The Bible History, Old Testament Volume 1

by Alfred Edersheim

Volume I

The World Before the Flood, and The History of the Patriarchs

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The Scriptures instruct us how to meditate or abide in the Word. Abiding in the Word is a form of Scripture engagement that entails reading or hearing the Scriptures with an awareness that it is in the Scriptures that we primarily learn about the Creator. It is an immersing, contemplating, deliberating on, dwelling on, or a mulling over of the Scriptures, culminating in a “transformational engagement” with the Elohim (God). There is nothing new about Scripture engagement, since ancient times people have always abided in and meditated on the Scriptures.


One of the most marked and hopeful signs of our time is the increasing attention given on all sides to the study of Holy Scripture. Those who believe and love the Bible, who have experienced its truth and power, can only rejoice at such an issue. They know that “the Word of the Almighty lives and abides forever,” that “not one tittle” of it “shall fail;” and that it is “able to make wise unto salvation, through faith.

Alfred Edersheim


Accordingly, we have no reason to dread the results either of scientific investigation, or of searching inquiry into “those things which are most surely believed among us.” For, the more the Bible is studied, the deeper will be our conviction that “the foundation of Elohim (God) stands sure.”

The intent of the author is to help, so far as he can, the reader of Holy Scripture – not to supersede his own reading of Bible – that the series, of which this is the first volume, has been undertaken. In writing it he primarily had in view those who teach and those who learn, whether in the school or in the family. But his scope was even wider. He wished to furnish what may be useful for reading in the family, – what indeed may, in some measure, serve the place of a popular exposition of the sacred history. More than this, he hoped it might become a book to put in the hands of young men, – not only to show them what the Bible really teaches, but to defend them against the insidious attacks arising from misrepresentation and misunderstanding of the sacred texts.


Sacred Texts


The author strove to write in a form so popular and easily intelligible as to be of use to the Sunday-school teacher, the advanced scholar, and the Bible-class; progressing gradually, in the course of this book and the 2nd volume, from the simpler to the more detailed. He initiated the Scripture narrative successively, chapter by chapter, always marking the portions of the Bible explained, that so, in family or in private reading, the sacred text may be compared with the explanations furnished. Finally, without mentioning objections on the part of opponents, he endeavored to meet those that have been raised, and that not by controversy, but rather by a more full and correct study of the sacred text itself in the Hebrew original. In so doing, he freely availed himself not only of the results of the best criticism, German and English, but also of the aid of such kindred studies as those of Biblical geography and antiquities, the Egyptian and the Assyrian monuments, etc.

But when all has been done, the feeling only grows stronger that there is another and a higher understanding of the Bible, without which all else is vain. Not merely to know the meaning of the narratives of Scripture, but to realize their spiritual application; to feel their eternal import; to experience them in ourselves, so to speak – this is the only profitable study of Scripture, to which all else can only serve as outward preparation. Where the result is “doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness,” the Teacher must be He, by whose “inspiration all Scripture is given.”



“For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of Elohim (God) knoweth no man, but the Spirit of Elohim (God).”

Volume II

The Exodus and The Wanderings in the Wilderness


The Book of Exodus describes the Hebrews’ liberation from bondage in Egypt by their Elohim (God), through divine deliverance, with the aid of an array of an array of powerful plagues. The story of the Exodus isn’t a typical ancient conquest narrative in that the Hebrews didn’t overpower the Egyptians by force—instead, their Elohim (God) delivers them through the authority bestowed upon the Prophet Moshe (Moses). Thus, the Hebrews’ exodus from Egypt is not a narrative of them crushing their captors; it’s an account of their Elohim’s (God’s) judging and subjugating their oppressors through his servant Moses. This isn’t simply a record of the ancient Hebrews emancipation from bondage, but is likewise a narrative of their being reacquainted with the will and desires of their Creator for them to serve him. Exodus tells the entire story of the Hebrew’s transformation from enslaved captives in Egypt to emancipated disciples in Israel.


The period covered by the central books of the Pentateuch is, in many respects, the most important in Old Testament history, not only so far as regards Israel, but the Church at all times. Opening with centuries of silence and seeking Divine forgetfulness during the bondage of Egypt, the pride and power of Pharaoh are suddenly broken by a series of miracles, culminating in the deliverance of Israel and the destruction of Egypt’s host.



In that Paschal night and under the blood-sprinkling, Israel as a nation is born, and the redeemed people are then led forth to be consecrated at the Mount by ordinances, laws, and judgments. Finally, we are shown the manner in which their Elohim (God) deals with His people, both in judgment and in mercy, till at the last He safely brings them to their promised inheritance.



In all this, we see not only the history of the ancient Hebrew people but also a grand type of the redemption and the sanctification by the Creator. There is yet a further consideration besides the intrinsic importance of this history. It has, especially of late, been so boldly misrepresented, and so frequently misunderstood, or else it is so often cursorily read – neither to understanding nor yet to profit – that it seemed desirable to submit it a new to special investigation, following the sacred narrative consecutively from Chapter to Chapter, and almost from Section to Section. In so doing, the author of this book has endeavored to make careful study of the original text, with the help of the best critical appliances. Mr. Edersheim states in his preface” so far as I am conscious, I have not passed by any real difficulty, nor yet left unheeded any question that had a reasonable claim to be answered”. This implied a more detailed treatment that he hoped would render the volume more permanently useful. Further, it was his aim, by the aid of kindred studies, to shed additional light upon the narrative, to render it vivid and pictorial, enabling readers to realize for themselves the circumstances under which an event took place. Thus, in the first two chapters, he sought to read the history of Israel in Egypt by the light of its monuments, and also to portray the political, social, and religious state of the people prior to the Exodus. Similarly, when following the wanderings of Israel up to the eastern bank of the Jordan, he availed himself of the best geographical investigations, so that the reader might see before him the route followed by Israel, the scenery, and all other accessories.



It needs scarcely be said that in studying this narrative, the open Bible should always be at hand. And, indeed, throughout, the author’s objective is to guide the reader to relevant Scriptures, not to supersede the constant and prayerful use of the Bible itself.

About the Author (Alfred Edersheim)

Alfred Edersheim was born in Vienna on March 7, 1825 and died in Menton, France, on March 16, 1889. He had wealthy Jewish parents that spoke English in their home, which allowed Alfred to become fluent in English at a young age. He went to a local prep school in Vienna and was further instructed in at a Hebrew school in the Torah and the Talmud. Shortly after entering the University of Vienna in 1841, his father suffered ill health and monetary distress before Alfred graduate accordingly had to provide for himself.



After his graduation from the University of Vienna, Edersheim emigrated to Pest, Hungary and became a teacher of languages. He soon afterwards came under the influence of John Duncan, a Free Church of Scotland chaplain, and converted from Judaism to Christianity. Later, Edersheim accompanied Duncan on his return to Scotland and studied theology at New College, Edinburgh, and at the University of Berlin. In 1846, Edersheim wed Mary Broomfield, and they had seven children. He was ordained to the ministry in the Free Church of Scotland later that year.

His health forced him to stop work in 1872, and for the next 4 years, he lived in Bournemouth, England. In 1875, he was ordained in the Church of England, and was Curate of the Abbey Church, Christchurch, Hants, for a year, and in 1876-82 Vicar of Loders, Bridport, Dorset. Edersheim was assigned the position of Warburtonian Lecturer at Lincoln’s Inn 1880-84. In 1882, he relocated to Oxford and became Select Preacher to the University 1884-85 and Grinfield Lecturer on the Septuagint 1886-88 until his death in 1889.

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