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Bridgeway Bible Dictionary


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This article is concerned solely with a summary of the Bible’s contents, book by book. Concerning the Bible as the inspired and authoritative Word of God see INSPIRATION; REVELATION; WORD. Concerning the formation of the Bible and the organization of its contents see CANON; MANUSCRIPTS; SCRIBES; SCRIPTURES; SEPTUAGINT; WRITING. Concerning the present-day reader’s understanding of the Bible see INTERPRETATION; QUOTATIONS.

Human sin and divine salvation

The first book of the Bible, Genesis (meaning ‘origin’ or ‘beginning’), opens with a brief account of the creation of the world, chiefly as an introduction to the story of the people who live in the world. From the beginning people failed repeatedly, but God still loved them and initiated a plan for their salvation. He chose Abraham, a man from Mesopotamia, promising to make of him a nation, to give that nation the land of Canaan as a homeland, and to use that nation as his channel of blessing to the world. Genesis traces the growth of Abraham’s descendants over the next two or three centuries, and closes with them settling down as a distinct and unified people in Egypt. These events mark the beginning of the nation Israel.

Over the next four centuries the Israelites so increased their numbers that the Egyptian rulers considered them a threat and made them slaves of the government. The book of Exodus (meaning ‘a going out’) records how Moses became the Israelites’ leader, overthrew the oppressors and led his people out of Egypt (about 1280 BC). His intention was to lead them to a new homeland in Canaan, but first he took them to Mt Sinai, where they formally became God’s people in a covenant ceremony. Then, over the next year, they organized themselves according to the laws God gave them for the new life that lay ahead. Many of these laws are recorded in the latter part of Exodus and in the next book, Leviticus (named after the Israelite tribe Levi, which had special responsibilities in religious affairs).

The book of Numbers takes its name from two census that Moses conducted in preparation for the move into Canaan. The book contains further laws, along with details of arrangements for the journey. But the people rebelled against God, and their entrance into Canaan was delayed forty years as a punishment. During this time most adults of the rebellious generation died and a new generation grew up. When the time drew near to enter Canaan, Moses repeated, and in some ways expanded and up-dated, the law for the new generation. The book that records this renewed instruction in the law is called Deuteronomy, meaning ‘second law’.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Bible'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. 2004.

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