In this paper, I will be describing the key historical events during the period of:
- The Patriarchs
- The Conquest
- The Judges
- The Monarchy
- The Return from Exile
Our focus therefore, will be on what the Bible says concerning each period; however, I will only point out what I personally consider to be the key historical events during each period. This means therefore, that what I consider as key in each period may not be the some view held by others.
This paper will somewhat take us through the entire history of Israel as it developed, nonetheless, not in greater depth.
The Patriarchal period covers the times of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is the most fundamentally important if not critical period in the history of the birth and development of Israel as a nation.
The key features which entail this period are:
- Call of obedience/Faith
- God's Faithfulness
The period is covered in Genesis Chapters 12-50.
Without going into greater details, we will look at the above feature in their historical importance.
Genesis 12: 1-3 says,
Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
In their book titled An Introduction to the Old Testament, Raymond B. Dillard and Tremper Longman states:
God promised Abram that he would have numerous descendants who would form a mighty nation, thus implying that he would receive a gift of land from the Lord. Also, God told him that he would be blessed and would also serve as a channel of God's blessings to others. On this basis of promises, Abram left Haran and travelled to Palestine.
Notably, the rest of the Genesis chapters, are built on the basis of this promises. The stories that follow carry with them a consistent theme of their actual fulfilment.
Call of obedience/Faith
Abraham's obedience was important; it unlocked the fulfilment of the above promises; Isaac was born and later Jacob etc.
It was God's own initiative to call and enter into a covenant with him and his descendants; however, it was entirely their responsibility to do as required of them.
They were tested to the limits and we see them struggle to trust God in several occasions, though in the end, they proved faithful and their obedience was vindicated which affirms our third point, God's faithfulness.
This period covers the times of Joshua; it was a period of war and taking possession of the land which God had promised Abraham and his offspring.
The most striking event during this period is: Covenant Renewal at Shechem
Although there are other striking events during this period; it is important to note that all depended largely upon their obedience to the covenant. Therefore, the renewal of the same was indeed vital.
John McKay in his book titled, Times of Refreshing states,
The fall of Jericho and Ai must have allowed access to Shechem... Joshua took this early opportunity to gather the people there to renew their commitment to the covenant according to the instructions given by Moses (cp. Deut. 27)
Shechem was where Abraham had first stopped, where God promised: Unto thy seed will I give this land (Gen.12:7). It was the same place where Jacob and his family first settled upon arriving in Canaan (See Gen.38:18f).
Joshua, on arrival, gathers the people, celebrates and leads the nation into renewing their commitment to God but at the same time looking forward to leading more conquest. Joshua did the same act again before his death (See Jos.24)
This period is covered in the book of Judges; Judges were raised by God to lead the people after Joshua's death. They were endowed with great leadership skills, political and military as well as legal.
This period is characterized by:
- Sin - the people would turn away from God and worship Baal
- Punishment - people would suffer in the hands of their enemies as a result.
- Repentance - they would then cry to God for forgiveness
- Deliverance - God would heed them, raise up a judge to deliver them.
The above points form the framework of most of the stories covered in chapters 3-12.
The final chapters are characterized by the sorriest state of the people: sexual perversion (Ch. 19) civil, inter- tribal war (Ch.20) and a strange killing and rape (Ch.21).
The above final state of God's people leaves the writer with one comment: 'in those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.'
(1& 2 Samuel-Exile)
This covers the period of Kings both in Israel and Judah. However, it is worth noting that Israel was one United Kingdom right from the day Saul was anointed the first King, but became divided during the reign of Rehoboam, Solomon's son.
The period is characterized by different events; they include the promise to David, division of the Kingdom, the rise and the fall of Kings, a momentous rise of the prophets, foreign invasions, kingdom fall etc.
Nonetheless, the most striking; is the promise made to David (well know as the Davidic covenant) (See 2 Samuel 7:1-16)
It came a time when God had granted David rest round about all his enemies. At this time, he thought he would build the LORD a house which was not to be. However, the LORD said to him 'I will make you a house.
Samuel 7:12 says, 'And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.
Sa 7:13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.
Sa 7:16 And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.
The above promise was never fulfilled as per se and the people ended up into exile, nonetheless, it remained unchanged.
The Return from Exile
This period is covered in Ezra and Nehemiah; it is also associated with the prophetic ministries of Haggai and Zechariah; rebuilding of the city walls and the establishment of the law.
Upon the return from exile, the returnees rebuilt the altar and restarted the sacrificial worship (See Ezra 1:1-3.6)
This was a significant event; the people had learnt through the hard way in exile and now with great enthusiasm are back in the land and their hearts are set to worship their God again; though not all returned.
The rebuilding of the temple was also significant; after the alter, the work of rebuilding the temple was started - upon completion, though through many challengers, they dedicated it to God and Passover was celebrated for the first time since the return. (See Ezra 5 & 6)
Nehemiah led the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem and its repopulation and when he left, he left a strongly established city (Nehemiah 1-7, 11-13)
Finally, the reading of the law by Ezra was an amazing event - the book of the law was somewhat forgotten when they were take into exile, its re-discovery was so vital - it brought much joy (See Nehemiah 8-10)
The above events that characterises each period in Israel's history are significant.
It is through the promises made to Abraham that all can be traced.
More importantly, God had a purpose in calling him, however, as we follow through the outworking and the fulfilment of this promises; we are faced with both encouraging and heart breaking events.
Nonetheless, one thing is evidently clear, the faithfulness of God's word throughout each period.
Any time God's people walked in obedience, they prospered, they lived in peace and won battles against their enemies but whenever they turned away from God, sinned against him; they would fall into the hands pf their enemies.
The pattern is so vivid in the book of Judges, though it flows through the period of the Monarchs as well.
- Raymond B. Dillard & Tremper Longman: An Introduction to the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids; MI: USA; Zondervan, 1994), 53
- John McKay: Times of Refreshing: The way of the Spirit; A Bible reading Guide with commentary Vol. 2, (London, UK: Marshall Morgan & Scott Pub. Ltd, 1989),37