A Brief Prophetic History of Israel

by Deborah Horscroft

Below is a brief historical outline from Abraham to Jesus to help put our People of the Old Testament Bible studies into context.

The Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were the fathers of the nation that came to be known as Israel. Jacob (renamed Israel) had 12 sons and his descendents became the 12 tribes of Israel. They settled in Egypt around 1876 BC.

Moses and the Law: Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt around 1446BC. After 40 years of wandering in the desert, the generation who had rebelled against God and worshipped the golden calf had all died (other than the faithful Joshua and Caleb). Moses gave the people God’s law but did not enter the Promised Land. Joshua led the people into Canaan.

The Judges: For 480 years God’s people were ruled by Judges. Samuel was the last.

The Golden Age of Israel: Kings Saul, David and Solomon reigned over the united kingdom of Israel from 1050-930BC. Psalms and Proverbs were written during this period.

The Divided Kingdom: The Kingdom split into the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and the Southern Kingdom (Judah), which maintained the dynastic line of David and contained the holy city of Jerusalem. Elijah, Jonah and Amos were prophets of this period.

The Fall of the Northern Kingdom 722BC: The Assyrians conquered Israel. Isaiah and Hosea were prophets during this period.

The Fall of Jerusalem 586BC: The people of Judah were taken into exile in Babylon. Jeremiah was the prophet of God’s judgement. Daniel and Ezekiel were written during the exile.

The Restoration 538BC: When Cyrus, king of Persia, conquered Babylon the Jewish exiles returned under Ezra and Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. Esther and Zechariah were also written during this period.

Between the Testaments 432BC-5BC: After the last group of exiles had returned under Nehemiah and the last prophet, Malachi, had spoken, there was a time of scriptural silence until…

The Birth of Jesus the Christ 5 BC: Now under the rule of the Great Roman Empire, Israel awaited the promised Messiah, born in Bethlehem in the line of Judah.

This very sketchy history, including all the dates, was gleaned from the very useful notes in the Zondervan NIV Study Bible, especially the historical timeline.

The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask (with answers) by Mark Mittelberg, Foreword by Lee Strobel

Back cover blurb:

“Why are Christians against same-sex people getting married? . . . Why do you believe God exists at all? . . . Why would God allow evil and suffering? . . . Why trust the Bible when it’s full of mistakes? . . . How could a loving God send people to hell? . . . What makes you think Jesus was more than just a good teacher? . . . Why are Christians so judgmental?”

Some questions can stop a conversation. Today, more than ever, people are raising difficult, penetrating questions about faith, God, and the Bible. Based on an exclusive new Barna survey of 1,000 Christians, The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask presents compelling, easy-to-grasp answers to ten of the most troubling questions facing Christians today. These include everything from the existence of heaven to the issues of abortion and homosexuality, as well as the question of whether evolution eliminates our need for a God.

Narelle: The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask (Tyndale, 2010) won the 2011 Retailers Choice Award. The book tackles a number of tough issues. Chapter One is titled “What makes you so sure that God exists at all – especially when you can’t see, hear or touch him?” and Chapter Two “Didn’t evolution put God out of a job? Why rely on religion in an age of science and reason?”

The chapters are easy to read and provide food for thought. This book can help equip Christians  to answer theologically complex questions in a loving way by drawing people to Jesus and Biblical truths. Chapter Two provides a clear explanation of the different beliefs held by Christians regarding creation and evolution. I recommend this book to those seeking Bible based answers to many of the difficult issues facing Christians today.

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Read first chapter FREE at Amazon.com

Who is God talking to in Genesis 1?

by Deborah Horscroft

We have a good friend who become a Christian and she asks the BEST questions. She decided to start reading the Bible from the beginning and called me when she reached Genesis 1:26 (NIV).

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

She asked, “Who is God talking to?”

Now, my immediate response is to want to say, “The rest of the Trinity: Jesus and the Holy Spirit”. John 1:1-18 places Jesus at the moment of creation (In the Beginning) and describes all things being made through him. But that isn’t and can not be the whole answer, because the writer of Genesis had no concept of the Trinity. So a full answer must look at the author’s purpose as well as our understanding in light of the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Traditionally, both Jews and Christians believe that Genesis through to Deuteronomy, otherwise known as the Law or the Pentateuch, was written by Moses. In John 5:37-40 & 45-46 (NIV) Jesus claims that Moses wrote about him.

“And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life… But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”

Moses had a unique education, first as a student in the Egyptian palace and then hearing directly from Yahweh and receiving His laws. The creation account in Genesis 1 and 2 is written not as a mere narrative, but to both stir the hearts of God’s people in reverent awe and to speak strongly against the alternative creation accounts of the surrounding nations-including the very powerful nation of Egypt, from under whose slavery the first intended audience had recently escaped.

In his helpful commentary “Salvation Begins: Reading Genesis Today”, Andrew Reid points out that unlike contemporary ancient accounts, in Genesis there is no story of a deity coming into existence, God simply is. God makes matter rather than being made out of it. While the surrounding nations have the sun, moon and stars as powerful deities in their creation myths, in Genesis these are created entities which display God’s power. Humans are not created as an afterthought or a whim, but are the pinnacle of God’s creation, placed in a world designed for their comfort and rule. (Aquila Press 2000, p6) Moses describes the King and Creator announcing his crowning work of creation. God makes two humans in His own image. He makes them intelligent, relational beings and He makes them rulers over the earth.

In this original context my NIV Study Bible notes tell me God is speaking as “Creator- King” to the members of His heavenly court, and indeed there are other examples in scripture of God speaking to the angels and including them in His actions. In Genesis 3:22 God laments that man has become “like one of us, knowing good and evil”. The prophet Isaiah saw a vision of Heaven and God speaking to the angels, asking “who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8) In the light of New Testament revelation, the doctrine of the Trinity adds a new dimension to this text, showing the involvement of the Son and Holy Spirit from the very beginning.

As for the implications of being made in God’s image for the sanctity of human life and believers being conformed to Christ’s likeness (Romans 8:29), those are questions for another day.