Charts & Tables for OT

Bible Reading 101 (Part 2): Keep Track

Bible Reading Chart 2What do you keep track of?

People keep track of calories, expenses, water consumption, sex, bills, medications, vacation time, chores, taxes.  Why do we record these things?  When life is complicated, it’s easy to forget (particularly as we get older), and there are often serious consequences when we can’t remember what we have and haven’t done.

Things that are important you keep track of.  

For the past four years I’ve been using a fitness tracker (first a Fitbit, then a Garmin watch) to help me record my steps, my runs, my heartbeat, my workouts.   A few years ago, it seemed like no one had fitness trackers, but I was in a meeting a few days ago, and I looked around and the majority of the people were wearing some type of tracker.  Why do I have a tracker?  It is important to me to know how much exercise I am getting.

Things that are important you keep track of.  

In my last blog, I wrote about reading the Bible slowly, one chapter a day.  Here, I’m going to encourage you to “Keep Track” as you read the Bible.

For most of my adult life I would randomly pick a part of the Bible to read next in my daily devotions.   I would feel like reading Mark, then Exodus, then 2 Timothy (my favorite books).  I would continue this cycle for a while until I thought, I think it’s time for me to go back and read Mark, then Exodus, then 2 Timothy.  Strangely, I never felt like reading Leviticus, Nahum, or Jude.

In my optimistic moments, I would rationalize that I had probably read through the whole Bible in its entirety in my random Bible reading plan.  But in my more realistic moments I realized that the odds of me randomly completing the Bible were the same as winning the lottery.  It is important to read through the whole Bible if you believe all Scripture is inspired and profitable for teaching.

Things that are important you keep track of.  

About 6 years ago I started to keep track of which parts of the Bible I’ve read.  I decided I didn’t need a high-tech solution to this problem.  A piece of 8.5″ by 11″ paper listing the  66 books of the Bible would suffice (see image).  After I finish a book, I record the month I complete it.  To decide which book to read next, I just find one I haven’t read for a while.  It took me about 5 years to finish.

There are 1189 chapters in the Bible.  If you read one a day (and you keep track), you should finish the Bible in 3.25 years.  If you are young, you could read through the Bible 10-15 times over the course of your life.

I know there are apps for keeping track.  But I’ve decided to not use my phone during devotions or prayer times because it is too easy for me to get sucked into emails, news, sports, youtube, or other temptations.  Perhaps you are better at resisting temptation than I?

I also don’t like using devotional guides that direct you through the Bible because it is easy to spend more time on the fluff (the side bars, the personal stories), so you don’t actually spend much time reading the Bible.  Pure, unadulterated Scripture is my preference.

I would be happy to email anyone (dlamb@biblical.edu) my Bible Tracking chart.  I folded mine in half and I keep it in my devotional Bible, so I know where it is.

There are a lot of ways to record what you’ve read, but figure out a method that works for you, since…

Things that are important you keep track of.  

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The Historical Writings

“It sets the standard for a new generation of introductions to the Bible.”

This endorsement comes from Mark Boda (McMaster Divinity College) about The Historical Writings: Introducing Israel’s Historical Literature, which has just been released by Fortress Press, co-written by Mark Leuchter and myself.

My fourth book, not as academic as my dissertation, but more academic than God Behaving Badly, or Prostitutes and Polygamists.

Here is how it begins,

“The historical books of the Bible contain some of the best known stories of Scripture. Rahab the prostitute from Jericho helped the Israelite spies, providing vital insider information on the state of the nation (Joshua 2, 6).  Gideon the judge from Manasseh defeated the massive army of Midian with only three hundred men armed with trumpets, jars, and torches (Judges 7).  David the shepherd from Bethlehem nailed the Philistine giant Goliath in the noggin with his slingshot and chopped off his head with the giant’s own sword (1 Samuel 16).  Elijah the prophet from Gilead talked trash with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel before his drenched altar was scorched by a flame sent by YHWH (1 Kings 18).  Nehemiah the cupbearer from Susa was granted leave by King Artaxerxes of Persia to return and rebuild the wall around Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2). Manasseh the king from Judah, whose idolatry was legendary, prayed and repented from his Babylonian prison and was restored to his throne in Jerusalem.”

Then we give an overview of the less familiar and more disturbing stories, the conquest/genocide of Canaan (Joshua 6-12), the rape of the Levite’s concubine (Judges 19), the cursing and hair-pulling of his country-men by Nehemiah (Nehemiah 13).  How is one to understand these stories?  There there are many ways, but we’d recommend reading, The Historical Writings.

Mark and I wrote the introduction together.  I wrote the chapters on Joshua, Judges and 1, 2 Kings. Mark wrote the chapters on 1, 2 Samuel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and 1, 2 Chronicles.  It was a new experience to co-write a book, but Mark’s a good friend and we complement each other well.

Since it is a textbook, we were able to include a lot of extra stuff (which also makes it a bit more expensive that my last two books, $49 currently on Amazon).

There are 81 maps and images.   Art by Tissot, Poussin, Rembrandt, and many others. Images of the Merneptah stele, the Amarna letters, the Cyrus Cylinder, and many others.

There are 85 sidebars, including “The Sacrifice of Jephthah’s Daughter” and “‘Satan’ as a Cosmic Figure.”

There are 30 tables.  My two favorites are “External References to Rulers of Israel and Judah” (19 extra-biblical sources including the Kurkh Monolith, the Mesha Stele, the Black Obelisk–on the cover of Righteous Jehu) and “Seals Mentioning Names of Biblical Characters” (29 names including Jezebel, Hezekiah, Manasseh, and Jehoahaz).

The cover image is of the Tel Dan Stele which contains what most scholars consider to be the oldest reference to King David.  The letters highlighted in white on the lower right (see image here for more details) read “house of David.”  Reading from the right of the white letters, the fourth and sixth characters look like the Greek delta (triangle-shaped), that’s how the Hebrew/Aramaic letter dalet–the first and last letters of David’s name–were written at that point in time.

So, technically, there are two Davids mentioned on the cover, an author, and a king.

Prophets in the Former Prophets

The books of Joshua, Judges, 1, 2 Samuel and 1, 2 Kings are known by three titles:

1) The Historical Books (along with a few other books).
2) The Deuteronomistic History (by scholars, because of connections to the book of Deuteronomy).  My dissertation was on the Deuteronomistic History.
Righteous Jehu and his Evil Heirs: The Deuteronomist’s Negative Perspective on Dynastic Succession (Oxford Theological Monographs).
3) The Former Prophets (within the Jewish tradition).  The Latter Prophets are also known as the Major and Minor Prophets.

One of the reasons the title Prophets makes sense for these books is that there are a lot of prophets mentioned.  Well, not really in the books of Joshua and Judges, but in Samuel there’s a fair amount, and in Kings there are tons (literally).  Hundreds of prophets are mentioned in the book of kings.

As I study, research and write about these books, I like to make charts and tables.  Here is a link to my family tree of the Kings of Israel and Judah.

I’ve included a table below that will appear in some form in a couple of books I’m working on, but those versions won’t be in color.  The title: Prophetic Figures in Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomistic History (Joshua-Kings).  Prophetic figures include people the text calls a prophet,  a “man of God,” and several prophet groups (sons of the prophets).

The left column lists all the biblical references.
The middle column includes the prophetic figures, in red when the text provides a name, gray if anonymous, and pink for prophetic groups.
The right column lists the king (only for Samuel-Kings) who reigned while the prophet ministered.  The color coding, green for United Monarchy, blue for the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and yellow for the Southern Kingdom (Judah), matches the color coding used for the Family Tree chart mentioned above.

What observations and patterns do you notice about these prophets and kings?  Add your thoughts in a comment below.  In my next blog in a few days I’ll share a few of my own comments.

If you know people who study the Bible seriously, send them a link to this table.  They’ll find it helpful.

Prophetic Figures in DH

Family Tree of the Kings of Israel and Judah

I love charts and tables.  I’m working right now on the book of Kings for a textbook for the Historical Books of the OT, so I’ve been revising my charts.  The one below is the one I use the most, displaying the family tree of the kings of Israel and Judah.  The corresponding prophets are listed on the right side.  If you ever read the Old Testament, you will find this chart helpful.  Share this post with friends.

I find it helpful for three things in particular:
1) Since five rulers share the same name (Jeroboam, Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Ahaziah and Jehoram), the chart helps locate them in the family tree.
2) It’s messy when the royal houses of Judah and Israel intermarry (Ahab’s daughter Athaliah marries Jehoram of Judah).
3) It’s confusing when Josiah’s 4 descendants reign during the final days of Judah.

The legend at the bottom explains why kings are underlined, bolded or italicized.