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Moses committed the sacred books to the custody of the Levites, who were to preserve them with the utmost care for the use of the people (Deut. xi. 13—21). These books were required to be written out by the king, in a copy for himself, to read in continually (xvii. 18—20). The Levites were required to read them to the people, men, women and children, assembled in the year of release, at the feast of tabernacles (xxxi. 9—13). By these means the Scriptures became universally known, copies of the sacred books were multiplied among the people, and the purity of the oracles of God was preserved to future ages.
Joshua is so called, as this book was written by the minister of Moses so named, and his successor in leading the people of Israel into Canaan. It contains the history of the settlement of the tribes in the promised land, during the period of about twenty-six years, from the decease of Moses to the death of Joshua. As a continuation of the national records of Israel, it is to the five books of Moses what the Acts of the Apostles are to the four Gospels. It is believed to have been written by Joshua, except a small portion of the last chapter by a later prophet of God; and it was designed to illustrate the Divine faithfulness, in the perfect fulfilment of His promises made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, and the avenging justice of God, in destroying the corrupt and abominable nations of Canaan.
Joshua, called Jesus (Acts vii. 45; Heb. iv. 8), from his name in Greek, was a type of Christ, that as he saved Israel from their enemies, and conducted
them to Canaan, so Jesus, “the Captain of our salvation,” saves His people and brings them to the heavenly glory!
JUDGES.—Thirteen supreme rulers of Israel, from Joshua to Sampson, governed the nation during that period of four hundred years. They were extraordinary men of God, and the book is so called, as it records their public acts. The most judicious critics ascribe the compilation of this book to the prophet Samuel ; and it affords a striking illustration of the righteous government of God, especially in the sufferings of the Israelites, when practising the idolatries of their neighbours, and in their deliverance and prosperity when obeying the LORD.
Ruth is so called from a Moabitish female, who, having emigrated to Canaan, was married into a family of Judah, so that she became famous in the genealogy of Messiah. The book of Ruth is ascribed to Samuel.
SAMUEL I. and II.—These are called in the Greek, “ The first and second books of Kings." They are called after the name of the prophet, because the former twenty-four chapters of the first book were written by the venerable Samuel, the latter part, and the whole of the second book, being written by the prophets Nathan and Gad. (1 Chron. xxix. 29.) These books are the national records of Israel for about one hundred and forty years, to the close of the reign of David.
Kings I. and II.—These books are records of the nation of Israel, from the anointing of King Solomon to the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of the Jews in Babylon.
CHRONICLES I. and II.—These books are historical records of the whole Bible, from the creation of the world down to the destruction of Jerusalem, through a period of about 3,468 years. They are valuable as preserving the genealogical tables, which show the line of the descent of Messiah from Abraham, and record various incidents highly instructive regarding divine providence, which are not found in the other historical books. They are believed to have been compiled by Ezra.
Ezra and NEHEMIAH.—Ezra is so called from the priest who wrote it, as a continuation of the Jewish history, commencing with their return from the seventy years' captivity in Babylon. It includes the period of about a century, from the decree of Cyrus, in the year 1.c. 536, to the reformation effected by Ezra and Nehemiah, who laboured together in that good work. These books, in a remarkable manner, illustrate the kind providence of God towards the Jews. Ezra was raised up by Jehovah to restore religion to its ancient purity; and he was divinely inspired to revise and complete the Holy Scriptures. He wrote his own book, which was finished by Nehemiah ; and died at about the age of 120 years, venerated by the Jews as a second Moses. Nehemiah closes the Old Testament history, about the year 420 before the birth of Christ.
Psalms.—These form the collection of the inspired songs and hymns, prayers and meditations of several prophets, especially of Moses, Asaph, Heman, Jeduthan and David. But most of them are ascribed to that King of Israel. They are written in various forms of Hebrew poetry, some being historical and others prophetical, but all devotional ; and they have always been prized by the people of God. They are among the most precious treasures of Christianity.
PROVERBS.—This book is a collection of the wise sayings given by divine inspiration, chiefly to King Solomon. They relate to almost every branch of moral and religious duty, and form a storehouse of practical wisdom, adapted to common life in the ways of holiness under the gospel.
ECCLESIASTES and Solomon's Song.–These books were written by King Solomon; the latter, when he was young, and first married to the daughter of the King of Egypt; and the former book was written at the close of his life, to serve as a monumental expression of his conviction of the insufficiency and vanity of all earthly good, and of his repentance on account of his idolatries, and of his sincere return to the LORD his God.
ISAIAH, JEREMIAH, EZEKIEL and DANIEL.— These books are so named from their several authors, the four “Greater Prophets” of God, who were raised up as extraordinary ministers, to instruct the people of Israel in the true worship of God. Their writings comprehend a vast range of subjects the most interesting to Christians, especially relating to the history of the nation of Israel, its declension, idolatry, dissolution and restoration, with prophecies referring to the promised Messiah, the church of Christ, and the nations connected with the Jewish community, as they affected the interests of the people of God. These holy men flourished between the years 810
B.C., and the year 534 B.C., which was the close of the ministry of the prophet Daniel.
Hosea to MALACHI.—These books of the twelve “Minor Prophets” were written by the several prophets whose name they bear. They also were inspired servants of God, and called to exercise an extraordinary ministry among the people of Israel, in different ages, from a little before the time of Isaiah to the age of Ezra, the Old Testament closing with the last of them, the prophet Malachi, about the year B.C. 397.
Divine providence watched over the sacred books in a remarkable manner; so that after the decease of the last of the inspired prophets, a revision of the manuscript copies of them was made, and the Old Testament completed. This good work was effected under the direction of the Great Synagogue. And “ what the Jews called the Great Synagogue,” says Dr. Prideaux, “was a number of elders, amounting to one hundred and twenty, who succeeding some to others, in a continued series, from the return of the Jews again into Judea, after the Babylonish captivity, to the time of Simon the Just, laboured in the restoring of the Jewish Church and State in that country. In order thereto, the Holy Scriptures being the rule they were to go by, their chief care was to make a true collection of those Scriptures, and publish them to the people."*
“Simon the Just” finished his course about the year two hundred and forty-four after the captivity,
* Connection between the Old and New Testament, vol. ii., p. 752.