If you asked me for a list of historical fiction related to the biblical world that needed to be written, I’m not sure that the Maccabean Revolt would have been in the top 5. What I discovered, however, in reading David A. deSilva’s Day of Atonement: A Novel of the Maccabean Revolt, is that it really should be near the top. The book came out in 2015 but I only learned of it recently, and I wanted to mention it here in case you missed it as well.

To be sure, this is not really a book about the “revolt” per se. That is, it’s not a war story set in the midst of the battles between the Jews and the Seleucids. Instead, the book is about the people and events that led up to the great conflict. And this is perfect for what I needed.

Names that I knew on paper became living and breathing people, and you really feel like you make acquaintance with the high priests Honiah (Onias III), Jason, and Menelaus. Antiochus Epiphanes, one of the little horns of Daniel’s prophecies, is more human than I had considered. Most interesting are the characters whom deSilva has created who agonize over, or embrace, the increasing Hellenization of Jerusalem.

I loved being transported into Jerusalem in the year 171 BC and watching the construction of the gymnasium while overhearing the Jewish residents debate how far was too far. The uprising didn’t occur in a vacuum, and deSilva reveals various political, social, and religious threads that led a bunch of farmers and craftsmen to take up arms to preserve the worship of the true God.

deSilva is eminently qualified to write this book, given his lifetime of scholarship in the world of the Second Temple and his works on the New Testament and the Apocrypha. He recently wrote A Week in the Life of Ephesus (two thumbs up!), and I hope that he will continue writing historical fiction.

There was an interpretation or two that I would have written differently, but that doesn’t diminish my enthusiasm for the book and my appreciation for the author’s diligent labors. I am happy to give Day of Atonement my highest recommendation, and I commend it to all who love to learn history through excellent fiction written by a careful scholar of the era.

You can see some endorsements at Amazon, and Mark Strauss has reviewed the book for Themelios (but he gives a lot away, so you might skip it if you prefer surprise).

I would include this book in my top 5 works of historical fiction related to the biblical world, along with:


[Due to some website issues, part 2 of the last Weekend Roundup was not sent out. You can read it here.]

A cave near ancient Shechem served refugees for at least eight different historical periods, from the Chalcolithic to the Mamluk periods.

El-Unuk, one of Adam Zertal’s six “Gilgal” sites, is under threat of destruction from construction work.

The Israeli government has approved an $8 million budget to restore and protect the ancient capital city of Samaria. The funding “will go toward establishing a tourism center at the site, building new access roads, mapping untouched areas, and increasing law enforcement to prevent illegal activity.”

Scott Stripling discusses the Mount Ebal Curse Tablet on the latest episode of Digging for Truth.

John DeLancey’s latest video was filmed in the 1st-century synagogue of Magdala.

What are the Lachish Letters and why are they of importance to the Bible? Nathan Steinmeyer explains.

JNS has a story on the Inscriptions of Israel/Palestine project being run by Brown University.

In connection with a new exhibit at the Corning Museum of Glass, Ruth Schuster investigates the history and method of Roman glassmaking in the land of Israel.

Hybrid lecture at the Albright Institute on May 11: “Before the Nabataeans: Arabian Traders in the Negev Highlands,” by Tali Erickson-Gini and Martin David Pasternak

Zoom lecture on May 11: “Jesus Reading Scripture: Exploring the Archaeology of Worship in First-Century Synagogues,” by Paul Flesher ($6/$12).

The online lecture with Ken Dark on “Exploring the Archaeology of Jesus’ Nazareth” has been rescheduled to Friday, 12 May 2023 at 11:00am-12:30 pm ET.

Preserving Bible Times has released Session 5 of The Bible: Its Land & Culture! This session explores Two Different Worlds: Jewish or Hebrew and Roman or Gentile; Peter vs Paul; Deciphering the Roman World; and Roman Exceptionalism. Individual sessions are available here, and all 5 sessions are now available for purchase as a set ($40).

Paleojudaica links to articles that explore connections of King Charles III’s coronation with the Bible and the ancient Near East.

HT: Ted Weis, Explorator


According to Haaretz, the recent excavations have found no traces of the Pool of Siloam.

Chandler Collins investigates “artificial platforms of massive proportions [that] altered Jerusalem’s landscape while also destroying or concealing remains of former times.”

Google Arts & Culture’s collections include a story on the Holy Places of Jerusalem, with many large, beautiful photographs.

Bible History Daily summarizes a recent study that argues that it is very unlikely that a ring bears the name of Pontius Pilate.

Daily Mail tells the story of the Shellal Mosaic, discovered by ANZAC soldiers near Tell el-Farah (South) during World War I.

Haaretz profiles the research of Guy Bar-Oz in his efforts to study the cultural history of trees in Israel.

As Adolfo Roitman nears retirement as curator of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Shrine of the Book, Israel21c reports on how he ended up in the position, with no museum experience or expertise in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

New episode on This Week in the Ancient Near East: “New Jerusalem Inscription Points to (Previously Known) Iron Age Spice Trade, Or, Solomon and Sheba Get Spicy?”

Hybrid conference on May 21-23: “Epigraphy in Judah: The Second International conference of the Roger and Susan Hertog Center for the Archaeological Study of Jerusalem and Judah”

The Oxford Centre for Hebrew & Jewish Studies is offering free Modern Hebrew Ulpanim courses on Zoom.

Bible Mapper continues to produce and release free maps of the biblical narrative and world:

If you have not entered the drawing for more than 30 prizes of the Photo Companion to the Bible, you have until tomorrow to do so. Everyone who enters receives the new “Top 50 Sites from Dan to Beersheba” PowerPoint.

HT: Agade, Arne Halbakken, Mark Hoffman, Explorator


“Archaeologists in Southern Italy uncovered a trove of historical treasures in a temple in the ancient city of Paestum. The treasures include a statue of the Greek god of love Eros, Terracotta bull heads and dolphin statues.”

Art & Object reports on excavation work around the Colosseum.

“A team of marine archaeologists working off the coast of Italy has identified a submerged Nabatean temple dating to the early first century CE.”

“Ancient Babylonian treasures, painstakingly unearthed, are slowly disappearing again under wind-blown sand in a land parched by rising heat and prolonged droughts.”

Eckart Frahm is guest on The Ancients podcast to discuss the “Rise of the Assyrians.”

David Moster found a Babylonian Kudurru at Goodwill and made a video about it.

Tom Davis discusses Pauline archaeology on the latest episode of Biblical World.

New release: Ramesses II, Egypt’s Ultimate Pharaoh, by Peter Brand (Lockwood Press, 575 pages, $40)

New from Eisenbrauns: The Royal Inscriptions of Ashurbanipal (668–631 BC), Aššur-etel-ilāni (630–627 BC), and Sîn-šarra-iškun (626–612 BC), Kings of Assyria, Part 2, by Joshua Jeffers and Jamie Novotny. Price reduced to $91 with code NR23.

The latest BAS OnSite video tours Petra, with BAR editor Glenn Corbett as guide.

HT: Agade, Arne Halbakken, Keith Keyser, Alexander Schick, Explorator


“Thousands of animal bones, ceramic animal figurines, wall stones and limestone altars have been found at an Iron Age temple in Khirbet Al Mudayna,” possibly biblical Jahaz.

Lawrence Schiffman explains why he believes that Gershon Galil’s discovery of new inscriptions from the time of Hezekiah is the product of scholarly imagination.

The Inscriptions project seeks to collect and make freely accessible all of the previously published inscriptions (and their English translations) of Israel/Palestine from the Persian period through the Islamic conquest (ca. 500 BCE – 640 CE).”

The New York Public Library has available for viewing online Charles W. Wilson’s Ordnance Survey of Jerusalem (1865).

Grunge’s list of “female archaeologists who changed history forever” includes Kathleen Kenyon.

Jonathan Moore is a guest on Digging for Truth to discuss the archaeological evidence for the destruction of Jericho.

Zoom lecture on May 2: “The Antiquities Trade in Israel and Palestine: Same as It Ever Was?,” by Morag Kersel and Michael Press, sponsored by PEF and AIAR.

Zoom lecture on May 4: “Exploring the Archaeology of Jesus’ Nazareth,” by Professor Ken Dark, sponsored by Jerusalem University College

Bryan Windle begins a new series entitled “Weighing the Evidence.” In the first post, he evaluates the evidence both for and against the authenticity of the James Ossuary and its inscription.

HT: Agade, Arne Halbakken, Keith Keyser, Alexander Schick, Explorator


Many of you are likely familiar with the excellent work of Biblical Backgrounds, led by James Monson and Steven Lancaster. They have been producing outstanding resources since 1980, including Regions on the Run, Geobasics in the Land of the Bible, and the very useful Regional Study Maps.

They now have a new resource that I’ve been waiting for a long time. In a way. Actually, I’ve been using this chart for the past 20 years, while it was “under development.” I don’t remember how I first learned about it, but whenever I was scheduled to teach my History of Ancient Israel class, I would contact Biblical Backgrounds and they would go down to the print shop and have another 50 printed and shipped off to me. I was very grateful.

My students loved it, but I had to tell them to guard the one they had, because they couldn’t get another one unless they signed up for the class again. But now that’s changed, and Jim and Steve have released a set of three “Gateways” – beautiful foldouts that pack a ton of historical and geographical detail in a tight frame.

I want to tell you about the one I’ve used so happily these many years. It’s called “Bible in its Time: 500 Years of Israelite Kings.” The heart of it is a chart that merges time and space, history and geography. The vertical axis represents north and south and the horizontal axis presents the passage of time from 1040 to 540 BC.

Bible in its Time: 500 Years of Israelite Kings
500 Years of Israelite Kings

The colors are what brings the story to life, for you can see at a glance the sweep of the rise and fall of kingdoms by the color scheme. The color green represents Judah and orange represents Israel, and the spikes and dips reveal their national expansions and contractions. In a few seconds, you can easily see Judah was strong under David-Solomon, Jehoshaphat, and Uzziah. Not only that, you can see that this didn’t happen in a vacuum, for when Israel rose, another power ebbed.

The most powerful “swoop” on the map is the big blue color representing first Assyria and then Babylon, coming down from the north, initially in the time of Ahab, but then “for good” when they conquered the northern kingdom in 723 and then applied severe pressure on Judah until its meltdown in 586.

In the midst of all the colors lie the details. The big picture draws you in, and then you grasp the specific events through the red boxes that illustrate conflicts and the arrows that reflect contacts. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this chart is worth 10,000. Here’s just a quick list of some of what you can readily reference:

  • The dates of all the kings of Israel, Judah, Assyria, and Babylon
  • The various coregencies in the northern and southern kingdoms
  • The names of the kings of Phoenicia and Aram
  • The dynasties and pharaohs of Egypt
  • The moving capital of the northern kingdom
  • The names and time periods of the prophets of Israel and Judah
  • Visual representation of every major battle between Israel and Judah and neighboring powers (including Shishak’s invasion, Qarqar, Aramean oppression, Jeroboam II’s expansion to Hamath, Assyria’s invasions of Egypt, Babylon’s various campaigns against Judah)

The format of this and the other Gateways is a foldout the size of a single sheet (11×6.6 inches) that unfolds into 8 panels/pages. The central two panels have the featured chart. The other panels explain the chart, providing a narrative description of the historical events of the era.

I’ve been waiting for this to be available for a long time, and I am very glad that anyone and everyone can now get their own copy. At only $7, you can buy a few for all the favorite Bible students in your life.

I’ll say just a brief word about the other two Gateways. The second “Bible in its Time” Gateway is “An Overview of 4000 Years.” This does just what it says in providing a full-colored chart of the major kingdoms of the ancient Near East from the earliest civilizations through the Old and New Testament eras and ending with the Arab conquest in the 7th century. This is the bigger picture that many will want before they focus in on the Israelite monarchies.

Bible in its Time: An Overview of 4000 Years
An Overview of 4000 Years

The third Gateway is “Bible in its Land: The Land Between Concept.” This concept goes back to the origins of James Monson’s instruction in the land of Israel in the 1970s, and while he has developed this at greater length elsewhere, this Gateway provides a quick introduction to the geographical dynamic of the land, featuring several smaller maps and one gorgeous 3-D map that spans much of four panels.

Bible in its Land: The Land Between Concept
The Land Between Concept

You can purchase a set of all three Gateways for a reduced price. (I just checked shipping, and it looks like it’s $9 in the US for up to 5 sets or 8 individual Gateways, so it’s to your advantage to purchase the set and/or gifts.)

As I said above, my students find the Israelite Kings chart to be extraordinarily helpful in conceptualizing the mass of details their merciless professor throws at them. It’s the ultimate study and reference guide for ancient Israel. If you’ve ever wanted to untangle the knot of biblical history, it’s never been easier.