Reader Appeal: Pastors, Students, Nerds

Genre: Bible Reference

FBSN Rating: A


Don’t be deceived by the “pocket” size of George Knight’s book, The Illustrated Guide to Bible Customs and Curiosities. Sure, it looks small compared to the thick commentaries and weighty dictionaries that take up space on your Bible reference bookshelf—but that’s OK. This book packs in more than its weight in lively exposition of cultural backgrounds that influenced beliefs and behaviors of our ancient forebears.

This book is a lot like a mini-Bible handbook, written in a “just-the-facts” style that eschews obfuscation and tells it like it was. Arranged to correspond to all the books of the Bible, Knight has made it easy find something that’s relevant to whatever it is you’re teaching or reading in your own private world. Each chapter highlights several, nugget-like treatments of interesting (and often alien) customs of the people of antiquity. For instance:

Do you know why Shamgar (one of ancient Israel’s judges – see Judges 3:31) was able to defeat 600 Philistines using only an ox-goad? Do you even know what an ox-goad looked like? If you had The Illustrated Guide to Bible Customs and Curiosities, you would. An ox-goad was a sturdy pole about eight feet long, with a sharpened point on one end and a metal plate on the other. In Shamgar’s hand, that mundane farming tool became a deadly two-sided weapon, a combination sword and spear that he used to defeat Israel’s enemies.

And do you know why Peter prayed on the roof when he stayed at the house of Simon the tanner (Acts 10:9)? Well, in that day, a roof was often a place of rest and relaxation, and a place to cool off after a hot day. It was a lot like a modern-day patio—an escape on top of the house instead of beside it. So when Peter wanted a little alone time with God, it was natural for him to climb up to the roof/patio and start praying.

As I said, this little book packs a large amount of information into its small pages and tiny print—in fact there are more than 700 more little tidbits like these here. Plus it includes hundreds of full-color photographs and illustrations to help visual learners like me. In all, I was very impressed (except for that part about the tiny print!).

The Illustrated Guide to Bible Customs and Curiosities is easily recommended—just don’t forget your glasses.


The Illustrated Guide to Bible Customs and Curiosities by George W. Knight

(Barbour Books)



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About: Mike Nappa

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