The Deuteronomistic History or the Former Prophets (Nevi’im)
(Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings)
Joshua, son of Nun, took over the leadership of the Hebrew people after Moses’ death and led them into the Promised Land. The book of Joshua tells of their conquests and defeats with the inhabitants of the land. It is fun reading. You’ll read about Rahab and the spies, the Battle of Jericho, and the time when the sun stood still. It does get a little dry when Joshua divvies up the land to the twelve tribes. Don’t miss Joshua’s fare-well speech at Shechem and the people’s promise to serve the Lord.
The book of Judges tells of the time “when Israel was not ruled by a king, and everyone did what they thought was right.” When Israel would disobey, God would allow the other nations to defeat and subdue them until Israel repented. Then God would raise up a Judge to lead them in battle. Lots of great stories about Deborah, Gideon and Samson. Both Joshua and Judges bring up the thorny issue of holy war. Certainly, the biblical writers felt that God did take sides in battle. How do we responsibly interpret these stories for today? Does God take sides in war? Does God ever want war? Why might they have viewed things the way they did in biblical times?
In 1 Samuel, the people want a king. God isn’t so excited about this. A king might cause the people to worship him or the nation rather than God. God reluctantly concedes and gives them Saul who ends up having ego problems. Great stories. The books of 1 and 2 Samuel are some of the most well written literature in scripture. Enjoy!
2 Samuel tells of David’s reign in Israel. You will read of his conquests, his affair with Bathsheba, his dysfunctional family, and the death of his son. David wasn’t perfect. Some may feel his misdeeds were worse than Saul’s. But God liked David. Maybe it was because he wrote such great poetry.
1 Kings is the story of Solomon, how he became king, how he built the temple, and how his kingdom divided into Israel (north) and Judah (south) after his death. We then will read the stories of the rulers of both kingdoms. In 1 and 2 Kings, each king gets a report card on whether or not they disobeyed the Lord. We are introduced to the prophets whose role was to keep the kings in line with the Word of the Lord. Elijah is the archetype.
2 Kings continues the stories of the rulers of Israel and Judah down to the fall of the northern kingdom, the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and their exile into Babylon. 2 Kings begins as Elijah passes the prophetic mantle to Elisha who brings a boy back to life, heals Namaan of leprosy, makes an axe head float, makes stew taste better, and has 42 children killed by bears because they called him “Baldy.” Whoa! Let that be a lesson. All is fun reading.