I was hoping to visit Israel earlier this year, though due to Covid-19, that trip had to be cancelled. Amongst several places I would have liked to have seen, I was keen to re-visit the Bible Lands Museum and the Israel Museum, and in particular the Shrine of the Book. Nevertheless, it is possible to see many biblical exhibits in London since Brian Edwards and Clive Anderson’s book ‘Through the British Museum with the Bible’ has made this an enjoyable, accessible, and affordable venture. Although the Day One tours are currently postponed due to Covid-19, this is an excellent stop gap, and the tours may well commence in the near future.
Quite simply, I could not recommend highly enough this portable and practical book which opens up biblical history in an incredible way. You can purchase this online or at the museum itself which not surprisingly has an abundance of copies. I have other books on this exact subject that provide helpful insight and are well presented. The reason to obtain this one is that it guides you through the museum and without it you could spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find what you want to see, not due to any organisational issue at the museum itself, but purely because it is an immense building with many rooms and seemingly countless items.
Having visited the museum several times, I would commend reading through the book and marking or highlighting objects or artefacts that you want to see in the book and familiarising yourself with it extensively. Lists of kings are given and whether they are mentioned in the Bible in the respective chapters concerning the Hebrews, Assyrians, Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, and Roman Emperors. Since monarchs are wealthy and possess expensive materials which endure, they leave behind artefacts which are discovered centuries later by biblical archaeologists.
At the back of the book there is a map of the museum. The rooms you need to access to see the items mentioned, are coloured differently to the other ones. There is also a list at the back detailing significant items and which room they can be found in, and on what page they are included in the guide. To make it even easier, the travel guide provides case numbers for items which is a great help considering that Room 4 is massive and there is a lot to see for anyone interested in biblical archaeology.
Although this is unashamedly an academic exercise, it is also fun and brings history to life. More importantly though, it brings the Bible to life and has strengthened my faith when I see documents and exhibits that concur precisely with the Biblical record. It reminds me that the Bible is in a class of its own which points me to the sovereignty of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who has preserved biblical history a few millennia after these events took place.
It draws my attention to Isaiah’s words, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever (Isaiah 40:8).”Around the same time as Isaiah, Micah wrote of a great Saviour, the Messiah of Israel. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from old, from everlasting (Micah 5:2; c.f. Matthew 2:5-6).”
Other books on the Bible in the British Museum
Heritage of Evidence in the British Museum by Peter Masters This is a great companion volume. The strength lies in the large clear photographs, labelling and Bible references. Room maps with essential items clearly marked are provided throughout the guide. It also takes you through a tried and tested route and there is a large font size which is reader friendly.
The Bible and the British Museum by Ada R. Habershon Ada was a personal friend of Charles Spurgeon and an incredibly capable author and student. Though the font is much smaller than Masters’ book, she provides a lot of biblical references and insight into the historical context.
The Bible in the British Museum Interpreting the evidence by T.C. Mitchell This volume is an academic text and brilliant for zooming in and treating 72 documents in some depth. There is a further reading list at the back, and this will provide the means to take your study to the next level.