Thus far, we have discussed favorite YA books and favorite fictional series. Today, I want to talk about my personal favorite books of the Bible. This week I’ll discuss Old Testament books, and next week we’ll look at books from the New Testament. I confess I haven’t read the Bible cover-to-cover yet; I’m currently working on it, and halfway through the book of Psalms. But that said, I have read most of the New Testament and much of the Old Testament, and today I’ll discuss a few of my favorite books from the Old. It’s very difficult to pick only a few to discuss; each of the Old Testament books that I have read have been enlightening to some degree, and I’ve enjoyed reading almost all of them (Leviticus was tedious, I admit). For today, I will be discussing Joshua, 1 and 2 Kings, and Ecclesiastes. Each of my descriptions of these books will be a bit shorter than in my previous blogs, but I hope you enjoy them nonetheless. Let’s take a look!
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) The book of Joshua continues the journey of the Hebrews as told in Exodus and Numbers; having escaped from slavery in Egypt, their lack of faith in God condemned them to wander in the wilderness of what is now the western Arabian Peninsula for forty years before they were allowed to enter the Promised Land – modern-day Israel and Jordan.
The book of Joshua tells the story of the Hebrews – led by Joshua, heir to Moses – as they enter the land of Canaan and establish their kingdom. This is one of my favorite Biblical books for two simple reasons: one, it’s fun to read. The book contains several major battles between the Hebrews and neighboring kingdoms, including the famous battle of Jericho, and as an aspiring writer/historian I find these battles and the tactics used fascinating.
Second, the book contains several profound truths concerning the nature of God and varying responses to Him. The book talks of strength and courage that we should have because of our faith in God. The second chapter of Joshua shows Rahab – a prostitute – helping Hebrew spies infiltrate Jericho, and through this story we see that God uses people that would be referred to as “sinners” in order to fulfill his will. This message, pervasive throughout both the Old and New Testaments, remind us that God uses broken situations and broken people to create a masterpiece. And good thing, too, because aren’t we all broken in some sense?
Finally, Joshua 5:13-14 says:
Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
“Neither,” he replied, “But as a commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”
There’s a lot going on in such a short passage. The man or angel that Joshua talks to gently but firmly reminds Joshua that God does not pick sides in human affairs; rather, it is up to the humans to choose God’s side. This message, an urge to align oneself with God above one’s own will, is both powerful and important.
These are just three of the themes that we can take from Joshua. The book, 24 chapters long, is relatively easy to get through and is peppered with a wealth of spiritual truths.
1 and 2 Kings
1 and 2 Kings is a personal favorite because it reads almost like a novel. These two books tell the stories of the kings of Israel and Judah beginning with Solomon, son of David (yes, the famous David that killed Goliath). In the wake of Solomon’s rule, Jeroboam and Rehoboam – two contenders for the throne – actually cause a schism in the kingdom that results in two countries: Israel and Judah. The remainder of 1 Kings and the entirety of 2 Kings discuss various rulers of the two nations.
Throughout these two books we see many kings that are unfit to rule, often because they are morally deplorable. However, the occasional good ruler will shine out above the masses, redeeming the kingdom for a time and following God’s instructions to the best of their ability. In these kings, we see some redeemable qualities that we can strive to emulate; in the many immoral kings, we see behaviors that we can actively try not to follow.
On another level, these two books are very enjoyable to read. As with the book of Joshua, there are frequent battles in these books, but equally interesting to me are the characters discussed in these books. Aside from the kings of Israel and Judah themselves, there are kings of neighboring kingdoms; military generals; and advisors to the kings, such as Nathan the prophet (my namesake). These secondary characters that repeatedly show up in the sidelines always manage to grab my interest, because though the spotlight rarely touches them, they clearly have an ongoing role in this narrative. Although I have not researched deeply enough to understand how each of these figures has played into the grand story of the Bible, I find their recurring appearance throughout the reigns of several different kings endlessly intriguing.
Both for its enjoyability as a fantasy-esque narrative and for the morals (or lack thereof) that we see in the kings of Israel and Judah, I thoroughly enjoyed reading these two books. Collectively they are 47 chapters in these two books, but all of these chapters are relatively short, and reading through the two books does not take very long. As with Joshua, I would highly recommend giving them a read.
“Everything is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:11)
“For everything there is a season.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Ecclesiastes, a short, 12-chapter book, is a book stock-full of wisdom. Ecclesiastes has long been one of my favorite Biblical books. A book of philosophy, Ecclesiastes makes two main arguments. First, “everything is meaningless.” All work, all accomplishments, still amount to the same fate. Rich and poor both still die. Therefore, find joy in life by looking to your friends and family. Rather than always trying to have just a little bit more, be content with what you are given in this life.
Additionally, “for everything there is a season.” Realize this, and live life accordingly. “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15) Embrace every season of life for what it is, and with this in mind, live life to the fullest.
Regardless of your religious views, I would recommend reading this book, because even an atheist would be hard-pressed to argue that the philosophy presented in this book is not beneficial. The gentle but consistent reminder that we’re all going to die eventually cannot be underemphasized. Since this is inevitably the case, those that are truly rich are those who understand that the important things in life are relationships, not monetary gains. Furthermore, is important to take time to experience different seasons in life and to accept that there will be both good and bad, sometimes in a mixture. These are apt assurances indeed, and can benefit anyone who reads this book.
Well, there are my favorite books from the Old Testament! What are your opinions on them? What are your favorite Biblical books? Comment below and let me know!