Saturday, November 26, 2011

Division, Civil War, Defeat, Exile, and Return

After the death of King Solomon, the Kingdom of Israel divided and engaged in civil war, Northern Israel against Southern Judah.  The warnings of Samuel about kingship were validated as both were led by a series of mostly bad kings.  But the Bible story depicts the continuing “steadfast love” of God throughout their trials and tribulations. 

The Northern Kingdom survived 201 years and 19 kings before being defeated by the Assyrians who infiltrated and settled among the people.  Thus originated the infamous Samaritans, a mixed race with dubious religious practices. 

The Southern Kingdom, Judah, including the dynasty of King David, survived 336 years and 20 kings before being defeated and exiled to Baghdad by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.  A remnant of Jews, the poorest people, were left in the homeland “to be vinedressers and tillers of the soil.”  What a difference between the effects of infiltration and exile.

After 47 years in captivity, God “stirred up the spirit” of King Cyrus of Persia so that he released the Jewish captives to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple his predecessor had destroyed.

If you don’t read anything else in the lists below, be sure to check out the ancient stories of the theft of Naboth’s vineyard and the healing of Naaman’s leprosy.

Note: This is another in a series of simple outlines of Old Testament history suitable for an introductory Bible course or for a Confirmation Class.  Others in the series are:

Primeval History in the Bible

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Samuel, Saul, David, and Solomon

Everybody who grew up going to Sunday School in a Christian church knows the stories of the boy Samuel being called by God three times but thinking the calls were from the priest Eli, of Saul being anointed by Samuel as the first king of Israel, of David slaying Goliath, and of Solomon solving a dispute over a child by ordering that the child be cut in half with each claimant getting a portion. But those offer just a glimpse of the richness that can be found in the Old Testament accounts of the lives and deaths of these important leaders.

Samuel was the last of the judges of Israel because his sons were not seen as suitable successors and the people were demanding a king. After all, everybody else had a king. Samuel’s warning to the people of what a king would do resonates today as we see kings still failing and falling in the Middle East. His words might even serve as an advance warning to us as we tend to look to presidential candidates as all-powerful solutions to all our problems. Are we looking for a king or a savior?

The mysterious encounter between Samuel and Saul whom he anoints as the first king and whom he helps find some missing donkeys, ending with Saul in a “prophetic frenzy,” is not typical Bible story material. The X rated encounter of David and Bathsheba, ending in the murder of Bathsheba’s husband, is as racy as modern TV shows and movies. And, we don’t spend a lot of time talking about God’s anger with Solomon, led astray by his seven hundred princesses and 300 concubines, and Solomon’s final failure as a King.

The outline below highlights key points of the stories of these four leading characters in Jewish and Christian history. Read and enjoy. Pay special attention to the story of Samuel’s mother, Hannah, and Samuel’s birth and upbringing. There are interesting parallels between Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2 and the prayer of Mary the mother of Jesus in Luke 1.  Click on it for a high-resolution view.

Note: This is another in a series of Old Testament story outlines that were developed for and used in a confirmation class for middle school students. Earlier outlines posted are these:

Primeval History in the Bible