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06
Top Ten Old Testament Stories: #5 Moses and the Crossing of the Red Sea
TIMING: While there aren’t definitive sources that corroborate the traditional timing of the life of Moses (1400-1201 B.C.), for the sake of the chronology the crossing of the Red Sea is about four hundred years after Joseph dies. This gives time for the pharaoh that loved Joseph to die, and for a new king to come to power and treat the Israelites harshly (Exodus 1: 8-22).  REASON TO READ: There are several levels on which one could read the story of Exodus: Historically as a story of the Israelites, As a metaphor of our struggle against sin, To study Moses as a model of leadership, To study the character of God in how He deals with his difficult people, and many more perspectives that we could not cover in a single article. We will explore each of these reasons when we discuss how this story fits in the top ten, below. BRIEF SUMMARY: This is one of the most popular stories in the Bible, so we will not spend too much time elaborating here on the details. The main events are Moses grows up in Pharaoh’s house (Exodus 2:1-10), He realizes his people are being oppressed, tries to liberate them by his own strength, kills an Egyptian, and flees to Midian (Exodus 2:11-25), He sees God in the burning bush and God tells him to go back to rescue the Israelites (Exodus 3), Moses tells God that he is not the right man for th...

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04
Top Ten Old Testament Stories: #4 Joseph and Pharaoh’s Dream
TIMING: The historical timing is controversial with multiple accounts: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2010/02/18/Joseph-in-Egypt-Part-I.aspx http://www.freemaninstitute.com/Gallery/joseph.htm http://creation.com/egyptian-history-and-the-biblical-record-a-perfect-match The take home message is that Joseph went to Egypt around 1600 B.C. give or take a few hundred years. REASON TO READ: The story of Joseph in Egypt marks a milestone in the story of the Hebrews in that it is the means by which Israel and his sons to go to Egypt, which is the prequel to their descendants’ Exodus with Moses. BRIEF SUMMARY: Just as with Abraham, Joseph has many spiritually beneficial stories, starting from his birth Genesis 30 until the end of the book in Chapter 50. For our purposes here, we will focus on his interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream in Chapter 41. Joseph had been put in jail for a crime he did not commit, and while he was in jail he had correctly interpreted dreams for the baker and the chief butler of Pharaoh. He had asked the chief butler to put a good word in for him with Pharaoh, but he had forgotten until Pharaoh had a dream that nobody could interpret. When the chief Butler told Pharaoh about him, they brought Joseph out of the dungeon and Pharaoh told him his dream: "Behold, in my dream I stood on the bank of the river. Suddenly seven cows came up out o...

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03
Top Ten Old Testament Stories: #3 Abraham and the Sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19)
TIMING: Traditionally, Abraham was thought to live 2000 years before Christ, but this has been questioned recently by such books as Abraham in History and Tradition by biblical scholar John Van Seters (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_in_History_and_Tradition). REASON TO READ: Prior to Abraham, God had individual relationships with people. He was close with Adam and Noah. There are other people we know of and potentially (likely) other people we do not know of that God approached on an individual basis. The unique thing about Abraham, is that God promised, not only to be close with him, but to all of his descendants also, which is a significant milestone in God beginning to form for Himself a "holy nation, His own special people, that ... who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy" (1 Peter 2:9-10). BRIEF SUMMARY: Abraham has many stories found in Genesis 11-25, but here we are focused on when God asks him to sacrifice his son, Isaac. This story begins in Chapter 17 when God makes a promise to Abraham that he will be the father of many nations through his son Isaac. It is important to read this and see that God does not simply make a general statement that Abraham will be a patriarch, but rather a specific statement that Isaac will be part of the promise also. Therefore, when God asks Abraham in Genesis...

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12
Top Ten Old Testament Stories: #2 Noah’s Ark (Genesis 6-9)
TIMING: Potentially corroborated by geological data of flooding related to melting ice caps around 5600 B.C. (http://www.nytimes.com/library/national/science/010599sci-black-sea-flood.html). REASON TO READ: This epic story has the sort of excitement that movies are made of. My personal favorite is Evan Almighty which does not try to be historically accurate but rather captures the spirit of how crazy Noah must have felt to build his ark. BRIEF SUMMARY: The world had become so evil that God wanted to purge the world of its evil and start over. He tells Noah about His plan and tells him to build an ark so that he can survive the impending flood. Noah listens to God and builds an ark on land despite the ridicule from the people around him for the decades it took him to build it. He brings his wife, three sons, their wives, seven of every clean animal, two of every unclean animal, and seven of each type of bird. God brings rain upon the earth that lasts 40 days and 40 nights so that everyone on the ark is saved and everyone else perishes. Noah sends out a raven that does not return. He sends out a dove three times: the first time it returns empty-beaked, the second time it comes back with an olive leaf, and the third time it does not return. This is Noah’s sign that it is safe to leave the ark with his family and the animals that came with him. HOW THIS FITS IN THE TOP TE...

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15
Top Ten Old Testament Stories: #1 Adam and Eve (Genesis 1-3)
TIMING: No historical chronological corroboration available. REASON TO READ: This is the beginning of God’s relationship with man. If we understand how God “meant it to be” in its simplest form, then we can begin to see how He can steer our lives to resemble the paradise that God created for Adam and Eve to enjoy. BRIEF SUMMARY: God creates the world and puts Adam in the garden of Eden with Eve as his helpmate. They are allowed to eat of any tree in the garden except one, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eve is deceived by the serpent and convinced to eat of the tree. She convinces Adam to do the same, and they become aware of their nakedness. They cover themselves in fig leaves, but God performs the first sacrifice and covers them with animal skins. They are kicked out of Eden and two cherubim with flaming swords are put at the gate to prevent them from going back in. HOW THIS FITS IN THE TOP TEN: To a certain extent we may take for granted the significance of God first creating then seeking a relationship with human beings. God could have very easily created us to be like earthly angels whose role is to serve God rather than creating us in his image and inviting us to become his children. We can discuss later what it truly means to be in God’s image and likeness, but for now let us simply see that we have a unique relationship with God...

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20
Introduction to the Top Ten Old Testament Stories
Question 1:  Why have a top ten? I'm guessing that a majority of us do not sit down and read the Old Testament in a structured fashion.  Why is that?  One of the reasons may be that we find it unmanageable:  "it's too long", "there's too many funny names", "it has too many irrelevant rules", "it's just too much" ... or is it?  I think the Old Testament is in many ways much simpler and much more straightforward than the New Testament.  "Yes, but what about all the Levitical laws and the lists of names and ..." - I say that studying them has its spiritual benefit, but you can skip some things for now and focus on the more accessible parts.  You can't swallow the ocean in our gulp, so you have to take it one sip at a time.  "But how do I know where to start?"  Excellent question, now we're getting somewhere! Answer:  To give you a good place to start and give you a foundation before reading the rest of the Old Testament. Question 2:  Who is in the top ten? If you have attended Sunday School for any length of time then you should have some familiarity with most of the cast of characters that you will find in the top ten.  The reason to read them again now is that they are organized in order for you in chronological order so that you understand where they fit in the big picture.  You may know that Adam came wa...

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