What is a…
book and what does Scripture say about them

This word has a comprehensive meaning in Scripture. In the Old Testament it is the rendering of the Hebrew word sepher, which properly means a “writing,” and then a “volume” (Exodus 17:14; Deuteronomy 28:58; 29:20; Job 19:23) or “roll of a book” (Jeremiah 36:2, 4).

Construction of books

Books were originally written on skins, on linen or cotton cloth, and on Egyptian papyrus, whence our word “paper.” The leaves of the book were generally written in columns, designated by a Hebrew word properly meaning “doors” and “valves” (Jeremiah 36:23, Revised King James Version, marginal note “columns”).

Among the Hebrews, books were generally rolled up like our maps, or, if very long, they were rolled from both ends, forming two rolls (Luke 4:17-20). Thus, they were arranged when the writing was on flexible materials; but if the writing was on tablets of wood or brass or lead, then the several tablets were bound together by rings through which a rod was passed.

Sealed book

A sealed book is one whose contents are secret (Isaiah 29:11; Rev. 5:1-3).

“Eating” a book

To “eat” a book (Jeremiah 15:16; Ezek. 2:8-10; 3:1-3; Rev. 10:9) is to study its contents carefully.

Books of Judgment

THE BOOKS OF JUDGMENT (Dan. 7:10) refers to the method of human courts of justice as illustrating the proceedings which will take place at the day of God’s final judgment.

The Book of Life

The “Book of Life” (or “book of the living”) mentioned in Psalm 69:28 NASB suggests the idea that as the redeemed form a community or citizenship (Philippians 3:20; 4:3), a catalog of the citizens’ names is preserved (Luke 10:20; Rev. 20:15). Their names are registered in heaven (Luke 10:20; Rev. 3:5).

Book of the Covenant

The Book of the Covenant (Exodus 24:7), containing Exodus 20:22-23:33, is the first book actually mentioned as a part of the written word. It contains a series of laws, civil, social, and religious, given to Moses at Sinai immediately after the delivery of the decalogue. These were written in this “book.”

Book City

When the Hebrews entered Canaan, it is evident that the art of writing was known to the original inhabitants, as appears, e.g., from the name of the city Debir having been at first Kirjath-sepher, i.e., the “city of the book,” or the “book town” (Joshua 10:38; 15:15; Judges 1:11).

Non-Canon Books

The Book of the Wars of the Lord (Numbers 21:14), the Book of Jasher (Joshua 10:13), and the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah and Israel (2 Chronicles 25:26), were probably ancient documents known to the Hebrews, but not forming a part of the canon.

Also see: Apocrypha.

Book of the Dead

This is in no way part of Scripture, but would have been known to Biblical men such educated as Moses. The “Book of the Dead” was a collection of pagan prayers and formulas, by the use of which the souls of the dead were supposed to attain to rest and peace in the next world. It was composed at various periods from the earliest time to the Persian conquest.

The Book of the Dead affords an interesting glimpse into the religious life and system of belief among the ancient Egyptians. We learn from it that they believed in the existence of one Supreme Being, the immortality of the soul, judgment after death, and the resurrection of the body. It shows, too, a high state of literary activity in Egypt in the time of Moses. It refers to extensive libraries then existing. That of Ramessium, in Thebes, e.g., built by Rameses II, contained 20,000 books.


Article Version: March 19, 2021