Commentary on a Commentary

I recently received volume 3 (Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther) of the newly released Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary of the Old Testament (ZIBBCOT) to review. The volume was shipped to me for free from Zondervan and I want to assure you that that fact will not in any way impact my review. Nor will the crumpled $20s used to package the book. Or the MacBook Pro used as padding. Or the Lexus it was “boxed” in. I’m not that easily bought! But I felt it necessary to disclose that I did receive it for free. 1Okay, it was really just in a cardboard box but a man can dream.

Short attention span review: This is a cool, useful commentary.

The Details: The set consists of large, hardback books that lay (and stay) opened on your desk the way you wish all of your commentaries did. The pages are glossy and thick so they can support the massive amount of pictures that are littered across every page.

What I like most is right there in the title of the book: “commentary”. This set is laid out like a commentary not an illustrated dictionary and so it exists in a kind of half way land between the two types of reference works. That is, it isn’t just organized by book, the chapters follow the Biblical text and provide helpful information organized by chapter and tied to specific verses. There is ample cross referencing so you’re not paying for them to cut and past repeated information and there is enough data there to make it useful.

From my foray into Nehemiah (I’m going to teach it in a few weeks) I’ve found that it isn’t as dense and academic as a typical commentary but is still helpful. The pictures help take the reader into the world being described in a way that traditional commentaries can’t. At the same time the text, more often than not, addressed the questions I had about that verse; at least to one degree or another.

I do have one complaint. The only index in the volume is for the pictures. I can’t think of when I might need to use it. A topical index would be helpful and it is not there. That kind of limits the usefulness of the volume to only a commentary. The addition of a healthy index would have allowed the book to function as a bit of an illustrated dictionary also.

Summary: I don’t think you could use the ZIBBCOT as a sole source for work in a Biblical book, but I don’t believe that was Zondervan’s plan. This set would make a good supplement to a commentary, filling in some fresh air where some of the atmosphere in commentaries can get a bit stale. I look forward to leaning on this volume in my upcoming teaching.

1 Okay, it was really just in a cardboard box but a man can dream.
Print This Post Print This Post

One Comment

  • That one complaint is probably going to cost you the Lexus.

Join the Discussion

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>