While browsing the RTS (Orlando) library some months ago, this four volume set caught my eye: “Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity.” After looking at it a bit I put it on my “to get” book list. Since then I did get it on Logos for around $60. (As a side, you can also get a one volume copy on Amazon for around $75 or a four volume set elsewhere online).
Dictionary of Daily Life is a great resource to help students of Scripture learn a ton more about the background of OT and NT concepts and items such as armies, boats/ships, childbirth/children, education, medicine, trade, weapons, and so on. Each entry in this dictionary has the same format: a very short summary of the term/concept, the OT and NT descriptions/examples of it, the Near Eastern description/examples, the Greco-Roman world description/examples, the Jewish description/examples, and the Christian (post-biblical) description/examples. Following each entry there is a short bibliography for those who want to dig deeper into other resources.
Let me give an excerpt for those interested. Here’s the opening general summary of the entry “Armies.”
The use of force by armed soldiers for offensive or defensive purposes was universal in the ancient world. While the people of most cities and small kingdoms were prepared to gather a militia and defend themselves at need, large kingdoms and empires employed standing armies of professional soldiers whose business was to train for war and carry out the campaigns of the sovereign.
Battlefield tactics and weapons technology were constantly changing during biblical times, with innovations often becoming a part of the identity of the nation where they were developed. The Egyptian army developed an effective chariotry, and was also able to capture fortified cities. The Assyrians developed an unstoppable military juggernaut. Though the Persians were able to launch their attack on Greece with the largest army and navy ever seen, they were still defeated by the heroic Greeks. The Greeks were known for their phalanx formation, while Alexander relied on a cavalry charge he personally led. The Romans conquered numerous countries with their disciplined legions. Hiring foreign mercenaries for these armies was also a common practice, and, together with wide-ranging military campaigns, was a primary cause of racial and cultural mixing in the ancient world
The entry on armies then goes on to discuss armies in the OT, the NT, the Near Eastern world, the Greco-Roman world, the Jewish world, and the Christian (post-biblical) world. By the way, each of these entries are very well researched and written. In my Logos version, the Bible texts are nicely linked and it’s super easy to navigate from one entry to another. Some of the entries also have images/figures. For example, under the entry for “Magic” there’s an image of a “djed” amulet which represents the backbone of Osirus and has a spell from “The Book of the Dead” inscribed on it.
I could say quite a bit more about this resource, but I want to keep this recommendation short. This book is available for preview both on Amazon and on the Logos website. If you’re interested, I do recommend checking it out. Although the articles are in-depth and detailed, they’re not necessarily written for scholars. I think many intermediate readers should be able to appreciate and benefit from this resource. Give it a look!
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