THE PERIODS OF BIBLE HISTORY
The process of fixing in mind the books and periods of the Bible will
be easier and more profitable if we see their logical relations. Hence,
we characterize the periods briefly.
1. CREATION TO ABRAHAM (FROM CREATION TO 2000 B.C.)
Here is recorded the history of the race down to Abraham. It is a long
period, as long as the remaining eleven periods combined, and perhaps
much longer. The great events of the period are the creation of the
universe and of man, the fall of man, the murder of Abel by Cain, the
flood, resulting in a new beginning of the race descended from Noah,
and the confusion of tongues resulting in the dispersion of the people.
The period is recorded in the first eleven chapters of Genesis.
2. ABRAHAM TO MOSES (2000-1500 B.C.)
This is a long period, covering perhaps five hundred years. In the
preceding period, “Creation to Abraham,” we were concerned with the
race; in this period we study the experiences of one man, Abraham, and
trace out the history of his descendants until they become a nation in
The call of God came to Abram (afterward Abraham) in Ur of the Chaldees,
and in response to this divine call, he came out of Ur, and journeyed
to Canaan, which land God promised to give to him and his seed. The
record sets forth the life story of Isaac, the son of Abraham, and of
Isaac’s son, Jacob, while it deals at considerable length with Jacob’s
sons, especially with Joseph, who delivered his father’s family from
famine by bringing them into Egypt. The period is recorded in Genesis
3. THE EXODUS (1500 -1460 B.C.)
Between the close of Genesis and the opening of Exodus, there is a
lapse of some hundreds of years. After the death of Joseph the chosen
family grew into a nation in Egypt. The Egyptians, fearful by reason of
the rapid increase of the Hebrews, enslaved them and made them serve in
rigorous bondage. Moses was raised up, trained for forty years in Egypt
and for forty years in the desert. Under the leadership of Moses, the
Children of Israel departed from Egypt, and after spending a year
before Mount Sinai, they wandered for thirty-eight years in the Arabian
Peninsula. At last, upon the death of Moses, Joshua led them into
Canaan. As may be seen by a glance at the chart, this period is
recorded in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
4. THE CONQUEST OF CANAAN (1460-1450 B.C.)
This is a brief but brilliant era. Joshua led Israel dry- shod over
Jordan, and by a series of decisive campaigns defeated the inhabitants
of Canaan. Piercing to the center of the land through the conquest of
Jericho and Ai, he swept south, defeating the allied kings and later invaded the northern section, carrying all before him.
When the inhabitants were thus reduced, Joshua divided the land among
the Twelve Tribes of Israel and exhorted them to carry forward the work
until all of their enemies were subdued and they were in full
possession of the land. The period finds record in the book of Joshua.
5. THE JUDGES (1450-1102 B.C.)
After the glorious days of Moses and Joshua we come upon the mournful
days of the Judges, times of failure and defeat. During this time
Israel had no stable government, no central capital, no continuous and
connected history. The Tabernacle in Shiloh, constituted a rallying
point for the tribes, and on occasions Jehovah raised up “Judges,” for
the most part military leaders and deliverers, to rule over the people.
The record is found in the books, Judges and Ruth.
6. THE KINGDOM (1102-982 B.C.)
Samuel, the last and greatest of the Judges, established a Kingdom and
anointed Saul to be king. Three kings, Saul, David and Solomon,
reigned, each of them about forty years.
During this period, “the golden age” of Israel’s history, the chosen
people attained their highest glory. Art and architecture flourished,
the government was firmly established, and Israel’s borders were pushed
out to “the river of Egypt” in one direction, and to the Euphrates in
the other. The chart indicates that this period and the three following periods
are recorded in 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles.
7. THE TWO KINGDOMS (982-722 B.C.)
In a little more than one hundred years the Kingdom arose, attained its
zenith and went into decline. Under David and Solomon, the seeds were
sown which were destined to yield disaster. When Rehoboam,
the son of Solomon, came to the throne the Northern tribes raised the
standard of revolt, set up a rival Kingdom and for about two hundred
and fifty-nine years Two Kingdoms, Israel and Judah, stood side by side.
8. JUDAH ALONE (722-587 B.C.)
Israel, the Northern Kingdom, was conquered by the Assyrians, 722 B.C.,
and her people were carried captive to Assyria. After the fall of
Israel, Judah, the Southern Kingdom, stood for one hundred and
thirty-five years. Judah’s kings had shown more loyalty to Jehovah; her
people had not gone so deep into sin and rebellion. Moreover, it was
the merciful purpose of God through a remnant of Judah to fulfil
promises long since made to Abraham and often repeated to his
9. THE CAPTIVITY (587-538 B.C.)
At length, Judah, in spite of the warnings of the prophets and the multiplied blessings of Jehovah, went deeper
and deeper into sin and idolatry, until God gave them over to be
subdued by Nebuchadnezzar and to be carried into captivity to Babylon.
The city which had been their pride, and the Temple which had been
their glory, were razed to the ground and the people, who a few hundred
years before had marched dry-shod in triumph over the Jordan, now
marched away in chains.
10. THE RESTORATION (538-391 B.C.)
Jerusalem had fallen into ruins, and her people had gone into
captivity, but God’s promises and purposes were not to fail. Cyrus,
upon his accession to the throne, issued a decree permitting the people
to return and rebuild their city and their Temple. Under Zerubbabel
a goodly company made their way back to the Holy City, and the Jews
re-established themselves in the land of their fathers. The records of
this period are found in the books, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther.
11. BETWEEN THE TESTAMENTS (391-5 B.C.)
The Old Testament closes with the Restoration and reestablishment of
the people in Palestine. Then came a period of about 400 years between
the Testaments. The Jews passed through various stages and experiences;
their language and customs were changed and these people in Christ’s
day were very different from the people whom we knew in the days of
Ezra and Nehemiah.
12. LIFE OF CHRIST (5 B.C. to 28 A.D.)
After the long silence of four hundred years, the voice of Jehovah was
again heard. John the Baptist preached in the Wilderness of Judea and
prepared the way for the Coming One. The promise first made in the
garden and repeated with increasing clearness and emphasis was at last
to be fulfilled. The Messiah came, manifested himself, was rejected and
crucified. This brief space of thirty three years is the crown and
glory of revelation. The record is found in Matthew, Mark, Luke and
13. THE SPREAD OF THE GOSPEL (28-100 A.D.)
While the Old Testament covers many hundreds of years, the New Testament covers less than one century.
After the life of our Lord recorded in the Gospels we have in the Acts
and Epistles an account of the spread of the gospel. For a time the
gospel grew and triumphed in Jerusalem. Breaking these narrow bounds,
it went on its triumphant way through Judea and Samaria to the remote
parts of the earth.