Overview and Book Introductions

Expand the sections below for an Overview of the Read Through It program, as well as introductions to each of the books of the Bible, as we read through them. The book introdcutions are in reverse order, so the current one appears at the top of the list.

  • The Adventure Begins

    The Adventure Begins

    The Bible might look like one book, but in actuality it is a collection of sixty-six books, written by forty writers over a period of 1500 years (1400 BC – 100 AD). These writers lived in various parts of the world – Israel, Egypt, Babylon, Greece, Turkey, Italy, and more. Yet, in spite of the great variety of writers and locations, the Bible holds together as a consistent, accurate message from God to humanity.

    How does this happen? The Bible’s accuracy depends on the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit who oversaw and guided each of these forty writers to ensure that the message from God was trustworthy and true. The Bible is like the human Owner’s Manual, provided by our Creator to help us know who God is and how we should live – for now and for eternity.

    Our goal is to have each member read through the Bible chronologically in 2024. I know before we ever start, that completing this goal is quite a challenge. If you get behind, don’t give up. Jump in and start again. God will bless whatever parts of His Word that you put into your heart. His Word is powerful and will do its work in your heart and life.

    Join us on this adventure to discover God’s plan for your life. We’ll learn more together than we ever could alone.

  • Micah

    Understanding Micah

    The prophet Micah is a contemporary of Isaiah and Hosea, doing his prophetic work from 750 – 687 BC. In his book, Micah pictures God as the prosecuting attorney, bringing serious charges against Israel. The indictment centers on the activities in the two capital cities – Samaria and Jerusalem. Through Micah, God predicts that Assyria and Babylon are ready to carry out His judgment against His people.

    The primary sins specified in the indictment are:

    1. Idolatry

    2. Moral failure of the government leaders

    3. Moral failure of the religious leaders

    4. Moral failure of the prophetic leaders

    5. Exploitation of the poor

    Yet, in spite of these sins, God offers to drop charges if the people truly repent. Micah presents God’s plea to the people to “act justly and to show mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

  • Amos

    Understanding Amos

    Amos makes a point in his writings that he had never trained to be a prophet. In fact, he says that he was a shepherd and a fig-picker when God called him to be His spokesman. Amos did much of his teaching in North Israel as the Assyrian Empire grew in power (793-739 BC).

    Several key themes run through the writings of Amos:

    1. Man’s inhumanity toward his fellow man. The rich were getting richer by taking advantage of the poor.

    2. God hates hollow religion. They were going through the motions of their religion without much heart-felt concern for God.

    3. Confusion about the “Day of the Lord.” They expected the “Day of the Lord” to be good news for them and bad news for their enemies. Instead, Amos taught that day would bring judgment on Israel for their sins.

    4. A remnant would be spared. In spite of the fact that punishment and destruction was coming for Israel, God would spare and preserve a faithful remnant of the people.

  • Isaiah

    Understanding Isaiah

    Isaiah is one of the five “major” prophets of the Old Testament. He did his prophetic work from 739 to 681 BC along with Hosea and Micah. Isaiah gives us the most comprehensive prophetic view of Jesus in the Old Testament. Much of Isaiah deals with the growing threat of the Assyrian Empire which eventually swallows up the northern kingdom of Israel and its capital of Samaria. Isaiah’s writings also cover the later Babylonian threat which will ultimately take down the southern kingdom of Judah.

    Isaiah spends a great deal of time warning God’s people that He is not pleased with empty rituals in the place of heartfelt worship. He also condemns the idolatry that continues to creep into the Israelite lifestyle. Much of the middle of the book is devoted to warnings against Israel’s sinful neighbors, indicating that God will hold them accountable for their sins as well.

    Isaiah gives us the clearest picture of the coming Messiah. He will be a descendant of David. His coming will usher in a new era for God’s people. This Messiah will be a humble servant of God.

    In addition to the strong messianic theme, Isaiah gives attention to the holiness of God. He also wants his readers to understand that God knows the future and will bring His predictions to fruition. Isaiah compares Israel’s God with their neighboring idol gods and declares that they are no match for the true God of Israel.

  • Jonah

    Understanding Jonah

    Jonah was a prophet of God who lived in Israel sometime before the fall of the Northern Kingdom to Assyria in 721 BC, probably during the reign of Jeroboam II. The short book presents a sharp contrast between the prophet of God who refuses to obey and the wicked people of Ninevah, who hear God’s word and immediately obey it.

    The book of Jonah reminds us that God cares about the souls of all men and that He intends to use us to help reach them. It is also a story of God’s demand for obedience from His people. In spite of the fact that Jonah hated this aspect of God, He is always willing to forgive when we fully repent. The prophet of God shows us how not to do evangelism.

  • Obadiah

    Understanding Obadiah

    There are thirteen men in the Bible named Obadiah. We aren’t told which Obadiah wrote the book by that same name, so the author remains a mystery. This short, one-chapter book focuses on the Edomites who failed to come to Israel’s aid when they were under attack from foreigners, and in fact, gloated over the fact that Jerusalem was being ransacked.

    The Edomites were descendants of Esau and had a long history of “bad blood” with their brothers, the Israelites. The time of the writing of Obadiah is left to conjecture. Most scholars believe he wrote in the 840s BC when the Philistines and the Arabians threatened Jerusalem. The entire book is aimed at the Edomites, condemning them for their pride. Obadiah assured them that their pride would be punished.

  • Ecclesiastes

    Understanding Ecclesiastes

    Solomon is credited with writing Ecclesiastes. It is assumed that he wrote it in his later years after experiencing all the highs and lows of life “under the sun.” That phrase is repeated many times throughout the book and seems to refer to life on Earth, without a view to eternity. Solomon often refers to life without eternity as “vanity” or “emptiness.” Although Psalms and Proverbs explain how life is supposed to work in general, Ecclesiastes offers the possibility of exceptions to the rules. Sometimes life doesn’t go as we expect it to. The powerful don’t always win. The good don’t always prosper. The wise aren’t always respected.

    One author appropriately titled his commentary on Ecclesiastes, Life Stinks, and Then You Die. Ecclesiastes reminds us that life is not always fair, but God is still in control. Solomon encourages that a healthy respect for God and staying on the right path is always a good life strategy. God will work out the details, in spite of our inability to understand all that’s going on. He reminds us that if we live for this life only, without a view to eternity, we may come up empty at the end.

  • Proverbs

    Understanding Proverbs

    Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote, defined a proverb as “A short sentence based on a long experience.” Proverbs are designed to be short, but meaty enough to chew on for a lifetime.

    In the first part of the book, wisdom is personified as a lady calling out to all who will listen. Godly advice is given as from a father to his son to help him avoid the world’s pitfalls and to enjoy all the best that God has to offer to those who choose wisdom as their way of life.

    There are two features that must be kept in mind as we read Proverbs. First, proverbs express generalities and are not iron-clad guarantees. Living by the Proverbs will produce the positive results that they promise – most of the time. Just as our uninspired American proverb may say that “haste makes waste,” there are times in life when haste is necessary and without haste, the job doesn’t get done at all.

    A second feature of the Proverbs is that they are presented as a one-verse couplet. The first part states the message and the second part elaborates, explains, or expresses the opposite.

    Proverbs are quick and easy to read, but leave lots of room for further thought. Their simplicity make them easy to remember and carry with you through life.

  • The Song of Songs

    Understanding The Song of Songs

    Although this book claims to be written by Solomon, many scholars believe that the author is someone who has found true love that he believes is much better than any of the thousand loves that Solomon experienced. In fact, there appears to be criticism of Solomon in 8:11-12.

    Song of Songs reads like a Prince Charming who has swept his love off her feet. There are four major themes that emerge from this love story. First, there is a focus on the outward aesthetic aspect of physical beauty. The author unashamedly appreciates love’s physical attraction.

    The second theme centers on the pain of separation. They each deeply long to be together and are pained every time they must be apart. They want to share life together.

    The third theme is a free flow of compliments for each other. As they examine every part of their relationship, they express deep love and gratitude. They never assume that the other already knows how they feel. Compliments are verbalized.

    Finally, the lovers speak of the tremendous power of love. Love conquers all. Love overcomes. True love never dies.

    Some have tried to make the Song of Songs an allegory about Jesus’ love for His bride, the church. This feels like a stretch. I think we should take it for what it is – the tremendous power of love to fulfill our lives in God-ordained relationships.

  • Kings and Chronicles

    Understanding Kings and Chronicles

    In the original Hebrew Bible, Kings and Chronicles were each only one book. Translators decided much later, due to the length of the books, to split them into 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles.

    Kings and Chronicles cover much of the same history of Israel, yet from very different perspectives. In fact, about 50% of the material in Chronicles is found elsewhere in the Old Testament.

    Here are 4 points of distinction between Kings and Chronicles:

    1. Kings was written between 560 and 550 BC just after the southern kingdom of Judah went into Babylonian exile. The northern nation of Israel had already been in Assyrian exile for almost 150 years. Chronicles was written after the Jews were returning to their homeland to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple (450-440 BC).

    2. Kings tells the history of both the northern and southern kingdoms. Chronicles focuses on the southern kingdom of Judah. The northern kings are only mentioned as they had interaction with the kings of Judah.

    3. Chronicles gives extra attention to the reigns of David and Solomon. This gives encouragement to the returning exiles as they are reminded of the former glory of the nation of Israel.

    4. Kings presents the raw facts of history that help explain why God decided to punish them with foreign captivity. Chronicles, on the other hand, was written to inspire the returning exiles to rebuild their city and re-establish temple worship in Jerusalem.

  • Psalms

    Understanding the Psalms

    The Psalms were written in the style of Hebrew poetry and are built around the theme of parallelism. In many verses of the psalms, the second half of the verse either repeats, restates, explains, or says the opposite of the first half. In a time when most people lacked access to the written Word, parallelism helped with the process of memorization.

    The book of Psalms is actually made up of five books or sections. You should see the markings for these as you read through the book. Each of the five books ends in psalms of praise to God. The five books come together to form the longest book of the Bible and the most-quoted book by New Testament writers.

    There are several different types of psalms which could be labeled as praise (28%), laments (40%), thanks or trust in God (18%), and others (14%). David wrote many of the psalms and others contributed as well. The book of Psalms served as the hymnbook for Israel. The early church was also encouraged to use psalms in their worship and for personal encouragement. “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs…” (Ephesians 5:19).

  • II Samuel

    Understanding II Samuel

    First Samuel ends with the report of Saul’s death. Second Samuel picks up with that report reaching David and his reaction to it. The entire book spans the rule of David, first as king over the tribe of Judah, then as king of all Israel.

    David shows an unusual respect for Saul and his family in spite of the fact that Saul hounded David through many years of his early life. Saul viewed David as an unwelcomed threat to his throne; David viewed Saul as God’s anointed king who deserved the respect of the office.

    Second Samuel tells of David’s military prowess in overcoming Israel’s enemies that lived in and around Israel. Then the storyline moves to David’s family. For all of his success in battle, David struggled to raise godly sons. His tragic affair with Bathsheba revealed his weaknesses and humanity. The encouraging aspect of David’s sin was that he was sincere in his repentance and return to God.

    Second Samuel ends with an aging David on his deathbed and his sons ready for a power-grab. As we move through more of Israel’s kings, they are almost always either compared or contrasted to David. He became God’s standard as a “man after God’s own heart” and becomes a major character of the Old Testament along with Abraham and Moses.

  • I Samuel

    Understanding I Samuel

    After the miserable moral failures of Judges, the nation of Israel is in need of some serious changes. First Samuel brings the period of the fifteen judges to a merciful end. Eli and Samuel are the last two judges in Israel and they share the same weakness – they fail to raise children who are faithful to God and capable of spiritual leadership. This failure precipitates a leadership vacuum and an outcry from all Israel for a king like the nations around them.

    The judges had come and gone with a strong sense of tribal or regional pride. Most had failed to unify the twelve tribes into a solid nation of God’s people. It was time for a new system of government to help hold the tribes together.

    The final judge, Samuel, is instrumental in the transition to a unifying kingship in the anointing of Saul as the first king over Israel. The book of First Samuel chronicles Saul’s selection and his leadership. Before Saul can finish his reign as king, Samuel is instructed to anoint Israel’s second king, David, son of Jesse. The book ends with Saul’s unfortunate death and a vulnerable nation without leadership.

  • Ruth

    Understanding Ruth

    Ruth is an oasis in the middle of the cesspool of Israel’s history. The events described in this little book stand in stark contrast to the selfish and ungodly behavior of the people in the times of the judges. The story of Ruth occurs three generations before King David takes the throne of Israel and nearer the end of the period of the judges.

    At first reading, the book of Ruth might feel like a misplaced love story of little significance in Israel’s history. However, a deeper look reveals several small nuggets of information that play a large role in the story of the coming Messiah. First, Ruth plays a central role in Israel’s history as the great-grandmother of King David. Her husband, Boaz, was the son of Rahab the Harlot who saved the spies, and eventually her own family, from destruction. The central characters of the book – Ruth and Boaz – were both outside the family of the Israelites. Boaz was a half-Canaanite from Jericho; Ruth was from Moab, but had married into the tribe of Judah.

    Perhaps the most significant aspect of the book of Ruth for us is to demonstrate the important role of the “kinsman redeemer.” Boaz restored Naomi’s ancestral land to her by marrying her daughter-in-law, Ruth. Jesus came to earth and took human form to become our kinsman redeemer to restore our inheritance lost to sin and Satan.

  • Judges

    Understanding Judges

    Historically, Judges continues the story begun in Joshua and describes life for the Israelites in the land of Canaan. If compared to the American family business model, Judges would represent the third generation and beyond. Moses and Joshua are dead and gone. How will future generations handle the rigors of following God?

    Judges describes a cycle of events that are repeated over and over throughout the book. The cycle consists of six predictable stages. First, Israel abandons God to worship local idols. Second, God becomes angry with their behavior and turns them over to foreign neighbors for punishment. Third, Israel cries out to God for His help. Fourth, God sends a judge or military hero to lead them back to freedom. Fifth, the people enjoy a period of peace and God’s protection. Finally, Israel starts the cycle over again. These cycles involved 15 judges (Othniel through Samuel) and a period of around 300 years.

    Without stating the case directly, Judges points out that the fatal flaw of Israel is in its spiritual leadership. Stories, especially toward the end of the book, point a critical finger at the Levites who were supposed to be the spiritual leaders of the nation. The best summary of the book is found in Judges 17:6 – “In those days there was no king in Israel; each person did what they thought to be right.”

  • Joshua

    Understanding Joshua

    The book of Joshua begins with Joshua being selected for the leadership of Israel after the death of Moses and it ends with Joshua’s death. Four hundred years before Joshua’s military ventures, God had promised Abraham that He would give his descendants the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:7). The time had come for that promise to be fulfilled.

    The book of Joshua is easily divided into three sections – the conquest of the land, the distribution of the land among the tribes, and Joshua’s farewell speech. The land of Canaan was only somewhat conquered. Major cities were taken, but many Canaanites escaped to the countryside to battle back in a series of skirmishes until the time of King David.

    The distribution of the conquered land went to the descendants of ten of Jacob’s twelve sons. Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, each received a tribal portion in Joseph’s name, while the Levites got no allotted territory except the six cities of refuge.

    Joshua’s farewell speech sounds much like a renewal of marriage vows. He encourages the people to renew and remain faithful to their commitments to God. The optimism of Joshua’s conquests will soon give way to the pessimism of the period of Judges.

  • Deuteronomy

    Understanding Deuteronomy

    Deuteronomy literally means “the second giving of the Law.” After Israel had wandered in the desert for forty years, a new generation needed to be reminded of God’s laws before they entered the Promised Land.

    Deuteronomy is also viewed as a hinge point in the Bible. This book wraps up the giving of the Law and advances into the history section of Joshua – Nehemiah. It also includes the shift in leadership from Moses to Joshua.

    As the Law is repeated in this section, three major themes emerge. The first is a reminder to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. The second theme is a repeat of the way to treat your neighbors which include the poor, the debtors, and the foreigners among them. The final theme emphasizes what is sometimes called Deuteronomic Theology. In a nutshell this theology is “Do good = get good” and “Do bad = get bad.” These laws are summed up in a series of blessings and curses.

    While Deuteronomic Theology is true in principle, we must always leave room for the exceptional situations where God has a higher goal in mind. The case of Job and Joseph are prime Old Testament examples. The Apostle Paul illustrates this well in the New Testament. Although he faithfully carried out the mission given him at his call on the road to Damascus, he found himself in almost constant trouble. Doing good didn’t always result in immediate good.

    Mike Tune helps us understand the role of obedience in our lives in his book, “Reading the Bible Without Getting Lost.” “Obedience is paramount in Deuteronomy. Israel should obey, not in order to receive the promises, but in order to keep from losing them. This is a significant point. The false doctrine of salvation by works does not just teach that works are involved in salvation. It teaches that by one’s works one can secure salvation. The people of Israel, however, had already been saved by God’s grace. If they wanted to stay saved, and wanted their lives to go well, they would have to be obedient” (page 60). Even today, obedience is a sign that we have been saved.

  • Numbers

    Understanding Numbers

    The fourth book of the Pentateuch, Numbers, is written in an odd style. It reads almost like a diary, a daily travel log of sometimes-unrelated events. Numbers covers roughly thirty-eight years in the wilderness after the first failed attempt to enter the land of Canaan.

    The Israelites spent about a year at Sinai receiving God’s laws, setting up the priesthood, and constructing the tabernacle. Moses conducted a census to determine how many fighting men he had at his disposal. From our vantage point, three thousand years later, the census might appear to be a huge waste of space in our Bibles. However, for Israelites, it also served to determine each family’s share when they entered the Promised Land. It was critical to be able to trace your lineage back to one of the twelve tribes of Israel to secure your inheritance there.

    After the census information is recorded, chapters 10-21 deal with a series of seven rebellions against God or Moses. Their time at Sinai had failed to produce the spiritual maturity needed to move quickly into Canaan. Their constant whining and complaining proved their spiritual immaturity. As a result, only two people of the first generation to leave Egypt would be able to enter the Promised Land; the rest would die along the way in the wilderness.

    The final section of Numbers (chapters 22-36) describes more trials before entering the Land. It also gives us great detail of Israel’s almost comical encounter with the prophet, Balaam.

  • Leviticus

    Understanding Leviticus

    As we get ready to tackle another book of the Bible (Leviticus), I’m simply reprinting a portion from Mike Tune’s good book, Reading the Bible Without Getting Lost. It gives a succinct summary of what Leviticus has to offer.

    “A key term in Leviticus is the word ‘holy’; it is used more in Leviticus than any other book in the Bible. Generally meaning ‘separate,’ it is used specifically in the Bible to describe God. He is God, and there is no other god like him. When God called Israel to be holy, he called them to be unlike other people, separate and distinct upon the earth. The book of Leviticus helped Israel see what that meant. The book may be divided into three sections:

    I) Holy Things – Chapters 1-7 in which a system of sacrifice is detailed.

    II) Holy People – Chapters 8-10 in which Aaron and his sons are consecrated as priests.

    III) Holy Living – Chapters 11-27 in which lifestyle requirements are spelled out for God’s holy people.

    “I urge you to keep two things in mind as you read this book.”

    “First, Leviticus reminds us of the seriousness of God’s calling. We are not called to be like the rest of the world, nor are we allowed that option. Many have conjectured why God divided animals into clean and unclean, and why Israel had to be so scrupulous in observing that distinction. The last word has not been written on the subject, but I’m willing to believe God’s distinction was arbitrary and without rational basis. Observing the law was guaranteed to make the people of Israel different from all other nations and the dietary laws reminded them at every meal and gathering that they couldn’t ‘fit in’ with the world.

    Second, Leviticus prescribes very strict rules about approaching God in worship. God could be approached only in certain prescribed ways, otherwise disaster would be the result. Christians should always keep this in mind.

    “New Testament writers use the language of Leviticus to refer to Jesus. He is our ‘sin offering’ and ‘peace offering’ and ‘High Priest.’ Israel’s spiritual immaturity kept her from approaching God directly, forcing her to seek mediation with God through the priests. But in Christianity, the sacrifice of Jesus has made us all priests (1 Peter 2:5) and we all have bold access to God’s throne of grace through Christ (Hebrews 4:16). Our lives must demonstrate, through holy living, our awesome awareness of this great privilege we have.”

  • Exodus

    Understanding Exodus

    It is helpful to know that from the last verse of Genesis (Joseph’s life) to the first verse of Exodus (the birth of Moses) there is a 400-year gap of silence. In Genesis, God made promises to Abraham and his descendants. Exodus begins to fulfill the promises of countless descendants and a land of their own.

    Exodus contains more miracles than any Old Testament book. God raises up a leader for His people – Moses. God outlines His expectations of His covenant people by giving them the Law. Moses becomes the mediator of that Law between God and His people. God sets up His presence with His people through the tabernacle or tent of meeting.

  • Job

    Understanding the Book of Job

    The book of Job is placed much later in our traditional Old Testaments, along with the other four books called Wisdom Literature (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs). However, the context of Job seems to place him in the Patriarchal Age along with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For that reason, most chronological readings move Job back into the Genesis timeframe.

    Job is a puzzling and sometimes tedious book to read, but some background helps. Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes (in the Wisdom Literature category) provide God’s wisdom in principle form. “Do these good things and you’ll receive these good results.” Their wisdom is always true in general, but life will throw exceptions at us too. Job and Ecclesiastes try to help us understand that even when we do right, good results might not be immediate.

    Job seems to have been written to disprove the predominant theory of the day, “Good things happen to good people; bad things only happen to bad people.” In theory, that may be right; in real life, maybe not.

    The Bible tells us that Job was a good man and yet terrible calamities destroyed his wealth, his family, and his own health. Job’s “friends” come along to help convince him that he has secret sins that God sees and is punishing. If he would repent of his great, hidden sin, God would pull back from His punishment. Job defends his personal character.

    After all the discussions between Job and his friends, God steps in to set everyone straight. Job is indeed a good man (not perfect, but good) and bad things can happen to good people. That’s life! A drunk driver crosses the center line. Devastating illnesses can strike at an early age. Life isn’t always fair, but God is always in control. It’s easy to trust God when life is going our way. Faith gets tougher when the road gets unexpectedly difficult. Hold on to God… no matter what.

  • Genesis

    Understanding the Book of Genesis

    The name “Genesis” means beginnings. Genesis tells us the story of the beginning of our world as we know it and the beginning of God’s special family.

    Almost all ancient people had their own stories of the creation of the world. Most pointed to several gods who collaborated or fought to build the earth as they wanted it. Our story of creation in Genesis wasn’t written until many centuries after the actual creation. It is believed that the Holy Spirit guided Moses to write this account as God wanted it told. The Bible’s Creation story tells of one powerful God who spoke our world into existence. He didn’t have to win battles over other gods because He had no equal.

    Our Creation story doesn’t try to explain God in scientific terms because, at the time it was written, man had no real concept of science. Instead, it was written in the style of pagan creation stories to help men understand that our God is different and unique in wisdom, power, and creativity.

    The book of Genesis also traces the generations of a special family that God selected to bring blessings to all mankind. It tells us of the family’s strengths and weaknesses. Each generation of this special family was led by the family patriarch who watched over and protected his own people. He was also the head of a sacrificial system that offered worship and honor to God on behalf of the whole family. For this reason, this period of Bible history is often called the Patriarchal Age.

    The Genesis account demonstrates God’s immense power and protection over all enemies of His chosen family. In these stories, we discover God’s faithfulness as He uses imperfect people to accomplish His ultimate goal – the salvation of our souls for eternity.