The Old Testament
With this lesson you are beginning an intensified study of the greatest book ever to be delivered into human hands. The Bible is the book of books. It has done more to change the course of human events than any book ever printed.
Through thousands of years the Bible has been the centre of the moral standard of the civilized world. It has been a source book for much of our historical knowledge. It has the spark which has prompted numerous scientific advances. It has improved the condition of every nation which has received it with the respect and honour it so richly deserves.
The Bible has been a star of hope to countless millions, a comfort to the dying and a compass to the living. It is a book without equal, but most important of all, it is “the Word of God which liveth and abideth forever” (I Peter 1:23).
May the Lord richly bless you in this study of His Holy Word and may the zeal which has prompted your present interest, lead you into the paths of ever-increasing usefulness in the service of Him who died for us all.
The Writings of the Old Testament
The Bible is separated into main divisions, the Old and New Testament. The Old Testament, which was originally written in the Hebrew language, includes all of the writings of the Bible from the Book of Genesis through that of Malachi.
Although the Bible is generally thought of as a single book, it is actually a composition of many books which are in themselves distinctly separate from each other, but which are written in such perfect harmony and unity that they may be considered as mere parts of the one great book, the Bible. In the Old Testament alone, there are thirty-nine separate writings or books. They cover a period of more than thirty-five hundred years from the time of the creation to the end of the book of Malachi which was written in about 425 B.C.
The first five books of the Old Testament are almost universally considered to have been written by Moses in about 1500 B.C. The remaining thirty-four books were written during the next eleven hundred years. Some of authors were shepherds, some were kings, some captives in foreign lands, some were men of great education, others were men of little formal training, yet all wrote in such harmony and unity that not one single contradiction has ever been found in their teachings.
Atheists through the centuries have scoffed, tyrants have threatened the Bible’s utter destruction, yet today they, like all of God’s opponents, have passed into oblivion and the Bible shines brighter today than ever before.
Outline of Old Testament History
The following is a brief outline of Old Testament history and is designed to acquaint the student with the relation and time order of its various important events and people.
|THE GARDEN OF EDEN|
|ISHMAEL, Arabs||ISAAC||LOT, Ammonites, Moabites|
|NATION OF ISRAEL|
|BIRTH OF MOSES|
|CROSSING RED SEA|
|BEGINNING OF LAW ON SINAI|
|40 YEARS IN WILDERNESS|
|Entering of the Promised Land|
|Division of the Kingdom of Israel|
RETURN TO JERUSALEM
BIRTH OF JESUS
1. After being cast out of the Garden of Eden because of their sin, Adam and Eve had two sons – Cain and Abel. Abel was the more righteous one and Cain, being jealous, killed his brother, thus becoming the first murderer. (Genesis 4).
2. Because of his wickedness, Cain was driven out and Adam and Eve were given a third son, Seth, who was to be the forefather of such great characters as Noah, Abraham, David and Christ. (Genesis 5).
3. Within a few hundred years, the world became so wicked that God decided it must be destroyed. Only Noah and his family had remained faithful enough to God to be spared. During the 120 years while the ark was being prepared Noah preached but the world, being so sinful refused to hear. Only eight souls were saved (Genesis 7; I Peter 3:20).
4. These eight souls were Noah’s three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, their wives and Noah and his wife. The Jewish people were descendents of Shem.
5. The next great Bible character was Abraham. Two of his sons were Ishmael (who was the forefather of the mixed Arabs) and Isaac. We will be most concerned with Isaac since the nation of Israel came though him. (Genesis 16:2). After Sarah, Abraham’s wife died he married Keturah and had other children. (Genesis 25:1-2).
6. Lot was the nephew of Abraham. Through him sprang the Moabites and the Ammonites. (Genesis 19). These later became bitter enemies of Abraham’s descendants.
7. Isaac also had two sons – Esau and Jacob. Esau’s descendants were the Edomites. Jacob has twelve sons who went with their father into Egypt. Their descendants formed the Nation of Israel sometimes called “children of Israel” or “Israelites” after their father Jacob whose name was changed to ‘Israel’ by God (Genesis 32:28). A very interesting story of one of these sons, Joseph is found in Genesis 37-50.
8. After being in Egypt for several years, the Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians and after many years of hard bondage were led out of the land of Egypt by Moses under the direction of God. Because of King Pharaoh’s stubbornness God brought ten terrible plagues upon the Egyptians before the people were actually allowed to leave. (Exodus 7-12). By a miracle of God they crossed the Red Sea on dry ground and thus escaped the Egyptian soldiers who were drowned when they tried to follow. (Exodus 14). It is estimated that by this time the Israelites numbered more than two million people.
9. Shortly after crossing the Red Sea, the Israelites came to Mount Sinai where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. (Exodus 20). During the period that followed they were allowed to wander in the wilderness for forty years because of their lack of trust in God. (See Numbers 14).
10. After the death of Moses, Joshua led the people across the Jordan River into the Promised Land of Canaan which they finally conquered and divided among the tribes. (Joshua 1:22).
11. When Joshua died, God gave the people judges to lead them. During this period such famous leaders as Samson, Gideon and Samuel lived. (Judges 3-21). After several years the Israelites began to want to be like the nations around them. They rejected their last judge, Samuel and demanded a king to rule over them. God was highly displeased with this, but allowed them to have their king as they wished. The first three kings were Saul, David and Solomon, David’s son.
12. After the death of Solomon, the kingdom was divided. Ten tribes under Jereboam rebelled and formed the Northern Kingdom (still known as Israel) while two tribes (Judah and Benjamin) under Solomon’s son; Rehoboam formed the Southern Kingdom known simply as “Judah”. (I Kings 12).
13. Because of their wickedness and idolatry the Northern Kingdom was soon taken into Assyrian captivity and never heard of as a nation again.
14. Within a few years, the two Southern tribes were taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar, king of powerful Babylon. During this period Daniel, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego lived. After a number of years they were allowed to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls and the temple under the direction of Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah.
The remaining Old Testament history has to do mainly with the general activities of the returning Jews and leads toward but does not include the Birth of Christ.
Recent Old Testament Discoveries
For many centuries the Old Testament has stood as the lone historical record of numerous events, places and people of the ancient world. Many of these records were once publicly ridiculed by skeptics of the Bible as being unauthentic and incorrect. It was reasoned that since no mention of them had been found in any other historical writing that this proved once and for all that the Bible was incorrect. Recent archaeological discoveries, however, have proven the Bible to be correct in great detail and those who opposed it to be false.
In Genesis 11:31, for instance, Abraham (Abram) is said to have lived in the city of Ur. The existence of this great city was often scorned until recent archaeological diggings uncovered its ancient ruins. Temples, houses and even the king’s and queen’s tombs have been discovered.
The existence of the Hittite nation, mentioned in Genesis 15:20, was also once unknown outside the Bible. Ancient records of Egypt and Assyria have since been unearthed, however, which showed that the Hittites actually did exist as a mighty nation which stood for nearly seven centuries. Again the Bible has been proven correct and the skeptics who opposed it to be false.
The ancient Egyptian city of Pithom has been uncovered and storehouses fitting the description of those built by the Israelites have been found, the lower portion containing brick with straw and the upper portion containing brick without straw. (See Exodus 1:11; 5:7). The mummy of Meneptah II, the Pharaoh of the exodus has been discovered. A hymn to him mentions Israel and the inscription tells of the death of his young son, possibly the one mentioned in the last plague. (Exodus 12:29).
The fallen walls of ancient Jericho have been unearthed and the remains match the exact description given in Joshua 6. The Bible says that when the Israelites took the city “….. the walls fell down flat so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him and they took the city.” (Joshua 6:20). Excavations show that the walls did fall outward quite flat filling the ditch which surround the city. Further diggings have also disclosed that the city was intentionally burned, but was not sacked or plundered. This too is in exact accord with the description of the event recorded in the Bible.
There have been multitudes of other similar Bible facts discovered within the past few years. We now know the exact location of the land of Goshen, (where the Jews lived during their stay in Egypt), Shishak’s sculptured account of his campaign against King Rehoboam, evidence of a universal flood, Sennacharib’s history of his invasion of Palestine, mentioning “Omri King of Israel,” and Jehovah, “an inscription to the Unknown God,” like the one described by Paul in Acts 17:23. With all these, and thousands of other events dug out of the ground, surely one must see the hand of God on the pages of His sacred Word.
Helpful Hints for Effective Bible Study
1. STUDY WITH AN OPEN MIND. Try to find what the Bible actually teaches instead of trying to make it prove what you already believe. Remember the Gospel is God’s power to save and not our opinions. (Romans 1:16).
2. STUDY THE BIBLE SYSTEMATICALLY. This is the purpose of this course. A student in school could not learn Chemistry, Maths or Science if he skipped around haphazardly from one subject to another. The same principle holds true in Bible Study.
3. STUDY THE BIBLE DAILY. In Acts 17:11, the Bible says of the people of Berea, “These were more noble than those of Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so”. If these disciples were encouraged to check the teachings of the apostles, how careful we should be today.
4. REALIZE “TRUTH” EXISTS. We must realize that the Bible is a book of truth, not a book of contradictions. It is blasphemy of God’s Word to say a false doctrine can be proven right by using the Bible. As truth never contradict itself, and the Bible is a book of truth, the Bible does not contain contradictions. If religious beliefs contradict one another it is because at least, and perhaps both are not in harmony with the truth, The Bible.
5. STUDY WISELY. If we could learn everything God wants us to know in one single verse there would be no purpose for the rest of the scriptures. In studying a certain scripture we should always consider the context (verses surrounding the verse under consideration) as well as to whom, when and under what conditions the scriptures was written.
6. APPLY ITS TEACHINGS PERSONALLY. One of the greatest Bible tragedies was the Rich Young Ruler of Matthew 19 who inquired of the Lord what he must do to inherit eternal life. Upon receiving an answer the Bible says that “he went away sorrowful…” Bible knowledge is wonderful, but is of little real value unless it is actively put to use. May the Lord richly bless you in this study of His Word.
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