The History of Israel
Isaac to the Entry into Canaan

Table of Contents / Overview


For the next three lessons we shall be studying the HISTORY OF ISRAEL. This really began with the call of Abraham, the father of the Israelitish people, but his descendants were not fully constituted a nation until God made a covenant with them at Sinai. In this lesson we shall look at the events leading up to the making of this covenant.

It is necessary to appreciate the importance of Israel in the sight of God and in the working out of His purpose. In the Book of Deuteronomy we read: "When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. For the Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye".

How this unique relationship affected their history and the lessons and principles we can learn from it will become clear in the course of the next three lessons.

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(approximately B.C 1900-1400)


Abraham told his steward to take a wife for Isaac from Abraham's family. Isaac was not to marry any of the idol-worshipping Canaanites.

Genesis 24

NOTE: All the servants of God must keep separate from the world - marriage to the ungodly is forbidden.

II Corinthians 6 v 14-18

Isaac married Rebekah. Jacob and Esau were born and God promised that the elder (Esau) would serve the younger (Jacob).

Genesis 25 v 19-28

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God repeated to Isaac the promise he had made to Abraham that through his "seed" all nations would be blessed.

Genesis 26 v 2-3 & 24

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Jacob was chosen by God even before his birth as the one through whom the promise to Abraham would be fulfilled. The Apostle Paul used this as an example of the way God calls and selects men and women to carry out his purpose.

Romans 9 v 6-16

Jacob and Esau grew up - Esau sold his birthright (the privileges and blessings of the elder) to Jacob for some food when he was hungry. This showed his lack of faith (also shown by marriages to two Canaanite women). Esau became the father of a large nation, the Edomites. Edom was later destroyed by God, its territory forms part of modern Jordan.

Genesis 25 v 29-34
Hebrews 12 v 16-17
Genesis 26 v 34,35
Genesis 36 v 1
Jeremiah 49 v 7-22

Jacob obtained from Isaac the blessings of the firstborn by disguising himself as Esau. Esau was angry and Jacob fled to his uncle Laban.

Genesis ch.27
Genesis 28 v 1-5

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The promises to Abraham and Isaac were confirmed to Jacob.

Genesis 28 v 10-22

Jacob stayed with Laban and married his daughters Rachel and Leah. He became the father of twelve sons from whom developed the twelve tribes of Israel.

Genesis ch. 29-30
Genesis 35 v 22-26

Jacob returned to Canaan to his father Isaac. On the way his name was changed by an angel from Jacob (means 'usurper') to Israel (means 'prince with God').

Genesis 32 v 24-32

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Joseph was Jacob's favourite son. He aroused the jealousy of his brothers by telling them his dreams which indicated that one day he would rule over them. He was taken to Egypt as a slave after being sold by his brothers.

Genesis ch. 37

He was wrongfully imprisoned but later became second in command to Pharaoh due to his God-given wisdom and power to interpret dreams. He predicted seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine.

Genesis chs. 39-41

The famine drew Joseph's brothers to Egypt to buy food. Joseph was reunited with his brothers and father who migrated to Egypt.

Genesis chs. 42-47

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Joseph's life and work is very similar to the work of JESUS e.g.

Joseph - at first rejected by his brothers, but later saved them from death and ruled over them.

Acts 7 v 13

Jesus - rejected by his people at his first coming, but became the saviour of mankind. He will save and rule over the world at his second coming.

Hebrews 9 v 28

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Jacob's family grew and over about 200 years became a large nation. A new dynasty of Pharaohs arose who feared the growth of Israel and put them to forced labour building the Egyptian treasure cities.

Exodus ch. 1

Moses was born of the tribe of Levi and was saved from death by Pharaoh's daughter. He was brought up at the court, but forced to flee to Midian after killing an Egyptian.

Exodus ch. 2
Hebrews 11 v 24-26

NOTE: In the New Testament, Stephen says that just as the Jews rejected Joseph, Moses and all the great prophets, so they rejected Jesus, the greatest prophet of all.

Acts 7 v 9-13, 20-29, 51-53

God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and promised to save Israel from Egypt and give them the land of Canaan as a national home.

Exodus ch. 3

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Hebrew "Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh" means "I will be who I will be" - a declaration of God's eternal purpose to reveal himself in those he has chosen (see Lesson 2).

Exodus 3 v 14

Moses returned to Egypt and with his brother Aaron he asked Pharaoh to release the people. Pharaoh refused and ten plagues were released upon Egypt

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Exodus chs 7-10
Psalm 105 v 23-38

NOTE: Why did God plague the Egyptians?

  1. The plagues were a sign of the true God's power to the idolatrous Egyptians and the surrounding nations.
  2. READ
    Joshua 2 v 10-11
    Exodus 9 v 16
  3. They were a sign to all nations that Israel were God's people.
  4. They were a sign to Israel themselves that God was with them and was a mighty God, able to save them from their enemies.

The last and greatest plague was the slaying of the firstborn in every family in Egypt, also the firstborn of animals. Israel were saved from this plague by keeping the PASSOVER. Every family was commanded to take a male lamb and kill it - the blood was sprinkled on the doorposts and lintel of the house as a sign to the destroying angel who "passed over" the house on which blood was sprinkled. The Passover lamb was eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Israel were commanded to keep this feast every year in memory of the exodus from Egypt. The Passover feast was followed by the seven day feast of Unleavened Bread.

Exodus 12 v 1-30

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The Passover lamb represented Jesus.

I Corinthians 5 v 7

Just as the lamb's blood saved Israel's firstborn from death, Jesus' blood (the Lamb of God) can save mankind from eternal death.

John 1 v 29
I Peter 1 v 18-19

Jesus was crucified during the feast of Passover at the very time that the Passover lamb was usually killed.

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The Egyptians let Israel go but Pharaoh changed his mind and chased after them. The Red Sea miraculously divided to let Israel across but Pharaoh and his army were drowned as the waters returned.

Exodus ch. 14

Israel journeyed through the wilderness toward the Promised Land of Canaan - led by a pillar of cloud in the day time and a pillar of fire at night (constant symbol of God's presence and glory).

Exodus 13 v 20-22

Israel (over one million people) were miraculously kept alive in the wilderness by various means.

  1. Quails - large birds.
  2. READ
    Exodus 16 v 11-13
  3. Manna which appeared on the ground every morning except the Sabbath, as the dew evaporated. This continued until the people entered the Promised Land.
  4. READ
    Exodus 16 v 13-36
  5. Water which sprang from the rock that God commanded Moses to strike.
  6. READ
    Exodus 17 v 1-7

NOTE: The Apostle Paul says these things had a spiritual and prophetic meaning:

I Corinthians 10 v 1-6
Manna = bread of life = Jesus
John 6 v 30-35
Water = water of life = Jesus
John 4 v 14

Just as smiting the rock gave life to Israel, so the smiting of Jesus brought life to mankind.

Moses was later punished for smiting a rock a second time (when commanded only to "speak to" the rock), so destroying the symbol relating to Jesus, who was to be smitten once only. Moses also failed to give God the glory for the miracle, and because of this incident was not allowed to enter the Promised Land.

Numbers 20 v 7-13
Psalm 106 v 32-33
Numbers 27 v 12-14

Three months after leaving Egypt, God appeared to Israel at Mount Sinai. He made a covenant with them that they would be His special and chosen people if they obeyed him. He gave them a code of laws often called the Law of Moses.

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Why it was given:

  1. It was a national code of laws to govern all the affairs of the nation, e.g. punishment of criminals, land and property rights etc.
  2. It was moral and spiritual law to impress upon Israel their holiness and separation as a nation and to show them how to approach God.
  3. It commanded the offering of animal sacrifices so as to obtain forgiveness of sins.
  4. It foreshadowed the way of salvation which would be revealed in Christ.

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The Law of Moses could never save man from death, because:-

  1. It was impossible to keep it perfectly.
  2. READ
    Galatians 3 v 10
    Galatians 2 v 16
  3. Animal sacrifices alone could never save man from sin.
  4. READ
    Hebrews 10 v 4

    The sacrifices under the law of Moses all pointed forward to the final perfect sacrifice of Jesus. By his death on the cross, Jesus

    1. fulfilled the law
    2. READ
      Matthew 5 v 17
    3. took away and abolished it "nailing it to his cross"
    4. READ
      Colossians 2 v 13-14
    5. provided the means of redemption from sin and death

    The law of Moses is not binding on a Christian. The Apostle Paul describes it as a "schoolmaster" preparing the way for Jesus. He condemns those who were still trying to assert their own righteousness by keeping the law of Moses when Jesus had taken it away. Because it was taken away it is known as the "old covenant" in contrast to the "new covenant" confirmed by Jesus.

    Hebrews 7 v 19
    Hebrews 9 v 6-13
    Galations 3 v 19-25
    Galatians 4 v 9-10

    The Christian is subject to the higher moral and spiritual law of Christ.

    Galatians 5 v 1-6

    NOTE: The commandments of Christ will be dealt with in detail in Lessons 18-21.


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    In spite of the miraculous deliverance from Egypt, and the daily provision of the manna, Israel often forgot God. They rebelled and complained and turned to other gods. Finally they refused to go into the land of Canaan following the report of the spies. Because of this Israel had to wander for forty years in the wilderness. Not until the whole of that generation (except Joshua and Caleb) had died were they allowed to enter the Promised Land.

    Psalm 106 v 6-33
    Numbers chs. 13-14
    Hebrews 3 v 17-19

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    The Exodus is the most important single event in Israel's history. It marked out and dedicated the Jews to God as His chosen people. It is referred to many times in the Old and New Testaments.

    The Exodus contains a parable of man's salvation by God:

    1. Slavery and bondage in Egypt
    Romans 6 v 20
    - man's bondage to sin
    2. Passover and escape from Egypt - the way of escape from Egypt i.e. from death, made possible by the sacrifice of Christ.
    3. Passing through the Red Sea
    I Corinthians 10 v 2
    - baptism into Jesus
    4. The wilderness journey - time of testing of all God's servants in their everyday lives
    5. Entrance into the Promised Land - the reward of the Land, i.e. the faithful in the Kingdom of God

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    Using references where possible to support your reply, answer the following:-

    1. Why was Abraham concerned about the wife chosen for Isaac?
    2. Name the twelve sons of Jacob.
    3. Outline briefly the story of Joseph.
    4. Name the ten plagues in Egypt.
    5. What was the Passover? Explain its meaning.
    6. What was the purpose of the Law of Moses?

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