As a Baker Books Blogger, I received a copy of John A. Beck’s The Basic Bible Atlas: A Fascinating Guide to the Land of the Bible to review. I selected this book thinking it was a reference book in which I could look up various descriptions of the geography of the Bible to enlarge my understanding of scriptural truths. I was delighted to discover that instead of a typical reference book, it is essentially the story of the Bible told through the lens of “places.”
I read this book straight through over two days, in less than three hours total time, because it captivated my interest. Beck tethers the familiar stories of the Bible to the places where they occurred and reveals how God divinely and strategically used the world He created as a stage for His purposes. The reader will gain a lot of information about the everyday life of the people in the Bible, largely influenced by when and where they lived. The Bible makes sense in a whole new way as the story of redemption unfolds.
This is at heart the story of God’s relationship with humanity. The author begins in the Garden of Eden, the place of perfection that provided everything the man and woman could possibly need for eternity. We follow their exile after the Fall and find ourselves on the ark with Noah, floating above the earth as God reshaped His original creation and gives humanity a second chance. We explore the plains and scatter with the rebels who tried to build a tower to heaven. We trail Abraham from the Promised Land, down to Egypt, and then back again with Moses and Joshua. We then are led through the tumultuous years of war, peace, and war again, under judges and kings who rule various cities and take possession of the wild terrain that God calls His special land. When the Messiah comes, we focus on Jerusalem, the city where God dwelled and will dwell again. In the final pages of the story, we track the spread of the gospel across continents and end on a small island called Patmos which God has prepared for his beloved servant, John, to reveal the secrets of the end of the story.
In between the Bible’s beginning (Genesis) and ending (Revelation), the inspired authors and poets take us on a long journey. We walk thousands of miles through a wide variety of landscapes, each of which plays a role in the evolving plan of salvation. But there is something we dare not miss: the story told in the Bible begins and ends in the same place—the garden of Eden. (p. 158)
The people in the Bible were real people, with real lives, real problems, challenges, and victories. Just like us, I’m sure, the first question when meeting someone new was “Where are you from?” because the answer to that question reveals a host of information to the inquirer, assumptions (correct and incorrect) and facts, based solely on the geography of their origin. The places we’ve come from and the places we’ve been tell our stories. This is a good one.
I recommend this book for students of the Bible wanting to enlarge their understanding of scripture, or those who have little or no understanding of the story of Jesus. Both will be encouraged, enlightened, and surprised by what they learn.
[The opinions expressed are my own. I received a copy of the book for my review.]