Understanding the OT with 8 Eras

For many years, the Old Testament was overwhelming to me with 39 books covering 1,000's of years. I couldn’t imagine how I was supposed to learn the entire story and where everything fit from the beginning till the birth of Christ. And it really wasn’t until I saw how it could be organized into eras that I was able to grasp and articulate the entire narrative. Once someone gave me a method of organizing the story, I was able to put things in their proper place. The system that I think is the easiest to learn has 8 divisions or eras. They are: Creation, Patriarch, Exodus, Conquest, Judges, Kingdom, Exile (Captivity) and Return. These 8 eras cover 39 books worth of history. They begin with Adam and end with Nehemiah finishing the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem before the 400 years of silence between Malachi and Matthew. The first era is Creation, and it covers at least 2,000 years of history beginning with Adam and Eve and ending in Genesis 11 with the Tower of Babel. The era includes the creation of the world, the fall of man and the curse, the promise of redemption, a global flood and the scattering of people by God. Genesis 12 introduces Abraham, the first patriarch of the Hebrew people, the future nation of Israel, and the rest of the book of Genesis tells the story of Isaac, Rebekah, Esau, Jacob, Laban, Leah, Rachel and the 12 sons of Israel. In the Patriarch Era, the reader learns of the covenant God made with each of the patriarchs and sees how God’s Sovereign hand guides all events toward His will. The third era is the Exodus Era. In the exodus, God leads Israel out of Egypt and toward the Promised Land. He plagues Egypt to the point of surrender and submission to His will, parts the Red Sea, provides manna from heaven and gives His people the law and a tabernacle. Israel lacks the faith to conquer the Promised Land and is sentenced to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. Moses dies in Deuteronomy 34 having seen the Promised Land but not allowed to enter it. God subsequently raised up Joshua to lead Israel into the Promised Land, and for 45 years, Joshua lead until the era we are calling the Conquest Era. After Joshua’s death, a series of judges led Israel’s tribes for about 400 years in a semi-disjointed arrangement with men and women like Deborah, Gideon, Samson and Samuel serving as quasi-political and military leaders until Israel insisted they needed a king like the surrounding nations. Israel’s first king in the Kingdom Era was Saul, followed by David and then Solomon for about 40 years each. Upon Solomon’s death, the kingdom split into a northern kingdom and southern kingdom, with each having kings who led Israel mostly into sin. Only a few kings were righteous. In most cases, God raised up various prophets to confront Israel in their sin. Some of these prophets did not write books of the Bible like Nathan, Elijah and Elisha. Others like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the 12 Minor Prophets recorded much of what they preached on scrolls that became our books of the OT. Both the northern kingdom (Israel) and the southern kingdom (Judah) were conquered. First, Assyria conquered Israel in 722BC and, then about 150 years later, Judah was carried off into exile by Babylon. Jeremiah, the prophet, had warned Judah that their failure to repent would result in 70 years of judgment. It was during this era that Daniel served in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar, and Ezekiel preached as a prophet of the Lord. This era called the Exile Era (or Captivity) lasted until God raised up Cyrus the Great who would grant Ezra permission to lead a group back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city. This final era is called the Return Era. Men like Zerubbabel, Nehemiah and others lead a concerted effort to rebuild both the physical and spiritual foundation of the city including the temple and walls. Prophets like Malachi and Haggai lived during this time, and Jews like Esther served Yahweh even in a foreign land. And this is how the story of Israel ends in the OT with a remnant of Jews trying to rebuild what was destroyed and neglected for decades. Obviously it is impossible to properly summarize the entire story of the OT in a single paragraph, but that wasn’t my intent. Instead, I am hoping you will be inspired to follow the OT Survey Class I am teaching by watching the video lessons we have uploaded to sermonaudio.com and the church website. This online series of classes will help you fit the puzzle pieces together so much better.

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