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Treasures from Bible Times
(Belleville, Michigan- Lion Publishing, 1985), 189 pp., $14.95
Do not expect to find any new gems among the treasures from Biblical times that Alan Millard has assembled in this book. This is yet another of the seemingly endless flow of books relating archaeological discoveries to the Bible. The treasures the author has in mind include not only silver and gold, but much more. Silver and gold there are, too, from the treasure trove of Tutankhamun’s tomb to the jewelry of the Royal Tombs of Ur. But the bulk of the treasure consists of information and illustrations of more mundane materials—inscriptions, carved ivories and fallen walls. From such diverse places as Ur, Amarna and Ebla they come, and those of us who collect books of this genre have seen all these treasures before.
So why did Millard bring another book like this into print? His purpose is spelled out on the flyleaf of the dust jacket more exactly than in his preface, “Discoveries such as the great 4,000-year-old temple tower at Ur, tomb-pictures of brick-making in Egypt, palace ivories, letters, inscriptions, all increase our knowledge of the world in which the Bible was written, throwing fresh light on its unique message.” (Italics are mine.) Millard writes from a conservative point of view, but unapologetically and honestly. For example, after discussing “The Writing on the Wall, Belshazzar—Man or Myth?” he concludes- “The cylinders from Ur and other Babylonian texts do not tell us any more about ‘Belshazzar’s Feast.’ But they do tell us about Belshazzar. They show that Daniel was not just telling fables. And if he got these odd details right, perhaps we should listen to his message, too- God was in control. And even with kings, God knew the end from the beginning.” Here is a competent, conservative scholar who is willing to share frankly with readers his knowledge of a selection of discoveries from the Biblical world and his personal understanding of the implications of those discoveries for understanding and appreciating the Bible.
This work is not filled with detailed information. It is not intended for specialists, but for a general audience. It does, however, have a number of attractive features. The maps are placed at the beginning rather than at the end of the text. Millard writes in a clean, clear, succinct style. He covers the history of the development of archaeology and indicates the major practical purposes of the discipline in two pages of text. Interesting vignettes flesh out the story. This book is beautifully illustrated. The photographs are mostly in color, and some cover the complete page. The book design complements the text, with border lines setting the text off from the margin and separating one “treasure” from another. The content is arranged in short, independent articles of one to five pages in length. This allows for easy, selective reading. An index, as well as the table of contents, enables the reader to pick and choose topics of interest. Many readers of BAR will, in my opinion, find this book of interest and value, and the price is extremely attractive in light of the quality of the paper and printing and the large quantity of color illustrations.
Alan Millard is Rankin Senior Lecturer in Hebrew and Ancient Semitic Languages at the University of Liverpool. He has studied at Oxford, the University of London and Hebrew University. He served as assistant keeper of the Department of Western Asiatic Antiquities at the British Museum, as well as librarian of the Tyndale Library, Cambridge. He has helped excavate at Arpad, Petra, Nimrud and Qadesh. Because he has these credentials, we can respect his work. As he has noted in his preface, “Opinions change and new discoveries bring fresh information, so there is always a place for another book to describe what has been found and to show its value.” Particularly for the interested newcomer to the fascination of Biblical archaeology, Alan Millard’s Treasures from Bible Times is a good place to discover the treasures and the author’s opinions.