In 2019, almost a million Americans – many of them evangelicals – visited Israel. If you are like me, when you’re getting ready to visit another country, you want to read some things to get oriented to the culture of the place. Israel offers an unusually rich array of reading choices, including theology, archaeology, history, politics – and of course the Bible itself!

For today’s post, I asked Andrew King, my colleague at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, to suggest a go-to list of books for those thinking about visiting the Holy Land. Dr. King is Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Spurgeon College and Assistant Dean of Spurgeon College. He is the author of Social Identity and the Book of Amos (T&T Clark, 2020) and is currently writing a commentary on Hosea in the Pillar Old Testament Commentary series (Eerdmans). He has participated in two seasons of excavation at Tel Dan in northern Israel.

This is a one-stop-shop for those traveling to Israel. In this compact book, Beck covers a lot of ground. He overviews biblical history, alerts travelers to proper etiquette for various sites, and provides details about the key locations and regions you will visit. He includes numerous maps, images, timelines, and more, to help you discover the world of the Old and New Testaments. The book is portable enough for you to carry with you during your trip and has a good index of locations at the back for quick navigation. This is an exceptionally user-friendly guide to touring Israel. A similar guidebook with an archaeological focus is Jerome Murphy-O’Connor’s The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700.

A good Bible atlas can be helpful anytime you read the Bible. But before you head to Israel, an atlas can introduce you to the land of the Bible before your feet touch the ground. Brisco’s volume is one of my favorites. This book sets biblical history in the context of the ancient world and geography. Admittedly, it is not the kind of book you read straight through, but its chronological narrative, as well as its many maps and charts, will bring biblical history to life. A more recent work with higher quality images is Paul H. Wright’s Holman Illustrated Guide To Biblical Geography: Reading the Land.

The modern nation of Israel is a complex place with a complicated history. In this book, secular Israeli journalist Ari Shavit gives an insider look into the history, culture, and politics of the modern state of Israel. Shavit presents a rather balanced and engaging exploration of key events that shaped the modern nation. A book like this can prepare readers for beginning to understand the divisions that exist today in Israel between various groups that call it home.

Part of touring Israel is visiting archaeological sites. But what is archaeology and how does it help our reading of Scripture? In this book, veteran archaeologist and Old Testament scholar Jim Hoffmeier introduces readers to the field and key findings of biblical archaeology from an evangelical perspective. Another valuable resource is John Currid’s recent book The Case for Biblical Archaeology: Uncovering the Historical Record of God’s Old Testament People.

There is continuing debate about the role of the land of Israel in God’s future purposes. Those visiting the land of the Bible should think biblically not just about the past, but also about the future. Oren Martin provides a clear and compelling biblical theology of the land. Martin traces the storyline of Scripture to show that the land promises in the Bible are fulfilled in Christ and are expanded to where Christ is present (the church and New Heavens and New Earth). For arguments for the continuing role of national Israel in God’s purposes, see the essays in The New Christian Zionism: Fresh Perspectives on Israel and the Land (ed. Gerald McDermott).

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