ESTHER

The book of Esther is a historical record falling in the period of the return from the Babylonian captivity. There were three phases to the return: the first under Zerubbabel (536 BC) who oversaw the rebuilding of the temple; the second under Ezra (458 BC) who re-established worship; and the third under Nehemiah (444 BC) who led the people in rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. The events in Esther fall between the time of Zerubbabel and Ezra.

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EZRA | NEHEMIAH

The books of Ezra & Nehemiah pick up where 2 Chronicles left off (compare 2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4). They record the restoration of the Jews to their land after the captivity in Babylon.

The return to Judah happened in three phases. The first was led by Zerubbabel, the second by Ezra and the third by Nehemiah. There is a pattern which can be seen throughout the books with each of these men.

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SAMUEL | KINGS | CHRONICLES

Our Bibles list 6 books (1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles), but originally each pair was a single book. These books record just over 500-years of Israel’s history beginning with the birth of Samuel (the final judge in Israel) and culminating with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile.

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RUTH

The book of Ruth is the third history book in the Old Testament. It is a beautiful account of a young Moabite woman who came to faith in God. We do not know who wrote the book, but it appears to have been written during or after the time of David (4:17-22). It is set in the period of the Judges, which was a dark time in Israel’s history. This book shines as a light in the darkness.

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JUDGES

The book of Judges is the second of the history books in the Old Testament. The name of the book comes from 2:18, “…the LORD raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them.” The word judge is from the Hebrew jps {shaphat}, which refers to “…a magistrate or ruler, rather than one who judges in the sense of trying a case.”1 The judges served Israel to deliver them from their enemies.

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JOSHUA

The book of Joshua is the first of the history books in the Old Testament. It is named for Joshua the son of Nun, who led Israel after Moses’ death. His name means “Yahweh is deliverance,” and is the Hebrew name for Jesus (Gr. iesous).

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DEUTERONOMY

The fifth and final book of the Torah or Pentateuch is Deuteronomy. The name means “second law” or “copy of the law” and comes from the Greek δευτερονόμιον, which appears in Deuteronomy 17:18 of the LXX. That said, this text doesn’t appear to be the source of naming the book. The book is a retelling of the Law for the new generation who would enter the promised land. In Hebrew the book is called eleh ha-devarim, “These are the words” (1:1).

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NUMBERS

The fourth book of the Torah or Pentateuch is Numbers. The name is descriptive, for in the book the children of Israel are numbered twice. The first census is the exodus generation (1:2-3), the second census is of their children (26:2-4). The Hebrew name for the book is bemidbar, “in the wilderness,” coming from Numbers 1:1, “Now the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacle of meeting…”

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LEVITICUS

The third book of the Torah or Pentateuch is Leviticus. The name of the book in English is from the Greek leuitikon, which associates the book with the priestly tribe of Levi. The Hebrew title for the book is arqyw, “And He called,” which is how the book begins (Leviticus 1:1).

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EXODUS

The second book of the Torah or Pentateuch is Exodus. The name of the book in English is from the Greek exodov, which means “going out.” The Hebrew title for the book is twms, “Names,” derived from the opening phrase of the book, “Now these are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt…” (Exodus 1:1).

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