The Bible is an epic story of one family. God made a promise–a covenant–with Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 12:1-3. God promised to bless them with many children, to make them into a great nation, and through that nation to bless all nations. The Bible tells the stories of how God remained faithful to that promise even when Abraham’s children did not.

In the Shadow of Empire

It is important to read the Bible from the perspective of an oppressed people. While Abraham may have been a wealthy man (Genesis), his family spent most of its history suffering oppression from one empire after another. It began with centuries of slavery in Egypt. Moses led the people to freedom through the stories of the Torah (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy).

The people in the time of the Judges struggled with their neighbors in a violent cycle of tribal warfare (Joshua, Judges, Ruth).

David unified the twelve tribes of Israel and formed a unified Kingdom (1 Samuel). His son Solomon experienced a brief moment of fame, riches, and power, only to see how quickly that kind of Kingdom leads to destruction (2 Samuel).

The Kingdom split into two rival sibling nations–Israel to the north and Judah to the south (1 Kings). Israel, and ten of the twelve tribes, were destroyed by the Assyrian Empire, and Judah was destroyed and led into captivity by the Babylonian Empire (2 Kings).

All seemed lost for 70 years as the people sat in exile. Eventually the Persian Empire defeated the Babylonians and allowed the people of Judah to return to their land and rebuild the temple. Yet, they were not free from Imperial domination and oppression (Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther).

The story of the Hebrew Bible ends with the people of Judah back in Jerusalem and worship of Yahweh restored in the Temple. Yet, sitting under the oppressive thumb of an Empire they waited, longing for the day when the annointed one–the Messiah–would come to set them free and fulfill the promise to Abraham.

A great deal of literature was written during this time period. This collection of writings is often called the Apocyrpha, or the Deutero-canonical books. These books tell the story of the rise of the Greek empire and Judah’s struggle for freedom.

Eventually the Roman Empire would conquer the Greeks, occupy Judah, and  this new beast–another version of Babylon–would cast a dark shadow of oppression over the story of Jesus’ life and the work of his disciples. This is the context of the Christian scripture.

Help your students place the events of the Bible and the books that contain them into historical context. This package includes: 1 PowerPoint with 88 slides, 1 folder containing 88 .jpg images, and one PDF that contains a printable timeline and a blank timeline to use as a worksheet.

An Interactive Timeline

Hover your mouse over the timeline and see what happens. Click the Home button to reset. This interactive piece is a work in progress. Check back often to see how it is evolving.


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