Halley's Bible Handbook with the New International Version (Deluxe)

(Hardback - Sep 2007)
$29.99 - Online Price
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Clear. Simple. Easy to read. Now in full color for its twenty-fifth edition, this world-renowned Bible handbook is treasured by generations of Bible readers for its clarity, insight, and usefulness. Halley s Bible Handbook makes the Bible s wisdom and message accessible. You will develop an appreciation for the cultural, religious, and geographic settings in which the story of the Bible unfolds. You will see how its different themes fit together in a remarkable way. And you will see the heart of God and the person of Jesus Christ revealed from Genesis to Revelation. Written for both mind and heart, this expanded edition of Halley s Bible Handbook retains Dr. Halley s highly personal style. It features brilliant maps, photographs, and illustrations; contemporary four-color design; Bible references in the easy-to-read, bestselling New International Version; practical Bible reading programs; helpful tips for Bible study; fascinating archaeological information; easy-to-understand sections on how we got the Bible and on church history; and improved indexes."


  • SKU: 9780310259947
  • UPC: 025986259945
  • SKU10: 0310259940
  • Title: Halley's Bible Handbook with the New International Version
  • Publisher: Zondervan Publishing Company
  • Date Published: Sep 2007
  • Edition Description: Deluxe
  • Pages: 1047
  • Illustrated: Yes
  • Weight lbs: 4.10
  • Dimensions: 9.40" L x 6.50" W x 1.80" H
  • Features: Table of Contents, Price on Product, Price on Product - Canadian, Maps, Index, Illustrated, Bibliography
  • Themes: Ethnic Orientation | Hispanic; Theometrics | Evangelical;
  • Subject: Biblical Reference - Handbooks

Chapter Excerpt

Chapter One

The Setting of the Bible

1. Why the Setting Is Important

The Bible is full of people, places, and events-it tells of God's concrete dealings with humanity and humanity's relationship with God in the day-to-day situations and problems of real life.

While an understanding of the message of the Bible-the Gospel of God's eternal love for His people-does not depend on our knowledge of the historical, geographical, and cultural background or setting of the Bible, such knowledge will often add a concrete dimension to our reading of the Scriptures that can help put the biblical message in sharper focus.

For example, in Genesis 23, Abraham's wife Sarah has died, and Abraham needs a place to bury her. God had promised that the land of Canaan would belong to Abraham and his descendants, but at this point he doesn't own even a square inch of it; he is still a nomad. Abraham approaches Ephron the Hittite, who owns the cave in which he wants to bury Sarah. The story reflects an established pattern of negotiating. Ephron seems to be very generous, but in reality he ends up selling the cave to Abraham for an exorbitant price. This was the only part of Canaan Abraham owned when he died, and he paid many times what this little piece of it was worth-yet Abraham continued to have faith in God's promise that one day his descendants would own all of the land (see Hebrews 11:8-10).

Similarly, geography often plays a role in the Bible. When God called Abraham to go from Ur of the Chaldeans to Canaan, almost due west of Ur, Abraham ended up in Haran, almost as far north of Canaan as Ur was east of it (Genesis 12). The problem was not that Abraham had a poor sense of direction. Rather, it was impossible for Abraham to travel due west to Canaan, since between Ur and Canaan there was only desert. Abraham had to follow the River Euphrates, the one reliable source of water on a journey of some 600 miles as the crow flies, before heading south to Canaan. (See page 49 for more on roads and travel during biblical times.)

2. The Ancient Near East

The setting of the Bible is what is today called the Middle East: modern Egypt, Turkey, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran. This same region is referred to as the Ancient Near East when we look at its history.

It is an area smaller than the United States, much of it desert. The earliest great civilizations prospered around the rivers in this region-the Egyptian Empire along the Nile River, the Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian Empires around the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, in what is now Iraq.

We sometimes have the mistaken notion that Abraham, with whom the story of God's people begins, lived in rather primitive times. Nothing could be further from the truth-unless we assume that technology and urban sprawl are the hallmark of civilization. When God called Abraham (ca. 2000 B.C.),

Egypt had already had a flourishing civilization for more than a millennium; the pyramids had been standing for almost five centuries.

On the island of Crete, the great Minoan civilization had already prospered for more than five centuries.

The region around the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers (also called Mesopotamia = "Between the Rivers") was the scene of the great Sumerian civilization. Ur of the Chaldeans, where Abraham came from, was a thriving city on the Euphrates River.

Great civilizations also flourished farther east, in the Indus Valley and in China.

It was not until after the end of the Old Testament (ca. 400 B.C.) that the center of power moved westward, away from the Ancient Near East, first to Greece and then to Rome.

3. The World Powers of Biblical Times

There were six great empires during biblical times. (The exact boundaries fluctuated, and some of the boundaries were never clearly defined.) The first three empires were east and southeast of the Mediterranean Sea; the last three show a gradual shift toward the west, until with the Roman Empire the focus of power shifted from northern Africa and the Near East to Europe.

Egyptian Empire. Became the home of Israel when the Patriarchs moved to Egypt at the end of Genesis; the Israelites left Egypt in the Exodus, 400 years later.

Assyrian Empire. Destroyed the northern kingdom, Israel, in 722 B.C. and deported its people. Its capital was Nineveh (which was spared after Jonah preached there).

Babylonian Empire. Destroyed Jerusalem and the southern kingdom, Judah, in 586 B.C. and deported its people to Babylonia. Its capital was Babylon (where the prophet Daniel rose to prominence).

Persian Empire. Destroyed the Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C. Its capitals were Persepolis and Susa (the latter providing the setting for the book of Esther). The first Persian ruler, Darius, allowed the Jews to go back to Jerusalem.

Greek Empire. Founded by Alexander the Great around 330 B.C. After Alexander's death, the empire was divided into four empires (see pp. 472-74). The legacy of the Greek Empire was not political but cultural: Hellenism (see p. 481).

Roman Empire. The empire that was in its glory days during the time of Christ and the early church (see pp. 645-53; for the Roman Empire after the time of Christ, see pp. 895-901).

4. Roads and Travel in Biblical Times

Our understanding of both the Old and the New Testament accounts can be enhanced by understanding the influence that roads and weather played in the course of biblical events.

In ancient times, the location of roads was determined to a large extent by the natural features of the landscape. Most roads through the rugged hill country of Judah generally followed the mountain ridges, since a more direct route would mean climbing in and out of many valleys and ravines.

Water-either too much or too little-was also a problem. Roads in valleys and low-lying areas could flood during the rainy season or become too muddy for use. Travel during the dry summer season was much easier than traveling on muddy, rain-soaked roads in the winter months. The spring and summer seasons were "the time when kings go off to war" (2-Samuel 11:1) because the roads were dry and the newly harvested grain was available to feed their troops.

Too little water, on the other hand, was an even more serious problem. When Abraham traveled from Ur to Canaan (see map on p. 109), he could not simply go west, which would have saved him hundreds of miles, since there were no sources of water in the Arabian Desert. Instead, he had to follow one of the major international trade routes that connected Mesopotamia with Egypt, Turkey, and Arabia. From Ur, these routes followed the great rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris, and both went through Haran, almost 400 miles to the north of Canaan.

The Major International Routes

The "major international routes" were not unlike the transcontinental trails in the early American West, such as the Oregon Trail. Basic "road-building" operations included the removal of stones from the path, the clearing of trees and bushes, the maintaining of shallow fords in the river beds, and possibly the construction of trails along steep slopes. But these major routes generally followed relatively easy terrain and were never far from water sources.

These roads had to be recleared and releveled periodically, especially when an important personage such as a king was to travel on them. Thus it is not just poetic language, but rather a statement about actual road maintenance when we read, "Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low" (Luke 3:5)-that is, ruts or eroded low spots must be filled in, and bumps must be removed.

Living near an international highway brought economic benefits. These roads served as thoroughfares for itinerant tradesmen and merchants, for the conveyance of governmental and commercial messages, and for the transportation of scarce supplies, such as copper, iron, tin, gold, silver, incense, dyes, and pottery. (Bulkier items such as timber and stones were usually shipped on boats and rafts.) Those who controlled the roads-whether brigands or a more permanent central government-could derive considerable income from the traffic on these highways. The central government could collect tolls from passing caravans, sell food and lodging, and offer the services of military escorts that could be hired by the caravans to ensure their safe passage through "dangerous" territory.

On the other hand, these same roads were also used for military expeditions, which brought no economic benefit but only enormous risk in the case of hostile armies.

Those living along the international routes were also exposed to new intellectual, cultural, linguistic, and religious influences, and this inevitably led to a degree of assimilation. For example, the ease of travel in and out of Samaria helps to explain the openness of that area to non-Israelite religious and cultural influences.

The remoteness of the Hill Country of Judah and the relatively difficult access to Jerusalem made the southern kingdom less susceptible to foreign influences. This difference helps explain why the deportation of the northern kingdom happened some 130 years earlier than the deportation of the southern kingdom, Judah (see pp. 199-201).

Roads in Canaan

By the time Abraham arrived in the land of Canaan (ca. 2000 B.C.), the lines of communication within the country were already well established. Two international highways ran through the country, one along the coast (sometimes referred to as "the Way of the Sea"), the other east of the Jordan River (the Transjordanian highway). The western international highway probably played a role in the story of Joseph, who found his brothers near Dothan, was thrown into a cistern, and then was sold to Midianite merchants, who took him to Egypt (Genesis 37:12-28). Dothan was less than 15 miles from the western highway, and the cistern may have been even closer.

The map on page 49 shows many of the regional and local routes in Canaan. One of these is especially important for biblical studies: the interregional route that ran from Beersheba in the south to Shechem in the north-via Hebron, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Gibeah, Ramah, Bethel/Ai, and Shiloh. This route appears again and again in the biblical text. Some people call it "the Route of the Patriarchs" because Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob traveled its length, while others refer to it as "the Ridge Route," for in many places it runs along the ridge of the watershed of the Judean and Ephraim mountains. Even when it is not specifically mentioned, it often furnishes the backdrop for many events recorded in the Bible.

Roman Roads

It was not until shortly before New Testament times that the Romans developed advanced road-building techniques, which included the preparation of the roadbed by leveling the ground and cutting rocks, the use of curbing to mark the edge of the roads, attention to drainage, and the laying of paving stones. The Roman Empire developed a system of roads that ultimately would stretch from Scotland to the Euphrates-some 53,000 miles in all. (The U.S. Interstate Highway System, by way of comparison, consists of approximately 30,000 miles of road.) It is probable that the construction of a rather well-developed road system had already begun in Syria and Judah in New Testament times.



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