Everyone loves maps. I don’t know what it is about maps, but they never fail to fascinate us. Granted, simple road maps may not be as interesting as topographical maps or population maps or any number of other cartographical projections, but regardless of your preference, maps attract our attention.
I’m talking about maps because in this blog post I want to sell you on the virtues of the ESV Bible Atlas, edited by John D. Currid and David P. Barrett. Many of you already own an ESV translation of the Bible, and I would bet a decent number of you even have the ESV Study Bible – an excellent resource well worth the investment. The ESV Bible Atlas is a stand alone, hard cover book of 349 high quality glossy pages that costs around $35 that was first published in 2010. This volume does not contain maps alone, but also has many current pictures of areas related to biblical events, diagrams, drawings and a running chronological narrative of biblical history.
The atlas is divided into 4 main parts: (1) introduction and overview of the biblical world; (2) historical geography of the biblical world; (3) regional geography of the biblical world; (4) appendixes and indexes. The first two sections take up the bulk of the atlas and are, in my opinion, the most interesting, and the third main section contains maps only with no explanatory text.
If you’re looking for a one stop shop for a simple, straightforward overview of the history of God’s people throughout the Old & New Testaments, replete with plenty of maps, pictures, diagrams and drawings, this is the book for you. If you homeschool your children and would like a companion book for Bible lessons, this may also be the book for you. Another feature I like in this book is the collection of special articles interspersed throughout. There are more than 20 brief articles on interesting subjects such as: where the garden of Eden may have been, how ancient Egyptian literature compares to OT literature, Hezekiah’s tunnel in Jerusalem (which, when next you’re passing through Jerusalem you should be sure to walk through), archaeological remains from the time of Jesus, and many more.
Nothing should ever replace your reading of the Bible, but working your way through this atlas will undoubtedly enrich your understanding and appreciation of the historical and geographical references made throughout Scripture. You’ll also begin to make connections that may never have occurred to you before such as why Jerusalem ties together Abraham, David and Jesus (and maybe even Adam!?) or why Gilgal matters for Saul’s reign.
If all of this sounds very interesting, but not quite enough, then I have one other suggestion for you: the trip to Israel itself led by our very own Allan Moseley, December 27 – January 5. It may cost a few more shekels, but, frankly, even this atlas can’t compare with walking the shores of the Sea of Galilee!