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Old Testament History from Adam to David

SECTION 1 Overview


Abraham to Moses


Assignment 1  


Joshua to the End of Judges


Saul to David's Occupation of Jerusalem


David's Reign 


Assignment 2 


STUDY GUIDE (Copyright Truthzone 2001)

Survey of Old Testament History from the Creation to the close of David's reign including a detailed study of the Patriarchs

1. Structure

This reading scheme is based on seven weeks of study at five hours each week. It includes two assignments and one full week is allocated to each assignment to give time for additional research and writing up. The main text is obviously the Old Testament itself and it is assumed that you will be reading portions of it each day. The five hours are allocated to the study of the texts by Merrill and Edersheim with some additional suggestions. The scheme can be commenced at any time and completed within the following seven weeks. This allows you to begin at the most convenient time for your studies.

2. Texts

Genesis to 2 Samuel. The Old Testament consists of 929 chapters of which slightly over 50% are made up of poetry and prophecy. The 291 chapters up to 2 Samuel 24 thus constitute two thirds of the historical material in our English Bibles.

Eugene H. Merrill Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996) A comment on this book: "... a marvellous historical textbook. Committed to inerrancy, and with considerable up-to-date archaeological information, this most readable work is easily the best history and background work for message-preparers." (Tabernacle Bookshop)

Alfred Edersheim Bible History: Old Testament (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrikson, 1995) This book was first published in seven volumes 1876-1887. A comment on this book: "... a fine edition of the most famous and readable of Old Testament surveys. The author's flowing style brings to life the Old Testament story, including spiritual observations and lessons throughout. Character studies are superb. Ideal reading for personal devotions, and extremely valuable for preachers." (Tabernacle Bookshop)

Using these two texts will thus provide you with up-to-date historical information and relevant devotional lessons too.

3. Assignments

Concise answers are required without unnecessary padding. Aim at 2,000 words.

Free Online Materials

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If you wish to use any of the material with either a school class or a Bible class with which you are connected you may make multiple copies of up to 5% of the course to provide a copy free to each participant for learning purposes. There is no charge for this. If you wish to make multiple copies of more than 5% of any material please send for details.

Pay As You Go Tutorial Assistance

If you would like tutorial assistance with your home study course you can pay as you go as follows.

The tuition fee for answering student generated questions is £10 for any FIVE single issue single sentence questions.

The tuition fee for marking any FIVE self-test questions is £10.

The tuition fee for marking ONE assignment is £10.

You may choose how many batches of self-test questions or assignments you submit. All work for marking must be submitted in ENGLISH. It is hoped that these arrangements will prove convenient for you to supplement your studies with as little or as much tutorial support as you want.

Submit your  work:

By E-Mail (not an attached file) to

By post to Truthzone, 676, Yarm Road, Eaglescliffe, Stockton-on-Tees, TS16 0DP, United Kingdom.

Whichever method you use please send your remittance by post (stating your full name and address) to: Truthzone, 676, Yarm Road, Eaglescliffe, Stockton-on-Tees, TS16 0DP, United Kingdom.

Week by Week Scheme

Week 1 Overview

Introduction (1 hour)

From Adam to Terah

Historical Timescales (1 hour)

Edersheim, Book 1, Chapters 1 - 12 (3 hours)

Week 2 From Abraham to Moses

Merrill Chapters 1 - 2 (4 hours)

Edersheim, Book 1, Chapters 13 - 15 Abraham and Isaac (1 hour)

Week 3 Assignment 1 (5 hours)

Week 4 From Joshua to the End of Judges

Merrill Chapters 3 - 4 (4 hours)

The Patriarch Jacob

Edersheim, Book 1, Chapters 16 - 18 (1 hour)

Week 5 From Saul to David's Occupation of Jerusalem

Merrill Chapters 5- 6 (4 hours)

The Patriarch Joseph

Edersheim, Book 1, Chapters 19 - 21 (1 hour)

Week 6 David's Reign

Merrill Chapter 7 (2 hours)

The Patriarch Joseph (Continued)

Edersheim, Book 1, Chapters 22 - 23 (1 hour)

Review of total reading to date (2 hours)

Week 7 Assignment 2 (5 hours)

Week 1

Overview of the Old Testament and from Adam to Terah

Introduction: The Content of the Bible (1 hour)

The Bible contains sixty six books. The name "Bible" reflects this. It is derived through Latin from the Greek Biblia "books". The Scriptures are a collection of Books. The description is a Biblical one: "In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem." [Daniel 9.2] The earliest surviving reference in the early church is around A.D.150: "the books and the apostles declare that the Church ... has existed from the beginning." [2 Clement 14.2] The expression "the books" is still used in Scotland. What we have in the Bible is a Divinely inspired library. How often do you go into the library? Once a week? Once a month? The expression takes on a new meaning when we think of this collection of books available for us to access. Every library has a catalogue so that you can find your way around. It provides some order or classification that relates to the contents of the books. Many people never really find their way around the Old Testament. They lack a strategic grasp of what is there. We look here at three divisions within the Bible that help us to understand it better.

The Twofold Division

The first division of the Bible is the obvious twofold division into the Old Testament and the New Testament. Note the following.

This is a Biblical Division. This division is not man-made but is God given. Paul applies the term Old Testament to the foundational documents of the latter, namely the Pentateuch. "But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ." [2 Corinthians 3.14-15] The Lord Jesus Christ uses the term New Testament: "Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you." [Luke 22.20]

This Terminology Points to the Central Feature of Salvation. All saving experience stems from God's Covenant of Grace. Paul speaks of it as follows: "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise." [Galatians 3.16-18] This is God's sovereign arrangement to accomplish and apply redemption to his elect. This covenant is gracious, it is not of human merit or works but is founded in the good pleasure and free and undeserved favour of God. It is confirmed in Christ. It bestows an everlasting inheritance. It is by promise. All of its benefits are received by faith. It is not inappropriate to think of a Testament, as in Last Will and Testament, although this is a more specific illustration. "And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you." [Hebrews 9.15-20]

There is no Contradiction Between the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is not salvation by law and the New Testament salvation by grace. Law was never intended to save sinners. As Paul explains: "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith." [Galatians 3.24] In fact the covenant of grace was already in operation before the Law. So Paul again writes: "And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect." [Galatians 3.17] The way of salvation has not changed. "The same Testator made both Testaments." [Thomas Taylor] As the useful encapsulation of the situation states: The New is in the Old Concealed. The Old is in the New Revealed.

The Threefold Division

The Old Testament is Presented to us in a Threefold Division. The original division is not obvious in our English versions which place the historical books first in order to give the background to the rest and then give the poetical books followed by the prophets. The Hebrew canon is arranged as "The Law, the prophets and the writings."This division is used by the Lord Jesus Christ when he opened the disciples minds to understand the Old Testament scriptures: "And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. [Luke 24.44-47] The Book of Psalms is most likely used here as the first book of that division known as the Writings.

The Three Parts of the Old Testament Witness to Christ. Luke 24.44-47 clearly shows that in reading the Old Testament we should be searching for a deeper understanding of Christ. Notice that that is how Jesus refers to himself. The Gospels speak of him as Jesus because historically that is how he was known in the days of his flesh. But the Old Testament reveals him as Christ because it knows the full range of his person and work. There we will find the significance of his atoning sufferings and resurrection and the nature of true saving experience centred in repentance and the forgiveness of sins. These things are not to be marginalised just because we have some need to grasp the historical outline and archaeological evidence. The heart of the Old Testament is Christ glorifying, saving theology. To be lax about the use of the Old Testament is an insult to Christ. He is the risen Lord expounded in these books and in finding him our hearts should be refreshed and refined. So the Emmaus Road disciples confessed: "Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" [Luke 24.32] In using the Old Testament we must be persuaded that its authority and efficacy for salvation is greater than the most spectacular miracle. Consider the following. "Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went to them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." [Luke 16.27-31]

The Contents of the Three Divisions. The three divisions of the Old Testament contain the following books:

The Law: Genesis to Deuteronomy

The Prophets:

The Former Prophets: Joshua to Kings.

The Latter Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Book of the Twelve.

The Writings: The remaining books.

What is the significance of this arrangement? We can make some tentative suggestions. The Law presents us with God's foundational work and authoritative word to Israel. The Former Prophets provide the historical record of the development of the kingdom and its decline. The Latter Prophets present Jehovah's testimony of judgement and grace. In the Writings we have further historical and prophetical material to which is added the poetical books describing the authentic spiritual experience.

The Five-fold Division

The Books of Moses are Known as the Pentateuch. This terminology is derived from the Greek pentateuchos meaning "five-volumed". The Jews know these books as hattora, "the Law". It took three years of weekly readings in the synagogues of Palestine to read through it.

The Pentateuch has a Foundational Place. "The Law by which God rules us, is as dear to him as the Gospel by which he saves us." [William Secker] The purpose of each is different but the authority of both is the same. Moses has an honourable place in the New Testament church as a faithful servant: "And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after ..." [Hebrews 3.5] According to the Lord Jesus Christ, every jot and tittle must be "fulfilled".

The Contents of the Pentateuch. We might sum up the contents of the first five books of the Bible in the following way.

Segregation of Israel following the failure of the universal covenants. [Genesis]

Salvation and Sinai. [Exodus 1-24]

Sanctuary for Jehovah. [Exodus 25-40 and Leviticus]

Sin brings Sadness. [Numbers]

Second Law or recapitulation of the Law. [Deuteronomy]

Further reading: Acts 7, Acts 13.14-41, Galatians 3 and Galatians 4.19-31.

From Adam to Terah

Historical Timescales (1 Hour)

Although our society is conditioned to mankind being millions of years old it is a fascinating fact that when we look for historical evidence by way of documents we can get no further back than the Ussher chronology. Thus Grun's The Timetables of History starts with an Egyptian calendar dated sometime after 5000 BC. and places Sumerian writing after 4000 BC. David Rohl the well known Egyptologist admits that dates for Uruk I are very difficult to determine but even so places Cush after 3000 BC. He concludes: "Ur I ... ends in 2172 BC and begins in around 2348 BC which becomes the earliest historical date in the New Chronology of Mesopotamia when it marks the start of the early Dynastic III Period." [Legend: The Genesis of Civilisation] Rohl accepts prehistoric stone age dwellers long before this but it is significant that the historical evidence of mankind is accepted by him as being so recent. The reality is that evidences for significant civilisation are not found before the third millennium B.C.

Useful additional reading at this point would be Andy McIntosh Genesis for today pages 31-61 and 144-180 or any other literature that you have available on the subject of creation and flood from a scientific point of view especially with some reference to timescales.

Edersheim, Book 1, Chapters 1 - 12 (3 hours)

Week 2

From Abraham to Moses

Merrill Chapters 1 - 2 (4 hours)

Edersheim, Book 1, Chapters 13 - 15 (Abraham and Isaac) (1 hour)

Week 3

Assignment 1

For each of the following Old Testament characters, Adam, Abraham and Moses:

(a) describe the world as the person would know it,

(b) outline the main events in which he was involved,

(c) state any archaeological evidence that sheds light upon the Biblical accounts, and

(d) discuss the theological importance of the person. (5 hours for total assignment)

Week 4

From Joshua to the End of Judges

Merrill Chapters 3 - 4 (4 hours)

The Patriarch Jacob

Edersheim, Book 1, Chapters 16 - 18 (1 hour)

Week 5

From Saul to David's Occupation of Jerusalem

Merrill Chapters 5- 6 (4 hours)

The Patriarch Joseph

Edersheim, Book 1, Chapters 19 - 21 (1 hour)

Week 6

David's Reign

Merrill Chapter 7 (2 hours)

The Patriarch Joseph (Continued)

Edersheim, Book 1, Chapters 22 - 23 (1 hour)

Review of total reading to date (2 hours)

Week 7

Assignment 2

The period of Israel's history from Joshua to David was one of conflict.

(a) Outline the main conflicts that took place during this period.

(b) Merrill speaks of "covenant renewal", "covenant violation", "covenant misunderstanding" and "covenant kingship" with respect to the different stages of Israel's development during this period.

(i) Explain what he means by these terms, and

(ii) Discuss the theological lessons involved in each in aiding our understanding of the covenant of grace. (5 hours allocated for the total assignment)