Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

09 November 2012

How to read ALL of the Bible # 10 - The contents page and the Old Testament

So how do all those events unfold across the 66 books of the Bible?

You can divide the books of the Old Testament into three main sections - the history books, wisdom literature and the books of the prophets.


The history books tell the story from the beginning of creation up to that point of 400 years of silence.

Genesis starts with the creation story and then covers the stories of Adam and Eve through to Jacob and his sons.

Exodus through to Deuteronomy is the gathering of the Israelite nation and their preparation to head into the Promised Land - their own land where they can live as His people. 

Joshua is the story of the Israelites entering the Promised Land but failing to take it over completely.

Judges describes the time when the Israelites live in the Promised Land, bearing the consequences of not having effectively conquered the other nations before settling there. This is the book with the cycles of sinning, calling out to God, getting a leader to guide them out of the difficulties, all going well for the period of the life of the leader and then falling into sin again.

Samuel, Kings and Chronicles is the history of Israel as they live under the rule of human kings and ultimately find themselves banished from the Promised Land to Assyria (Northern Kingdom) and into the territories of the Babylonian Empire (Southern Kingdom.)

Nehemiah marks the period when they return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the temple...a small pocket of the Promised Land.  And that marks the end of the history of the Old Testament.

(Ruth slots in amongst the time of the Judges, Ezra slots in alongside Nehemiah and the story of Esther unfolds as the Israelites live in exile in the Babylonian Empire.)

The wisdom literature books, mostly written in poetic form, are Job, the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs. These were written in a particular time and place but are timeless in their content - offering insight, response and perspective on what life is like (with all its ups and downs) lived under God.

The books of the prophets are interwoven throughout the period of the kings (1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles), full of warnings to turn away from foreign gods to follow the true and living God. They are full of life and hope for those who heed the warnings and full of terrible judgment and complete despair for those who don't.

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