An Overview of the Narrative of the Eleven Chronological Old Testament Books

The Bible is an amazing book. Not only does it have the power to change lives, and has been preserved throughout the centuries, but it also is put together in a perfect order outlining the message of redemption for all of mankind. There are two major divisions in the Bible: the old and new testaments. Both divisions conclude with the same message: redemption through the blood of Jesus. This paper will address the narrative of the Old Testament as seen in the eleven chronological books of the Old Testament.
There are four basic categories of books in the Old Testament: Chronological Books, Complementary Books, Wisdom Books, and Prophetic Books. The Chronological Books are as follows: Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, 1 &2 Samuel, 1 &2 Kings, Ezra, and Nehemiah. It is within these books that we see the narrative of the Old Testament unfold. In order to give a complete overview of these books we will address each book in order as we see in the Old Testament narrative.
The first book to examine is the book of Genesis. The events in the book of Genesis cover 4004-1800 BC. The book of Job is a complimentary book to Genesis because the events of Job take place during the time period of the events of Genesis. The term Genesis means ‘In the Beginning’. Genesis is the beginning of the story. It is where it all begins. In chapter one, we see the creation of the world. As Ryrie notes, “In the beginning, not of eternity but of the creation of the world as described in this chapter.” In other words, God already existed. He always has been and always will be. This account in Genesis described God’s creative act. The story continues in Genesis as God creates man and woman. God gives specific instructions to the first man to take care of the earth and to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As we see in chapter three, man gives in to the request of the woman to eat of the tree. The woman ate of the tree as a result of the temptation that came from Satan. Mankind has now sinned against God and the story of redemption begins. Adam and Eve had many sons and daughters and the earth became populated. Now we come to chapters six through chapter 8 of Genesis where we have the account of the world-wide flood. At this point we see that the sin of man increased and became very great. As a result of the sin of man, God must now execute judgment for the sins of mankind. However, there was one man that was found righteous in eyes of God, his name was Noah. Because of God’s grace and mercy, God saved Noah and his family from the flood by providing a way of escape through an ark. At the end of the flood, God promised Noah that He would never destroy the earth again with a flood. This is a perfect picture of God’s love for man and His plan to redeem all those who are obedient to trust in Him. Noah and his family then set out to populate the earth. The next major event we see is the tower of Babel which is recorded in Genesis chapter eleven. At this time all of mankind spoke one language. As man increased in number we also see that his pride increased as well. As a result of the pride of man and their desire to be in control, they decided to come together and build a tower that would reach up to heaven. They wanted to prove that man could do anything they desired apart from God. God saw the pride of man and he confused the languages of the people so that they could not understand one another and was forced to scatter across the earth. Once again we see God’s grace. If God allowed man to continue on the path they was on, they would have never been obedient to God to multiply across the whole earth and they would have continued in their sin and eventually God would have to destroy man. Time and time again we see God’s mercy and grace in making sure we do not stray too far from Him beyond the hope of salvation. After the tower of Babel we see man increase across the earth and we come to the account of Abraham beginning in Genesis chapter twelve. Verses one through four of Genesis twelve is one of the most important passages of scripture in all the word of God. Here we find the beginning of the nation of Israel and God’s plan of redemption for mankind begins to unfold. God calls Abram to leave his land and go to a new land. God promises Abram that He will make him and great nation and all those who bless this nation will be blessed. The nation that comes from this is the nation of Israel and the person that comes through Israel is the person of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. God promises Abraham a child and Abraham at first did not trust God and he accepted his wife’s offer to have a child through her handmaid. The child of the handmaid is Ishmael who is the father of the Arab world which has been sworn enemies of Israel for centuries. God then fulfills His promise by giving Abraham a son through his wife Sarah. Isaac is that son that is chosen to continue the fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan. Isaac has two sons: Esau and Jacob. Jacob becomes the founder of the nation of Israel as his name is changed from Jacob to Israel. The sons of Jacob become the twelve tribes of Israel. One of Jacob’s sons is Joseph, who is sold into slavery in Egypt. Eventually Jacob’s entire family moves to Egypt as a result of a great famine. The children of Israel grow mightily in Egypt as a new Pharaoh comes on the scene that makes the people of Israel his slaves. This brings us to the book of Exodus where God’s plan of redemption continues as the journey to the promise land begins.
The basic theme of the book of Exodus is ‘the way out’ or the exodus. It is the account of the Children of Israel’s breaking free from the bondage of Egypt and their journey to the promise land. During this time period we see the children of Israel grow in huge numbers. “Until this time, fulfillment of God’s promises of descendents like the sands of the sea had been very slow; but during this period it became very rapid. When Moses led Israel across Egypt’s border at the time of the Exodus, Jacob’s seventy become more than two million.” The main character in the book of Exodus is Moses. The man, Moses, is one of the most prominent men in all of world history. As Haley’s Bible handbook states: “His critics come and go. But Moses still stands as the foremost man of the pre-Christian world. He took a race of slaves and, under inconceivably trying circumstances, molded them into a powerful nation which has altered the whole course of history.” The story of Moses begins when he is just a baby. In chapter three we see Moses’ first forty years as he became the adopted son of the daughter of Pharaoh. This came as a result of Moses’ mother hiding him in a basket and sending him down the river in order to protect him from the Egyptians who were out to kill all male Hebrew babies. Pharaoh’s daughter finds Moses and cares for him as her own. During Moses’ second forty years we see that he discovers the harsh treatment of his own people by the Egyptians. In a fit of rage, Moses kills an Egyptian solider and flees to the land of Midian. During this time, Moses is married and starts a new life as a shepherd. In chapter three of Exodus we see the account of God’s call on Moses to go and free the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt. We find in chapters three and four the story of the burning bush and Moses’ encounter with God. Moses (along with Aaron) agrees to go to Egypt in order to free the children of Israel from the hand of the Egyptians. As Moses goes to Pharaoh he encounters opposition to his request to let the children of Israel go. As a result of the opposition God sends various plagues upon the land of Egypt. The final plague is the most severe but also the most important. God sent out a death angel to kill all the firstborn unless the blood of a lamb is applied to the doorpost of the home. When the death angel sees the blood, it would pass over the home and not kill the firstborn of that home. This is the first Passover and it serves as a picture of what is to come through the death of Jesus on the cross. This is the plague that finally causes Pharaoh to give in and let the children of Israel leave Egypt. Throughout the children of Israel’s journey toward the promise land, they encounter various difficulties. Time and time again we see the people complain to Moses over the lack of provision. All along, however, God provided just exactly what they needed. In chapter twenty of Exodus we see the account of God giving the Ten Commandments to Moses. God gives Moses the law that the people of Israel are to follow in order to be accepted by God. We see these laws recorded in chapters nineteen through twenty-three. In chapter twenty-five we see the establishment of the tabernacle. Instructions are given as to how the tabernacle is to be built. It is amazing how God gives exact instructions in the building of the tabernacle which will serve as the meeting place between God and the people. The instructions concerning the tabernacle continue through chapter thirty-one of Exodus. At the conclusion of Moses’ encounter with God, we see the giving of the two tablets of stone that is written upon with the finger of God. Theses tablets contain the testimony of the instructions given to Moses during his meeting with God. While Moses was on the mountain with God, the children of Israel commit a terrible sin. We see this recorded in chapter thirty-two. The people make a golden calf and worship it, totally turning their backs on God. When Moses sees what has happened, he throws down the tablets that God had given to him and the tablets break. Moses then prays to God on behalf of the people and the people repent and turn back to God. The covenant with God and Moses is renewed as construction on the tabernacle begins. We see the construction of the tabernacle and all its furnishings recorded in chapters thirty-five through chapter forty. The book of Exodus concludes with the glory of the Lord filling the tabernacle. The tabernacle now provides away for the people to commune with God.
The book of Numbers is the next book in the chronological narrative of the Old Testament. Before Numbers we have Leviticus which is a complementary book of Exodus giving more details concerning the law. In Numbers we see the continuation of the journey toward the promise land and the mistakes and failures of the people of Israel. Ryrie says about Numbers: “The principle lesson of Numbers is that God’s people must walk by faith, trusting His promises, if they are to move forward. In reinforcing this theme, the book recounts the unbelief and discontent of the people in general and of Miriam and Aaron, the refusal at Kadesh-barnea to enter the Promised Land, Moses’ failure, and the idolatrous worship. Yet, in spite of repeated failure, the Israelites covenant-keeping God miraculously supported them during those years of rebellion and wandering and finally brought them to the promise land.”
The next chronological book is Joshua. The book of Joshua is very important to the Old Testament narrative. Joshua was the successor of Moses and is the one chosen to finally bring the children of Israel into the promise land. The Bible Knowledge Commentary states: “The purpose of the book of Joshua is to give an official account of the historical fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to the patriarchs to give Israel the land of Canaan.” The book of Joshua begins with the children of Israel entering into the promise land and ends with the dividing of the land of Canaan according to the various tribes. We also see the death of Joshua at the conclusion of the book. It is believed that Joshua is the author of the book except for the details surrounding his death which was possibly written by his son, Phinehas. The basic emphasis of the book includes: God’s faithfulness, the importance of the law, and the holiness of God.
As the storyline continues, we come to the book of Judges. This is the time period in Israel’s history in which they are ruled by Judges. These Judges were both military and civil leaders. This was also the time If Israel’s continual conquest of the land of Canaan. There are twelve Judges mentioned in the book: Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah & Barak, Gideon, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, and Samson. Each of these Judges led Israel during various times of oppression. We also see a continual cycle in the book of Judges. The children of Israel serves God, sins, becomes enslaved, cries out to God, a Judged is raised up by God, Israel is delivered, serves the Lord again, and then back in sin as the cycle continues. The underlining lesson that we learn from the book of Judges is that obedience to God brings blessing, disobedience to God brings destruction.
Now we come to first and second Samuel. First Samuel begins with the introduction of the last judge, Samuel. It is also in this book that we see Israel’s first king. There are many well-known stories in the book of first Samuel, such as David and Goliath and Saul and the witch of Endor. In the timeline of first Samuel we see it begins with the birth of Samuel, to Saul as king, David as king, and then ends with Solomon as king. The basic lessons learned in first Samuel are how the people react to their leaders and the effects of sin and the effects of holiness. The book of second Samuel gives more detail to David as king. Some of the notable events in the book of second Samuel include David’s sin with Bathsheba and the making of Jerusalem as the political and religious center of the nation. We also see the Davidic Covenant in second Samuel. We see this covenant in chapter seven. This covenant includes: David would have a son that will become king that son would build the temple, the throne of his son will be established forever, and God’s mercy will be forever.
The next book in the chronological narrative of the Old Testament is first and second Kings. These books trace the history of the kings of Israel and Judah from Solomon to the Babylonian empire. Much detail is given concerning Solomon who ruled the United Kingdom and was known as the wisest man that ever lived. Solomon is the author of most of Proverbs and also of the Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes. These books are considered as the wisdom books which along with first & second Chronicles are complementary to first and second Kings.
The next book in the chronological narrative of the Old Testament is Ezra. The book of Ezra shares with us the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel to her land after the seventy years of Babylonian captivity. Barnes notes on Ezra reads: “The book of Ezra is made up of two completely distinct sections.” Theses sections we find to be: the return under Zerubbabel in chapters one through six and the return under Ezra in chapters seven through ten. Ezra shows us how faithful God is to His people.
The final book in the Chronological order of the Old Testament is Nehemiah. Nehemiah gives us the account of the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. “Like the book of Ezra, the book of Nehemiah may be understood in terms of the faithfulness and holiness of God.”
The journey through the Old Testament proves to be amazing. The underlining themes that are learned are God’s faithfulness, holiness, and justice. In looking at the Chronology of the Old Testament we see the love of God for His people and His desire to have a personal relationship with all those who will come to Him in obedience.

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