The Battle at Mount Gilboa

1 Samuel 28-31; 1 Chronicles 10

After the Philistines mustered their forces at Aphek and advanced to Shunem in the Jezreel Valley, the Israelites assembled their forces nearby at Jezreel. During the battle, the Israelites began to retreat up the slopes of Mount Gilboa. There Saul and his sons were killed, and the Philistines took their bodies to Beth-shan and hung them on the wall of the city. When the people of Jabesh-gilead heard about this, they marched through the night to recover the bodies and Saul and his sons, perhaps as repayment for Saul’s rescue of the town from the Ammonites many years earlier (1 Samuel 11).

Absalom Rebels against David

Two years after Absalom’s half-brother Amnon assaulted his sister, Absalom took revenge. He invited Amnon to attend the shearing of his sheep, and there he directed all his men to kill Amnon. Absalom fled to Geshur, where his mother’s father was king (2 Samuel 3:3). After three years David’s commander Joab arranged for a woman from Tekoa to persuade David to allow Absalom to return to Jerusalem with the assurance that he would not be harmed for killing Amnon. David agreed, but after Absalom returned he began a conspiracy against David in which he ingratiated himself to the people and orchestrated a coup. He arranged to travel to Hebron, where his followers declared him king, and he headed for Jerusalem to overthrow David. When David was informed of Absalom’s actions in Hebron, David and those loyal to him fled across the Jordan River to Mahanaim. Absalom mustered an army and traveled to Mahanaim to attack David, and they engaged David’s forces in the forest of Ephraim. David’s men thoroughly defeated Absalom’s army, and Absalom himself was killed after his mule rode under and oak tree and left him dangling in mid-air by his long hair.

Josiah Battles Neco

2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34-35

As the Assyrian Empire was collapsing and losing territory to the advancing Medes and Babylonians, King Josiah of Judah seized the opportunity to expand his domain to include much of Israel’s former territory. Then in 609 B.C., Pharaoh Neco of Egypt advanced to Carchemish to assist the Assyrians, and Josiah tried to stop him at Megiddo. Neco killed Josiah and continued on to Carchemish, but apparently the delay caused by Josiah’s forces prevented Neco from arriving in time to save Carchemish (Jeremiah 46:2). Not long after this the rest of Assyria fell to the Medes and the Babylonians.

The Ministries of Philip and Peter

When a dispute arose in the early church regarding the daily distribution of food, the Twelve apostles appointed seven men to ensure that this ministry was being done effectively and fairly. Philip, traditionally called “the Evangelist,” was one of the seven men chosen for this role (Acts 6:1-7). When persecution of believers first broke out in Jerusalem, Philip traveled to Samaria and conducted a powerful ministry there, and many Samaritans became believers (Acts 8:1-9). Later the angel of the Lord told Philip to take the road to Gaza, and along the way Philip met an Ethiopian royal official who was returning home after worshiping at the Temple. Philip helped him understand a passage in Isaiah 53 regarding the Messiah (Acts 8:26-38), and the official became a believer. Immediately after the Ethiopian official was baptized, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip to Azotus, and then Philip preached in various towns as he traveled to Caesarea (Acts 8:39-40). The apostle Peter traveled to Lydda and healed a believer named Aeneas, and then he traveled to Joppa and raised a believer named Dorcas from the dead (Acts 9:32-43). After this Peter traveled to Caesarea to meet with a Gentile named Cornelius, who also became a believer (Acts 10).

The Conquest of Canaan: The Southern Campaign

Joshua 9-10

As news spread that mighty Jericho had fallen to the Israelites and that their intention was to conquer all of Canaan, fear grew among the Canaanites. To avoid being wiped out by the Israelites, the people of Gibeon, Kephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-jearim deceived the Israelites into thinking they lived far away, and they made a peace treaty with them (Joshua 9). Soon after this, several Amorite cities in southern Canaan joined together to attack the Gibeonites, so the Gibeonites appealed to the Israelites for help. Joshua led the Israelites on an all night march from Gilgal to Gibeon and defeated the Amorites. The Israelites continued to pursue the Amorites and eventually captured the cities of Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, and Debir (Joshua 10), and likely Jarmuth and Hebron as well (see Joshua 10:23).

The Ark of the Covenant Is Captured and Returned

1 Samuel 6:1-7:2

After the Israelites were defeated in battle by the Philistines between Aphek and Ebenezer, the elders of Israel chose to bring the Ark of the Covenant from Shiloh to the battle to ensure victory. But the Philistines defeated them again and captured the Ark. They carried it to Ashdod and placed it in the temple of Dagon. But while the Ark was there, the Lord destroyed the idol of Dagon and afflicted the people with tumors, so they sent the Ark to Gath. Again the Lord afflicted the people of Gath with tumors, so they sent the Ark to Ekron, where the same thing happened again. After seven months with the Ark, the Philistines returned the Ark along with a guilt offering of five gold tumors and five gold rats in the hopes that the afflictions would cease. They placed the Ark on a new cart hitched to two milk cows, which pulled the cart to the town of Beth-shemesh. Then Israelites came and took the Ark to Kiriath-jearim, where the Ark stayed for twenty years.

Tribal Allotments of the Promised Land

After the Israelites had conquered portions of the Promised Land and Joshua had grown old, the Lord directed him to divide the rest of the land among the tribes of Israel as their inheritance (Joshua 13-20). The eastern tribes had already been allotted their land under Moses’ leadership (Numbers 32), but they continued to help the other tribes drive out the Canaanites from land west of the Jordan River. The Lord also instructed the Israelites to designate several cities of refuge, where someone could flee for protection from an avenger if they accidentally killed someone (Numbers 35; Joshua 20).

Herod’s Building Projects

Many people are aware that Herod the Great, who ruled over Palestine in the decades leading up to Jesus’ birth, was a very wicked ruler. Over time he grew extremely paranoid that people were seeking to overthrow him (which was probably often true), and eventually he killed his wife and three of his sons. He also tried to kill the newborn Jesus after hearing that a rival king had been born in Bethlehem. At the same time, however, Herod was arguably the most prolific builder of anyone who has ever ruled over the region. It is likely that the primary reason for Herod’s ambitious agenda was twofold: 1) to ingratiate himself to the Romans, to whom he dedicated many of his projects, and 2) to promote stability in the region and protect himself against rebellion. Herod built numerous projects in Jerusalem, in many towns throughout his kingdom, and even in cities far beyond Palestine, such as Antioch of Syria. In Jerusalem he completely renovated and expanded the Temple of the Lord, built a lavish palace for himself, and built various pools, public buildings, and citadels (including the Antonia Fortress). Elsewhere he built Roman administrative buildings, aqueducts, and pagan temples, and he fortified several desert refuges for himself, including the fortress of Masada.

Macedonia

Though the region of Macedonia in northern Greece was located nearly a thousand miles from Jerusalem, it had an indirect impact on the events of the New Testament and the ministry of the apostle Paul. Macedonia is never directly mentioned in the Old Testament, which came to a close with nearly the entire world of the Bible–including Macedonia and Israel–under the rule of the vast Persian Empire. But about a hundred years later (in 356 B.C.) Alexander the Great was born in the Macedonian town of Pella, and within 33 years he conquered virtually the entire Persian Empire. Over time, however, much of Alexander’s empire, including Macedonia, came under the rule of Rome. The Romans built many reliable roads throughout their empire to greatly improve long-distance travel. One of these roads was called the Egnatian Way, and it passed through several towns in Macedonia visited by the apostle Paul in the New Testament as he established churches in Philippi and Thessalonica (Acts 16-17).

Mahanaim and Peniel

One of the most significant biblical locations that few Bible readers would recognize is the site of the twin fortresses of Mahanaim and Peniel. During the Old Testament these fortresses stood on opposite sides of the Jabbok River and guarded an important road leading from southern Gilead to the roads of the Jordan River valley. They are first mentioned as the place where Jacob camped and wrestled with the man of God as Jacob anxiously prepared to meet his brother Esau (Genesis 32). Gideon tore down a tower at Peniel after the people there refused to help him while he was pursuing the Midianites (Judges 8). Later Mahanaim is mentioned as the headquarters of Saul’s son Ish-bosheth as he competed with David for control over the kingdom of Israel (2 Samuel 2). David eventually gained control over all Israel (2 Samuel 5:1-5; 1 Chronicles 11:1-3), but he himself had to flee to Mahanaim after his son Absalom staged a rebellion in Hebron and Jerusalem (2 Samuel 13-18). Finally, Peniel became one of the first capitals of the northern kingdom of Israel after the northern tribes rebelled against the southern tribe of Judah (1 Kings 12:1-25). Later the northern kingdom moved their capital to Samaria (1 Kings 16:24).