Bible study tools
In this section we introduce a number of Bible reading and study tools which are available to help us read and understand the Bible. These range from simple tools like Bible dictionaries to more complicated tools such as concordances and lexicons.
Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias Dictionaries of the Bible give information about a wide range of Bible subjects arranged alphabetically. Suppose you just read
about King Darius in Daniel and you want to know more about him. Your Bible dictionary will have an article about Darius including the verses you have just read and other Bible references. It will probably introduce information from history and archaeology as well.
A Bible encyclopedia is similar except it usually has more detailed articles about more subjects and is published in several volumes.
Remember that dictionaries and encyclopedias are the work of uninspired men and women commenting about inspired Scripture passages. Such reference books are very useful, but they should always be read carefully with an eye toward scepticism. Verify or disprove what they suggest for yourself, from the Scriptures.
Case study: 1 Kings 15:9–14
Use a Bible dictionary, footnotes and/or cross-references to an-
swer the following questions.
1. What was an Asherah pole?
2. Where was the Kidron Valley?
3. What were “high places”?
4. What other Bible passages record the reign of Asa?
5. How can we explain the apparent contradiction between 1
Kings 15:14 and 2 Chronicles 14:3?
6. What lessons are there for us in this passage?
A commentary is a book which follows the Bible order exactly,
and adds comment on the interpretation of the text, historical
details, etc., as it proceeds. Commentaries are certainly help-
nding out how other people have understood the Bible.
There are many commentaries available on the Bible from single
books to sets of commentaries each consisting of many volumes.
When a passage is unclear to us, and following cross-references
or words in a concordance has not shed any light on the passage,
it is sometimes useful to consult a commentary to see how other
Bible readers have interpreted the passage.
Example: Matthew 11:28–30
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will
give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I
am gentle and humble in heart, and you will
nd rest for your
souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
From the Bible Background Commentary:
When a man carried a yoke he would carry it on his shoulders
(cf., e.g., Jer 27:2); Judaism applied this image of subjection
to obedience. Jewish people spoke of carrying the yoke of
God’s law and the yoke of his kingdom, which one accepted
by acknowledging that God was one and by keeping his com-
mandments. Matthew intends Jesus’ words about rest as a
contrast with Pharisaic Sabbath rules.
Learn to Read the Bible E