ZIBBCOTA couple months ago, I wrote a review of Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (ZIBBCOT) Volume I (Genesis – Deuteronomy), part of a new 5-Volume set from Zondervan. I was highly impressed with the insight and sources provided in the historical comparative material covered in that volume.

In late December, I received volume 5, which covers the minor prophets, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs. It should be no surprise that I have loved it almost as much as volume one. In fact, my wife heard me talk about it enough that she purchased volumes two, three and four for me (to finish out the OT set) for Christmas, and the New Testament set for my birthday!

Following in the same format as Vol. 1, ZIBBCOT vol. 5 first covers the chronological placement of each of the OT books it covers, in some cases narrowing it down to 2 or 3 possibilities (where the biblical books do not give explicit time-periods). Then, based upon the most likely time placement, it uses the architecture, literature and artwork of the period to construct the culture of Israel and the surrounding countries, as relevant to the biblical text.

Additionally, there are beautiful photographs of the geography around the setting of relevant books/passages, maps, diagrams and lots of artifacts which illustrate the subtext of man passages.

As I noted in my review of Vol. 1, the authors of this series of commentaries are very respectful of the biblical text, as they compare and contrast contemporary beliefs and practices with those of the Hebrews in Israel. This is not done in any way to attempt to undermine the biblical text, but to help enhance it with a fuller cultural understanding.

For example, in Jonah 3, where the text indicates that God changed his mind, the authors note that the verb used here is the same one used in other OT books where it is said that God does not change His mind. Where this is different in Jonah is that the earlier passages were in the context of covenant agreements (where God will not change His mind), whereas the one in Jonah deals with the outcome of a prophecy (in which God can change His mind in how to meet the ends of a prophetic pronouncement).

Personally, I found the chapter on Job, the oldest book of the Bible, in terms of authorship, to be the most interesting one, with interesting notes on the differences between ‘the accuser’ in Job and the proper-named ‘Satan’ later in Scripture, and in-depth discussion on the origins of ‘the behemoth’ and ‘the leviathan’.

If I have any complaint about Volume 5, it is only that it seems a little more disjointed than Volume 1, which is only to be expected, since it covers so many short books of the Bible. All in all, though, it is an excellent resource that i will continue to go back to in my personal library.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, January 30th, 2010 at 4:32 pm and is filed under Original Articles, book review. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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3 Comments(+Add)

1   Chad    http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com
January 30th, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Chris L,
Thanks for sharing this. I will have to check this series out.

If you have time, can you share some of the insights on the authorship of Job along with the insights on the satan? Our Sunday school class is studying Job now (I’m not teaching this time around) and this will no doubt come up.

2   Chris    
January 30th, 2010 at 8:11 pm

Job is allegory! That is all ;)

3   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
February 2nd, 2010 at 11:00 am

Chad –

From a historical/archaeological perspective, ZIBBCOT places the story of Job as probably from the late Bronze Age (1350 – 1190 BC), with the possibility that it was written down later and edited between 400-600 BC. It has some similarities to the stories from Egypt, Mesopotamia and Ugarit from the earlier period, but some use of language that suggests a latter date for its being recorded in written form.

As for ‘the satan’ – in Job the individual is not given a proper name (”Satan”), but rather the definite article, which make him “the accuser”. The designation suggests more of an “opponent” than an “evil one” (which came about later). In Job, he acts as a court prosecutor and not as the leader of an opposition to God.