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The Chronological Study Bible
New International Version
By Thomas Nelson
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2014 Thomas Nelson
All rights reserved.
BEFORE THE PATRIARCHS
Humankind's earliest ancestors appear in what is called "prehistory"—before events were recorded. Then humans pioneered writing, and "history" began.
The Bible begins its story with the accounts of creation and of human-kind's early history. The epoch extending from undatable creation to about 2000 B.C. witnessed the beg inning both of life itself and of humankind's first civilizations. This is the time before the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, long before Israel became a specific people. It is the time of humankind's earliest ancestors.
The very earliest part of this epoch is called "prehistory" because it covers the story of humans before there were recorded events. The advent of writing around 3000 B.C. eventually ended "prehistory," as humans began preserving information concerning their economies, laws, and religions. The various written documents of this period, including lists of kings, inscriptions from buildings, and historical epics, mark the start of the historical era.
ARCHAEOLOGY AND THE PAST
Archaeologists arrange historical and cultural evidence according to the most vital metal of each period, such as stone, copper, bronze, or iron. The earliest period, called the Stone Age, is divided into the Old Stone, Middle Stone, and New S tone ages. A later period, the Bronze Age, is also divided into the Early Bronze, Middle Bronze, and La te Bronze ages. The dates for these periods are approximate, of course, because cultural changes always come gradually. Very early dates are based on theories of evolution and geology, and interpreters of the Bible differ on how such dates relate to the creation accounts Genesis.
The old stone Age is designated by the name "Paleolithic." It was an age of hunting and food-gathering. People lived in caves or temporary shelters. They made implements of flint or chipped stone, and subsist ed from what they could gather from nature itself.
The Middle stone Age is called the Mesolithic period. It was a transitional stage to a food-producing economy. During this period real settlements first appeared, and there was an evolution in the arts of civilization.
The New stone Age, or Neolithic period, is distinguished b y several advances. One of the most notable the invention of pottery, divides the New Stone Age into a prepottery period (c. 8000-5500 B.C.) and a pottery period (c. 5500-4000 B.C.). Other developments included agriculture, textiles, and the domestication of animals.
The Copper-stone Age, or Chalcolithic period, saw a transition to a significant use of copper. At some sites from this period, dwellings were underground, entered by shafts from the surface and connected by tunnels. Copper working was found in the many pits, ovens, and fireplaces common in such sites.
The Early Bronze Age is the period in which we leave "prehistory" and enter the "historical" period. This is the period in which written records appear. The Mesopotamians pioneered writing, but Egypt was quick to recognize the benefits of it. At the site of Arad in Palestine, archaeologists have uncovered a potsherd bearing the signature of Narmer, who is often identified with Menes, the pharaoh of Egypt's first dynasty.
THE PEOPLES AND GROUPS
The story of the Bible is linked with the histories of two great lands: Mesopotamia and Egypt. In Mesopotamia two different cultures developed, one in the south and the other in the north.
The earliest known inhabitants of Mesopotamia lived in the southern part, the land of Sumer or southern Babylonia. Known as Sumerians, this culture greatly influenced all of the ancient Near East, including the Israelites. The Sumerians developed a township system of government, consisting of city-states, in which the temple of the local deity was the center of economic, cultural, and religious life.
In northern Babylonia lived the Accadians. This culture took its name from the town of Agade, also known as Accad. The Accadian culture did not develop the independent city-state system of the south, but seems to have existed as a single territory. While there were temples, the palace and household played the more important role in the Accadian economy. Around 2300 B.C. a northerner named Sargon of Agade was able to unify north and south Babylonia.
Egypt was a land divided into two kingdoms: Lower Egypt around the Nile Delta and Upper Egypt of the Nile Valley. Egypt's prehistory or predynastic period witnessed the development of rulership by pharaohs. This period ended around 3000 B.C. with the unification of Lower and Upper Egypt by the ruler Menes, resulting in the First Dynasty. During the following Archaic period, the country came to accept a divine monarchy in which the pharaoh was considered the incarnation of the sky god Horus. Later pharaohs of the Old Kingdom, beginning about 2700 B.C., became famous for their pyramids.
THE BIBLICAL LITERATURE
The Book of Genesis is usually divided a t Ge 12, where the story of the pa triarch Abraham begins. The chapters of Ge 1-11, which concern the time before the patriarchs, are called "primeval history" because they relate the first ages of the world. Primeval history tells of a time much different from what the patriarchs would later experience, and from what humans experience now.
The major narratives of this primeval history give an account of creation, a great Flood, and the tower at Babel. The creation account (Ge 1-3) describes the creation of all things, including humankind. The newly created humans rebel against God, resulting in their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The Flood account (Ge 6-9) tells of the continued evil in human hearts, the Flood, and God's judgment upon humanity. The redemption of Noah's family offers a new beginning. Following the Flood, Ge 11 narrates the spread of the human race and its arrogant attempt to build a tower to the heavens. God confuses their languages, forcing them to disperse.
THE BEGINNINGS OF HUMAN CIVILIZATION
Biblical and secular historians agree that human civilization began in the ancient Near East. The earliest large communities developed in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq and Iran) and in Egypt. Palestine, where biblical Israel is found, lies along the best road between Mesopotamia and Egypt, and so the Bible's own history appropriately begins with these two civilization centers.
The task of assigning specific dates to this ancient history is difficult and uncertain, but scholars have placed the first human settlements as early as 7,000 to 8,000 years before Christ. Although dating the early events of civilization is elusive, we can at least follow the general stages by which human communities developed.
Advances in technology made it possible for humans to live in large communities. First they developed stone tools, then discovered how to make clay vessels, how to extract and use copper ore, and, by about 3000 B.C., how to use bronze. In terms of food and support, humans moved from small family groups hunting and gathering their food to larger nomadic clans tending domesticated animals. Farming developed next, and by 3000 B.C. people in Mesopotamia and Egypt were using sophisticated irrigation techniques to harness the regular floods of the Tigris, Euphrates, and Nile rivers. Now for the first time , food could be produced in large supply, enough to support cities and even empires.
The period from 3000 to 2000 B.C. (called the Early Bronze Age) saw the development of several such empires: the civilizations of Sumer, Accad, and Ur in Mesopotamia and the Old Kingdom of Egypt. Towering monuments testify to the amazing technological sophistication of these cultures. This was the age of the great pyramids in Egypt and of similar structures in Mesopotamia, called ziggurats. These ancient peoples worshiped many gods: gods of light, darkness, skies, seas, the land, the sun, the moon and stars, plants, and animals. Ancient writings from this time describe not only these gods, but also the creation of the world and a great flood.
1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
6 And God said, "Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water." 7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the vault "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
9 And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good.
11 Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.
14 And God said, "Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth." And it was so. 16 God made two great lights — the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.
20 And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky." 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth." 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.
24 And God said, "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind." And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."
27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
29 Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food." And it was so.
31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
2 1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
Adam and Eve
4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.
5 Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, 6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. 7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
8 Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die."
18 The Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."
19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.
But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
Excerpted from The Chronological Study Bible by Thomas Nelson. Copyright © 2014 Thomas Nelson. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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