The book of Ruth tells the story of three people: Naomi, a widow from Bethlehem in Judah; Ruth, her daughter-in-law from Moab; and Boaz, a gentleman farmer from Bethlehem. Ruth, in a supreme act of devotion, follows Naomi home from Moab and there meets Boaz, Naomi’s close relative. Boaz understands that Ruth, though a foreigner, is a woman of worth. Through a scheme of Naomi to send Ruth to meet Boaz in secret, and through the cleverness of Boaz, who claims Ruth before the city elders, Boaz and Ruth marry and have a child, thus insuring the continuation of the Davidic line that eventually leads to the birth of Jesus.
Joshua is the story of the Israelites’ entry into Canaan (the Promised Land) after forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Led by Joshua, the successor to Moses, the Israelites conquer the Canaanites and then redistribute the land to the twelve tribes of Israel. The book ends with a covenant renewal ceremony, in which both Joshua and the Israelites declare, “We will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:21).
The book of Judges presents the story of the individual tribes that became Israel from the death of Joshua to the birth of Samuel. Its title comes from the individuals called by God to be “judges” (charismatic leaders) of Israel, delivering the people from the oppression of neighboring peoples and leading them in faithful obedience to the Lord. Within the framework of the Deuteronomistic History, Judges illustrates the dire consequences of the lack of faithful leadership and paves the way for the discussion of monarchy in the books of Samuel and Kings.
The book of Nehemiah is Narrative History. Nehemiah authored it at about 430 B.C. Key personalities include Nehemiah, Ezra, Sanballat, and Tobiah. Nehemiah wrote it to records the events of returning to Jerusalem and rebuilding the walls in 445 B.C.
Jerusalem had a temple but there was no protection for the city from further attack. Nehemiah travels to Jerusalem and uses his leadership skill to rally a citywide construction crew. Within a few weeks, the walls around Jerusalem were built and standing tall and their enemies lost their confidence.
Ezra is a book of Narrative History and Genealogies. It was written by Ezra at approximately 440 B.C. and records events up to 450 B.C. Key personalities include Cyrus, Ezra, Haggai, Zechariah, Darius I, Artaxerxes I, and Zerubbabel.
Ezra’s purpose was to accurately record the events of the return from the Babylonian exile, after a seventy-year period and the events that surround the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. God is faithful in fulfilling His promises and so the Jews return to Jerusalem from their exile in Babylon.
The genre of the book of Esther is Narrative History. Its author is anonymous however; some believe Mordecai, (Esther’s cousin and guardian), wrote it. It was written approximately 470 B.C. in Persia. Esther became queen in 479 B.C. The key personalities are Esther, Mordecai, King Ahasuerus (or Xerxes), and Haman.
Its purpose is to demonstrate God’s love and sovereignty in all circumstances. It is a post-exile story about Jews who stayed behind after most returned to Jerusalem after captivity. Babylon was conquered by Persia and Esther miraculously becomes the queen of the land, and saves her people.
The book of 1st Chronicles is a book of Narrative History, and Genealogies. The author appears to be the prophet Ezra who wrote it circa 430 B.C. It covers the events from 1000 to 960 B.C. Key personalities are King David and Solomon.
This book parallels some of 2nd Samuel, and therefore describes similar events. It was written after the exile, its purpose was to encourage the remnant that had come out of the Babylonian captivity. It begins with the ancestry of the nation’s past, but it is not chronological.
First Kings continues the story where 2 Samuel left off. Chapters 1-2 complete the presentation of the reign of David and the succession of Solomon. Chapters 3-11 depict Solomon’s glorious reign, highlighted by the construction of the temple, but including his ultimate apostasy. Chapters 12-14 relate Jeroboam’s rebellion, his censure by the prophets, and the resulting division of the nation into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah in 722 B.C. The rest of 1 Kings details the reigns of the divided monarchy, alternating between the north and the south, but with the bulk of the material considering the period of Israelite supremacy, especially under Omri and Ahab. In this period the prophet Elijah is a dominant force.
First Samuel continues where Judges left off. The book of Ruth comes between them in English Bibles, but not in the Hebrew Bible. Chapters 1-3 present the birth, call, and early ministry of Samuel. Chapters 4-7 relate the “adventures” of the Ark of the Covenant as it falls into Philistine hands. Chapter 8 is a transitional chapter describing the people’s demand for a king. Samuel and Saul interact in chapters 9-15. First Samuel comes to a close with a long section recounting the power struggles between Saul and David in chapters 16-31.
The book of 2nd Chronicles is a Narrative History. The author appears to be the prophet Ezra who wrote it circa 430 B.C. It covers the events from the beginning from King Solomon’s reign in 970 B.C. up to the beginning of the Babylonian captivity in 586 B.C. The key personalities are King Solomon, the queen of Sheba, Rehoboam, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, Joash, Uzziah, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, and Josiah.
It was written to emphasize the blessings of the righteous kings and to expose the sins of the wicked kings. It parallels some parts of 1st and 2nd Kings. Like 1st Chronicles, it is written from the viewpoint of a priest who spoke from spiritual perspectives, including revivals. It too, was written after the exile and focuses on correct worship to YHWH.