Ludwig’s Handbook Of Old Testament Rulers & Cities, by Charles Ludwig
This book is an interesting one, and it was recommended by our pastor, who is going through a series of Bible Studies on the kings of Israel. As a reader I have mixed feelings about its organization, which appears to be somewhat random and disorganized, but the contents of this book are great. If you can read the book and especially if you can use this book as a reference without finding it necessary to read the book from cover to cover as I did, you will probably find much to appreciate here. Admittedly, this book is somewhat old, and the author’s grasp of biblical chronology isn’t very strong, but these are minor quibbles as this is a very interesting read and it certainly provides plenty of interesting reading for those who have a taste for biblical history as I do. As many of the rulers and cities of the Old Testament are obscure for contemporary readers, this is a book which is still worth reading even if it is not quite as as up-to-date as some. I am unsure if there have been any new editions of this book, but there are definitely some situations where additional and relatively recent research within the last 35 years could improve this book still further.
This book is a bit more than 225 pages and is divided into twenty-six chapters and various other supplementary materials. After a preface the book begins with a look at opened windows to the past and then a series of essays on biblical rulers, including Cheops (2), Hammurabi (3), the Pharaoh of Joseph (4), of the oppression (5), and of the Exodus (6), Solomon (7), various kings (8), Nebuchadnezzar (9), Belshazzar (10), Cyrus (11), Alexander The Great (12), and Antiochus Epiphanes (13). Admittedly, not all of these are biblical rulers but they are important in knowing the context of the ancient near east. After a chapter on measurements, roads, and communications (14), the rest of the main contents of the book deal with cities. This leads to chapters on Ur (15), Nineveh (16), Goshen (17), Thebes (18), Babylon (19), Sodom (20), Bethel (21), Jericho 922), Gaza (23), Damascus (24), Alexandria (25), and Jerusalem (26), each of which is viewed by the author with a high degree of symbolic importance. For example, this means that Gaza is viewed as a city of rebels. There are four appendices on OT chronology (i), the Judges (ii), and the Kings of Israel (iii) and Judah (iv), as well as a selected bibliography and an index.
One of the more interesting aspects of this particular book is the way that each chapter itself is more or less a self-contained unit that contains a great deal of humor when it comes to expressing the author’s opinion and judgment about the particular ruler or city. There are, for example, questions as to why the name Bethel is so much more popular than Bethany given Bethel’s mixed biblical record and Bethany’s one without blemish. Similarly, the author notes that no city as of the time of this book’s writing was named after Sodom, though one would hardly expect cities to deliberately name themselves after an obvious instrument of divine judgment, no matter how little inclined they were to actually live according to God’s ways. How you as a reader will feel about this book depends in large part on whether you approve of the author’s editorializing and are able to overlook his lack of firm grasp of biblical chronology. If you are more on the tolerant side, this book offers much to enjoy, but if not, this book will likely not be as enjoyable.