Lesson 2: The Former Prophets
The six books called the Former Prophets tell part of the history of God's chosen people, the 12 tribes of Israel. These stories are written for our benefit—including examples of what we should and shouldn't do.
stories of King David and his son Solomon are central to the Former
Prophets. David learned through many trials and overcoming sins to become
a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22). And God gave Solomon great
wisdom and made him the world's most powerful king at that time. Consider
the hard-won wisdom David shared with his son before he died:
"Now the days of David drew near that he should die, and he charged
Solomon his son, saying:
"'I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself
a man. And keep the charge of the Lord your God: to walk in His ways,
to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies,
as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that
you do and wherever you turn; that the Lord may fulfill His word which
He spoke concerning me, saying, "If your sons take heed to their way,
to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul,"
He said, "you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel"'" (1 Kings
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The United Church of God Bible
Commentary on Joshua introduces the book this way:
"Jewish tradition attributes authorship of this book to Joshua, whose
name it bears—a view accepted almost universally by Bible commentators.
Later editors evidently made a few additions, such as the description of
"Traditionally, the Old Testament is divided into three sections:
the Law, Prophets and Writings (or Psalms, so named from the first book
of that section). In fact, Jesus Himself confirmed this three-part division
(compare Luke 24:44). According to the Jews, who have preserved the Hebrew
Scriptures (Romans 3:1-2), the book of Joshua is the first book of the section
called the Prophets. It deals with Joshua's tenure as Israel's leader and
the Israelites' conquest of the land of Canaan.
"Joshua first appeared in Exodus 17:9 as the man Moses chose to lead
the battle against Amalek. He was Moses' assistant and accompanied him part
of the way up Mount Sinai when Moses met with God (Exodus 24:13; 32:15-17).
He had a special relationship with both Moses and God (33:11; Numbers 11:28).
He was Ephraim's representative sent to spy out the land of Canaan and,
along with Caleb, brought back a favorable, though unpopular, report about
the land (Numbers 13-14). God specifically chose him to succeed Moses as
Israel's leader, who would lead them into the Promised Land (27:12-23).
In Deuteronomy 31:7, he is told by Moses to 'be strong and of good courage,'
and God states it Himself in Deuteronomy 31:23. Now, as Joshua takes over
as leader of the tribes of Israel, God repeats the exhortation several more
times (Joshua 1:6, 7, 9, 18).
"The Hebrew name Joshua or Yehoshua (meaning 'The Eternal Is Salvation')
occurs in the Greek New Testament as Iesous—transliterated into Latin
as Iesus or Jesus."
Do symbols and types in the book of Joshua correspond to the New
Testament picture of Jesus Christ?
For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence
steadfast to the end, while it is said: "Today, if you will hear His voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion."
For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt,
led by Moses?
Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned,
whose corpses fell in the wilderness?
And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those
who did not obey?
So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest
any of you seem to have come short of it.
For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word
which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those
who heard it.
For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: "So I swore in
My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest,'" although the works were finished
from the foundation of the world.
For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: "And
God rested on the seventh day from all His works"; and again in this place:
"They shall not enter My rest."
Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was
first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates
a certain day, saying in David, "Today," after such a long time, as it has
been said: "Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts."
For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken
of another day.
There remains therefore a rest [Sabbath-rest, New International Version] for
the people of God.
For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as
God did from His.
Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according
to the same example of disobedience.
"Remember the word which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying,
'The Lord your God is giving you rest and is giving you this land.'"
The Lord gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to
their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the
Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand.
Joshua served as a type of Jesus Christ leading His people into a spiritual
Promised Land, inheriting the Kingdom of God and overcoming evil along the
way. Hebrews 3 and 4 specifically compare the entry and settling of the physical
Promised Land with resting on God's weekly Sabbath and with entry into God's
Kingdom, calling all three things God's rest (see also Joshua 1:15; 11:23;
14:15; 22:4; 23:1). As you read the book, look for other parallels.
Joshua chapters 1 through 12 recount the conquest of Canaan, the Promised
Land. They show that God was the source of Israel's victories, which was powerfully
demonstrated when He supernaturally caused the walls to fall down at Jericho
(Joshua 6). Chapters 13 to 21 explain how the land was divided up and settled,
and chapters 22 to 24 give Joshua's farewell speeches and the renewal of God's
agreement and promises with the children of Israel.
The UCG Bible
Commentary for Judges gives this introduction:
"The second book of the Prophets, Judges spans the approximately 325
years from the death of Joshua, some 25 years after Israel's entry into
the Promised Land, to shortly before the coronation of Israel's first human
king, Saul. Though it may have been written by various authors, adding to
the storyline as events transpired—e.g., the Song of Deborah and the parable
of Jotham—it was probably put into its final form by the last of the judges,
Samuel, in the 11th century B.C. The Talmud states, 'Samuel wrote the book
which bears his name and the book of Judges' (Baba Bathra 14b).
"Moses and Joshua were, of course, the first of Israel's judges. But
once in the Promised Land, others followed. The judges were military men
and governors whom God led to deliver Israel from foreign oppression and
who then had a responsibility to 'judge' the people in concert with the
priests and Levites (Deuteronomy 17:8-9). Each judge acted in a capacity
similar to the later kings of Israel, except no hereditary line was involved.
No judge after Moses and Joshua exercised authority over all Israel, but each functioned
within a limited geographical area for a particular period of time.
"As for general themes, the book of Judges shows that Israel's national
existence depended on her obedience…
"Judges is a book about people set on 'doing their own thing' ('In
those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his
own eyes'—Judges 21:25; also 17:6; 18:1; 19:1). The absence of a human monarch
allowed the people a great deal of personal freedom. But such freedom without
adherence to God's moral instructions inevitably leads to anarchy and confusion.
'There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death'
(Proverbs 14:12; 16:25)…
"Bible scholars have a problem with Judges because 'there is general
agreement that the problem of harmonizing the chronological data presents
insurmountable difficulty' (Soncino Commentary, introductory notes to Judges). Some
50 different methods of calculating the chronology of Judges have been offered.
This is because many of the judgeships overlap, the last chapters of the book
are out of sequence, and many scholars—dating Israel's conquest of the land
too late—do not allow the full amount of time between the conquest and the
beginning of the monarchy."
What cyclical pattern was repeated again and again in the book of
Nevertheless, the Lord raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand
of those who plundered them.
Yet they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot with
other gods, and bowed down to them. They turned quickly from the way in which
their fathers walked, in obeying the commandments of the Lord; they did not
And when the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and
delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge;
for the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed
them and harassed them.
And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they reverted and behaved
more corruptly than their fathers, by following other gods, to serve them
and bow down to them. They did not cease from their own doings nor from their
Then the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel; and He said, "Because this
nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has
not heeded My voice, I also will no longer drive out before them any of the
nations which Joshua left when he died, so that through them I may test Israel,
whether they will keep the ways of the Lord, to walk in them as their fathers
kept them, or not."
Therefore the Lord left those nations, without driving them out immediately;
nor did He deliver them into the hand of Joshua.
This cycle of sin and its consequences, repentance and God's deliverance
is a theme of the entire Bible. God wants us to recognize that, on our own,
we humans choose sin, which brings automatic penalties, and that we desperately
need God's deliverance and must not drift away from God in the good times.
The two depressing incidents described in Judges chapters 17 to 21 seem to
be out of sequence with the rest of the book. "Clues within the text support
the theory that the events described in these latter chapters actually took
place early in the period of the judges… These sordid events…are purposely
placed at the end of the book as a fitting epitaph to a degenerate time" (Nelson
Study Bible, introduction to Judges).
The UCG Bible
Commentary for 1 Samuel says:
"After Judges, the next books of the Prophets section of the Hebrew
Bible are Samuel and Kings… Though Chronicles also belongs to the Writings—in
fact, concludes that section—most of it overlaps Samuel and Kings in great
"The books of 1 and 2 Samuel were originally one book in the Hebrew
canon. Samuel certainly wrote parts of the book bearing his name. In 1 Chronicles
29:29 he is mentioned as an author. However, he is dead after 1 Samuel 24
(his death is recorded in 1 Samuel 25:1). According to Jewish tradition,
Nathan and Gad were the other authors."
The key figures in 1 Samuel are Samuel the prophet (chapters 1-7), Saul the
first king (chapters 8-15) and David (chosen to be the next king but on the
run from Saul in chapters 16-31).
Why did Israel want a king?
1 Samuel 8:4-5
Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah,
and said to him, "Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways.
Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations."
Disgust and worries about the corruption of Samuel's sons and the desire
to be more like the more powerful nations around them caused the Israelites
to ask for a king. God said this was a rejection of Him (since He was their
real King) and warned them of the bad consequences including heavy taxation
they would experience, but He allowed a monarchy to be set up.
How did Saul disqualify himself as king?
1 Samuel 13:13-14
And Samuel said to Saul, "You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment
of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have
established your kingdom over Israel forever.
"But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself
a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander
over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you."
Saul had been an impressive choice for the first king, tall and handsome
yet humble (1 Samuel 9:2, 21). However, he let fear, impatience, lack of faith,
growing pride and selfishness lead him to disobey God (see 1 Samuel 13:5-12
and 15:1-34 for details of Saul's sins).
What did God see in David that we should seek to have as well?
"And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom
also He gave testimony and said, 'I have found David the son of Jesse, a
man after My own heart, who will do all My will.'
"From this man's seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel
God looks on our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7), and David's heart was set on obeying,
following, pleasing and thinking more like God. David's sins are not hidden,
but he was fervent in repenting and changing once he faced up to his sins
(see David's prayer of confession and repentance in Psalm 51, for example).
"Second Samuel recounts the triumphs and defeats of King David. From his
rise to the throne to his famous last words, this biography describes a remarkable,
divinely-inspired leader. As king, David took a divided and defeated Israel
from his predecessor King Saul and built a prominent nation. Like most political
biographies, Second Samuel highlights the character traits that enabled David
to succeed—his reliance on God for guidance (2:1), his sincerity (5:1-5),
and his courage (5:6, 7). But the book also describes the tragic consequences
of David's lust (12:1-23) and pride (24:1-17). By presenting both the strengths
and the weaknesses of David, the book gives a complete picture of a very real
person—a person from whom we can learn" (Nelson Study Bible, introduction
to 2 Samuel).
What did God promise David?
2 Samuel 7:16
"And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you.
Your throne shall be established forever."
What is the ultimate fulfillment of this Davidic covenant?
Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor
"And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall
call His name Jesus.
"He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord
God will give Him the throne of His father David.
"And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there
will be no end."
God's promises to David were both national and spiritual. Not only would
his physical descendants continue to reign, but Jesus Christ and David are
prophesied to rule for eternity in the Kingdom of God. See "God's
Covenant With David" in the booklet The
United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy for more details of this
"The two books of Kings cover 400 years of Israel's history: from the death
of David to the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC…
"1 Kings can be divided into two parts:
"Chapters 1-11: Solomon succeeds his father, David, as king of Israel and
Judah. His golden reign includes the building of the temple in Jerusalem.
"Chapters 12-22: the nation divides into northern and southern kingdoms.
We are given the stories of the kings ruling each area, including Jeroboam
(Israel), Rehoboam (Judah), Ahab (Israel), Jehoshaphat (Judah) and Ahaziah
"The prophets of God stand out as brave spokesmen, at a time when the people
are turning to other gods. Elijah is the greatest of them all" (Eerdman's
Family Encyclopedia of the Bible, 1978, p. 83).
How did Elijah present the spiritual choice facing the people of
Israel during this period?
1 Kings 18:21-24
And Elijah came to all the people, and said, "How long will you falter between
two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him."
But the people answered him not a word.
Then Elijah said to the people, "I alone am left a prophet of the Lord; but
Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men.
"Therefore let them give us two bulls; and let them choose one bull for themselves,
cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I
will prepare the other bull, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under
"Then you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the
Lord; and the God who answers by fire, He is God." So all the people answered
and said, "It is well spoken."
After the prophets of Baal failed, how did God respond?
1 Kings 18:36-39
And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice,
that Elijah the prophet came near and said, "Lord God of Abraham, Isaac,
and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am
Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word.
"Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord
God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again."
Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood
and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench.
Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, "The
Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!"
Throughout the period of the kings God's people were constantly being tempted
to forget God and His laws and to worship the gods of the nations around them.
The temptations today may be somewhat different, but the results are often
the same, as people forget God and serve money, status, entertainment and
selfish desires. God calls on people of all ages to remember His laws and
to follow Him for our good.
"2 Kings continues the history of the two Israelite kingdoms where 1 Kings
left off. It also has two parts:
"Chapters 1-17: the story of both kingdoms from the mid-ninth century until
the defeat of the northern kingdom by Assyria and the fall of Samaria in 722
BC. During this time the prophet Elisha, Elijah's successor, stands out as
"Chapters 18-25: the story of the kingdom of Judah, from the fall of the
kingdom of Israel until the destruction of the city of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar
of Babylon in 587 BC. This includes the reigns of two great kings, Hezekiah
"In the two books of Kings, the rulers of Israel are judged by their faithfulness
to God. The nation succeeds when the king is loyal. When they turn to other
gods, they fail. The northern kings are all failures according to this standard,
but for a time the kings of Judah did a little better. The fall of Jerusalem
and the exile of many Israelites was a major watershed in the history of Israel"
(Eerdman's Family Encyclopedia of the Bible, p. 84).
Why were people of the northern 10 tribes of Israel deported from
2 Kings 17:7-8, 13-18
For so it was that the children of Israel had sinned against the Lord their
God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand
of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and they had feared other gods, and had walked
in the statutes of the nations whom the Lord had cast out from before the
children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made…
Yet the Lord testified against Israel and against Judah, by all of His prophets,
every seer, saying, "Turn from your evil ways, and keep My commandments and
My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and
which I sent to you by My servants the prophets."
Nevertheless they would not hear, but stiffened their necks, like the necks
of their fathers, who did not believe in the Lord their God.
And they rejected His statutes and His covenant that He had made with their
fathers, and His testimonies which He had testified against them; they followed
idols, became idolaters, and went after the nations who were all around them,
concerning whom the Lord had charged them that they should not do like them.
So they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, made for themselves
a molded image and two calves, made a wooden image and worshiped all the host
of heaven, and served Baal.
And they caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, practiced
witchcraft and soothsaying, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of
the Lord, to provoke Him to anger.
Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight;
there was none left but the tribe of Judah alone.
The southern kingdom of Judah later went into captivity for similar reasons
(2 Kings 24:3-4; 19-20), though God did bring some of Judah back to the Holy
Land after 70 years to fulfill His prophetic purpose (2 Chronicles 36:21).
These captivities were meant to show the seriousness of sin and to teach us
all to treat God's laws and way of life with utmost respect. Prophecy shows
that a worse time of trouble and captivity is coming in the end times (Jeremiah
God's laws are given for our good, and even His punishments and the restoration
He has planned are for our eternal benefit. We are to learn the lessons of
biblical history so we don't repeat the mistakes.