Hey guys, so when a lot of people read the scriptures they read a single chapter or a single story without understanding where and how that story fits into the bigger historical picture. So in this episode, we’re going to review largely Old Testament history, but also show where a couple of Book of Mormon events fit into that history. It’s going to be super fun and hopefully, you can connect some dots that maybe you haven’t connected yet in your head. So here we go!
Let’s start from the very beginning. We’ve got Adam and Eve. Eventually, they start a family, and among their kids are Cain, Abel, and Seth. If you follow Seth’s lineage for several generations you get Noah, as in ‘Noah’s ark and the great flood.’ His family survives the flood and his sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth work to restart their civilization.
They get into a little trouble, though, when their descendants try to build a tower to get to heaven. As a consequence of their wickedness, their languages get all scrambled, except for a group of people who were spared and commanded by God to build barges, cross the ocean, and inherit their ‘promised land’ in the Americas. This group comes to be known as the Jaredites, and you can read all about their story in the Book of Mormon.
Meanwhile, the descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japheth start spreading out. If you skip down several generations in Shem’s family tree, you’ll find a guy named Abraham, who had a son named Isaac, whose son was Jacob. Jacob had 12 sons. One by the name of Joseph was sold into Egypt by his brothers, where he came to power and ended up later saving his family which was forced into Egypt because of a famine.
Unfortunately, the descendants of these 12 sons, known as Israelites, were eventually enslaved by the Egyptians, until Moses came along and freed them. Remember, biblically these are the descendants of Noah’s son, Shem. You’ve probably heard terms like “Semite” or “Anti-Semitism” or “Semitic languages.” Those all stem from the name ‘Shem.’
After 40 years of living in the desert, the Israelites take their promised land from the Canaanites and establish a kingdom which is initially ruled by JUDGES like Deborah and Sampson. Then, they’re ruled by KINGS such as Saul, David, and Solomon.
After Solomon’s reign in about 930 BC, the kingdom of Israel split in two. Roughly 10 of the 12 tribes stay in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and the other two, Judah and Benjamin, live in the southern Kingdom of Judah.
The Northern Kingdom lasted for about 200 years until it was conquered by the Assyrians in 721 BC. They hauled off most of the people from those 10 tribes back to Assyria. Those people come to be known as the “lost 10 tribes.”
The Assyrians repopulated the Northern Kingdom with Assyrians, who intermarried with the sparse remaining Israelites, which was a violation of the Law of Moses because the Assyrians were gentiles. The posterity of these relationships would be known as Samaritans, and that’s one of many reasons why people disliked Samaritans. Many viewed them as mudbloods.
In 701 BC, the Assyrians also tried to conquer the southern Kingdom of Judah, but miraculously, the attack on Jerusalem was a complete flop. This led to the belief that the great city, Jerusalem, could never fall. It may be why, about 100 years later, Jerusalem residents Laman and Lemuel thought their dad was crazy when he prophesied that Jerusalem would fall to the Babylonians.
That prophet’s name was Lehi. In about 600 BC he, his family, and some others left Jerusalem, built a boat, crossed the ocean, and set up camp in the Americas. The vast majority of the Book of Mormon is the story of this family and their posterity.
And sure enough, during the reign of King Zedekiah in 587 BC, Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians. But in the scuffle, one of the king’s sons named Mulek escaped with a small group of people. Like Lehi’s group, they also came to the Americas and their story is also recorded in the Book of Mormon. Most everyone else in Jerusalem was hauled off to Babylon. This is known as the Babylonian captivity.
The difference between the Northern and Southern kingdoms, though, is that these southern captives were allowed to return to Jerusalem after the Babylonians were conquered by the Persians—even though many just stayed in exile, like Esther—hence why she became a Jewish queen to a Persian King. The Old Testament ends with the Persians in charge. The New Testament begins roughly 450 years later with the Romans in charge, but during that time the Holy Land actually trades hands quite a few times.
In the 330s BC the Greeks, led by Alexander the Great, took the Holy Land during their successful campaign to conquer the Persians. When Alexander died, his empire was divided into 4 empires. Ptolemy and his Egyptian empire ruled the Holy Land for a bit until they were conquered by the Syrian Seleucids. In 167 BC the Maccabees, a prominent family in Jerusalem, led a successful revolt against the Seleucids and the Holy Land was finally once again independent for a while until the Romans incrementally took control between 63 and 37 BC.
Thus, at the beginning of the New Testament, we find the Romans in charge, with Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem to pay taxes. So there’s a brief history of events for you from Adam and Eve up to the birth of Christ. Let us know in the comments if you learned something new or if you’ve got questions, and have a great day!
- Watch our History of Everything episode here: https://bit.ly/3dUdcBu
- A handy-dandy rough chronology of Old Testament events (though dates at the beginning of the timeline should be taken with a grain of salt): https://bit.ly/30pMzjS
- A similar, alternative timeline (but starting with Abraham): https://bit.ly/3dIJjUq