The Old Testament Story
This outline will not attempt to answer the "did-it-happen" questions but will present the story as it is told in the Old Testament.
"In the beginning, God created heaven and earth." (Genesis 1:1) God did this over a six-day span.
On the last day, God created Adam; God rested on the seventh day.
God then created Eve; Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden where they ate the fruit of the trees and also plants. They were in total obedience to God.
They then disobeyed God by eating from the one tree which God had told them not to eat. They were punished by being removed from Eden and so had to start finding their own food and taking care of themselves.
Adam and Eve had children: the first two were Cain and Abel. Cain eventually killed Abel. Cain did this because he was jealous of God's favor toward Abel. Adam and Eve had other children, who had children, etc., until God looked down and saw that most people were not following Him.
God decided to kill everyone except for Noah and his family, who were the only people who followed God. God told Noah to build an ark, and once it was completed Noah and his family (wife, three sons, their three wives) sufficient animals to repopulate the world went on board. It rained for 40 days and nights and everyone outside the ark was killed.
Once the flood was over, Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives began to have children, who had children, etc.
Eventually God looked down and saw that again most people were not following Him.
This time God decided to chose one man, Abraham, to be the founding father of Godís people (1950 BC). (Note, different scholars give different dates for Abraham. Some will date him as early as 2100 BC and others as late as 1700 BC.)
God and Abraham entered into a Covenant to seal this relationship. In this Covenant, God promised to make Abraham's descendents into a large nation and give them the land of Israel forever (also known as the Promised Land); Abraham's descendents would circumcise all baby boys at 8 days of age.
Cornerstone: The Covenant was one of the two cornerstones of the OT/Jewish faith. The Covenant established the people of God. The word "established" is important because it means God began a people who He could call his own, and it included a requirement for joining after one had faith in God. After this point, if someone wanted to be a part of God's people, s/he joined the covenant. For men this meant circumcision and acceptance of and loyalty to God; for women this meant acceptance of and loyalty to God.
Abraham became the father of Isaac who became the father of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel.
Israel had twelve sons, and when their families became large enough they became twelve tribes.
A famine caused the family to move to Egypt where there was plenty of food. Joseph, one of Israel's sons, was a powerful man there.
Eventually the Egyptians made the Jews into slaves.
430 years later, God told a man named Moses to lead the Jews out of their slavery and guide them to the Promised Land (present-day Israel). God also told Moses that the people should call him (God) "Yahweh" (which in Hebrew means "I am"). This occurred at what is called the "Burning Bush."
Moses asked the Pharaoh in Egypt to let the Jews go, but he declined. God sent 10 disasters on the Egyptians. The last disaster (they were also called "Plagues) involved an Angel going throughout Egypt and killing the firstborn son of every family except for those Jews who killed a lamb to eat and painted its blood on their doorposts. The Angel "passed over" those houses and left the sons inside unharmed. This is the origin of the Jewish celebration of Passover. After this occurred, Pharaoh allowed the Jews to leave. Moses led the Jews out of Egypt (1450 BC or in the 1200s BC, both dates are used).
After the Jews were gone for awhile, Pharaoh changed his mind. He set out after the Jews. At that point the Jews were alongside the Red Sea. God told Moses to raise his staff toward the Red Sea; when he did this, the waters parted. The Jews walked through the parted Red Sea to the desert on the other side. Pharaoh's army got to the Red Sea, saw that it was parted, and decided to follow. Once the army was inside the Red Sea, the waters fell on them and drowned the entire army.
Once in the desert the Jews were free but they did not have any laws/rules/regulations to run their nation or an understanding of what they needed to do to please God. Therefore God gave the Jews the Law, which consisted of the 10 Commandments, general rules for living together, which foods to eat, the sacrifice system, the priesthood, the instructions for building the Tabernacle (a large tent where the sacrifices would be made), etc. You can think of this as a nation-building tool because it provided the Jews with what they needed to have a complete political, social, and religious system.
Cornerstone: The Law was the second and final cornerstone of the OT/Jewish faith. The Covenant established the People of God and the Law told the People of God how to live. So the two compliment each other: to join the people of God you accept the Covenant and to please God you followed the Law.
The Jews traveled across the desert to the Promised Land (see Covenant above).
Once there, they sent in twelve spies to search the land, one from each of the twelve tribes.
When the spies came back, ten of the spies said the land could not be defeated, but two said it could. Most of the Jews believed the ten spies and did not believe that they could defeat those who lived in Promised Land.
God decided that the Jews would wander for forty years until the unbelieving Jews were dead; God would then give the Promised Land to their children.
At the end of the forty years, Moses died and Joshua became the leader; the Jews then started attacking the Promised Land and conquered most of it.
Once the Promised Land (Israel) was (mostly) controlled by the Jews, it was divided among the different tribes. Then Joshua died.
At that point there was no central leader of the Jews; just different tribes living in the Promised Land. From time-to-time, though, God raised up leaders (known as "judges") for the Jews, sometimes to govern the Jews and sometimes to lead them into battle. Once a judge died, his (or her) children did not inherit their authority as Judge, but instead there was no judge until God decided that another one was needed.
Eventually the Jews demanded a king, and God gave them Saul.
Saul proved unfaithful to God, and was replaced by David.
David enlarged the Israelite nation and secured the borders. He was the most successful of all the Jewish kings.
At Davidís death, Solomon became king and eventually built the Temple (950 BC) in Jerusalem. The Temple took the place of the Tabernacle. (Scholars do not know what happened to the Tabernacle.)
Solomon disobeyed God by worshipping other gods plus Yahweh, and so at Solomonís death the kingdom split into the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and the Southern Kingdom (Judah).
The Jews in the Northern Kingdom kept worshipping other gods plus Yahweh, and God sent the Assyrians to defeat the Northern Kingdom (722 BC). The Assyrians then took many of the Jews back to Assyria to make sure that they would not revolt.
Eventually the Babylonians defeated the Assyrians and then defeated the Southern Kingdom (because the Jews were also worshipping other gods plus Yahweh), destroyed the Temple, and took some of the Jews back to Babylonia to live in exile (586 BC).
Once in exile, the Jews rejected the other gods and only worshipped Yahweh. Those Jews in exile needed a place where they could worship Yahweh and so developed the "synagogue." (There was one Temple but many synagogues; you can think of synagogues like churches, there is not one church; they are gathering places for Jews.)
The Persians defeated the Babylonians (539 BC) and the next year the emperor, Cyrus, proclaimed that Jews could return to Israel and rebuild the Temple.
A lot of Jews did return and rebuilt the Temple (516 or 519 BC).
Soon after more Jews returned and rebuilt the walls around Jerusalem.
And the Protestant Old Testament ends there. The Catholic Old Testament contains books which continue the story for several hundred more years. (Go here to read about these books, also called Deuterocanonicals by Catholics and Apocrypha by Protestants (those Christians who are not Catholic or Orthodox)
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