The Historical Books of the Old Testament, usually so called, are twelve in number, from Joshua to Esther inclusive. It should, however, be remembered that the entire Old Testament is filled with historical material. The accuracy of these writings, often questioned, has been in recent years completely confirmed by the testimony of the monuments of contemporaneous antiquity.
The story of the Historical Books is the story of the rise and fall of the Commonwealth of Israel, while the prophets foretell the future restoration and glory of that under King Messiah.
The history of Israel falls into seven distinct periods:
- From the call of Abraham to the Exodus, Genesis 12:1-Exodus 1:22; (with Acts 7) The book of Job belongs to this period and shows the maturity and depth of philosophic and religious thought, and the extent of revelation of the age of the Patriarchs.
- From the Exodus to the death of Joshua. The history of this period is gathered from the books of Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, and such parts of Leviticus as relate to the story of Israel. The great figures of Moses, Aaron, and Joshua dominate this period.
- The period of the Judges, from the death of Joshua to the call of Saul, Jud.
- The period of the Kings, from Saul to the Captivities, (1 Samuel 11:1 - 2 Kings 17:6)
- The period of the Captivities, Esther, and the historical parts of Daniel. With the captivity of Judah began "the times of the Gentiles," the mark of which is the political subjection of Israel to the Gentile world-powers ( Luke 21:24 ).
- The restored Commonwealth, always under Gentile over-lordship, from the end of the seventy years' captivity and the return of the Jewish remnant to the destruction of Jerusalem, A.D. 70. The inspired history of this period is found in Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi in the Old Testament, and in the historical and biographical material found in the New Testament. During this period Christ, the promised King of the Davidic Covenant, and the Seed of the Adamic and Abrahamic Covenants, appeared, was rejected as king, was crucified, rose again from the dead, and ascended to heaven. Toward the end of this period, also, the church came into being, and the New Testament Scriptures, save the Gospel of John, John's Epistles, and the Revelation, were written.
- The present dispersion ( Luke 21:20-24 ), which according to all the Old Testament prophets is to be ended by the final national regathering promised in the Palestinian Covenant ( Deuteronomy 30:1-9 ). The partial restoration at the end of the 70 years was foretold only by Daniel and Jeremiah, and was to the end that Messiah might come and fulfil the prophecies of His sufferings. In the year A.D. 70 Jerusalem was again destroyed, and the descendants of the remnant of Judah sent to share the national dispersion which still continues.