Zondervan recently released its new set, the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (ZIBBCOT), edited by John H. Walton. I recently received volume 5, “The Minor Prophets, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs.” As soon as I took it out of the box, I was impressed. The cover is a pretty typical glossy hard cover, with sewn binding that allows the book to sit open on a table to just about any page. This is great for when reference books as it is often hard to hold the book open and type or write notes on it.
After I noticed how nicely it sits open, I noticed the pictures. There are a lot of pictures. I haven’t had a picture book in years, and this was pretty exciting. The pictures are useful too. For example, I was writing a paper on Zechariah 4 last year, the passage that mentions the lampstand with seven bowls, each with seven spouts for wicks. I couldn’t find a picture of these anywhere (in available books). Everyone described it but no one had a picture. This not only has a picture of a seven-spouted bowl, but it has a picture of a real one, not a recreation. This is immensely helpful in understanding what Zechariah is talking about. The book is full of helpful illustrations and descriptions that enlighten the background of the text.
There is one thing I noticed that annoys me, which is not unique in ZIBBCOT. When referencing Hebrew, it uses transliterations. Transliterations are generally (not always) unhelpful to those who don’t know the language, and are frustrating to those who know enough of it to use the Hebrew. This is not unique in tools for Bible study, but it is frustrating to look and see a transliteration and have to figure out what letters mean what in order to look it up.
Overall, this is a great resource, and even a great book for general enjoyment. I look forward to using ZIBBCOT for years to come