ABRAHAM was called out of Ur of the Chaldees; the first Jew. God made promises to him regarding the land of Canaan, and his seed. He died not having received these promises.
ISAAC. Abraham was prepared to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Because Abraham was faithful, God confirmed His promise to Abraham by an oath. Isaac's willingness to die in obedience to his father's command is a type of Christ. The promises were renewed to Isaac (Gen.26:3-5)
JACOB was Isaac's son. The promises were repeated to him too. He had 12 sons - Reuben was the eldest, Benjamin the youngest. Levi was the one from whom the priests descended. Joseph was the favourite.
JOSEPH. As a lad he had two dreams which depicted him as the ruler over his brethren. They became jealous, and sold him as a slave into Egypt. There he became a ruler, and organized the conservation of corn to be used during seven years of famine which afflicted the region. During this time, Jacob and his sons came to live with Joseph in Egypt. They and their descendants lived in Goshen, part of Egypt. A later Pharaoh persecuted the people of Israel, making them slaves.
MOSES was born at this time; he was hidden in bulrushes as a baby, and then found by Pharaoh's daughter and adopted by her. While a young man, he killed an Egyptian who was beating an Israelite. Moses then fled into Midian, where he worked for 40 years as a shepherd with Jethro. God then appeared to him in a burning bush. He was told to go to Pharaoh and demand deliverance for Israel. He did miraculous signs to prove that he was really sent from God. However, Pharaoh would not let Israel go, therefore ten plagues were sent upon Egypt, e.g. frogs, darkness, hail, and finally the killing of the firstborn males. The Israelites had to kill a lamb and sprinkle the blood on the door of their houses. This pointed forward to how the blood of Jesus can save us from death. This feast became known as the Passover.
EXODUS. The Israelites were at last allowed to leave Egypt. They travelled guided by God's Angel in a pillar of cloud in the daytime, and a pillar of fire by night. Pharaoh's army pursued them up to the Red Sea. The waters opened miraculously to let the people go through, and then the waters returned to drown the Egyptians. Israel then travelled through the wilderness towards the promised land of Canaan. God gave them water to drink from a rock, and bread in the form of manna was provided every morning. When they reached the mountain of Sinai, God gave them the ten commandments and the Law of Moses. They were then constituted God's Kingdom. They were commanded to make a special tent, called a tabernacle, in which God could be worshipped. They were given a High Priest and priests who could offer their sacrifices to God. All the elements of the tabernacle and priesthood pointed forward to Jesus.
THE PROMISED LAND was eventually approached. 12 spies were sent out, ten of whom returned saying that it was too difficult to possess the land of Canaan. The other two spies, Joshua and Caleb, said the truth - that the land could be possessed by them, if they had faith in God's promises. Because the people shared the attitude of the ten spies, Israel had to wander in the wilderness for 40 years until all those who were over 20 when they left Egypt were dead.
JOSHUA was Moses' successor, and led Israel into the land of Canaan. The first city to be taken was Jericho, where Rahab lived, and then Ai. Once they were established in the land, they were ruled intermittently by JUDGES, although God was their real king. These included men like Gideon, Jephthah and Samson. They all delivered Israel from their enemies, when they repented of sinning against God. The history of Israel is full of examples of Israel being disobedient to God, being punished by invasions from neighbouring nations, repenting of their sins and God delivering them - and then sinning again. The last judge was Samuel. In his time, the people of Israel rejected God as their King by asking for a human king, like the nations around them.
THE KINGS. Their first king was Saul who, although starting well, turned out to be a wicked man, who was disobedient to God's commandments, and persecuted David. After his death, David became the next king, and was one of Israel's best. God made great promises to him. After him came his son Solomon who, after a good start, was turned away from the true faith by his many wives who he had taken from the surrounding nations. After his death the kingdom split into two - ten tribes formed the kingdom of Israel, initially under Jeroboam; the other two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, formed the kingdom of Judah, initially under Rehoboam, Solomon's son.
The Kingdom of Israel (the ten tribes) had no good kings. They were continually rebellious against God. He sent them many prophets to plead with them to repent, but they would not. Therefore the Assyrians invaded them, and took them away into captivity. They were scattered throughout the world.
The Kingdom of Judah (the 2 tribes) had a few good kings (e.g. Asa, Hezekiah), but they, too, were generally disobedient to God. The Babylonians were therefore sent to invade them, and took them into captivity in Babylon for 70 years. They never again had a king. After 70 years, some returned to the land of Israel under the leadership of Ezra, Nehemiah, Joshua (the High Priest at the time) and Zerubbabel the Governor. They were ruled over first by Persia, then by Greece, and finally by Rome. They were under Rome when Jesus was born. As a result of the Jews rejecting him, God sent the Romans to destroy Jerusalem in AD70, and eventually all Jews were expelled from the land of Israel.
In recent years, the Jews have started to return to the land, in partial fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies. The revival of the State of Israel is a sure sign that soon Jesus will return to re-establish the Kingdom of Israel as the Kingdom of God.