I am a bit of a nerd. I love learning and buying new pens and pencils. I confess – I was that student in school. Before I left Korea, I asked my Pastor for some tips on materials that I could use to study the Bible more indepth. He recommended a Study Bible (I own one I love – the ESV Study Bible by Crossway) and a Bible Dictionary. I admit, I turned my nose up at the idea of a dictionary. I know what the words mean (mostly), so how useful could a Bible dictionary be?
I was at a Lifeway Christian bookstore this past weekend and saw a great sale that had a Bible Dictionary 50% off, so I decided to bite the bullet and purchase it. For those interested, I bought the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (These are just my opinions; I am not affiliated with any of these companies or products). They call it a dictionary but I would describe it more as an encyclopedia. I love it! From Aaron to Zuzim, I find all kinds of information in this book, including maps and timelines. In case you were wondering, the Zuzim or the Zuzite were people who lived in Ham. I love the pictures and the seemingly random information scattered throughout this book.
I think it will be very useful in topical studies, since it includes verse references, and in understanding both the people and the books of the Bible. It also gives me history on the plants and transportation of the time, which helps me understand the context of the books that were written. Sometimes I get caught up wondering about the feasibility of something or focused on how things work that I sometimes miss the message. I used to get online to look things up and somehow, my computer would take me from my Bible search to Pinterest to Facebook and through a time warp that resulted in lost hours! I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s had that happened. Having this dictionary as a tool should help eliminate some of that.
Additionally, my ESV Study Bible gives me a lot of information. It’s a big Bible and it’s heavy too but I love being able to study the Bible on my own. Please don’t misunderstand – I love Bible Studies but I don’t want to rely on someone else leading me through interpreting the Bible; sometimes I want to read a particular book or section on my own and understand it. My study Bible gives me a good overview of the book, including the author, the timeframe it was written, the theme, the purpose, occasion and background, a summary, literary features, key themes and an outline. This information helps me with the context of what I’m reading and gives me a clue as to what to expect when I’m reading it. My Bible includes footnotes to help explain verses and cross-references to other scripture.
I love learning and I gain so much information from my Pastor, online sermons, and Bible Studies but sometimes I just need to sit down with my Bible and tools to study it with the Holy Spirit guiding me. There’s always something in the Bible to learn but depending on the season or what the Lord is doing in your life, different things may catch your attention. If you never sit down to read your Bible, you are doing yourself a disservice and limiting your relationship with the Father. He speaks to us in many ways and one of those ways is scripture. I encourage you to gather the necessary tools to be able to learn on your own.
What tools do you use to study the Bible? What would you recommend people starting out use? Does anyone else have a Bible Dictionary? As always, I love hearing from y’all!