Historical Books


Shakespeare said that history is “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” This is the opposite of a Christian’s view of history because God ordained it, organizes it and moves it towards a meaningful, definite and certain purpose. However many Christians entertain a negative view of Old Testament History. It is often viewed as “far away” and “distant” chronologically, geographically, socially and theologically. One of the purposes of the following lectures on the Historical books is to bring Old Testament History “nearer.”

I. Author(s)

The historical books are anonymous. The titles indicate the subject matter of each book rather than the authors. This, however, has not deterred investigation into questions of authorship. The Historical books are commonly divided into three when considering questions of authorship. The three divisions are

• The Deuteronomic History: Joshua, Judges, 1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings.
• The Chronistic History: 1&2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah
• Others: Ruth and Esther

Before considering these divisions in further detail the traditional Jewish view of authorship will be tabulated.

Book: Author:
Joshua Joshua
Judges Samuel
Ruth Samuel
1 & 2 Samuel Samuel, Nathan, Gad
1 & 2 Kings Jeremiah
1 & 2 Chronicles Ezra
Ezra/Nehemiah Ezra
Esther Mordecai/Esther

A. The Deuteronomic History: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings

We shall consider, firstly, some “Critical Views” of scholarship. Then, the Evangelical position will be summarized.

1. Critical Views

a. Otto Eissfeldt: Hexateuch

Otto Eissfeldt regarded the book of Joshua as the concluding volume of a Hexateuch in which the documentary sources (J, E D & P) could also be traced. The “Documentary Hypothesis” has already been critiqued in our study of the Pentateuch.

Much of critical scholarship has been characteristically preoccupied with the history of the book’s composition. Some advocates of the documentary hypothesis in the Pentateuch sought to trace the putative pentateuchal sources into both Joshua and Judges. This approach has now all but been abandoned in these books, largely due to the influence of M. Noth’s monumental thesis in 1943 regarding the “Deuteronomistic History” (DH).[footnote]Source unknown.[/footnote]

b. Martin Noth: Tetrateuch

Martin Noth rejected attempts to trace Pentateuchal sources into the Historical books. Instead, he separated Deuteronomy from the Pentateuch and joined it with Joshua through Kings (excluding Ruth). He argued that this material was put together by a post-exilic pro-Josianic redactor (the “Deuteronomist”) using different sources. Utilizing Deuteronomy as an introduction, and emphasizing its covenantal retribution theology, the Deuteronomist traced the punishments of the Israelite kingdoms to their idolatry and wrote a history of Israel which supported Josiah’s centralization of political and religious power in Jerusalem.

c. Frank Cross: Two Deuteronomists (Dtr1 and Dtr2)

Frank Cross argued for two Deuteronomists (Dtr1 and Dtr2) who were distinguished by their different attitudes to the monarchy. Cross believed that Dtr1 wrote during the time of Josiah (640-609 BC), emphasizing the sins of the North and the “unconditional” nature of the divine choice of King David in the South. Since he wrote before the exile, he was more optimistic than Dtr2.

Dtr2, writing during the exile, took Dtr1, updated the history, and added the events from Josiah to the fall of Judah (586 BC), which he blamed on the sins of Manasseh. This material emphasizes the conditionality of the Davidic promises and has a more pessimistic tone.

2. Evangelical View

a. Advantages of the Noth/Cross theory

The Noth/Cross theory is useful in that it highlights two important elements which link the four historical books: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings.

(i) A unified philosophy of history

The “retribution theology” found in Deuteronomy is seen being outworked in the Deuteronomic History. The blessings of obedience and the curses upon disobedience are explicit in each of the books. Joshua shows how obedience brings victory while disobedience (Achan) brings defeat. The Judges cycles of sin and punishment relate directly to Deuteronomy. Samuel shows Saul and David blessed, then under the curse. Kings uses retribution theology to explain the fall of the kings of Israel and Judah.

The idea of reward for obedience to the covenant and punishment for disobedience is foundational for the historical books. Just as Deuteronomy 32 is a “Bible,” or phrase book, for the Old Testament prophets, Deuteronomy 28 may be seen as the “Bible” for the authors of the historical books.[footnote]B Arnold and B Beyer, Encountering the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 162.[/footnote]

(ii) The Law of the King and the Prophet

The continuity between Deuteronomy and the historical books is also seen in how the law of the king (Dt. 17:14ff) and the law of the prophet (Dt. 18:9ff) influence the later history dealing with political and spiritual leadership (Jos. 23; 1 Samuel 12; 1 Kgs. 19).

b. Difficulties with the Noth/Cross Theory

(i) Late date

The Noth/Cross theory dates Deuteronomy very late. This rejects Deuteronomy’s self-claims and ignores the parallels with Ancient Near Eastern treaties which make it clear that Deuteronomy fits well in a second millennium context.

(ii) Literary disjunction

The separation of Deuteronomy from the rest of the Pentateuch leaves an artificial literary break between Genesis-Numbers (which anticipates the conquest) and the Book of Joshua.

Such a division also denies the canonical function of Deuteronomy in its authoritative reinterpretation of the first four books.[footnote]B Arnold and B Beyer, Encountering the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 163.[/footnote]

(iii) Many Differences

While the Noth/Cross theory is good at identifying the connecting features of the Deuteronomic History it fails to account for the obvious differences between the historical books. They are sufficiently different from each other as to require no common editor or author. There are differences in style, purpose and organizing principles.

They undoubtedly share a common worldview, a deuteronomic world-view. But they are also quite distinct in many ways.[footnote]Ibid., 163.[/footnote]

(iv) A Deuteronomic Testament

The entire Old Testament contains deuteronomic influences. The doctrine of covenantal retribution is not confined to the historical books but appears both before and after them, though perhaps to a lesser degree.

c. Summary

We do not accept the literary reconstruction of Noth or Cross. However, due to the unified nature of the first four historical books (excluding Ruth), many scholars have decided that there are clear advantages in using the term “Deuteronomic History” for referring to this unified account of the history of Israel, without accepting every aspect of the Noth/Cross theory.

To what extent the anonymous author of Kings had a hand in the compilation of Joshua, Judges, or Samuel is impossible to determine. But he conceived of his work as a continuation and culmination of that history. To that extent we may refer to a Deuteronomistic historian.[footnote]Ibid., 163-164.[/footnote]

Surely the historical books do reflect the theology of Deuteronomy in significant ways. The term Deuteronomistic can thus be used in a more neutral, descriptive way to refer to those books or ideas reflective of the distinctive viewpoints found in Deuteronomy – with no conclusions concerning authorship of Deuteronomy or the other books inherent in the use of the term. This is the understanding of the term when it is employed in the present work.[footnote]D M Howard, An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books (Chicago: Moody Press, 1993), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]

Conclusion: In view of the historical, theological and literary connections between Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings, we shall call the author of the four latter books “The Deuteronomist.” This, however, does not exclude the possibility of more than one author, though each writer shared the same “Deuteronomic” outlook.

B. The Chronistic History: Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah

The “Chronistic History” consists of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah. It is the third major “family” of Old Testament narratives (following the Pentateuch and the Deuteronomistic history).

There are three general views on the authorship of the Chronistic History:

1. Ezra was the author of both 1 & 2 Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah. This is the view of the Talmud.

2. The author of 1 & 2 Chronicles also wrote Ezra-Nehemiah (or edited them into a final form), but this person was not Ezra.

3. The author of Ezra and Nehemiah was (were) different from the author of 1 & 2 Chronicles.

E J Young highlights four features which connect and unite Chronicles with Ezra/Nehemiah.

• The same religious standpoint, centering about the Temple and priesthood, is found in all these works.
• The same interest in statistical records and genealogies appears in all these works.
• The language and style of the books is similar.
• The similarity between the conclusion in Chronicles and the beginning of Ezra.[footnote]E J Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament (London: Tyndale Press, 1953), 382.[/footnote]

In addition to this, scholars also point to the non-canonical 1 Esdras, which retells the same story as the end of 2 Chronicles and Ezra, and does so without showing a break between the two.

On the other hand, critical scholars with an interest in denying single authorship have been anxious to sever Chronicles from Ezra/Nehemiah. They, therefore, strive to highlight the differences. For example:

• The weekly Sabbath which features prominently in Ezra/Nehemiah (Neh. 9:14; Neh. 10:31; Neh. 13:15-22) has no role in Chronicles
• While Chronicles is anxious to incorporate Northern Israel (1 Chron. 11:1-3; 1 Chron. 12:23-40; 2 Chron. 19:4; 2 Chron. 30:1-2; 2 Chron. 34:6-7), Ezra and Nehemiah sometimes seem opposed to those living in the North (Ez. 4-6; Neh. 2:19-20; Neh. 4:1-15; Neh. 6:1-14; Neh. 13:4-29).
• Solomon’s sins of immorality are not mentioned in Chronicles but are used as a warning against mixed marriage in Nehemiah 13:26.
• Chronicles emphasizes David and Kingship, whereas Ezra/Nehemiah focuses on Moses and the Exodus.
• The fall of the northern kingdom is essentially ignored in 1 & 2 Chronicles but referred to in Ezra 4.
• Prophets and miracles abound in 1 & 2 Chronicles but are absent in Ezra-Nehemiah.

The differences between Chronicles and Ezra/Nehemiah make it unlikely that the Chronistic history was originally a single work. This may also militate against a single author. The differences, however, may imply, the same author but with different purposes for each book. If there were two authors, the similarities imply that their outlook was very similar.

Conclusion: In view of the historical, theological and literary connections between Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, we shall call the author “The Chronicler.” This, however, does not exclude the possibility that another author wrote Ezra/Nehemiah, though both writers shared the same “Chronistic” outlook.

In many respects the “Chronistic History” exhibits unity and diversity similar to that of the “Deuteronomistic History.” So, in referring to Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, we can speak of a “Chronistic” corpus, a family of books that build on each other and represent similar points of view. Chronicles would appear to be a theological preparation and support for the community reforms of Ezra/Nehemiah that followed.

The Deuteronomic History is rather pessimistic and ends in exile. It shows the practical outworking of Deuteronomy’s retribution theology. The Chronistic History is more optimistic and goes beyond the exile. It was addressed to the post-exilic community and held out the hope of restoration and rebuilding if God’s people recommitted themselves to God and their spiritual heritage.

C. Esther and Ruth

Liberal scholars describe Esther as a literary romance with a kernel of truth in it, while Ruth is regarded as a post-exilic tract against the harsh nationalistic exclusiveness of Ezra and Nehemiah. Evangelical views will be considered in the relevant lectures.


II. Date(s)

Estimated dates of authorship for the various Historical books will be discussed in the relevant lectures. The period under consideration is from just after the conquest (1407 BC) to just after Nehemiah’s reforms (432 BC). As we will note, there is sometimes a considerable time gap between the historian and the events written about. Some presume that this endangers the accuracy of the records and so attempt to narrow the gap in their estimations. The reasoning behind this is faulty.

Historical distance between events and writing does not, in and of itself, necessitate the conclusion that the writing will be less than accurate. On the one hand, records or traditions could easily have preserved earlier events for access in later times. On the other hand, the divine author of Scripture could have directly revealed to the human authors the necessary information – otherwise unknown and unrecorded – for certain portions of their works. Many who affirm Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch have little problem with the historical distance between Moses and all the events in Genesis. By the same reasoning, there is no necessary compulsion to argue for early authorship of the (anonymous) works found in the historical corpus.[footnote]J E Smith, The Pentateuch (Joplin, Mo.: College Press Pub. Co., 1993), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]


III. Historical Analysis

1. Chronology

The history related in the historical books (Joshua-Esther) is usually divided into seven periods.

Conquest 40 years (1407–1367 BC)
Judges 324 years (1367–1043 BC)
United Monarchy 112 years (1043–930 BC)
Divided Monarchy 210 years (930–722 BC)
Judean 135 years (722–586 BC)
Exilic 48 years (586–538 BC)
Postexilic 106 years (538–432 BC)

[footnote]Ibid., Electronic Edition.[/footnote]

2. Monarchical eras

While the time of composition may be much later, the events narrated in the Historical books may be divided into three monarchy related eras:

3. The Importance of History

Israel’s Near Eastern neighbors expressed their beliefs through fantastic and elaborate myths. These myths narrated events which took place outside of space and time as we know it. This cultural background underscores the uniqueness of Israel’s historical narratives which involves real events in real time involving real people and a real God.

God’s word for the world is largely a narrative of His relationship with one nation, and His plan for establishing a relationship with all humankind.[footnote]B Arnold and B Beyer, Encountering the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 159.[/footnote]

The Bible’s message is given, to a large extent, through historical writings, and not, say, abstract philosophical treatises. It is through historical writings about historical events that we learn much about God and His purposes for humans. As noted, the intent of these historical writings is to provide an accurate account of the history of God’s people, and their message is undermined if their historical accuracy is compromised.[footnote]G L Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago: Moody Press, 1998), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]

Israel’s history is important for us to grasp because of its moving stories, its ethical power, and its valuable spiritual lessons (Rom. 15:4; 1Cor. 10:11). This history also gives us the framework in which we can understand the prophets’ messages. Perhaps, above all, the fact that these books were part of the Bible of our Lord Jesus should motivate us to study them.

The study of history ought to inspire students with generous ideals of active and responsible citizenship, with sincere ambitions for sane, strong leadership, with convictions regarding national policies and the power to distinguish between that which is clever and that which is fine and noble. No history surpasses that of the Hebrew people in its power to transmit and impress such results as these.[footnote]F K Sanders, The History of the Hebrews (New York: Scribners, 1914), pp. 6–7.[/footnote]

4. Historical selectivity

All history writing owes its shape to its author’s activity in selecting and communicating material. There is the inevitable picking and choosing among sources of information and a selectivity in what is reported.

The modern writer’s purpose in writing a history, then, is important, and it is usually inseparable from his or her own background, experience, philosophies, and so on. The purpose may be reportorial, proclamative, didactic, nationalistic, hortatory, or polemical. We may apply this same insight into our evaluation of biblical writers. That is, our evaluations of them must include a sensitivity to their own purposes as expressed in their works and to their own biographies and experiences, insofar as these may be identified as essential parts of their works’ purposes. Thus, in the chapters that follow, close attention will be paid to listening to these works on their own terms – their own stated (or visible) purposes, methods, and emphases.[footnote]G L Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago: Moody Press, 1998), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]



1. Literary Arrangement

a. The Hebrew Bible

While the arrangement of books in the Hebrew Bible has changed over the years, some of the most ancient editions listed the twelve historical books under the heading “Former Prophets.” This is because these books narrate the history of Israel from a prophetic point of view, looking to the covenants of the past and interpreting their significance for the present and the future.

The Jewish Old Testament distinguishes between “The Former Prophets” and “The Latter Prophets.” The “Former Prophets” are an interpretative history of God’s dealings with the theocratic nation from the time of the entrance into Canaan until the dissolution of the theocracy in the exile. As such they serve to complement and to furnish the necessary background for the correct understanding of “The Latter Prophets” (Isaiah to Malachi). Without this interpretative history, much in these Latter Prophets would be obscure. Not only, however, do we have here in the Former Prophets a complement to the later prophetical books, but we also have a necessary completion to the history contained in the Pentateuch. The history of Israel is herein interpreted in agreement with Israel’s foundational law. The great constitutional foundation of the nation has been given and now the nation’s history is to be presented in the light of that constitution. Hence, the importance of “The Former Prophets.”

b. The Christian canon

The Christian canon separates and groups together all the books that are predominantly historical in nature. These historical books narrate the story of Israel’s history from a religious viewpoint.

c. J. Sidlow Baxter[footnote]J. Sidlow Baxter, Explore the Book (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1960), 1:15–20.[/footnote]

J Sidlow Baxter has proposed a modern threefold breakdown of Old Testament books as they appear in the English Bible. He classifies the first seventeen books as history and the last seventeen as prophecy. Sandwiched between are the five experiential books which focus on the inner life of Old Testament believers

A. Basic Law (5)
B. Pre-exilic Records (9)
C. Postexilic Records (3)

II. EXPERIENCE (5): the heart

A. Basic Prophecy (5)
B. Pre-exilic Prophets (9)
C. Postexilic Prophets (3)

2. Literary Continuity

Although each book is a separate entity, the authors seem to have been conscious of contributing to an ongoing work of history.

a. Deuteronomy and Joshua

The divine promises and exhortations that introduce Joshua (Joshua 1:1-9) are almost all found in Moses’ speeches in Deuteronomy. Compare: Deut. 10:11/Joshua 1:2; Deut. 11:23-25/Joshua 1:3-5a; Deut. 31:6-8,23/Joshua 1:5b-7a,9; Deut. 5:32-33/Joshua 1:7b-8

b. Joshua and Judges

After an introduction (Jdg. 1:1-2:5), Judges refers back to Joshua (Jdg. 2:6-10), quotes from it, and parallels it in some of the historical narrative.

c. Judges and Samuel

Judges shows the need of a Judahite king and Samuel records the provision of this. The early parts of Samuel seem to still reverberate with the refrain of Judges “in those days Israel had no king.”

d. Samuel and Kings

Some scholars have argued that 2 Samuel 9-10 is a continuous narrative with 1 Kings 1-2, therefore suggesting a common author.

An obvious discontinuity appears to separate The Deuteronomic History from the Chronistic History. After Kings, Chronicles begins with genealogies stretching back to Adam. However continuity occurs again with the opening verses of Ezra repeating the concluding verses of Chronicles.

3. Literary Genre

Although we can find poems, lists, genealogies, and songs in the historical books, they are largely historical narrative written in prose form. They record sacred history, an account of past events with the purpose of edification and instruction. Some of the distinctive features of sacred history are:

a. Historical

Biblical history tells a true story of the past in a literary form.

b. Artistic

Historical narrative is a work of art, with careful attention paid to how it is crafted. A writer not only asks, “ What do I want to say?” but also, “ How do I want to say it?” The presence of artistic touches does not mean, of necessity, that a text is historically inaccurate.

c. Diverse

No one Bible book contains all that God has to say about a particular subject. The emphasis of each historical book has to be balanced by what is said elsewhere. Implicit lessons from the narratives have to be balanced by explicit teachings in the more expository parts of Scripture.

d. Unified

Despite the diversity there is a remarkable unity of purpose and subject matter.

e. Revelatory

God uses biblical history to reveal himself. Events are given a divine perspective and evaluation.

f. Inter-active

The narratives require and evoke a response.

In this sense, it is “rhetorical,” that is, it attempts to convince and persuade. The historical narratives do that more indirectly than, say, epistolary works but, nevertheless, the authors of the historical narratives clearly had certain purposes in mind that were to encourage, warn, and persuade people of their right and wrong attitudes and courses of action. What Amos Wilder aptly says of the gospels applies equally to the historical narratives of the OT: “It is as though God says to men one by one: ‘Look me in the eye.’[footnote]D M Howard, An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books (Chicago: Moody Press, 1993), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]

g. Theological

In the end, God is the subject and the hero of the Bible.

Even in works that emphasize human individuals, such as 1 & 2 Samuel, which highlight David, these individuals are important only as they are instruments in God’s plan. In the end, God’s dealings with humans in the historical narratives reveal to us much about Himself. We are more than entertained; we are taught.[footnote]G L Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago: Moody Press, 1998), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]

4. Literary Sources

All historians are dependent on contemporary sources. The biblical books of history, with the possible exception of Joshua and Nehemiah, cover such enormous time spans that the divinely inspired use of earlier written sources and oral tradition was highly likely. The biblical historians often mention the sources from which they derived their information. In Chronicles, for example, some twenty-five extrabiblical documents are named.

From these ancient sources the biblical historians selected the strands of raw material with which they wove their account of covenant history. The Holy Spirit guided in the selection process so that no erroneous material was incorporated into the text.[footnote]Smith, J. E. 1995. The books of history. College Press: Joplin, Mo.[/footnote]

5. Original Meaning

Following our previous practice we will attempt to uncover the original meaning of the text. The historical books were not written initially for us but for an ancient people. The text, therefore, is first of all addressed to their needs and situations.


V. Thematic Analysis

This brings us on to consider the theology of the Historical books.

Besides their historical worth, these books are also important for what they teach theologically. They describe Israel’s history, but they are more than history or a record of mere historical facts. They are God’s word today for all Christian believers. The church has always affirmed the value of these books for “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). We read these books for more than their historical value. They trace the history of God’s relationship with his nation, revealing his faithfulness and steadfast love for his people even when they broke covenant. These are important events to learn from, not merely about.[footnote]B Arnold and B Beyer, Encountering the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 158.[/footnote]

We shall consider the theological themes of the Deuteronomic Books, then of the Chronistic family of books.

A. The Deuteronomic Books

1. Covenant

The Deuteronomic concept of covenant forms the background to the entire history. There is a continued double emphasis on the divine promises to Israel (Dt. 4:31; Dt. 29:12-13; Jos. 1:6; Jdg. 2:1; 2 Ki. 13:23) and on the required response of obedience (Jos. 24:1-27; 1 Sa. 12; 1 Ki. 2:1-4; 1 Ki. 9:1-9). In Deuteronomy, God promised to be Israel’s God over 30 times. This promise is repeatedly referred to in the historical books (Jos. 1:2; Jos. 24:13; Jdg. 1:2; 1 Ki. 4:21; 1 Ki. 8:34). As for Israel, the response of trust and obedience is especially focused on the first two commandments. Possession of the land depends entirely on Israel’s loyalty to God and his worship.

The biblical historians were passionately monotheistic. Whatever any other person, culture or nation said, they believed that one God – Yahweh – ruled over all. All other pretenders to deity were worthless non-entities. Israel is shown in this history that it is they who have failed not God. God’s promises are ever¬lasting (Dt. 30:1-9; Jdg. 2:1; 1 Sa 12:22; 2 Sa. 7:16)

2. Kings

Deuteronomy authorized and regulated kingship. The Historical books show how this worked out. No kings meant disaster for Israel (Judges). Man-made kings meant disaster for Israel (Saul). Self-centered and disobedient kings were disastrous for Israel (1-2 Kings). In spite of this, God kept raising up kings to lead and guide his people.

The history ends with sinful King Jehoiakin in exile; nevertheless, he is elevated to a seat of honor higher than those of other captive kings in Babylon. That glimmer of hope will not be extinguished but will shine ever brighter until the coming of the greater son of David, the true Son of God, Jesus Christ.[footnote]Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 305.[/footnote]

3. Prophets

Deuteronomy authorizes and describes the true prophet (Dt. 18:14-22). The Deuteronomic history picks up this theme and develops the theology of prophecy. The Jewish community saw so much of the prophets in the Deuteronomic history that they labeled it “The Former Prophets.”

The prophets were sent by God to evoke repentance in his people. Through interpretation of past disasters and warnings of worse things to come, mingled with assurances of blessing to reward fidelity, the prophets sought to impress upon Israel the need for a daily walk with the Lord.

Through his special ambassadors, the prophets, God shaped and molded Israel. He carved out of national Israel a spiritual remnant which longed for the Messiah. This remnant kept faith alive even in the most trying circumstances.

4. The Sanctuary

God required and permitted one sanctuary and that could be located only at the place of his choosing. Worship was the standard by which the biblical historians measured the characters who appeared on this biblical stage. No matter what a person’s accomplishments might be, if he did not worship the Lord in spirit and truth that man is judged by these historians to be a failure. The sanctuary was the nerve centre of the nation.

5. The Land

Abraham and his seed were promised the land. The Pentateuch climaxed with the promise of the land (Deut. 34:4). Joshua demonstrates that God fulfill his promise though 500 years after it was given. The conquest of the land (Josh. 1-12) is followed by the dividing of the land (Josh. 13-22) and then the covenant (Josh. 23,24). Judges continues the “land” narrative. Now the issue is why Israel had not been able to possess the land completely (see above). The answer comes clearly that Israel’s disobedience – in not completely annihilating the Canaanites, and especially in turning to their gods – was to blame (Josh. 2:1-3 , Josh. 20-22). The gift of the land, such a prominent motif in Joshua, is seen in Judges as compromised by Israel’s apostasy.

6. Apostasy

Israel was called of God to be a light to the nations of the world, a testament to the power and grace of God. The ultimate plan was to bless all nations through Christ, the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To that end the Lord endured a thousand years of indifference and outright apostasy broken up only occasionally by periods of renewal and revival. The history of Israel is in many ways a tragic history with a predictable conclusion. As horrendous as it was, the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC marked a turning point, at least as far as overt idolatry was concerned. When the Jews returned from exile in Babylon the old Canaanite idolatry which had polluted the nation since the days of Joshua was a thing of the past.

7. Punishment

The thread of retributive justice runs throughout the historical books. God blesses covenant obedience and punishes covenant disobedience.

8. Repentance

Divine punishment is partly to bring His people to repentance, which periodically does occur.

B. The Chronistic Books

Some of the themes of the Deuteronomic books are continued into the Chronistic History. However, the Chronistic themes do further develop and focus some of the Deuteronomic themes.

1. Restoration of the Davidic Throne

If the Deuteronomist emphasized God’s just punishment of the Davidic king and the loss of the Davidic throne, then the Chronicler focuses on its restoration and emphasizes the hope of God’s gracious restoration of the Davidic king and throne .

2. Renewal of the Temple

If the Deuteronomist underlined the profaning of the temple and the consequent loss of it (and God’s presence), then the Chronicler stressed the rebuilding and blessing of the temple (with God’s presence).

3. Reunification of God’s people

If the Deuteronomist developed the theme of the disunity of God’s people then the Chronicler reinforces the importance of “all Israel.”

4. Reformation under Mosaic Law/ Divine blessing and judgment

While the Chronicler does demonstrate that disobedience leads to covenanted punishment, he tends to focus more on the fidelity that brings blessing.

5. Response: Call to decision

The Chonicler saw the importance of bringing the people to a “decision.” He, therefore, gives accounts of great decisions of faith in order to encourage a similar attitude in the original hearers.


VI. New Testament Analysis

The Deuteronomic History emphasizes failure and encourages the reader to look beyond mere human kings for their salvation. The Chronistic History emphasizes hope of restoration and rebuilding and, again, encourages the reader to look forward to a unique Davidic King who will restore and rebuild His people and His Church. Ruth and Esther show God working away “behind the scenes” working all things together for the good of His people despite all outward appearances.

From the vantage point of the New Testament, Old Testament history consists of a myriad of arrows pointing to the fullness of times (Gal 4:4-5). Even so, Old Testament history is not merely a period of aimless waiting. Throughout these millennia God was moving decisively toward the goal of redemption in Christ Jesus.[footnote]Walter Roehrs, Survey of Covenant History (St. Louis: Concordia, 1989), p. 11.[/footnote]


VII. The Message of the Historical Books

Original Message: The God of history will work all things together for the good of faithful Israel
Present Message: The God of history will work all things together for the good of His faithful church.