Book of the Week 34: Nahum

Hebrew Name: Nachum

Human Author: Nahum                                                      

OT or NT: Old Testament

Number of Chapters: 3

Basic Facts

  1. Nahum is the thirty-fourth book of the Bible.
  2. In terms of literary genre, Nahum is classified as a book of prophecy.
  3. The Hebrew name for the book of Nahum is Nachum which means “comforter.”
  4. Micah was a prophet who spoke of the coming destruction of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire.
  5. Nahum prophesies judgment against Israel’s enemy, the kingdom of Assyria, for its oppression of Israel/Samaria and Judah.

Story of the Book

At the time when Nahum’s ministry as a prophet begins, Assyria is the dominant power in the fertile crescent of the middle east. The northern kingdom of Israel has been conquered and taken into exile, and the southern kingdom of Judah has been reduced to a vassal state of the kingdom of Assyria. Nahum prophesies about God’s coming judgment against the people of Assyria, particularly against the city of Nineveh. God is about to judge Assyria for its idolatry and its acts of oppression against both God’s people and the nations. God is about to bring the kingdom of Assyria to an end. In the midst of God’s warning to the people of Assyria and the city of Nineveh, God also tells His people to keep the feasts of the LORD and to fulfill their vows to God, looking forward to the time when God would restore the fortunes of His people (Nahum 1:15-2:2). God is not only going to judge Assyria, but He is about going to bring them to complete destruction. This extends even to the point where there will be no descendants of the people of Nineveh, and the nation of Assyria will be completely destroyed (Nahum 1:14). The book ends by declaring that Assyria has done evil oppression to all peoples; therefore, God will judge and destroy them utterly.

Jesus Foreshadowed in Nahum

Jesus is foreshadowed somewhat vaguely in Nahum. In Nahum 1:15, the prophet writes, “Look, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings good news, who proclaims peace!” (NIV). This passage proclaims the coming of one who will proclaim good news and peace to the people of Judah, and it is very similar to Isaiah 52:7 in Hebrew. Therefore, when Paul paraphrases Isaiah 52:7 as he writes, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!....so faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ…” (Romans 10:15,17), Paul may be referring to Nahum 1:15 as well. The one who brings good news is the messiah, who is Jesus Christ. He is the one through whom the kingdom of Israel is restored. In Christ, we as gentile believers are adopted into the kingdom of God as beloved children. Jesus is the one who proclaims peace, and through the spread of the good news of the gospel we as Christians are furthering the cause of Christ. Just as Nahum proclaimed one who would bring good news and peace for the restoration of Judah, Paul would later connect this passage to Christ and the spread of the gospel. In this way, Nahum foreshadowed the coming of messiah in the person of Jesus Christ, even as God was about to judge Assyria and restore the fortunes of Judah.

Book of the Week 33: Micah

Hebrew Name: Mikhah

Human Author: Micah                                                        

OT or NT: Old Testament

Number of Chapters: 7

Basic Facts

  1. Micah is the thirty-third book of the Bible.
  2. In terms of literary genre, Micah is classified as a book of prophecy.
  3. The Hebrew name for the book of Micah is Mikhah, which means, “who is like Yah.”
  4. Micah was a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah.
  5. Micah does briefly pronounce judgment over both Samaria and Jerusalem even though he was a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah.

Story of the Book

God called Micah as a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah. Micah was called to warn the people of Judah regarding God’s coming wrath on account of their sin. The book begins with a pronouncement of God’s judgment over the cities of Samaria (capital of Israel, which was conquered by Assyria toward the beginning of Micah’s ministry) and Jerusalem (capital of Judah). God then proceeds to rebuke the leaders of the nation including false prophets who mislead God’s people. God then promises a ruler for His people who will come from the town of Bethlehem and will shepherd God’s people Israel. God calls His people to repent and foretells their coming destruction for their sins. God lays out simple demands for the people of Israel: to act justly, to love kindness, and to walk in humility before God (Micah 6:8). Despite coming judgment and destruction, God promises ultimately to show mercy to the people of Israel and to restore the nation through His mercy and compassion in which He will lead His people like a shepherd (Micah 5:2-4; Matthew 2:6).

Jesus Foreshadowed in Micah

In the book of Micah, the prophet foretells the coming a ruler who will be from Bethlehem. Micah 5:2 says, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” Later, Matthew 2:1-8 alludes to this passage. When king Herod hears that Magi had come from the east to worship the one who had been born as king of the Jews (that is, Jesus Christ), he inquires of the chief priests and the scribes where the messiah is to be born. They respond to Herod and say, “in Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel’” (Matthew 2:5-6). Even though the quote here is not exact, most scholars agree that this quote of a prophet in Matthew 2:5-6 is essentially taken from Micah 5:2. The text of Matthew 2:1-8 makes it clear that the Jews of the first century believed that Micah 5:2 foretold the birth place of the Messiah. Due to a Roman census, Jesus Christ was born in a stable in Bethlehem, and this fulfilled the Biblical requirement for the place of His birth. In this way, Micah foretells an important prophecy that Jesus would later fulfill in His role as messiah.

Book of the Week 32: Jonah

Hebrew Name: Yonah

Human Author: Jonah son of Amittai                                

OT or NT: Old Testament

Number of Chapters: 4

Basic Facts

  1. Jonah is the thirty-second book of the Bible.
  2. In terms of literary genre, Jonah is classified as a book of prophecy.
  3. Jonah is a prophet to the city of Nineveh, the capitol of Assyria.
  4. The Hebrew name for the book of Jonah is Yonah, which means “dove.”
  5. Jonah is initially disobedient when God calls him to be a prophet.

Story of the Book

The book of Jonah tells the story of Jonah’s calling as a prophet to the city of Nineveh. (Nineveh is the capital of Assyria.) God calls Jonah to preach a message of repentance to Nineveh, but Jonah is initially disobedient and sets sail in order to flee to Tarshish and escape from God’s call. God causes a storm which threatens Jonah’s ship to come up on the sea. Jonah, with a guilty conscience, volunteers to be thrown overboard in order to assuage God’s anger over his disobedience. God sends a large fish which swallows Jonah whole. After three days and three nights, the fish vomits Jonah upon the shore, and God renews Jonah’s call to give a message of warning to Nineveh. This second time, Jonah obediently preaches God’s message to Nineveh, and the people of Nineveh repent. God relents from sending judgment upon Nineveh because of their repentance, and Jonah is angry with God for showing mercy. God rebukes Jonah and says that it is right that He (God) should be concerned about the spiritual welfare of the great city of Nineveh.

Jesus Foreshadowed in Jonah

Jesus is foreshadowed in Jonah in a way that is not immediately apparent in the Old Testament text. Jonah’s initial disobedience when he tries to run from God’s call results in Jonah's being swallowed by a great fish (Jonah 1:12-2:10). Later, in the ministry of Jesus, this event in the life of the prophet Jonah is described as a sign. When a group of Pharisees asks Jesus to perform a sign, Jesus responds saying: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here" (Matthew 12:39-41). In this way, Jesus describes the time Jonah spent in the belly of a fish as a sign of Jesus’ time spent in the grave between His death and resurrection (Matthew 17:22-23; Luke 9:21-22). Jesus also commends the people of Nineveh in a way, for they repented at Jonah's warning concerning God’s coming judgment, but the people Jesus is speaking to do not repent even though they see Jesus face to face.

In a more general sense, Jesus is foreshadowed in Jonah as a picture of God’s mercy and compassion. When the people of Nineveh repent of their sins, God relents from sending disaster (Jonah 3:3-4:11). All who repent and believe in Christ receive mercy and grace from God and deliverance from our sins on account of Him (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Book of the Week 31: Obadiah

Hebrew Name: Oved’Yah

Human Author: Obadiah                                                     

OT or NT: Old Testament

Number of Chapters: 1

Basic Facts

  1. Obadiah is the thirty-first book of the Bible.
  2. In terms of literary genre, Obadiah is classified as a book of prophecy.
  3. Obadiah was a prophet to the people of Edom—the descendants of Esau.
  4. Obadiah is the shortest book of the Old Testament and has only one chapter.
  5. The Hebrew name for the book of Obadiah is Oved’Yah which means “servant of Yah.” (Yah is a generic name for God in Hebrew.)

Story of the Book

The book of Obadiah tells of a vision which God gives to Obadiah concerning the kingdom of Edom. Edom was the tiny nation east of the Jordan river which was made up of the descendants of Esau. God warned the people of Edom through Obadiah that He was about to punish them for their sins and that their day of reckoning was near. What Edom had done to oppress Israel, other nations would in turn do the same to Edom. When God’s judgment is complete, the people of Israel would be returned to prosperity and would possess the land of Edom as a blessing from God. The text goes into some considerable detail about which portion of the Israelites would control each portion of the lands of southern Israel, Judah, and Edom. In the end, however, Israel would gain control of Edom, and the kingdom of Edom would belong to the LORD (Obadiah 1:21).

Jesus Foreshadowed in Obadiah

Jesus is foreshadowed in a very indirect way in Obadiah. There was an ancient rivalry between the people of Israel and the people of Edom. Israel was descended from Jacob (whom God renamed Israel), and Edom was descended from Esau. It was prophesied in Genesis 25:23 that “the older would serve the younger.” In other words, Esau would ultimately serve Jacob. This prediction is carried a step further in Obadiah as Obadiah prophesies that the descendants of Esau (Edom) would be left with no survivor (Obadiah 1:18) and the land of Edom would be possessed by the descendants of Jacob (Israel) (Obadiah 1:19-21). However, the kingdom of Edom would belong to the LORD (Obadiah 1:21). In God’s seemingly harsh judgment of the people of Edom in handing them over to their enemies and restoring the nation of Israel, God is merely expressing His sovereignty. Paul later reveals in Romans 9:12 that the prophecy concerning Jacob and Esau is an expression of God’s sovereign choice in choosing Jacob (Israel) over Esau. God is the one who will restore the fortunes of Israel because “To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever” (Romans 9:5). In God’s sovereign choice to restore Israel and judge Edom, He is preserving the nation in order that the Christ (who is a Jew) would be born as the Savior of the world. It is through Christ that all nations would ultimately receive redemption, and a remnant of every tribe, language, and nation would be saved—including a remnant of both Israel and of Edom (Matthew 28: 18-20; Romans 9:27-28; Revelation 7: 9-12). 

Book of the Week 30: Amos

Hebrew Name: Amos

Human Author: Amos                                                         

OT or NT: Old Testament

Number of Chapters: 9

Basic Facts

  1. Amos is the thirtieth book of the Bible.
  2. In terms of literary genre, Amos is classified as a book of prophecy.
  3. The Hebrew name for the book of Amos is Amos (ah-mose), which means “burden bearer.”
  4. Amos was a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel.
  5. The ministry of Amos took place during the reign of Uzziah king of Judah and Jeroboam II king of Israel.

Story of the Book

Amos begins with God’s pronouncement of judgment for sin against Israel, Judah, and several neighboring cities and small nations including Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, and Moab. Then God turns His focus directly upon the nation of Israel and pronounces that He will judge the people of Israel for their sins. God calls the northern kingdom of Israel to repent with lamentation or face judgment. Next, God elaborates on His reasons for judging Israel. God is punishing the people of Israel for refusing to repent of their sins and failing to care for the poor and needy. Amos’ ministry focuses on a call for social justice on behalf of the poor and oppressed in Israel. The book continues with several visions of coming judgment upon Israel, using a plumb line and a basket of ripe fruit as symbols of judgment. The book concludes with a brief description of Israel’s coming destruction, followed by God’s ultimate promise of restoration for the nation. This promise of restoration includes a promise to restore the “fallen booth of David” (Amos 9:11-12) as a vague reference to the restoration of the Davidic kingship of Israel.

Jesus Foreshadowed in Amos

Jesus is very subtly foreshadowed in Amos. When God reveals to Amos that He will ultimately give restoration to the nation of Israel after its destruction, God says, “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in days of old” (Amos 9:11). The word translated as booth in Amos 9:11 could also be translated as Tabernacle. There is an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament (called the Septuagint) that uses the Greek term skenoo for Tabernacle in Amos 9:11. However, the physical Tabernacle of God was never restored in a literal sense at any point in Israel’s history after the time of David. Therefore, the fulfillment of this verse cannot be found in the rebuilding of the physical Tabernacle. However, in John 1:14 the Gospel writer says, “The Word [that is, Jesus] became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The word translated as dwelt in John 1:14 is also skenoo. Thus, the fulfillment of Amos 9:11 is not to be found in the physical tent/Tabernacle erected in the book of Exodus, but rather in the Tabernacle of God dwelling in human form in the person of Jesus. Jesus is revealed as the dwelling of God among men, and Jesus is the one who restores the presence of God in the mist of His people. In Jesus we find the redemption of the true Israel of God, those who live by faith in Jesus Christ.

Book of the Week 29: Joel

Hebrew Name: Yo’el

Human Author: Joel son of Pethuel                                    

OT or NT: Old Testament

Number of Chapters: 3

Basic Facts

  1. Joel is the twenty-ninth book of the Bible.
  2. In terms of literary genre, Joel is classified as a book of prophecy.
  3. The Hebrew name for the book of Joel is Yo’el, which means, “Yah is God.”
  4. The dating of the ministry of Joel is uncertain.
  5. Joel was a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah.

Story of the Book

Joel opens with a warning to the people of Judah. He warns Judah of the coming nation of Assyria, which will largely destroy the nation, and later warns that the kingdom of Babylon will carry Judah into exile. Joel uses figurative language to describe these invading nations as a swarm of locusts. Joel calls the nation to repent and cry out to God, proclaiming that God is rich in mercy and relents from sending calamity. Joel then describes the coming wrath a second time as a swarm of locusts: one who will destroy the nation if it does not repent. God proclaims that He would rise and deliver Judah and provide for its needs if the people would repent with all their hearts. The text then shifts to a future time called the “day of the Lord” (Joel 2:28-32) in which God makes a promise of deliverance and a promise to send the Holy Spirit upon the remnant of Judah who survive the exile. The book concludes with God’s proclamation that He will judge the nations, and then He gives a blessing to His chosen people. God concludes the book by promising to ultimately destroy Egypt and Edom, who oppressed God’s people. God proclaims that it is He who dwells in Zion, and it is He who will forgive the sins of His people.

Jesus Foreshadowed in Joel

Joel 2:28-32 describes a time called the “day of the Lord” in which God will pour out the Spirit of the Lord upon His people as he writes: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit” (Joel 2:28-29). This passage is later brought to fulfillment in the book of Acts as the Holy Spirit is poured out upon the Apostles at Pentecost. Peter then quotes Joel 2:28-32a, proclaims Jesus Christ who was crucified to be both Lord and Christ, and tells his audience that the Holy Spirit being poured out on the Apostles that day was the beginning of the fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32. Peter’s audience is cut to the heart by his testimony, and they ask him what they should do. Peter replies to the crowd saying, “repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). The crowd of people does repent, and thousands believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Messiah that day. Ever since this prophecy of Joel was fulfilled at Pentecost in Acts chapter 2, Jesus has not stopped appearing to people in visions and dreams to reveal Himself to unbelievers and to draw them to Himself. In this way, Jesus is actively fulfilling the prophecy given in Joel 2:28-32.

Book of the Week 28: Hosea

Hebrew Name: Hoshea 

Human Author: Hosea                                                        

OT or NT: Old Testament 

Number of Chapters: 14

Basic Facts

  1. Hosea is the twenty-eighth book of the Bible.
  2. In terms of literary genre, Hosea is classified as a book of prophecy.
  3. The Hebrew name for Hosea is Hoshea, which means “God save[s]” or “salvation.”
  4. Hosea was a prophet of God to the northern kingdom of Israel.
  5. Hosea was called by God to marry a prostitute in order to symbolize the unfaithfulness of Israel toward God.

Story of the Book

The ministry of Hosea takes place during the reigns of Jeroboam II and Joash, kings of the northern kingdom of Israel. God called Hosea to marry Gomer, an unfaithful adulteress. The marriage between Hosea and Gomer symbolized the faithfulness of God and unfaithfulness of Israel toward God. Just as Gomer committed adultery, Israel had committed spiritual adultery against God through the sin of idolatry. Despite Gomer’s unfaithfulness, God called Hosea to reconcile with Gomer, symbolizing God’s faithfulness despite the sins of Israel. The rest of the book details the sins which Israel committed against God, God’s coming punishment against the Israelites for their sins by sending them into exile in Assyria, and a call to repentance. The book ends by contrasting the love of God for His people and a call for Israel to repent and to return to the Lord. Despite all of Israel’s sins and unfaithfulness, God still loves His people. Even in the midst of punishing Israel and sending the nation into exile, God calls the people of Israel to return to God in order that He might show them mercy and ultimately forgiveness and restoration.

Jesus Foreshadowed in Hosea

During the ministry of Hosea, Israel had sinned greatly in many ways and rebelled against God. God’s call on Hosea to marry an unfaithful wife was to symbolize both Israel’s unfaithfulness and God’s faithfulness. In this, we ultimately have a picture of the Gospel. When Israel sinned and was punished by being sent into exile in Assyria, God was still faithful to offer forgiveness in restoration later on in the person of the messiah. In Hosea 11:1, God says, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” When Israel sinned and rebelled, the nation was punished by God. However, God provided a way in Jesus Christ—who embodies true and obedient Israel as a representative—to live a sinless life and to remain faithful despite the unfaithfulness of the nation (Hosea 11:1; II Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; Matthew 2:13-15). Through the sinless life of Jesus, the righteous requirements of the law were fully satisfied, and God the Father called Jesus to take the punishment for sin in our place. All who believe in Christ receive reconciliation with God through the atoning work of Jesus on the cross. Just as Hosea was earlier called by God to forgive his unfaithful wife for her sins, God has offered forgiveness to us in Christ. In this way, through the ministry of Hosea we have a warning against sin and a foreshadowing of the Gospel.

Book of the Week 27: Daniel

Hebrew Name: Dani’el 

Human Author: Daniel                                                       

OT or NT: Old Testament

Number of Chapters: 12

Basic Facts

  1. Daniel is the twenty-seventh book of the Bible.
  2. In terms of literary genre, Daniel is classified as a book of prophecy.
  3. The Hebrew name for Daniel is Dani’el, which means “God is my judge.”
  4. Daniel was a prophet living among the exiles of Judah in Mesopotamia during the Babylonian and Persian periods.
  5. Daniel was given prophetic visions concerning both the future and the Messiah.

Story of the Book

Daniel is broken up into two basic sections: 1) the life and ministry of Daniel and 2) the prophetic visions of Daniel concerning both the future and the Messiah. The section on the life and ministry of Daniel includes these stories:

  • The fall of Jerusalem
  • Daniel and his friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego find favor with Nebuchadnezzar
  • Daniel interprets the king’s dream
  • The fiery furnace
  • Nebuchadnezzar’s madness
  • The writing on the wall
  • Daniel in the lion’s den

All these stories demonstrate God’s power and wisdom as God works through Daniel and his friends to reveal His power and sovereignty.

The next section includes the dreams and visions God revealed to Daniel including the following:

  • The four beasts
  • The ram and the goat
  • The prayer of Daniel for mercy
  • The seventy “sevens” 
  • The kingdoms of Greece in the south and the north
  • The abomination of desolation
  • The end of days

These visions of Daniel conclude the book as God reveals to Daniel the kings and kingdoms which were coming in the future, including a vision of the end of days when all of the visions of Daniel would be fulfilled.

Jesus Foreshadowed in Daniel

The Book of Daniel prophesies about the final victory over evil that God will have once and for all. Daniel receives visions about a figure who is described as the son of man in Daniel 7:13-14, which says, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” This son of man is later revealed to be Jesus Christ as He is to come on the clouds of heaven (Matthew 26:64). Jesus is given dominion and glory and a kingdom (Revelation 11:15), all peoples and nations and languages are to serve Him (Matthew 28:18-20; Revelation 7:9-12), His dominion and His kingdom will be everlasting (Psalm 45:6-7; Hebrews 1:8-9), and His kingdom would never be destroyed and would last forever (Revelation 11:15; Revelation 22:3-5). There are more examples of the way Jesus is foreshadowed in the book of Daniel, but this is one of the most prominent. Here in the book of Daniel we get a powerful glimpse of the eternal scope and dominion of the reign of the coming messiah. It is later revealed in the book of Revelation that this messiah is Jesus the Christ, and His kingdom and his dominion will last into all of eternity. All those who have faith in Christ will reign with Him in paradise forever (Revelation 22:3-5).

Book of the Week 26: Ezekiel

Hebrew Name: Y’chizki’el

Human Author: Ezekiel                                                      

OT or NT: Old Testament

Number of Chapters: 48

Basic Facts

  1. Ezekiel is the twenty-sixth book of the Bible.
  2. The Hebrew name for Ezekiel is Y’chizki’el, which means “God strengthens.”
  3. Ezekiel’s ministry was to the southern kingdom of Judah and later to the exiles who were carried off into Babylon.
  4. In terms of literary genre, Ezekiel is classified as a book of prophecy.
  5. Ezekiel records the story of how the Babylonians destroyed the first temple in Jerusalem.

Story of the Book

Ezekiel was a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah in his earlier ministry, and in his later ministry, he ministered to the exiles of Judah who were carried off into Babylon. Ezekiel begins with a description of the prophet’s calling by God to Judah. The rest of Ezekiel contains the following pieces:

  • A series of symbolic acts by Ezekiel foretelling the fall of Jerusalem
  • The assurance of coming judgment for the nation’s sins
  • Babylon as God’s agent of judgment
  • Oracles concerning other kingdoms and God’s judgement on them including Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, and Egypt
  • God’s future message of hope for a restored Jerusalem
  • God’s message of future hope for Judah
  • The future hope for restoring the worship of God

The book of Ezekiel ends with God’s pronouncement of a future division of the promised land by tribe and a restoration of the city of Jerusalem. God pronounces that when this restoration of the land and of the city of Jerusalem is fulfilled, the name of the city of Jerusalem will be changed to be “the LORD is there” (Ezekiel 48:35). God would then live among men!

Jesus Foreshadowed in Ezekiel

Ezekiel is a message of judgment against Judah and Jerusalem, but it is also a message of hope for a future restoration given by God. There are dozens of direct and indirect references to Ezekiel in the New Testament, but over three quarters of them are found in the book of Revelation and foretell future judgments. However, Ezekiel chapter 34 develops a theme of shepherding that describes the leaders of Israel/Judah. The leaders of Israel/Judah had failed to shepherd God’s people. As a result, God declares, “Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered” (Ezekiel 34:11-12). This theme of God as a shepherd is developed in the New Testament to describe the role and ministry of Jesus. Jesus Christ describes himself saying, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:9-11) (see also: Luke 15:3-7). Just as Ezekiel brings a message of judgment in which God will scatter the nation into exile, like a good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep, Jesus Christ will seek out the people of God and restore all those who come to him by faith. There are many other examples of Jesus foreshadowed--too many to mention here--but the shepherding theme is one of the clearest examples.

Book of the Week 25: Lamentations

Book of the Bible: Lamentations                                         

Hebrew Name: Akhah 

Human Author: Unknown (possibly Jeremiah)                  

OT or NT: Old Testament 

Number of Chapters: 5

Basic Facts

  1. Lamentations is the twenty-fifth book of the Bible.
  2. The Hebrew name for the book of Lamentations is Akhah, which means “how?”
  3. Lamentations was written shortly after Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon.
  4. The old Greek name for the book of Lamentations is Threnoi, which means “wailings” or “lamentations.”
  5. Lamentations is likely a mixture of different literary genres including poetry and a communal lament

Story of the Book

Lamentations begins with the author mourning over the city of Jerusalem. The Babylonians had recently come in and destroyed the city, burned the palace, burned and plundered the temple, and taken most of the people of Jerusalem into exile. With the destruction of Jerusalem in 587/6 B.C., the entire nation of Judah had been destroyed. The rest of the book contains the following pieces:

  • The author’s mourning over the destroyed city of Jerusalem and its people
  • God’s anger over the nation’s sin and His judgments
  • The ways in which the wrath of God was poured out on the nation of Judah through the Babylonians
  • A message of future hope for the restoration and the nation
  • The author’s plea to God to restore Judah to prosperity

The book ends with a plea by the author that God would restore Judah and its people back to God.

Jesus Foreshadowed in Lamentations

Despite how Lamentations is a mourning cry over the destruction of Jerusalem, and by extension the nation of Judah, it has a message of hope. At the very end of Lamentations, the author acknowledges that God’s throne endures forever as he writes, “But you, O Lord, reign forever; your throne endures to all generations” (Lamentations 5:19). Even in the midst of despair at God’s wrath and punishment, the author acknowledges the eternal rule of God and His faithfulness to His people. The language of Lamentations 5:19 is very similar to Psalm 45:6 describing the eternal endurance of God’s throne. Hebrews 1:8-9 ties this text in Psalm 45:6-7 to the Son of God, who is the Messiah. The plea of the author of Lamentations is that God would restore the people of Judah to Himself (Lamentations 5:21-22). This plea for mercy and restoration to God is ultimately fulfilled in the Messiah. When the city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians, the king of Judah, who was descended from David’s royal line, was carried off as a prisoner into exile. The kingship of Judah would never be restored in an earthly sense again, meaning no royal descendant of David’s line has ever sat on a throne in Jerusalem as an earthly king since the destruction of Jerusalem when it fell to Babylon in 587/6 B.C. However, Jesus as the royal descendant of David has been resurrected to the right hand of God and rules over the earth. This is the restoration of the kingdom in answer to the cry of the author of Lamentations (Mark 16:19; Acts 2:33). What the author of Lamentations sought in an earthly restoration of the kingdom was fulfilled instead by Jesus the Messiah in his spiritual mission to restore the kingdom of God by redeeming the world from sin.

Book of the Week 24: Jeremiah

Hebrew Name: Yermi’Yah

Human Author: Jeremiah

OT or NT: Old Testament

Number of Chapters: 52

Basic Facts

  1. Jeremiah is the twenty-fourth book of the Bible.
  2. In terms of literary genre, Jeremiah is classified as a book of prophecy.
  3. The Hebrew name for Jeremiah is Yermi’Yah, which means “Yah (God) lifts up.”
  4. Jeremiah contains some of the clearest prophesies concerning the coming of the new covenant that would later be established through the blood of Christ.
  5. Jeremiah was sent by God as a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah.

Story of the Book

Jeremiah was a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah during the reigns of kings Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiachim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah. God sent Jeremiah to warn the people of Judah about God’s coming wrath against the nation which was kindled on account of their sins. God was about to judge the kingdom of Judah by sending the Babylonians to conquer Judah and carry its people into exile, which happened during Jeremiah’s ministry. The story of Jeremiah contains the following:

  • Jeremiah’s call to ministry
  • God’s condemnation of Judah for its sins
  • Jeremiah’s God-given prophesies about the coming destruction of Jerusalem
  • Jeremiah’s accusations of corruption against the nation’s leaders
  • A future promise of restoration for Judah
  • The outpouring of God’s judgment
  • Jeremiah’s prophesies about foreign nations
  • The fall of the city of Jerusalem

The book of Jeremiah ends with the fall of Jerusalem in which the Babylonians carry off the people of Judah into exile in Mesopotamia. The final paragraph closes by describing the way the king of Babylon eventually releases Jehoiachin the king of Judah from prison, but he is kept in Babylon, in exile, for the rest of his life. The ending of Jeremiah marks a low point for the nation of Judah as the people are carried off into slavery and exile.

Jesus Foreshadowed in Jeremiah

There are several prophesies in Jeremiah which point forward to the messiah and his ministry. Jeremiah is in many ways a story of sadness as the people of Judah fail to listen to Jeremiah. When the people of Judah fail to listen to Jeremiah and refuse to repent of their sins, God ultimately brings judgment on the nation and sends the people of Judah into exile. However, there are glimpses of hope in the future messiah. The following is a small sample of the ways in which Jesus Christ is foreshadowed and/or foretold in Jeremiah:

  • There would be weeping and lamentation in Ramah when the descendants of Rachel would face mass execution. This prophecy was fulfilled in the early years of Jesus’ life as Herod looked for the baby Jesus to destroy him (Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:13-23).
  • God would make a new covenant with Israel and Judah which was later established through the blood of Christ (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Luke 22: 14-23).
  • Jeremiah condemns the people for rejecting God, symbolized as the spring of living water, and replacing Him with worthless idols—symbolized as a broken cistern that holds no water. Jesus later identifies Himself as the messiah who would give living water to those who believe in them—leading to eternal life (Jeremiah 2:13; John 4:7-26).

Though Jeremiah tells a sad story of destruction and exile, he also foretells of a future time of hope for the nation in which their fortunes will be restored through a new covenant in the messiah, who is Jesus the Christ.  

Book of the Week 23: Isaiah

Hebrew Name: Yesha’yah

Human Author: Isaiah

OT or NT: Old Testament

Number of Chapters: 66

Basic Facts

  1. Isaiah is the twenty-third book of the Bible.
  2. In terms of literary genre, Isaiah is classified as a book of prophecy.
  3. The Hebrew name for the book of Isaiah is Yesha’yah, which means “Yah (God) is salvation.”
  4. The book of Isaiah contains some of the clearest prophesies about the messiah in the whole of the Old Testament.
  5. Isaiah was sent by God as a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah.

 

Story of the Book

Isaiah was a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah during the reigns of kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Manasseh. Isaiah was sent by God to warn the people of Judah of God’s coming judgment for their sins. The book begins with a review of the sins of the nation for which God is about to judge Judah. If Judah does not repent and serve the Lord, it will be brought into exile. Isaiah then reviews the judgment of God upon the pagan nations around Judah. Isaiah goes on to explain God’s purposes for His judgments upon Israel/Judah and the surrounding nations. Isaiah then warns the people of Judah not to put their trust in other nations who cannot save them from judgment but instead to trust in the Lord as the only one who can deliver the nation from judgment and exile. Isaiah then records the events of the reign of king Hezekiah, who repents, prompting God to temporarily relent from bringing disaster upon the nation. The rest of the book entails prophesies of Judah’s future after the exile in which God would bring His people back from captivity, provide a future redeemer in the Messiah, and establish an eternal future kingdom for the returned exiles. The book ends with a final foretelling of God’s everlasting judgment for the wicked and everlasting life for the righteous from all the peoples of the earth.

Jesus Foreshadowed in Isaiah

The New Testament quotes Isaiah more than any other Old Testament book other than Psalms. The ways in which the book of Isaiah foreshadows Christ are too numerous to mention all of them here. The following is a small sample of the ways in which Jesus Christ is foreshadowed and/or foretold in Isaiah:

  • The messiah would be born of a virgin and would be called Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). 
  • The messiah would be a child who would be both a son and mighty God (Isaiah 9:6).
  • The messiah would be despised and rejected (Isaiah 53:3, John 1:9-10).
  • The messiah would reign forever on David’s throne and over his kingdom forever (II Samuel 7:16; Psalm 45:6-7; Isaiah 9:7; Hebrews 1:8-9). 
  • The messiah would be pierced for our sake in such a way that God would lay upon him the iniquity of all people (Isaiah 53:6).
  • The messiah would stand silently before his accusers like a lamb led to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7; Acts 8:26-35).
  • The messiah would be given the tomb of a rich man even though he was innocent of any crime (Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23: 50-56; John 19:38-42).

Jesus fulfilled each of these prophesies and many more.

Book of the Week 22: Song of Solomon

Book of the Bible: Song of Solomon/Song of Songs

Hebrew Name: Shir Hashirim

Human Author: King Solomon

OT or NT: Old Testament

Number of Chapters: 8

Basic Facts

  1. Song of Solomon is the twenty-second book of the Bible.
  2. In terms of literary genre, Song of Solomon is classified as poetry.
  3. The Hebrew name for Song of Solomon is Shir Hashirim, meaning “The Song of Songs.”
  4. Song of Solomon, because of its adult content, was historically restricted to Jewish men in Israel who were 30 years old or older.
  5. Song of Solomon is also called Song of Songs. The name of the book will vary based on which tradition and translation the title is taken from.

 

Story of the Book

Song of Solomon is a series of love poems about an exchange between a man and a woman who are bride and groom, along with a crowd of admirers. Most modern English translations give cues in the text which indicate which vantage point the words of poetry are coming from as the poetry changes vantage point between the bride, the groom, and a crowd of admirers/friends. The book covers a variety of topics pertaining to the wedding day of the bride and groom, courtship, a dream the bride has, praising the beauty of the bride, the power of love, and the sexuality expressed between the bride and groom. The book has been interpreted in a wide variety of ways throughout history. While the original context was likely an expression of love between King Solomon and one of his wives, the book has often been re-interpreted into a picture of the love which is expressed between God and His people both in Jewish history and church history. This kind of allegorical interpretation is often favored as a legitimate interpretation of the book, giving theological overtones to a work of poetry that expresses human interpersonal sexuality in the context of courtship and marriage.

Jesus Foreshadowed in Song of Solomon

Throughout Biblical history and church history, Song of Solomon has been interpreted as a picture of the love shared between God and His people expressed in terms of a bride and his beloved. The Dead Sea Scrolls, Biblical commentaries, and Christian literature all attest to this kind of theological interpretation. Similar language is also used in Jeremiah 3:20 to compare Israel to a bride who abandoned her husband (see also Revelation 21:2). This analogy of a lover and his beloved is used as a general tool to describe the relationship between husband and wife in Song of Solomon, and it refers to God’s covenant love with His people. A similar analogy is later used by Paul in a much more specific way to refer to Christ and the church. In Ephesians 5:25-33, Paul gives detailed instructions to how Christian wives and husbands should treat one another. In this passage, Paul quotes the command of God that a husband and wife should become one flesh as recorded in Genesis 2:24. Then Paul does something remarkable. Paul takes the command between a husband and wife to become one flesh, and he writes, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31). This profound connection points to the reality that human sexuality is merely a symbol of a greater spiritual union between Christ and the church. Many scholars believe that Paul gets this idea of sexuality, at least in part, from a theological reading of Song of Solomon.

Book of the Week 21: Ecclesiastes

Hebrew Name: Kehilat

Human Author: King Solomon                                           

OT or NT: Old Testament

Number of Chapters: 12

Basic Facts

  1. Ecclesiastes is the twenty-first book of the Bible.
  2. In terms of literary genre, Ecclesiastes is classified as wisdom literature.
  3. The Hebrew name for Ecclesiastes is Kehilat, meaning “community.”
  4. The old Greek name for the book is Ekklesiastes, meaning “teacher” or “preacher.”
  5. Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon late in his life to instill in his audience the fact that life is meaningless apart from God.

Story of the Book

Ecclesiastes contains the wisdom of King Solomon late in his reign. Even though King Solomon began his life and reign by doing right in the Lord’s eyes, he fell into idolatry later in life. Solomon begins Ecclesiastes by emphasizing the meaninglessness of life. The book begins with Solomon’s personal experience. Then, Solomon proceeds to talk about life and how there is time for everything under the sun (ex. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). Solomon talks about the judgment of God from his own personal experiences regarding oppression, labor, ambition, riches, caution before a king, and the common destiny of all mortal men to die. Solomon is searching for meaning and declares much of life to be vanity. He ends the book with a phrase that sums up how God showed him meaning: “the end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). This phrase not only serves as the climactic conclusion to the book, but also aptly sums up the duty of humanity toward God as Solomon understood it.

Jesus Foreshadowed in Ecclesiastes

At the end of the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon concludes his remarks on meaning in life with his famous statement: this is “the end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Jesus would later be revealed as the only one who perfectly obeyed the commandments of God by living a sinless life (II Corinthians 5:18-21; Hebrews 4:15). After verse 13, the very final verse of Ecclesiastes foretells a future judgment: “For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). Jesus is later revealed to be the light of the world (John 8:12; John 9:15) through whom the deeds of humanity would be exposed. Jesus made the connection explicit in a late-night conversation with Nicodemus when he said, “This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed” (John 3:19-20). The broader context makes it clear that Jesus was sent into the world not to condemn the world but so that the world might be saved through him and so that the deeds of humanity would be exposed just as Solomon predicted (John 3: 9-21). Jesus took our punishment for sin through His death on the cross so that we do not need to die as a penalty for our evil deeds that were exposed by Jesus, the light of the world.

Book of the Week 20: Proverbs

Hebrew Name: Mashali

Human Authors: King Solomon, Agur, and King Lemuel

OT or NT: Old Testament

Number of Chapters: 31

Basic Facts

  1. Proverbs is the twentieth book of the Bible.
  2. In terms of literary genre, Proverbs is classified as wisdom literature.

  3. Proverbs contains the wisdom of king Solomon (Chapters 1-24), some of which was later recorded by king Hezekiah (Chapters 25-29).

  4. Proverbs chapter 30 is attributed to the “sayings of Agur,” and chapter 31 is attributed to “the sayings of king Lemuel.”

  5. The Hebrew name for Proverbs is Mashali, meaning “my rule” or “wisdom.”

Story of the Book

Proverbs is a collection of proverbs and wise sayings of king Solomon, the son of king David. The book is addressed by Solomon to his son and includes his instructions to his son (unnamed in the book) concerning the wisdom Solomon had received from the Lord that he seeks to pass along to the next generation. The book includes the sayings of Agur and king Lemuel at the end of the book. The book clearly attributes wisdom to the Lord God.

Proverbs is a rare example in the Bible of a book where the individual verses do not necessarily form a flowing narrative. Though the chapter and verse divisions were added later (like all books of the Bible), the verse divisions in Proverbs do often separate individual proverbs or sayings. Proverbs offers wisdom on a wide range of topics, but the entirety of the work can be aptly summed up from the opening chapter: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). Similarly, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10).

Jesus Foreshadowed in Proverbs

It is important to be careful when attempting to see Jesus foreshadowed in Proverbs. Proverbs gives wisdom that is often highly bound to a given context rather than giving universally applicable truths to the reader. With that said, Solomon often personifies wisdom as a virtue, and more specifically as one of God’s first creations in Proverbs 8:22 as he writes, “The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.” Wisdom personified in Proverbs 8:22-31 is similar to (though not identical to) the way Jesus is later described in the New Testament. John 1:1-14 describes Jesus as the eternal, uncreated Word of God who became flesh. This "Word" in John likely represented the prophetic Word of God personified and may even be related to the Greek philosophical ideal of the rational order behind the way the world works. What was personified in Proverbs 8 as wisdom is later revealed to come from the uncreated Word, who is Jesus—the Word of God made flesh. Jesus Christ is described by Paul in Colossians 2:2-3 as “the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” This does not mean that Proverbs directly foreshadows Christ, but it does hint at a truth that is later fully revealed in the New Testament.

Book of the Week 19: Psalms

Hebrew Name: T’hillim

Author: Multiple Authors (some individually identified)

OT or NT: Old Testament

Number of Chapters: 150

Basic Facts

  1. Psalms is the nineteenth book of the Bible.
  2. In terms of literary genre, Psalms is classified as poetry.
  3. The book of Psalms in Hebrew and in English has 150 independent Psalms, but the Greek Septuagint contains 151 Psalms, and the Dead Sea Scrolls contain even more.
  4. The introductory notes which are listed before verse 1 in many of the Psalms are considered to be part of the original biblical text, sometimes identifying the author.
  5. The Hebrew name for Psalms is T’hillim, meaning “praises.”

Story of the Book

Psalms is a collection of hymns or songs, poems, and prayers that were collected and preserved from Israel’s history. Each of the 150 psalms is its own independent work of poetry. As a result, Psalms is an assortment of 150 different stories, not necessarily a coherent whole that tells one story like most of the books of the Bible. The book of Psalms includes three main types of songs: psalms of thanksgiving or praise, psalms of lament, and psalms that are used as hymns. Some psalms are also titled "songs of ascent," which were sung by the assembly of the Israelites as they ascended the Temple Mount in order to worship (particularly Psalms 120-134).

Psalms has been organized and reorganized several times throughout the course of history before being settled into its final form, which divides the book into five smaller books as follows:

  • Book 1 (Psalms 1-41)
  • Book 2 (Psalms 42-72)
  • Book 3 (Psalms 73-89)
  • Book 4 (Psalms 90-106)
  • Book 5 (Psalms 107-150)

This structure to the book of Psalms is artificial and is only a means of organizing the Psalms. This organizational structure is not considered to be original to the text. Each psalm stands on its own as an independent work of literature. Nevertheless, each book contributes to the whole of Scripture in communicating meaning, truth, history, repentance, laments, and sometimes prophecy.

Jesus Foreshadowed in Psalms

Psalms is quoted in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament book. As a result, there are too many ways in which the book of Psalms foreshadows Christ to mention all of them here. The following is a small sample of the ways in which Christ is foreshadowed in Psalms:

  • Psalm 2 speaks of the anointing of king David. This description describes David as God’s chosen son and foreshadows the king to come, namely Jesus, as the Son of God (Psalm 2:7-12; Acts 4:25-26).
  • Psalm 22 speaks of the sufferings of king David, which many believe to be a foretelling of the crucifixion of Christ (especially Psalm 22:1-18; John 19:24). 
  • Jesus tells the scribes and the chief priests in the temple that the praise of children concerning him is the fulfillment of Psalm 8 (Psalm 8:2, Matthew 21:16).
  • The book of Hebrews makes extensive use of Psalms to describe the foreshadowing of Christ in the Old Testament:
    • Christ is called the "Son of God" (Psalm 2:7; Hebrews 1:5-6). 
    • Christ’s kingdom is forever (Psalm 45:6; Hebrews 1:8-9). 
    • David describes the Messiah as Lord, to whom God promises to subject the nations (Psalm 110:1; Hebrews 1:13).
    • Christ is even described as the Creator of the world (Psalm 102:25; John 1:1-3; Hebrews 1:10).

There are many more examples, but these are a few of the many ways in which Jesus is foreshadowed in the book of Psalms.     

Book of the Week 18: Job

Book of the Bible: Job                                                          

Hebrew Name: Iyyov/Yob

Author: Unknown (possibly Moses)                                    

OT or NT: Old Testament

Number of Chapters: 42

Basic Facts

  1. Job is the eighteenth book of the Bible.
  2. In terms of literary genre, Job is classified as a theodicy.
  3. It is possible that Job is the earliest book of the Bible to be written, but the dating of the book is uncertain.
  4. The Hebrew name for the book of Job is Iyyov/Yob, after the main character, Job. Iyyov/Yob is a Hebrew name meaning “persecuted” or “hostility.”
  5. The Greek name for Job in the Septuagint is Iob, from which we ultimately get the English name “Job” for the book of Job.

Story of the Book

The book of Job tells the story of a man named Job. Job is a righteous man who fears God. The scene is set as God dialogues with Satan, and Satan gets permission from God to afflict Job and his household in order to get Job to curse God and abandon his loyalty to God. Satan is allowed to afflict Job any way that he wants but is not allowed to kill Job. Job loses his family, his health, and virtually all of his possessions through the affliction of Satan (though Job does not know that this is the work of Satan). Job is then confronted by a few friends who assume that Job is suffering hardship due to hidden sin in his life. Job has a lengthy dialogue with his friends in which his friends try to get Job to confess hidden sin while Job insists upon his integrity in the midst of suffering. Eventually Job despairs of life and questions God’s justice. At the end of the book, Job repents and is forgiven by God. God then rebukes Job’s friends for their rebuke of Job, and God’s righteousness is vindicated before Job and his friends. Finally, God restores Job's fortunes and doubles his former wealth and prosperity.  

Jesus Foreshadowed in Job

Though the book of Job does not directly refer to the Messiah, the book vindicates the righteousness and justice of God in the face of suffering, which is an important factor in understanding the Gospel. In ancient Israel, it was often assumed that when a person suffered hardship, the person suffering or their parents had sinned in some way. The story of Job reveals that even people of integrity can suffer, and the ultimate purpose for suffering is that the glory of God would be shown. (Jesus affirms this truth in a similar way in John 9:1-34, though the stories are not directly connected.) James 5:11 upholds the character of Job as an example to Christian believers who would be called to persevere through suffering, trusting that Jesus still loved them despite the persecution they faced. When Jesus died on the cross and was buried, it was a strong temptation for His followers to assume that God had abandoned Jesus because He was hanged on a tree—which was believed to be a sign of God’s curse upon a person (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). However, the righteousness and cause of Jesus are vindicated when the Father raises Jesus from the dead, for Jesus died to redeem us (Galatians 3:13-14).

Book of the Week 17: Esther

Hebrew Name: Hadasah

Human Author: Unknown                                                   

OT or NT: Old Testament

Number of Chapters: 10

Basic Facts

  1. Esther is the seventeenth book of the Bible.
  2. Esther is the only book of the Old Testament not found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.
  3. The Hebrew name for the Esther is Hadasah, which means “Myrtle Tree.”
  4. The term Esther is a name, possibly of Babylonian origin, meaning “a star.”
  5. Esther is one of the few books of the Bible which never explicitly mention God.

Story of the Book

Esther is a story of providence and deliverance. The book begins in the Persian period in which the Medo-Persian empire controls the Middle East. King Xerxes of Persia commands his queen to dance before a crowd at a banquet. When she refuses, the king has the queen deposed. Xerxes then seeks a new queen, and Esther (a Jewish woman) essentially wins a beauty contest which puts her in the favor of the king Xerxes. Xerxes makes Esther the queen of Persia.

The rest of the book tells of how a high-ranking official named Haman has a continual feud with Mordecai the Jew. Because of this feud, Haman plots to have all of the Jews throughout the Persian empire put to death. Queen Esther learns of this plot to kill the Jews from Mordecai, who is her uncle. Esther exposes Haman’s plot against the Jews to king Xerxes, who in turn executes Haman. Then the Jews take revenge against their enemies who participated in Haman’s plot to kill the Jews. The Jews throughout the Persian empire kill their enemies rather than being slaughtered themselves. This event of the Jews' revenge upon their enemies is celebrated in an annual Jewish festival known as Purim (Esther 9:20-32).

Jesus Foreshadowed in Esther

It is probable, if not proven, that the story of Esther takes place after Ezra and Nehemiah return with waves of Jewish exiles to the promised land. The story of Esther tells of how the Jewish people are spared from Haman’s plot to commit genocide against the Jews (Esther 3:6). If the events of Esther had not occurred, Haman would have succeeded in his plot to kill the Jews throughout the provinces of the Persian empire. If this had happened, the royal line of king David would have been wiped out along with all of the Jews who survived the exile. Jesus Christ, the descendant of king David, might never have been born.* God’s promise to establish David’s royal line forever in II Samuel 7:16 would not have been fulfilled, and the Messiah would not have come. Therefore, even though the book of Esther never mentions God or Jesus specifically, the events told in the book of Esther are essential to the survival of the Jews and the coming of the Messiah. Without the brave actions of Esther, who risked her life to save her people, the plan of God to establish a royal descendant of king David on the throne of Israel forever would not have been fulfilled. God’s providence provided a way for the coming of the Messiah through the deliverance of the Jews as a result of queen Esther's brave actions. Mordecai summarizes God's deliverance of the Jews well when he says to Esther, “who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).

*Mordecai acknowledges that if Esther was silent, deliverance for the Jews would have come from another place (Esther 4:14).

Book of the Week 16: Nehemiah

Hebrew Name: Nacham’Yah

Human Author: Nehemiah                                                  

OT or NT: Old Testament

Number of Chapters: 13

Basic Facts

  1. Nehemiah is the sixteenth book of the Bible.
  2. It is possible that Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one book, sometimes called the book of Esdras.
  3. The book of Nehemiah is named after the man named Nehemiah. Nehemiah was a cupbearer to the king of Persia who was called by God to rebuild Jerusalem.
  4. The Hebrew name for the book of Nehemiah is Nacham’Yah, a Hebrew name meaning “God comforts” or “comforted by God.”
  5. In the Greek Septuagint, Nehemiah is part of the book of II Esdras, which is not found in our English Bible.

Story of the Book

The book of Nehemiah begins with Nehemiah in exile. Nehemiah receives a report that Jerusalem is lying in ruins and prays to God concerning the state of Jerusalem. God is gracious with Nehemiah and moves king Artaxerxes to allow Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem to rebuild it. Nehemiah leads a wave of Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem. Through lots of opposition, Nehemiah leads the returned exiles in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Ezra reads the Law to the people, and the exiles repent of their sins. The exiles swear an oath to obey God’s Law, and Nehemiah lists the people who sign the oath and agree to live in Jerusalem and the surrounding towns. The book ends with the final reforms of Nehemiah in which the people expel foreigners from their midst, and Nehemiah consecrates the Levite priests for Temple service. Nehemiah closes with a prayer that God would remember his efforts to reform the nation and return the people to following the Lord diligently.

Jesus Foreshadowed in Nehemiah

The message of Nehemiah is one of restoration and repentance. Christ is foreshadowed in Nehemiah in a way that is similar to the story of Ezra. Among the returned exiles to Judah and Jerusalem was a man named Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel was the heir to the royal line of king David and ultimately an ancestor of Christ (Matthew 1:1-17). Jeremiah 23:5-8 predicted that the people of Israel would be returned to their native land, and there would then come a righteous branch from David who would execute righteousness and justice in the land. Jesus is that righteous branch in the royal line of David who was established forever in fulfillment of II Samuel 7:16. Nehemiah’s ministry brings about the beginning of a partial fulfillment of Jeremiah 23:5-8 as the waves of exiles return from Mesopotamia to Judah and Jerusalem and rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. Nehemiah’s reforms help to keep the bloodline of kings and priests pure until the Messiah, Jesus Christ, is born in Bethlehem. Nehemiah and Ezra take the exiles from the lands in which they were scattered and return them back to the promised land. The exiles establish the Temple and rebuild Jerusalem in anticipation of a more complete fulfillment when the reign of Christ would be established forever.

Book of the Week 15: Ezra

Hebrew Name: Ezra

Human Author: Unknown (Possibly Ezra)                         

OT or NT: Old Testament

Number of Chapters: 10

Basic Facts

  1. Ezra is the fifteenth book of the Bible.
  2. It is possible that Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one book, sometimes called the book of Esdras.
  3. The book of Ezra is named after the man named Ezra. Ezra was a teacher of the law and a Levite priest who was descended from Aaron.
  4. The Hebrew name for Ezra is Ezra, meaning “help” or “helper.”
  5. The old Greek name for Ezra is Esdras, which is a Greek rendering of the Hebrew name Ezra.

Story of the Book

At the beginning of the book of Ezra, the Babylonian empire has recently been conquered by the Persians. The book of Ezra opens as Cyrus the first, the king of Persia, declares that God has instructed him to allow the Jewish people to return to their homeland to rebuild the Temple of God in Jerusalem. The book lists many Temple articles that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple which were returned to the Jews, along with a list of the returned exiles by family. The exiles include priests, Levites, and other Temple attendants. The exiles then return to the promised land and begin the reconstruction of the Temple.

The rest of the book tells the following stories: local inhabitants of the land halt the rebuilding of the Temple, a second wave of exiles returns to the land, the Jews appeal to the king of Persia who allows the rebuilding to continue, the people finish rebuilding the Temple and dedicate it to God, and Ezra strictly prohibits any of the exiles to intermarry with gentiles in order to keep the Isrealites' bloodline pure. The book ends with the exiles confessing their sin and putting away foreign wives from the midst of the people.

Jesus Foreshadowed in Ezra

The message of the book of Ezra is one of hope in the midst of hardship. God promised through Jeremiah that Judah would be in exile in Babylon for 70 years, and then God would gather up a remnant of His people and return them to the promised land (Ezra: 1:1; Jeremiah 25:12-13; Jeremiah 29:10-14). Included in the returning exiles to the land was a man named Zerubbabel (Ezra 3:8). Zerubbabel was the heir of the royal line of David being returned to the promised land and an ancestor of Jesus Christ. The book of Ezra ends with the story of how Ezra had the people put away foreign wives (Ezra 9:1-10:44). This practice was to preserve the purity of the Levite descendants of Aaron as lawful priests and David’s descendants as lawful heirs to the throne of David who would one day be restored in their reign through the kingship of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:1-17). This partial fulfillment of Zerubbabel returning to the land and Ezra putting away foreign wives from the people kept Israelite bloodlines pure until Jesus would be born. Without a pure descendant of David, God’s promise to establish David’s royal line forever in II Samuel 7:16 could not be fulfilled. Thus, Ezra’s practice of putting away foreign wives was a necessary preservation of the royal line of David which ultimately led to the birth of Jesus Christ the Messiah.