The Story of The Old Testament

The Prophet Malachi by Léonard Gaultier (1561-1635); from (public domain)

The Old Testament focuses primarily on God’s relationship with the Jews, starting with his call of Abraham in Genesis 11:27-12:9. Abraham was 100 years old when his long-promised son Isaac was born (Genesis 21:1-7).

Due to a severe famine, Abraham’s grandson Jacob moved his entire family from Canaan to Egypt. They remained there for the next 400 years. God raised up a prophet named Moses to bring the people of Israel out of Egypt and back to Canaan. After wandering for 40 years in the wilderness, Moses’ successor, Joshua, led the people into the Promised Land. 

Parts of the Promised Land were never conquered, and the Israelites mingled with the Canaanites, often absorbing their heathen ways. By the time of the Judges, Israel had turned far from God. Only a faithful few, like Deborah and Barak, were strong enough in their faith to lead the nation (Judges 4-5). The time of the Judges was a dark period (about 400 years). But a few bright spots shone out of this period, such as the story of a loyal girl named Ruth (The Book of Ruth).

After the first king Saul died in battle (I Samuel 31), David became king of Judah (1010-970 B.C.), and Saul’s son Ish-Bosheth became king of Israel (II Samuel 2:1-11). But two years later Ish-Bosheth was murdered and the people of Israel joined in making David king of all the nation. After that, David captured Jerusalem and made it his capital (II Samuel 5:1-16; I Chronicles 11:1-9).

David had been a great warrior and had brought peace to the land by military might. Solomon’s way to keep peace was to marry the princesses of surrounding nations. Foreign princesses brought their foreign gods with them. Solomon allowed his people to worship foreign gods. Eventually, Solomon turned far from God himself (I Kings 11; II Chronicles 9:29-30). After he died, the land split into two kingdoms in 931 B.C. Both kingdoms had a succession of many kings, mostly evil.

Finally, God brought the Assyrian nation upon Israel in judgment. By 722 B.C. the Assyrians had swept down into Israel, the Northern Kingdom, and had conquered it. They destroyed Samaria, Israel’s capital city, and took its important people back to Assyria as captive (II Kings 18). Later, God brought the nation of Babylon against Judah in judgment. The Southern Kingdom, Judah, fell in 586 B.C. at the hands of the Babylonians.

Assyria was the great world power until 612 B.C. Then Babylon ruled as the world power until 539 B.C. when Cyrus the Great, king of the Persian Empire, conquered it. Cyrus ruled the Persian Empire for nine more years until he died in 530 B.C., with Darius the Mede ruling the first two years for him. During those nine years he permitted about 50,000 Jews to return to their homeland and lay the foundation of the Temple.

During the reign of Cyrus’ son, Cambyses II (530-522 B.C.), work on the Temple was stopped. But when Darius I became king in 522 B.C. he permitted the work on the Temple to continue. During his reign Haggai and Zechariah ministered to the Jews. By 515 B.C. the Temple was completed by Zerubbabel.

When Darius I died in 486 B.C. his son Xerxes became king of the Persian Empire and ruled until 465 B.C. He married Esther in 481 B.C. (The Book of Esther). Then Artaxerxes I ruled the Persian Empire from 464-424 B.C. Ezra went to Jerusalem in 458 B.C. The Temple had been rebuilt. Now Ezra taught the Law of God and ended the people’s pagan marriages. Nehemiah went to Jerusalem to rebuild its walls. He worked on the walls about 445 B.C. (Nehemiah 1).

God spoke to the people of Israel through the prophets, and Malachi, the last one, spoke about 400 years before the arrival of John the Baptist. In other words, God was silent for 400 years.

The Old Testament tells us that there would be a coming Messiah. But when the Messiah came, his own people rejected him (John 1:10-11). Apart from faith in the Messiah, no one truly knows God.

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