Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Pentateuch

Last week the mailman delivered the Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Pentateuch. It has been a long time coming, but it’s worth the wait. This is the best compendium of geographical information on the Pentateuch ever assembled—I don’t think anything even comes close.

To start with, Barry Beitzel is the editor. He has long been a leading scholar on biblical geography, as evidenced by his highly-praised The Moody Atlas of Bible Lands (published in 1985; revised in 2009 as The New Moody Atlas of the Bible). Now retired from 40 years of service at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Dr. Beitzel cast the vision for this series, developed its vast scope of topics, and recruited the best scholars in the field. In addition to his editorial work, he also wrote the preface and one of the articles on the Red Sea.

The contributors’ list alone suggests the excellence of this volume, including Richard E. Averbeck, David W. Baker, John A. Beck, Daniel I. Block, Mark W. Chavalas, Benjamin A. Foreman, Lawrence T. Geraty, James K. Hoffmeier, Mark D. Janzen, Chris McKinny, Gerald L. Mattingly, Steven M. Ortiz, Elaine A. Phillips, and Paul H. Wright.

The 900-page volume includes 47 individual essays addressing broad thematic subjects as well as narrowly focused topics. Some articles address controversial issues, such as the debate over Sodom and Gomorrah (two articles), the identification of Mount Sinai (two articles), and the location of Rachel’s tomb.

Other articles analyze broader geographical matters, such as the four rivers of Eden, the Table of Nations, the Tower of Babel, the region of Goshen, the wilderness itinerary, and the “seven nations” of Canaan. You can find entire articles dedicated to mountains in the patriarchal period, famine and its impact, burial practices, the golden calf, manna, quail, and water.

You can see a full list of the articles here. If I were to pick three articles to read first, instead of going from cover to cover, I might start with these three:

  • “‘A Land Flowing with Milk and Honey’: The Expression’s Meaning and Socio-spatial Significance,” by John A. Beck
  • “Geography, Agriculture, and the Israelite Calendar,” by Vernon H. Alexander
  • “The Theology of Land in Deuteronomy,” by Daniel I. Block

I contributed two articles to this volume, both of which were fresh studies for me that led to new and delightful discoveries.

  • “The Patriarchal Travels in Canaan: A Geographic Assessment”
  • “The ‘Land’ Given to Abraham and His Descendants: A Geographic and Socio-spatial Analysis”

I plan to post briefly about my two articles in the coming weeks.

The Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Pentateuch is available both in print (hardcover; Amazon) and in digital (Logos) formats. I am very thankful to Barry Beitzel, the authors, and the Logos editors and staff for their work in creating an extraordinary resource for the study of the books of Moses.


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