Today’s post is the second installment in a series that breaks the story of the Bible down into ten ‘chapters’. Read Chapter One: The Books of Moses.
Chapter Two: The Historical Books
The historical books cover about one thousand years of Israel’s history, beginning with the conquest of Canaan and ending with the return from Babylonian captivity. Israel’s conquest of Canaan was the first step in experiencing the fulfillment of God’s promise to give His people a land. Like so many blessings in the Bible, the land was a gift, but it had to be received by faith. The conquest of Canaan was not so much a demonstration of Israel’s military prowess, but of God’s grace and faithfulness to His promise.
You would expect that entering into the Promised Land would be the beginning of a time of great blessing for the people of Israel. But the book of Judges shows how the people of Israel failed to be the distinctive people God intended them to be. Instead of worshiping their true God and deliverer, they turned aside to worship the Canaanite deities. Idolatry ran rampant during the period of the judges and the people of Israel experienced the devastating consequences of their foolishness. But God remained faithful to Israel and raised up judges to lead and deliver them when the people repented.
The period of the judges is followed by the Israelite monarchy during which God ruled His people through his chosen representatives, the kings. The monarchy began around 1050 B.C. when God directed Samuel to anoint Saul as Israel’s first monarch. Saul was followed by David, and David by Solomon. At the end of Solomon’s forty-year reign, the northern tribes broke off from Judah and Benjamin and the Israelites entered into a period of divided rule. David’s descendants continued ruling in the south. Rule over the northern tribes was chaotic as one ruler after another usurped the throne, was eventually overthrown and then replaced by another.
The northern kingdom of Israel finally succumbed to the Assyrians in 722 B.C. The southern kingdom of Judah fell to the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The history of the monarchy is the story of sin and failure. It is also the story of God’s faithfulness to the promise He had made to the line of David (2 Samuel 7:12-16). Just as God had promised, the dynasty of David was preserved.
The period of the monarchy was followed by seventy years of Babylonian captivity. During this time, the people of God experienced the just consequences of disobeying God and breaking their covenant commitment. But God never lost sight of His people during their seventy-year captivity. The book of Esther illustrates how God protected and preserved the Jewish people during their time of exile.
And once again, God was faithful and brought His people back to their homeland just as He had promised (Jeremiah 29:10). In 537 B.C. Cyrus, the new king of Persia, gave authorization for the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their holy Temple. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah tell the exciting story of the return to Judah and reestablishment of a Jewish presence in the Promised Land. And the first priority of the returned exiles was to rebuild Jerusalem’s holy temple.