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.
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.
Watch Week Three: Old Testament: History and Wisdom
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.
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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