Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentaries (ZIBBC) | Reviews, Theology

The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary Series was first published in 2009 to excellent reviews for its reader-friendly format and high-quality illustrations, including full-color maps, charts, graphs, and timelines. [1]

zondervan illustrated bible backgrounds commentary
Cover design of New Testament hardbacks

Originally, the entire series was published in nine hardback volumes. There were five hardback volumes of the Old Testament, each containing multiple biblical books (see below), and four hardback volumes of the New Testament, each containing multiple biblical books (see below).

Individual volumes are available electronically and are now being released in paperback. 

The General Editor of the series is Clint E. Arnold, professor and chairman of the department of New Testament at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University.

The authors are evangelical pastors and professors. The target audience is laypeople and pastors.

Volumes are not technical, so readers who do not have training in Greek and Hebrew will have no problem understanding authors’ comments.

There are not references to modern scholarship or the history of interpretation; rather, authors focus on explaining the meaning of the text to modern life. Authors use the NIV translation as the foundation for their comments. [2]

Which commentary series is best for your purposes? See Best Bible Commentaries: Top 50. Based on aggregate reviews.

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Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentaries (ZIBBC): Reviews

The Old Testament volumes in the series won the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s Book Award for Bible Reference in 2011.

The ECPA said, “This series brings to life the world of the Old Testament through informative entries and full-color photos and graphics. Here readers find the premier commentary set for connecting with the historical and cultural context of the Old Testament.” [3]

zondervan illustrated bible backgrounds commentary series
Cover design of Old Testament hardbacks

Pastor and author Dan Kimball praised the series:

“To me, every Christian should own these commentaries. I say that very seriously because when you study Scripture without looking into the historical and cultural background of what was happening when each part of the Bible was written, we miss incredibly so much meaning, understanding and depth.

Using these commentaries when studying Scripture turns our study into a multi-dimensional and extremely colorful study. You will have so many ‘Oh! That’s what that means!’ or ‘Now that makes sense!’ moments when studying with this commentary. I cannot imagine doing any study of the Bible without it quite honestly and couldn’t recommend a commentary of this type any higher.”

Interviews from the ZIBBC series on Best Bible Commentaries

zondervan illustrated bible backgrounds commentaries
Cover design of single-book paperback and electronic editions

I am grateful to have conducted question-and-answer interviews with authors in the ZIBBC series. Previews as well as links to the full interviews are below.

Preview of John W. Hilber on Psalms (follow link to see full interview):

“A dominant theme of psalms is the role of the king in bringing the blessings of God’s kingdom to humanity. This responsibility for cosmic order can be seen in royal hymns and prayers throughout the ancient Near East; it is the groaning of every human heart. To know that it is my Jesus who will make the world right draws me to him in dependence and hope.”

Preview of Mark W. Wilson on Revelation (follow link to see full interview):

“Christology is taught through names and symbols throughout the book. A pivotal moment occurs in 5:6-8 when the slaughtered paschal Lamb stands and takes the scroll from the One who sits on the throne. The saints then sing a new song declaring the Lamb ‘Worthy…!’ Whenever I sing the worship song based on this pericope, tears come to my eyes. I feel caught up to heaven to join the heavenly chorus ascribing the sevenfold attributes to our Risen Lamb.”

New Testament Volumes in the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary Series

The links below go to Amazon, which sells new and used copies. Or visit Christian Book Distributors’ ZIBBC commentaries page to compare prices.

Volume 1: Matthew, Mark, Luke | Published: 2009

Volume 2: John and Acts | Published: 2009

Volume 3: Romans to Philemon | Published: 2009

Volume 4: Hebrews to Revelation | Published: 2009

Old Testament Volumes in the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary Series

Volume 1: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy | Published: 2002

Volume 2: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel | Published: 2002

Volume 3: 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther | Published: 2002

Volume 4: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel | Published: 2002

Volume 5: The Minor Prophets, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs | Published: 2002


  1. https://www.zondervan.com/9780310598756/zondervan-illustrated-bible-backgrounds-commentary-set/
  2. https://www.academia.edu/10094791/Review_of_Walton_Zondervan_Illustrated_Bible_Backgrounds_Commentary_OT
  3. https://www.ecpa.org/news/64156/-ECPA-Announces-2011-Christian-Book-Award-Winners-in-Six-Categories.htm
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