History, a Medium for the Message

There are twelve books in the Old Testament, beginning with Joshua and ending with Esther, grouped in a “historical” genre.  They describe the settlement of Israel in Canaan, the transition from judges to monarchs, the decline and division of the kingdom, the captivity of the northern and the southern kingdoms by foreign powers, and the return of a remnant to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and the city.  This history seems chaotic, but it becomes the medium in which God works His deliverance.  It is as if these individual narratives dissolve into God’s redemptive meta-narrative.  The following concepts are vital to a proper understanding of these books:

  • These books may be gathered into a historical bundle, but they are far from being in chronological sequence. Without realizing this, the reader will be totally confused.  This is most difficult to understand when reading the Kings and the Chronicles.  A good study Bible should be referenced here.
  • A basic understanding of pivotal events will make all the difference in your reading. Among these are the dividing of the monarchy into the northern kingdom (Israel) and the southern kingdom (Judah), and the subsequent captivities of the north to the Assyrians in 722BC and the south to the Babylonians in 586BC.
  • Vast amounts of this literature seem to be repetitive (especially Kings and Chronicles). Generally, the Kings emphasize the political interpretation of events, while the Chronicles focus on the religious nature of things.  The Chronicles were probably written during or after the exile to Babylon in order to restore identity to God’s people.
  • These books lay the foundation for three offices that will be fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah; Prophet, Priest, and King.
  • God is never absent or peripheral in these narratives. He is working out and working toward His redemptive plan and purposes that will come to fruition in the Messiah.

Next time…How to read and comprehend the Old Testament poetry books.