive review of these cultural comparisons now available together with a serious meditation on what the enterprise of cultural comparison is all about in biblical study. One may not always agree with his views, but invariably one will come away challenged to rethink the purpose and value of such comparisons for understanding the Hebrew Bible and its world.

Peter B. Machinist, Harvard University

As no other author has done, Walton penetrates beyond the simple comparisons often made to bring back intelligence about the contexts and constitution of the ancient world, stressing the ideas Israel and its contemporaries held in common—such as ‘deity is on the inside, not the outside’ of life—and discussing accounts of creation, views of history and of the future. Yet Walton repeatedly demonstrates how Israel’s faith was distinct, its God revealing his will by writing his law on his people’s hearts, a metaphor from divination implying that they reveal his law to others. That’s one of many cases where interpretation gains from ‘comparative exploration.’ This book deserves the attention of all serious Bible teachers and students.

—Alan R. Millard, University of Liverpool

This book is a must read for serious students of the Old Testament. John Walton has employed his extensive background and experience to write this excellent survey of the interface between the ancient Near East and Israel. I especially appreciate his sidebars on ‘Comparative Exploration,’ which enable readers to ‘zero in’ on the comparative topic of their choice relatively easily. The book is thoroughly readable yet very scholarly. Thus, beginning students, seminarians, and the interested public will find gold mines of conceptual information in this excellent work.

Mark W. Chavalas, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

John Walton has produced an important and useful guide to entering into some of the major worldviews and value systems found in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Israel. As a unique contribution to the study of that era, his work both introduces readers to this thought world and bridges the gaps between ancient Near Eastern texts and the perspectives of the Bible. Walton’s engaging style makes this an ideal introductory text for these important areas of Bible backgrounds.

Richard S. Hess, Denver Seminary

John H. Walton (PhD, Hebrew Union College) is a professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including A Survey of the Old Testament, Old Testament Today, and The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament.

Peoples of the Old Testament World

  • Authors: Alfred J. Hoerth, Gerald L. Mattingly, and Edwin Yamauchi
  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • Publication Date: 1998
  • Pages: 400

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The ancient Israelites lived among many nations. Knowing about the people and culture of these nations will enhance your understanding of the Old Testament. Peoples of the Old Testament World provides up-to-date descriptions of the people groups who interacted with and influenced ancient Israel. Detailed accounts by specialists cover each group’s origin, history, rulers, architecture, art, religion, and contacts with biblical Israel.

Detailed accounts by specialists cover each group’s origin, history, rulers, architecture, art, religion, and contacts with biblical Israel. Part 1 covers the region of Mesopotamia and includes articles on the Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and Persians. Articles covering the Hittites, Canaanites and Amorites, Phoenicians, Arameans, Philistines, and Egyptians compose the second section. Part 3 explores the people of Transjordan—the Ammonites, Moabites, and Edomites.

Photographs, a chart of chronology, a map of the ancient Near East, and three comprehensive indexes complete the volume.

Gives a superb introduction to major peoples of the biblical world (e.g., Babylonians, Hittites, Canaanites, Egyptians). The authors successfully assimilate and convey textual and archaeological information using the latest scholarly works as well as time-proven resources.

Biblical Archaeology

This excellent work will be recognized as the standard encyclopedic reference on the major non-Israelite people groups mentioned in the Old Testament. Not only would it be an important addition to seminary and Bible school libraries, but it is fashioned in a manner to be profitable for secular university libraries. It is expected that it will be a resource for the next generation of scholars.

Near East Archaelogical Society Bulletin

The book gives a superb introduction to major peoples of the biblical world. The authors successfully assimilate and convey textual and archaelogical information using the latest scholarly works as well as time-proven resources. This book would make a fine textbook for students in an upper level undergraduate class or in a graduate class, a good reference book for well-read lay person, or an excellent resource book for professionals in the field.

Biblical Archaeologist

A useful volume for students and others who read the Hebrew Bible with predominately historical interests.

Religious Studies Review

Alfred J. Hoerth recently retired as the director of archaeology at Wheaton College, where he taught for almost 30 years.

Gerald L. Mattingly is a professor of Bible at Johnson Bible College in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Edwin M. Yamauchi is a professor of history at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including Persia and the Bible, Greece and Babylon, The Archaeology of New Testament Cities in Asia Minor, Harper’s World of the New Testament, and Africa and Africans in Antiquity. A co-edited work, Peoples of the Old Testament World, won a Biblical Archaeological Society Award.

Studying the Ancient Israelites: A Guide to Sources and Methods

  • Author: Victor H. Matthews
  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • Publication Date: 2009
  • Pages: 240

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The Old Testament was not written in a vacuum. It was written by and to a specific people who lived within specific social, historical, political, and literary contexts—contexts not only of their own culture but also of the surrounding peoples. Clearly, an understanding of ancient Israel and the ancient Near East is essential for proper interpretation of the Bible.

Unfortunately, as students seek this kind of understanding, they are confronted with a variety of competing opinions and methods regarding the culture, history, sociology, and geography of the biblical story. Does archaeology ‘prove’ the Bible? Is the Bible history, and if so, what kind? How should the Old Testament be approached as literature? These and other questions are addressed in Studying the Ancient Israelites, which provides a guide to the tools, methods, and goals of the study of ancient Israel. The book also examines the insights that can be gained from geography, archaeology, literary study, sociology, and historiography, as well as the limitations of each of these disciplines. Here is an excellent text for Old Testament study.

Not only does Matthews write with the authority of a scholar with years of experience in the cultures of Israel and the ancient Near East, he also writes to bring the material to the educated layperson. This is an excellent background work, thus I would encourage all to read it as a prelude to any study of Israel. Studying the Ancient Israelites is full of practical, sensible help in understanding ancient Israel. The work contains specific examples concerning the various disciplines that have been used to study ancient Israel: archaeology, sociology, historical geography, historiography, and literary approaches.

Mark W. Chavalas, professor of history, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

Matthews is a sure-footed guide for students looking for help in sorting out the claims and counterclaims of scholars. This concise volume clearly introduces readers to the various issues surrounding the study of the ancient Israelites, offering insightful comments on the methods used in the investigation and why they are important.

J. Andrew Dearman, professor of Old Testament, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

Victor H. Matthews is dean of the College of Humanities and Public Affairs and professor of religious studies at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri, where he has taught for more than 25 years. He is the author of numerous books, including The Old Testament: Text and Context, and the bestselling Manners and Customs in the Bible.

The Social World of Ancient Israel: 1250–587, BCE

  • Authors: Victor H. Matthews and Don C. Benjamin
  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • Publication Date: 2005
  • Pages: 352

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Getting a fix on the social context of the Hebrew Bible is imperative for anyone reconstructing either the “story” of the text or the “history” behind the text. Resources in this area often prove overspecialized and arcane, and readerly tasks as simple as scanning their table of contents can require highly sophisticated skills in cultural anthropology or Semitic languages. Social World of Ancient Israel, 1250–587 BCE offers those interested in learning about the biblical world a more user-friendly framework for viewing the broader picture; at the same time, it relies on the latest methods of cultural anthropology and biblical analysis in its presentation. Painting a picture in broad but precise strokes, the authors portray the landscape of ancient Israel in new and exciting colors that expert and student alike will appreciate.

Social World of Ancient Israel takes a unique look at the most prominent social institutions of the world of early Israel and the period of the monarchy, and then shows how properly understanding these social institutions is essential for sound biblical interpretation. Immersing the reader in five major areas of antiquity’s daily life —politics, economics, diplomacy, law, and education—Matthews and Benjamin explore the ways in which knowing how “players” function in these institutions (configurations include “father/mother,” “prophet/wise one,”, and“host/stranger”) can shape our understanding of earliest Israel. Perhaps most significantly, the book gently exposes the inefficiency of past anthropological models for interpreting the relationships, attitudes and social conventions of earliest Israel. Its corrective insights will enable scholar and student alike to plot new approaches for studying the Hebrew Bible and the ancient people of Israel.

Social World of Ancient Israel offers the most refreshing and innovative approach to ancient Israelite society that I have ever read. The book uses different roles in village life and state institutions to open up the biblical world. Clear and engaging for beginners, full of insights for biblical scholars, this book fills a major need for a masterful synthesis of life in ancient Israel.

Mark S. Smith, New York University.

Victor H. Matthews is dean of the College of Humanities and Public Affairs and professor of religious studies at Missouri State University. He received his PhD from Brandeis University, and he has written numerous popular as well as scholarly articles. He is the author of Manners and Customs in the Bible and coauthor of Old Testament Parallels: Laws and Stories from the Ancient Near East and The Social World of Ancient Israel.

Don C. Benjamin teaches at Rice University. He is coauthor of Old Testament Parallels: Laws and Stories from the Ancient Near East and author of Deuteronomy and City Life.

The Enemy in the Household: Family Violence in Deuteronomy and Beyond

  • Author: Caryn A. Reeder
  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • Publication Date: 2012
  • Pages: 224

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Three laws in Deuteronomy command violence against a family member—the enemy in the household—who leads others away from covenantal obligations to God. Several biblical and postbiblical narratives make use of such violence. In The Enemy in the Household: Family Violence in Deuteronomy and Beyond,readers will find a fresh approach to troubling biblical texts.

Caryn Reeder explores the “family violence” passages in Deuteronomy, tracing their ancient interpretation and assessing their contemporary significance. The Enemy in the Household examines such “constructive” violence carried out to protect the covenant community by investigating the reading practices of ancient Jewish and Christian interpreters of Scripture and their applications of these passages. It also provides modern readers with a model for the ethical interpretation of these difficult texts. The book will appeal to professors and students in Old Testament/Deuteronomy courses as well as those covering ethics and the Bible.

Ancient and modern interpreters have struggled to understand and apply the passages in Deuteronomy that legislate violence against family members as judgment for covenant unfaithfulness. Caryn Reeder sorts through the Old Testament texts as well as the pertinent literatures of Hellenistic Judaism, Roman-period Jewish writers, the Tannaitic Rabbis, and the New Testament, offering meticulous analysis that helps modern readers understand the theological and cultural issues as well as the interpretive dilemmas. It is the rare scholar who can interact with these literatures so adeptly, but Reeder shows sophisticated insight at every turn. The Bible’s call for constructive family violence is of great interest both in academia and the church, and Reeder’s balanced treatment provides much-needed perspective to the discussion.

John H. Walton, Wheaton College

Reeder offers us an in-depth study of the laws of ‘constructive family violence’ in the book of Deuteronomy. She contributes to our interpretive lens by means of an ethnographically sensitive exegesis of these laws in Deuteronomy as well as a thorough review of their conceptualization in subsequent believing communities. Here is a very helpful resource for those engaged in the study of family law, the marking of social boundaries in Israel, and even church discipline.

—Sandra L. Richter, Wesley Biblical Seminary

Caryn Reeder is unafraid. She is unafraid of a subject on which many fear to speak. She is unafraid of parts of the Bible that others either ignore or expunge. And she is unafraid of controversy, whether among the ancient rabbis or within today’s church.

Jo Bailey Wells, Duke Divinity School

This book is an excellent study on three verses in Deuteronomy, but it is about so much more. Through its focus on these three verses that suggest family violence, this volume demonstrates what careful research and well-applied theory can reveal about the text, Deuteronomy, family, and society, and the impact interpretation, both ancient and modern, has on meaning.

Tammi J. Schneider, School of Religion, Claremont Graduate University

Caryn A. Reeder (PhD, University of Cambridge) is an assistant professor of religious studies at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California.

Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality in the Old Testament

  • Author: Richard M. Davidson
  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • Publication Date: 2007
  • Pages: 850

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Flame of Yahweh offers a thorough exploration of gender relationships and sexual activity in the Old Testament. Topics include sexuality in Eden, the elevation vs. the denigration of women, exclusivity vs. adultery and premarital sex, permanence vs. divorce and remarriage, intimacy vs. incest, and sexuality in the Song of Songs.

Written from a theologically conservative perspective, Richard Davidson provides a meticulously researched work that makes extensive use of other ancient Near Eastern documents on subjects ranging from homosexuality to gender relations. At the same time, the author offers clear explanations of terms and historical context that make the work accessible and engaging.

This volume represents a most remarkable achievement. With encyclopedic breadth and extraordinary depth the author explores what the Old Testament has to say about every conceivable subject related to human sexuality. His discussions of the ancient Near Eastern cultural contexts, from which Old Testament writings emerged and to which they appear to have responded, are exceptional; and his treatment of specific biblical passages is generally balanced and thorough. Regardless of where readers find themselves in debates concerning sexual morality of gender relations, in the future, all who embark on serious study of biblical perspectives on these issues would do well to start with Davidson’s work.

Daniel L. Block, Professor of Old Testament, Wheaton College

Richard M. Davidson is J. N. Andrews Professor of Old Testament Interpretation at Andrews University. He is the author of In the Footsteps of Joshua and A Love Song for the Sabbath, as well as many encyclopedia and journal articles.

The Face of Old Testament Studies: A Survey of Contemporary Approaches

  • Authors: David W. Baker and Bill T. Arnold
  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • Publication Date: 2004
  • Pages: 512

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The developments in Old Testament studies during the past 25 years have created a mountain of scholarly data that challenges even the best-read researcher. From textual criticism to literary approaches, from historiography to social science, each discipline possesses unique patterns of development, scholarly personalities, and methodologies. The Face of Old Testament Studies tackles the challenge of organizing this wealth of data through a collection of essays on 16 major areas of contemporary Old Testament research.

Each contributor traces recent developments in his field of expertise, delineating new directions and crucial methodologies that have emerged in the mainstream academy. One distinctive of this compilation is that it also pays attention to conservative scholars who have made contributions of significance that have been recognized beyond their own camp.

This reference work affords professors and students an overview of the salient issues and current approaches to Old Testament research. Suitable as a textbook for Old Testament introduction, Hebrew exegesis, and Old Testament theology courses, it will also be helpful for nonspecialists who desire to keep up with developments in Old Testament studies.

A splendid book that will be an important reference work in the field and useful both to beginners and to seasoned students. The editors have assembled an impressive series of authors, all of whom are competent, some of whom are leaders in their fields. The book is immensely well-documented by well-read authors! Judgments made on scholarly work are consistently judicious and fair. The reader can count on an informed, well-balanced entry into the excitement of current study.

Walter A. Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary

In a world where knowledge of every subject is growing more quickly than at any other time in history, this volume of essays provides an exceptionally helpful way of keeping abreast of current Old Testament scholarship. Contemporary approaches to a wide range of issues are not only clearly explained but also carefully critiqued, offering a distinctively evangelical assessment of Old Testament studies at the end of the twentieth century. For those who wish to familiarize themselves with the current state of affairs, this collection of essays, written by recognized experts in their own fields, is indispensable

T. Desmond Alexander, Union Theological College

Probably the best attempt to describe the present state of Old Testament scholarship. The authors are all recognized scholars who have contributed significantly to Old Testament studies. They examine an amazing amount of literature and so give the reader access to most of the important essays and books in the last decades. While all of the essays are competent reviews of the issues and the debates, some of the essays are themselves helpful contributions to further thinking about the issues under discussion. It will be most useful for anyone teaching Old Testament.

Patrick D. Miller, Princeton Theological Seminary

The editors are to be commended for both the scope and thoroughness of the essays. The contributors to this volume represent the best of evangelical scholarship, interacting seriously with the most recent research on a wide range of subjects but maintaining a high view of the Old Testament as a source for understanding the history, culture, and faith of ancient Israel.

Daniel L. Block, Professor of Old Testament, Wheaton College

This collection of essays on the state of Old Testament studies by prominent Old Testament scholars is a welcome addition to the library of both scholars and students of the Old Testament. The essays review the literature and present the challenge of thinking through a number of issues that have been raised in the last twenty years. A magnificent contribution to the state of Old Testament scholarship.

—Willem A. VanGemeren, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Bill T. Arnold (PhD, Hebrew Union College) is a professor of Old Testament and Semitic languages at Asbury Theological Seminary. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including Encountering the Book of Genesis, Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books, A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, and a commentary on 1 and 2 Samuel.

David W. Baker (PhD, University of London) is a professor of Old Testament and Semitic languages at Ashland Theological Seminary. He is a coeditor of the Apollos Old Testament Commentary series and the author or editor of numerous other projects.

Temples, Tithes, and Taxes: The Temple and the Economic Life of Ancient Israel

  • Author: Marty E. Stevens
  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • Publication Date: 2006
  • Pages: 224

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The temple in Jerusalem was both the center of ancient Israel’s religious life and an economic center for the nation. In this groundbreaking study of the economic functions of the Jerusalem temple, Marty E. Stevens, who worked for 15 years as a certified public accountant prior to getting a PhD in Old Testament, demonstrates that the temple acted as the central bank, internal revenue collector, source of loans, and even debt collector for ancient Israel. Applying a broad knowledge of temple-systems throughout the ancient Near East, Stevens sheds light on the roles played by various officials mentioned in Scripture and their tasks within the temple complex. Neither “Big Brother” nor “big business,” the temple still served government and commerce in the course of conducting its religious functions. This fascinating book opens new avenues for understanding the Jerusalem temple and its impact on Israelite society.

Professor Stevens has generously provided both the guild and the church a marvelously accessible study of the economic role of the temple in ancient Israel. She brings to her analysis the precision of an accountant, the judiciousness of a historian, and the passion of an educator. Her work will prove to be an indispensible reference work and an engaging textbook.

William P. Brown, Professor of Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary

This study presents an entirely new way of looking at the Jerusalem temples and their personnel. Stevens brings to light the most neglected aspect of temple life in most previous scholarship, i.e., the commercial role it played in the culture of its times. She has introduced fresh ways of conceiving its function as the power behind the throne and nation.

John M. Halligan, Professor of Bible, St. John Fisher College

Marty E. Stevens holds a PhD in Old Testament from Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education. Prior to embarking on an academic career, she worked for 15 years as a CPA in the US, Canada, and Europe. She teaches biblical studies at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg.

Hebrew Prophets and Their Social World: An Introduction

  • Authors: Victor H. Matthews
  • Edition: 2nd
  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • Publication Date: 2012
  • Pages: 256

Victor Matthews, a veteran teacher and expert on the world of ancient Israel, introduces students to the Hebrew prophets and their social world. Drawing on archaeology and ancient Near Eastern texts, Matthews examines the prophets chronologically, placing them and their message into historical context. He explores pertinent aspects of historical geography, economic conditions, and social forces that influenced a prophet’s life and message and explains why prophets served an integral purpose in the development of ancient Israelite religion. He also explores how prophets addressed their audience and employed rhetorical methods, images, and metaphors to communicate effectively. Logically organized, clearly written, and classroom friendly, this book meets the needs of beginning as well as advanced students. It is a substantially revised and expanded edition of the successful Social World of the Hebrew Prophets.

This is a user-friendly, insightful introduction to the prophets and their times. It brings together for readers the prophetic books, the figures they represent, and the world that produced them.

Andrew Dearman, professor of Old Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary

Matthews’s The Hebrew Prophets and Their Social World suits the needs of the college and seminary classroom in exemplary fashion. In it, Matthews sets the biblical prophets in their broader social context and in their specific historical contexts. He describes the phenomenon of prophecy, traces the outlines of its developments in ancient Israel from Moses to Malachi, and sketches the key themes in the preaching of each of the classical prophets. Supplemented by inserts that examine important background issues and a very helpful glossary and couched in readable, direct prose, this introduction sets a high standard.

Mark Biddle, Russell T. Cherry Professor of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond

The sheer genius of Victor Matthews as the author of this text, now in its second edition, is his ability to take very dense material and present it in a way that is thoroughly engaging, well researched, and brilliantly written. This study packs a lot of punch in a short amount of space and welcomes both students and scholars alike into the rich world of the ancient Near Eastern prophetic tradition and each of Israel’s prophets. This text is an excellent resource, an indispensable tool for learning, and should be used in every biblical course on the Prophets.

—Carol J. Dempsey, professor of theology (biblical studies), University of Portland, OR

My students often have difficulty coming to terms with the Hebrew Prophets because they are so diverse and yet all part of the same phenomenon of prophecy in ancient Israel. Victor Matthews has produced a very readable volume that provides the information students and other readers of the Old Testament need to begin a fruitful journey with the Prophets. He has put the prophetic books in the full context of the Hebrew Bible and in the process helped his readers understand a number of issues in biblical interpretation. His volume demonstrates the value of approaching the prophetic books with attention to their social setting. The volume is a fine beginning point for those who would interpret with integrity the Old Testament prophetic books.

—W. H. Bellinger Jr., Baylor University

This [book] is clear and well organized. Sub-headings, highlighted terms, and offset boxes make this text a wonderful pedagogical tool for teaching an introductory course in the prophets. [Matthews’s] primary focus on the prophets’ social world with attention to the various literary forms and techniques found in the prophetic texts is a welcome addition to the collection of texts already written about Israel’s prophets. Without any sacrifice of content, the work is concise, reader-friendly, and thoroughly engaging. This is an excellent resource of scholars, teachers, students, and general readers of the Bible.


Victor H. Matthews (PhD, Brandeis University) is dean of the College of Humanities and Public Affairs and a professor of religious studies at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri, where he has taught for more than 25 years. He is the author of numerous books, including The Old Testament: Text and Context, Studying the Ancient Israelites, and the bestselling Manners and Customs in the Bible.

Israelite Religions: An Archaeological and Biblical Survey

  • Authors: Richard S. Hess
  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • Publication Date: 2007
  • Pages: 432

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The last several decades have witnessed important discoveries of archaeological and documentary materials from the ancient Near East that shed light on ancient Israel and its religious practices. These extrabiblical materials have had a significant impact on scholarly debates regarding the religion of Israel and the interpretation of the Bible. Until now, however, there have been few introductions that juxtapose these contemporary discoveries with the biblical narrative to help students understand ancient Israelite religions.

Richard Hess provides just that in this accessible account of the discovery of archaeological and textual materials and the debates that have arisen over their importance for biblical studies. After a general introduction to the study of religion, he surveys the field of ancient Israelite and pre-Israelite western Semitic religious traditions. He then turns to consider the biblical literature and how other documentary evidence might enlarge our understanding of ancient Israelite religious practices and beliefs. One of the central scholarly debates concerns the question of when the Israelites developed their monotheistic impulse. After examining the evidence, Hess argues for the early establishment of the monotheistic tradition in ancient Israel.

Hess brings a wealth of knowledge to this study, and scholars, students, and clergy interested in the contemporary study of the ancient Near East and the Old Testament will welcome the expert guidance provided in this illustrated volume.

Having dedicated the last fifty years, full-time, to the study of the Bible and archaeology, I found Richard Hess’s Israelite Religions a veritable tour de force. Not only is it a remarkably inclusive review of major issues in our field but it also presents a well-informed critique of these matters. This comprehensive study attests to the broad erudition of the author and his unusual ability to communicate recondite material in an intelligible manner. This book will serve as an extraordinary resource for a long time; the bibliography alone makes it invaluable. Hess’s control of both ancient and modern languages, as well as anthropology and archaeology, enhances the value of his lucid presentation.

—Philip J. King, professor emeritus of biblical studies, Boston College

This new study by Richard Hess is a scrupulously detailed analysis of the most relevant research on the history of ancient Israel. The author has given ample attention to the main views and approaches to the subject. However, this is more than a review of the current state of the art. Professor Hess gives his own interpretation of the evidence, literary and archaeological. The result is a balanced, thoughtful presentation of the religion(s) of ancient Israel as he sees it (them). Every scholar and advanced student will want to use this erudite but clearly written essay on the religion of ancient Israel.

—Anson F. Rainey, emeritus professor of ancient Near Eastern cultures and Semitic linguistics, Tel Aviv University; adjunct professor of historical geography, Bar Ilan University

Writing from a tradition with high regard for what the Bible knows about ancient Israel, Richard Hess puts Scripture in dialogue with the full range of evidence for Israel’s religious life. In a lucid, accessible text for students, Hess also pushes forward a crucial conversation among scholars about the Bible and the ancient world.

—Daniel E. Fleming, professor of Hebraic and Judaic Studies, New York University

Richard S. Hess, well known for his numerous studies in biblical and ancient Near Eastern topics, now brings his extensive knowledge to bear on ‘Israelite religions.’ The plural form of the title is decisive: everywhere the accent is on the pluriformity and complexity of Israelite religion(s) in various periods and locales. The subtitle is equally critical: Hess surveys an immense array of biblical and archaeological data both judiciously and economically. Throughout the book, Hess’s attention to what may be unique or distinctive about Israelite religion(s) vis-a-vis its cultural congeners is instructive. Moreover, his care to define key terms, his correlation of textual and artifactual material, his awareness of the relationship of Israelite religion to biblical theology, as well as his trademark skill in onomastics—not to mention the useful and extensive bibliography—are among the aspects that make the present book not only welcome but also essential reading on the subject.

—Brent A. Strawn, associate professor of Old Testament, Candler School of Theology and Graduate Division of Religion, Emory University

Richard Hess’s book on Israelite religions displays impressive knowledge of their archaeological and ancient Near Eastern background as well as of the modern scholarly literature (over one thousand items in the bibliography!). Even those who will question some of Hess’s more conservative conclusions will learn much from this fascinating volume.

John Day, professor of Old Testament studies, Oxford University

Echoing the works of William Foxwell Albright and Cyrus Gordon, Richard Hess’s new book on Israelite religion offers a survey of Israelite religion fundamentally based on the framework and claims of the Bible and informed by archaeological evidence and extrabiblical texts. The book provides a clear, conservative treatment of this material from the Middle and Late Bronze Age down through the demise of Judah in 586. To the scholarly discussion of these sources, Hess adds his own expertise, particularly in Bronze Age texts. The field now has a general treatment of Israelite religion produced by a scholar with a strong faith in the Bible’s veracity. Even if readers do not share Hess’s strong trust in either the Bible’s historical claims or his high dating for many biblical texts and traditions, this volume nonetheless presents a good listing of research.

Mark S. Smith, Skirball Professor of Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies, New York University

Richard S. Hess (PhD, Hebrew Union College) is a professor of Old Testament at Denver Seminary. He is the editor or author of a number of works, including the commentary on Joshua in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries series, Family in the Bible, and Israel’s Messiah in the Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible: A Guide to the Background Literature

  • Author: Kenton L. Sparks
  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • Publication Date: 2007
  • Pages: 608

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The Hebrew Bible represents no mere collection of books but a stunning array of literary genres. To fully illuminate the history and culture of the Old Testament, it is necessary to compare these ancient writings to similar texts written concurrently by Israel’s neighbors.

Beginning with an overview of the important literary archives of the ancient Near East, Sparks provides exhaustive references to the ancient literary counterparts to the Hebrew Bible’s major genres. Surveying the ancient writings found throughout Egypt, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and Palestine, Sparks provides a brief summary of each text discussed, translating brief portions and linking them to literarily similar biblical passages. Exploring over thirty genres—wisdom, hymns, love poetry, rituals, prophecy, apocalyptic, novella, epic legend, myth, genealogy, history, law, treaty, epigraphic materials, and others—it offers an exemplary guide to the fertile literary environment from which the canonical writings sprung. Rich with bibliographic material, this invaluable catalog enables the reader to locate not only the published texts in their original ancient languages but to find suitable English translations and commentary bearing on these ancient texts. A number of helpful indexes round out this outstanding resource. Providing students with a thorough introduction to the literature of the ancient Near East--and time-pressed scholars with an admirably up-to-date research tool—it will become a syllabus standard for a myriad of courses.

For generations, specialists have begged for a book that would convey the literary richness of the ancient Near East to students of the Bible and of the classics. Kent Sparks—s handy reference guide is now here to fill that need: elegant in presentation, judicious in contents, with precise summaries of opinions, and helpful bibliographically.

Jack M. Sasson, Vanderbilt University

Students and scholars of every level will save days of catalog and preparation time for any one project just by having this ready to hand.

—Daniel Fleming, New York University

In addition to being highly conversant with ancient Near Eastern studies, the discussions show familiarity with contemporary theory in several fields outside of the biblical and ancient Near Eastern fields. The book thus constitutes a companion work to collections of translations of ancient Near Eastern texts . . . and a helpful aid for comparative study in general. . . . This is the sort of book that all scholars of Hebrew Bible should have in their libraries. In this day and age, it is difficult for those involved in comparative research to be equally conversant with all aspects of comparative study. For those who are not engaged in comparative research, this work gives ready access to current research in various biblical genres and their ancient Near Eastern and Egyptian literary counterparts. Whether one works in comparative research or not, this book will undoubtedly provide needed coverage. For teaching purposes, itI will also serve as a great aid. Thanks to this book, ancient Near Eastern texts have never been so accessible for biblical studies. Since this is such a helpful book for both students and professors, one may hope that the author will issue revised editions of this work for decades to come.

Journal of Hebrew Scriptures

Sparks’s fifteen chapters provide a genre-based discussion of ancient Near Eastern texts that in some way contributes to the study of the world, the literature, and the text of the Hebrew Bible. . . . While the primary audience for Sparks’s book is students, it will also serve as a helpful reference guide for biblical scholars.

Old Testament Abstracts

This is the fullest collection sui generis to date. . . . The book is illustrated with a number of maps and charts. The exposition is lucid and clear. The book is a good reference guide for the serious student of biblical literature. Academic libraries of institutions with programs in Bible studies, comparative religion, and comparative literature will be the primary address for this book. I recommend it for the reference shelf both for undergraduate and for graduate students.

Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter

Kenton L. Sparks (PhD, University of North Carolina) is professor of biblical studies and special assistant to the provost at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He is the author of several books, including Ethnicity and Identity in Ancient Israel.


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