Old Testament: A Bird’s-Eye Tour of the Bible

OLD TESTAMENT HISTORY

After the law we come to twelve books of history. They run from Joshua through Esther. They give us the history of the Jewish nation from Moses to the end of the Old Testament.

Joshua tells us how the promised land was conquered and divided to the tribes. Judges records how the land was governed with a system of judges whom God raised up when the people were godly. In I Samuel we learn how Israel changed from judges to a monarchy. The Books of II Samuel, I and II Kings and I and II Chronicles record the history of Israel’s days under monarchy. Actually, there were two monarchies for the nation split into two kingdoms known in history as Israel and Judah.

Let me take time to note four things which happened during the period of the Jewish kingdoms. First, God raised up the dynasty of David and promised that it would continue. God made a promise to David in II Samuel 7:16 which reads as follows:

  • And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.

Whenever the Kingdom of Judah had a legitimate king he was a descendent of David. That promise leads us to Jesus Christ who is the ultimate king of David’s line.

Second, lambs and other animals continued to be killed for the sins of men. The sacrifices which we sketched back in Leviticus continued to be offered over the period of this history.

Third, men wrote of their spiritual experiences in Books such as Psalms and Proverbs. David wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1. Solomon wrote, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5.

Fourth, the prophets wrote what God revealed to them. Sometimes they spoke to Israel and Judah and warned them of their impending doom. At other times they strung together a chain of predictions, like a string of pearls. Many of those predictions were about a coming person, the Messiah, who would be the answer to Israel’s needs and those of all men.

In the course of history both Jewish kingdoms forsook the God who made them great and ended in captivity. The ten tribes of Israel were captured by the Assyrians and so scattered that the people never got back to their homeland. The two tribes of Judah fell to the Babylonians. Some of them did get back to Palestine after seventy years. That story is told in Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther.


OLD TESTAMENT POETRY

Following the history books we have the five books of poetry. Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon don’t look like poetry to us because they lack the rhyme and meter so common to English poetry. In these books godly men wrote of the things God had taught them in the experiences of life. They complain, they reason, and most of all they praise God. This section is filled with things which speak to our hearts because they were the outcry of other men’s hearts in circumstances similar to our own. Whatever your situation is you can find it in these books.


OLD TESTAMENT PROPHETS

The Old Testament concludes with seventeen books of the prophets. The first five are usually called the the major Prophets and the last twelve are termed the Minor Prophets. The prophesying of the prophets took place during the time period of the history books. When you reach the end of the twelve history books you have had all of the history. The poetic books and the prophetic books come after the history section in the Bible but all of the poets and prophets lived in the days of the history books. For example, David’s Psalms were written during the the time period of of I and II Samuel. Isaiah lived in the time period of II Kings and Daniel lived at the end of II Chronicles.

I mentioned before that the prophets strung a necklace of pearl-like promises about the coming Messiah. Let us consider three examples. First, look at Isaiah 7:14:

  • Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

About seven hundred years before it happened, Isaiah predicted that a virgin (we know her as Mary) would conceive and bear a son. He would fulfill the strange name of Immanuel which means, “God with us.” Many unbelievers have tried to remove the word “virgin” from the verse but it cannot be done if a translator is true to the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts.

Second, let us look at a prediction from one of the Minor Prophets in Micah 5:2:

  • But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose going forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

That promise predicted that the messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. This was the promise that the Jewish scholars quoted to Herod when he inquired where Christ (Messiah) was to be born. The promise made it clear that the Messiah would be an eternal person, “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”

Third, take a look at Isaiah 53. This chapter is the most extensive prediction in the prophets of the substitutionary suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Read the words of Isaiah 53:5-6:

  • But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

The essence of this prediction is the substitutionary nature of Christ’s sacrifice. The transgressions, the iniquities, the deserved chastisement and stripes were all ours; but He bore them. We, like wandering sheep, went astray but the guilt was laid upon Him. Back in Leviticus, as we thought about the ceremonial law, we saw the picture of the lamb in the sacrifice with it’s master’s sin laid upon it. The picture is expanded here as Isaiah looked forward to Christ.

So ends our bird’s-eye glimpse of the Old Testament. We have ignored many things; but we have noted those threads which are most vital.

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