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Exodus - Introduction

      The Pentateuch, the name by which the first five books of theBible are designated, is derived from two Greek words, pente, "five," andteuchos, a "volume," thus signifying the fivefold volume. Originallythese books formed one continuous work, as in the Hebrew manuscripts they are stillconnected in one unbroken roll. At what time they were divided into five portions, eachhaving a separate title, is not known, but it is certain that the distinction dates at orbefore the time of the Septuagint translation. The names they bear in our Englishversion are borrowed from the Septuagint, and they were applied by those Greektranslators as descriptive of the principal subjects--the leading contents of therespective books. In the later Scriptures they are frequently comprehended under thegeneral designation, The Law, The Book of the Law, since, to give a detailedaccount of the preparations for, and the delivery of, the divine code, with all the civiland sacred institutions that were peculiar to the ancient economy, is the object to whichthey are exclusively devoted. They have always been placed at the beginning of the Bible,not only on account of their priority in point of time, but as forming an appropriate andindispensable introduction to the rest of the sacred books. The numerous and oft-recurringreferences made in the later Scriptures to the events, the ritual, and the doctrines ofthe ancient Church would have not only lost much of their point and significance, but havebeen absolutely unintelligible without the information which these five books contain.They constitute the groundwork or basis on which the whole fabric of revelation rests, anda knowledge of the authority and importance that is thus attached to them willsufficiently account for the determined assaults that infidels have made on these books,as well as for the zeal and earnestness which the friends of the truth have displayed intheir defense.

      JUDGES is the title given to the next book,from its containing the history of those non-regal rulers who governed the Hebrews fromthe time of Joshua to that of Eli, and whose functions in time of peace consisted chieflyin the administration of justice, although they occasionally led the people in their warsagainst their public enemies. The date and authorship of this book are not preciselyknown. It is certain, however, that it preceded the Second Book of Samuel (compare Judges 9:35 with 2 Samuel 11:21 ), as well as theconquest of Jerusalem by David (compare Judges 1:21 with 2 Samuel 5:6 ). Its author was inall probability Samuel, the last of the judges (see Judges 19:1 Judges 21:25 ), andthe date of the first part of it is fixed in the reign of Saul, while the five chapters atthe close might not have been written till after' David's establishment as king in Israel(see Judges 18:31 ). It is afragmentary history, being a collection of important facts and signal deliverances atdifferent times and in various parts of the land, during the intermediate period of threehundred years between Joshua and the establishment of the monarchy. The inspired characterof this book is confirmed by allusions to it in many passages of Scripture (compare Judges 4:2 ; 6:14 with 1 Samuel 12:9-12 ; Judges 9:53 with 2 Samuel 11:21 ; Judges 7:25 with Psalms 83:11 ; compare Judges 5:4 Judges 5:5 with Psalms 7:5 ; Judges 13:5 ; 16:17 with Matthew 2:13-23 ; Acts 13:20 ; Hebrews 11:32 ).

      RUTH is properly a supplement to thepreceding book, to which, in fact, it was appended in the ancient Jewish canon. Althoughit relates an episode belonging to the time of the Judges, its precise date is unknown. Itappears certain, however, that it could not have been written prior to the time of Samuel(see Ruth 4:17-22 ), who isgenerally supposed to have been its author; and this opinion, in addition to other reasonson which it rests, is confirmed by Ruth4:7 , where it is evident that the history was not compiled till long after thetransactions recorded. The inspiration and canonical authority of the book is attested bythe fact of Ruth's name being inserted by Matthew in the Saviour's genealogy [ Matthew 1:5 ].

      THE FIRST AND SECOND BOOKS OF SAMUEL. Thetwo were, by the ancient Jews, conjoined so as to make one book, and in that form could becalled the Book of Samuel with more propriety than now, the second being wholly occupiedwith the relation of transactions that did not take place till after the death of thateminent judge. Accordingly, in the Septuagint and the Vulgate, it is calledthe First and Second Books of Kings. The early portion of the First Book, down to the endof the twenty-fourth chapter, was probably written by Samuel; while the rest of it and thewhole of the Second, are commonly ascribed to Nathan and Gad, founding the opinion on 1Chronicles 29:29 . Commentators,however, are divided about this, some supposing that the statements in 1 Samuel 2:26 ; 3:1 , indicate the hand of the judgehimself, or a contemporary; while some think, from 1 Samuel 6:18 ; 12:5 ; 27:6 , that its composition must bereferred to a later age. It is probable, however, that these supposed marks of anafter-period were interpolations of Ezra. This uncertainty, however, as to the authorshipdoes not affect the inspired authority of the book, which is indisputable, being quoted inthe New Testament ( 1 Samuel 13:14 in Acts 13:22 , and 2 Samuel 7:14 in Hebrews 1:5 ), as well as in many ofthe Psalms.

      THE FIRST AND SECOND BOOKS OF KINGS, inthe ancient copies of the Hebrew Bible, constitute one book. Various titles havebeen given them; in the Septuagint and the Vulgate they are called the Thirdand Fourth Books of Kings. The authorship of these books is unknown; but the prevailingopinion is that they were compiled by Ezra, or one of the later prophets, from the ancientdocuments that are so frequently referred to in the course of the history as of public andestablished authority. Their inspired character was acknowledged by the Jewish Church,which ranked them in the sacred canon; and, besides, it is attested by our Lord, whofrequently quotes from them (compare 1 Kings 17:9 ; 2 Kings 5:14 with Luke 4:24-27 ; 1 Kings 10:1 with Matthew 12:42 ).

      THE FIRST AND SECOND BOOKS OF CHRONICLESwere also considered as one by the ancient Jews, who called them "words ofdays," that is, diaries or journals, being probably compiled from those registersthat were kept by the king's historiographers of passing occurrences. In the Septuagintthe title given them is Paraleipomenon, "of things omitted," that is, thebooks are supplementary because many things unnoticed in the former books are hererecorded; and not only the omissions are supplied, but some narratives extended whileothers are added. The authorship is commonly ascribed to Ezra, whose leading object seemsto have been to show the division of families, possessions, &c., before the captivity,with a view to the exact restoration of the same order after the return from Babylon.Although many things are restated and others are exact repetitions of what is contained inKings, there is so much new and important information that, as JEROMEhas well said, the Chronicles furnish the means of comprehending parts of the NewTestament, which must have been unintelligible without them. They are frequently referredto by Christ and the Apostles as forming part of "the Word of God" (see thegenealogies in Matthew 1:1-16 ; Luke 3:23-38 ; compare 2 Chronicles 19:7 with 1 Peter 1:17 ; 2 Chronicles 24:19-21 with Matthew 23:32-35 ).

      EZRA was, along with Nehemiah, reckoned onebook by the ancient Jews, who called them the First and Second Books of Ezra, and they arestill designated by Roman Catholic writers the First and Second Books of Esdras. This booknaturally divides itself into two parts or sections, the one contained in the first sixchapters, and which relates the circumstances connected with the return of the firstdetachment of Babylonish exiles under Zerubbabel with the consequent rebuilding of thetemple and the re-establishment of the divine service. The other part, embraced in thefour concluding chapters, narrates the journey of a second caravan of returning captivesunder the conduct of Ezra himself, who was invested with powers to restore, in all itssplendor, the entire system of the Jewish ritual. The general opinion of the Church inevery succeeding age has been that Ezra was the author of this book. The chief objectionis founded on Ezra 5:4 , wherethe words, "Then said we unto them after this manner, What are the names of the menthat make this building?" have occasioned a surmise that the first portion of thebook was not written by Ezra, who did not go to Jerusalem for many years after. But alittle attention will show the futility of this objection, as the words in question didnot refer to the writer, but were used by Tatnai and his associates ( Ezra 5:3 ). The style and unity ofobject in the book clearly prove it to have been the production of but one author. Thecanonical authority of this book is well established; but another under the name of Ezrais rejected as apocryphal.

      NEHEMIAH appears to have been the author ofthis book, from his usually writing in his own name, and indeed, except in those partswhich are unmistakably later editions or borrowed from public documents, he usuallyemploys the first person. The major portion of the book is occupied with a history ofNehemiah's twelve years' administration in Jerusalem, after which he returned to hisduties in Shushan. At a later period he returned with new powers and commenced new andvigorous measures of reform, which are detailed in the later chapters of the book.

      ESTHER derives its name from the Jewess,who, having become wife of the king of Persia, employed her royal influence to effect amemorable deliverance for the persecuted Church of God. Various opinions are embraced andsupported as to the authorship of this book, some ascribing it to Ezra, to Nehemiah, or toMordecai. The preponderance of authorities is in favor of the last. The historicalcharacter of the book is undoubted, since, besides many internal evidences, itsauthenticity is proved by the strong testimony of the feast of Purim, the celebration ofwhich can be traced up to the events which are described in this book. Its claim, however,to canonical authority has been questioned on the ground that the name of God does notonce occur in it. But the uniform tradition both of the Jewish and the Christian Churchessupports this claim, which nothing in the book tends to shake; while it is a record of thesuperintending care of divine providence over his chosen people, with which it is of theutmost importance the Church should be furnished. The name of God is strangely enoughomitted, but the presence of God is felt throughout the history; and the whole tone andtendency of the book is so decidedly subservient to the honor of God and the cause of truereligion that it has been generally received by the Church in all ages into the sacredcanon.

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