Guided Tour of the Bible

Genesis

Our guided tour of the Bible begins with Genesis. This title literally means “beginnings.” This is where God’s plan started. The chapters we will cover give us the details about creation, the first people to live on the earth, and the account of Noah and the great flood. Then the Bible introduces us to the father of our faith, Abraham. Our last stop along the tour recounts the story of a man named Joseph. God used some unlikely people to accomplish His will. Enjoy this first book on our tour.

Exodus

The next stop along the way brings us to Exodus. The title refers to the “leaving” of the children of Israel from Egypt. The high points of this journey center upon the leadership of Moses, a series of plagues, and the escape of a nation. Those Ten Commandments are found in this book as well.

Leviticus

This book gets its name from the phrase “things which relate to the Levites.” These folks were given the responsibility of conducting religious services for the people. Lots of rules, regulations, and laws are seen along this part of our guided tour.

Numbers

This book describes the counting of the nation--thus it is called Numbers! The USA was not the first nation to conduct a census. The time period covered in these chapters begins with their camp at the mountain called Sinai and ends when they journey to the border of the promised land.
This part of the guided tour describes a sad part of the story of God’s plan. The nation did not respond to God’s rescue with obedience and faith. Instead they rebelled and showed no thanksgiving whatsoever. As a result, the adult generation was forced to wander in the desert and was forbidden to enter the promised land. Only their children would enjoy the fulfillment of God’s promise.

Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy means, “repeating the Law.” This book records the speeches of Moses given to the people before they began their conquest of the promised land (or land of Canaan). Think of these speeches as pep talks, reminders of what the people should do.

Joshua

Joshua followed Moses as the leader of the nation. This stop along our guided tour tells the details of the conquest of the land of promise. In a sense, where the book of Deuteronomy ends, Joshua begins.

Also keep in mind that the name, Joshua, is the Old Testament version of the name, Jesus.

Judges

Before the nation of Israel had a king, they had judges. God chose several men and women to lead the people. Note the cycle that appears along this part of our guided tour: the people turn away from God, they suffer, they beg for help, and God sends a judge to help them. This happens over and over again.

When you read about Jerubbaal, this is the same guy as Gideon.

Ruth

Ruth was the great-grandmother of David, one of the kings in Israel. This is one of two books in the Bible named after a woman (the other being Esther). The setting of the book is the same as that of Judges. Here we have a glimpse into the lives of an Israelite family. Their courage, love and faithfulness stand in contrast to the dark days that describe the times of the judges.

1 Samuel

This is the first of two books named for the prophet who anointed the first two kings in Israel, Saul and David. Samuel provided stability and leadership during the time of transition between the period of the judges and the establishment of the monarchy. 1 Samuel recounts Samuel’s life, the times of Saul, and David’s youth.

These two books were originally one book in the Hebrew Old Testament. Over time, those who translated the Old Testament divided it, perhaps for ease of reading.

Psalms

Here we come to the longest book on our tour, 150 chapters or psalms. A psalm can be a song, a reference to a musical instrument, or a prayer. Think of it as a songbook, or the collection of songs stored on a computer that appear on the screens during a worship service.

Many of these psalms relate to events that happened in one of the other books of the Bible. Many of them recount prayers and songs in response to some event in King David’s life. For example, Psalm 51 is a prayer David voiced when he confessed his sin that one reads about in 2 Samuel 11:1-12:25.

Sometimes the chronology of events is impossible to trace. So just read the Psalms, knowing they reflect prayers, praise and worship directed toward God.

2 Samuel

Here’s part two of the books named for the prophet Samuel. This books deals mainly with the life and times of King David.

1 Chronicles

Here’s another book that was originally part of a larger one. Translators decided to make the “chronicles of the kings” two books, so our guided tour recognizes this two-part work.

Most of the material describes the reign of David and his son, Solomon. A significant part of the story revolves around the fact that David was not allowed to build a temple. This task fell to his son, Solomon, who built a splendid place for the worship of God.

1 Kings

“Kings” appears as a single book in the Hebrew Old Testament. The practice of dividing these history books (Samuel, Kings, Chronicles) into two parts was introduced by later translators.

1 and 2 Kings recount the history of the kings of Israel. What was one united kingdom under Saul, David, and Solomon became a divided nation after the death of Solomon in about 930 BC. One faction resided in the north and became known as Israel, while those who resided in the south, became known as Judah.

This part of our tour recognizes the confusing use of these names. Just know as a general rule, from this point on, Israel denotes the ten tribes who lived in the north while Judah identifies the remaining two who lived in the south.

Proverbs

Here is contained the wise sayings attributed to King Solomon. Though he was not the only author of these verses, he gets credit for most of them. As you stroll through these examples, you will note they are short, right to the point words of guidance. Hopefully this brief tour of Proverbs will make you hungry for more.

There are 31 chapters in this book, one for each day of a given month. This would be a great way to continue your tour of this amazing book.

Song of Songs

Literally this title means a “song for, by, or about Solomon.” The phrase “Song of Songs” means “greatest.”
This book is about love in all its beauty and power. Some have tried to interpret these words as a description of God’s love for his people or Christ’s love for the church. This poetry is best interpreted as the ideal love between husband and wife.

Ecclesiastes

When you are the wisest man in the world, you can be tempted to be unimpressed with most everything. It’s almost as though Solomon was saying, “Been there, done that, now what?”

This is Solomon’s look at his life, glancing back at his attitudes and actions. His despondent tone is lifted by his faith in God. Most of us can relate to this part of our guided tour. Who hasn’t looked at life and wondered, “Is this all there is?”

Joel

Our tour now takes us to the prophets. Consider prophets as “forth-tellers” not “fore-tellers.” They spoke the truth of God. Seldom did they predict the future like we think of prophecy in our day.

For the most part, the prophets spoke to either the north kingdom (Israel) or the south kingdom (Judah). Joel is an exception. Precise dating of this prophet is problematic. Regardless of the chronology, his message to the nation is simple: turn back to God.

Jonah

Jonah’s story relates to the north kingdom of Israel. A possible date of 750 BC is a good estimate. Jonah was sent to warn the city of Nineveh of judgment.

Amos

Amos came from the south kingdom of Judah during the reign of King Uzziah (792-740 BC). Yet he was sent to speak to the north kingdom of Israel and to warn of coming judgment.

Hosea

Hosea lived during the last, tragic days of the north kingdom of Israel, during which six kings reigned within 25 years. Debate centers upon the contents of this book. Is this a made-up story that illustrates man’s unfaithfulness or did the events concerning Hosea’s marriage actually take place? One thing is certain: the relationship between God and His people is real.

Ephraim is another name for the north kingdom of Israel. See the introduction to 1 Kings. And the cities of Zeboiim and Admah were destroyed when God judged the city of Sodom (see the book of Genesis).

2 Kings

“Kings” appears as a single book in the Hebrew Old Testament. The practice of dividing these history books (Samuel, Kings, Chronicles) into two parts was introduced by later translators.

1 and 2 Kings recount the history of the kings of Israel. What was one united kingdom under Saul, David, and Solomon became a divided nation after the death of Solomon in about 930 BC. One faction resided in the north and became known as Israel, while those who resided in the south, became known as Judah.

This part of our tour recognizes the confusing use of these names. Just know as a general rule, from this point on, Israel denotes the ten tribes who lived in the north while Judah identifies the remaining two who lived in the south.

2 Chronicles

Here’s another book that was originally part of a larger one. Translators decided to make the “chronicles of the kings” two books, so our guided tour recognizes this two-part work.

Most of the material describes the reign of David and his son, Solomon. A significant part of the story revolves around the fact that David was not allowed to build a temple. This task fell to his son, Solomon, who built a splendid place for the worship of God.

Micah

Micah lived during the same time as Hosea and Isaiah (see below). He prophesied the fall of Samaria, which took place in 722 BC. He announced both messages of doom and hope. He stressed that God hated idolatry, rebellion, and ritualism, but he delighted in pardoning those who confessed their sin.

Isaiah

Isaiah is considered by many as the greatest of the OT prophets. He was a contemporary of Amos, Hosea, and Micah, beginning his work in 740 BC, the year that King Uzziah died (see 6:1). The 66 chapters are divided into two parts. Chapters 1-39 occurred during Isaiah’s ministry, while chapters 40-66 address the exiles of the Babylonian captivity. This latter section projects the prophet into the future, since he died long before the fall of the south kingdom of Judah.

Nahum

Nahum spoke of the judgment against the Assyrian city of Nineveh. We know the north kingdom of Israel fell in 722 BC. Nahum 3:8-10 references the fall of the city of Thebes (663 BC). We also know that Nahum prophesied the fall of Nineveh, which happened in 612 BC. Therefore, Nahum wrote these three chapters between 663-612 BC.

Zephaniah

According to 1:1, Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of King Josiah (640-609 BC). He announced to Judah God’s impending judgment.

Jeremiah

Jeremiah prophesied to the south kingdom of Judah during the reigns of her last kings. He was taken into exile after the fall of Jerusalem (586 BC).

Habakkuk

Some stops on our guided tour are hard to pronounce. Here’s a tongue-tying challenge. Let’s just call him “H.” H was a contemporary of Jeremiah. He predicted the Babylonian invasion, which began around 605 BC and culminated with the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC.

This book differs from other prophecies in that “H” does not address the nation. The entire book is a dialogue between the prophet and God.

Lamentations

This stop along the way is literally entitled, “How . . .!” The book contains the poetic laments concerning the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC. Though the book does not credit Jeremiah, most scholars identify him with these chapters.

Obadiah

Obadiah means “worshipper of the Lord.” Dating this book is difficult. There are two possibilities based upon the specific event mentioned in vv. 11-14: either the invasion of Jerusalem during the reign of King Jehoram (853-841 BC) or the Babylonian attacks on Jerusalem (605-586 BC). If the latter is correct, then Obadiah was a contemporary of Jeremiah. Note the connection between Obadiah 1-9 and Jeremiah 49:7-22.

*Edom was a neighboring nation to Israel. Actually they were related to the Israelites, being descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob (see the book of Genesis). They gloated over Israel’s troubles, which Obadiah said would result in their own destruction.

Ezekiel

Ezekiel was a prophet who was included among thousands of Jews forced to leave Jerusalem and live in Babylon. The destruction of Jerusalem (586 BC) marks the end of the south kingdom of Judah, but this conquest did not take place in just one day in that year. The Babylonian attacks began in 605 and came in waves. Ezekiel was part of those first exiles (597 BC) that were forced to leave years before the city fell.

Ezekiel believed God would never destroy the nation. They would suffer loss, but they would return and restore the temple and its worship rituals. This did not happen. Ezekiel stands as one who warned the people of God’s judgment. When that judgment finally came, Ezekiel focused his work on helping the people keep the fires of faith burning in their hearts.

Daniel

This stop should be familiar to most of us. Ever heard of Daniel and the lion’s den? Remember three young men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, and the furnace of fire? Daniel was a young man when he was included with many other Jews who were forced into exile during the years before Jerusalem was destroyed.

His story should encourage any person who wonders if God can work ultimate good from difficult circumstances.

Ezra

This stop on our guided tour has us backtracking through the pages of Scripture. Remember, the order of the books of the Bible is not presented chronologically.

Ezra led a group of Jews back to Jerusalem around 458 BC. The Persian empire conquered Babylon (559 BC) and the Jews were allowed to return. Before Ezra’s return, groups arrived and began rebuilding the temple. Ezra and Nehemiah (see below) led efforts to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

Haggai

Haggai, along with Zechariah (see below), encouraged the returned exiles to rebuild the temple. This effort began then languished before the work was revived and finished in 516 BC.

Zechariah

Like Haggai, Zechariah lived during the post-exilic period. His messages sought to motivate the people to complete the rebuilding of the temple. Both of these prophets were clearly interested in spiritual renewal as well.

Nehemiah

Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem around 445 BC and led efforts to rebuild the city walls.