Being able to read God’s Word every day is SUCH a joy, privilege, and a blessing! But there are many people, places, things, customs, and events mentioned in the Bible that are unfamiliar to the 21st-century reader. Many readers of Scripture quickly gloss over the unfamiliar in their goal to get through their three chapters or however many they read per day. “There! I read my chapters. I didn’t really understand what I just read but at least I was able to check off my daily Bible reading on my to-do list.” Reading God’s Word then becomes just another part of our daily routine; often a perfunctory, shallow exercise. Or we purposely avoid certain sections of the Bible that seem intimidating when there are actually rich veins of God’s wisdom to be mined there.
Fortunately, the believer has many tools today to help them comprehend the unfamiliar people, places, things, customs, and events named in the Bible. I mentioned in a previous post that a good Bible dictionary, a one-volume commentary, and a concordance are very helpful tools. See here.
In addition, the reader of the Old Testament would be blessed by a good, illustrated book that explains the Tabernacle. I know from personal experience that my eyes used to glaze over whenever I read God’s instructions regarding the Tabernacle in Exodus 25-30 and the actual building and equipping of the Tabernacle in Exodus 36-39. I highly recommend the “Rose Guide to the Tabernacle” (Rose Publishing, 2008, 128 pages). It has bountiful illustrations and VERY clear, non-academic text. The reading level is probably around 8th grade. My understanding and appreciation of the Tabernacle increased 10-fold after reading this book. The “Rose Guide to the Tabernacle” is readily available from Amazon. See here.
Also, I just finished reading “The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times” by Ralph Gower (Moody Publishers, 2005, 352 pages). This is an updated version of the popular, non-academic classic. There are numerous illustrations and the reading level is suitable for high-schoolers.
Part 1 – Family Life
- Domestic Activities
- Food and Meals
- The Family
- Collecting Food
- Craftsmen and Traders
Part 2 – Institutions and Customs
- Towns and Villages
- Journeys and Travel
- Social and Political Groupings
- Government and Society
I enjoyed this book very much. It’s difficult for 21st-century readers to relate to the nomadic and agrarian people of ancient Bible times. You’ll definitely feel more comfortable with their daily routines and customs after reading this book. Grower does a good job of relating the material directly to Scripture references. “The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times” is also available from Amazon. See here.
Both “Rose Guide to the Tabernacle” and “The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times” are faithful to orthodox evangelical doctrine and point to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
But MOST importantly, it is the Holy Spirit who illuminates the truths of God’s Word to our hearts and minds. There are MANY people who study the Bible for an entire lifetime but never grasp the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
“But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9-14