Several times I have recommended this book for those interested in the coinage of bible times, but have always admitted that I have never read it. Well, I found a bookseller who had it on "special" so I could no longer resist. Did it live up to my expectations? Has my reputation been destroyed by recommending a dud? Is the book worth $85.00? Stay tuned !!! Or should I say, read on !
First let me state that this is not a Coins of the Bible book. David had given us much more. He has presented a history of the Jewish People as recorded by the coinage of various areas, peoples and periods from the Fourth Century BCE to the Second Century CE. After several introductory chapters, he proceeds through the history of the wanderings and settlements of the Jewish People, from the Persian Period, through the domination of Alexander and his successors, the periods of self-rule under the Hasmonean and Herodian Dynasties, and finally into life under the Roman Empire culminating with the two revolts. The final chapter covers New Testament coins.
In the introductory chapters, David gives us an overview of coinage and how and why it originated. In the second chapter he discusses the use of weights in precoinage commerce. These chapters are spiced with personal stories and experiences gained over his many years of traveling in the Middle East. David's first contact with the State of Israel was in 1967 when he left the United States to serve for a year as a Volunteer in the Six Day War. After returning to the States, he has kept close contact with archeologists, historians, numismatist and coin dealers in the bazaars. From these contacts and his own personal experiences and studies, he has become the leading authority of Biblical and ancient Judaean coinage and artifacts.
The book is divided into twelve chapters, each one dealing with a specific period of history. The chapter begins with the historical background of the period and of the lives and stories of the prominent political and religious persons who shaped the period.
Following the history lesson is a catalog of the coinage of the period or person just discussed. The entries are accompanied by photographs, or more frequently, line drawings of the coins. The use of line drawings was a good decision, as most of the coins depicted, especially the smaller bronze coins, are so poorly struck that photos just can't capture enough of the details. The book concludes with fifty-six photographic plates depicting lovely examples of the entire range of coins discussed in the book.
This is the Fifth Edition (2010). I found in my library a copy of the Third Edition (1996). And what a difference fourteen years makes. The latest edition jumped from 318 to 580 pages and from 922 to 1622 listed and described coins. The new edition also has 24 more photo plates. But some of the stories have been deleted, such as the story of the Three Kings, as they had little pertinence to coins, so I will not be throwing away my old edition.
Guide to Biblical Coins is not a book for everyone. It is not a Coffee Table book with tons of gorgeous coins photographed against posh backgrounds. It does not even cover all the peoples who interfaced daily with the Jewish People, and their coinage - no Palmyrans, no Nabateans, no Sassanians. But for the collector of ancient coins, whether the generalist or the specialist, or the student of ancient history, this is a MUST HAVE book. Once more David Hendin has not let us down. I look forward to a Sixth Edition with the question "How much better can it get!"