In lesson 3 of our study of the Bible, an emphasis is made that the Bible is a great book. The reading and studying of the great book have made men and women great. Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Napoleon, Queen Victoria, Daniel Webster, Robert E Lee, John Quincy Adams, even Immanuel Kant, Charles Dickens, Sir Isaac Newton, have read and studied the Bible. Abraham Lincoln said, “I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to men. All the good from the Savior of the world is communicated to us through this book.” George Washington had this to say, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.” Queen Victoria said, “That book accounts for the supremacy of England.” Daniel Webster had this to say, “If there is anything in my thoughts or style to commend, the credit is due to my parents for instilling in me an early love of the Scriptures. If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and prosper; but if we and our posterity neglect its instructions and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity.” Patrick Henry recognized the Bible’s work in politics and said, “The Bible is worth all other books which have ever been printed.”
John Quincy Adams said, “So great is my veneration for the Bible that the earlier my children begin to read it the more confident will be my hope that they will prove useful citizens of their country and respectable members of society. I have for many years made it a practice to read through the Bible once every year.” Sir Isaac Newton: “There are more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible then in any profane history.” In the list could go on. Clearly great men and great women recognize the validity, and importance of the moral and ethical compass that the Bible has provided the world and attributed it to God.
So if we choose to study the Bible, reading it once or twice or 3 times, we are in very good company. To make a lifelong endeavor of the study of the scriptures is the admonition of the Book itself. The Bible asserts itself to be God’s word. We are not led to believe the Bible to be the work of man or of man’s own thoughts but rather it is an account of God’s revelation of himself to mankind using men ordained for the task, in many cases, before they were born. The Bible does not just contain the words of God, it is the word of God. And so this lesson will build on lesson number 1 and 2 which introduced the Book, its authorship and some interesting points about its origin through the inspiration of God.
The Bible is broken down into 2 great sections. The Old Testament which I will refer to as OT and the New Testament which I refer to as NT. As mentioned in lesson 1, the OT can be considered to be composed of 43 books if you include the gospel accounts. If you do not count the Gospels as part of the OT books there are 39 OT books in all. This means if the 4 Gospels are part of the NT, which I would debate, there are 27 New Testament books. For convenience, the OT has been broken down into 5 sections. Some are chronological. But for the most part, they have been compiled based upon the nature of the writings. The first 5 books of the Bible are historical. They are narrated by Moses and they are in fact chronological. These first 5 books are known as the Torah or “Instruction”. Later in the 15th century they were collectively termed the Pentateuch meaning five books. They cover the creation of the universe, the destruction of the planet by a global flood, the establishment of God’s friendship with Abraham and the formation of the Jewish nation.
Twelve other books are considered to be historical as well. They are Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1st Samuel, 2nd Samuel, 1st Kings, 2nd Kings, 1st Chronicles, 2nd Chronicles, the book of Ezra, the book of Nehemiah, and the book of Esther. There are 5 poetic books in the OT. The first is the book of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. The prophetic books are broken down into 2 major sections. These are the major prophets of which there are five; Isaiah, Jeremiah, the Lamentations of Jeremiah, the book of Ezekiel, the book of Daniel. Another twelve books are considered to be minor prophets. Not because they are of less importance, but because they are in fact shorter books to read. These are the books of Hosea, Amos, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.
Assuming we place the Gospels in the traditional Canon of the New Testament books, these 27 books are broken down into 4 sections. There are 4 Gospels, the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, a book of history. There are 21 epistles and the book of Revelation. The Gospels are historical narratives written by 4 men who either knew of Jesus directly or worked with those who carried out the gospel message after Jesus was resurrected. The historical book we consider to be the Acts of the Apostles is just that; a historical accounting of the things that the early apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ did over the next 40 years.
Shortly, I would like to give you a table of the, logical order in which the books of the Bible were actually written. Perhaps in lesson four! It may be helpful should you choose to study the Bible in a chronological way. But right now I want to give you just a fundamental understanding of what each book contains. I will do this in the order in which all Bibles are currently assembled.
The first book, Genesis concerns 3 great events. These are the creation of the universe, 6000 years ago, the destruction of the world by a global flood 1800 years later, and the founding of the Hebrew nation.
Exodus contains the history of the exit of the Hebrew nation from slavery in Egypt and the establishment of a covenant between God and the Hebrews.
Leviticus is a book of laws given to the Hebrew nation along with the promise that if they would keep God’s laws he would protect and care for them until the “restoration of all things.”
The book of Numbers contains the journey to the promised land and the numbering of all the households of the nation.
Deuteronomy is a book that reiterates the laws given to the Hebrew nation and Moses’ farewell address. It is filled with blessing and curses.
The book of Joshua contains the history of the Hebrew nation’s conquest of the promised land that was named Canaan. This was the land promised to Abraham, the father of the Jewish Nation. It was torn away from the pagan’s that had established cities, crops and homes and who worshiped false gods. Their ways were murderous, hedonistic, vile and perverse. God had given them the 430 years during Israel’s captivity in Egypt to change their ways. At the right time, God used the Hebrew nation to virtually annihilate the people living on the land which was promised to Abraham and his children.
The book of the Judges contains the history of the first 300 years of occupation of the Jews in the promised land. They were without a King and were ruled by a series of judges who interpreted the Law, led battles against their enemies and generally kept the Nation a cohesive civilization.
The book of Ruth covers the details of the beginning of the Messianic family through King David.
First Samuel (I Samuel) covers the organization of the Nation through the prophet Samuel and the Nation’s selection of their first king whose name was Saul.
Second Samuel (2 Samuel) details the reign of one of the greatest kings of the Hebrew Nation, King David.
First Kings covers the division of the kingdom, Civil War and the creation of the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and the Southern Kingdom (Judah).
Second Kings is a book that covers the history of those two kingdoms now divided.
First Chronicles reiterates to a large degree the reign of King David.
Second Chronicles is a repeat of the historical narrative of the Southern Kingdom in greater detail than Second Kings.
Ezra is a prophet who oversaw the return of the Jewish nation to Jerusalem after being held in bondage as captives in the foreign land of Babylon.
Nehemiah is a prophet who oversaw the rebuilding of the destroyed city of Jerusalem as well as the beginning of the rebuilding of God’s Temple after the Jews returned from captivity.
The book of Esther describes the importance that one person can make, in this case a woman, who saved the Nation of Israel from complete extermination while in captivity by the Babylonian empire.
The book of Job is a poetic but historical recounting of the sufferings of a man called Job. His hardships help us understand the reality of pain and suffering in the world and the benefit of endurance through trials by trust in the invisible God. Both the endurance of a righteous man under the persecution of diabolic spiritual and criminal human forces and the sovereignty of God in the affairs of individuals lives are exemplified beautifully in the story of Job and his suffering.
The book of Psalms contains 150 poems, many that were written by King David. It was in effect the national hymn book of Israel. It is filled with descriptions of God’s character and the personal needs of human beings for hope, protection, and justice in a broken world.
The book of Proverbs is a book filled with very terse poetic bits of wisdom from the son of David, who became the third king over the Nation of Israel, King Solomon. Among the Jews, if not the world, Solomon was considered the wisest man that God had ever gifted with such critical mental faculties.
The book of Ecclesiastes was written by King Solomon towards the end of his life. It is a book that recognizes the vain affairs that occur in men’s lives. In many ways, it is a rather sad and unpleasant view of the reality of earthly disappointments in our own lives. The conclusion of the author, fear God, keep his commandments, enjoy this brief life.
The song of Solomon is one of the most sensual books ever written. It describes in poetic detail the nature of sexual love between a man and a woman as explored in many ways. You might blush at the revelation of all that God permits in fulfillment of sexual love within the confines of married life. It contrasts the beauty of this sexual fulfillment created by God to be enjoyed in marriage, against the vulgarity of promiscuity and what many today would recognize as sexual addiction.
Isaiah was a Messianic prophet. Throughout his 66 chapters of a very long book are found dozens upon dozens of prophecies concerning the birth, life and the death of the Savior of the world. All of these prophecies were fulfilled in the New Testament.
Jeremiah was a prophet who was sent to the nation of Israel as a last effort by God to save Jerusalem from the impending captivity of the nation by the Babylonian empire.
The book of the Lamentations of Jeremiah contain the tears of the prophet’s failure to save the great city Jerusalem and its Temple from foreign conquest.
The book of Ezekiel was a book also written around the time of the Babylonian captivity. It foretells the sufferings that the Jews would have as prisoners of the Babylonians. Ezekiel tells the captive nation to build homes and to plant fields because they were going to be there for some time. But Ezekiel is also filled with the hope and the promise of release and freedom from their enemies; all of this shadows the Messianic age to come.
The book of Daniel contains the dreams and the prophecies, as well as the many visions that Daniel was given from God concerning both the times he lived in and the times to come. The future held promise of a great heavenly kingdom carved out of a mountain by no man’s hand, one that would crush the nations of the world, and take them captives by God and his Messiah. He sees the transfiguration of Christ and the fulfillment of the Son of God being given dominion over the nations of the world by God Almighty.
Hosea is a short book. It describes details of the apostasy of Israel from God. The Jewish nation goes after idols. They learn to worship by engaging in fornication and adulteries. The rich steal from the poor, the priests can be bribed, robbery and murder is the norm. Many other such sinful abuses are revealed of the ones once considered a Holy Nation.
Joel is a prophet who predicts an age that would be established by the Holy Spirit of God when men would be filled with joy, peace gentleness, patience, self-control and love. That Holy Spirit would bring about the writings of the New Testament; a New Covenant to be established on the trail of a dying covenant that was based upon legal precepts. The end of the Jews’ world was to culminate in the glory of a spiritual kingdom. People, even Gentiles, would have direct access to God. The Law of Moses and the Levitical priesthood would come to an end with the destruction of the Temple.
Amos speaks of the ultimate rule of the son of David. This is a direct reference to Jesus the Christ who would come to rule the hearts of the citizens of His kingdom and have direct rule of all the nations of the world. Angels and demons would no longer have influence in this new world.
Obadiah is a book that describes the destruction of the Edomites, a nation that had become a plague upon Israel. We find in history that these people gave rise to the Roman Empire. This plays a very large role in the development of the end times of the Mosaic Covenant.
Jonah was a prophet who was sent on an errand of mercy to convert the Ninevites – a non-Jewish nation, from their wicked ways. They were to repent and to worship God, or their utter destruction was inevitable.
Micah, among other things, speaks of the Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Messiah.
Nahum describes the ultimate destruction of the Ninevites who had repented at one time because of the preaching of Jonah. The Ninevites had fallen back into the sinful and wicked ways. This nation had an illness that could not be healed. History tells us they were destroyed.
The theme of the book of Habakkuk is the Messianic age. His message is simply this, “… the just shall live by faith.”
Zephaniah is also a Messianic book. Zephaniah prophesied to Judah during the reign of King Josiah 640 years before Christ. It was a time of idolatry. Great evils were rampant among the Jews this time. At the age of 20, Josiah began to purge the land of idols. It was at this time that he found the book of the law. This is, of course, the book of the Law of Moses. Zephaniah had prophesied prior to these great reforms from King Josiah began to teach the religious and social nature of what the Jews were supposed to be in response to their God. Zephaniah is a book that announces the great day of judgment of the Lord. This judgment would come upon all nations starting with Jerusalem and all sinners would be judged. The final section of the book looks towards the future and speaks of a remnant of the Jews that would be gathered among the heathen nations. These we know where the tribes that were lost to the Gentile nations through many wars of the Jews. They were to be gathered together by the return to the Law through their acceptance of the Jewish Messiah. This was spoken as a return to Jerusalem to hear the law of God. For the Law of Moses pointed to Jesus as the Christ. This spiritual gathering was a brief era of about 40 years before the destruction of the whole Jewish Nation in 70 A.D. Paul speaks adamantly of this return of a remnant of faithful Jews in his epistle to the Romans in the NT.
The remaining last 3 books of the Old Testament are Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Haggai and Zachariah were particularly concerned with the rebuilding of the Temple after the post-exile return from Babylon. Again many references in Haggai and many more in Zechariah are made concerning the Messiah. Finally Malachi, the last book of the OT looked upon the Jewish people is apathetic and disloyal to their God. Poverty, divorce and difficult times came upon the people and the people were questioning the love of God because of these difficulties. The real problem was their sin. God pleaded with them to abandon their sin so that they might have a better life and a better hope. God affirms his love for the people but he rebukes them harshly for their widespread practice of divorce. In most of the book, Malachi chapter’s 2 through the end, the prophet speaks abundantly of the coming of the Messiah, who would establish an eternal kingdom.
Heartsick, angry and weary of warning His people, God silenced the mouths of the prophets for next 400 years. Not until John the immerser (the baptizer) came with a message of repentance did the unfaithful Jews hear again the thoughts from the mind of God. This would be His last attempt to redeem His people back to the Mosaic covenant before the day of judgment, the great day of the Lord Almighty, the day of fire would come to end the world of the Jews.
In part four a brief examination of the remaining 27 books of the Bible will be condensed and then, book by book, I give you my gleanings from the Scriptures. It will not be perfect. But I hope it is a starting point for you to take interest and read and STUDY the book for yourself.