Baker Academic has a brand new website! Click Here To Visit:

Behind the Scenes of the Old Testament

Cultural, Social, and Historical Contexts

Cover Art Request Exam Copy

Where to Purchase

More Options


This authoritative volume brings together a team of world-class scholars to cover the full range of Old Testament backgrounds studies in a concise, up-to-date, and comprehensive manner. With expertise in various subdisciplines of Old Testament backgrounds, the authors illuminate the cultural, social, and historical contexts of the world behind the Old Testament. They introduce readers to a wide range of background materials, covering history, geography, archaeology, and ancient Near Eastern textual and iconographic studies.

Meant to be used alongside traditional literature-based canonical surveys, this one-stop introduction to Old Testament backgrounds fills a gap in typical introduction to the Bible courses. It contains over 100 illustrations, including photographs, line drawings, maps, charts, and tables, which will facilitate its use in the classroom.


Introduction    Jonathan S. Greer, John W. Hilber, and John H. Walton
Part One: Elements of the Drama
The Stage: Historical Geography
1. Introduction to Historical Geography    Paul H. Wright
2. Regions and Routes in the Levant    Carl G. Rasmussen
3. Climate and Environment of the Levant    Elizabeth Arnold
4. Plants and Animals of the Land of Israel    Daniel Fuks and Nimrod Marom
II. The Sets and Props: Archaeology
5. Introduction to Biblical Archaeology    Seymour Gitin
6. Archaeology of the Late Bronze Age    Joe Uziel
7. Archaeology of the Iron Age I    Aren M. Maeir
8. Archaeology of the Iron Age II    Amihai Mazar
9. Archaeology of the Neo-Babylonian and Persian Periods    Constance E. C. Gane
10. Archaeology of the Hellenistic Period    Jordan Ryan
III. The Scripts: Ancient Near Eastern Literature
11. Introduction to Ancient Near Eastern Literature    Adam E. Miglio
12. Hebrew Inscriptions    Judith M. Hadley
13. Mesopotamian Literature    Dave C. Deuel
14. Egyptian Literature    Nili Shupak
15. Hittite Literature    Alice Mouton
16. Northwest Semitic Inscriptions    Margaret E. Cohen
17. Ugaritic Literature    William D. Barker
18. Early Jewish Literature    Ryan Stokes
IV. The Frames: Ancient Near Eastern Iconography
19. Introduction to Ancient Near Eastern Iconography    Izak Cornelius
20. Egyptian Iconography    Laura Wright
21. Mesopotamian and Anatolian Iconography    Daniel Bodi
22. Canaanite/Israelite Iconography    Brent A. Strawn
Part Two: Acts and Scenes of the Drama
V. Acts: Integrated Approaches to Broad Historical Contexts
23. The Ancestral Period    Richard S. Hess
24. The Egyptian Sojourn and the Exodus    David A. Falk
25. The Settlement Period    Pekka Pitkänen
26. The United Monarchy    Steven M. Ortiz
27. The Divided Monarchy: Israel    Jens Bruun Kofoed
28. The Divided Monarchy: Judah    Eric L. Welch
29. The Exile and the Exilic Communities    Deirdre N. Fulton
30. Persian Period Yehud    Kenneth A. Ristau
31. The Maccabean Revolt and the Hasmonean Kingdom    Joel Willitts
VI. Scenes: Integrated Approaches to Event-Based Historical Contexts
32. Akhenaten and the Amarna Period    Mark D. Janzen
33. The Late Bronze Age Collapse and the Sea Peoples' Migrations    Gregory D. Mumford
34. Sheshonq's Levantine Conquest and Biblical History    Yigal Levin
35. The Battle of Qarqar and Assyrian Aspirations    Mark W. Chavalas
36. The Mesha Inscription and Relations with Moab and Edom    Juan Manuel Tebes
37. The Tell Dan Inscription, Jehu's Revolt, and Aramaean Campaigns in Israel and Judah    K. Lawson Younger Jr.
38. Sennacherib's Invasion of Judah and Neo-Assyrian Expansion    Kyle H. Keimer
39. Eighth-Century Levantine Earthquakes and Natural Disasters    Ryan N. Roberts
40. The Battle of Carchemish and Seventh-Century Regional Politics    Sara L. Hoffman
41. Alexander the Great and Levantine Hellenism    D. Brent Sandy
Part Three: Themes of the Drama
VII. God: Integrated Approaches to Themes in Israelite Religion
42. Monotheism in Ancient Israel    Matthew J. Lynch
43. Biblical Texts Studied in Comparison with Other Ancient Near Eastern Documents    John H. Walton
44. The Temple in Context    John H. Walton
45. Priests in the Ancient Near East    Gerald Klingbeil
46. Worship, Sacrifice, and Festivals in the Ancient Near East    Roy E. Gane
47. Family Religion in Ancient Israel    Andrew R. Davis
48. Prophecy, Divination, and Magic in the Ancient Near East    John W. Hilber
49. Death and Burial in the Iron Age Levant    Christopher B. Hays
VIII. Family: Integrated Approaches to Themes in Family Networks
50. Tribes and Nomads in the Iron Age Levant    Thomas D. Petter
51. Women in Ancient Israel    Carol Meyers
52. Family, Children, and Inheritance in the Biblical World    Victor H. Matthews
IX. Sustenance: Integrated Approaches to Themes in Economic Contexts
53. Seasons, Crops, and Water in the Land of the Bible    Oded Borowski
54. Trade in the Late Bronze and Iron Age Levant    Joshua T. Walton
55. Slavery in the World of the Bible    Richard E. Averbeck
56. The Local Economies of Ancient Israel    Peter Altmann
57. Metallurgy in the World of the Bible    Brady Liss and Thomas E. Levy
58. Ancient Technologies of Everyday Life    Gloria London
59. Food Preparation in the Iron Age Levant    Cynthia Shafer-Elliott
60. Feasting in the Biblical World    Janling Fu
61. Music and Dance in the World of the Bible    Annie F. Caubet
X. Governance: Integrated Approaches to Themes in Social Organization
62. Kingship and the State in Ancient Israel    Nili S. Fox
63. Social Stratification in the Iron Age Levant    Avraham Faust
64. Law and Legal Systems in Ancient Israel    David W. Baker
65. Wisdom Traditions in Ancient Israel    Paul Overland
66. Warfare in the World of the Bible    Mark Schwartz


"No sound interpretation of the Old Testament can afford to ignore the world from which the text came. Physical, historical, archaeological, cultural, social, and religious features all need to be taken into account. Available information, however, is usually scattered through many publications and difficult for students to access. In this volume the editors have done sterling work in gathering a galaxy of leading specialists to collect and present all such relevant information in modest-length chapters that present the data in an authoritative but eminently readable manner. Coursework and personal study stand to be hugely enriched by this valuable compendium."

H. G. M. Williamson, Regius Professor Emeritus of Hebrew, University of Oxford

"Featuring an outstanding range of international contributors, Behind the Scenes of the Old Testament is an up-to-date introduction to the theological, social, and historical contexts of the Hebrew Scriptures. The attention paid to neglected topics, such as climate, economy, foodways, historical geography, iconography, music/dance, social stratification, trade, and women--in addition to the substantial attention given to archaeology, history, kingship, literature, prophecy/divination, and worship--is most welcome."

Gary Knoppers, John A. O'Brien Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame

"As the editors of Behind the Scenes of the Old Testament remind us, the Old Testament, while written for us, was not written to us. We must understand the world in which the Old Testament was written to interpret it for our world today. For this reason, I highly recommend this book as a reference or textbook for all serious readers of the Old Testament. Each chapter provides background to and comparative analysis of the biblical text and is written by foremost experts in the field."

Tremper Longman III, Distinguished Scholar and Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies, Westmont College

"The publishers and editors are to be commended for making this compendium of up-to-date essays available to students of the Old Testament. The sixty-six essays cover the spectrum of background topics, including geography, archaeology, literature, history, and culture. It is an ideal text for courses in Old Testament backgrounds and an excellent supplement for survey courses. Specialists needing a summary of the latest thinking regarding background issues will also find it a handy tool."

Robert B. Chisholm Jr., chair and senior professor of Old Testament studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

"A unique opportunity to learn from leading scholars of the world in which the Old Testament events took place and the Old Testament texts were written. Accessible, accurate, and engaging, Behind the Scenes of the Old Testament will serve as a key resource for interpreting biblical texts."

Mark J. Boda, professor of Old Testament, McMaster Divinity College

"A team of expert Old Testament scholars and archaeologists have produced an up-to-date and helpful resource for Bible readers, allowing them a vivid glimpse behind the scenes of the Hebrew Scriptures."

James K. Hoffmeier, professor of Near Eastern archaeology and Old Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

The Authors

  1. Jonathan S. Greer
    Courtesy of Cornerstone University

    Jonathan S. Greer

    Jonathan S. Greer (PhD, Pennsylvania State University) is associate professor of Old Testament and director of the Hesse Memorial Archaeological Laboratory at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He also serves as associate director of...

    Continue reading about Jonathan S. Greer

  2. John W. Hilber
    Ryan Prins Photography

    John W. Hilber

    John W. Hilber (PhD, University of Cambridge) is professor of Old Testament at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario. He is the author of two books on backgrounds to the Psalms as well as numerous articles in comparative studies.

    Continue reading about John W. Hilber

  3. John H. Walton
    © Michael Hudson

    John H. Walton

    John H. Walton (PhD, Hebrew Union College) is professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. He speaks extensively on reading the Old Testament in its ancient context and is the author or editor of numerous books, including The Lost...

    Continue reading about John H. Walton


"With the publication of Behind the Scenes of the Old Testament, instructors in biblical studies have a resource that is both thorough and affordable. The editors have assembled a remarkable cast of contributors. . . . The chapters do not overwhelm readers with minutia. Rather, it provides only the most important information. Behind the Scenes of the Old Testament covers a vast array of topics. . . . A magnificent resource for students of the Old Testament. Its organizational arrangement makes it pliable for a multitude of instructional settings, and it deserves to be used widely."

Kyle R. Greenwood,

Bulletin for Biblical Research