New Book: Everyday Life in Bible Times

John A. Beck has just published a new book that will be of interest to many readers here. The Baker Illustrated Guide to Everyday Life in Bible Times is an attractive, full-color guide to the culture and customs of the ancient world. Beck is familiar to readers here as one of the authors of the popular A Visual Guide to Bible Events and A Visual Guide to Gospel Events.

The book is comprised of about 100 articles, each three pages long. Every subject is carefully illustrated, and it is difficult to find a page without a photo (or two or three).

The book covers a wide range of subjects such as sacred days, family relationships, agriculture, warfare, clothing, and food. Specific articles include:

  • Anoint
  • Clap Hands
  • Crucify
  • Engrave
  • Kiss
  • Land On Hands
  • Naked
  • Run
  • Shave
  • Thresh
  • Widow

I made note of a few items that may be new to readers here:

  • “We can safely say that no activity was more ordinary in Bible times than the baking of bread.”
  • “The belt of our Western world is very different in appearance and function from the belt of the ancient world.”
  • The clapping of hands sends one of four messages in the ancient world: “(1) to mark a time of joy-filled celebration, (2) to mock or scoff at someone’s misfortune, (3) to express grief or anger, or (4) to play a part in a magical incantation.”
  • The Gadites are noted for their military greatness in part because of their ability to cross the Jordan during flood season (1 Chr 12:14-15).
  • There is one positive use of the word “drunk” in the Bible (Deut 32:42).
  • There are four categories of kissing in the ancient world: (1) the greeting kiss, (2) the departure kiss, (3) the kiss of respect, and (4) the erotic kiss. Beck gives biblical examples for each one and mentions three other types of kisses mentioned in Scripture: the deceptive kiss, the holy kiss, and the figurative kiss.
  • “Jews of the first century carried a combined tax burden that was near or slightly exceeded 50 percent of their income.”

In every article I read, I learned something new. Though written for a popular audience, the book includes footnotes that point to the source of the information or related good resources.

The book is also available on Kindle, but I would guess that it’s not as attractive as it is in print format.

On a related subject, if you’re looking for a collection of photos of Cultural Images of the Holy Land, we know of a good one.


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