In my last post in this category, I gave a narrative description of the first 6 books of the Old Testament ending with the death of Joshua. Now, I’m picking up where that post left off.
The key thing to remember for the rest of Jewish history is that the Jews lived in a constant cycle that went something like this:
- The Jews forsake God and his laws for foreign gods and immorality.
- God forsakes the Jews to foreign governments and oppression.
- The people repent and return to God.
- God rescues them.
The Time of the Judges
This cycle of rebellion is especially clear during the 400 years after Joshua and before the first king. It is known as the time of the Judges because there was no central leadership for the Hebrew people. Instead, God led the people through his law and through some key people known as the judges.
The Bible doesn’t give us an exhaustive list of all the judges during those 400 years, but the ones we are told about are significant figures. Here’s a summary of the most notable ones:
- Gideon was a humble man who never thought much of himself. He ambushed the Midianites according to a plan God had given him and conquered them with only 300 Israelite men.
- Deborah was a woman who tried to encourage Barak (a man) to lead the nation into war against their enemies, but Barak wouldn’t go unless she went too.
- Samson is the famous one who had been promised strength from God so long as he maintained a spiritually focused and somewhat ascetic life. He got cocky and hooked up with a foreign spy named Delilah who convinced him to reveal his secret (symbolized by uncut hair). However, at the end of his life, he dramatically pulled an entire building down on his captors killing himself in the process.
God Speaks Again
During the time of the Judges, God hadn’t been speaking much to people, but that changed with the coming of a man named Samuel. Samuel’s mother had promised that if God would bless her with a child, she would dedicate him to the service of the Lord.
God gave her a son, and she kept her promise. After he had been weaned, she took him to the High Priest, Eli, and gave him to the service of the Lord.
One night, God spoke audibly to Samuel, and that began the time of the last judge who was also a prophet.
During Samuel’s leadership, the people demanded a king. God allowed it, and Samuel poured oil on Saul, an act called anointing, to signify that he was the one God had chosen to be the next king. When Samuel anointed Saul, God also sent his Holy Spirit to come upon Saul and empower him for his job as king.
Saul’s time as king was rough, though. During his reign, the nation was consistently harrassed by the Philistines, but Saul never could do anything about it. Saul also simply refused to listen to Samuel and the messages from God that Samuel would deliver. It got so bad, that God actually removed His Spirit from Saul and allowed an evil spirit to come and torment Saul.
It was at this time when we first hear about David, the youngest son of Jesse.
David: A Man After God’s Own Heart
God told Samuel to go and anoint a new king. He had rejected Saul as king and told Samuel that the next king would be selected based on his internal character over any other quality. In fact, God said of David that he was “a man after God’s own heart.”
Immediately after David was anointed, God removed his Spirit from Saul and allowed an evil spirit to torment him. Then, in an ironic turn, David was chosen to be Saul’s musician because when David played his harp, the king’s suffering would be alleviated. While in the palace, David became fast friends with Saul’s son Jonathan and married Saul’s daughter Michal.
During one battle against the Philistines, Saul’s army was taunted by a 9 foot tall giant named Goliath. No one was willing to go one-on-one with him except David who before that moment had been only a shepherd. God helped him defeat Goliath, and the nation began to revere David.
Saul’s jealousy burned against David. He attempted to kill David, and David ran away. Then, for the majority of the rest of his reign, Saul went on a manhunt for David. Meanwhile, David continued to build a makeshift army of men completely loyal to him.
When David finally became king after Saul’s death, the nation flourished into an empire. David conquered the surrounding peoples and led the nation with integrity except for a couple exceptions. His biggest failing was when he committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of one of his best friends, and then conspired to kill the husband when he discovered the wife was pregnant.
David’s legacy as king boiled down to three things:
- David led the country to a level of military success it would never know again.
- Because of David’s faithfulness, God promised that he would always keep a descendant of David on the throne of His Kingdom.
- God said of David at the end of his life that he had been completely devoted to God throughout his life except for the one incident with Bathsheba.
In a testament to the grace of God, Solomon, David’s second son with Bathsheba, became the next king. Solomon’s reign was one of extreme prosperity. David had conquered nations and signed treaties so that for most of Solomon’s reign tribute was paid to Israel from surrounding nations. On top of that, God made a promise to Solomon that he would be incredibly wise, rich, and long-lived. Finally, during Solomon’s reign, the construction of the First Temple was undertaken and completed.