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A Basic Overview of the Bible
Part I Old Testament
(c)2000 Rev. Paul R. Schmidtbleicher, Th.B., Th.M.
The Bible is an massive library of 66 separate books. Gaining an understanding of this one book composed of sixty-six is a life long study. As one has said, "It is hard to see the forest through the trees." One early approach is to come out from among the "trees" of chapters and verses and see the "forest" by way of an overview of the Bible in its scope and entirety. Such is the point of this panoramic view of God's Word.
The Double Division: The Old and New Testaments
The Bible is divided into two sections. The first section, called the Old Testament, takes up origins as well as the history of the Jews, the nation through whom the Messiah, Jesus Christ would come. The second section, called the New Testament, begins with the birth and life of God's Son, Jesus Christ. It then proceeds to trace the origin of the church as well as the commands and principles given to the Church.
[A more detailed descriptive overview of the testaments is included at the end of this survey.]
The Old Testament
If the library of 39 Old Testament books were laid out in categories this is how it would look.
The Old Testament contains Law, History, Poetry, Major Prophets, and Minor Prophets.
The Books of Law called the "Torah" by the Jews are the first five books of the Old Testament. They contain God's revelation as to origins, the beginning of the Hebrew people, and the Laws God would give them to keep and model for the world at large. Since these five books are the basis and foundation for the rest of Scripture, a more detailed survey will be given.
Genesis is the book of beginnings and origins. The first 11 chapters of Genesis are extremely important and detail a number of origins. This brief survey will highlight the first 11 chapters
Genesis 1 - The Overview of Creation
God created the heavens and earth in six literal days. As was Adam created out of the dust of the earth with an age of about 30 years, so God created the heavens and earth with a similar appearance of age. Man tries to assign millions of years to this earth as he would assign 30 years to Adam when he was brought into existence in less than a day.
Genesis 2 - Details on the Creation and Placement of Man
The man and the woman are taken up in detail. As God creates them, places them in the garden and gives them specific callings.
Genesis 3 - The Origin of Sin
Man was given a command by God, but chose to ignore it, thus destroying his perfect state and perfect nature. Sin entered the world and death would follow. In verse 15 is God's first promise of future salvation.
Genesis 4 - Sin Leads to Murder
As the children of Adam and Eve sought to approach God, the blood sacrifice was necessary. Abel obeyed, but Cain, under sin, chose his own solution, was rejected, and rose up in anger to murder his brother.
Genesis 5 - The Line and Genealogy of Adam through Seth
Genesis 6-8 - The Flood
The origin of mythologies as the fallen angels cohabit with the daughters of men. Out of such sinfulness, God destroys corrupted humanity with a flood preserving Noah and his family in the Ark
Genesis 9 - The Rainbow Covenant
After the flood, several things change. Such things as climate, meat eating, and delegated government from God to men with capital punishment are detailed.
Genesis 10 - The Table of Nations
The Lord gives Divine Revelation (still used today by anthropologists) to show how mankind spread over the earth from the three sons of Noah.
Genesis 11 - The Tower of Babel and Origin of Languages
God's Plan was for man to spread out to populate the earth. When they came together in defiance of God to build the "tower," God scattered them through the confusion of language.
Genesis 12-23 The Origin of the Hebrews with Abraham
Abraham was to become the first Hebrew as he believed God and followed His guidance out of the city of Ur to go to the promised land of Canaan. Abraham exercised great faith and crossed out of his country to become the first Hebrew. He was given an unconditional covenant by God for a (1) land, (2) a progeny, and (3) a promise that through him all the world would be blessed.
Genesis 21-27 - Isaac, Son of Abraham
Isaac is the son of promise. The promised covenant would come through him. He obtains a wife and has twins, Esau and Jacob, an unbeliever and a believer.
Genesis 25-36 - Jacob and His Twelve Sons
Jacob is the son of promise, the son of faith. He will have twelve sons who, when his name is changed by God to "Israel" will become the father of the "children of Israel."
Genesis 37-50 - Joseph, the Strongest Believing Son of Jacob
Joseph is a strong believer hated by his brothers. He is sold into slavery to the Egyptians and ultimately rises to power in Egypt. There he will both protect his family and move the whole of them to Egypt to deliver them from a world-wide famine.
Exodus is the history of Israel under Egyptian Bondage, liberation from that bondage, the "exodus" from Egypt, and the giving of God's Written Law at Mount Sinai.
Exodus 1-3 - Egyptian Bondage and the Birth of Moses
As Israel remains in Egypt for 430 years, the Egyptians, fearful of them, enslave them and try to hinder their growth by destroying male babies. Moses is born and raised as an adopted Egyptian. In protecting his people he is forced to flee Egypt to be called of God to go back and liberate the Hebrews.
Exodus 4-12 - The Ten Plagues
In an effort to get the Israelites released from Egypt, Moses is used of God to call down ten plagues of judgment against Egypt and its false gods. With the Passover plague and death of the firstborn in Egypt, God's people are released to go into the wilderness.
Exodus 13-19 - Early Journeys and Provisions in the Wilderness
Exodus 20-24 - The Law of the Lord Given At Mount Sinai
As Israel reaches Mount Sinai in their journeys, the Lord gives them a system of law (10 Commandments with details) to both keep them separate from other heathen nations as well as bless them with health, wealth, and prosperity. The promise of these laws was never salvation for salvation has always been based upon ones faith in the coming of Messiah in the Old Testament and His ultimate sacrifice for sin.
Exodus 25-40 - God's Religious System Pointing Towards Messiah
As Moses is called up to the mountain again, the Lord gives him the plan for the Tabernacle. This would be a building that reflected a complete message on Messiah to come and the sacrifice He would offer of Himself for the sins of the world. Worship involved looking forward to Messiah and putting ones faith and trust in the salvation to be provided by Him through the visual teachings of the Tabernacle.
Leviticus takes up many details on the offerings depicting doctrines of the coming Messiah and the specialized priesthood who would function in relationship with God ultimately showing every believer's position with the Lord after the victory of the Cross of Christ.
Numbers takes up the wilderness history of Israel as the men were numbered and organized into a military to "take" the promised land and execute God's judgments upon the Canaanites. In the process, Israel would fail the wilderness testings of the Lord. The first generation out of Egypt would be judged by God to die in the wilderness over 40 years while their children prepared to be faithful, walk with the Lord, and win the promised land.
This is the "Second Law." The book is composed of five messages of Moses to the second generation Israelites training them in God's Law, adding details, and preparing them to take the promised land. They are encamped on the East side of Jordan and being readied to cross the river to capture the land.
The next segment of the Old Testament is the History segment. These twelve books take up the history of God's People - His believers - as the line of Messiah is closely followed. The history section teaches us by example and testimony as we see God working to bless the good as well as curse the bad actions of man. The History of Israel begins with the taking of the Land continues through the kingdom stage, the judgment stage and its captivity as well as return of the captives back into the land. The rest of the Old Testament relates to history contained in these twelve books.
General Joshua is the leadership replacement for Moses. He leads the Israelites over Jordan to Jericho, the strongest city, and a supernatural victory over the major strongholds of the Canaanites. The land is then divided among the twelve tribes with the mandate to obey and walk with the Lord and thus expand the tribal lands and domain to encompass the whole of the land.
The initial government in Israel set up God as King, His Law as Legislative, and the judges as Judicial being the civil leaders in courts. Each tribe begins strong, but then one by one they succumb to sin. The Canaanites are allowed to be strengthened by the Lord as judgment. When Israel cries unto the Lord to return to Him, He responds by raising up a new Deliverer, a judge. Judges such as Gideon, Deborah, and Samson would be raised up by the Lord to deliver a repentant people. The book is the up and down history of a people not fully ready to completely follow the Lord for the "long haul."
Ruth story of personal faith and blessing coming out of the period of the judges. She is a Gentile Moabite woman who lived during this time and made a choice against the heathen faith of her family and for the faith in the Lord God of heaven. She is rewarded with a wonderful husband, wealth, and the ultimate blessing of being included in the genealogy of Messiah Himself.
Samuel is the last of the Judges who is faced with a nation wanting a king before it would be God's timing. The Lord permits this and King Saul is chosen. He is a bitter disappointment as he makes choices to follow his own will rather than that of the Lord. For this reason a young lad, David, is chosen to someday become the new king. David distinguishes himself by slaying the Philistine giant, Goliath. Saul becomes obsessed with destroying David whose popularity is quickly rising above his. David is forced to flee into the wilderness where the Lord ultimately prepared him by trial and tribulation
to be the new king when King Saul would be removed.
The rise and reign of King David is taken up in 2 Samuel. Details involved in ascending to the throne, leading the armies of Israel to finally take the promised land, and his fall with Bathsheba are covered. The examples given have much to teach about living close to the Lord or wandering from Him.
The rise and reign of Solomon is revealed in the first half of 1 Kings. He builds the magnificent temple envisioned by King David his father. As he passes the throne to his son, Rehoboam, there is a split in the kingdom with 10 tribes to the north revolting against Rehoboam's rule to become Israel and the two remaining tribes in the south under Rehoboam will be known as Judah. From there begins the parallel line of kings in the northern kingdom of Israel and a line of kings in the southern kingdom of Judah. Most progressively do evil with a few interspersed reformers. By the end of 1 Kings a mighty
prophet, Elijah, appears in Israel to seek to bring the nation back to the Lord.
2 Kings continues with the parallel histories of the kings of the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Elijah continues to minister until taken in a chariot of fire. He passes the prophetic mantle on to Elisha, his successor. The reigns of the kings grow progressively worse with a few reformers until the Northern Kingdom of Israel is judged by being carried away captive to Assyria in 722 B.C. and the Southern Kingdom lasting 136 years longer before being judged by being carried away captive to Babylon in 586 B.C..
The Chronicles are the histories of Israel with emphasis upon certain spiritual details. The first 9 chapters establish the national heritage by genealogies. The history begins with the death of Saul and the establishment of the kingdom of David. Spiritual emphasis is placed upon King David's reign as well as certain actions he took during his reign.
The second history with spiritual emphasis continues with Solomon and the building of the magnificent temple. The kingdom split and subsequent reigns of kings mostly in Judah are chronicled with some details on the revivals that occurred under the kings who sought reform in returning the nation to the Lord. Also covered is the judgment of Judah as they are carried away into captivity by Babylon.
After Judah is carried away captive to remain enslaved for 70 years, a remnant is allowed to return. Ezra is a scribe used of the Lord to record the history of the returning remnant of Judah to Jerusalem to rebuild the land and the temple. The captives return and amidst much opposition they succeed in rebuilding the temple and dedicating it.
At the time of the return of the captives back to Judah and Jerusalem, Nehemiah leads the efforts to rebuild the broken walls and fortifications of the city. As the rebuilding begins so does the opposition. However, the remnant persists and finishes the walls. For the first time in years the Feast of Tabernacles is observed as the Law of God is read and the people confess their wickedness.
At some point between the first and second return from the captivity, a great anti-Semitic tide rises against God's people. One man decides that he wants them all killed. At the same time God orchestrates Esther to be selected as queen. In her position Esther makes a very risky choice to ask for mercy for her people. The king responds and the Jews are preserved through the efforts of Esther.
The next segment of the Old Testament is composed of five books. These are the books of poetry. The poetry seeks to teach Godly principles through verbal pictures as well as music. The uniting of God's principles with illustration and verbal pictures presents His message in a compelling manner.
Thought to be the oldest book of the Bible, it takes up the problem of human suffering. The disasters which befall Job are the working of Satan himself as he is permitted by God. God's purpose is to refine and sharpen the faith of Job. Satan's purpose is to "break" and destroy Job. As Job and his friends try to figure out the reason for the suffering, Job moves to argue with God. In the end God establishes that He is the Creator who knows what He is doing. We are his subjects and are subject to His Will in all things. Job would be refined and delivered by the Lord in His perfect timing.
The psalms are the Lord's Hymnbook. Godly principles, admonitions, inspiration, and comfort are presented poetically in verbal pictures that were originally set to music. The words are inspired, but the music can be the well written music of any generation that will aid in imprinting the messages of the Psalms upon the heart.
The Proverbs are a summarization of God's Law, its principles, and commands as might be given to a student in order to master many of the major challenges of life. The Lord used Solomon to write the proverbs to train up his children.
The Lord used Solomon to write this book reflecting on the futility of many areas of life when they are approached without the Lord and sought after as a substitute source of happiness apart from God. Solomon's conclusion was that it all was "emptiness." His conclusion sets forth the recommendation of the inclusion of the Lord in one's life from the earliest days of youth.
SONG OF SOLOMON
The Song of Solomon is the Lord's treatise of courtship, marriage and sexual union. It is to be understood literally as the Lord's guide to love between the man and the woman in marriage. Written from the perspective of lovemaking in ancient literature, it is a detailed story and guide to marital love.
There are seventeen prophetic books. Five are considered major prophets because of the length of their writings and twelve are considered minor prophets because of the relative shortness of their writings.
Prophets were sent out to the people as they wandered away from the Lord and chose not to come before Him at the place of worship. They would bear the message of the Lord with its judgment and blessing fearlessly before a people that were in rebellion to God.
The concept of prophet and prophecy is primarily to preach forth a message with the secondary idea of predictions for the future. The Old Testament prophets can be divided into those who preached before the judgment of God's people, during this judgment, and then afterwards. The chart below shows where the 17 prophets fit.
Isaiah lived and preached during the days when the northern kingdom of Israel would be judged by the Lord and carried off captive to Assyria. During this time, he saw how the Lord protected the southern kingdom of Judah. He would preach to warn Judah of their own coming judgment by the Babylonians if they continued in their sins and failed to walk with the Lord. Isaiah would also look forward to the promise of the Savior and the future millennial glories of the world under the reigning Messiah.
Jeremiah lived in the southern kingdom of Judah and preached during the days leading up to God's judgment. The people had wondered far from the Lord. They were worshiping idols and involving themselves in some of the most degenerate types of sin. The message of Jeremiah would span some 40 years until the judgment came that he both predicted and personally survived. He is called the weeping prophet because he foresaw and empathized with the sufferings soon to come upon the nation. Like all the prophets, he would also hold forth the hope of a future restoration and blessing.
Lamentations is the lamenting or crying aloud of Jeremiah as he lived through the judgment of his nation and reported its devastating effects. It would not have had to happen if God's people had turned back to the Lord.
The judgment of God's people occurred in several stages or waves. As the Babylonians captured and enslaved Judah, Ezekiel was taken along with them. He was to minister to the captives preaching a message that they did not want to hear. Their nation was not coming to rescue them, but would themselves be carried away captive. They would not return to their land until they returned to the Lord.
Daniel was also among the first group of captives taken to Babylon under the judgment of God. His ministry was as a captive more towards the Gentiles of Babylon and later, the Medes and Persians. Through faithfulness to the Lord, Daniel would rise to powerful positions in these nations. He would represent the Lord God among these nations and be given great prophetic insight into the future blessings and restoration of Israel.
The Lord would supply a real life object lesson in Hosea and his married life. The messages preached by Hosea to the 10 tribes of the northern kingdom would be illustrated by what God had asked him to do. He was to marry an unfaithful wife. She would leave Hosea to run around with others and gradually sink lower and lower. At her lowest point, if she repented, Hosea was to take her back. The visual was used by Hosea to preach how Israel had deserted the Lord and gone after other god's. If Israel would repent and return, the Lord would take her back in His grace.
Joel is the story of a devastating locust plague that God used to judge His people for their sins. The picture of the devastation is then used as a visual to preach about the greatest judgment devastation to take place at the end time judgment of the Day of the Lord. Many of the end time prophecies in the book of Revelation are briefly introduced by Joel. God's people can avoid all of this by remaining faithful to the Lord.
Amos was a sheep breeder that was called by the Lord to preach to the northern kingdom of Israel. They were prosperous, affluent, and in a time of peace, but they had forgotten God. They had turned towards the idols of their neighbors and wandered from the laws of God. Justice was beginning to be lost in the midst of much greed and the poor were being mistreated. Amos was there to warn of coming judgment if the nation did not return to the Lord.
Obadiah is a short message of judgment written to the Edomites living southeast of the Dead Sea. They were distant cousins of Israel through Esau. When the Israelites, their distant cousins, were judged of the Lord, the Edomites helped the invading Babylonian armies to loot the cities after the defeat. For their celebration at the judgment of their cousins, God would judge the Edomites.
Jonah was a prophet of the northern kingdom and sent to bring the gospel to the Assyrians. The Assyrians were such a wicked nation that Jonah did not want to go. He ran away from the commission of the Lord, boarded a ship, and was caught in a storm. As the one believed to be the cause of the storm, Jonah was thrown overboard, swallowed, and ultimately delivered by a huge fish. He went on to the preach to the Assyrians in Ninevah who responded to the message.
Micah was a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah. He preached at the time that the northern kingdom of Israel would be judged by being carried away captive by the Assyrians. His message of judgment was to Judah using the kingdom of Israel as his example. They were listening to false prophets, ungodly priests, and being ruled by dishonest leaders. Judah was heading down the same road and would also face judgment if things did not change. Intertwined with his message of judgment was a message of hope as God's great plan involving the Messiah, Jesus Christ, would unfold.
After Jonah had delivered God's message to Assyria's capital city of Ninevah, he saw great a repentance. Now, 150 years later, the people had returned to their wicked ways. They would assault the northern kingdom of Israel carrying out God's judgment and carrying them away captive. They had returned to their former evils and cruelty. Nahum would proclaim the judgment of God upon Ninevah and provide some comfort to Judah in knowing that the wicked acts of the Assyrians had not gone unnoticed and would be judged.
Habakkuk is called the prophet with a question. He was concerned over the growing evils of Judah and why God was seemingly indifferent to the growing sinfulness of his times. God answered him with a startling answer. He was aware and he was going to bring the more wicked nation of Babylon against Judah for judgment. This answer startled Habakkuk who was told by the Lord to "live by his faith." In the future, the Babylonians would also be judged for the evil they had done.
Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of young King Josiah of Judah. Zephaniah would be used of the Lord to bring about the national revival that occurred under Josiah. The early message of Zephaniah, in light of the sinfulness of Judah, was one of judgment, gloom, and doom. However, as revival sweeps the land, the message would change to hope and singing.
Haggai prophesied to the remnant of God's people who returned to Jerusalem after the 70 year captivity. The rebuilding of the temple had ceased and the people were beginning to use the materials on their own houses. His message was one of warning them that their lack of vigor and prosperity was due to their failure to put the Lord and this temple first. God's blessing would come if the people completed what they had begun in building the temple.
Zechariah is companion to Haggai in preaching to the returning captives. He too was proclaiming the need to stop being sidetracked and resume the building of the temple. Zechariah would also prophesy to the returned remnant the future glories of the coming of Messiah. His prophesies encompass both the first and the second comings of Messiah together with the glorious future temple to be built at that time.
Even the returning remnant after the captivity had problems with falling back into sin. Malachi would proclaim the love of God for His people, but also the Lord's complaints against His people. If they continued to move towards idol worship and intermarriages with the heathen, judgment would certainly follow. He also prophesied the hope of the future and the coming of the Savior, Jesus Christ.
The Old Testament and the New Testament Overviewed
A "Testament" is in its most basic meaning, a contract. The Lord God had one type of contract with mankind prior to the coming of His Son, Jesus Christ and a second new contract once the sins of humanity were paid for by the Cross of Jesus Christ. This New Contract would be the New Testament. Prior to Jesus' payment for sin, man's sins stood between man and God being unresolved. Therefore, man languished under the best that God would do, a hard system of external law to protect man and keep him close to God. Once the sin problem was handled by the death and payment of Jesus Christ, a
new contract (New Testament) applied this great victory over sin enabling man to have a very personal relationship with God. This personal relationship through Jesus Christ provided direct contact with God through Jesus Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the external laws of God under the Old Contract are no longer external, but are now being internalized. They are being inscribed within the believer to mold the believer from the inside out under the New Contract.
The Old Testament set forth the foundation and example for relationship with God while the New Testament sets forth God's provision for that relationship with Him and the ultimate goals of such a wonderful relationship.