How is Israel unique among ancient Near Eastern neighbors in her emphasis upon history?
Israelís historical accounts differ from her neighborís for the reason that Israelís accounts were more than just an account of who did what when and to whom, and how the persons involved responded to the circumstances placed before them. They were more than just a chronological listing of the kings and their deeds of the time they reigned. They were more than the successes and failings of the people and lands the history is claiming to truthfully relate to us. As our book also tells us, ďMost religious expression in the ancient Near East was mythologicalĒ, and that these were ďelaborate myths, in which important events took place outside historyĒ (p. 159). (As far as I know myths arenít true, yet many people believe them to be, or use them as true. George Lucas, for instance in Star Wars. For example Ė the Jedi Order and the Force are based on Joseph Campbellís series of books on myths).
The main basis of Israelís history we find in the Bible is of a divine nature. The books of history of the Old Testament show us Godís movements in the world, not just those of the people He loves. Where history would say that I conquered another nation, the biblical histories would say how God moved me to conquer that nation God to show me that the same could happen to me if I did not stay obedient to God. Israelís history shows a God that loves His people and did whatever it took to show them that He did. Even when they continually fell away, God showed them that He was ready and willing to take and bring them back into a relationship with Him, no matter what they did as long as they acknowledged Him as their God once again.
In the biblical, divine history of Israel, I find a God who truly cares about me and those who call Him Lord. They show me that, if I stay obedient to God in all His ways, then I can expect Him to take great care of my life. Even when I donít always follow Him perfectly, He has already taken care of my sin in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ. Before I knew Jesus as my Lord and Savior, the story of my history was written by me (or so I thought), which almost lead to my demise on planet Earth. But once I gave Jesus control over my history, His Kingdom in my soul has thrived and I am forevermore at peace with myself and others. The Old Testament, to me, is more a history about God than it is about the people He loves. Thatís why they call it HisStory.
Arnold, B., Beyer, B. (1999, 2008). Encountering the old testament: a christian survey. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
Comment: I am thankful for the detail placed on history. I find it easier to place my faith in God knowing that generations before me have done the same. When I see the consistency of God, the steadfast way He keeps His covenant; it gives me hope for the future."
Author Response: I am always very happy to know that I worship a God who is very upfront with me in every way. When I sin, He tells me. When I do well, He congratulates me. When I suffer, He comforts me. And so on... To me, the Bible is the most upfront, in your face, book I have ever read. When people do wrong, the Bible gives every sordid detail about their sin. Here we see their suffering in a way that most humans would ever let out to others. Here we find people who rise and fall as humans, and of a God who is there with us through every one, no matter how high or how deep we climb or fall. The Bible, through the people it speaks about, helps me to see that I am not alone in my successes and defeats. The Bible shows me that God will never change the way He feels about me no matter what I do or say to Him or others. Reading about people like David, and how God still considered him a man after God's own heart, shows me that my failings are not the end of my life, but can also be a brand new beginning. And then, books like Ruth and Esther show me that my successes will not go unnoticed by God, but will be used to bring success to others. Again, I love the Bible for its great honesty which makes it the best and only book I can count on to help me live my life correctly for God.
Comment: "Not only was Israel a unique area but the people were also chosen by God, and throughout much of the Old Testament we can find what Godís word for the world is by looking at the relationship with the children of Israel."
Author Response: It's amazing how all of the countries surrounding Israel keep on thinking that they will defeat the Jews when all along God will keep the Jews from being defeated. The fight for Israel shows the arrogance of man to think that they can take whatever they want just because it is there. Satan has blinded the eyes of these nations to see that God is in fact control of Israel. How else do they explain that Israel is still here after all of these years and attempts to annihilate her?