#27 History Books of the Bible

The history books of the Bible were written by Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Baruch and Ezra – only five people.  The period between the two Testaments has histories written by Judas and Simon Maccabeus, and by Yeshua ben Sira’s grandson.

Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible known as the Torah starting with Genesis.  Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are his own story of leading the Israelites out of Egypt.  The real history book is Deuteronomy which summarizes all the events of the exodus out of Egypt. 

Genesis would have been compiled by Moses from genealogies and other very ancient texts already in existence.  Moses source materials probably went back to when cuneiform writing was first invented.  Genesis includes the stories of the Patriarchs leading up to slavery in Egypt.

Joshua wrote his own book about entry into the Promised Land.  Samuel wrote the book of Judges and like Joshua was one of the judges leading Israel himself at this time.

In the Septuagint Bible, 1 and 2 Samuel were named First and Second Books of Kingdoms.  1 and 2 Kings were named Third and Fourth Books of Kingdoms.  These four books read as one continuous story as if written by one single author.  That is because they were all written by Baruch, the scribe who accompanied Jeremiah.

The books were compiled using the Annals of the Kings of Judah, the Annals of the Kings of Israel, the Annals of King David, the Annals of Solomon, the records of Samuel the Seer, the records of Nathan the prophet, and the records of Gad the Seer.  These records were kept in the First Temple and destroyed when the Temple was destroyed.

Evidence that Baruch compiled this history of Israel is that 2 Kings goes right up to the year 586 BC when the tribe of Judah was taken into captivity in Babylon.  In that year Baruch parted company with Jeremiah and went into captivity in Babylon with his fellow Jews.

Baruch had already redacted the book of the prophet Jeremiah and Lamentations.    Jeremiah didn’t write his own books, but dictated them to Baruch his secretary.

Five years after the destruction of Jerusalem, Baruch wrote a book with his name on it.  It is included in the Apocrypha – the book of Baruch.

Essentially, Baruch salvaged the history of Israel by incorporating it into the Hebrew Bible before the original records were destroyed with the Temple.  These history books contain minuscule detail about the life stories of every king and associated people of importance – exactly as if the account had been taken from eye-witness records – which indeed it had.

The books 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles are history books that go over the history of Israel again.  They are an edited version of the books of Samuel and Kings.  The priest Ezra wrote these books for the returning exiles to give them a sense of nationhood.

Ezra also wrote the history of the return to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Second Temple in the books Ezra and Nehemiah.

The painful history of many bad kings in both Judah and Israel interspersed with a few good ones shows that collective salvation is not possible; only individual salvation makes sense.  Any situation resembling salvation on earth was short-lived no matter how hard the prophets worked to make God’s word known.

There is a gap in the history of Judea between the last prophets of the Old Testament and Ezra and the New Testament of about 440 years.  This gap is filled in by the history of the Maccabees.

Jason of Cyrene wrote a history book about the Maccabees of five volumes (see 2 Macc 2:19-32).  Judas Maccabeus realized that this was far too detailed to read.  So Judas M. wrote a letter about his exploits to Jews in Egypt starting in 175 BC.  This letter is now known as 2 Maccabees.

The fourth Maccabee brother, Simon Maccabeus, was the author of the continuing saga of the Maccabee high priests of the Second Temple between 170 and 130 BC.  Simon’s account is now known as 1 Maccabees (the chronological numbering of the books is inverted).

The final account of Israel’s history appears in a book written by Yeshua ben Sira.  Yeshua came from a Maccabean supporting family in Jerusalem as he was the grandson of Eleazar who preferred to die rather than eat pork.  Yeshua wrote about wisdom in about 180 BC in Hebrew in the book named Sirach.  In 132 BC his grandson took the book to Egypt and translated it into Greek.  The history in Sirach runs from Abraham to the high priest Simon who was martyred in 134 BC.  These dates mean that Yeshua could not have written the history; the history must have been added to the book by his grandson.

The book is called Sirach – meaning Sira in Greek.  It is not called ‘Yeshua’ as this name is translated ‘Jesus’ and this would be confusing.  It’s other name is Ecclesiasticus because it was read so much in Catholic churches.  The history part of the book is from Chapter 42 to the end.

I have placed the books of the Bible in chronological order, rather than by order of importance of the author as is usually done.  Another method of ordering Bible books is by the class of writing whether the law, history, prophecy, wisdom or writings.  But the history of Israel emerges from the chronological order because the reader is less confused and starts to form a logical scheme in their mind.  Thus, I believe this unorthodox approach is a valuable exercise.

Published by clarevmerry

Christian - Bible - Catholic belief reassessment website. How does Catholic belief relate to the Bible? An even-handed approach by the author who has been a Catholic as long as she has been an Evangelical.

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