After the exodus and desert wanderings, Joshua leads the Israelites into the Promised Land triumphantly and they settle there. It doesn’t take long, however, before the next generation sins against God. As a result, the Israelites fall into servitude to the surrounding nations. When they cry out for help, God raises up a judge. After a period of twelve judges, Israel asks for a king. The Israelites unite and expand under the reigns of kings Saul, David and Solomon, but the Royal Kingdom eventually ends in sin and the looming division of the kingdom.
Conquest and Judges
The period of the Conquest and Judges opens with Israel on the threshold of the Promised Land. A mixture of excitement and fear fills the people: excitement at entering this land flowing with milk and honey, fear at what will be the cost to take possession of the land from its current inhabitants. This story of new beginnings and new ordeals can be divided into two acts, the first covering the book of Joshua, and the second covering the book of Judges.
As the book of Joshua opens, Israel is armed with the covenant laws of Deuteronomy, ready to cross the Jordan River and take possession of her new home, but two questions remain: “Who will lead God’s people from this point forward?” and “Will Israel (and the pagan nations in the land) choose faithfulness to Yahweh?”
The book of Judges tells of how Israel enters the Promised Land with a series of great victories, but then follows the Israelites through a repeating cycle of sin that causes Israel to spiral downward into darkness. However, a hint of light shines as two foreigners place their trust in the Lord, entering into the people of God and becoming part of the line that will lead to a king and future messiah.
The Royal Kingdom
The Royal Kingdom period follows the continuing story of Scripture in the books of 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 Kings (chapters 1-11). In this period, God’s covenant family increases from a nation (Moses) to a kingdom (David). There are numerous supplemental books for this period, including 1 & 2 Chronicles, which follow the narrative story focusing on David and his line, and such beautiful books as Psalms, Proverbs, Wisdom, and Song of Songs.
The book of Judges ended with its haunting antiphon, “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.” This stark conclusion connected two realities: Israel’s kinglessness and the galloping relativism of God’s people. After the distressing ending of the Conquest and Judges period, the story turns more hopeful with a short “golden age” in the period of the Royal Kingdom, which consists of four acts, each focused on a key leader of God’s people: Samuel, Saul, David, and Solomon.
Act one tells of Samuel, a prophet and the last judge over Israel, who is a heavenly gift to his barren mother. Dedicated to the Lord from his birth, he is a faithful servant who anoints the first kings of Israel.
In act two, Saul, a handsome, towering young man, looks to be a promising leader for God’s people, but because of his disobedience, the throne and the royal line are taken away from him and given to another.
In act three, David, a man after God’s own heart, is anointed Israel’s future king, who faithfully waits for God’s timing to receive the throne. David will prove to be a model of trust in God, even when he sins.
Act four closes the period of the Royal Kingdom focusing on David’s son Solomon. Solomon receives wisdom, as well as riches and honor, surpassing those of any other king. But Solomon’s heart turns away from Yahweh, and this will have disastrous consequences, both for Solomon and for the kingdom of Israel.
Let Us Pray
Dear heavenly Father,
You led Israel triumphantly into the Promised Land. They failed to teach their children, and instead did what was right in their own eyes. Help me to keep my eyes on you and teach others what is truly right. You established a kingdom on your servant David and promised him an eternal throne. Establish your kingdom in our midst. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
For Further Reading
The narratives for Conquest & Judges and the Royal Kingdom are Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 Kings 1-11.
The Bible in a Week continues tomorrow with Divided Kingdom, Exile and Return.
This post is taken from Walking with God: A Journey through the Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins.