Historical Books

The historical books focus on the history of the nation of Israel as the people enter the Promised Land of Canaan, their governmental changes, such as the time of the theocratic rule of God during the judges and seers like Samuel, and the people's demand for a human king, the royalty, the division of the kingdom of Israel, the fall of the northern and southern kingdoms, their time in exile, and after the exile as they began to rebuild.

As you read the historical books, much of them is history mixed with theological interpretation. There are theological reasons why the author places each account in these books. Especially when you get to the Chronicles, the author is looking back on the history from 1 Samuel-2 Kings and showing why the kingdoms fell. The Bible is not a dry history book. The authors filled their histories with reasoning on why the kingdoms experienced success and failure, God the center of it all.

The historical books can be broken up into epochs in Israel’s history.
  • Conquest and Settlement of the Promised Land (Joshua-Ruth)
  • The Kings of Israel and the Exile (1 Samuel-2 Chronicles)
  • The Return to Israel (Ezra-Esther)


Author: Joshua (Son of Nun)
Date: Around 1390 BC
Purpose: To describe and chronicle the conquest of Canaan, the Promised Land, and the establishment of the tribes of Israel in their lands.
Key People: Joshua, the Israelites, Aiken
Key Passages: Joshua 1:8; 24:15


I. The Land Entered (1-5)
II. The Land Subdued (6-12)
III. The Land Divided (13-22)
IV. Joshua’s Farewell Address (23-24)


God does not allow Moses to enter the Promised Land with the second generation of Israelites because of his sins of anger against the Israelites. Only two individuals from the first generation of Israel and heard the land, Joshua and Caleb. They showed God faithfulness when they were spies. Moses ground Joshua to be the next leader of Israel who was his military general in the wilderness. This preparation suited Joshua well because he would preside over the conquest of Canaan and its settlement.

The book of Joshua concerns the military conquest of Canaan by the second generation of Israelites, the settlement and division of the land upon the tribes, and that historical account of the major military victories of Israel. It is well known for the fall of Jericho and other major cities in Canaan. Joshua’s farewell address to the Israelites is also memorable.


Author: Probably Samuel (Talmud, internal evidence suggests written in the time of the Kings of Israel)
Date: Around 1380-1040 BC (335 years)
Purpose: To record the judges who saved Israel from their Canaanite enemies after sinning against the Lord. Judges shows that the Israelites could not rule themselves or listen to God there King. The judges were not enough leadership for Israel and they would clamor for a king and centralized government.
Key People: Deborah (judge); Delilah; Ehud (son of Gera); Gideon; 300 Men of Gideon; Midianites (Judges); Philistines (Judges); Samson; Asherites (Judges); Manassites (Judges); Naphtalites (Judges)
Key Passages: judges 10:13-16


I. The Time after Joshua (1-3:4)
II. Israel’s Repeated Sin Cycle (3:5-16)
III. Israel’s Depravity and Anarchy (17-21


After Joshua died there was no central leadership or strong leader for Israel. God ruled the nation through geographical judges He raised up to free the people from their Canaanite captors. Key to understanding the book is the sin cycle Israel regularly repeated.

Sin Cycle

  • Israel sins against God
  • Regions of Israel are captured by Canaanites
  • The people cry out for God’s salvation
  • God sends a Judge to set them free, rule over them, and turn them back to God
  • The Judge dies
  • The people sin against God (and repeat the cycle again)

These judges ruled their geographical region for a time but after their death Israel once again fell into sin and the cycle started all over again. But the sin against God progressively spiraled downhill until absolute mayhem and moral depravity gripped the nation. This book teaches us that when we sin against the Lord, we will suffer separation from Him and His blessings. It also shows that godly leadership is imperative as an example of holiness to God’s people.


Author: Samuel (Talmud)
Date: Before 1100 BC (During the time of the Judges)
Purpose: To describe the Israelite custom of the kinsman redeemer who saved Ruth and Naomi and their land from being owned by someone outside the family. To give the background story of King David’s great-grandmother and how Ruth fits into the genealogy of Jesus.
Key People: Ruth, Naomi, Boaz
Key Passages: Ruth 1:16-17


I. Ruth Ties Herself to Naomi, Israel, and Yahweh (1)
II. Ruth Meets Boaz While Providing for the Family (2)
III. Ruth Seeks Boaz’ Help by Naomi’s Plan (3)
IV. Ruth is redeemed through marriage to Boaz (4)


The book of Ruth serves two purposes within the Old Testament. Its first purpose is found in the final two sections. These are genealogies which link Ruth and her descendents directly to King David and shows how she fits into Jesus’ genealogy. It shows the preservation of the Davidic line which would bring forth the Messiah Jesus.

The second purpose shows how God works in the background of our lives to fulfill His plan and purposes for us. We may not always see how God is working, but He Orchestrates every event for His glory. Even when we can’t see Him working, He is working for our very best. We must trust that God works out the details of our lives for His greater glory and our benefit.

1 & 2 Samuel

1 Samuel

Author: Samuel, Nathan, Later Editor
Date: 1100-1050 BC
Purpose: To chronicle the transition from the Judges of Israel to the final judge, Samuel, who is also the first Seer (Prophet) of Israel and his role in anointing the first king of Israel.
Key People: Samuel, Hannah, Saul, Eli, David
Key Passages: 1 Samuel 16:7


I. Focusing on Samuel (1-7)
II. Focusing on Saul (8-15)
III. Focusing on David (16-31)

2 Samuel

Author: Samuel, Nathan, Later Editor
Date: 1010-970 BC
Purpose: To chronicle the reign of King David and his life, his successes and failures.
Key People: David, Nathan, Bathsheba, Solomon
Key Passages: 2 Samuel 7:12, 16


I. David’s Rise in Israel (1-10)
II. David’s Fall from God’s Grace (11-20)
III. David’s Later Years (21-24)


Broadly, 1-2 Samuel = 1 Chronicles

Originally, First and Second Samuel were one complete book. Because the book was so large it was split up into two books later. The authors are most likely Samuel, Nathan, and a later editor. As with many of the books a later editor may have revised or modernized for his time some places in the book. Samuel dies in 1 Samuel so he could not have written all of both books.

First Samuel picks up after the time of the Judges. For the first time in Israel’s history, we see the prophetic office take shape. In the beginning, prophets are called Seers, and the people look to them for spiritual leadership. Under Samuel’s leadership as the first prophet, God allows the people to have a human king rather than divine theocracy. Samuel warns the people that the human king will not measure up to the divine kingship the people have become accustomed to. It will also make them more like the nations around them. First Samuel rolls out the leadership of the first and second Kings of Israel, Saul and David. Samuel shows us what happens when we choose human leadership over God’s leadership.

Second Samuel continues to outline the historical accounts of the early days of the prophetic and Kingly offices of Israel’s leadership. The kings ruled the political landscape for Israel and the book focuses on historical accounts of David, the king who brought Israel into its golden age. Both Kings and Prophets were ordained and anointed by God to fulfill their offices. The prophets often advise the Kings as to God’s expectations for them in the nation. The prophets reminded the people of God’s laws and commands and reminded the king close to God and fulfill his covenant.

1 & 2 Kings

1 Kings

Author: Jeremiah (Talmud) based on records from Nathan, Gad, and others
Date: Written 630-600 BC. Covers 1015-897 BC
Purpose: To cover the reign of Solomon, the division of the kingdom into Israel and Judah, and the prophetic ministry of Elijah.
Key People: Solomon, Elijah
Key Passages: 1 Kings 18:21


I. Solomon’s Kingdom Established (1-7)
II. Solomon’s Reign (3-11)
III. The Decline of the United Kingdom (12-22)

2 Kings

Author: Jeremiah (Talmud) based on records from Nathan, Gad, and others
Date: Written 630-600 BC, Covers 896-588 BC
Purpose: To cover the reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah during the divided kingdoms, the ministry of Elisha, and the fall of both kingdoms.
Key People: Elisha, Hezekiah, Josiah, Manasseh
Key Passages: 2 Kings 20:5


I. End of Elijah’s Ministry (1-2:13)
II. Elisha’s Ministry (2:14-13:21)
III. Decline and Fall of Israel (13:22-17:41)
IV. Decline and Fall of Judah (18-25)


Broadly, 1-2 Kings = 2 Chronicles

Originally, the books of 1-2 Kings were one complete book. They were broken up because the squirrel would be too long to contain all the material. Some suggest the books were broken into two books when the Greek manuscripts of them were made.

The first book of Kings describes the political leadership of the united kingdom of Israel as David’s rule winds down and Solomon takes over. It records the reign of King Solomon and all that happened during his reign. Then it tells of the division of the kingdom into the northern nation of Israel and the southern nation of Judah. It also highlights the prophetic ministry of Elijah doing the division of the kingdoms. It ends with the northern king Ahaziah.

The second book of Kings picks up with the reign of Ahaziah in the North and continues to tell about the kings in Israel and Judah. Idolatry is the downfall of both kingdoms. Israel is taken into exile by the Assyrians around 722 BC. Judah lasts until it is taken into captivity by the Babylonians in 587 BC. Judah enjoys more godly kings than Israel. It also highlights the prophetic ministry of Elisha. The book concludes with the decline and fall of both kingdoms. This book shows the importance of godly leadership to maintain Israel’s place in God’s continued revelation of himself.

1 & 2 Chronicles

1 Chronicles

Author: Unknown, although tradition ascribes it to Ezra
Date: 450-430 BC
Purpose: To remind the post-exile returning to Judah that God is in control of history and the Davidic kingship is still His plan.
Key People: David
Key Passages: 1 Chronicles 16:8-10


I. Genealogies (1-9)
II. Saul’s Death (10)
III. David’s Reign (11-29)

2 Chronicles

Author: Unknown, although tradition ascribes it to Ezra
Date: 450-430 BC
Purpose: To remind the post-exile returning to Judah that God is in control of history and the Davidic kingship is still His plan.
Key People: Solomon, Hezekiah
Key Passages: 2 Chronicles 7:14


I. Solomon’s Reign (1-9)
II. Judah’s History (10-36)
III. Fall of Jerusalem (13-23)


First and Second Chronicles were originally one book. They are the historical and theological retelling of the reigns of King David and King Solomon, along with an intensive look at Judah and Jerusalem.

The first book of Chronicles rehashes Israel’s political history and leadership. The author of 1 Chronicles writes after the exile. He retells the history of Saul’s demise and the Golden age of King David’s reign with pointed commentary concerning spiritual application of his life. The author concerns himself and the post-exilic community of Judah with God’s covenant with David and promise to always have a Davidic king on Israel’s throne. It shows how important a vibrant relationship with God is to every individual.

The second book of Chronicles continues as the first book to rehash the history of the political leadership of Israel from King Solomon’s reign through the divided kingdom and the evil Kings of Israel. The author concerns his retelling of Judah’s history to show why the Israelites must go into exile. The wickedness of most of the kings of Israel and Judah show how Israel broke its covenant with God and caused them to lose the Promised Land.

As the author continues to retell the story of Israel’s kings, he shows through his commentary the lack of spiritual leadership and personal commitment to the God of Israel. As the leadership goes, so go the people. As Israel’s leaders continue to degrade the relationship with Yahweh, God opens up the doors for the exile. This book highlights the importance of an intimate and vibrant relationship with the true God. To enjoy the blessings that God provides through his covenants, we must maintain our relationship with Him.


Author: Ezra
Date: 430 BC
Purpose: To tell of the return to Judah from exile and the rebuilding of God’s Temple, and to reassure the returning exiles of God’s providence.
Key People: Artaxerxes, Cyrus, Ezra
Key Passages: Ezra 7:21-23


I. The Return under Zerubbabel (1-6)
II. The Return under Ezra (7-10)


Ezra wrote the book of Ezra after the exile as God opened through King Cyrus’ decree the doors for Israel to return to its land. This book focuses on the religious leadership of the priests to encourage the people to rebuild the Temple as they reentered the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. We will find that the second Temple’s edifice is not as fabulous as Solomon’s Temple. The people struggle to rebuild the Temple because they do not put God first in their lives. Instead of paying attention to the house of God and building at first, they focus on their own endeavors. They struggle in their own endeavors until they learn God comes first.


Author: Ezra (perhaps using excerpts from Nehemiah’s Journal)
Date: 420 BC
Purpose: To record the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall and all the trials of the Jews as they rebuilt.
Key People: Nehemiah
Key Passages: Nehemiah 6:16; 8:10


I. Rebuilding the Jerusalem Wall (1-6)
II. Restoring Worship in Judah (7-13: 3)
III. Correcting Abuses (13:4-31)


Whereas Ezra focuses on the spiritual leadership of Israel in the return to the land after the exile to Babylon, Nehemiah focuses on the governmental and political leadership of Israel. Nehemiah, the first governor of Judah after the return from the exile, concerns himself with rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls. In their absence, the walls were neglected and true the salon was defenseless.

Nehemiah examines the situation, and through godly, spiritual, and political leadership, teaches the people to prepare the city for defense so God can prosper the people once again. Nehemiah deals with enemies all around, making the rebuilding of the wall much harder. As governor, he also deals with correcting the abuses of the people because they did not follow God’s laws at first. Nehemiah teaches the people that God is their strength as they go about their daily business. Through his help, the Israelites made Jerusalem a strong city again.


Author: Ezra, possibly Mordechai
Date: Around 470 BC
Purpose: To show God’s sovereign protection of the Jews during their captivity in Persia and the word gems of the Jewish festival of Purim.
Key People: Esther, Mordechai, Ahasuerus (king),; Haman
Key Passages: Esther 4:14, 16


I. The Feast of King Ahasuerus (1-2)
II. The Feast of Queen Esther (3-7)
III. The Feast of Purim (8-10)


Written during the Persian captivity of Israel, the book of Esther tells us about the rise of a young Jewish girl into the leadership of Israel and Persia. Esther becomes the Queen of Persia and is able to protect the Israelites from total annihilation. The book does not mention God, it is clear He is working in the background to save the Jews.

The book shows how God stops His enemies, such as Haman, and how Israel’s heroes rise to power to defend the nation. God does not neglect His people even in times of trial in darkness. Even when it feels as though God is not listening to us He is always there with us, and planning for our best. Another purpose for the book is to show how the Hebrew festival of Purim began.