A History of God's People

Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to
bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified
by faith. (Galations 3:24)

Several years ago I was a part of a great Bible study at Eastside Church of Christ in Athens Alabama. I know that anytime that we are studying God's word we are having a great Bible study. We studied God's Plan beginning to end (Genesis to Revelations). Two hours a week for six month we looked at God's Plan as a whole. I did not know that the Bible was one long continuous story from cover to cover. In that class we broke the scriptures into seventeen periods of Bible History. This study has meant so much to me that I thought I would try to summarize the seventeen periods. There is no way to give a lot of attention to any particular period. My only objective with this study is to introduce the concept and let you develop each of the periods in your own personal study.

This is the period in which God created the heavens and the earth. God created the earth in six days. On the seventh day God rested, this action set the president for the Sabbath law for the Jewish people. God created Adam in his own image that is having a soul. From Adam's rib God also created Adam a helpmate. Eve was this helpmate and they lived in a garden that God had created for them. God gave them one command. Two trees stood in the midst of the garden. The tree of life meant eternal life to anyone who ate of the fruit. The tree of knowledge meant knowing the difference between good and evil. The tree of knowledge was the one tree that God said that they could not eat of the fruit. The Devil, as a serpent, beguiled Eve into eating of the fruit. Eve also took the fruit and gave it to her husband Adam. He sinned by eating of the fruit. This sin brought curses upon all people since this event Genesis 3:14-19). Because of their choice to sin, Adam and Eve were driven out of the garden that God had made for them. God placed cherubim there to guard the Tree of Life. After this Adam and Eve had two children, Cain and Abel. Both sons offered a sacrifice to the Lord. God accepted Abel's sacrifice but He did not accept Cain's. Cain became very jealous and murdered his brother Abel. In the fifth chapter of Genesis the Bible tells Adam's descendants down through Noah. This section covers about one thousand and fifty-six years as. It also serves as a link to the next period of history.

God was sorry that He had created the earth because the men were very wicked (Genesis 6:6). God said, "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth."(Genesis 6:7) However, Noah found favor in the sight of God. Therefore, God decided to spare Noah and his three sons with their wives. God instructed Noah how He wanted the ark built. Noah followed His instructions perfectly. In the sixth hundred year of Noah's life the rain began to descend upon the earth. The rain lasted for forty days. The waters covered the earth to the point of the highest mountains. The entire earth and all that was on it was destroyed by the flood. The only exceptions are the men, women, and animals that were on the ark. The waters prevailed against the earth for one hundred and fifty days. God then remembered Noah and his family and the waters recede. Noah and his family exit the ark one year and thirteen days after the flood began. Noah builds an altar and worships God there. The ninth chapter of Genesis tells of the covenants between God and Noah. First, God allows people to eat meat. They were not to eat of the blood. The blood is the portion of the animal that contains the life. Second, God also gave the first law of capital punishment. Third, God sets the rainbow as a promise that He would never destroy the earth by water again. We also see in this period of history the sin of Noah and his son Ham.

After the flood Noah and his family was the only people on the earth. The whole earth had one language and all the people dwelt in one place. The people wanted to build a tower to reach the heavens (Tower of Babel). God did not want all the people staying at one place he wanted them to populate the earth. Therefore God smote their language, so that the people who could understand each other grouped together and moved away from every one else. Now everyone on earth can trace their heritage back to Shem, Ham, or Japheth. The Bible at the end of Genesis chapter 12 tells the lineage from Noah to Abraham. This Scripture covers over one thousand years and serves as our next link between periods.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are the three patriarchs in the Hebrew scriptures. A patriarch is a "father ruler" over a group of people. We also insert the story of Joseph in the period of history, because he serves to move the Hebrew people to Egypt. The story of the patriarchs begins in chapter twelve of Genesis. This is where we learn that Abraham is from the land of Ur of the Chaldeans. God tells him to leave his country and go to a land that He would show him. While in Ur, God says to Abraham, "I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great." This was the first promise to Abraham. The second promise was stated in the next verse. When God says, "in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." (Genesis 12:1-3) Abraham departs from Ur, travels through Haran and then to the Land of Canaan. While in Shechem God reveals his third promise to Abraham. God tells Abraham "To your descendants I will give this land." The rest of the Hebrew scriptures are the fulfillment of God's promises. Abraham by faith left his homeland Ur of the Chaldeans and traveled to an unknown land. Then Abraham went into the land of Egypt to sojourn there. Abraham then returns to Hebron and lives there for a long time. God promises Abraham a male child by Sarah. However, this promise was not fulfilled until Abraham was one hundred years old, and Sarah ninety. Abraham believed God and it was counted to Abraham for righteousness. The greatest test of Abraham's faith came when God told Abraham to take his son and offer him up as a burnt offering. Abraham follows through with this act of extreme faith. However before Abraham cuts the throat of his son an angel of God stops him. Before Abraham dies, he makes his servant promise that he would go to his relatives to find a wife for his son Isaac. The servant goes to Bethuel, the first cousin of Abraham, and asks for his daughter to give in marriage to his master's son. Bethuel agrees and his daughter Rebekah goes with the man and marries Isaac. Then at the age of one hundred and seventy-five, Abraham breathes his last and dies at a ripe old age (Genesis 25:8). Isaac was sixty years old when his two children were born. Jacob and Esau were the twins born to Isaac. The younger son deceived his father in his old age and loss of eyesight. Jacob deceived his father and stole the blessing of the firstborn. Jacob then begins his journey to the land of Haran where he works for fourteen years and a week for his two wives Leah and Rachel. Jacob works for an additional six years for his flocks. God takes care of Jacob throughout his journey. God delivers Jacob home to the land of his fathers safely. Jacob has twelve sons who later became the twelve tribes of Israel.
---God renamed Jacob Israel.
Joseph is not a patriarch, however, I include him in this period to tell why the children of Israel move to the land of Egypt. Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery. Joseph becomes a slave and was given charge of Potiphar's household. This was because he remained faithful to God in whatever situation he found himself. Because he refused Potiphar's wife when she tries to make him commit adultery with her, Joseph finds himself in prison. God continues to take care of Joseph and bless him. The keeper of the prison gave Joseph the responsibility to care for all the prisoners. He interprets dreams for two of the Pharaoh's men, which leads to Joseph becoming a leader in the land of Egypt. The entire time Joseph was enduring persecution it served as training for him to lead and provide for Egypt during seven years of extreme famine. God uses this to deliver the Israelites from a severe famine and extinction.

Years pass Joseph and the Pharaoh's that knew what Joseph had done for Egypt dies. The new Pharaoh no longer knows the Israelites so they view them as a threat. The children of Israel become slaves for the Pharaoh. Then we read of the birth of Moses. Moses was the greatest leader of the Jewish people. God uses Moses and his brother Aaron to tell the Pharaoh "to let the children of Israel go". God proves His point with ten plagues. The plagues start on a small scale and later become very severe. On the night of the Passover the death angel killed all the firstborns that did not have the mark of blood of the sacrificial lamb above the door post of their houses. This temporarily convinced the Pharaoh to let the Hebrew people go. He later attacks and loses an entire army in the Red Sea.

God led the people to Mt. Sinai and there he made a covenant with them. At this point the children of Israel become a great nation. This fulfills a promise between God and the Patriarchs. In less than a year God brings the children of Israel to the edge of the land they were to go in to possess. They sent in spies and they brought back discouraging reports except Joshua and Caleb. These reports discouraged the Hebrew people and caused them to doubt God. They refused go in to possess the land that God was giving them. Therefore, God made them wander in the wilderness for forty years. God chose Moses to lead the children of Israel on this journey. However, due to sin Moses could not enter the land of Canaan (Numbers 20). He turns the leadership over to Joshua with God's approval. INVASION AND CONQUEST OF THE LAND - This begins with Joshua leading the people across the Jordan River on dry ground. By faith, the children of Israel march around the wall of Jericho and God gives them the city. Within a few years Joshua and the army conquered the whole land. However, there were few cities that they did not destroy and those cities become a thorn in Israel's side. They divided the land among the twelve tribes of Israel. The Levites were to inherit cities among the people so they could serve as priest. Think back to the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel). They have been a great nation since the covenant at Mt. Sinai. Now God has fulfilled the land promise. God was still gradually unfolding His plan for mankind. The only promise that God has not fulfilled is the promise of a spiritual blessing to the world from Abraham's seed.

This period of history is described as a period of cycles. The nation of Israel was not led by one leader as before with Moses and Joshua. God appoints judges over them to rule and lead the people. The cycle mentions the children of Israel turning to idol worship. God would allow an enemy to come in and oppress the people. Then they would cry out and repent to God and He would send a judge or a deliverer. There were fifteen of these judges. This period covers about four hundred years. This period contains many exciting stories of God saving Israel through people such as Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, or Samson. Those are not all the judges but they represent some of the mighty works of God. During the time of the judge Samuel, the people cry out that they want a king like the other nations.

This period represents the time during the reign of Saul, David, and Solomon. Saul was the first king to rule over Israel. Saul was very humble at first, but pride became the ruling attitude of his life. He failed to obey God until God rejected his family as the ruling family. God chooses David to be the next King of Israel. David was best king that Israel had. David was a man after God's own heart. There is about 130 chapters in the Bible either relating the history of David or recording the Psalms he wrote. He was human and he made mistakes like all people. His mistakes cost him greatly. It led to the murder of a friend, Uriah the Hittite, because he committed adultery with Uriah's wife Bathsheba. He also loses his ability to control his family. David's son Amon raped his half-sister Tamar. His son Absalom rebels against his kingdom. However, David was righteous because he repented of the sins that he committed. We see this from the fifty first Psalm. David wrote this Psalm out of repentance. David wanted to build a temple to worship God. God told David, through Nathan the prophet that his son was to build the temple. God also promised David that God would establish his throne forever (2 Samuel 7; 1 Chronicles 17). This was a part of God's plan of redemption, and Christ was from the descendants of David. This connects to the same promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Before his death, David proclaims Solomon, his son, as King. Solomon was a son of Bathsheba, who David took as a wife after the death of Uriah. Solomon was the last king of the united kingdom. Solomon as a young man prayed to God for wisdom. God granted his plea. Solomon wrote the wisdom literature in the scriptures. He became extremely rich. Solomon built the temple as God said he would. The Israelite nation reached its greatest size during his reign. Unfortunately, he was led away from God by his pagan wives.

Since we said that the Kingdom was united it only follows reason that it must divide. After the death of King Solomon, there was a revolt in the Israelite nation. Solomon's son Rehoboam became king of Israel after his father's death. The people wanted fewer taxes. Upon the advice of his young council, Rehoboam thought it smart to crack down on the people. Therefore the ten tribes of the north pulled out and Jeroboam became their king. Israel and Judah are the two separate kingdoms formed from this split. From this point through the rest of the Hebrew scriptures, the people only move further away from God. Jeroboam, of the northern tribes, did not want his subjects returning the temple in Jerusalem to Worship. Therefore, he established his own system of worship: new gods, new priest, new feast days, new laws. There was never a righteous king in Israel. The families of rulers changed nine times before the Assyrians took Israel into captivity. Ahab, with his wicked wife Jezebel, stands out as the most wicked king of the period. Elijah, Elisha, Amos, Hosea, and other prophets were sent by God to warn Israel of the impending doom. An attitude of disobedience prevailed in Israel until God allowed the Assyarian army to overthrow them in 721 B.C.. The people were lead away captive, and foreigners were brought in to fill the land. These foreigners intermarried with the low class Israelites left in the land and became the hated mixed race later called the Samaritans.

After Israel was taken into captivity, Judah was left alone. They drifted away from God. However, they were more righteous than Israel. God shows his preference to Judah since he allowed them to exist longer that Israel. Judah had a few good kings such as Asa, Jehoshaphat, Uzziah, Hezekiah, and Josiah. There is no darker period of Jewish history than the divided kingdom.

Finally, God's patience was exhausted with Judah also (2 Cron. 36:15-16). In 606 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon led the first captives away from Jerusalem. He returned for more captives in 597 B.C., and finally destroyed the city of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.. The promises made to the Patriarchs were the basis for the Jewish faith. Let me draw your attention to the promise of a spiritual blessing through the seed of Abraham. This is the same promise God is speaking about while talking to David. The line of David through the divided kingdom was the successor to the throne in Judah. In Judah there was never a change in dynasties. Whereas, in Israel we said that there were nine different dynasties. God keeps His promises. Judah's captivity caused problems for the Jews. How could David's throne be established forever? The writings of the prophets Daniel and Ezekiel tell the story of the captivity. Daniel's training was to serve in the court of the kings. He held a position of high authority under Nebuchadnezzar, and then under Darius of the Medes and Persians. God used Daniel to tell the kings that they took Judah because God allowed them to. Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar became close and had a friendship. Ezekiel lived among the common people and gives us insight into their lives during the period. God uses Ezekiel to let the people know the reason for what has happened to them.

Jeremiah the prophet had foretold the captivity would last for seventy years (Jer. 25:11). In 606 B.C. the first captives were taken from Israel. In 539 B.C., Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians. King Cyrus decreed that all captive people might return to their original homes. Thus in 536 B.C., exactly seventy years after the first captives had been taken from Judah, a group of Jews started for their homelands. Zerubbabel led this first group. Their main objective was to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. As is usual in any worthwhile task, the people immediately faced opposition. The neighboring Samaritians interfered, and finally succeeded in stopping the work on the temple. For sixteen years nothing was done. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah urged the people to resume their work. The temple was finally completed, but the people did not remain faithful to God. Ezra brought another group back to Jerusalem and set about to restore the worship of the people (458 B.C.). Not much later, Nehemiah learned that the city was still in distress. He received permission from the king of Persia to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. He and the people worked hard to complete the huge task in only fifty-two days. Nehemiah and Ezra worked together to persuade the people to put away their foreign wives and to return faithfulness to God.

After the end of the return, the Jewish people did not remain faithful. The people were in complete silence from God. This period lasted for about four hundred years. Babylon fell before the Old Testament closed. The Medo-Persian empire fell about one hundred years after Malachi's book was written. Alexander the Great led the Greeks as they conquered the world. Years passed, and Rome, the forth world empire since Daniel's day, rose to power. God's prophecy had been that in the days of this empire He would establish His kingdom which would never be destroyed (Dan.2:44).

"The fullness of the times" had come. The end of the silence came when an old priest named Zachariah was serving in the temple. Suddenly, the angel Gabriel stood before him - the first communication from God since Malachi. Zachariah received the news that he was to be the father of John, the forerunner whom Malachi predicts. Next the angel appears to Mary and tells her (a virgin) that she was to have a Child that would be conceived of the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth bore John the Baptist and Mary bore the Messiah.



The Hebrew scripture tells us a beautiful story. It tells us the story of God's plan to save all people. As we noticed in Genesis the third chapter and the fifteenth verse, God made a promise of a savior to come and crush the head of the serpent (Devil). Then we read the three promises made to Abraham. First, God would make a great nation from Abraham's descendants. This promise alone took faith on Abraham's part because he was one hundred and his wife was ninety years old when they had their son of promise. This promise was fulfilled at Mt. Sinai where God made a covenant with His people and there they became a great nation of about 1.8 million. I say about that many because there were 603,550 men of war in the first chapter of Numbers. If each man had a wife and one child that would be 1.8 million. I would say that figure is being very conservative. The second promise was that through Abraham's seed someone would come that would bless all people. God fulfilled this promise when Jesus Christ was born into the house of David. Jesus came to bring salvation to Gentiles as well as Jews. The third promise was made to Abraham in Shechem. God told Abraham to look north, south, east, and west. God told Abraham that all he saw would be given to his descendants. Like the first two promises, forty years after the children of Israel left Egypt they invaded and took this land God showed to Abraham. God told these same promises to all three patriarchs. Time after time through their history God saves and forgives His people.
However He was bringing to pass his plan of a Savior to seek and save the lost.