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Old Testament Survey

The Books of History



With the books of Joshua through Esther, we now turn to what are classified as the History Books. In the sense in which Scripture is revealed to us by God, this designation is very fitting.

Obviously Genesis-to-Deuteronomy contain history. They cover a broad span of centuries. Genesis provides us with the Abrahamic Covenant. On this covenant is built all of God’s relationship with the Israelites and the rest of the world. Further, in the seed of Abraham, and more particularly, in the children of Jacob, we find the roots of the Jewish nation.

In Exodus comes the beginning of the deliverance of the children of Israel from the bondage of sin and human oppression. The balance of the Pentateuch provides the foundation laws which will separate the people of God to Him and away from the world. These laws will make the people different from the pagan nations which occupy and surround the Promised Land. It is in this sense that the Pentateuch represents not history, but the foundational roots of all that comes in the balance of the Old Testament. With the books of history, we find not the revelation of new rules, but rather, the effort of the people to live by, and up to, the standards set by God during the Exodus and the wilderness wanderings. These are the books of application.

Here, in the history books, we will find the examples of how to, and not to, apply the Mosaic law. We will learn what it means to have a heart after God. The cornerstone of trust and belief is explained in the finite details of life. We shall see the efforts of the prophets trying to exhort the people to stay on God’s path.

The Exodus and the law form the foundation against which all is to be measured. This establishes the sense of separation between the books of Moses and the Law, and the books of History. And, as we shall see, they all look forward to the Messiah.

The Psalms make great use of the importance of the Covenant and the failure of the nation to abide in the standards of God. The look back upon the events of the Pentateuch as the foundation for all the nation of Israel suffers. And they discover in the midst of these events the character of the coming Messiah. For example, Psalms 78 and 106 are about the nation during this time period. Psalm 78 looks to the Messiah speaking in parables. But the Psalms are written mostly during the “middle” years of the history of the nation as recorded in the Old Testament.

But the Psalmists are not the only ones to use this history as the foundation for their prayers and petitions. Nehemiah comes to the nation late in its Old Testament history. His prayer / psalm found in chapter 9 is a picture of the petition to God on behalf of a sinful nation which some 1,000 years after the event, still uses the Exodus and its surrounding history as the foundation of the nation’s relationship with God.

Nehemiah 9:4-38
4 Now on the Levites’ platform stood Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani and Chenani, and they cried with a loud voice to the Lord their God. 5 Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah, said, “Arise, bless the Lord your God forever and ever!  O may Your glorious name be blessed And exalted above all blessing and praise! 6 “You alone are the Lord. You have made the heavens, The heaven of heavens with all their host, The earth and all that is on it, The seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them And the heavenly host bows down before You. 7 “You are the Lord God, Who chose Abram And brought him out from Ur of the Chaldees, And gave him the name Abraham. 8 “You found his heart faithful before You, And made a covenant with him To give him the land of the Canaanite, Of the Hittite and the Amorite, Of the Perizzite, the Jebusite and the Girgashite—To give it to his descendants. And You have fulfilled Your promise, For You are righteous. 9 “You saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, And heard their cry by the Red Sea. 10 “Then You performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh, Against all his servants and all the people of his land; For You knew that they acted arrogantly toward them, And made a name for Yourself as it is this day. 11 “You divided the sea before them, So they passed through the midst of the sea on dry ground; And their pursuers You hurled into the depths, Like a stone into raging waters. 12 “And with a pillar of cloud You led them by day, And with a pillar of fire by night To light for them the way In which they were to go. 13 “Then You came down on Mount Sinai, And spoke with them from heaven; You gave them just ordinances and true laws, Good statutes and commandments. 14 “So You made known to them Your holy sabbath, And laid down for them commandments, statutes and law, Through Your servant Moses. 15 “You provided bread from heaven for them for their hunger, You brought forth water from a rock for them for their thirst, And You told them to enter in order to possess The land which You swore to give them. 16 “But they, our fathers, acted arrogantly; They became stubborn and would not listen to Your commandments. 17 “They refused to listen, And did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You had performed among them; So they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But You are a God of forgiveness, Gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness; And You did not forsake them. 18 “Even when they made for themselves A calf of molten metal And said, ‘This is your God Who brought you up from Egypt,’ And committed great blasphemies, 19 You, in Your great compassion, Did not forsake them in the wilderness; The pillar of cloud did not leave them by day, To guide them on their way, Nor the pillar of fire by night, to light for them the way in which they were to go. 20 “You gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, Your manna You did not withhold from their mouth, And You gave them water for their thirst. 21 “Indeed, forty years You provided for them in the wilderness and they were not in want; Their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet swell. 22 “You also gave them kingdoms and peoples, And allotted them to them as a boundary. They took possession of the land of Sihon the king of Heshbon And the land of Og the king of Bashan. 23 “You made their sons numerous as the stars of heaven, And You brought them into the land Which You had told their fathers to enter and possess. 24 “So their sons entered and possessed the land. And You subdued before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, And You gave them into their hand, with their kings and the peoples of the land, To do with them as they desired. 25 “They captured fortified cities and a fertile land. They took possession of houses full of every good thing,Hewn cisterns, vineyards, olive groves, Fruit trees in abundance. So they ate, were filled and grew fat, And reveled in Your great goodness. 26 “But they became disobedient and rebelled against You, And cast Your law behind their backs And killed Your prophets who had admonished them So that they might return to You, And they committed great blasphemies. 27 “Therefore You delivered them into the hand of their oppressors who oppressed them, But when they cried to You in the time of their distress, You heard from heaven, and according to Your great compassion You gave them deliverers who delivered them from the hand of their oppressors. 28 “But as soon as they had rest, they did evil again before You; Therefore You abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they ruled over them. When they cried again to You, You heard from heaven, And many times You rescued them according to Your compassion, 29 And admonished them in order to turn them back to Your law. Yet they acted arrogantly and did not listen to Your commandments but sinned against Your ordinances, By which if a man observes them he shall live. And they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck, and would not listen. 30 “However, You bore with them for many years, And admonished them by Your Spirit through Your prophets, Yet they would not give ear. Therefore You gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. 31 “Nevertheless, in Your great compassion You did not make an end of them or forsake them, For You are a gracious and compassionate God. 32 “Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and loving-kindness, Do not let all the hardship seem insignificant before You, Which has come upon us, our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers and on all Your people, From the days of the kings of Assyria to this day. 33 “However, You are just in all that has come upon us; For You have dealt faithfully, but we have acted wickedly. 34 “For our kings, our leaders, our priests and our fathers have not kept Your law Or paid attention to Your commandments and Your admonitions with which You have admonished them. 35 “But they, in their own kingdom, With Your great goodness which You gave them, With the broad and rich land which You set before them, Did not serve You or turn from their evil deeds. 36 “Behold, we are slaves today, And as to the land which You gave to our fathers to eat of its fruit and its bounty, Behold, we are slaves in it. 37 “Its abundant produce is for the kings Whom You have set over us because of our sins; They also rule over our bodies And over our cattle as they please, So we are in great distress. 38 Now because of all this We are making an agreement in writing; And on the sealed document are the names of our leaders, our Levites and our priests.
(NASB)

 

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December 14, 2019

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