Apparently, God has had a long-standing relationship with these people in which they have taken a particularly hardened stance against him. One of the feature stories of Joshua is the story of Rahab. Not only is she rescued from the destruction of her city, but she is adopted into the Israelites, and ends up being an ancestor of such Bible bigwigs as King David and Jesus.
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Rahab ends up being mentioned by one of the New Testament writers as one of our top examples of someone who lived by faith Hebrews Each tribe, each clan, and each family settles down to the simple domestic task of enjoying their new land. In the period of quiet and plenty following Joshua, the people do indeed forget. They become complacent. And when they become complacent, they find themselves at the mercy of marauders and oppressors. Ruth is a short story that gives us a rare glimpse into normal, everyday life in the Old Testament period. Even rarer, it focuses on two groups of people who tend not to be the title character of biblical books: women and non-Israelites.
Originally a single work, 1 and 2 Samuel are a collection of stories by an unknown author that highlight the period of time when the Israelites transitioned from a loose coalition of tribes connected by a common religion to a unified monarchy. Up until this time, God considered himself the direct ruler of the Israelites. However, the people of Israel wanted a king because they were jealous that other nations had their own kings.
The story of this complex period of political and social change features the main characters Samuel, Saul, and David. Samuel was tasked by God to find and anoint the first king of Israel. The king was not to have absolute power — instead, he was to be subject to God and the word of his prophets. Saul was brought into contact with Samuel and was made king. Because of this, Samuel had to go find the next king, David, and begin the transition of power to him.
The period of time between Saul and David was anything but smooth. David is one of the most celebrated Old Testament characters and author or inspiration for many psalms. His story occupies the bulk of 1 and 2 Samuel. During his time as king, David gained great power and influence because of his many military victories and effective use of politics to unify the Israelites.
However, his reign was tainted by murder, adultery, and ethical leniency within his family. Some questions to ask as you read 1 and 2 Samuel: Why do you think God granted Israel a king even though he considered that desire to be sinful? What about Saul caused his reign to fail?
In what ways was it harmful? After his decline, the nation of Israel was split into two kingdoms, the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, each with a different line of kings who individually had varying degrees of influence and power. As both kingdoms were constantly at war with other nations, both the northern and southern kingdoms eventually fall to enemy forces. Elijah was considered one of the most influential prophets in Jewish history.
The author of 1 and 2 Kings is uncertain; it may have been composed by royal historians using court archives or prophets using other written records and oral traditions, or even some combination. The historical perspective of the author is not like that of usual historical writings which normally stress the political, social, and economic climate of the time. While some of those elements are present in 1 and 2 Kings, the primary perspective is theological in nature.
What do you see as the criteria for successful and unsuccessful reigns? And how do these compare to the ones we might apply to contemporary world leaders? The book of Ezra picks up where 2 Chronicles leaves off in its reckoning of Israelite history beginning with the decree from by the Persian emperor Cyrus for the Israelites to be restored to their home in Judah B. In B. As you read the stories of Ezra and Nehemiah in their attempts to rebuild significant parts of Jerusalem, what do you notice about the circumstances under which their work was completed?
What differences do you notice between Ezra and Nehemiah and their respective reforms? The book of Esther tells the story of a young Jewish woman who becomes the queen of Persia. The Jews had lost a war with the world power, Babylon; their capital Jerusalem was destroyed and the entire upper class of Judea was sent into exile, to limit their ability to foment rebellion.
Shortly thereafter, Babylon itself was conquered by Persia. The book of Esther is one story about what happens when the Jews, who had tended to remain somewhat separate before the exile, begin to mix more with other people and cultures in the larger Persian world. The book of Job is a poetic masterpiece that speaks to the issue of suffering, and specifically why bad things happen to good people. Job is bundled with Proverbs and Ecclesiastes under the category of wisdom literature in the Bible.
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What we do know is that Job is the premier piece of ancient poetry that we still have to study and enjoy. In any case, as with most poetry and ancient drama, you can expect to find beautiful and extended metaphors and similes as a way to express the drama occurring between the characters.
To fully engage with the book of Job, try to imagine what the characters—particularly Job himself—are feeling. Have you been in a situation similar to any of the characters? About half of them are written by the famous king David, as well known as a musician and worshipper as he was as a warrior and giant-slayer. The Psalms are really meant to be prayed—sung even—rather than just read. I find that I get the most out of them when I adopt them as my own, praying them as my own prayers. I tend to pray them verbatim—doing so aloud and with gusto whenever possible seems to improve the experience immensely—but I know other people who use them as jumping off points into further prayer in their own words.
You might even want to try occasionally reading a psalm aloud together with someone else. Take turns reading stanzas aloud. At the end of the psalm—or in the middle of longer psalms—you could jump off-book to pray further about the ways the psalm connects to your own current life circumstances. The book of Proverbs is classic Hebrew wisdom literature known for its large collection of short, pithy statements.
A large section of it is attributed to King Solomon, who was traditionally known as the wisest and most prosperous of all the kings of Israel. Scholars think the collection reached its final form sometime in the 5th-4th century B. Apparently wisdom literature was shared across national, cultural, and even religious boundaries. Proverbs contains conventional rules for everyday life. They are based on simple if-then rules; every action has some predictable consequence. The proverbs cover everything from relationships to finance.
A common recipe for a Hebrew proverb is to contrast the ways of wisdom and folly. As part of this framing device, the author often personifies Wisdom as an attractive woman to be pursued. This Wayward Woman might simply be a corresponding metaphor for folly; or it could be that the author is acknowledging that, for his adolescent child, temptations away from the path of wisdom would often come in the form of sex.
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They are pithy sayings meant to be applied according to the situation. The book of Proverbs is a hodge-podge collection of wisdom and can be broken down generally as follows:. I like the proverbs because they read like clever Mark Twain quotations. Even without reading them in Hebrew, they have a certain charm and refreshing bluntness.
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If you find a particular proverb helpful, consider sharing it with your friends when it seems relevant. The book of Ecclesiastes has an unknown author and an unknown date. It also could be that Ecclesiastes was written by another king in Jerusalem. Or maybe it was intended to be a work of imaginative fiction—an attempt to get inside the mind of Solomon.
Almost as enigmatic as the author and date is the style in which Ecclesiastes was written. Unlike the simple conventional wisdom in book of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes contains a more speculative and critical look at wisdom. Wait until the end to try to decide what it all means. Maybe the point is to ask, and provoke, the big questions: What is the meaning of life?
Where can I find happiness? Have you ever found a certain pursuit to be a total waste of time? Have you been dissatisfied in your work? Have you witnessed extreme injustice? The Teacher seems to have experienced it all. Song of Songs is a steamy love poem, traditionally attributed to King Solomon thus, it is also known as Song of Solomon. Other interpreters think Song of Songs is an extended metaphor about the love between God and his people.
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Isaiah is an Old Testament prophet. The books of Jeremiah and Lamentations are both poems written by a man named Jeremiah. During this time, the small nation of Judah was caught up in the military conquests of the larger empires of Babylon, Assyria, and Egypt. Why the harsh judgment on Judah?
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Prior to Jeremiah, Judah was corrupted under the long reign of King Manasseh. Manasseh essentially led Judah to seek power from sources other than God, which is known as idolatry throughout the Bible. Attempts at reforms by subsequent kings did little to change this. Jeremiah is a complex character! How might you go about taking his point of view on the affairs of Judah?
When thinking of prophecy, we can tend to focus on the idea of predicting the future. The Babylonians went to war with the Jews, eventually destroying Jerusalem and deporting most of its population to exile in Babylonia. Ezekiel himself was sent into exile before the destruction of Jerusalem: he was one of a group of Jewish leaders taken hostage by the Babylonians at an earlier stage of the war.