Who's Who in the Bible
by Jean-Pierre Isbouts, National Geographic, © 2013,
382 pages, $40.00 (hardcover), ISBN-13: 978-1-4262-1159-1
We have reviewed several books published by National Geographic over the years. Like the other books we have reviewed, this book is a large volume (382 pages) and is full of famous paintings and works of art from all over the world. That makes the book attractive, but perhaps its greatest weakness is that the times when the artists lived affects how they portrayed the biblical events. Frequently the portrayals are not consistent with what is known by scholars today. The way the book is arranged makes it a useful resource book when factual information is needed about biblical characters. Some 2,000 biblical characters are listed in the book with nearly 200 biographies of men and women described in the Bible.
The book has five chapters, with each chapter covering a section of the Bible. Chapter 1 is Genesis to Deuteronomy, and Chapter 2 is Joshua to Kings. Chapter 3 is Chronicles to Maccabees with a short section on the apocryphal books. Chapter 4 covers the four gospels, and chapter 5 covers Acts to Revelation. Each chapter gives a brief history of the chapter which is followed by an alphabetical listing of the major characters in that historical period. The Hebrew or Greek meaning of the name and what the person did is given as well as where that person is found in the Bible. It is brief and sometimes lacks detail you would like to have. Melchizedek, for example, is referenced as “king of righteousness” and Genesis 14:18 – 20 is given, but there is no reference to Hebrews 5:6 – 10.
Those who love art will like this book very much. Secular historians and archeology devotees will find it to give a summary of discoveries that are of interest to believers. Biblical scholars may find it incomplete and, in a few cases, controversial. For most of us, however, the book is a useful reference to add information to our lessons and enrich our understandings. As an example, I had never heard that Elijah's name actually means “my God is YHWH.” As I was giving a lesson on God and Baal and choosing what God we should serve, I found this book to be useful in explaining why Israel had gone after Baal and what Elijah offered as a challenge. For that kind of reference work, the book will be very helpful.