Understanding the Old Testament - Lesson 11

Intro Former Prophets

This lesson overviews the former prophets which encompass narratives from Joshua to Kings, detailing Israel's occupation of the land and their subsequent exile, emphasizing the theme of Yahweh's faithfulness contrasted with Israel's unfaithfulness. These narratives reflect the program outlined in Deuteronomy, illustrating the stages of occupation, idolatry, judgment, exile, and hope of return. Through this lesson, you grasp the conditional nature of the Mosaic covenant and its typological significance in relation to the Abrahamic covenant, ultimately pointing towards its fulfillment in the New Covenant under Jesus. Thus, you gain insight into the overarching purpose behind Israel's disobedience and exile as part of God's plan for restoration and inheritance in the new heavens and new earth.

Miles Van Pelt
Understanding the Old Testament
Lesson 11
Watching Now
Intro Former Prophets

I. Introduction to the Old Testament Structure

A. Division of the Old Testament

B. Subdivisions of the Law and Prophets

II. Understanding the Former Prophets

A. Definition and Scope

B. Biblical Designation and Historical Period

C. Literary Framing and Main Theme

III. Theological and Historical Blueprint of the Former Prophets

A. Deuteronomic History and Its Significance

B. Theology of the Sinai Covenant and the Promised Land

C. Five Stages of Israel's Occupation and Exile

IV. Understanding the Mosaic Covenant

A. Conditional Nature and Temporary Typological Realities

B. Relationship with the Abrahamic and New Covenants

V. Typological Significance and Restoration

A. Exile as God's Original Intent and Purpose

B. Countdown to Restoration and Circumcised Heart

VI. Overview of the Former Prophets' Content

A. Joshua: Fulfillment of Yahweh's Promise of Canaan

B. Judges: Repeated Failures and Deliverance by Judges

C. Samuel: Establishment of Monarchy and Davidic Line

D. Kings: Climax, Divided Kingdom, and Exile

  • Engage with the Old Testament to grasp its Gospel-centered nature. From Genesis to Ecclesiastes and Psalms, discover foundational truths, wisdom, and insights on suffering. Strengthen your faith and find enduring hope in God's Word.
  • Gain insight into the Old Testament's theological core, centering on Jesus Christ. Explore its diverse genres, languages, and authors, unified by Jesus as its focal point. Understand how biblical evidence supports Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, shaping interpretation.
  • In this lesson, Dr. Miles Van Pelt provides the thematic framework for the Old Testament. The Old Testament's thematic core is the Kingdom of God. Through this lesson, you'll understand its covenantal nature, from pre-temporal arrangements to various administrations like redemption, works, and grace, unveiling God's salvation plan in Christ.
  • Discover the intricate covenantal structure of the Bible, revealing its theological depth and unity, from the division of the Hebrew Bible to its mirroring in the New Testament, all centered around Jesus Christ.
  • Gain insight into the Pentateuch's covenantal structure, Moses' authorship debate, and evidence supporting it. Understand its significance as the foundation of Israel's relationship with God and its relevance for biblical theology.
  • Through this lesson, you will understand the theological, structural, and thematic intricacies of the book of Genesis. You'll grasp its role as a foundational text in both the Old and New Testaments, exploring themes of covenant, creation, fall, redemption, and the fulfillment of promises. You'll gain insights into the genealogical structure of Genesis, its portrayal of key biblical figures like Adam, Noah, and Abraham, and its connection to the overarching narrative of the gospel.
  • Exodus reveals Yahweh's promise—"I will be with you"—unfolding divine presence and covenant. It anticipates Jesus as fulfillment—a better Moses and Tabernacle—ushering in God's eternal presence among humanity.
  • Studying Leviticus unveils the intricate system of laws and rituals at Mount Sinai. It explains sacrificial atonement, priestly consecration, purity laws, and the theme of holiness, prefiguring Jesus as the ultimate priest, sacrifice, and source of holiness.
  • Discover the Book of Numbers' insights on Israel's journey, God's faithfulness, consequences of disobedience, and parallels to Christ, cautioning against questioning God's holiness and emphasizing His desire to dwell among His people through the Holy Spirit.
  • Gain insight into Deuteronomy's covenant renewal for Israel entering Canaan, emphasizing obedience, typology, and its relevance for Christian living.
  • Gain deep insight into the former prophets, exploring themes of Yahweh's faithfulness, Israel's unfaithfulness, and the typological significance of the Mosaic covenant. Understand its relation to the Abrahamic covenant and its fulfillment in the New Covenant under Jesus, revealing God's plan for restoration.
  • Joshua unveils Joshua's leadership, divine promise fulfillment in Canaan, obedience's significance, and Jesus as the ultimate fulfiller of God's promises.
  • Discover the Book of Judges, detailing Israel's history and faith journey. Learn about judges as deliverers from oppression and idolatry, portraying parallels with Christ's ministry. Uncover a pattern of uncreation due to idolatry, emphasizing the need for an eternal judge—Jesus Christ—to save from corruption.
  • In this lesson, Dr. Miles Van Pelt provides insights into the book of Samuel, exploring its characters, themes, and the transition from judgeship to kingship in Israel. Learn of the significance of the Davidic covenant, culminating in Jesus as the ultimate King of Kings.
  • Gain insights into the Book of Kings, revealing its historical and theological significance. Discover the fulfillment of Davidic covenant, reasons for Israel's exile, and anticipation of the new covenant. Recognize Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of its promises.
  • This lesson reviews latter prophets' insights into Israel's exile for breaking the Mosaic Covenant, the prophetic office's nature, diverse prophecy genres, and the execution of covenant lawsuits, all pointing to God's judgment and hope for restoration.
  • Explore Isaiah's profound prophetic themes, from redemption to impending judgment. Unravel his life and ministry's context, review the debate around authorship, and learn essential tools for study.
  • Enjoy this lesson on Jeremiah, a second Moses figure, and his prophetic message of repentance, redemption, and a new covenant. Explore the book's chiastic structure, historical context, and theological significance, offering hope amidst Judah's fall.
  • Studying Ezekiel reveals its focus on the glory of the Lord and the temple. You learn of Ezekiel's exile, his visions, and themes like covenant theology, creation, and apocalyptic elements, offering profound insights into hope amidst crisis.
  • Discover insights into the minor prophets' diverse genres and themes, from covenant infidelity to divine restoration. Witness Jonah's repentance narrative and prophetic visions culminating in Christ's fulfillment. Embrace Yahweh's justice and compassion, urging Israel's return, leading to Jesus as the ultimate authority.
  • Understand the structure and themes of the Hebrew Bible's writings section. Explore diverse literary forms, intentional divisions mirroring prophets, and the overarching theme of exile and return, illuminating Israel's covenant journey.
  • Discover the depth of the Book of Psalms: 150 songs divided into 5 books, expressing diverse emotions and worship forms. Explore themes, structure, and practical applications for personal devotion and prayer.
  • Gain insights into human suffering and theodicy through Job's trials. Explore themes of faith, resilience, and God's sovereignty amidst adversity. Discover hope in God's incomprehensible sovereignty amid life's trials.
  • Proverbs is a book of timeless wisdom from Solomon, who was gifted by God. By studying this book, you can learn to navigate life with righteousness and discernment, rooted in the fear of the Lord.
  • Journey through Ruth, where redemption, loyalty, and divine providence intertwine. Ruth, a symbol of strength, aligns with Boaz, embodying ancient customs. Their union shapes history, reflecting the enduring legacy of faith amidst life's complexities.
  • Explore the Song of Songs for insights into marriage and intimacy. It navigates the tension between true love and temptation, advocating for unwavering commitment and passionate intimacy, reflecting God's desired relationship. Discover timeless wisdom for modern-day love and marriage.
  • Ecclesiastes reveals life's futility without God, emphasizing the necessity of fearing Him. Through Solomon's wisdom, it prompts reflection on divine purpose amid existential questions.
  • In Lamentations, mourn the fall of Jerusalem and exile, finding hope in God's sovereignty.
  • The book of Esthers contains themes of providence, hiddenness of God, and faithfulness in exile. You will uncover the intricacies of Esther and Mordecai's roles in the deliverance of the Jewish people, as well as the establishment of the festival of Purim. This study will equip you with insights into how God's providence operates amidst human events, even when His presence may seem concealed, and how faithfulness in exile can lead to unexpected outcomes of deliverance and restoration.
  • Through this lesson on the book of Daniel, you'll gain insights into its structure, themes of faithfulness in exile, comparisons with Joseph, and its significance for understanding apocalyptic literature, providing a comprehensive understanding of God's sovereignty and care for His people.
  • Explore Ezra and Nehemiah for insights into post-exilic restoration, intertwining faith, governance, and cultural renewal. These books point towards a deeper longing for true and lasting restoration and echo themes found in apocalyptic literature such as the book of Revelation.
  • The Book of Chronicles traces Israel's history, emphasizing kingship, priesthood, and divine selection. It anticipates restoration, pointing to Jesus as the ultimate priest-king who fulfills God's promises.

Understanding the Old Testament 
Dr. Miles Van Pelt
Intro Former Prophets
Lesson Transcript

You know that the Old Testament is divided into three sections, the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. And at that first section, the Law is subdivided into two other sections. We have the Covenant Prologue, and then we have the Books of the Covenant, as we see on our slide.


Then in our second section, the Prophets, we have two other sections. We have the former prophets, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings, and the latter prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve, just as we discussed in our introductory lectures. These first four former prophets deal with life in the land, and the second group, Isaiah through the Twelve, will deal with life in exile.


The designation of former prophets is a biblical designation. The prophet Zechariah uses the term in Zechariah 7:7 and in Zechariah 7:12 when he refers back to this period and the work of the former prophets. The former prophets record the period of Israel's occupation of the land of Canaan from approximately 1406 BC, the crossing of the Jordan River, to 586 BC, the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, recorded in 2 Kings 25.

The former prophets are framed literarily in Joshua and Kings, the first and the last book in this corpus of literature, and the framing tells us the main theme of the book of Joshua through Kings, and it's that Yahweh, or the Lord, has been faithful to fulfill all of his promises. Consider these two programmatic texts and how they relate one to another, and note that they are unique among the literature that they're found in. The first is Joshua 23:14 when Joshua knows he's about to die, but he's going to testify to the Lord's faithfulness, he says, "And now I'm about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God has promised you concerning you. All have come to pass for you, not one of them has failed. Consider again, all of the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you, not one has failed." Yahweh's faithfulness to his people.

Then again, this same kind of thing is said by Solomon at the dedication of the temple in First Kings 8:56, where he says, "Blessed be Yahweh, or the Lord, who has given rest to his people, according to all that he has promised, not one word has failed of all the good promises which he spoke by Moses his servant." 

So the first theme is Yahweh's faithfulness to his promises. I'll give you the correlate theme, which is that Israel was 100% unfaithful to all of Yahweh's promises. You can take the line of the book of Judges as programmatic for the rest of it, in those days there was no king and everyone did what was right in their own eyes.

That's the theme. Or that the line that starts every major judge in the book of Judges, and Israel did evil in the eyes of the Lord, that is they worshiped false gods. Idolatry. Completely unfaithful as the antithesis of Yahweh's complete faithfulness.

Think of it this way, Yahweh is the always faithful husband and Israel is always the faithless wife or spouse in that particular case. The program of the former prophets, that is Joshua through Kings, is outlined or detailed in Deuteronomy 29 to 31. Sometimes we call Joshua through Kings the Deuteronomic history because it follows so closely the outline or the scheme represented in Deuteronomy 29 to 31, and it constitutes the theological and historical blueprint for the former prophets. That is, if you were to x-ray Joshua to Kings, you would find that the spine that runs down the middle of it is the text of Deuteronomy 29 to 31. 

In terms of theology, it describes the nature and purpose of the Sinai covenant as it relates to the inheritance of the promised land. The obedience of the people of God is required to maintain their tenure in that land, but the power to obey it does not accompany the Sinai covenant. 

In terms of history, these chapters set forth the five stages of Israel's occupation of the land. 29 to 31 of Deuteronomy detail the five stages of Israel's occupation of the land. Number one is occupation. They will occupy it. Number two, when they occupy it, they'll commit idolatry. Number three, when they commit idolatry, they will experience judgment. Number four, that judgment will be exile, but then number five, there is the hope of return. 

Consider Deuteronomy 29:12 through 13. "You are standing here to enter into a covenant with the Lord your God. A covenant the Lord your God is making with you this day and sealing with an oath to confirm you this day as a people, as his people, that he may be your God as he promised you and as he swore to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." So God is fulfilling his promise here to Israel because of the covenant he made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

And then he says in the very few later verses, Deuteronomy 30:19 to 20, "This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I've set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord your God is your life and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."

But Deuteronomy 29:4 says, "But to this day the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear to obey. Deuteronomy knows that Israel cannot do it." Or here, Deuteronomy 31:16, and the Lord said to Moses, "You are going to rest with your fathers and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they're entering. They'll forsake me and break the covenant I made with them." Before they step into the promised land the program is a program of failure. Deuteronomy 31:27, "For I know how rebellious and stiff-necked you are. If you have been rebellious against the Lord while I was still alive and with you, how much more will you rebel after I die?" Which will be the theme of the judges.

Every time a judge dies, the people of God get worse and worse and worse. Remember, the Mosaic covenant never promised or provided for eternal life, only tenure in the land by way of obedience, which was also not granted because of their disobedience. Deuteronomy 30:16, "For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commands and decrees. Then you will live and increase. The Lord your God will bless you in the land you're entering to possess." It's all land-centric. That's what Deuteronomy is providing for.

Now, here it is. Israel's disobedience to the Mosaic covenant and their ultimate exile from the land of inheritance constitutes plan A from the perspective of the Lord. That is, the Lord was not shocked by Israel's disobedience. The Lord was not caught off guard by Adam's disobedience. From the beginning, this was the plan. The very design of the Mosaic covenant and the nature of its promises and blessings was always intended to be a temporary and typological reality. Consider this, Deuteronomy 31:16, "The Lord said to Moses, you are going to rest with your fathers, that is, Moses is about to die, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to foreign gods. They'll forsake me and break the covenant I made with them." Deuteronomy 31:20, "They will turn to other gods, worship them, rejecting me and breaking my covenant." Deuteronomy 31:27, "If you've been rebellious while I'm alive, you'll be even more so after I die." It was just a dire case from the beginning.

The inheritance of the land or the Mosaic covenant can be lost or forfeited through disobedience to the covenant. That's not the kind of covenant I want. If my relationship with God is determined by my obedience, then I am doomed from the beginning, and this is that way. So given the historical outline of Israel's tenure in the land presented in Deuteronomy, occupation, idolatry, judgment, exile, and then return, the explicit statement in Deuteronomy 35 that when Israel does return to their inheritance from exile, the return state will exceed their previous state of occupation. We must also understand then that the Mosaic covenant itself understood its temporary typological realities.

That is, here we see in Deuteronomy, and especially chapter 30 verses 1 to 6, that when Israel goes into exile, they will return. The Lord promises their return will be greater than their return from exile under Egypt, greater than the Solomonic temple, and greater than how they existed under Solomon. That is to say, if Solomon is the high point in terms of prosperity and covenant fidelity in 1 Kings 8, then their return must be greater than that to be the true and better return. Where he says in Deuteronomy 30 verse 5, he will bring you back to the land that belonged to your fathers and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. He will circumcise your hearts and you will believe him while your heart, soul, and live.

Consider then the words of Haggai in chapter 2 verses 1 through 3 when the house of the Lord is rededicated on that day when they return from exile. "On the 21st day of the seventh month, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Haggai. Speak to Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people. Ask of them, who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?" Right? So not only does the Old Testament regard itself as temporary and typological, doomed to failure, but even the return from exile that we see recorded in the exile we'll talk about later, was not the true return from exile that God anticipated. It was not better but worse. 

In summary and review of this section, the Mosaic covenant is conditional, temporary, and typological. I can't enforce that or imprint that on you enough. It was undergirded by the unconditional, unilateral, permanent, and non-typological covenant of grace presented to Abraham, but the organic relationship between the Abrahamic and the Mosaic and New Covenants is evident in the canon covenant diagram presented in our introductory lectures. That is, the Abrahamic covenant was a unilateral covenant that God would do this regardless of Abraham's obedience.That he would be faithful to give him an inheritance, to make his seed numerous, and that they would be a blessing to the earth. It was achieved in two stages. First, the Old Covenant under Moses, and second, the New Covenant under Jesus.

The Old Covenant under Moses is a type or a shadow of the New Covenant under Jesus. They're related, but a shadow and substance as type and anti-type. And if you just come away from this survey course recognizing that the Old Covenant is real and talks about real things, but only as they relate to the ultimate things that are coming, the better things that Moses and David and Abraham will receive with us in the resurrection, that's what we're getting after, a proper way of interpreting the Bible.

So some typological significance here. Like Adam's disobedience and expulsion from the garden, so Israel's disobedience and expulsion from the land is God's original intent for this particular administration of the covenant of grace. And so the failure of Israel to obey and Israel's exile and the destruction of the temple is always plan A and has a purpose.

For example, in Deuteronomy, it says this, "So why has the Lord done this to the land? What caused the heat of his great anger? Then the people will say it's because they abandoned the covenant of the Lord their God, the God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt. And they went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they had not known and whom he had not allotted to Therefore, the anger of the Lord was kindled against this land, bringing it all under the curses written in this book." Remember Deuteronomy 27 and 28? "And the Lord uprooted them from their land in anger and fury and great wrath and cast them into another land as they are to this day."

So like Adam's disobedience and exile from Eden, Israel's disobedience and exile from the land is not the end. It marks the beginning of the countdown for when the Lord will restore his people by imparting to them the ability to keep the law, and a circumcised heart, and bring them into their true and ultimate inheritance in the new heavens and new earth, where the Lord will then circumcise your heart, Deuteronomy 30 verse 6, "And the heart of your offspring so that he will love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength." 

So here's what we're getting ourselves into then with the former prophets. Joshua, Judges Samuel. In Joshua, Yahweh will fulfill his promise of the land of Canaan to Abraham under the leadership of Joshua. In Judges, Israel will repeatedly fail to keep the covenant and the Lord will raise up Judges to deliver Israel from the corruption of their idolatry. In the book of Samuel, we will have the establishment of the monarchy and the Davidic line under the leadership of Samuel and then David.

And then in Kings, we get the climax of the earthly kingdom of God in Solomon. Then we get the quick demise of the earthly kingdom of God in Solomon, the same king, the divided kingdom, and then exile. Okay, so the land, the judges, kingship, and corruption come in the next four books of the former prophets.