The Bible - book by book
A General Overview of the Bible:
B’Reshit describes creation and the most ancient history of man. In it we read the story of how the first man fell into sin and of God’s promise to send a redeemer. We read about the beginning of God’s plan of redemption through the choosing of one man – our forefather Avraham – in order to create the Chosen People from whom the Messiah would come. We meet Avraham’s son and grandson, our forefathers Yitschak (Isaac) and Yaakov (Jacob). The book ends with the story of Yosef (Joseph) and tells how he brought the family of Yaakov / Israel to Egypt.
This book describes the Israelites’ slavery in Egypt, the birth of Moshe (Moses) and the Exodus from Egypt. Moshe leads the people to the desert of Sinai where God gives his Torah to the people of Israel and establishes an eternal covenant with them, with the Ten Commandments at its core (chapter 20).
This book includes laws and regulations dealing with the service in the Tabernacle, as well as laws for daily life. These laws are part of God’s Torah and their goal was to make it possible for the people of Israel to have a correct relationship with their God. In this book we also learn the important principle that remission of sins is only possible through a sacrifice involving the shedding of blood (chapter 17, verse 11).
This book describes how our forefathers wandered in the desert for forty years. The book starts only two years after the Exodus and ends just before the people prepare to enter the Promised Land.
This book includes speeches of Moshe to the people of Israel before entering the Promised Land. In them he retells the events during the years in the desert. The book ends with the appointment of Yehoshua (Joshua) as the new leader, and Moshe’s death, shortly thereafter.
This book tells of the invasion and occupation of the land of Canaan by Yehoshua and his army, and the dividing of the land between the different tribes. The book ends with Yehoshua’s farewell speech.
The book of Shoftim describes the time from the invasion of the Promised Land to the time of the prophet Shmu’el. There was no king during this time, but in times of need God appointed judges such as Gid’on (Gideon) and Shimshon (Samson), who saved the people from outside threats.
This book describes the birth of the prophet Shmu’el, and how, as judge of Israel, he anoints Sha’ul (Saul) to be the first king of Israel, and later David. The first part of the book ends with Sha’ul’s death. The second part describes the time of the reign of King David, initially over the tribe of Yehudah only, and later over all of Israel. This book also includes the divine promise that a descendant of David will always sit on the throne of Israel; and indeed that is the case, because the Messiah, Son of David, is today on the throne. He is the King of Israel, whether we are aware of it or not.
King Shlomo (Solomon) inherits his father David’s throne and builds the First Temple. After his death, the kingdom is split in two. The history of both kingdoms is told, and often the story focuses on prophets, especially Eliyahu (Elijah). In the second part of the book we read the continuation of the history of the two kingdoms and meet the prophet Elisha, who was Eliyahu’s successor. The northern kingdom, Israel, is destroyed in the year 722 B.C., and the southern kingdom of Judah in 586 with the destruction of the Temple.
Yeshaya lived in Jerusalem around the year 700 B.C. He describes God’s power and the hope for the people of Israel. He prophesies about people who would come much later, Cyrus King of Persia (who lived 150 years later) and the Anointed King, the Messiah (who came 700 years after Yishayah). One of his most wonderful prophecies is in chapter 53. It is about the Messiah and describes God’s plan for the Messiah to suffer for the sins of Israel and all mankind.
Yirmyah was called by God to service in 627 B.C. He showed the people their sins and warned them of the coming destruction. These prophecies were fulfilled when the Temple was destroyed in 586. But he also brings prophecies of comfort, of the return to Zion and of the Messiah of Israel. One of his most beautiful prophecies is in chapter 31:31-34. It foretells the New Covenant that the Messiah will make with the house of Israel and Yehudah.
Yechezkel was brought to Babylon as a prisoner of war in 597 B.C. and lived there before and after the destruction of the First Temple. He emphasized the need for inner renewal and spoke against the idea that people would be punished for what their parents did. Rather, he taught that each one would be rewarded or punished for his own deeds. He also prophesied the physical and spiritual return of the people of Israel to their land and their God through the vision of the dry bones in chapter 37.
Hoshea lived in the northern kingdom of Israel in the eighth century B.C. He married an unfaithful woman in order to symbolize Israel’s unfaithfulness to their God. In his prophecies there is an emphasis on the love and the faithfulness of God to his people.
Yoel gives many anger-filled prophecies about the people’s sins, and begs them to return to God who desires to make all things new. In chapter two (three in Hebrew) there is a wonderful promise of the outpouring of God’s Spirit upon all flesh. This prophecy’s fulfillment began many years later on the feast of Shavuot as described in the second chapter of the book of Acts.
Amos was a shepherd who lived in the eighth century B.C. He was a prophet from the southern kingdom of Yehudah, but he prophesied in the northern kingdom of Israel. He was called by God to condemn the hypocrisy among the people that led to exploitation and corruption.
Ovadya is the shortest book of the Tanakh. It was written after 586 B.C. It is a prophecy of destruction on the Edomites and ends with God’s promise of the return to Zion.
God told Yona to prophesy to the city of Nineveh, the capital of the hostile land of Assyria. The book depicts God’s love for everyone, including people outside of Israel, and even the enemies of Israel. We see that God prefers to warn, forgive, and save, rather than punish.
Michah lived in the eighth century B.C. He accuses his listeners of exploitation of the poor through economic and religious hypocrisy. But Michah also gives prophecies of hope, the most central being the prophecy of the birth of the Messiah in Beit Lechem (Bethlehem).
Nachum prophesied the destruction of the hostile city of Nineveh. Indeed, Nineveh was conquered and destroyed by the Babylonian army in 612 B.C.
This book was written in the seventh century B.C. The prophet asks: Why doesn’t God intervene when evil men pervert what is right? God answers him that he is waiting for the right time. Chavakuk also declares that the righteous will live through faith (chapter 2). The very last part of the book (chapter 3, from verse 17 till the end) describes the happiness and confidence that can be found in the God of Israel, even in times of difficulties, hunger, and need.
Tsfanya lived in the southern kingdom of Yehudah around 600 B.C. He warns against coming destruction, but also promises that Jerusalem will be rebuilt.
Under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, a large part of the people came back to Israel from the Babylonian exile. The prophet encourages the people to finish building the Second Temple and also promises that its glory will be greater than the first. By this he meant that this temple would be visited by the Messiah (chapter 2, verse 7-9).
Zacharyah, together with Haggai, was involved in encouraging the building of the Second Temple. It was finished in 516 B.C. Z'charyah also received visions regarding the future. His prophecies include many about the Messiah and of the reaction of the people of Israel when they realize that Yeshua is the Messiah (“They will look upon him whom they have pierced” etc., chapter 12, verse 10 onwards).
Malachi lived in the fifth century B.C. He reminds the people of God’s love and encourages the priests and the people to respect and obey the Lord with worthy sacrifices and holy lives. He also prophesies the entrance of the Messiah through the gates of the Second Temple (as the "messenger of the covenant," chapter 3, verse 1).
Tehilim is a collection of songs, hymns, and prayers that were read and sung in the Temple. Most of them were written by King David. It is the longest book in the Bible. It includes innumerable prophecies about the Messiah (from his suffering on the cross in Psalm 22 to his kingdom of glory in Psalm 8). The Tehilim describe God’s greatness as well as human feelings and experiences.
This book is a collection of proverbs and parables, most of them written by King Shlomo. The book explains the difference between good and evil, and expresses the need of modesty, patience, caring for the poor, work moral, friendship, and respect for relatives.
The book describes the story of Iov, a righteous man who went through extreme suffering and difficulties. There is a long discussion about the problem of theodicy, (known as “Tzaddik veRa lo, rasha veTov lo”), the question of why God allows suffering. In the end Iov understands that there is no answer – God is far greater than our thoughts and our understanding.
Shir HaShirim (Song of Solomon)
Shir HaShirim is a collection of love poems. It describes the love between a man and a woman, but can also be interpreted as a parable of the love between God and his people, Israel, or between Yeshua and the Body of Messiah, his bride.
This book gives the background to King David’s family. The story takes place at the time of the Judges. Rut was a Moabite woman who married a Jewish man. After her husband’s death she insists on returning with her mother-in-law to Israel. She identifies herself with the People, the Land and the God of Israel. In the end she marries Boaz and gives birth to the child who would become King David’s grandfather.
Sefer Eycha (Lamentations)
This book describes the sorrow at the time of the destruction of the First Temple on the 9th of Av 586 BC. The Temple is destroyed and the people are exiled to a foreign land. But the book also gives a glimpse of hope which reaches its climax with, “It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed ... They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (chapter 3:22-23)
King Shlomo asks here, – Is there meaning to life? His final conclusion in this book is that there is meaning to life, since God has placed eternity in the heart of man.
The story of Esther is the background to the festival of Purim that we celebrate every year on the 13th of Adar, and it takes place during the time of Ezra and Nehemia. The story is of a conspiracy to kill the entire Jewish people all over the vast Persian empire in the 5th century BC, but Ester saves the people from destruction.
Daniel was a prisoner in Babylon and served in the court of the Babylonian kings. His message is an uplifting one during a time of difficulty and persecution. (A long section in the middle of the book is in Aramaic; The Bible Society’s Hebrew Bible contains translations into Hebrew of those portions). Daniel was a prophet. The first six chapters tell of experiences that Daniel had and reveal how God was with him in all his trials. They provide encouragement for us, that God will also protect us during difficult times. The most well-known of those stories is of course Daniel in the lions’ den. The second half of the book describes Daniel’s prophecies and visions, and include the exact time the Messiah will come – before the destruction of the second temple (chapter 9 verse 26), that the Messiah comes to atone our sins (chapter 9 verse 24). His prophecies also include visions about the future that are not yet fulfilled, such as the coming of the Messiah with the clouds of the sky at the End of Time (chapter 7 verse 13).
This book describes the return of part of the people to Israel from the Babylonian exile, the building of the second Temple and the return to the sacrificial serices in the Temple
Nechemya receives the permission of the Persian king to return to Israel. In Israel he gives people the inspiration to start building up the walls of Jerusalem again and starts to arrange the ground for a decent daily life for the people that returned with Ezra.
Divrei HaYamim (Chronicles)
The book of Chronicles is a summary of all the stories of the Bible from Adam and Eve to the destruction of the First Temple, but it focuses on the part of history that is described in the second part of the book of Samuel and the book of Kings. The first part is focusing on King David and his reign and the preparation for the building of the First Temple. The Second part starts with the rise of Shlomo to the throne and the building of the Temple. It continues and tell the history of the divided kingdoms with a focus on Judah. The general focus of the book of Chronicles is the faithfullness of God.
The Gospel according to Matti (Matthew)
Matti was one of Yeshua’s disciples and he starts his book with a geneology in order to clarify that Yeshua fulfilled all prophecies. He describes the life and work of the Messiah and shows that Yeshua is the promised Messiah of Israel while pointing at the prophecies of the Tanakh.
The Gospel according to Markos (Mark)
Markos, who is named in the book of Acts and in the letter to the Colossians, tells the story of the life and work of Yeshua the Messiah. He describes the Messiah as the servant of the Lord as described in Isaiah 53, that came to suffer and die for our sins.
The Gospel According to Lukas (Luke)
Lukas was a doctor. He invested a great deal of effort writing this book. He interviewed eyewitnesses and gathered every piece of information he could find. His emphasis is on the need for prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Gospel According to Yochanan (John)
Yochanan was one of the closest disciples of Yeshua, and he describes Yeshua’s life and work in order that the reader might believe that he is the promised Messiah, the Son of God. His book is very different from the other three books of the Gospel and it describes many incidents and sermons that are not mentioned by the others.
Ma’asei HaShlichim (Acts)
Ma’asei HaShlichim was written by Lukas the doctor, who was a friend of the apostle Sha’ul (Paul). In this book he describes the events after Yeshua ascended to heaven. It’s the fascinating story of how the Gospel was spread not only amongst the Jewish people, but also to the gentiles and all the way to Rome. At the center of the stories are Keifa (Peter) and Sha’ul.
The Letter to the Romans
This letter is the first one in the collection of New Testament letters that were written to different congregations. Most of them were written by Sha’ul who made sure to keep in touch with the congregations in the diaspora. He explains in this letter that repentance and faith in Yeshua are the only remedy for sin. He tells of God’s mercy and the new life God offers to anyone once his sins are forgiven and he gives his life to Yeshua.
The First Letter to the Corinthians
Sha’ul gives help to the congregation in Corinth in questions of morality and conscience, and provides guidelines for congregational life. He also explains the meaning of Messiah’s resurrection from the dead.
The Second Letter to the Corinthians
This is a personal letter from Sha’ul that describes his care and his love for the congregation. He clarifies the need for repetance, and for providing help and charity for the holy ones. He also warns against false prophets and defends his status against his opponents.
The Letter to the Galatians
Sha’ul explains that the correct relationship between man and God comes only through faith in the Messiah Yeshua, and not through deeds. The most famous part of the letter is the description of the „fruit of the spirit” – love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control
The Letter to the Ephesians
Sha’ul describes how God released his believers from the chains of sin and tore down the wall that separates Jews from gentiles, so that gentiles can also experience God’s love and salvation through faith in the Messiah. He encourages the believers to put on the „armor of God”.
The Letter to the Phillipians
Sha’ul describes the love and peace of the believers. He writes this letter while sitting in jail, and despite that, the letter is filled with joy, love and hope.
The letter to the Colossians
Sha’ul explains that God created the world through his son, Yeshua the Messiah. Only Yeshua can save man and give him new life. Sha’ul also shows how to put the new life into practice.
The First Letter to the Thessalonians
In this letter, which was written shortly after his visit to the town of Thessaloniki, Sha’ul encourages his readers to live ther lives according to God’s will. He encourages and comforts them. He also answers questions regarding the End of Time and of Yeshua’s second coming.
The Second Letter to the Thessalonians
Here Sha’ul corrects a few misunderstandings regarding the End of Time and Yeshua’s second coming. He encourages the beleivers to hold firmly to their faith and keep up their good work.
The First Letter to Timothy
In this letter Sha’ul writes to his friend Timotheus (Timothy) who was his helper and the leader of the congregation in Ephesus. Instructions are given on the organization of a congregation as well as some personal advice.
The Second Letter to Timothy
In this letter Sha’ul sends personal advice to Timotheus to firmly hold onto his faith in the Gospel of the Messiah. This is the last letter Sha’ul wrote before he was executed.
The Letter to Titus
Sha’ul writes to his friend and helper, Titus, who was a leader of the congregation in Crete. He gives advice on the required characteristics of a leader of a congregation and on how he should lead his congregation.
The Letter to Philemon
Sha’ul writes to his friend Philemon whose slave, Onesimus, has escaped. Onesimus met Sha’ul and came to faith in the Messiah. Sha’ul asks Philemon to take care of Onesimus as a brother in the faith.
The Letter to the Hebrews
The author of this letter describes Yeshua’s greatness and emphasizes the fulfillment of the prophecies in the Tanakh through Yeshua the Messiah. The letter contains broad descriptions of the sacrificial works in the Tabernacle and compares it to Yeshua’s sacrifical atonement on the cross.
The Letter of Ya’akov (James)
Ya’akov, brother of Yeshua, wrote this letter. He was the leader of the first Messianic Jewish congregation in Jerusalem. He emphasizes that true faith is expressed outwardly through practical deeds. He also emphasizes that it is important to treat everyone equally, since we are all equal in the Lord.
The First Letter of Keifa (Peter)
In this letter, the apostle Keifa encourages and comforts the beleivers who are suffering because of their faith. He encourages them to see their suffering as a trial in faith.
The Second Letter of Keifa (Peter)
In this letter, Keifa helps his readers in their fight against false prophets. He emphasizes the value of true knowledge and tells about the promised second coming of the Messiah.
The First Letter of Yochanan (John)
The apostle Yochanan shows that the beleivers are the sons of God. God is love and the beleivers must love one another. He also points to the gift God has given us – eternal life.
The Second Letter of Yochanan (John)
Yochanan encourages his readers to love one another and warns against false prophets and false teachings.
The Third Letter of Yochanan (John)
Yochanan writes to a congregational leader named Gaius. He thanks Gaius for his help to his brothers in faith. This is the shortest book in the Bible.
The Letter of Yehuda (Jude)
Yehuda, a brother of Yeshua, warns the readers against false teachers. He describes their activities and God’s judgement upon them. He encourages his readers to hold onto, guard and defend their faith.
The apostle Yochanan received great revelation on the island of Patmos. He sees the events of the end of human history and beyond. He encourages the believers who suffer for their faith and concludes that, in the end, all the power, the kingdom and the glory, belong to God, and the victory is His.
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