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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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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 (12)

These books help us to see what was done in the past so that we can learn from them. Gleaning from both the successes and failures from these books can help us to better understand the heart and will of God for our lives. These books provide us with a picture of what God’s faithfulness looks like even when we are not faithful to Him in return. They also encourage us to keep our hope and trust in Him and not in man.

Thank you for your truthful words of encouragement. As you stated we see Gods presence in the Old Testament and how Gods people were disobedient and lacked trust. As today we fail too. God encourages us to study his word and take his love to the ends of the earth. honey

Studying the history books in the Bible show us Gods undeniable love and forgiveness for His people. It shows us to keep the faith because He will always be there for us no matter what. Seeing all the times Israel failed over and over and God never gave up on them shows how awesome our God is. I want to live right by Him and have an intimate relationship with Him because that is what He wants.

This entire series so far has helped me to draw closer to Him. I am beginning to understand how the "Big Picture" play’s out and that is just awe inspiring! I had stated before that I had always been a verse by verse or chapter by chapter Bible reader with the exception of a study that might cover an entire book, but this study takes me so much deeper in learning HOW to understand the Bible, the history within it, and the greater understanding of the love our God has for us!! I am so motivated to learn more and can’t hardly wait for the next day’s email!!!

By setting the scene and with God’s plan and His story, it puts us in it right from the start. I feel like I am alive in the story and all of progress and failures that His people experienced are just like me. God was and is faithful to His people and I can trust that by the way the overview pulls everything together. It makes me seek even more the intensity of God’s plan and purpose for me in His Word.

I feel like the same goes for building relationships with people you meet. I didn’t automatically become friends with someone right after talking to them and giving them my name. We would go out for coffee, or lunch, or hang out and watch a movie, and chat. We would learn about each other and build upon that. Similarly, reading the bible’s history is helpful for getting that "background" on God. After reading his word, talking to him, and building on that, our relationship with him grows.

I do like that thought, Bree. We never know everything about anyone and need to pursue friendships with people if they areto deepen. How much more do we need to know more and more about who God is. Thank you.

Although the Jews constantly failed, those who were blessed by the Lord, such as King David and Solomon, came from righteous people such as Ruth. The Old Testament was like a genealogy study of Jesus Christ. Now I can see the connection s between the Old Testament and the New Testament.

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.

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