As its name implies, is about beginnings. tells us that God created everything that exists. It shows that God is both the Creator and the Ruler of all creation. But it also tells of humanity's tragic fall into sin and death, and of God's unfolding plan of redemption through his covenant with Abraham and his descendants. includes some of the most memorable stories in the Bible, beginning with Adam and Eve (chs. 1-4), continuing through Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and ending with the life of Joseph (chs. 37-50), who died before 1600 b.c. Traditionally, Jews and Christians have recognized Moses as the author, writing after the Exodus from Egypt, commonly dated around 1440 b.c. though many prefer a date around 1260 b.c. The five books of Moses anticipated the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham regarding the Promised Land. Now (either about 1400 or 1220 b.c.), through a string of military victories under x, Israel conquered the land and divided it among the twelve tribes. In these battles it became evident that God fights for his people when they are "strong and courageous" (1:6, 7, 9, 18; 10:25) and put their full trust in him. At the close of the book, x charged the people to remain faithful to God and to obey his commands, and the people agreed to do so. "As for me and my house," said x, "we will serve the Lord" (24:15). Although anonymous, the book appears to contain eyewitness testimony, some of which may have been written by x himself. Second x, which extends 1 x' history of Judah, was written sometime after the people began to return from the Babylonian exile in 538 b.c. (36:23). The "chronicler," perhaps trying to encourage the returned exiles, recalls the greatness of Solomon's reign. Most of the book, however, focuses on Judah's fall into sin which had led to the exile. Judah had several godly kings, especially Hezekiah and Josiah, but it still declined into sin. Still, God remained faithful to his covenant people, and as the book closes it jumps ahead several years, recording the decree of Cyrus that allowed the Jewish exiles to return to their Promised Land. The author is unknown, although many have thought that Ezra was the principal writer. The book of x begins where 2 Chronicles ends. As prophesied by Isaiah (Isa. 44:28), the Persian King Cyrus had sent exiles led by Zerubbabel back to Jerusalem in 538 b.c. (Persia had defeated Babylon in 539.) Despite opposition from the non-Jewish inhabitants of Judea, and after encouragement by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, the temple was rebuilt (515). Then in 458, x led the second of three waves of returning exiles. By the time x arrived, the people had again fallen into sin. x preached God's word and the people repented (10:9-17). Ezra succeeded because God's hand was upon him (7:6, 9, 28; 8:18, 22, 31). This book, perhaps written by x, shows God's power in covenant faithfulness, moving even pagan kings to accomplish his redemptive purposes. The book of x never mentions God's name, yet God clearly orchestrated all of its events. x, a Jew living among the exiles in Persia, became queen of the empire in about 480 b.c. Haman, a Persian official, sought to eradicate the Jewish minority, but God had prepared x "for such a time as this" (4:14) to save his covenant people. The book was written some decades later to document the origins of the Jewish observance of Purim, which celebrates Israel's survival and God's faithfulness. The author is unknown, but some believe it could have been x's cousin Mordecai, who is a key person in the book. Throughout the book we see God's sovereign hand preserving his people, showing that everything is under his control. x contains reflections of an old man, the "Preacher," as he considered the question of meaning in life. He looked back and saw the futility ("vanity") of chasing after even the good things this life can offer, including wisdom, work, pleasure, and wealth. Even if such things are satisfying for a time, death is certain to end this satisfaction. In fact, God's judgment on Adam for his sin (Gen. 3:17-19) echoes throughout the book (especially 12:7). Yet the person who lives in the fear of the Lord can enjoy God's good gifts. Young people, especially, should remember their Creator while they still have their whole lives before them (12:1). Traditionally interpreters of x have identified the "Preacher," who is also called "the son of David, king in Jerusalem" (1:1), as Solomon (tenth century b.c.). x prophesied in Judah during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (about 750-700 b.c.), at about the same time as Isaiah. It was a time of prosperity, and x denounced the wealthy, who were oppressing the poor, and warned of impending judgment. The northern kingdom actually fell during x's ministry, in 722, and Judah almost fell in 701 (2 Kings 18-20). The book contains three sections, which alternate between words of warning and messages of hope. x told of a day when there would be peace among all nations, who would then be able to "beat their swords into plowshares" (4:3), and of a royal deliverer who would save God's people from all her enemies. This deliverer would be born in Bethlehem (5:2). When Jonah preached repentance on the streets of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, the people responded and were spared. A century later, sometime between 663 and 612 b.c., x preached in a time when Nineveh would not repent. Nineveh, which had destroyed Israel's northern kingdom in 722, itself fell to Babylon in 612-just a few years after x's warning. The Assyrians were notorious for the brutality of their treatment of other nations. x declared, however, that God is sovereign: he punishes whom he will, and they are powerless to stop him. Much of x's prophecy was directed to the people of Judah, who could rejoice at the good news (1:15) of Nineveh's impending fall. Although the urging of Haggai and Zechariah had brought the completion of the temple (516 b.c.), this had not produced the messianic age many expected. The warm response to Zechariah's call to repentance had grown cold, because God apparently had not restored the covenant blessings. x, writing a short time later, called the people to repentance with respect to: the priesthood, which had become corrupt; worship, which had become routine; divorce, which was widespread; social justice, which was being ignored; and tithing, which was neglected. "Will man rob God?" the Lord asked through x (3:8), and he promised to "open the windows of heaven" (v. 10) for those who pay their full tithe. x predicted the coming of both John the Baptist and Jesus, referring to each as a "messenger" of God (3:1). The Gospel of x emphasizes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus announced the Kingdom of God, healed the sick, and died as a ransom for sinners. In addition to Jesus, x features three main groups of people: the disciples, the crowds, and the religious leaders, none of whom understood Jesus. When the time came for Jesus to go to the cross, the religious leaders arrested him, the disciples abandoned him, and the crowds jeered him. Only when he died alone on the cross did a Roman centurion recognize that he was the Son of God. Though the book is anonymous, tradition identifies John x (Acts 12:12) as the author. He may have based his Gospel on Peter's preaching, writing sometime in the 50s or 60s a.d. Paul wrote this letter as he awaited execution. Despite all that Paul was facing-death, the end of his ministry, abandonment by most of his friends for fear of persecution-he faithfully directed his spiritual son x to the hope that is in Christ. As he exhorted x to boldness, endurance, and faithfulness in the face of false teaching, Paul showed his customary concern for sound doctrine. Scripture, said Paul, is "breathed out by God" and is sufficient in all things pertaining to the faith and practice of Christians (3:16-17). Older believers, therefore, should be eager to pass on their knowledge of Scripture to those who are younger in the faith (2:2). Paul probably wrote from Rome, a.d. 67 or 68.