Following are my favorite resources for geographical and cultural research – note, this is not a comprehensive list, just a list of what I regularly consult, or of what I read as I worked on my re-telling of the biblical story of David and Saul.
Bible My go-to site for searches within the text and between dozens of translations.
Bible atlas Maps of anywhere mentioned in the Bible. Anywhere.
BiblePlaces.com They’ve got tons of great photos of biblical locations and great information on geography and archeology in the Holy Land. Their blog http://blog.bibleplaces.com/ also has weekend roundups of recent news in their subject area.
Virtual Tours at Neot Kedumim, The Biblical Landscape Reserve in Israel This park aims to recreate the biblical landscape – plants, animals, dwellings. They do re-enactments of how people would have done things described in the Hebrew Bible – threshing, making olive oil, etc.
And never forget about YouTube. You want to watch a video of someone hiking in a wadi, of water pouring through the desert, of people swimming in a spring, of a shepherd in the hills, of people using a sling … YouTube’s got it all.
My Pinterest boards are where I collect more specific articles and images:
Tree and Shrub in Our Biblical Heritage (1984), Desert and Shepherd in Our Biblical Heritage (1991), and Nature in Our Biblical Heritage (1980), all by Nogah Hareuveni, translated and adapted from Hebrew by Helen Frenkley. These books are chock-full of cultural and geographical information and their implications for our understanding of stories from the Hebrew Bible. Hareuveni’s knowledge of the landscape, plants, and climate makes many stories richer than I’d imagined. The books are published in concert with Neot Kedumim, The Biblical Landscape Reserve in Israel.
Jerusalem I: From the Bronze Age to the Maccabees, by Graeme Auld and Margreet Steiner. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1996.
Gibeah—The Search for a Biblical City, by Patrick M. Arnold, S.J., Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Supplement Series 79. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1990. My favorite thing about this book is the suggestion that the origin story for Saul was altered in the Bible as we know it. The author hypothesizes that the “is Saul a prophet” jab is all that’s left of the tale of Saul disguising himself and some warriors in a group of dancing prophets who appeared at a festival before the Philistine governor so they could kill him and start a Jewish rebellion.
Life in Biblical Israel, by Philip J. King and Lawrence E. Stager. Louisville/London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001.
Fauna and Flora of the Bible: Helps for Translators, Vol. XI. London: United Bible Societies, 1972.
Farming and Gardening in the Bible, by Alastair I. MacKay. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 1950.
The Great Armies of Antiquity, by Richard A. Gabriel. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002.
The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands: In Light of Archeological Study, Vols. I and II, by Yigael Yadin New York: McGraw Hill, 1963.
For more interpretive cultural analysis:
More Than Meets the Ear: Discovering the Hidden Contexts in Biblical Narrative, by Victor H. Matthews. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008.
Manners and Customs in the Bible, by Victor H. Matthews. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1988.
Studying the Ancient Israelites, by Victor H. Matthews. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007.