Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Story of the Bible, Part 4

The first half of the book of Exodus tells us about Moses—his birth and upbringing, his 40 years as a shepherd for his father-in-law, and his call by God to lead His people out of Egypt and back to the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Pharaoh, who had the people of Israel functioning as slaves, was not keen on the idea; God sent ten plagues before Pharaoh was convinced to send them on their way. The final plague, in which the firstborn of every Egyptian family (indeed, every family which had not put blood on the doorposts of the home) died, is celebrated annually by the Passover.

The children of Israel go into the wilderness and end up at a mountain called Sinai, where God appears and gives them the Ten Commandments and the Law (Exodus 19-40). They build the tabernacle and its furniture before advancing toward the promised land again.

Before entering the land, twelve spies are sent in to check it out. Ten of the twelve, upon their return, give a bad report of the land and spread discontent among the people. Despite the urgings of Joshua and Caleb, the people murmured and began to rebel. For this, God condemns the adult population—except for Joshua and Caleb—to forty years of wandering and death in the wilderness; only the people younger than twenty will be allowed to enter the land.

The books of Numbers and Deuteronomy fill in additional details about this time of wandering.

Moses dies shortly before Joshua leads the people into the land, where they first conquer Jericho after God causes the walls to fall down (Joshua 6). The book of Joshua details these exploits and the division of the land by tribes. Judges covers the history for the next three centuries, where men (and one woman) called judges were the leaders of the people of Israel.

The remaining books of the Bible are not all in chronological order. The books from Joshua through Esther are called the historical books. Ruth is contemporaneous with Judges; I & II Chronicles cover the same period of time as the books of II Samuel and I & II Kings and overlap them to a degree.

After the period of the judges a man named Samuel, a priest, becomes the leader. It is in his lifetime that the people of Israel demand a king "like all the nations" (I Samuel 8:5). Although Samuel and God were displeased with the request, God grants it, with various warnings (I Samuel 8:7-22). Saul was the king whom God gave to Israel. He started out well, but became proud and eventually was told he would be replaced (I Samuel 15:16-23).

Samuel is sent to Bethlehem and anoints David, of the tribe of Judah, to be the next king (I Samuel 16). David is still a youth, and it will be a number of years before he becomes king. He breaks onto the public scene when he volunteers to kill Goliath and does so with a slingshot and a single stone (I Samuel 17). After years of being in and out of favor with Saul, and nearly being killed by Saul, Saul dies and David, at long last, becomes king.

David is one of the central figures of the Old Testament. It is promised to him that his throne will be established forever, referencing the fact that the Savior [Messiah] will come from his lineage (II Samuel 7). Under his forty-year rule and the forty-year rule of his son Solomon the kingdom of Israel reaches its zenith of power and prosperity. The Temple is built [parts of its foundation are visible in Jerusalem even today], and the worship of God is encouraged.

Solomon, known as the richest man and for having 700 wives and 300 concubines, becomes ungodly in his later years. It is prophesied that the kingdom will be split after his death, with the tribe of Judah remaining under Davidic rule, and ten of the other tribes breaking off under the leadership of a man named Jeroboam.

After Solomon dies, Jeroboam is made the ruler of the ten tribes and very promptly leads them into the worship of idols (I Kings 12:25-33). This "Northern kingdom" of "Israel" will be led by a succession of evil kings for over two centuries before being conquered and taken captive by Assyria (721 B.C.; II Kings 17). Judah will fare better, having some godly kings and some evil kings. Only the direct deliverance of God spares it from also being taken by Assyria (II Kings 18-19). Eventually, Judah is also punished for its wickedness and Jerusalem is destroyed in 586 B.C. by the famous Nebuchadnezzar (II Kings 25).

The Story of the Bible, Part 7
The Story of the Bible, Part 6
The Story of the Bible, Part 5
The Story of the Bible, Part 3
The Story of the Bible, Part 2
The Story of the Bible, Part 1

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