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The Historical Books of the Old Testament

And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Joshua 24:15

Watch Week Three: Old Testament: History and Wisdom

The historical books of the Old Testament cover the historical narrative from the time Israel enters Canaan, the Promised Land, to the time the Jews return from a seventy-year exile in Babylon.


Joshua, whose name means “Yahweh saves,” led the children of Israel into the Promised Land. The book’s authorship is attributed to Joshua. The book of Joshua covers a period of nearly thirty years that the Israelites spent conquering their Promised Land.

Judges and Ruth

The author of Judges remains unknown. Although not chronological, the events of the book of Judges span a period of three hundred years.iv Because of the nation’s disobedience, God allowed them to be conquered by their enemies. When the oppression became unbearable, the people would cry out to the Lord and he would send them a deliverer, or judge.

Ruth’s story takes place during the time of Judges. After the death of her husband, the young foreigner follows her mother-in-law, Naomi, to the matriarch’s hometown of Bethlehem. She finds favor with a man named Boaz, whom she eventually marries, and she becomes a direct ancestor of King David.

1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles

These books narrated life in Israel during the time when Israel had kings. After the time of the judges, Israel desired a king, so they could be like the other nations. God chose Saul. When Saul became rebellious and disobedient, God appointed David as king through the prophet Samuel. Although David’s life was not perfect, he was still considered a man after God’s own heart due to his great faith. His son, Solomon, served as the last king of the united kingdom of Israel. Because of Solomon’s disobedience, and his son Rehoboam’s harsh rule, Israel was divided into two monarchies. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin comprised the Kingdom of Judah in the south and the other ten tribes comprised the Kingdom of Israel in the north. At the end of these stories, due to their disobedience, Israel was attacked and taken to exile in Assyria, their temple is destroyed, and Judah is exiled to the foreign land of Babylon.

Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther

Ezra covers the return of the Jews from Babylon following their seventy-year captivity. The nation struggles to restore their temple and renew their spiritual life. Nehemiah also covers the time after the Jews return from Babylon. The author of Nehemiah is attributed to Nehemiah, but scholars also think Ezra could have possibly written the book. Under Nehemiah’s direction, the Jews were able to resist their enemies and complete their goals of rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem.

Although the book of Esther appears after Nehemiah in the canon, most likely the events in Esther took place before those in Nehemiah and Ezra. Esther tells the story of God’s faithfulness to his people during times when wickedness was threatening them. He uses the beauty of young Esther and the wisdom of her uncle Mordecai to bring deliverance to his people from the wicked Haman who wanted the Israelites killed.


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Daily Question

How do you think studying the books that make up the Bible’s history genre can help you grow in your relationship with God and others?

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Comments (10)

I think of the questions in the Scripture Union Bible reading plan: Is there an example to follow? Is there a sin to avoid? The histories are full of both. They give us hope, because God is faithful, and uses broken people and forgives the repentant. They teach us humility and forgiveness, as we see how even great heroes of the faith may fall, so how can we expect perfection in ourselves and others. But they teach us, too, that God judges and God imposes discipline from which we should not turn away, rather repent and turn back to Him, trusting in His mercy and His steadfast love. And they teach us, as do the books of the Pentateuch, to remember His mighty acts and His faithfulness and His promises and to teach them to our children and to celebrate themwith our community.

It is good to know that GOD cares for HIS own despite the wickedness of others. I have a son who is picked on by so called Christians. He has Aspergers and is socialy awkward. But GOD does take care of him.

I can learn how graceful and merciful God is for forgiving the Israelites so many times – and really see just how faithful He is.

Reading about God’s relationship with His people, Israel, helps me understand His love, correction, protection, and provision for me. I am a child of Abraham and an heir to all the things God promised His people. It provides clear instruction as to what it is God desires of me.

The history of the Old Testament introduces us to God and how he created the world. God rescued his people and was preparing to send the light Jesus to save, die, raise again and live in us through the Holy Spirit! We can share with others that Jesus lives in us and he rescue them and live in their hearts too!

I think it will remind me of the good and challenges that those before me have experienced…times when they were remorseful and repented and times when they were not so. It will help me to see God’s steadfast faithfulness to His inconsistent children and encourage me to believe in his grace and mercy…even more so than just by what I have experienced first hand.

I believe it gives you a base to start with. If you know what happened you can understand they why’s better and hopefully learn from any mistakes made or better yet find a better way to navigate through it. Also you can give someone something to reference if they need clarity on something.

Studying these books can help me understand the one continuous story told throughout the Bible of God and His plan for redemption. It also helps me understand human nature better & our tendency to do things in our own without God. When we move forward without God things will eventually turn out bad.

I think reading the books that make up the Bibles history genre can help grow my relationship with God and others is because it is a reminder and reiteration that no matter how we might fail him we have to keep our faith. Obviously don’t take advantage of his love for us but look how many times God’s people failed him yet he always stood arms wide open for them. And it’s a reminder that your faithfulness and love for him goes a long way.

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