The Book of Books—Part 2


First human soul—how created … Penalty for sin … Satan’s lie … “Seed” of promise … First mention of “hell”

AS we have noted, the first book of the Bible is called, Genesis, meaning, the ‘origin’. The first chapter of Genesis contains an exceedingly brief account of God’s creative work as it pertained particularly to the planet Earth. It is not intended to be a full and scientific revelation of all the details involved in the work of creation, nor is such a detailed record necessary to the purpose of the Bible, that purpose being to identify the origin of man, to explain why he is now a dying creature, and to assure us that God is carrying forward a glorious plan for man’s recovery from sin and death, as well as to explain the details of that plan.

However, the brief account of creation that is given us in Genesis, when properly interpreted and understood, is found to be fully in harmony with all genuine scientific facts. (See the booklet, “Creation,” for confirmation of this statement, and a detailed examination of the first chapter of Genesis.) Its days of creation, for example, are not periods of twenty-four hours, but long periods of time, each having an obscure beginning called evening, and closing in a symbolic morning of completion.

In the morning state of the sixth day, man was created—male and female. They were commanded to multiply and fill the earth, and subdue it. They were given dominion over the earth, and over all the lower forms of creation. So far as the earthly creation was concerned, man was the Creator’s crowning work. The record states that he was created in the image of God, and, in the divine command to multiply and fill the earth, we have a brief statement of God’s purpose in the creation of this first human pair; namely, his design that the earth should be filled with human beings whose delight it would be to worship and serve him.

The record of the general work of creation contained in this first chapter of Genesis is merely in the nature of background material to help highlight the essential information concerning the creation of man, the account of which closes the chapter. The next chapter begins to present the details, not only of man’s creation, but also of the divine will for him, the fact of his disobedience to the law of God, and his consequent condemnation to death.

In this detailed account of man’s creation we are informed that he was made from the “dust of the ground,” meaning simply what is now scientifically known to be true; that all the chemical elements which make up the human organism are native in the earth, hence the expression, ‘Mother Earth’. We are also told that into the human organism the Creator breathed “the breath of life, and man became a living soul.”—Gen. 2:7

This is the first time the word soul appears in the Bible, and it is, we believe, by divine design that we are informed as to exactly what it is, for here the Lord establishes a fundamental truth which should guide us in our study of his entire plan for the eternal destiny of man. And how simply the Lord defines a human soul. As stated in the record, the soul is the combination of the organism and the breath of life. Under divine guidance, the result of this combination was that man became a living soul.

A soul, then, is not a separate entity which dwells within the human organism, and which escapes when the body dies. There is no biblical or other proof that such an entity exists. That erroneous theory originated in Greek mythology. Although the expression, ‘immortal soul’, is prevalent in the religious concepts of millions, it is not found in the Bible. The more than eight hundred uses of the word soul throughout the Bible are all in harmony with the Creator’s explanation of how the first human soul was made, and of what it consists; namely, a living, human being.

It was to this first human soul, or human being, that God addressed himself when he said, “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen. 2:17) From the moment Adam sinned, this divine penalty of death began to be carried out. As a soul, he began to die. From this point onward the Bible continues to elaborate and emphasize the dire results of disobedience to divine law. Not only did Adam die as a result of his disobedience, but he carried his offspring into death with him, hence the whole world is dying.

But this great tragedy of sin and death is merely the background of truth set forth in the Word of God, a background, nevertheless, which highlights the necessity of the Creator’s plan for the recovery of the human race from the result of sin, and gives emphasis to his love in forming such a glorious plan of salvation. God’s loving plan for the rescue of his human creation from death is the great theme song of the Bible. If we fail to hear and to appreciate the meaning of this theme song of divine love, we will have missed the real value and essential purpose of the Bible.

At the time our first parents sinned against God, and were sentenced to death and driven out of the Garden of Eden, God said that the seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head. Vague though this language is, in the light of the unfolding plan of God as we find it throughout the remainder of the Bible, we recognize this as the first indication of the Creator’s purpose to provide a Redeemer and Savior to rescue man from the result of his disobedience.

Chapters three to six of Genesis reveal the downward course of the human race during the antediluvian world. This world ended with the Deluge of Noah’s day. The story of the Flood is known to all. Some believe it, many do not. Archaeologists have confirmed the fact of a flood in the Mesopotamian valley. It is claimed that proofs of such a flood exist in many other parts of the earth.

Not long after the Flood, an individual who fills a very important place in the Bible story appears on the scene. He is Abraham, originally called Abram. To Abraham God made a wonderful promise, saying, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”—Gen. 12:1-3

This promise was, in essence, repeated to Abraham on several occasions. When he was a very old man, God asked him to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering. Abraham believed that if he obeyed, God would raise his boy from the dead. He demonstrated his willingness to obey, but the Lord prevented the sacrifice, and because of Abraham’s faith and obedience he again repeated the promise he had made concerning his seed blessing all families of the earth, and confirmed the promise with his oath.—Gen. 22:15-18

This promise of the seed to be a channel of blessing, ties in with the statement God made in the Garden of Eden regarding a seed that would bruise the serpent’s head. The same golden strand of promise continues throughout the remainder of the Bible. In the New Testament it leads us to Jesus as the promised seed, and to explanations which reveal that the followers of Jesus will be associated with him as the seed of promise, the channel of life-giving blessings to all mankind.

The natural descendants of Abraham—Isaac, Jacob, Jacob’s twelve sons, and finally their descendants, the nation of Israel, play important roles in the illustrating of the plan of God encompassed in his promise to Abraham. The remaining chapters of Genesis trace the experiences of these down to the time when they became a nation of slaves in Egypt, longing for deliverance.

A very revealing incident in the life of Jacob is recorded in chapter thirty-seven. It is related to his younger son, Joseph, whom he greatly loved, and favored above his other sons. These became jealous of Joseph. First they thought to kill him, but instead sold him into slavery in Egypt. In order to hide their crime from their father, they killed a young goat and smeared its blood over Joseph’s coat which they had retained, and spread it out before their father, Jacob.

As designed by them, Jacob concluded that Joseph had been slain by wild beasts. He was heartbroken, and in his great sorrow said, “I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning.” (Gen. 37:35) The Hebrew word here translated grave is sheol. This same Hebrew word is also translated ‘hell’, and is the only word in the Old Testament thus translated. Here, then, is the only hell mentioned in the Old Testament, and we find righteous Jacob expecting to go there when he died. Thus we learn that hell is not a place of torment, but simply the condition of death into which the righteous and the wicked go when they die.


Deliverance from bondage … The Ten Commandments … Our merciful God

This book, as its name implies, narrates the thrilling story of the deliverance of the children of Israel from their Egyptian taskmasters and their exodus from Egypt. This involved many miraculous manifestations of God’s loving care. One of these was the saving of their firstborn from death on the night before they left Egypt, the night when all the firstborn of Egypt died. As we put together the complete testimony of the Bible on this subject, we will find that the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage was an illustration of the future deliverance of all mankind from the thralldom of sin and death.

The Book of Exodus also narrates the miraculous manner in which, through Moses, God gave his Law to the Israelites. This Law is epitomized in the well-known Ten Commandments. The moral code represented in these commandments forms the basis of civilized laws in all the enlightened countries of the earth today. Certainly this attests to their intrinsic worth, and is a recognition by modern man that these laws given nearly four thousand years ago cannot be improved upon. This fact alone gives us profound respect for the Book in which such laws were first recorded!

The Ten Commandments were written on tables of stone. When Moses brought these tables down from the mountain, where he received them, he found the Israelites practicing idolatry. To him this was a serious breach in their fidelity to God and he threw the tables of the Law to the ground and broke them as a symbol of the people’s infidelity. Later, the Lord said to Moses, “Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou breakest.”—Exod. 34:1

Moses followed the instructions, taking the tables of stone into the mountain. Then, “the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth. Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty.”—Exod. 34:5-7

Here we have in a few words a summary of the glorious characteristics of God, which, throughout all the books of the Bible are amplified by the revealment of his just and loving plan for the recovery of the lost race from death, and the restoration of all the willing and obedient to life on the earth. As we progress in our examination of the Bible, we will find that the Creator is, indeed, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth. We will discover, also, that while he does not clear the guilty, he has provided redemption through Christ so that the iniquity of us all may fall upon him.


The name of the third book of the Bible is derived from the name Levi. Levi was the head of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. This tribe was the one selected by God to perform the religious rites and services of the nation. The Book of Leviticus presents in detail these different services, including the offering of many and varied sacrifices. As the religious servants of the nation, they, as well as the sacrifices and other services which they supervised, are referred to in the New Testament, and are shown to be typical of Jesus and his followers during this present age and of their sacrificial work and service. Thus, even the tedious and difficult reading in the Book of Leviticus is related to the unfolding of the divine purpose of redemption and restoration.


This, the fourth book of the Bible, probably gets its name from the opening chapter, in which the Lord gives instructions to Moses to “take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, … with the number of their names.” The entire book is largely a record of important events which occurred during the forty years when the nation of Israel wandered in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land of Canaan. Because important lessons can be drawn from these experiences of Israel, having a vital bearing on the outworking of the divine plan of the ages as a whole, this book also is a necessary part of the Word of God.

While the Book of Numbers is almost entirely historical in nature, in it is to be found one of the most beautiful divine beatitudes recorded anywhere in the Bible. God instructed Moses to pronounce a benediction upon Israel in these words: “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.”—Num. 6:24-26


The Book of Deuteronomy, as its name implies, consists largely of the repetition of important features of the Law given to Israel by God at the hand of Moses. This repetition appears mainly as admonitions to faithfulness given by Moses in three discourses which are recorded in the book. This book also contains the recounting of some of Israel’s experiences during the forty years of wandering in the wilderness.

Deuteronomy also contains prophecies pertaining to the promised Deliverer of mankind from sin and death, the seed through which all the families of the earth will be blessed. One of these is recorded in Deuteronomy 18:18,19, and reads: “I [the Lord] will raise them up a Prophet [the Messiah] from among their brethren, like unto thee [Moses], and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.” In the New Testament this is indicated to be a prophecy of the coming Messiah.


Conquest of Canaan … Division of the land

The Book of Joshua is so named because its subject matter pertains to the time during which Joshua, the successor of Moses, was leader of Israel. In delivering the nation from Egyptian bondage, the divinely intended destination of the Israelites was the land of Canaan. But because of their lack of faith and their disobedience, they were permitted to wander in the wilderness of Sinai for forty years, until the death of Moses. Then Joshua, by the Lord’s appointment, led them into the Promised Land.

When Joshua assumed the leadership of Israel, the nation stood virtually at the border of Canaan, but in order to enter the land it was necessary to cross the river Jordan. God made this possible by holding back the upper waters of the river long enough for the riverbed below to be emptied. This enabled the people to cross over on dry ground.

After the Israelites entered the land of Canaan, they were confronted with the necessity of conquering the people of the land, and it was Joshua’s responsibility to see that this land was equitably divided among the twelve tribes which constituted the nation. The manner in which this two-fold work was accomplished forms the principal subject matter of the Book of Joshua.

To see the real value of this and other historical records of the experiences of the Israelites, it is essential to recognize that they are presented against a background of faith in God’s promises that one day there would arise the seed of promise who would, in God’s providence, become a channel of blessing to all the nations of earth. The book is, therefore, another link in the inspired testimony of the Bible to strengthen conviction of the divine purpose to bless all families of the earth, as promised to father Abraham.

The Israelites were God’s people. For this reason, he overshadowed them with his love and care. He assured Joshua of this, saying, “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (Josh. 1:9) The Lord’s people today can apply this promise to themselves, and receive spiritual strength from its reassuring words.


This book records the history of the nation of Israel during a period of 450 years, known generally by students of the Bible as the period of the judges. It was a period in their national history when the only leadership they had was in the judges whom God raised up from time to time, chiefly when they were threatened or oppressed by their enemies and called unto the Lord for help. Gideon was one of these judges. The Lord used him to deliver his people from the oppressive hands of the Midianites. The famous victory of Gideon and his three hundred soldiers over one hundred and twenty thousand Midianites is recorded in this book.

Apparently, during much of that period of time in the experience of the Israelites covered by the Book of Judges, everyone did what seemed “right in his own eyes.” (Judg. 17:6; 21:25) They had no central government, and no national leader or king. The record indicates that in some cases that which seemed right to the people was quite in harmony with the laws of righteousness; whereas at other times their decisions led them away from God and into idolatry. Many helpful lessons for our guidance and encouragement can be found in the Book of Judges.


This book contains one of the most touching human interest stories ever written. Historically it belongs to the period of the judges. It tells of an Israelite and his wife, Elimelech and Naomi, who left the land of Israel during a time of famine to dwell in the land of Moab, thinking thus to improve their lot. In Moab, Elimelech died. His two sons married Moabitish women, but later the sons died, leaving Naomi and her daughters-in-law to take care of themselves.

Naomi decided that she would return to the land of Israel, and Ruth, one of her daughters-in-law, although not an Israelite, embraced the God of Israel and went with her mother-in-law. After arriving in Israel, and through the overruling providence of God, Ruth became the wife of an Israelite of the tribe of Judah, and it was through the lineage of this family that, hundreds of years later, Jesus was born. Aside from its sheer interest and beauty as a story, the principal value of this book among the other books of the Bible is to establish this important link in the genealogy of Jesus. Thus again, we see that the entire Bible is related to the theme of redemption and restoration centered in Jesus who, as the seed of Abraham, came to redeem, and later to restore and bless all families of the earth.


Israel demands a king … Saul and David anointed

Samuel was the last of the judges of Israel who served the nation during the period of the judges. The two books bearing his name record the experiences of the nation during his tenure of office, beginning, in fact, with an account of his birth in response to his mother’s earnest prayers, and his training under the high priest, Eli.

While Samuel was serving as judge and prophet in Israel, the people decided that they wanted to be like other nations and have a king rule over them. They presented their case to Samuel who, in turn, took it to the Lord in prayer. The Lord instructed Samuel to accede to the demands of the people and to anoint a king over the nation. Saul was Israel’s first king. He ruled well for a time, then lost his humility and started on a course which was contrary to the will of God.

At this point, the well-known Bible character, David, enters into the story. David was a shepherd boy whom God instructed Samuel to anoint king of Israel in place of Saul. David, however, made no effort to assume the rulership of Israel until after the death of Saul. The two books of Samuel relate in considerable detail the very interesting experiences of Saul and David, and thus fill in the history of this people from whom the seed of promise was to come.


The two Books of Kings cover the period during which Israel was a kingdom nation, beginning approximately at the time of David’s death, and continuing until the nation lost its independence, ten of the tribes being taken into captivity in Assyria, and the other two to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. Zedekiah was the last king to rule over the two-tribe kingdom. The nation has never had a king since he was overthrown. Under Solomon, the third king to reign over the Israelites, the nation reached its highest pinnacle of fame and glory. Solomon’s own glory and wisdom became famous throughout the then known world. The Queen of Sheba heard about it and traveled all the way to Palestine to see for herself, and she reported that “the half” had not been told.—I Kings 10:7

Although Israel became a kingdom nation by rebelling against God’s arrangement to care for their needs through judges, the Lord overruled this to make a very interesting illustration for us of a much greater kingdom which he would later establish over the whole earth, a kingdom in which Jesus would be the King of kings. To make this picture, the idea was conveyed to the kings of Israel that they ruled as representatives of God.


David abdicates … Throne of the Lord

The two Books of Chronicles are also historical, and are largely supplemental to I and II Kings. They are, however, more general in scope than the two Books of Kings, in that they begin with creation and give the historical background of the nation of Israel by genealogies all the way to David, and include the account of his reign. In the concluding chapter of I Chronicles, a prayer by David is recorded, which was uttered when he turned over his kingdom to his son Solomon.

In this prayer David said, “Blessed be thou, Lord God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all.” (I Chron. 29:10,11) Thus David acknowledges God to be king in Israel, and by so doing reminds us of the many promises of God that the time will yet come when, through Christ, he will rule over the whole earth.


As we have seen, with the overthrow of Zedekiah, Judah’s last king, the nation was taken captive to Babylon. This captivity lasted for seventy years. The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah record the experiences of the Israelites in connection with their return to the land of their fathers, and tell of the faithful service of these two servants of God whose names are given to the books; service, that is, in leading and governing the people of God during those difficult years.

In these two books there is much to encourage the Lord’s people even now, for they remind us of God’s ability to care for his own in times of great need, and to protect them from their enemies. These books tell of the rebuilding of Jerusalem, its walls and the temple, under very trying circumstances. But the Lord was with his people then, even as he still is with those today who put their trust in him.


God’s people threatened … Enmity of Satan

This is the last of the predominantly historical books of the Old Testament, although it outlines the details of but one episode in the experiences of the Israelites. It might be more proper to call it a story book. It records an effort that was made to destroy all the Israelites, and the remarkable manner in which this was prevented. The principal purpose served by the book as a segment of the Word of God seems to be to call attention to a bitter attack made against the people of God in an effort to thwart the divine purpose centered in them.

When, in the Garden of Eden, God said that there would be a seed which would bruise the serpent’s head, he also said that there would be enmity between this seed and the seed of the serpent. (Gen. 3:15) The serpent, of course, is a symbol of the great adversary of God and of men, who is Satan, the Devil. His seed would be all those who, wittingly or unwittingly, lend themselves to the carrying out of his wicked designs against God’s promised seed.

Satan has not always known just who might be a part of God’s seed of promise, so he has bitterly opposed, and has ever sought to destroy, those upon whom God’s favor has been manifested. He would know of God’s promise to Abraham. He would know that the descendants of Abraham were specially cared for by God. So they became objects of his envious and satanic attacks. Although, in this brief study of the experiences of Israel in relation to the plan of God, we have not taken time to mention the many obvious efforts of Satan to destroy the nation, such efforts were made. But God protected his people. The incident in the Book of Esther is another of these. The facts could have been stated very briefly, but the Lord favored us by presenting them in this appealing story form.

The Theme of Hope

Summing up our brief study of these seventeen historical books of the Old Testament, we found that God created man in his image, and designed that he should have dominion over the earth. This, we saw, was conditional upon man’s obedience to divine law. But man disobeyed God’s command, was sentenced to death, driven from his garden home, and his dominion taken away. We have seen, nevertheless, that God continued to love his human creatures, and began to make promises for a coming deliverance from the result of disobedience.

We have learned that in carrying out his purpose, God selected a faithful servant, Abraham, and promised that through his seed all nations would be blessed. The descendants of Abraham, the nation of Israel, became the people of God, and to them he continued to make promises, and through them worked out the preliminary arrangements of his plan of salvation.

We have purposely avoided a detailed examination of these historical books of the Old Testament, for these details are of value in our study of the Bible only in the light of God’s plan of salvation as we will find it revealed in the succeeding books of the Old and New Testaments. As we proceed in our scrutiny of these later books, particularly those of the New Testament, we will refer to important truths to be found in these historical books, the meaning of which will then be more apparent.

As we noted in the beginning, the truths of the great plan of the ages are not set forth in the Bible in narrative form. This being true, the real value of the Bible cannot be appreciated simply by reading it through chapter by chapter, and book by book. However, the glorious theme of divine love, as revealed in God’s plan to rescue mankind from sin and death is reiterated over and over again—here a little and there a little—as one of the prophets declares. This is true, as we have found, even of the historical books of the Old Testament, and is increasingly so of the other books.

We will find, for example, that repeatedly the Lord, through the prophets, points forward to the coming of the great Deliverer, the Messiah, the Christ, the seed of promise. We will discover that in the accomplishment of this plan of restoration, the promised Deliverer first of all died as man’s Redeemer. We will also ascertain from the prophets and from the writings of the New Testament that the actual deliverance of mankind from death will be accomplished through the agencies of a powerful government or kingdom, established by Christ, a kingdom that will rule over the earth for a thousand years, and that at the end of that thousand years the human race will be fully restored to perfection and life. Then, stretching out before mankind, will be the opportunity of living happily and forever in a global earthly paradise.

This is God’s purpose in his human creation. This is man’s final destiny. And what a glorious destiny! All the evils which have afflicted mankind because of disobedience to divine law will have been destroyed. The human race will no longer be in rebellion against God and his righteous laws, but will be in wholehearted obedience to him, and basking in the sunshine of his unstinted favor and love.

It was this that God meant when he made the promise to Abraham that through his seed all the families of the earth would be blessed. And what a gloriously satisfying blessing it will be! No more sickness, no more pain, no more war, no more fear of war, and no more death. Too good to be true? Not at all! As we continue our examination of the Bible and note the wonderful manner in which it reveals the love of the true God of glory, we will ay it is too good not to be true, for it is just what we should expect from the God of our salvation.

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