19th April 2008, mgh
2) The Old Testament
The first section of the Bible is known as the Old Testament and deals with the history of Ancient Israel and the nations of the ancient world of the Middle East. It contains a significant amount of prophecy relevant to the ancient Jewish nation and to both Jew and non-Jew in the modern world.
The Bible and History
The first book of the Bible, Genesis, introduces the Creator and the record of Creation. Adam and Eve the first humans, because of disobedience to God's command, were punished with death and their descendents inherited their nature. Genesis deals with the early history of man and the selection of Abraham and his descendents to play a special role in God's plan with the earth. Abraham was selected for this purpose because of his great faith in God, as many of the world's inhabitants had shown a total disregard for God and had turned to idolatry and immorality. From Abraham's descendents emerged the nation of Israel, which was to be the witness to God's promise that the earth was to be filled with His glory and ultimately inhabited by a people who reflected his character.
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy trace the growth of the nation of Israel. Following a period of slavery in Egypt, the Israelites were saved from slavery by God through the leadership of Moses and they are led into the wilderness for forty years. It is there they are taught the Law of Moses which set out the principles of worship, laws related to many aspects of daily life, morality, hygiene and behaviour. The ideals of God were set before the people and although they failed to attain to the high standards they learnt of God's great love and mercy and provision for forgiveness.
Abraham had been promised the land of Canaan as a possession and it was under the leadership of Joshua that the nation of Israel took possession of the land of promise, details of which are given in the book of Joshua. In the book of Judges it is revealed how the nation failed to obey God and Judges were appointed to govern the nation. The book of Ruth shows how some of the people remained faithful despite the general faithlessness of the nation.
In 1 & 2 Samuel a monarchy is established to satisfy the demands of the people to be like the nations around them and a faithful servant David is elevated to kingship. However in 1 & 2 Kings the nation is divided into two parts, Israel in the north and Judah in the south of the country. The nation again fails politically with some good kings but many were corrupt and the people turned from the true and acceptable worship of God into idolatry a immorality. 1 & 2 Chronicles also describes this period of the nation's history and the Assyrian destruction of the northern kingdom and then the captivity of Judah, the southern kingdom, by the Babylonians when the Jews were taken captive to Babylon.
Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther deal with various aspects of Israel's return to their land and Jerusalem from Babylon and the reconstruction of their worship and society and their preservation from hostile occupants in the land.
The Bible and Poetry
The book of Job is a dramatic epic that shows the blessing that can come through suffering. The Psalms are poetic and deal with faith in the Creator, who is a God of love and mercy, obedience to His laws, and songs of reverence and praise. Many of the Psalms are prophetic and speak of the Messiah and the coming kingdom that will bring righteousness and justice for all mankind. Proverbs is a book of practical wisdom for life and the advice to seek wisdom and understanding. Ecclesiastes gives advice that we should not seek treasure in earthly things but seek the treasure that comes from on high. The Song of Solomon is an allegory that uses figurative language and abounds in metaphorical language.
The Bible and Prophecy
There are eighteen prophetic books in the Bible, which deal with the destiny of Israel, its dispersion and the ultimate return of a remnant in the last days to their traditional homeland, after years of persecution in many countries. They deal with the destiny of nations, the kingdom of men, and the war that will lead to a major world conflict and the establishment of Jerusalem as the world capital of a government that will rule the world in peace and righteousness. All men will then recognise their Creator and worship him and a Temple will be built as a House of Prayer for all nations. These books also speak of the greater son of David who will be King in the future. They also give prophecies about the destiny of other Middle Eastern and Mediterranean nations and the Arabs. The prophetic books are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.