The Bible Story

In the Beginning…

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1). In six days he created day and night, oceans and sky, land and plants, the sun, moon and stars, fish, birds, and land animals. Finally, in his own image he created a man called Adam (Gen 1:26) and a woman called Chava (Gen 1:27) and placed them in a garden in Eden. God rested on the seventh day (Gen 2:2).

The Fall

One day, the serpent tricked Chava into eating fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen 3). Desiring the same knowledge God had, she ate and shared the fruit with Adam. They instantly realized they had disobeyed God and tried to hide from him in the garden. Not wanting the man and woman to eat from the tree of life and therefore live forever (Gen 3:22), God drove them out of the garden, sentencing Chava to pain during childbirth and Adam to working the ground for food. In removing them from the garden, God also pronounced a sentence of death on Adam and Eve by not allowing them to eat from the tree of life and live forever.

Adam and Eve then had two sons, Cain and Hevel (Gen 4). Cain worked the ground and Hevel was a shepherd. Overcome with jealousy of his brother, Cain one day killed Hevel in the field (Gen 4:8). Adam and Chava had another son, Sheth, who also had children. As people populated the earth, God saw that human hearts and thoughts were constantly filled with evil (Gen 6:5). God was sorry he had ever made humans (Gen 6:6). Only one man named Noah pleased God.

God told Noah to build an ark (large boat, Gen 6:9), because he was going to put an end to the sinful human race. Noah built the ark as God commanded and filled it with a male and female of every kind of animal. God flooded the entire earth and destroyed all sinful people.

When the flood subsided, God promised Noah that he would never again curse the ground because of humankind or destroy every living thing (Gen 8:21). He placed a rainbow in the clouds as a reminder to the human race of his promise (Gen 9:13).

The population grew, but the sinful desires of humans led them to build a tower to the heavens at Babel, attempting to establish their own glory, not that of God (Gen 11:1). God destroyed the tower and scattered the people and their languages over the earth.

At this point, God decided to deal with the problem of sinful people. He chose one man, Avraham, from whom would come an entire nation that would worship him (Gen 12:1). He promised this nation a special land where they would live. It was to be from this nation that a savior would come who would be a blessing to all the people of the world.

The Beginning of a Nation

Avraham was called at the age of 75 to go to the land of Canaan (Gen 12:4). Avraham and his wife Sarah had a son, Yitschak, who in turn had two sons, Esav and Yaakov. Yaakov had twelve sons whose families formed the twelve tribes of Israel. Yaakov’s favorite son, Yosef, was sold into slavery in Egypt by his jealous brothers (Gen 37:27).

After interpreting a difficult dream for Pharaoh, Yosef was put in charge over all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself (Gen 41:40). He warned Pharaoh to store food in preparation for a coming famine. When the famine began, Yosef’s brothers came to Egypt to buy food. Yosef forgave his brothers and invited them to live with him in Egypt. He realized his slavery, imprisonment, and promotion were part of God’s plan to save his family from the famine and settle them in Egypt (Gen 50:20).

The Exodus

The Israelites were in exile in Egypt for about 430 years, and there they grew in number. Fearing the growing power of the Israelites (Ex 1:7), a new king of Egypt, who knew nothing of Yosef, decided to use the Israelites as slaves. God heard the cries of his people (Ex 3:7) and chose one man, Moshe, to lead them to freedom (Ex 3:10).

After receiving God’s instructions, Moshe asked Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, but Pharaoh denied the request (Ex 5:1, 2). God then sent ten plagues into the land of Egypt to force Pharaoh to let the Israelites go (Ex 6:1), but after each plague Pharaoh remained stubborn. The final plague killed all firstborn sons, except those of the Israelites (Ex 11:5), who were instructed to put the blood of a lamb on their doors (Ex 12:7). Today we celebrate Passover to remember this event.

After plundering the entire nation of its silver and gold jewellery and clothing (the Egyptians gave everything to them, Ex 12:36), the Israelites left Egypt, following God in a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night (Ex 13:21). By the time the Israelites came to the Red Sea, Pharaoh had changed his mind and was pursuing them. God divided the Red Sea (Ex 14:21) and the Israelites escaped. They came to Mount Sinai, where God entered into a covenant with the people to be their God. There God gave Moshe the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:1).

While at Mount Sinai, God gave further instructions to Moses concerning sacrifices, offerings, and worship; ceremonial purity; as well as feasts and holy days. God’s desire was for his people to be holy. He required a response of submission and obedience from the people.

After a year had passed at Mount Sinai, God led the Israelites to the edge of the Promised Land, where they sent out spies (Num 13:2). The spies reported that while the land was indeed flowing with milk and honey, there were also significant adversaries present (Num 13:27-28). The people complained against God, Moshe, and Aharon (Num 14:2). God then sentenced the Israelites to years of wandering in the desert until that generation of unbelieving adults had died (Num 14:22, 23).

After forty years in the desert, Moshe retold the story (of what had happened) to the new generation of Israelites and reminded them of the commandments and requirements God had given them (Deut 1:3). Moshe then went up Mount Nevo, and there God allowed him to see the Promised Land, saying that this was the land he had promised to give to Avraham (Deut 34:1). Moshe died without entering the land.

The Promised Land

God appointed Yehoshua to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land (Deut 31:3). When they entered the land, God’s 700 year old promise to Avraham was fulfilled. Jericho’s walls collapsed before Yehoshua’s army as they took possession of the land (Josh 6:20). The land was divided up among the twelve tribes. After the death of Yehoshua (Josh 24:29), there was no formal leadership except for judges who were called from time to time by God as the need arose. The judges had several functions: military leadership, spiritual leadership, and to judge cases and administer justice in Israel. However, during the 200 years Israel was governed by judges, there was little law and order.

God Rejected for a King

The last judge, Shmuel, brought peace and security to the nation of Israel. But the people rejected God as their ruler and began to want a king like the surrounding nations (1 Sam 8:5) to provide military leadership and protect them from their enemy, the Philistines. God warned the people of the consequences of having such a king (1 Sam 8:11), but he granted the people their request (1 Sam 8:22). Sha’ul became Israel’s first king.

Sha’ul did not follow God’s commands and did not trust God (1 Sam 13:13). Because of this, God rejected his kingship. One of Sha’ul’s armor-bearers, David (1 Sam 16:21), a man after God’s heart (1 Sam 13:14), was chosen by God to be the next king (2 Sam 5:3). David was a great spiritual and political leader and wrote many of the Psalms. David unified Israel and won victories over all of Israel’s traditional enemies: the Philistines, Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites, and Syrians. He ruled over the entire Promised Land from the “river of Egypt” to the River Euphrates.

The Kingdom is Divided

After David, his son Shlomo became king of Israel. Shlomo was a wise king (1 Kings 4:29) who built the temple in Jerusalem and extended the wealth and boundaries of Israel to levels never before attained. To the Israelites it looked as though God’s promises to Avraham had finally been fulfilled. But as Shlomo grew old, he gave way to pressure from his 1,000 foreign wives and concubines (1 Kings 11:3) to build temples for their gods (1 Kings 11:8). God grew angry with Shlomo (1 Kings 11:9), and the peace and security Israel had experienced collapsed. When Shlomo died, Israel split into two kingdoms: Israel (in the north) and Yehudah (in the south).

Rechav’am (one of Solomon’s sons) was appointed king over the entire nation (1 Kings 12:1), but he lost the northern kingdom of Israel in a civil war. Israel was then led by Yerov’am.

The northern kingdom was by far the larger of the two, but it was to exist for only 200 years. During this time, God repeatedly sent prophets such as Hoshea, Yoel, Amos, and Michah to warn the Israelites to turn back to him, away from their unfaithfulness through idol worship and immorality. But all of Israel’s twenty kings fell short in God’s eyes, and the kingdom was eventually destroyed forever (2 Kings 17:18) by the Assyrians (2 Kings 17:6) in 722 B.C.

Yehudah survived slightly longer than Israel, 350 years. During the first fifty years, Yehudah was almost constantly at war with Israel. Of Yehudah’s nineteen kings and one queen, only eight did what was right by God’s standards. Many kings led Yehudah to worship other gods. God sent prophets such as Yishayah, Yirmyah, Chavakuk, and Tsfanyah to warn them to turn back to God. But continued unfaithfulness lead to Yehudah coming under threat from Assyria (2 Kings 18:13). Unlike Israel, Yehudah fended off Assyria (2 Kings 19:36) but came under Egyptian control until the Babylonians defeated the Egyptians at Carchemish in 605 B.C., thus becoming part of the Babylonian Empire. In 597 B.C. Yehudah rebelled against Babylonian rule and was subsequently punished when King Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem. Yehudah’s leading citizens were exiled to Babylon (1 Chronicles 6:15). After a second rebellion in 586 B.C., the Babylonians burned Jerusalem and took more citizens into exile (2 Chronicles 36:20).

God’s presence remained with the people of Yehudah who began calling themselves Yehudim, or Jews. Yechezkel was sent by God to tell the Jews that God was still in control, even though Jerusalem was destroyed and they would be under Babylonian rule for a long time.

After Persia defeated Babylonia in 539 B.C., King Cyrus of Persia sent the first wave of exiles back to Jerusalem in 538 B.C. They began rebuilding the temple which was completed (Ezra 6:15), after many interruptions, in 516 B.C.

The Romans

There were about four hundred years between the last events of the Old Testament and the coming of Yeshua haMashiach in the New Testament. During this time, Alexander the Great conquered the huge territory ranging from Greece in the west to present-day Pakistan in the east, and in the process he took control of the province of Judea, the home of the Jews.

After Alexander died in 323 B.C., the Greek Empire split in two with Judea the buffer zone between them. The Jews suffered because of this, first being ruled by the Ptolemies (from Egypt in the south) for 125 years, then by the Seleucids (from Syria in the north) from 198 B.C. onwards.

One Seleucid king, Antiochus Epiphanes, invaded Judea and desecrated the Temple in 167 B.C. (Daniel 9:27). This was the last straw for the Jews, who fought back and unexpectedly defeated the Seleucids and reconsecrated the Temple. Today we celebrate Hanukka to remember this event.

In 63 B.C. the Roman general Pompey took control of Judea, assuming it into the Roman Empire. In the year 40 the Romans made Herod the Great king of Judea.

It was under Herod’s rule that Yeshua haMashiach was born.

The New Testament and Coming of the New Covenant

The Messiah God had promised (Isaiah 61:1) was born to a poor couple named Miriam and Yoseph in the town of Bethlehem in about 6 B.C. Yeshua was a direct descendant of David (Matthew 1:1-16). Not much is known about his childhood and early adult life.

At about the age of thirty he was baptized by Yochanan (Matthew 3:16) and began his ministry by announcing that he was the fulfilment of the prophecy of the coming Messiah (Luke 4:21). He called twelve men to be his disciples (Mark 1:17) and began teaching them about the Kingdom of God and who will enter it. He travelled with his disciples throughout the region (particularly the Sea of Galilee) teaching people, healing the sick, challenging the religious establishment, demonstrating God’s grace and mercy, and modelling an intimate relationship with God.

Jesus’ Death and Resurrection

However, religious leaders arrested Yeshua for proclaiming he was the Son of God and for rejecting their ritualistic implementation of God’s Torah. Yeshua was tried before Pilate and Herod and sentenced to death by crucifixion. He was crucified at Golgotha (Matthew 27:33) and his body taken to a nearby garden tomb (Matthew 27:60).

Three days later, he rose from the dead (Matthew 28:6) as he had promised. He appeared to the apostles and followers (Luke 24:15) and even ate with them (Luke 24:43). He then ascended to heaven to be with God (Luke 24:51), his sacrifice a full atonement for the sins of all people, from Adam and Chava to the end of time. His death and resurrection established a new covenant of salvation by grace.

The Holy Spirit

Ten days after Yeshua ascended to Heaven, the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples (Acts 2:4). The congregation began to grow rapidly and followers of Yeshua became known as Messianic, or Christians in Greek (Acts 11:26). A Pharisee and Roman citizen named Sha’ul (Acts 16:37) was one of the leading persecutors of the early congregation.

One day, as Sha’ul approached Damascus, he encountered Yeshua and was convinced of the Truth (Acts 9:3).

Keifa, one of Jesus’ apostles, was sent by God to preach the message of Yeshua to the Gentiles (non-Jews) (Acts 15:7), offering to the rest of the world salvation and the forgiveness of sins through the death and resurrection of Yeshua.

The congregation grew throughout Asia Minor, Greece, Macedonia, and Cyprus as Sha’ul and his companions travelled. Sha’ul was eventually placed under house arrest. Although his fate is not mentioned in the Bible, later writers tell us that he was executed by the Romans.

Before his death Sha’ul wrote many letters to churches and individuals. Some of these make up much of the remainder of the New Testament. These letters describe how to live as a believer by following the example of the Messiah.

The Bible concludes with a prophecy in the book of Revelation about the events that will lead to the return of Yeshua. The entire Bible, from Avraham to Revelation covers about 2,000 years.

“The Bible Story” is written by the Bible Society in New Zealand. All rights reserved. Used by permission.