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Introduction. The Old Testament is the period from creation (4000 BC) to the period of the Persian Empire and Cyrus who allowed the Jews to return from captivity and rebuild their temple. The Old Testament ended around 400 BC. After reading this summary follow along on the right-hand side and learn about the main events that took place in Old Testament times.
Quick Summary of the Bible
The Bible covers the period from the creation of man which took place approximately 4000 BC, all the way to the coming of Jesus Christ, his death and his resurrection, and the good news (gospel) which spread rapidly in the first century A.D. with the preaching of Paul the apostle and the establishment of churches throughout the Roman Empire. The New Testament ends around the same time that the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. This quick summary will cover the main events that took place during the periods of the Old and New Testaments. After reading this brief overview you can follow the outline of the right hand side and quickly go through each of the main sections of the Bible.
The Old Testament Main Historical Periods
The Old Testament can be summarized by nine main historical periods which are: The Creation, Abraham and the Hebrew Patriarchs, Moses and the Exodus, Joshua and the Conquest of Canaan, Samson and the Judges, David and Solomon, The Divided Kingdom, The Destruction of Israel and Judah, and Ezra and the Return from Captivity. It would be good to memorize these main sections to create a summary of what took place. Here are the brief sections.
(Dates are Approximate)
Historical Period #1
The Creation and Fall Period (4004-2234 BC)
The main events of creation (Genesis 1-11) were:
The Creation of the heavens and the earth, and all living things including mankind. God created everything in six days and rested on the seventh day to establish the Sabbath day.
The Fall of Adam and Eve and sin and death entering into the world. God made a covering for them indicating that it was only through the blood of a substitute that they could approach God. God pronounced a curse upon the man, woman, and serpent, and he also declared that the Messiah would someday come and crush the head of the serpent.
The Flood which came upon the whole world and God saved Noah and his family.
The Tower of Babel where rebellious mankind gathered and God divided their languages.
Historical Period #2
The Abraham and Sons Period (1996-1689 BC)
The main people surrounding Abraham and the Hebrews (Genesis 12-50) were:
Abraham was the first Hebrew, God called him from a distant land in the Middle East called Ur of the Chaldees. God promised him that if he obey him God would multiply his descendants as the sand in the seashore and the stars in the sky, and one of his descendants would be the Savior of all mankind.
Isaac was Abraham's child that was born in his old age according to the promise of the Lord. His name means laughter because Abraham's wife Sarah laughed that she was going to bear a son in her old age.
Jacob was the father of the 12 tribes of Israel. Jacob's name actually means deceiver but God turned everything about his life into a blessing and his name was changed to Israel.
Joseph was the favorite son of Jacob, his beloved wife Rachel died giving birth to him. Joseph was gifted in that he could interpret dreams, and his brothers were jealous of him and sold him into slavery in the land of Egypt. That God was with him and through his life Joseph was able to save the Hebrews from extinction.
Historical Period #3
The Moses and Exodus Period (1571-1451 BC)
The main events of the period of Moses (Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) were:
The Calling of Moses when the Hebrews were in the land of Egypt. The Pharaoh had ordered the death of all Hebrew male babies because they were growing so rapidly. Moses was born and grew up in the house of Pharaoh. Later he developed a yearning to seek after the Hebrew God whom he met at a burning bush. Moses later returned to free the Hebrew slaves.
The 10 Plagues and the Exodus was the period of time when Moses and Aaron came into the house of Pharaoh and demanded to let the people of Israel go. Pharaoh refused and after a series of 10 plagues the Hebrews escaped Egypt after putting the blood of a lamb upon the doorpost of their homes to protect them from the death Angel that would strike the land of Egypt. The Hebrews escaped with all the wealth of Egypt and the Lord appeared in a pillar of fire and let them through the Red Sea. Later the Egyptians became furious and chased after them and the waters collapsed upon the chariots of Egypt.
The Giving of the Law at Mount Sinai was when the Hebrews came to Mount Sinai and God gave Moses the 10 Commandments. The Hebrews rebelled while waiting for Moses and built a golden calf. When Moses came down from the mountain he broke the tables of stone. Later God wrote the 10 Commandments with his own fingers on a new set of stone tablets. He also gave Moses a description of the tabernacle which was a tent that God's presence would dwell in throughout their journeys until they entered the promised land.
The 40 Years of Wandering in the Wilderness was when the children of Israel would not believe in the promises of God and they desired to go back to the land of Egypt and into slavery again. When they came to Kadesh Barnea to look over the land that God had promised them they became afraid and only Joshua and Caleb had the courage to move with the promises of God. This lack of faith caused them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years.
Historical Period #4
The Joshua and Conquest Period (1451-1443 BC)
The main events surrounding Joshua and the conquest (Joshua 1-24) were:
The Death of Moses was the period when Moses gave his final speech to the Hebrews regarding all the promises of God. He reminded them that if they would obey God they would be blessed, but if they disobeyed they would be cursed and scattered throughout the earth, and a sword of persecution would follow them wherever they went. Moses died on Mount Nebo after becoming frustrated with the people and losing the blessing of God in entering the land. He would only see the land and then it would be Joshua who would lead them in.
The Crossing of the Jordan was the event when the Hebrews crossed into the promised land, the land flowing of milk and honey. Joshua led them in ordering the priests to carry the Ark of the covenant and the waters of the Jordan split in two as they entered into the promised land. Joshua set up a memorial to remember the great event.
7 Years Conquering the Land was a time of conquering the rebellious idolaters that inhabited the land. They were instructed to conquer and destroy yet they were disobedient, because they did not conquer all the land as they were instructed. They did not drive out the Canaanites and they intermarried with Canaanite women. The three most prominent deities of Canaanite worship were Baal, Asherah, and Dagon.
Settling in the Land of Canaan where the territory was distributed among the 12 tribes, and later Joshua gave a farewell speech to encourage the people and also to warn them what would happen if they disobeyed. He told them "choose you this day whom you will serve."
Historical Period #5The Judges and Samuel Period (1443-1095 BC)
The main events during the period of the Judges (Judges 1-21) were:
The 7 Cycles of Sin, Bondage, Deliverance, Blessing. Every generation fell into a terrible cycle. First they would forget God's commands and commit idolatry. Second a foreign invasion would take place and bring severe oppression. Third they would cry out to God for help. Fourth God would send a judge or deliverer to save them.
The first 300 Years of Israel's history. The book of Judges begins just after the death of Joshua, and ends with Samuel the last judge of Israel. After this was the period of the Kings.
The Deliverer Judges came by the hand of God to help the oppressed Israelites. The main judges were: Othniel a nephew of Caleb, delivered Israel from the Mesopotamians. Ehud was left-handed and killed Eglon, king of Moab. Jephthah was a harlot's son who defeated the Amorites. Gideon led 300 Israelites to defeat the entire army of the Midianites. Samson delivered Israel from the Philistines. Known for his great strength. Deborah urged Barak to attack the mighty army of the Canaanites. (See map).
The Oppressors were foreign invaders that came to torment Israel. The first were the Mesopotamians, then the Moabites, next was the Philistines, then came the Canaanites, after that was the Midianites, later the Ammonites, and then again came the Philistines.
Historical Period #6The David and Solomon Period (1085-922 BC)
The main people during the period of the Kings (Samuel and 1 Kings) were:
Samuel was the first of the great prophets of Israel. His mother Hannah had been barren her whole life and prayed to the Lord for a son promising that she would dedicate his life to the service of the Lord if he would fulfill her desire. God answered her prayer and Samuel became famous in the land for his prophecies. He anointed the first king of Israel Saul, as well as David.
Saul was the first king of Israel. The people had cried for a King because the lands around them all had a King, but the Lord was there King. The Lord finally told Samuel to anoint Saul the tribe of Benjamin, a very good-looking man who was head and shoulders taller than any other man in the kingdom. Saul had an evil heart, and God gave them a king who was fashioned after their own image because they had evil hearts. Saul spent most of his life hunting down David so that he could destroy him because he knew that David was the Lord's anointed.
David was Israel's rightful King chosen by the Lord and anointed by Samuel the Prophet. David was a man after God's own heart, he was from Bethlehem. When he was still a young boy he fearlessly slew the Philistine giant Goliath who had taunted the armies of God. David defeated him with a sling and a stone. David spent much of his life running from Saul, but finally when King Saul died seven years later the tribes crowned David king at Hebron. David was a warrior king and because of that he was not allowed to build the Temple which he so longed to do. He would pass on that task to his son Solomon, the man of peace.
Solomon was the son of David who built the Temple in Jerusalem. During a dream God offered Solomon anything he wished for and Solomon asked for wisdom to lead God's people. Because of this God gave him great power and wealth and his fame was known throughout the world. Solomon made a mistake my marrying the daughters of foreign Kings. He allowed them to build altars to their gods and this brought a great downfall to Israel. By the time Solomon was in his old age the kingdom was ready to be split in two.
Historical Period #7
The subject of a coming Messiah is woven into every part of the Old Testament. The Bible traces the blood lineage of the Messiah beginning with Adam and Eve, and then all the way to Noah and his son Shem. Then the Bible reveals that the Messiah would come through the line of Abraham, and then Isaac, and then Jacob, and then from Jacobs 12 sons Judah would be the one that the Messiah would descend from. Finally the lineage passes on to a man named Boaz who had a grandson named Jesse who lived in Bethlehem, and one of his sons was David who would be of the promised seed and became king of Israel. The book of Matthew in the New Testament traces the entire lineage of the Messiah from King David all the way to Jesus Christ, the son of Joseph and Mary who was born in a manger, a donkeys stable, in Bethlehem the city of David. The Prophet Daniel around 550 BC predicted the exact date that the Messiah would die and be "cut off" which would take place 483 years after the decree of the king of Persia to allow the Jews to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.
The Divided Kingdom Period (922-722 BC)
The main events and people during the period of the Divided Kingdom (Samuel and 1 Kings) were:
Civil War happened when Solomon died in 922 BC as Solomon's sons and military commanders struggled for the throne. Solomon had blessed Rehoboam to be the new King, but Jeroboam had more military influence. Each claimed to be God's chosen King.
Israel and Judah. Finally after the struggle 10 tribes went to the North following Jeroboam in the name of the northern kingdom was called "Israel". The remaining two tribes in the South made Rehoboam their King and the southern kingdom was called "Judah".
Isaiah was a great prophet who lived in Jerusalem during the time when the Assyrians were rising to power (around 740 BC). He warned Jerusalem and her Kings about their idolatry and their foreign allegiances. He spoke about the captivity's that would come in the North and in the South. Isaiah was one of the great prophets and he spoke more about the Messiah than any other book in the Old Testament. when the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered the scroll of Isaiah was found in perfect condition.
Jeremiah was one of the great prophets and he lived during the time that the Babylonians were coming to power around 620 BC. He spoke against Judah and all the cities in the whole territory about the folly of idolatry. He prophesied that Jerusalem would be destroyed in her temple would be plundered by the Babylonians. He said that the Jews would be taken away from their land to the land of Babylon, the land of idolatry for 70 years and then they would return. He also spoke about a new covenant (testament) in chapter 31 that would come in the future where God would write the law on men's hearts.
Historical Period #8The Destruction of Israel and Judah Period (722-586 BC)
The main events and people during the period of the Fall of Israel and Judah (2 Kings) were:
The Prophets appeared during the time of the Kings of Israel and Judah. The prophets were mouthpieces of God bringing his message to a rebellious people who had forsaken the Lord. The prophets of the Assyrian period were Jonah, Joel, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, Zephaniah, and Nahum. The prophets of the Babylonian period were Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Ezekiel, Obadiah, and Daniel. The last prophets were of the Persian period and they were Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
The Fall of Israel in 722 BC happened because all the Kings in the northern kingdom of Israel were wicked, every one of them. They were idol worshipers and they forsook the commandments of the Lord until the Assyrians came, an unstoppable army and destroyed their capital in the North and led them away as prisoners to the land of Assyria which is modern day Iraq in the Northern portion of the Tigris River. These were known as the 10 lost Tribes of Israel, because no one knows what happened to them. There are allusions to them but nothing is certain.
Revival in Jerusalem happen because eight of the Kings in the southern kingdom of Judah sought the Lord, and the other 20 were wicked. The Kings who served the Lord were Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham, Hezekiah, and Josiah.
The Fall of Judah in 586 BC happened because they had forsaken the Lord and disaster was inevitable. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered Jerusalem in 586 BC and took them out of the land to the land of Babylon, the land of idolatry.
Historical Period #9The Return from Captivity Period (539-400 BC)
The main events and people during the Return from Captivity (Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther) were:
Cyrus Allows the Jews to Return after 70 Years. Cyrus of Persia conquered Babylon around 540 BC. It was by the hand of God that Persian tradition was to allow conquered peoples to return to their homelands and rebuild their cities and temples as long as they pay taxes to the Persian Empire. Cyrus made a decree allowing the Jews to return home and rebuild their temple. Unfortunately only a small portion returned.
Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. The first move back to Israel was led by Zerubbabel who was of royal blood from the house of David. they found Jerusalem in ruins with a mixed breed of corrupt Jews (Samaritans) living there. But in spite of this they laid the foundations for the new Temple, and built an altar to the Lord in 536 BC. They finished the work on the Temple by 516 BC, exactly 70 years after they were taken captive, just as Jeremiah had predicted. Later (458 BC) more Jews returned with a man named Ezra, a Priest and a Scribe. Shortly after this Nehemiah obtained permission to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, which miraculously happened within 52 days (444 BC).
The Temple of Zerubbabel was known as the Second Temple, it was a remarkable achievement but nothing compared to Solomon's Temple. Later it was Herod the Great who would beautify the Temple of Zerubbabel and so much so that it became a marvel in the ancient world.
The Final Prophets and the Close of the Old Testament. The Prophet Malachi warned Israel about turning form ther Lord. Ezra and Nehemiah canonized the books of the Old Testament and they were read aloud to the people and interpretation was given. It would not be long before they would again forget about the Lord.
Between the Testaments
The 400 Years of Silence
The main events and people during the Intertestamental Period were:
No Anointed Prophet
Alexander the Great
Hellenization and the Greek Philosophers
Jewish Rabbinical Writings and Sects
The New Testament
The Coming of Jesus
The main events and people during the time of Jesus (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) were:
The Birth of John and Jesus
The Ministry of Jesus
The Death and Resurrection of Jesus
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
The Coming of the Church
The main events and people during the early Church (Acts 1-7) were:
The Holy Spirit
Peter and the Believers
The Church in Jerusalem
The Stoning of Stephen
The Gospel to the Ends of the Earth
The main events and people during the time of Paul (Acts 8-28) were:
Paul the Apostle
The Gentiles and Establishing Churches
Miracles and Persecution
Writing the New Testament