The Bible begins with the account of God’s creation of the universe, the earth, the plants and animals and a new being called Man. However, throughout the Bible we are told of some monumental events that happened before the creation of man. Earlier, in Heaven, God had created a class of being known as angels. The angels were with God and served Him directly. However, at some point, one of the Angels became filled with pride and desired to exalt himself to be like God. He also enticed some other angels and a rebellion ensued. But the rebellious angels were cast out of Heaven and banished to the Earth wherein the Angel became known as Satan, and his cohorts as demons. We are not told much about these fallen angels until we find them interacting with God’s newly created being, man. Through those interactions we learn that angels are spiritual beings that can manifest physically through animals and humans. They can also influence man’s thoughts.(1)
God formed man from the dust of the Earth and gave him a soul (life). God named him Adam and gave him a wife, Eve. Adam and Eve were naked but perfectly innocent. God placed them in the wondrous Garden of Eden where He told them to be fruitful and multiply (have children). Adam was also charged with tending the garden.
In the Garden there were many trees, but in the center were two special trees: the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge. The Tree of Life gave the couple an everlasting or spiritual “life”. However, God told them not to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge or they would die. This was their only Law.
One day Satan, (manifest as a creature) approached Eve to seduce her with the same desire that he had aspired to in heaven…to be like God. “Surely you will not die” he said, “but rather God knows that if you eat from the Tree of Knowledge your eyes will be opened and you will become like God, knowing good and evil”. Eve reasoned the Tree could indeed make her “like God”. She then influenced Adam with the same and together they ate of the Tree
Immediately the couple became aware of good and evil and its endless inevitabilities. They now understood sin and shame; and for the first time felt naked and exposed. In a futile attempt to cover their nakedness, the couple made garments of foliage (fig leaves). And because they had defied God’s Law and hid from Him in fear; and rightfully so, as God could no longer look upon them. Rather, they must die as God had vowed. Thus, God sent them away from the Tree which had given them everlasting life.
However, in an act of mercy God provided a way to be able to continue to deal with them. God sacrificed an animal and covered them with its skin. The animal’s death became a temporary substitution for their death and its skin displayed their death sentence as satisfied. Through the Atonement, God could continue to look upon man.(2) This Atonement began a sacrifice system that is a central element throughout the Bible.
Later, the couple had two sons. Cain was a gardener (like his father), while Able was a shepherd. One day Cain offered his foliage as a sacrifice to God, and Able offered a lamb. While God accepted Abel’s offering, He rejected Cain’s, as God had already relayed that foliage was not an acceptable covering for sin. Rather Atonement could only come through the taking of a life. But like his gardener father, Cain had attempted to cover his sins through his own means. Cain’s offering was as worthless as his father’s fig leaves. Because his offering was rejected, Cain was downcast. But rather than repent of his error and offer the acceptable sacrifice; Cain became jealous of his brother who had done right, and murdered him. This jealously of the righteous is an element which echoes throughout the Bible story.
As mankind increased, evils of all kinds were practiced throughout the world. Only one man looked to God, Noah. God told Noah that He was going to destroy the entire population of man in a massive flood. He told Noah to build an enormous ark for his family and two of all of the animals. Upon completion of the ark, God flooded the Earth as promised but Noah’s family and the animals were saved.(3) After the flood, man repopulated the Earth again. And although mankind had gained a sense of God’s holiness and wrath, they continued in their wickedness.
Later, in the Capital City of mankind (Babel), the people attempted to build a tower to Heaven to establish their greatness. But God put an end to their wicked plan by confusing their language and scattering them throughout the Earth.(4) From here on the Bible story focuses on the descendants of a man named Abraham.
God called Abraham to fully trust in Him or to have faith. God told Abraham to leave his home and to travel to the land of Canaan. God promised that there in Canaan, Abraham’s descendants would one day be a great nation; and that through this nation the entire world would be blessed. Abraham believed God and traveled toward Canaan. However Abraham’s wife Sarah was barren and the couple feared that Abraham would have no descendants for God to bless. So in a desperate attempt to have a child, Sarah gave her servant girl Hagar to Abraham in order to conceive a child through her. And through Hagar, Abraham’s son Ishmael was born. However later in her very old age, Sarah did conceive and had a son—just as God had promised. Thus, the birth of Isaac was a miracle. Ishmael’s descendants went on to form a great nation and many Arab Muslims claim Ishmael as their forefather; however the Bible story follows the line of Isaac, the promised son. Isaac married and had twin sons, Esau and Jacob. Through Esau the great nation of Edom was established; however the Bible story continues through the line of Jacob.(5)
Jacob had faith, but he was also a deceptive man who struggled with God. So God changed his name to “Israel” (he who strives with God). Israel had twelve sons who eventually formed the twelve tribes of the Nation of Israel (6). Through a series of events, Israel’s sons and their families came to live in the land of Egypt where they prospered and their numbers grew. However the Egyptians feared that the Israelites were becoming too powerful and forced them into slavery. Severely oppressed by the Egyptians, the Israelites cried out to the God of their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Then, after 400 years of brutal slavery, God raised up a man named Moses to free the Israelites from Egypt.
God revealed Himself to Moses simply as “I AM that I AM” and promised to go before him in a mighty way to deliver the Israelites from their bondage. Moses then went to the Egyptian Pharaoh and told him “God said let my people go”. But Pharaoh refused to release them. Because of Pharaoh’s stubbornness, God sent several devastating plagues against the Egyptians. Yet after weeks of torment, Pharaoh was still unmovable. Finally, God told Moses to tell the Israelites to sacrifice a lamb and put its blood over the doors of their homes; for God was about to send the Angel of Death throughout Egypt to kill it’s first born. The blood was for their salvation; for God promised that the Angel of Death would pass-over the homes whose doors were covered by the blood. Thus, it came to pass and there was a large scale death of Egypt’s first born. Afterward, Pharaoh relented and released the Israelites.
With a sheltering cloud by day and a massive pillar of fire by night, the Angel of God led the Israelites out of Egypt and toward the land promised to Abraham—and their flight seemed secured. However back in Egypt, the Pharaoh had grown embittered and sent his army to retrieve the Israelites. Suddenly the Egyptian Army came charging the Israelites who were now backed up to the Red Sea. With no possible escape, it seemed that Israel was doomed. However, God performed His most notable of miracles by blocking the Egyptian’s way with the pillar of fire while He parted the Red Sea, producing a dry path for Israel to escape.(7)
Once on the other side of the sea, God told Moses to lead the Israelites deep into the wilderness of Sinai. There, God gave Israel His Laws, written on stone tablets. God promised Israel that He would be their God and give them the beautiful Land promised to Abraham if they would be faithful to Him by keeping His Holy Laws. This agreement is called a “Covenant” and is comparable to a marriage contract. The Israelites agreed to the terms of the Covenant. God then had Moses take the Israelites to show them their new home land. However, while the land was truly beautiful, it was also inhabited by a wicked and powerful people. But it was because they were so wicked that God would have the Israelites take the land away from them. But when the Israelites saw that the inhabitants were very powerful, they became afraid and refused to take the Land. Even though Moses reassured them that God would go before them, they were still too afraid to even try. Thus, because they were so faithless, God detained them in the wilderness for 40 years where He began to cleanse them from their slave mentality and to build up their faith in Him.
While in the wilderness, a large and extravagant tent was set up as a dwelling place for God’s presence and a place for the Israelites to sacrifice to Him. Although the Passover Lamb sacrifice had initially saved Israel, God soon required sacrifices for their ongoing sins; sacrifices such as the sin offering, guilt offering, and burnt offering. The Law established a sacrifice system that was quite complex. One tribe (Levi) was designated to serve as priests. Sinners were to offer specific animals as atonement for certain sins. Sacred furnishings were utilized by the priests for the various rituals. Sacred Holidays and Sabbaths (rest days) were established to help the nation remember events and to keep the ways of their God. Near the tent, Moses and seventy elders acted as judges and heard the Israelites cases.
The tent was continually taken down and relocated around the wilderness at God’s caprice– teaching the Israelites to follow Him unquestionably. During their time in the wilderness the Israelites were taught, tested and tried. More often than not they failed their tests and many of them died there.(8) Finally, at the end of the 40 years, God told Israel to go and take their Promised Land. The Israelites did as God directed, and through more miraculous feats of God the Promised Land was finally theirs.(9)
Once in their Promised Land, Israel established borders with separate territories designated for each Tribe. Their government continued to operate as a simple community living under God’s rule, with judges and elders to help them. They were truly blessed and quickly became a prominent nation in the region. However, the Israelites soon became proud in their new position and desired a king in order to be like the other nations. God said that this was a rejection of His rule and warned Israel of the many entrapments a man king would bring on them; but because they insisted, God allowed Israel to obtain a man king.
The first king Saul did not have a true heart for God and failed to do as God commanded. Therefore, Saul was replaced by David of the Tribe of Judah.(10) David had a true heart for God and is famous for the many Psalms that communicated that relationship. Because of his great love for God, David was blessed and promised that his throne would be established forever. Upon his death, David’s son Solomon became king. (11)
King Solomon built a glorious temple in Jerusalem to provide a dwelling place for God and where the Israelites could sacrifice to Him. And under Solomon, Israel prospered and gained the reputation of the greatest kingdom in the world.(12) However, Solomon soon sinned against God by marrying heathen women who lead him into idolatry. Because of his sin, God vowed to take the kingdom away from Solomon. And through a series of events the Kingdom (Israel) was separated from Judah (Solomon’s Tribe) to become two separate kingdoms: the Kingdom of Israel which retained ten of the tribes, and the Kingdom of Judah which retained only two (Judah and Benjamin). However many of the Levites who served in the Temple remained in Judah as well. These three Tribes (Judah, Benjamin and Levi) became known as the Jews.(13)
Despite God’s continuing blessing, both kingdoms had a series of wicked kings who led their people into sin. But the kingdom of Israel had become especially wicked. God sent His Prophets to warn Israel of His judgment if they did not turn from their sins. The Prophets likened Israel unto an unfaithful wife who God would divorce and cast out of the Land. But the warnings fell on deaf ears. Therefore, God judged Israel and the Assyrian Empire invaded. Every man, woman and child of the Kingdom of Israel was either killed or taken out of their lands and scattered throughout the Empire. Israel’s lands were then renamed and repopulated with other peoples of the Assyrian Empire. Those foreigners became known as the Samaritans, while the ten tribes of the kingdom of Israel became known as “The Lost Tribes of Israel”. (14)
Because Judah had a good King (Hezekiah) at the time, they survived the Assyrian onslaught. However after Hezekiah’s death, Judah returned to their wicked ways, and so was judged through the next ruling empire–Babylon. When the Babylonians invaded Jerusalem, they destroyed Solomon’s magnificent temple and many Jews were killed. However, many of them were taken to Babylon. But unlike the Assyrian Empire, the Babylonians did not repopulate Jerusalem with other peoples. Rather, Jerusalem remained desolate because the Prophets foretold that after seventy years, the Jews would return to their land. Moreover, the Prophets also foretold of a great Restoration for ALL of the Tribes of Israel—not just for the Jews. Indeed, the Prophets also foretold of a coming day when a great Savior King would come and call the lost Tribes of Israel (who had been scattered all over the world), back home to be reunited with Judah (the Jews). This is often called the “Great Restoration of Israel”.
While in Babylon, the Jews formed small communities, and Synagogues were invented as a place for the Jews to unite in the only part of God they had left…the Scriptures. Homesick and oppressed, the Jews repented of their sins and prayed for God to have mercy on them and to return them to their land. They were humbled and their faith grew.(15) Finally after 70 years the Babylonians were overtaken by the Persians; and under the new Persian Empire the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem. Once back, the Jews were allowed to erect a small temple and reestablish their priesthood, but not their kingdom. During this time prophets encouraging the Jews to remain separate from the other nations and to reestablish themselves as the holy people of God. And like the earlier Prophets, the post-exilic Prophets also foretold of the coming Savior King who would one day call the lost Tribes back home to reunite with the Jews and thus to Restore Israel.(16)
The Old Testament historical account ends here. However, many of the events that took place during the 400 years between the Old and the New Testaments were prophesied of in the book of Daniel. Additionally, historical accounts of this period can be found in the Jewish books of the Maccabeus and other historical documents. Therefore, the rest of this Old Testament Summary is based on the book of Daniel, the Books of the Maccabeus, and other historical documents.
The Greek Empire conquered the Persian Empire acquiring all of their territories including Judea. Under the new Greek rule the Jews were allowed to maintain their religious practices but struggled to maintain their social autonomy. The Greeks offered social and material perks for their provinces including sports stadiums and public education…and many of the liberal Jews desired to embrace the Empire. However, the conservative nationalist Jews fought to withstand the Hellenizing surge.
A Greek Emperor named Antiochus IV Epiphanies became frustrated by the nationalist Jews attempts to thwart his advances into Judea and launched a brutal attack against Jerusalem. In a malicious act to desecrate the Jews’ religion, Antiochus set up a shrine to his Greek god Zeus in their Temple. In retaliation a Jewish man named Mattathias and his five sons rose to arms to withstand Antiochus; and through several wars and some favorable circumstances they drove the Greek forces from their land. Afterwards they cleansed the Temple and rededicated it to the Lord. The annual celebration of Chanukah commemorates a miracle that occurred during the re-dedication of the Temple. Afterwards, the Jews enjoyed a brief period of social and political autonomy.
Mattathias’ family is better known by their nickname the Maccabeus which means “the hammer”. Under the Maccabeus, the Jews gained full nationalism and established the Hasmonean Kingdom. However, in an unprecedented move, one of the Hasmonean sons assumed complete control of Jerusalem by establishing himself as both King and High priest. This created much contention amongst the Jews in that Israel’s king was to be of the bloodline of David, and the High Priests of Zadok. The Maccabeus’ were of neither. Moreover, during this contentious time three prominent Jewish sects emerged: the Essenes, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees. These three sects held differing schools of thought on the theological, social and political issues of the time.
The Essenes were a spiritually minded sect who stood firmly against religious corruption. They were believed to have abandoned the Temple in protest of a takeover of the Zadok Priesthood and due to some the religious corruptions. They are best known today for producing the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The Sadducees: When the Jews returned to Jerusalem, the Persian Empire allowed them to reestablish their religion and priesthood, but not their monarchy. Thus the priesthood became the Jews domestic authority and the ruling social class. The Sadducees were the Priests. How they became the Priest is controversial as some allege that they seized the Zadok priesthood from it rightful heirs. However most hold the Sadducees were the legitimate heirs. The Sadducees held to a strict literal interpretation of the Law, but had also become Hellenized (influenced by Greek culture) and were religiously liberal; so much so that they did not even believe in the resurrection of the dead.
The Pharisees (the separate): While in Babylon, the Jews invented Synagogues to provide a meeting place wherein they could remain united as a people. And because they had no Temple, the study of Scripture became the main focus of their gatherings. The sect who would later become known as the Pharisees took form during this time. When the Jews returned to Jerusalem, the institution of the Synagogues came with them, and the sect continued to hold studying the Scriptures in the highest regard. However, they also came to hold their own teachings as inspired. Later, those teachings were compiled as the ‘Talmud”. Jesus called their teachings the “traditions of men”. The Pharisees were conservative nationalist and harsh rivals of the Hellenized Sadducees. They were also the forerunners of today’s Rabbinical Jews.
Along with the religious divisions, there were also political divisions amongst the community. While the liberal Jews wanted to maintain the nation’s current boundaries, the nationalist leaders desired to expand the countries boundaries by conquering some of the surrounding areas. The Hasmoneans successfully annexed Trans-Jordan, Galilee, Samaria and Edom and forced those peoples to convert to Judaism.
The expanding Jewish kingdom quickly gained respect on the world scene and even made alliances with the rising Roman Republic. However, the Roman Republic soon became the Roman Empire, and Judea was forcibly annexed by them. In order to subdue the head strong Jews, the Romans replaced the Hasmonean King with Herod. This was a travesty for the Jews in that Herod was not actually a Jew. During the Hasmonean reign, the Jews invaded their southern neighbor, Edom (Esau) and forcibly converted them to Judaism. Herod was one of these converted Edomites. Therefore Herod’s loyalty was not with the Jewish people; rather he repeatedly betrayed them and was despised. In an attempt to legitimize his Jewish Kingship, Herod married a Hasmonean princess and had two sons with her; but later executed them all.
Herod built many temples for pagan gods, but he is most famous for the magnificent temple he constructed in Jerusalem for the Jewish God; often referred to as “Herod’s Temple”. Despite Herod’s ill repute, the Temple was accepted by the Jews and was used for their religious activities. But while the temple was magnificent on the outside, it was plagued by troubles within. Beyond the corruptions of the Priesthood, the Temple now housed a new genre of leadership…the Pharisees. Indeed, the Pharisees had firmly embedded themselves in the temple court. By assuming religious titles and sporting religious garb, they appeared to be in charge. Due to the many corruptions the Essenes abandoned the temple and set up a surrogate temple for themselves in the wilderness of Qumran. John the Baptist was believed to be an Essene.
The Old Testament Story ends here with the Jews under the brutal occupation of the Roman Empire, deteriorating from within, and the lost Tribes no where in sight. Through the first half of the Bible story, the foundation was laid through which we learn of God’s enduring desire to have a unique relationship with Israel. Through His Law, God established His Holy standards to which He expected Israel to maintain; but to which Israel only proved that they could not. However, through God’s many deliverances, He demonstrated His willingness to be patient, long suffering and merciful. Ultimately through these events, God was establishing the realization that salvation and restoration could come through Him alone. Indeed, throughout the Bible story there are an abundance of prophecies which foretell of a great and final salvation for Israel—a salvation which would come not through man’s futile efforts, but through the power of God alone. Moreover, this salvation would result in the everlasting freedom and peace that Israel could never manage to obtain in its own strength. This great salvation was prophesied to come through a great Savior King who would not only deliver Israel from their enemies, but also exalt Israel as the greatest Empire ever. Moreover, this Messiah was promised to usher in a new era of peace and prosperity which would bless the entire world. This Messiah is revealed and explained in the second half of the Bible story… the New Testament.
See the “New Testament” to continue
(1) Isaiah 14:12 “…How you are fallen from heaven, Oh Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit.”
Ezekiel 28:14 “…You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you. “By the abundance of your trading you became filled with violence within, and you sinned; therefore I cast you as a profane thing out of the mountain of God; and I destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the fiery stones…”
Luke 10:18 “…and He (Jesus) said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you…”
Revelation 12:7 “…And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him…”
Luke 22:3 “…Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve. So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them.”
2 Corth 11:3 But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.
2 Corth 11:13 “…For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. 14And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.”
(2) Leviticus 17:11 “…For the soulH of the fleshH1320 is in the bloodH1818: and I have givenH5414 it (an animal’s blood) to you upon the altarH4196 to make an atonementH3722 for your soulsH5315: for it is the bloodH1818 that maketh an atonementH3722 for the souls H…”
(3) Genesis 6-10 (4) Genesis 11 (5) Genesis 12-27 (6) Genesis 28-50 (7) Exodus 1-15 (8) Exodus 15-40 (9) Joshua
(10) 1 Samuel 8-17 (11) 1 Samuel 18 thru <st1:bcv_smarttag>2 Samuel 24 (12) 1 Kings 1-10 (13) 1 Kings 11 / 12
(14) 2 Kings 17/ Prophet Books- Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc… (15) 2 Kings 18-25 / Daniel
(16) Ezra / Nehemiah / Zechariah, <st1:bcv_smarttag>Isaiah 55-
The rest was taken from the Book of Daniel, the Books of the Maccabeus and several basic world historical resources.