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Introduction Reading the Old Testament
A great family project for a rainy day is for parents and grandparents to gather with their children and grandchildren and look through picture albums that tell their family’s history. The pictures will reveal faces from the past, which in turn will lead to stories of when the picture was taken and what was happening at the time. Looking at the pictures, our children and grandchildren will discover faces that look familiar, because the person in the picture looks very much like them. In the process, they will begin to understand that they are part of a larger family that extends back in time. They may also realize that they are part of the process of how the family will grow into the future. They will come away with a sense of connection in time and space.
The Stories of the Old Testament is written with this purpose in mind. This helpful guide introduces many of the important people and events that helped form our Catholic faith. We may have some general idea of the more famous Old Testament figures, as their stories have been told, and distorted, in movies and books, but for the most part, we have ignored our ancestors in faith. When we read of them, we will discover that their struggles are like our own. They are heroes, saints, and sinners. They faced successes and failures, living in their own enclaves of faith in a pluralistic world.
The Stories of the Old Testament consists of one hundred readings covering important stories, major figures, and central themes of the Old Testament. Most of these readings span one or two chapters of an Old Testament book. Each reading is a substantial portion of Scripture, yet each is short enough to complete in one sitting. The book itself may be read in a few sittings to get an overview of the Old Testament; then it may be used with the Bible as a daily guide to reading the Old Testament. The short essays summarize some of the ideas found in the readings. However, there is no substitute for actually reading the texts themselves.
Some Catholics may ask why the Old Testament is important. We have the New Testament and the stories of Jesus; shouldn’t that be enough? The Catholic Church addressed this issue in the documents of Vatican II. The church teaches that the Old Testament is “a storehouse of sublime teaching on God, and of sound wisdom on human life, as well as a wonderful treasury of prayers” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 122). We believe, furthermore, that these ancient texts still speak to modern people. They are inspired by God and reveal God. The church also teaches that the “patriarchs, prophets and certain other Old Testament figures have been and always will be honored as saints in all the Church’s liturgical traditions” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 61).
One resource of particular importance is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. References to the Catechism (abbreviated CCC) can be found at the end of the guides to many of the readings in this book. These references point to paragraphs in the Catechism that relate to the theme of the Old Testament reading. They remind us that we read the Bible within the church, as Catholics. They also show us in an especially practical way that our Christian faith is rooted in the faith of the people of Israel.
While there is much to learn and experience about the Old Testament, The Stories of the Old Testament is a good start. Hopefully, you will continue to read the Old Testament. It is important to read about the Old Testament as well. Some good books are listed in the Suggested Reading section.
The Stories of the Old Testament unlocks the doors of this storehouse of sublime teaching, wisdom, and prayers. It invites you into the great story of God’s relationship with the people of Israel, a relationship completed in Jesus Christ. It is a story that continues today and speaks to all of us.
The Stories of the Old Testament a catholic’s guide
About: The Pentateuch The first twenty-eight readings in this book are taken from the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, which relates the stories of creation and the early history of Israel. It is fitting that these readings make up more than a quarter of this book, because the Pentateuch tells the central stories of Israel. Genesis relates the stories of creation and of the great patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Exodus tells of God’s deliverance of his people from oppression in Egypt and of the covenant between God and Israel. The books of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy describe the Law—the rules and commandments that the people were given as their share in the covenant relationship.
The stories told in the Pentateuch take God’s people to the threshold of their possession of the Promised Land. The rest of the Old Testament takes place in the land of Israel. The historical books tell about the era of the judges and kings and about the eventual division of the kingdom. The prophetic books recount the people’s covenant failures and God’s response. The writings, which include the psalms, the wisdom books, and later histories, record Israel’s profound religious and spiritual reflections.
But the foundation of Israel’s history is the Pentateuch, particularly the stories told in Genesis and Exodus. The readings that follow tell of the “mighty acts” of God performed to create a people who would be his instrument of salvation for the world.
The Days of Creation Read Genesis i:i–2:4
God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.
The first chapters of Genesis tell of God creating the heavens and the earth; filling the earth with plant, animal, and human life; and proclaiming it all good. The story was written when the Jewish people lived in the city of Babylon between the years 597 BC and 539 BC. Babylonian armies had invaded Judah and had captured and deported the leading Jewish families. Jewish aristocrats now farmed to feed themselves. They knew that they had failed God.
In Babylon, stories about the Babylonian gods tempted the Jewish people. The Babylonian story of creation is filled with violent images. It says that humans were created from the bad blood of a bad god to be slaves to the gods. In spite of its violence, this story was attractive to the Jewish people in exile. They had lost the land that God had given them. To the rest of the world, this meant that their God had lost. Were the Babylonian deities more powerful?
Jewish religious leaders wrote Genesis 1:1–2:4 to counter these influences. In the Genesis account, God lovingly speaks, and life comes into being. The first man and woman are blessed and meant to live in harmony with nature.
The Genesis creation story is structured like a workweek, since creation is God’s work. On day one, light is created and is separated from the darkness. On day two, God divides the waters with a dome called the sky. Earth and vegetation are created on day three. On day four, God creates the sun and the moon and the stars. On day five, God fills the waters with living creatures and the air with birds. On day six, God creates the human family: “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).
Human beings are not created out of the bad blood of a bad god. They are made in the image of the God who blesses and who calls them to bless one another. The man and the woman are created equal and are called to multiply and fill the earth.
On the seventh day, God rests.
Adam and Eve Read Genesis 2:4–24
The man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”
In the second creation story in the Bible, written much earlier than Genesis 1:1–2:4, God is pictured as shaping a man from the soil of the ground. Adam’s name probably comes from the Hebrew word adamah, which means “earth.” God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7), but God did not simply breathe air into the man; God shared divine life with him. In this telling of the story, the author shows how special human beings are. Every person is sacred, because every person lives in the breath of God.
God creates a garden, usually translated as “paradise.” God gives the man trees with every kind of fruit to cultivate and take care of. The only thing that is forbidden is the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The tree is “of the knowledge of good and evil,” but this does not mean that it helps people know everything or helps them tell the difference between good and evil. God has already given the man the ability to do this. What “the knowledge of good and evil” seems to mean here is the power to decide what is good and what is evil.
The man is alone, and God sees that he is incomplete. God puts the man to sleep, and from his rib God creates a woman to be his partner. The woman is not inferior to the man. Adam recognizes the woman as “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” He names her Eve, meaning “the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20). The author notes that this creates the foundation for marriage, where the husband and the wife will leave their families to create the most intimate relationship with one another.
Creation is now complete, with the man and the woman living naked but unashamed—a sign of their intimacy and harmony—in the world that God has given them to nurture and to grow in.
CCC, 369–79: Man and woman
The Fall of Adam and Eve Read Genesis 3
She took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.
Genesis 3 tells how Adam and Eve’s intimacy with God and with each other is disrupted. The serpent enters the scene. The serpent represents anything that can separate a person from God. The woman, with the man as her silent partner, speaks to the serpent. They examine the possibility of disobeying God. Will Adam and Eve accept God’s moral order and trust in his love?
The serpent asks the man and the woman if they can eat from every tree in the garden. The woman replies that God forbade them to eat from the tree in the middle of the garden. The serpent misleads them. He tells them that the reason God forbade them to eat this fruit is that it will give them God’s own knowledge of good and evil. Things are always more tempting when they are forbidden, and this is obviously the case here. The woman takes the fruit, eats it, and gives some to the man, who does the same.
The consequences are immediate. The intimacy between Adam and Eve is shattered. They become ashamed of their nakedness. Genesis says “they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves” (Genesis 3:7). They also lose their intimacy with God: hearing God walking in the garden, the man and the woman hide in fear.
When God calls to them, they tell him they are naked. Who told you so, God asks, and continues, “Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:11).
Adam and Eve now distrust one another. The man takes no responsibility for his actions but blames the woman. The woman blames the snake. The man and the woman have learned what it means to live outside of God’s moral order. It leads to mistrust, blame, and broken relationships.
The man and the woman have discovered that sin causes suffering: the world now becomes a place demanding hard work. The woman loses her equal partnership with her husband, and he will dominate her. The man must work to feed them. The woman must have her children in pain. They must leave the garden of paradise. Another consequence is that the human family will be born into original sin as a result of the sin of our first parents.
God gives Adam and Eve a sign of protection. They receive garments of skin before they are expelled from paradise. Life without suffering—symbolized by a garden of intimacy and sharing for all and with all—is over. Anyone who thinks that humans can create such a place without respecting God’s moral order learns the same lesson Adam and Eve learned. The result can only be disaster.
CCC, 396–405: Man’s first sin
Cain and Abel Read Genesis 4
Am I my brother’s keeper?
Adam and Eve have two sons, Cain and Abel. Cain and Abel’s story shows the deepening effect of sin.
The story is simple. Cain and Abel both offer God the best they have in sacrifice. Abel’s offering is accepted. Cain’s offering is not, and he is angry and discouraged. While early Christian writers describe Abel as being more righteous than Cain, Genesis does not say this. God accepts the offering of the younger brother for his own reasons. This pattern is repeated in the Bible with the choice of Abraham over his relatives, Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, and Joseph and David over their older brothers.
Cain’s hurt feelings turn into deep hatred of Abel. Cain believes God has insulted him. God tells Cain to continue living in relationship with him and others. Unfortunately, sin is like a beast lurking at the door, ready to master the heart of Cain. Cain refuses to make the choice of mastering this beast.
Cain goes into the field with Abel and kills him. We see here the growing effect of sin. It begins with blame in the story of Adam and Eve. It now advances to murder in the story of Cain and Abel.
Cain hopes his actions will be a secret, but nothing is secret from God. God, looking for Abel, calls on Cain. Baldly lying to God, Cain replies, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” God punishes Cain for his actions.
Cain’s punishment is to become a restless wanderer. He complains that he is without protection. God listens and responds to his prayer, setting a mark upon him so that he will be safe. Note that this “mark on Cain” is a sign of God’s mercy and protection, not a mark of shame.
We are all tempted by the thought that the good fortune of others means a failure on our part. This can lead, as it did with Cain, to jealous criticism and envy. This not only hurts others but also, as with Cain, leads to self-destruction.
CCC, 401: The universality of sin
Noah and the Flood Read Genesis 6–9
Go into the ark, you and all your household,
for I have seen that you alone are righteous.
The story of Noah is told to illustrate how deeply the human family has fallen into sinfulness. Sin is now so universal that a troubled God decides to complete the work of destruction that the human family has begun (Genesis 6:13). However, God sees that Noah is a good man and decides that humanity will survive through Noah’s family. God tells Noah to build an ark, which God will use to save Noah’s family and members of the animal kingdom. God is pained by and disappointed in humankind, but in his mercy he will save the human family through Noah.
Noah builds the ark and, following God’s instructions, loads himself, his family, and the animals into it. God closes the door of the ark, showing his care for all inside and for the future human family.
The flood comes, joining the waters of the sky with the waters on the earth. As the ark floats higher, everything beneath it drowns. For forty days and nights it rains. It is another 150 days before the water recedes.
Then God remembers Noah. In his remembering, God begins the process of re-creation: “And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided” (Genesis 8:1). Noah sends out birds to see if it is safe to disembark. He first sends a raven, then a dove. The second time he sends the dove, it returns with an olive branch in its beak. God then tells Noah to leave the ark with his family and all of the animals and begin to repopulate the earth.
God makes a covenant with all the living beings. Although the evil in the human heart continues to flourish, God promises that never again will he destroy the earth in a flood. The sign of this covenant, or promise, is the rainbow.
The story of Noah shows how, even in the face of terrible sin, God wants to save the human family.
CCC, 56–58: The covenant with Noah
The Tower of Babel Read Genesis ii
Therefore it was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth.
We are always curious as to why things are the way they are. Why is the sky blue? How does water freeze? Why does the moon shine more brightly on some nights than on others? The story of the Tower of Babel could have begun as an answer to such a question: Why do people speak in so many diverse languages?
The setting of the story is the city of Babylon, the city to which the Jews were brought after the Babylonian conquest of Judah in 597–587 BC. Babylon was a city built of bricks and mortar. There was no natural stone in Babylonia (present-day Iraq), so people made bricks of clay baked in kilns.
The inspiration for the story of the tower may have come from the shape of the pagan temples in Babylon. The principal temples of worship in Babylonia were the ziggurats, pyramid-like structures built to resemble mountains. There was usually a sanctuary on the ground level of the ziggurat that was matched by a sanctuary at the top, where the deities were worshiped. The believers climbed in procession to the top of the pyramid to pray to their gods.
The story of the Tower of Babel begins with the statement that “The whole earth had one language and the same words” (Genesis 11:1). Now as the people moved east, they found a place to build a city on the Mesopotamian plain, in Shinar, the name for Babylonia (Genesis 11:2). The people said they would settle there and move no further: “Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth’” (Genesis 11:4).
Making a name for themselves meant being independent of God and not following his plan that they multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 9:7).
God came down to see the city and discovered the people’s plan. God was not pleased to see that the people did not wish to grow but wanted to control their own destiny and use their creative talents only for themselves. God decided to confuse their language so they could not understand one another. As a result, the people scattered, and God’s will for the human race to grow and multiply moved forward (Genesis 11:9).
God made sure that the people would be more than a single isolated community. God intends for people to use their creativity to complete the earth, not to selfishly build their own private worlds; God does not support a community in which people live in cliques. The community that God wants on earth is one that cares about the entire world.
CCC, 57: Social disunity
About: The Fertile Crescent
As we begin to explore the historical developments of the Old Testament, beginning with the story of Abraham, it is important that we look at the geography of the Middle East. We especially have to look at what is known as the Fertile Crescent.
The arc of land that makes up the Fertile Crescent begins at the point where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers flow into the Persian Gulf. As we go up the rivers in an arc sweeping to the left, moving through present-day Iraq, we find some of the cities that grew up by these rivers. The ancient cities of the Sumerians were the first to display signs of what would become Western civilization. In the time of Abraham, the important cities were Ur and Haran. Later this area supported the Assyrian Empire (1900–612 BC), the Babylonian Empire (606–536 BC), and the Persian Empire (648–330 BC).
We continue the sweep west to the Mediterranean Sea. At the juncture of the sea and the land, we move directly south, through Canaan, the land located between Syria and Egypt, where the Israelites settled. At the southernmost tip of Canaan is the Sinai Desert, where present-day Israel borders Egypt. In Egypt, a great civilization arose with the aid of the resources of the Nile River and dominated the region for two thousand years.
Civilizations grew up in the Fertile Crescent because the availability of water made agriculture possible. Below the arc of the Tigris-Euphrates River Valley and east of the shoreline communities that developed in Syria is scorched desert that could not support agricultural life.
The availability of water meant that not only agriculture but also trade could be supported. The coastal regions of Syria and Canaan were the only viable trade routes between Egypt in the south, the cities of the Tigris-Euphrates River Valley, and the developing cultures in Asia Minor (present-day Turkey) and Armenia in the north.
Those living in Canaan, then, were always threatened by the ambitious rulers of the surrounding civilizations. When Pharaoh Ramses II (1279–1213 BC) led his conquering armies north, they traveled through Canaan to attack their enemies. As the Assyrians and Babylonians developed civilizations in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley, they attacked south along the Mediterranean through Canaan. King David (c. 1000–962 BC) was able to establish his kingdom and his son Solomon (c. 961–922 BC) was able to expand its borders because they ruled during a temporary power vacuum in the area. Soon the kingdom of David and Solomon was in danger of attack from the north and the south. The Egyptians raided during the reign of Solomon’s son Rehoboam (922–915 BC). David and Solomon’s kingdom then divided into the kingdom of Israel in the north and the kingdom of Judah in the south. The Assyrians destroyed the kingdom of Israel by 721 BC, and the Babylonians conquered the kingdom of Judah in 597–587 BC.
This was the stage for the historical events that form the background of the Old Testament.
The Call of Abraham Read Genesis i2
To your offspring I will give this land.
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1–3)
So begins the journey in faith that will lead to the formation of the Hebrew people, their arrival in Canaan, and the foundation of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. God chooses Abraham and his family. The text does not tell us why Abraham in particular is chosen. Abraham asks no questions, and God does not volunteer any further information.
In Genesis 12–50, the story of God’s work in human history leading to Jesus Christ enters into more familiar territory. Up to this point in the book of Genesis, we have read about the creation of the universe and of the human family. The stories of Adam and Eve and of Cain and Abel revealed how the human spirit weakened as the human family acted in more sinful ways. The story of Noah and the flood showed God’s distress with a sinful humanity. The story of the Tower of Babel showed the consequences of not wanting to fulfill God’s intentions for humankind.
The text now moves from looking at the growing effects of sin to looking at the process of redemption. It begins with the call of a single family, Abraham and Sarah, who emerge as the couple who will be the ancestors of faith for the people of Israel, for Christians, and for Muslims.
Scholars believe that Abraham lived in the period from about 2000 BC to 1500 BC, when civilization was growing in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. Abraham’s family came from the city of Ur, one of the oldest cities in southern Mesopotamia. When he left the city of Ur, he and his followers became nomads. Nomads lived on the fringes of the world of cities, preferring to wander freely with their flocks of sheep and herds of goats and asses. For part of the year they would settle near a village, and for the rest of the year they would travel in search of pastures and water for their animals. Since the climate in the area was dry, they would have to search widely in order to find enough pasture land and water to keep their flocks alive.
Nomads traveled with their animals. They had to travel as efficiently as possible, so they took little baggage and lived in tents. For security, they traveled in groups with other families. They had to know not only where the pastures were that had adequate food and water for their flocks, but also which of the tribes settled in these lands were friendly and which were hostile. Moving into an area, the nomads received permission from local farmers to have their animals graze in recently cut grain fields for a period of time. In return for the grazing, the farmers got the manure that was left behind by the flocks to help fertilize the fields.
This was the life that Abraham, Sarah, and their descendants were called to from the settled life in the cities. Instead of a life that gave them some assurance that things would remain the same, they faced a life of change, uncertainty, and possibility.
While Abraham’s future was uncertain, his destination was not. Abraham travels to Shechem, in Canaan, and builds a shrine to worship God. Here God promises Abraham that he will have children who will eventually settle in this land. From there, Abraham, his family, and his flocks travel further, to Bethel and Negeb. In each place he builds a shrine to God.
Abraham and his descendants are models of what it means to live in God’s blessing. In Genesis 12–50, blessings are given eighty-eight times. God’s blessing cannot be earned but is pure gift. As pure gift, blessings give the person or the people blessed the good things that they need to live to their fullest potential. A blessed person or family is promised material as well as spiritual benefits.
The first chapter of Genesis revealed that God created the universe, said it was very good, and blessed it for the human family to enjoy. Because of sin, people have used God’s creation for personal gain instead of sharing it with one another.
So it is important to see that the blessing Abraham and his family received is not for them alone. Rather, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Abraham, Sarah, and their descendants (including us, his children in faith) receive abundantly from God. With these blessings comes the responsibility to share with the world that which we have received.
CCC, 59–61: God chooses Abraham
About: Melchizedek Think of someone who has had an important influence on your life—a teacher, a friend from a foreign country, a beloved grandparent who has died. While you may never see this person again, the memory of his or her influence in your life will last as long as you live. The image of the priest Melchizedek has a similar place in the Bible.
Melchizedek appears in chapter 14 of Genesis. Abraham has been to battle against four kings in Canaan. Upon his return to camp, he is met by Melchizedek, the priest-king of Salem. Salem was located near the site of the future city of Jerusalem. “And King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!’ And Abram gave him one tenth of everything” (Genesis 14:18–20).
Abraham accepts Melchizedek’s blessing, which gives him extra strength and shows the world the glory of God.
Melchizedek appears again in Psalm 110, a psalm proclaimed at the coronation of a Davidic king. The psalm announces to the king that “you are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (110:4). This was prayed to affirm that the Davidic kings in Jerusalem would carry on the priestly tradition, interceding for their people before God.
More important for Christians, Melchizedek appears in Hebrews 7. The writer of Hebrews notes that Melchizedek means “king of righteousness” and “king of peace,” two titles that admirably suit Jesus Christ. “Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever” (Hebrews 7:3). The author of Hebrews argues that since Abraham gave gifts to Melchizedek, Abraham admitted his own inferiority to the king of Salem. Melchizedek is presented in the Scriptures as a king of righteousness and peace. He has no parents or relatives. He is described as an “eternal” priest, without beginning or end. In this way, Melchizedek resembles Jesus, the Son of God. Since he has received the gifts from Abraham, Melchizedek is seen as greater than Abraham and also greater than the priest Aaron (Hebrews 7:1–17). In Hebrews, Melchizedek becomes a model of the eternal priesthood of Christ, “who has been made perfect forever” (Hebrews 7:28).
About: The Pentateuch 2
1 The Days of Creation Genesis 1:1–2:4 3
2 Adam and Eve Genesis 2:4–24 5
3 The Fall of Adam and Eve Genesis 3 7
4 Cain and Abel Genesis 4 9
5 Noah and the Flood Genesis 6–9 11
6 The Tower of Babel Genesis 11 13
About: The Fertile Crescent 15
7 The Call of Abraham Genesis 12 18
About: Melchizedek 22
8 God’s Covenant with Abraham Genesis 15 24
9 Hagar and Ishmael Genesis 16; 21 26
10 Abraham and Isaac Genesis 22 28
11 Sarah Genesis 12; 21 30
12 Finding a Wife for Isaac Genesis 24 32
About: Family in the Old Testament 34
13 Jacob and Esau Genesis 25:19–34; 27 36
14 Jacob’s Vision of God Genesis 28:10–22 39
About: Leah, Rachel, and the Twelve Tribes of Israel 41
15 Jacob Returns to the Land of His Fathers Genesis 31–33 43
16 Joseph and His Brothers Genesis 37 45
About: Egypt in the Time of the Patriarchs 47
17 Joseph and Pharaoh Genesis 39–41 49
18 Joseph and His Brothers Are Reconciled Genesis 42–45 51
About: From Joseph to Moses 54
19 The Birth of Moses Exodus 1–2 56
20 Moses Meets God in the Burning Bush Exodus 3 58
21 Pharaoh’s Contest with God Exodus 5–6 60
About: Election in the Old Testament 62
22 Passover Exodus 11–13 64
23 Journey to the Sea Exodus 14:1–15:21 66
24 Testing in the Desert Exodus 15:22–17:16 68
About: Miriam 70
25 The Hebrews Meet God at Sinai Exodus 19 72
About: The Sabbath 74
26 I Am the Lord Your God Exodus 20:1–11 76
About: Law in the Old Testament 79
27 Loving the Neighbor Exodus 20:7–21 81
About: The Book of Leviticus 83
28 Into the Wilderness Numbers 14 85
About: The Book of Deuteronomy 87
About: The Historical Books 89
29 Rahab and the Fall of Jericho Joshua 2; 6 90
About: Joshua 92
30 Joshua Renews the Covenant Joshua 23–24 94
About: The Settlement of Canaan 96
31 Deborah, Barak, and Jael Judges 4–5 98
About: The World of the Judges 100
32 Gideon’s Small Army Judges 6–8 102
33 Samson the Flawed Hero Judges 16 104
34 Naomi and Ruth Ruth 107
35 Hannah’s Song 1 Samuel 1:1–2:11 110
About: Women in Old Testament Times 113
36 God Calls to Samuel 1 Samuel 3 115
37 Samuel and Saul 1 Samuel 10–12 118
38 The Young David 1 Samuel 16–17 120
39 David and Jonathan 1 Samuel 18 122
40 Saul and David 1 Samuel 24; 28 125
41 David and Abigail 1 Samuel 25 127
42 David the King 2 Samuel 5–6 129
About: Jerusalem 132
43 David, Bathsheba, and Nathan 2 Samuel 11–12 134
44 David and Absalom 2 Samuel 18 137
45 David’s Later Years 2 Samuel 19–24 139
46 The Wisdom of Solomon 1 Kings 3 141
About: The Temple 144
47 Solomon Builds the Temple 1 Kings 8 146
About: Sacrifice in the Old Testament 148
48 Solomon Neglects God 1 Kings 11 150
49 The Division of David’s Kingdom
1 Kings 12:1–19 152
50 Jeroboam Is King of Israel
1 Kings 11:26–40; 12:20–13:34 154
About: Ahab, Jezebel, and the Gods of Canaan 156
51 Elijah Is Fed by God 1 Kings 17 158
About: Prophets and Prophecy 160
52 Elijah Confronts Baal 1 Kings 18 162
53 The Still Small Voice 1 Kings 19 164
54 Elisha and the Healing of Naaman 2 Kings 2; 5 166
About: Assyria 168
55 Amos Denounces Empty Religion Amos 5 170
56 Hosea and His Unfaithful Wife Hosea 1–2 173
About: The Kingdom of Judah 175
57 Isaiah’s Vision Isaiah 6 178
About: The Three Isaiahs 180
58 Isaiah’s Message Isaiah 1–2 182
59 A Savior Will Come Isaiah 9; 11 185
60 Micah’s Call for Justice Micah 6 188
About: Care for the Poor 191
61 The Promised Ruler from Bethlehem Micah 5 193
About: Hope in the Old Testament 195
62 The Rule of Manasseh 2 Kings 21 197
63 Nahum Celebrates the Fall of Nineveh Nahum 200
64 Zephaniah Attacks Complacency Zephaniah 202
65 King Josiah’s Reform 2 Kings 23 206
About: The Rise of Babylon 208
66 Habakkuk’s Reprimand Habakkuk 210
67 The Sack of Jerusalem and the Fall of Judah 2 Kings 24–25 212
About: Jeremiah 214
68 Jeremiah’s Temple Sermon Jeremiah 7; 26 216
69 Jeremiah Speaks against Jerusalem Jeremiah 28 218
70 Sorrow for the Fall of Judah Lamentations 1 220
71 Jeremiah’s Message of Hope Jeremiah 29; 31 223
72 The Anger of Obadiah Obadiah 225
About: Jews in Exile 227
73 The Call of Ezekiel Ezekiel 2–3 229
74 Ezekiel on Individual Responsibility Ezekiel 18 231
75 Creating a New People Ezekiel 36–37 233
About: The Priestly Writers 235
76 The Time for Consolation Isaiah 40 237
77 The Power of God’s Word Isaiah 43; 55 240
About: The Rise of Persia 243
78 A God for All the Nations Isaiah 43 245
79 The Suffering Servant Isaiah 52:13–53:12 247
About: The Return to Jerusalem 249
80 Baruch’s Message to Refugees Baruch 251
81 Haggai and the Temple Haggai 254
82 Zechariah’s Visions of Hope Zechariah 1–2 256
83 Malachi’s Warnings Malachi 258
84 Ezra and the Gentile Spouses Ezra 9 260
About: Nehemiah 262
85 Ezra and the Law Nehemiah 8–9 264
86 Joel’s Call to Repentance Joel 266
About: The Synagogue 269
87 Jonah’s Mission to the Gentiles Jonah 271
About: Persian Influences n the Old Testament 273
88 Esther Saves the People Esther 275
About: The Greeks 277
89 The Faithfulness of Tobit Tobit 8–9 280
About: The Books of Maccabees 283
90 The Mother and Her Sons 2 Maccabees 7 285
About: The Romans 287
91 Daniel the Wise Hero Daniel 6 289
About: The Pharisees 292
About: The Psalms 294
92 Human Dignity Psalm 8 296
93 A Song of Repentance Psalm 51 298
94 The Lord Is My Shepherd Psalm 23 300
95 Does God Forsake Us? Psalm 22 302
96 Job and His Friends Job 20–21 304
97 Job Speaks to God Job 40; 42 306
About: Proverbs and the Song of Songs 309
98 Ecclesiastes on Vanity Ecclesiastes 1–3 311
About: Jewish Life in Alexandria 314
99 The Meaning of a Good Life Wisdom 3–4 316
100 The Misuse of the Tongue Sirach 19–20 318
Suggested Reading 327
Posted August 12, 2009
I teach 10 grade Catechism, which in our Parish covers the Old and New Testaments . When I first started teaching I taught only the New Testament, which I felt very comfortable teaching to a rather tough age group. In summer of 2007 a decision was made to keep the classes with the same teacher for the entire year. That meant I had to leave my comfort zone and teach the Old Testament to 15 and 16 year olds. I had very little knowledge of the Old Testament. How was I going to make that fun for the teens? Was I going to turn into the type of teacher that I hated in my High School CCD classes? I started to look around for books that I could use to quickly educate myself.
I found this book.
It was such a blessing. I think the best way to describe what I found in "The Stories of the Old Testament" was the story behind the story for each of the books in the Old Testament. The stories that we have heard over and over were finally put into context for me. This book brought out the human details that I needed to know to make the Old Testament "Real" to the teens in my class.
I could tell the story of Cain and Abel by heart but never in my life had I thought about Cain's hurt feelings when his sacrifice is not accepted. That I could explain and make alive for my teens while teaching them how sin can eat away at all of us and how we can't hide our sins from God. They also were given something to think about. God certainly punished Cain but he did not give him the death penalty. He actually made sure he was safe while "serving his punishment".
The detail about the many stories of David gave me great hope. If David was worthy to serve God with all the sins he piled up then He just might use me too! The kids in my class absolutely loved hearing this detail. It made the stories so real to them. God must really love and care for us to put up with all these servants of his put Him through. Suddenly I could see in my students faces that they felt better about themselves. They were not alone in their struggle. They now had a unique window into the world of the Old Testament that they had never been allowed to look through before. They had heard these stories in Mass but they had never been given context before. This book allowed me to share the complete situations these people were living through with them. They left my class with a better understanding of what our faith was built on. They certainly saw God in a different light. The people in the Old Testament were not perfect. That rarely comes through in what we hear in Mass from these readings. They had to have those details to make these stories real to them.
This book transformed the Old Testament from a collection of historical stories to real life for me and my class. I now actually enjoy teaching the Old Testament as much or more than the New Testament because I am able to bring these stories to life. "The Stories of the Old Testament, A Catholic's Guide" By Jim Campbell, has given me the information I needed to make the Old Testament exciting and alive. It brings great satisfaction to me when I witness the expression on their faces when they are able to put these lessons in the context of their own lives.
This book is a wonderful tool which allows you to expand the stories of the Bible. After reading this book you can never look at these stories in the same way. They become alive.
Buy this book!
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