Tell me about the background of each book of the Bible. What was the reason for writing each book?
The Old Testament
The Books of the Law of Moses
Genesis: The history of beginnings. The book describes how the world came to be, where man came from, and how the world ended up in its present state. "This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens" (Genesis 2:4). In particular, it traces the promise by God to create a special nation from the descendants of a man named Abraham.
Exodus: The descendants of Abraham, known as the Israelites, have grown numerous as slaves in the country of Egypt. This books records their leaving Egypt and how God forges them into a nation under the leadership of Moses. "And the LORD said: 'I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites'" (Exodus 3:7-8).
Leviticus: Contains the religious laws of the Israelites, for whom the Levites serve as priests of the law. "These are the commandments which the LORD commanded Moses for the children of Israel on Mount Sinai" (Leviticus 26:34).
Numbers: Focuses on the forty years Israel wandered in the wilderness because they attempted to rebel against God. "These are the commandments and the judgments which the LORD commanded the children of Israel by the hand of Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan, across from Jericho" (Numbers 36:13).
Deuteronomy: Means "second reading." These are the final words of Moses just before his death and the Israelites' entry into the land promised to them by God. It recounts the laws given to the Israelites, the blessings to them if they keep the law and the curses that will fall on them when they forsake the law. "These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel on this side of the Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain opposite Suph, between Paran, Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab" (Deuteronomy 1:1).
The Books of History
Joshua: The history of the conquest of Canaan under the leadership of Joshua. "Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them" (Joshua 1:6).
Judges: The early history of Israel as a nation prior to having kings. At this time judges, strong leaders, were raised up by God at various times to direct Israel in the proper path. "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25).
Ruth: The story of a Moabite woman who becomes an Israelite and eventually the grandmother of Israel's most famous king. "But Ruth said: 'Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me'" (Ruth 1:16-17).
I Samuel: This account covers the life of the last judge, Samuel, and Israel's first king, Saul.
II Samuel: A history focused primarily on Israel's second king, David.
I Kings: Continuing the history of I and II Samuel, this book covers last king as a united kingdom and the early kings of the divided kingdom.
II Kings: This book concludes the history Israel, documenting the destruction and captivity of both the northern and southern kingdoms.
I Chronicles: A collection of historical documents forming a parallel history of Israel, primarily focused on the time of King David.
II Chronicles: A continuation of I Chronicles documenting the history of Israel from King Solomon to the return of the Israelites from their captivity in foreign nations.
Ezra: The history of the return of the Israelites from captivity focusing on the rebuilding of the temple and the renewed teaching of God's law to the people.
Nehemiah: An account of the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem and the restoration of God's law in the people's lives.
Esther: An historical account of one event during the time of the restoration that illustrates God's providencial care for His people. "For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14).
The Books of Poetry
Job: A book focusing on the theme of why men suffer. "I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You" (Job 42:2).
Psalms: A large collection of poems, songs and prayers.
Proverbs: A collection of wise sayings and discourses on themes of wisdom and morality. "The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, To perceive the words of understanding, To receive the instruction of wisdom, Justice, judgment, and equity; To give prudence to the simple, To the young man knowledge and discretion- A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, To understand a proverb and an enigma, The words of the wise and their riddles." (Proverbs 1:1-6)
Ecclesiastes: A book focused on the purpose for which God created man. "And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven; this burdensome task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised." (Ecclesiastes 1:13).
Song of Solomon: A dramatic poem on the nature of love between a man and a woman. "For love is as strong as death, Jealousy as cruel as the grave; Its flames are flames of fire, A most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, Nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love All the wealth of his house, It would be utterly despised." (Song of Solomon 8:6-7).
The Books of Prophecy
Isaiah: Documents the sins of the Israelites and God's plan for their redemption both in their return from captivity, but more importantly their release from the captivity of sin by the coming Messiah. "And He said, "Go, and tell this people: 'Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.' Make the heart of this people dull, And their ears heavy, And shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed." Then I said, "Lord, how long?" And He answered: "Until the cities are laid waste and without inhabitant, The houses are without a man, The land is utterly desolate, The LORD has removed men far away, And the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. But yet a tenth will be in it, And will return and be for consuming, As a terebinth tree or as an oak, Whose stump remains when it is cut down. So the holy seed shall be its stump" (Isaiah 6:9-13).
Jeremiah: A prophet who lived during the final days of the southern kingdom, Jeremiah weeps over the sins of the people that necessiated the need to drive them into captivity. "I will utter My judgments Against them concerning all their wickedness, Because they have forsaken Me, Burned incense to other gods, And worshiped the works of their own hands. Therefore prepare yourself and arise, And speak to them all that I command you. Do not be dismayed before their faces, Lest I dismay you before them" (Jeremiah 1:16-17).
Lamentations: Jeremiah laments the punishment his people must suffer because of their sins. "Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Behold and see If there is any sorrow like my sorrow, Which has been brought on me, Which the LORD has inflicted In the day of His fierce anger" (Lamentations 1:12).
Ezekiel: Written during the early days of captivity, Ezekiel documents the justice of God in punishing Israel and the need for Israel to accept God's decree.
Daniel: Written during the last days of the captivity, Daniel shows how God is moving nations to accomplish His will. "The king answered Daniel, and said, 'Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret'" (Daniel 2:47).
Hosea: Written during the divided kingdom, Hosea draws a parallel between the unfaithfulness of Israel to the unfaithfulness of his own wife.
Joel: This book talks about the blessings which will follow repentance.
Amos: This book, written by a herdsman turned prophet, contains five visions which denounce the sinfulness of Israel.
Obadiah: The doom of the nation of Edom is discussed in this book. "For the day of the LORD upon all the nations is near; As you have done, it shall be done to you; Your reprisal shall return upon your own head" (Obadaiah 15).
Jonah: A story of a relucant prophet sent to bring the nation of Assyria to repentance, though the prophet hates the Assyrians. By the story the concepts of mercy and obedience are well illustrated. "But the LORD said, "You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left-and much livestock?'" (Jonah 4:10-11).
Micah: Discusses the depth of depravitiy Israel has fallen into and the hope coming in the future kingdom of the Messiah. "But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the LORD, And of justice and might, To declare to Jacob his transgression And to Israel his sin" (Micah 3:8).
Nahum: Foretells the destruction of Assyria and the deliverance of Israel.
Habakkuk: Written during the Babylonian captivity, this book addresses the problem of how a just God can allow His people to suffer. "The burden which the prophet Habakkuk saw. O LORD, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear? Even cry out to You, "Violence!" And You will not save. Why do You show me iniquity, And cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; There is strife, and contention arises. Therefore the law is powerless, And justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore perverse judgment proceeds" (Habakkuk 1:1-4)
Zephaniah: A book concerning the threat of punishment and visions of future glory. "And it shall come to pass at that time That I will search Jerusalem with lamps, And punish the men Who are settled in complacency, Who say in their heart, 'The LORD will not do good, Nor will He do evil.'" (Zephaniah 1:12).
Haggai: Written just as the captivity ends, the prophet scolds the people for their slack efforts in rebuilding the temple. "Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins? Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: 'Consider your ways!'" (Haggai 1:4-5).
Zechariah: Contains eight visions which encourage the Israelites to rebuild the temple and foresees the glory of the kingdom of the Messiah. "Therefore say to them, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Return to Me," says the LORD of hosts, "and I will return to you," says the LORD of hosts." (Zechariah 1:3).
Malachi: Tells of the end of the Old Testament period and urges the people to reform themselves before the Messiah comes. "Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me!" (Malachi 3:8).
The New Testament
Matthew: An account of the life of Jesus emphasizing that Jesus is the promised Messiah and king.
Mark: An account of Jesus life directed toward the Gentiles with emphasis on Jesus' power.
Luke: A chronological account of Jesus life with emphasis on Jesus' compassion on humanity.
John: An account that focuses mostly on the last days of Jesus, but with emphasis on the deity of Jesus and his spiritual teachings.
History of the Church
Acts: A sequel to Luke, the narrative records the establishment and growth of the church with focus on the apostles Peter and Paul.
Letters of Paul
Romans: Addressed to the church in Rome, this letter tells of the sin of mankind, their need for salvation, the solution God has provided, and their need to live a godly life.
I Corinthians: A letter scolding the Christians in Corinth for their deptartures from the teachings of God.
II Corinthians: A follow-on letter to Corinth, encouraging them to continue to improve. It also contains a defense of Paul's apostleship.
Galatians: Mostly a warning to the brethren in the region of Galatia not to get caught up in the false doctrine of trying to blend portions of the Old Law with the Law of Christ.
Ephesians: Written to Christians in Ephesus, this letter discusses how Christ's death has brought Jews and Greeks under one new law. It is filled with practical explanations of how to live a Christian life.
Philippians: A letter of encouragement to brethren in Philippi whom Paul felt a particularly close attachment.
Colossians: A letter detailing the glory of Christ in his kingdom, how he has brought the Gentiles into his kingdom by removing the barrier of the Old Law, and how Christians should live their lives.
I Thessalonians: While giving exhortations and encouragments to the brethren in Thessolonica, Paul puts all in the context of the comforting thought of Jesus' return.
II Thessalonians: A follow-up letter to Thessolonica attempting to straighten up some confusion concerning Christ's return.
I Timothy: Paul's counsel to a young preacher concerning his work.
II Timothy: Paul's last letter and his last words of wisdom concerning the work of a preacher.
Titus: Instructions to another preacher concerning the duties of a preacher.
Philemon: A personal letter to Philemon asking him to forgive a run-away slave who became a Christian after meeting Paul.
Hebrews: The writer is never named, though most believe it is a letter of Paul addressed to Christians converted out of Judaism. It details why a change in the law of God was necessary and gives strong encouragement to Christians to remain faithful.
James: Practical advice on living the Christian life.
I Peter: A letter encouraging Christians to follow the example of Christ, especially emphasizing the idea of submission.
II Peter: Peter's final letter, warning against false teachers and unbelievers.
I John: A letter detailing how love is the foundation of Christianity and how love spurs Christians to follow God's teachings.
II John: A brief message on divine truth and a warning against accepting false doctrine.
III John: A brief letter giving character sketches of three men in the church.
Jude: This letter details the fact of apostasy and the rise of false teachers.
Revelation: A series of visions concerning things that would shortly take place in order to encourage Christians to endure through the coming trying times. It illustrates the spiritual battle between the forces of God and of Satan.