I am always trying to find ways to make the Bible accessible for my children. I have also been trying to find ways to do family devotions with more fidelity in my household. I requested to review the ESV Family Devotional Bible as a way to find more tools to help with that.
I received the hardcover edition from Crossway. It measures about 5.4 inches wide by 8.6 inches high. It has a sewn binding, which enables it to lay flat from beginning to end, with one brown ribbon bookmark.
The text itself is in black 9-point font. Section headings, chapter numbers, page numbers, and scripture references at the top corners of each page are in a blue font. The words of Christ are in black. The pages are about normal thickness for most Bibles, meaning there is some ghosting of text. If you were to write in it, it would probably show through at least a little.
Throughout the Family Devotional Bible, you will find 130 stories from the Bible, retold in an easy-to-understand way. I read through all the entries from Genesis and Matthew and found them faithful to the text. Each story includes a beautifully illustrated picture to go with the story, as well as the text reference the story is based off of. There are three “Questions for the Family” with every story. Usually, two questions are text related, to guide readers through thinking about the stories themselves, and one question is more application driven, helping readers to apply God’s word to their lives. This can vary occasionally, but that is the overall pattern. There is also a key verse that could be used as a memory verse for each story. (I apologize for the blurry pictures. I am still working with my phone camera to get things clearer.)
The Bible includes an Index of Devotions in the back, to help locate the devotions throughout. It should be noted that while the devotions cover the big picture of the Bible, quite a bit is left out, as it is not narrative. The following books have devotions in them, with some having more than others: Genesis (20 devotions), Exodus (8 devotions), Numbers (2 devotions), Joshua (3 devotions), Judges (3 devotions), Ruth (1 devotion), 1 Samuel (6 devotions), 2 Samuel (2 devotions), 1 Kings (4 devotions), 2 Kings (3 devotions), 2 Chronicles (1 devotion), Esther (1 devotion), Jeremiah (1 devotion), Daniel (2 devotions), Jonah (1 devotion), Matthew (13 devotions), Mark (10 devotions), Luke (20 devotions), John (13 devotions), Acts (14 devotions), Philemon (1 devotion), and Revelation (1 devotion).
Obviously, if a family plans on just reading the devotions and not the text of Scripture, most of the New Testament will not be covered, and quite a bit of the Old Testament. I do understand that the epistles, being letters and not narrative, would be very difficult to cover. I wonder if they could have had various pictures of Paul or Peter writing with a summary of main points of the epistles and questions to ask? True, it wouldn’t hold a child’s attention like a story, but even as an adult I find myself having to reread the epistles multiple times to understand where they are coming from. I wonder if they had been introduced to me in summary form as a child if I would have had a better grasp on them as I grew into adulthood?
There are 9 maps included in the back. One distinct feature of these maps is the inclusion of icons to represent small cities, large cities, springs, mountains, and ports.
There is no concordance or dictionary in the back, nor is there a reading plan that I could find. This is interesting since the flyleaf that came with the Bible says the goal of this Bible is “guiding your family through the entirely of God’s Word.” The Crossway page for this item goes even further saying that it does so “over the course of a year.” Usually, if something is geared toward guiding a reader through the Bible in a set time, some type of reading plan to break it down and keep readers on track is included. I think it could have been helpful to have that in this Bible.
As I was looking at the pictures and reading through some of the devotions, I kept feeling like it was familiar to me. I remembered that my young daughter bought an ESV Seek and Find Bible for her children’s church. I pulled it out and looked and, sure enough, the pictures are identical from the ones I looked at (one was flipped, however). The devotional writing was nearly identical, with a few changes here and there, and the questions were also nearly identical, with some replaced with new questions. The Seek and Find Bible, however, also included “Related Bible Readings” with each devotion, something the Family Devotional Bible does not do, although the product page states that it includes “suggestions for additional reading.” It does tell readers where to find the next devotional reading, but that doesn’t seem to fit the description.
Overall, I do like the Family Devotional Bible. I can definitely see using its devotions as a way of helping my children understand key Bible stories. I really like the questions that are included with each reading. I wish I had questions like that for every chapter of the Bible (or nearly every chapter).
If you are looking for a Bible to help break down key stories to relate to your family, this is a great choice. If you already have the Seek and Find Bible, however, you may want to pass on this one, as there are very few differences between the two.
*I was provided with a complimentary copy of this Bible from Crossway in exchange for my honest review.