The Big Picture of the Bible Part 1

   Hebrew Bible.
Protestant Bible.
Genesis
Exodus
Leviticus
Numbers
Deuteronomy
Joshua
Judges
I Samuel
II Samuel
I Kings
II Kings
Isaiah
Jeremiah
Ezekiel
Hosea
Joel
Amos
Obadiah
Jonah
Micah
Nahum
Habakuk
Zephaniah
Haggai
Zachariah
Malachi
Psalms
Proverbs
Job
Song of Songs
Ruth
Lamentations
Koheleth
Esther
Daniel
Ezra
Nehemiah
I Chronicles
II Chronicles
Genesis
Exodus
Leviticus
Numbers
Deuteronomy
Joshua
Judges
Ruth
1 Samuel
2 Samuel
1 Kings
2 Kings
1 Chronicles
2 Chronicles
Ezra
Nehemiah
Esther
Job
Psalm
Proverbs
Ecclesiastes
Song of Solomon
Isaiah
Jeremiah
Lamentations
Ezekiel
Daniel
Hosea
Joel
Amos
Obadiah
Jonah
Micah
Nahum
Habakkuk
Zephaniah
Haggai
Zechariah
Malachi
 
Isn't it interesting that the Hebrew Bible and the Protestant Old testament, despite being the same source documents, and despite forming the ancient history of each, are ordered completely differently? Marshall McLuhan  coined the phrase 'the medium is the message', and this applies to the medium of the way the books are ordered in the Hebrew Bible, and the Christian Protestant Bible.

Throughout the history of Israel, God patiently allowed his people to inherit vast physical territory, accumulate profuse wealth and have many kings, all while commanding them to follow the 10 commandments, so that they would do what is right, and thus be the people of God. The problem: None of it worked. Their kingdoms inevitably became oppressive instead of just, their kings became unruly and greedy instead of kind and compassionate, and the people of Israel routinely forgot the LORD their God. 

That much is clear regardless of which order in which you read the books of the Hebrew bible/Old Testament. But the story line, and the overarching narrative of Israel's history is better understood through the Hebrew bible than it is through the Protestant Old Testament. Why? Because the order of the books paints a narrative structure, and the narrative structure of the Hebrew Bible can help us see the position of Jesus more clearly within the context of historical Judaism than the Old Testament can. Why? Because the Old Testament is ordered thematically, while the Hebrew Bible is ordered historically. 


Solomon as a Narrative Catalyst.

The ‘Son of David’: Solomon
Solomon was the son of King David who was ultimately held responsible for Israel’s exile into Babylon. But through the prophets, Israel was promised another son of David who would establish an everlasting rule (kingdom); and who would bring peace. God promised that this son of David would not just be a king, but a liberating king.

Here is the general flow of Solomon's downfall

1 Kings 6:11-13 – the LORD warns Solomon about not following God’s way.
1 Kings 9:1-9 – the LORD accepts Solomon’s temple, but warns Solomon a second time about not following God’s way.
1 Kings 9:21-23 – Here, we find out that Solomon used slave labour to build the temple to the LORD. Even though the LORD accepted the temple, the slave labour used to complete the temple represents a significant turning point for the worst. Solomon and Israel have forgotten about Egypt, their slavery and the exodus. Remember that the Israelite were used as slaves in Egypt; it was slavery that oppressed and defined them, and it was in the context of slavery that God delivered them to the promised land. It is also in this context that God commands them not to forget what He has done. The exodus was as much about slavery as it was about freedom.
1 Kings 10:26-29 – Here, Solomon uses his wisdom and riches not for true justice, but to profit from war. Solomon becomes a weapons dealer, using his incredible wealth to protect Israel’s boarders. He trades chariots with Egypt - the very country that enslaved his people, and the very weapons the Egyptians used to chase the Israelites as they fled for their lives. How ironic.
1 Kings 11:3 and 7-8 – This is the definitive end of the line for Solomon and the beginning of a long and painful downward spiral for Israel.
1 Kings 12:28 – Sound familiar? It brings us right back to Aaron making a golden calf, and telling the Israelites, “Here is the god that brought you out of Egypt”.


Then things get CRAZY!
1 Chronicles 3:10-16 gives a record of the kings of Judah from Solomon to Zedekiah. All of them did evil in the sight of the LORD. In fact, from near the end of 1 Kings all the way through to the end of II Kings, king after king is described as doing evil in the eyes of the Lord. II Kings ends with Babylon burning Israel to the ground, destroying the temple, and taking those who were not massacred into exile.

However, it is in this exile that the prophets re-imagine the sheer immensity of God’s grace. What begins as a message for a particular people next to a particular river in Babylon explodes into a message of hope for all people, for all time and to the ends of the earth.


Cycling into a New Beginning
Hebrew Bible: II Chronicles 36:23
The Hebrew bible ends with the beginning of a new cycle. The King of Babylon peacefully releases the Jews back to the ‘promised land’ where they are free to rebuild the temple and start over. The problem, however, is that they are released into Roman oppression rather than into total freedom. Revolts against Rome by factions like the Zealots (who wanted to purge Rome from Israel) caused a great deal of oppression for common Jewish citizens. Other groups decided that the foundational problem that Israel faced was a holiness problem. After all, God is holy, and demands us to be a people set apart. They reasoned it was time to get back to Bible basics and start seriously applying the bible to their lives. This group crafted huge volumes of literature and oral tradition in order to help people follow the commands of God meticulously in what was their modern context. Continued to this day, Orthodox Jews to this day will piously refuse to even press a button on an elevator, because God commanded his people not to do any work on the Sabbath.

Christian Bible: Malachi 4:5
For Christians, the Hebrew bible is a precursor to something else. The Jews were released after the historical prophet Malachi, and they went back to Jerusalem to rebuild under the eye of Rome. By the time Jesus arrived on the scene, the air was nearly electric with anticipation of a coming Messiah (or liberator) whom the Jews believed would free them from Roman oppression and initiate the kingdom of God once and for all (thus ending the Kingdom of Rome and all other Kingdoms which opposed God's kingdom). Ironically, many did not recognize the king when he came, and many more today still do not recognize Jesus as the promised Messiah.

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