I’ve spent quite a while looking through my ESV Bible atlas, so I thought I’d give a quick review.
First of all, it is a great resource. The maps are attractive and helpful – and there are many of them. There are also quite a few nice color charts and pictures of different Bible regions, giving the reader a small insight into the geography, culture, agriculture, economy, climate, and character of OT/NT history and lands. The text is thorough; reading thorough it would be a solid intermediate introduction to biblical history and geography.
There are four main parts – first, an introduction and overview of the biblical world. Second, in about 250 pages the authors (Currid & Barrett) talk about the historical geography of the biblical world (including the intertestamental period). Third, there are about 50 pages of excellent regional maps (i.e. Egypt, Gilead, Palestine, Philistia, etc). Finally, in a 50 page appendix/index, there are timelines and king charts as well as the indexes to find what you’re looking for in the atlas (i.e. town names, weather, mountains, etc.). [By the way – maybe someone else could help here – are some of the maps in the ESV Bible atlas the same as in the ESV Study Bible? I’m guessing they are, but I don’t have the ESV Study Bible, so I’m not sure.]
Here are a few weaknesses. I realize some are minor, but they did stick out for me. First, the book is huge and heavy. It only fits on a few shelves I have; it is bigger than the old ISBEs. Second, I could be wrong here, but the binding doesn’t seem so solid. I won’t be surprised if the thing falls apart after a few years (again, I could be wrong, but the spine does feel weak). Third, the CD is nice, but it is little more than a storage disc for the maps in the book (as a plus, I’m glad they are printable). Fourth, finding a topic (city, river, or land area) isn’t as easy as it should be. For example, if you want to find Bethany, you go to the index and it says 12-8, which means you have to find chapter 12 and then map 8. I wish they’d have given the page number instead. Finally (and this is really minor), the foldout map isn’t anything too spectacular, so don’t get your hopes up there.
Again, I don’t want to sound overly negative; this is an outstanding atlas and I highly recommend it. In fact, I’m using it right now as I study Joshua 14 and the land that Caleb received as his inheritance. I’m sure if you get this atlas you’ll be satisfied despite some minor weaknesses.