With 66 books, 1,189 chapters, and 31,102 verses¹, the Bible is a considerable read. I have seen word counts of approximately 780,000.² War and Peace “only” has 561, 304 words!³ Have you read The Hobbit and the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy? Combined they are only 576,459 words.³ The Bible exceeds this by over 200,000 words! The Bible is a thick book, but it is wonderful. It contains words of eternal life and the greatest story ever told.
Since the Bible is so big, it is helpful to have resources that summarize things for us. Bible handbooks are good for that as well as some commentaries. Certain Bibles have summaries at the beginning of each book. If you do not have access to any of these things, that’s OK. The Good Book is there for you. The Bible itself contains a number of summaries of the history it contains. You can find them sprinkled throughout its pages. I came across one of them a couple of days ago.
The summary appears in Acts 13. It is part of a speech that was given by Paul during a visit to the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch. During his visit, after the reading of the law and the prophets, the synagogue officials invited him and his group to share any word of exhortation they might have. The officials definitely asked the right people! Paul stood up and addressed the people in attendance. Part of his speech is a review of the history from the time of the Jews in Egypt to the time of Jesus’ appearances after his resurrection. Our Bibles record that portion of his speech as only fifteen verses long! (Acts 13:17-31) When I finished reading it, I felt like I had just taken a crash course in the Bible! Truth is, I think the expression “crash course” is a bit crass to use with such a sacred book; but that is the exact expression that came to mind. He covered a lot of history very quickly. Following his summary, Paul shared the gospel, the good news of the promise made to the fathers. (Act 13:32-41) This was a fitting course for him to take as the history he summarized is more than just history. It is the greatest story ever told, the message of God’s grace and salvation through Jesus Christ. I think it’s pretty cool that Paul managed to pack so much into such a short speech.
This packed summary got me thinking about other summaries I had seen in other places in the Bible. I remembered that I had kept track of them in one of my old Bibles. With the help of our son, I dug it out. I flipped through the pages looking for the word “Summary” written in the top margin. If my memory was correct, this was how I marked the pages that had summaries on them. Sure enough I found them! The word summary appeared at the top of several pages. I wrote down the references so I could share them here. I have listed them below. I have also included a brief description of what time period the summary covers and who gave the summary. You may enjoy checking the context to see why the summary was given. They are not just history lessons. They oftentimes highlight the consequence of sin and the mercy of our God.
These summaries can be useful if you have not yet read large portions of the Bible, but they can also be useful as a refresher about the history of God’s people. Either way, they can help us see the big picture. Of course the summaries are no substitute for reading the whole Bible. Every single word of it is a blessing and a treasure. I hope you find these summaries interesting and helpful. Enjoy the crash course!
Deuteronomy 1 – 3
History of Israel from the time they camped at Horeb (Sinai) to the time the Lord told Moses that he would not enter the promise land and to charge Joshua as his successor. Given by Moses
Deuteronomy 9:7 – 10:11
History of Israel from the time they left Egypt to the time of Moses’ second time on the mountain for forty days. Given by Moses
From the time of Terah, the father of Abraham, to the time of Isreal’s possession of land beyond the Jordon. The summary is given by Joshua (It is prefaced with “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel” and is written in the first person with God as the one speaking.)
2 Kings 17:7-23
History of Israel from the time after their deliverance from Egypt to the time Israel (the northern tribes) was carried away into exile to Assyria. The summary is not specifically given by anyone. It is simply recorded by the author of 2 Kings.
From creation to the days of Nehemiah. The summary, which is addressed to God, appears to be given by a group of Levites and recounts Israel’s sinful pass and God’s grace and compassion. It leads up to the people entering into a covenant to walk in God’s law.
From the time of Israel coming out of Egypt to the time of David. This is a maskil of Asaph.
From Abraham to history of Israel in the promise land and the many times God had compassion and delivered his people. The psalmist is not specifically named.
From the time in Egypt to the many times the people sinned against the Lord in the promise land. The summary is given by the Lord through Ezekiel.
From the time of Abraham to the time of Solomon and the prophets. Given by Stephen right before he was martyred
From the time of the Jews in Egypt to Jesus’ appearances after his resurrection. Given by Paul
Know of another summary? Please mention it in the comments! Thank you!