Joshua means “Jehovah the Savior.” The name emphasizes Israel’s dependence upon God, which brought victory. The events recorded in the book cover a period of about 25 years.
Under Joshua’s leadership Israel enters, conquers, and possesses the land of Canaan. The opening five chapters deal with Israel’s entrance into the Promised Land. The first chapter deals with the issue of leadership as Moses had died. The Lord instructed Joshua to take the lead in crossing Jordan and entering the Promised Land.
In chapter 2 we have the two spies sent to Jericho and the story of the harlot Rahab hiding and helping the spies. Chapters 3-5 deal with the crossing of Jordan in obedience to the Lord and the beginning of many years of conquest. In chapters 6-12 we have the conquest of Canaan. Chapters 6-8 rehearse the capture of Jericho, the trespass of Achan, Israel’s defeat at Ai, and Israel’s ultimate capture of the city.
The most difficult part of the book is chapters 13-24 where we have the dividing of the land for the people’s inheritance in keeping with the promises of God. God was their King and He brought them into the land and they dwelt there. He gave them the land. “And the Lord gave unto Israel all the land which He sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein” (21:43). Joshua, before he died, reminded the people of God’s faithfulness. The lesson of the book is to make sure that God rules in our lives.
Judges means “rulers.” The book records the history of 13 judges, 12 called of God and one usurper. It gives an account of their lives and actions. The book covers the period from Joshua’s death to the time of Samuel. There was no king in Israel and four times in the book we read these words, “there was no king in Israel” (17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25).
In Joshua, God was their king and they prospered but, in Judges, they had no king so they did not prosper because “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (17:6; 21:25). The book records the failures of Israel and the faithfulness of God. The people, when they were in the land, soon forgot God and His Word and thus there were some 400 years of spiritual and moral departure. They forsook God, turned to idolatry, and formed alliances with Baal. Yet, time and again God showed grace and mercy, raising up a deliverer. God was in control of all. He is still on His throne. The lesson of Judges is that there are solemn consequences to not giving God His rightful place in our lives.
Ruth is the first of two books in the Old Testament that bears the name of a women, the second being Esther. The setting of the book is during the latter times when the judges ruled. It was a time of lawlessness, idolatry, and immorality. The historical purpose of the book is to link the royal lineage with Bethlehem. The doctrinal purpose is to link the kinsman with redemption. Here is the only example of a kinsman moving to secure blessing for the destitute. The practical purpose is to show, in Ruth, the possibility of living for God in adverse and difficult circumstances. Here we see kingship in preparation.
In the opening chapter Elimelech, whose name means “God is my king,” had left the land – it links with Judges, “no king in Israel.” In the closing chapter we have mention of David, God’s king. Thus, at the beginning, we have kingship departed (Elimelech), but in the closing chapter, through the marriage of Ruth to Boaz, the royal line is continued and the way is prepared for the bringing in of David the true king of Israel by God’s appointment. The lesson we learn is that God will fulfill His purpose in spite of departure.
1 Samuel – The name means “heard of God.” The book gives a personal history of Samuel, the son of Hannah. It is a book of transition from Israel being a theocracy to a monarchy. It covers a period of over 100 years, from the birth of Samuel to the death of Saul.
In chapters 1-7 we still have the rule of the judges. The first four chapters give us the administration of Eli the priest and chapters 5-12 the administration of Samuel. In the opening verses of chapter 1 we are introduced to Elkanah, his wives, and the provocation of Hannah by Peninnah (1:1-9). Verses 10-17 give us the prayer and vow of Hannah and in verses 18-20 we have the answer to Hannah’s prayer and the birth of Samuel. The closing verses of the chapter deal with the fulfillment of Hannah’s vow. The lovely prayer, or song, of Hannah in chapter 2 and chapter 3 gives the call of Samuel.
In chapters 4-7 we have the war with, and the subjection of, the Philistines; in chapters 8-12 Israel requests a king. Samuel knew that Israel’s request for a king was wrong and he pleaded with the people to continue under the government of God. They insisted and Saul was appointed and presented as king. So we have kingship according to man – Saul the choice of the people, a man after the heart of men, a bold and daring man, the man of natural stature. Yet, he failed miserably and was characterized by disobedience to God.
We learn that God looks at the heart and not at the outward appearance. Chapters 13-15 deal with the trial and fall of Saul as king. Chapters 16-31 deal with the history of Saul, his hostility to David, and Saul’s death. In chapter 16 David is anointed by Samuel and in chapter 17 we have David’s victory over Goliath.