Having seen the order of the first five books of the Bible, we now begin with the historical books – a second division in the Bible. First, we had a background about the beginning of the earth (Genesis). Then there was the redemption of the children of Israel (Exodus). Then followed God’s holiness and His sanctuary for worship and drawing near to Him (Leviticus). After that, the wilderness journey of the people and their rebellion (Numbers), and finally a review of God’s dealings with Israel and the Law, preparing them to enter into the Promised Land and God giving them responsibilities (Deuteronomy).
We first come to the book of Joshua, a continuation from the end of Deuteronomy, and another man introduced – Joshua himself. While it is clear that Moses wrote Deuteronomy, it is apparent that Joshua filled in the last chapter, where Moses’ death is recorded. Therefore, the book of Joshua took place right after Moses died (Joshua 1:1). The time span of events occurring in the book of Joshua reaches about 15 years, from about 1404 BC to about 1390 BC, around the time of Joshua’s death. While the author of the book of Joshua cannot be proven, there is strong evidence that Joshua himself wrote it. We have in Joshua 24:26, “And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of Jehovah.” Although there are no direct prophecies concerning Christ, the name ‘Joshua’ means ‘Jehovah-Saviour,’ the same name as Jesus in the Greek language. Jesus Himself is the Saviour (Matthew 1:21).
In Joshua, we also see a new deliverer and another type of Christ. He is a picture of Christ risen and exalted in heaven, and as the Captain of our salvation. Joshua led the children of Israel through conflicts, so too Christ leads us by the Holy Spirit through the conflicts with the world, the flesh and Satan. In Joshua 2 and 6, we see how Rahab was redeemed and brought into the congregation of Israel. Here is the picture of the grace of God. Rahab had no hope at all under the Law, just as we are condemned under the Law (Romans 3, 7) but saved by grace (Ephesians 2).
We see how Joshua succeeded Moses and won the victory unreachable by Moses. Christ succeeded the Mosaic Law and won the victory unreachable by the Law (John 1:17; Romans 8:2-4; Galatians 3:23-25; Hebrews 7:18-19). The “Commander of the army of the Lord” in Joshua 5:13-15 met by Joshua is a pre- incarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, Rahab’s scarlet cord portrays safely through the blood (Hebrews 9:19-22); and amazingly, this Gentile woman is an ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5).
In Joshua 4, the passage of the people through the Jordan speaks of the death and resurrection of Christ, and the practical realisation of our death and resurrection with Him (Galatians 2:20), as well as our blessings and association with Him in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6).
Therefore, the book of Joshua is after Deuteronomy because once the people carried out their responsibilities, they received their earthly blessing – the Promised Land. We too need to carry out our responsibilities on the earth and be worthy of our heavenly position, which is emphasised throughout the epistle to the Ephesians.
The second of the historical books is the book of Judges. We would be heartbroken when we read this book, but how often do we spiritually act like the children of Israel? This book tells us of the spiritual decline of Israel after settling into the Promised Land (Judges 1). In the book of Joshua, the people are blessed in that they will inherit the Promised Land, but in the book of Judges, we read how ungrateful these people were, and their decline and a need for a judge to deliver them because they had to be corrected and disciplined. This is the spiritual decline of the professing church, after receiving material blessings; it is ungrateful, just like the children of Israel.
The time span of the events occurring in the book of Judges reaches about 335 years, from about 1380 BC to about 1045 BC, but the period of judges extends another thirty years, since it includes the life of Samuel (1 Samuel 1- 25). There is no mention of the author of the book of Judges, but the author may have been Samuel, as he was the crucial link between the periods of the judges.
In Judges, there are sixteen judges mentioned, with Samuel being the seventeenth judge in First Samuel. Each judge is a type of Christ in a way, although they had blemish in him or her. Also, each judge is a saviour and a ruler, a spiritual and political deliverer. Thus, each judge portrays the role of Christ as Saviour-King of His people. This book also illustrates the need for a righteous king, because after every judge died, the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord. Some judges are warrior-rulers (Othniel and Gideon), one is a priest (Eli), and one is a prophet (Samuel). This gives the picture of the three offices of Christ in that He was the ultimate Prophet, Priest and righteous King.
Therefore, we see how God’s people need to be disciplined (Hebrews 12:5-11) if they continue in disobedience. Once the children of Israel settled into the Promised Land (Joshua) and after the death of Joshua, there arose another generation who did not know God and they did evil (Judges 2:8-19). This is a picture of the decline of the professing church in the last and closing days of evil, which is emphasised throughout the second epistle of Paul the apostle to Timothy.
We now come to the book of Ruth. This book is an appendix to the book of Judges, as the events of this book were around the same time as Judges. In the book of Judges, the children of Israel were condemned under the Law, because they had deliberately disobeyed the Law and did what was right in their own eyes. However, the book of Ruth speaks of grace abounding over the Law and over sin (Romans 5:20). The Law could not do what grace did, as we read in Romans 8:3, “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, having sent his own Son, in likeness of flesh of sin, and for sin, has condemned sin in the flesh.” Therefore, it is necessary for the book of Ruth to be after the book of Judges. We also read in Ruth 1:1a, “And it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land.”
The time span of events occurring in the book of Ruth reaches about 12 years, though it is difficult to tell when these events occurred. We do know that it happened at the time of the book of Judges, so we can assume any 12-year period between 1380 BC and 1045 BC.
The picture of Christ is clear in the book of Ruth. Boaz, a wealthy man, a Jew, took Ruth, this humble Gentile woman as his wife. We also see that Boaz’s kinsman was not able to redeem the field, which belonged to Elimelech (Ruth 4). This shows us that the Law cannot redeem anyone. Boaz then was able to redeem Ruth later on in Chapter 4, a picture of the grace of God, in sending His Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross and redeem those who believe in Him and trust Him (John 3:16; Romans 8:3, 32).
Following the book of Ruth, we come to the two books of Samuel. Once believers are redeemed by grace, we should walk according to the spirit, not with the flesh. The First book of Samuel shows how Saul started off on the right track with God, but then strayed away and walked after his flesh (1 Samuel 15). However, the Second book of Samuel shows how David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14), pointing out to Christ, the King of Israel. We have the principle in 1 Corinthians 15:46, “But that which is spiritual was not first, but that which is natural, then that which is spiritual.” We have first the natural, speaking of Saul in 1 Samuel, and then we have the spiritual, which speaks of David in 2 Samuel. We therefore have the natural in contrast to the spiritual, which is why 1 Samuel comes first.
The time span of events occurring in 1 Samuel reaches about 94 years, from the birth of Samuel until the death of Saul, so from about 1105 BC to about 1011 BC. We need to note that 1 Samuel started late at the time of the judges, when Eli was the judge-priest of Israel, and Samuel himself being the last judge.
The time span of events occurring in 2 Samuel reaches about 40 years, from 1011 BC to about 971 BC, covering the 33-year reign of King David. Again, it is not clear as to who wrote the two books of Samuel. We see Christ in these two books of Samuel. In 1 Samuel, we have before us Samuel, a picture of Christ in that he was a prophet, priest and judge. David is also a picture of Christ. He was born in Bethlehem (1 Samuel 16:18), works as a shepherd, and rules as king of Israel. He is the anointed king who becomes the forerunner of Christ, the King of Israel. The New Testament speaks of Christ as the seed of David according to the flesh (Romans 1:3), and also the Root and the Offspring of David (Revelation 22:16).
As seen in 1 Samuel, David is one of the most important pictures of Christ in the Old Testament. In spite of his sins, he remains a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14) because of his responsive and faithful attitude toward God. Having conquered Jerusalem, David sits upon the throne of Melchizedek, the righteous king (Genesis 14:18). There are nine different dynasties in the northern kingdom of Israel, but only one dynasty in Judah. This is also a type of Christ, where He will establish only one kingdom and there will ever be only one dynasty. The promise of a permanent dynasty is fulfilled in Christ, the ‘Son of David’ (Matthew 21:9; 22:45), who will sit upon the throne of David (Isaiah 9:7; Luke 1:32).
After David’s reign, we come to the two books of Kings. In these two books, we see the Law, emphasised in the prophet Elijah, then in 2 Kings we see grace, emphasised in a new man, the prophet Elisha. In 1 Samuel we noticed the natural came first, which corresponds to the Law, judgment and the need for repentance as we see in 1 Kings. In 2 Samuel, we had that which was spiritual, which corresponds to grace, life and hope as we see in 2 Kings, emphasised in the prophet Elisha. This is why these books are in the order that they appear in.
The time span of events occurring in 1 Kings reaches about 120 years, from about 971 BC (the beginning of Solomon’s reign) to about 851 BC. The key date is 931 BC, the year the kingdom was divided into the north (Israel) and the south (Judah). This is in 1 Kings 12. The time span of events occurring in 2 Kings reaches about 293 years. The first period covered is about 131 years, from chapters 1-17, from about 853 BC to about 722 BC (the deportation of Israel to Assyria). The second period covered is about 155 years, from chapters 18 to the end, from about 715 BC to about 560 BC (the release of Jehoiachin in Babylon). In these two books, we see the dark years of the divided kingdom of Israel after the death of Solomon. We have about 457 years of the kingdom period, and how Israel was taken captive to Assyria. Later on, Babylon overthrew Assyria and captured Jerusalem, the southern kingdom. However, in the 457-year period, God sent prophets to both Israel and Judah. Elijah, Elisha, Amos and Hosea are in the northern kingdom of Israel, while the southern kingdom of Judah had Obadiah, Joel, Isaiah, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Jeremiah and Habakkuk.
Again, we see Christ in these two books of Kings. The person in 1 Kings who is a picture of Christ is Solomon. In spite of Solomon’s sins, he was the wisest man on earth. This points to Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God (1 Corinthians 1:30). Solomon’s fame, glory, wealth and honour foreshadow Christ in His kingdom. The Lord Jesus spoke in Matthew 12:42, “A queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, more than Solomon is here.” We see that Christ is greater than Solomon. The prophet Elijah is more typical of John the Baptist, but he too points to Christ. His prophetic ministry and miraculous works illustrate aspects of the work and life of Christ. Elijah focuses on the Law and the need to repent, as does John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ.
In the second book of Kings, we see Christ in the prophet Elisha. While Elijah is a picture of John the Baptist (Matthew 11:14; 17:10-12; Luke 1:17), living apart from the people, Elisha is a picture of Christ, living among the people and emphasises grace and salvation – freedom from bondage under the Law.
We now come to the last set of two books, the books of Chronicles. These two books present God’s review of the past history of His people, and His thoughts. The books of Samuel and Kings present the history of Israel according to the political state of the kingdom, in the sight of the people. The two books of Chronicles present the history of Israel as to the religious perspective – the Davidic dynasty of Judah. The books also present the history of Israel and Judah according to God’s perspective.
The time span of events occurring in 1 Chronicles actually reaches from Adam right through to the end of David’s reign, from about 4004 BC to about 971 BC.
The time span of events occurring in 2 Chronicles reaches about 433 years. We first have the 40-year period of the reign of Solomon over the united Israel, from about 971 BC to about 931 BC. The next period is about 393 years, from about 931 BC to about 538 BC. 2 Chronicles 36 records the captivity of Judah in about 608 BC and the destruction of the temple in 586 BC. We also have in 2 Chronicles 36:22- 23 the proclamation of Cyrus, king of Persia, to allow Judah to go back and rebuild the temple. This is the 70-year period of the captivity, and in about 538 BC the first group returned to Judah.
We see Christ in these two books of Chronicles. In 1 Chronicles, the tribe of Judah is placed first in the national genealogy because the monarchy, temple, and Messiah will come from this tribe (Genesis 49:10).
In 2 Chronicles, the throne of David has been destroyed, but the line of David remains. Every form of enmity against Judah threatens the Messianic line, but it remains clear and unbroken from Adam to Zerubbabel. We have in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 the fulfilment in Christ. The temple is also a figure of Christ. The Lord Jesus said in Matthew 12:6, “But I say unto you, that there is here what is greater than the temple.” He also likens His body to the temple. In John 2:19, “Jesus answered and said to them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Finally, the Lord replaces the temple in Revelation 21:22, “And I saw no temple in it; for the Lord God Almighty is its temple, and the Lamb.”
After the books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles, which show Israel’s and Judah’s past history, we come to the book of Ezra. It is amazing how the first four verses of the book of Ezra start off where the last two verses of 2 Chronicles ended. The book of Ezra shows us the religious condition of the Jews returning to Judah, giving the record of the rebuilding of the temple. The religious condition of the Jews had to be restored from where it was left off in the books of the Chronicles. This is why the book of Ezra immediately follows 2 Chronicles.
The time span of events occurring in the book of Ezra reaches about 23 years, from about 538 BC (when Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to Judah) to about 515 BC (the completion of the second temple). This was the first return under the leadership of Zerubbabel (Ezra 1-6). The second time span of events in Ezra is about one year, about 457 BC. This is the second return under the leadership of Ezra himself (Ezra 7-10).
Again, we see Christ in the book of Ezra, as Ezra reveals God’s continued fulfilment of His promise to keep David’s descendants alive. Zerubbabel himself is part of the Messianic line (Matthew 1:12-13). There is a positive note of hope because the remnant has returned to the land of promise. In this land, the Messianic prophecies will be fulfilled, as Christ was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), not in Babylon. The book of Ezra also points out to Christ’s work of forgiveness and restoration (Ezra 9-10).
We now take up the book of Nehemiah. While Ezra speaks of the religious situation and condition of the Jews (rebuilding the temple), the book of Nehemiah speaks of the civil condition and situation of the Jews (rebuilding the walls). The religious condition needed to be resolved first, and then the civil condition, which is why we have the book of Ezra first, then Nehemiah.
The time span of events occurring in the book of Nehemiah reaches about 19 years, from about 444 BC to about 425 BC. This was the third return under the leadership of Nehemiah, in which king Artaxerxes allowed Nehemiah to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild its walls.
Like Ezra, Nehemiah portrays Christ in His ministry and restoration. In the book of Nehemiah, we read of the Sheep Gate (Nehemiah 3:32; 12:38-39). In John 5:2-9 it was at this gate that Christ healed the man who had an infirmity for 38 years. So, it could speak to us of the Shepherd who seeks the lost and helpless sheep, and brings them to His fold and heals them. In the book of Nehemiah, everything is restored except the king. The temple is rebuilt, the walls reconstructed, but the king has not come yet. This speaks to us of Christ the righteous King.
The last of the historical books is the book of Esther. We will see that this book is not chronologically after Nehemiah, and there is a reason for this. While the book of Ezra speaks of the restoration of the religious condition of the Jews, and Nehemiah speaking of the restoration of the civil condition of the Jews, the book of Esther speaks of God’s care for those who chose to stay in Babylon.
The time span of events occurring in the book of Esther reaches about 10 years from about 483 BC to about 473 BC.
We might say that the people who chose to stay in Babylon made the wrong decision and were about to pay a heavy price for it. But, how often do we make the same decision? While we are free from bondage, we seem to be comfortable in this world, as those Jews were comfortable in Babylon once set free. We have the record of how Haman’s plot brings grave danger to the Jews, wanting them annihilated. However, Esther can be seen as a picture of Christ in that she put her life in the place of death for her people. She also portrays Christ’s work as Advocate on our behalf when we don’t even deserve to live. There is another satanic threat to destroy the Jews, but God continues to preserve His people in spite of this, and nothing can prevent the coming of the Messiah. God’s Word stands!
We then see how the Jews were disciplined because of their disobedience in returning back to Jerusalem. They were not of Babylon, just as we are not of the world. This is a solemn warning to us, who tend to make ourselves comfortable in the world. However, God, in His grace, cares for us and restores us, just like the Jews who were restored.
In concluding the order of the historical books, we now know why these books are in the order that they appear in. The first book is Joshua, the blessings of the children of Israel and settling into the Promised Land (connecting with our heavenly blessings and position). Next comes the book of Judges, the decline of the people and their continued disobedience toward God (connecting with the last and closing days of the professing system of Christendom). While Judges speaks of judgment under the Law, the book of Ruth speaks of salvation by grace and redemption. Then comes 1 Samuel, speaking of the man walking after the flesh (Saul), and the king according to the will of the people (the flesh). However, 2 Samuel speaks of the spiritual man (David), the king according to the will of God (the Spirit). Then there was 1 Kings, the prophet Elijah, emphasising judgment under the Law and the need to repentance, a picture of John the Baptist, who existed before Christ. However, 2 Kings comes next because there was a new man, Elisha, emphasising grace and salvation, life and hope. He is a picture of Christ, who came after John the Baptist. The law (1 Kings) existed before grace (2 Kings). Then there were the two books of Chronicles, God’s review of Israel’s past history, the religious perspective.
The last three books are Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther. The first was the restoration of the religious condition of the Jews. The next was the civil restoration of the Jews. The last was God’s provision for those who chose to stay in Babylon, making the wrong decision.
One thought on “The Historical Books”
Good stuff. I don’t disagree with the Samuel authorship of Judges, but Judges 18:30 (variously explained) seems to indicate a writer after the Northern Exile. It’s an enigmatic phrase.
Also, you might reword this one sentence to say “whose ministry was before Christ” –
a picture of John the Baptist, who existed before Christ (see John 1:15)
Great stuff. Thank you!