THE STORY OF STEPHEN, THE FIRST MARTYR



STEPHEN THE FIRST MARTYR
In the New Testament, in the book of Acts, you will learn how the members of the church
in Jerusalem gave their money freely to help the poor. This free giving led to trouble, as
the church grew so fast; for some of the widows who were poor were passed by, and their
friends made complaints to the apostles. The twelve apostles called the whole church
together, and said:
“It is not well that we should turn aside from preaching and teaching the word of God to
sit at tables and give out money. But, brethren, choose from among yourselves seven good
men; men who have the Spirit of God and are wise, and we will give this work to them; so
that we can spend our time in prayer and in preaching the gospel.”

THE STORY OF THE MAN AT THE BEAUTIFUL GATE



MAN AT THE BEAUTIFUL GATE
Soon after Jesus was taken up into heaven, his disciples began to preach, as he had told
them to do. They stood up in the streets, and in the Temple, and spoke to the people all
the words that Jesus had given to them. And although they could no longer see Jesus, he
was with them, and helped them, and gave them great power.
The two apostles, Peter and John, were one day going up to the temple at the afternoon
hour of prayer, about three o’clock. They walked across the court of the Gentiles, which
was a large, open square paved with marble, having on its eastern side a double row of
pillars with a roof above them, called Solomon’s Porch. In front of this porch was the
principal entrance to the Temple, through a gate which was called “The Beautiful Gate.”

THE STORY OF THE MIRACLE WORKER



Miracle Worker
There was at Capernaum an officer of the Roman army, a man who had under
him a company of a hundred men. They called him “a centurion,” a word which means
“commanding a hundred”; but we should call him “a captain.” This man was not a Jew,
but was what the Jews called “a Gentile,” “a foreigner”; a name which the Jews gave to
all people outside their own race. All the world except the Jews themselves were Gentiles.

THE STORY OF THE EMPTY TOMB


Empty Tomb

After Jesus was taken before the high-priest where he was ridiculed and the people spat
upon him, he was taken before the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, who ruled over
Judea. He heard their complaints, but did not find any cause for putting him to death. But
at last he yielded to their demands, although he declared Jesus was innocent of all wrong.
And so Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, gave command that Jesus should die by the
cross. The Roman soldiers then took Jesus and beat him most cruelly; and then led him
out of the city to the place of death. This was a place called “Golgotha” in the Jewish
language, “Calvary” in that of the Romans; both words meaning “The Skull Place.”

THE STORY OF THE BETRAYAL



Betrayal
At the foot of the Mount of Olives, near the path over the hill toward Bethany, there was
an orchard of olive trees, called “The Garden of Gethsemane.” The word “Gethsemane”
means “oil press.” Jesus often went to this place with his disciples, because of its quiet
shade. At this garden he stopped, and outside he left eight of his disciples, saying to them,
“Sit here while I go inside and pray.”

THE STORY OF THE PALM BRANCHES



Palm Branches
From Jericho, Jesus and his disciples went up the mountains, and came to Bethany, where
his friends Martha and Mary lived, and where he had raised Lazarus to life. Many people
in Jerusalem heard that Jesus was there, and they went out of the city to see him, for
Bethany was only two miles from Jerusalem.

THE GOOD SHEPHERD AND THE GOOD SAMARITAN



Good Samaritan
Soon afterward Jesus gave to the people in Jerusalem the parable or story of “The Good
Shepherd.”
“Verily, verily (that is, ‘in truth, in truth’), I say to you, if any one does not go into the
sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, it is a sign that he is a thief and a
robber. But the one who comes in by the door is a shepherd of the sheep.

THE STORY OF THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT



Sermon On The Mount
Among the Jews there was one class of men hated and despised by the people more than
any other. That was “the publicans.” These were the men who took from the people the
tax which the Roman rulers had laid upon the land. Many of these publicans were selfish,
grasping, and cruel.

THE STORY OF THE FISHERMEN



The Fisherman
When Jesus began to teach the people by the river Jordan, a few young men came to him
as followers, or disciples. Some of these men were Andrew and John, Peter and Philip and
Nathanael. While Jesus was teaching near Jerusalem and in Samaria, these men stayed
with Jesus; but when he came to Galilee, they went to their homes and work, for most of
them were fishermen from the Sea of Galilee.

THE STORY OF THE STRANGER AT THE WELL



Stranger At The Well
While Jesus was teaching in Jerusalem and in the country places near it, John the Baptist
was still preaching and baptizing. But already the people were leaving John and going to
hear Jesus. Some of the followers of John the Baptist were not pleased as they saw that
fewer people came to their master, and that the crowds were seeking Jesus.

THE STORY OF THE WATER THAT WAS TURNED INTO WINE



Water Turned To Wine

A few days after Jesus met his followers or disciples at the river Jordan, he came with
these men to a town in Galilee called Cana, to be present at a wedding. In those lands a
feast was always held at a wedding, and often the friends of those who were married
stayed several days, eating and drinking together.

THE STORY OF THE CHILD IN THE TEMPLE



Child At Temple

Jesus was brought to Nazareth when he was a little child not more than three years old;
there he grew up as a boy and a young man, and there he lived until he was thirty years of
age. We should like to know many things about his boyhood, but the Bible tells us very
little.

THE STORY OF THE STAR AND THE WISE MEN



Star And Wise Men
For some time after Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary stayed with him in Bethlehem. The
little baby was not kept long in the stable sleeping in a manger; for after a few days they
found room in a house; and there another visit was made to Jesus by strange men from a
land far away.

THE STORY OF JESUS, THE BABE OF BETHLEHEM


JESUS THE BABE OF BETHLEHEM
Jesus the babe of Bethlehem

Soon after the time when John the Baptist was born, Joseph the carpenter of Nazareth had
a dream. In his dream he saw an angel from the Lord standing beside him. The angel said
to him:
“Joseph, sprung from the line of king David, I have come to tell you, that Mary, the young
woman whom you are to marry, will have a son, sent by the Lord God. You shall call his
name Jesus, which means ‘salvation,’ because he shall save his people from their sins.”

THE STORY OF THE ANGEL BY THE ALTAR


Angel by the altar
Angel by the altar

At the time when the story of the New Testament begins, the land of Israel, called also the
land of Judea, was ruled by a king named Herod. He was the first of several Herods, who
at different times ruled either the whole of the land, or parts of it. But Herod was not the
highest ruler.

THE STORY OF DANIEL IN THE LIONS’ DEN


Daniel in lions den
Daniel in lions den

The lands which had been the Babylonian or Chaldean empire, now became the empire of
Persia; and over these Darius was the king. King Darius gave to Daniel, who was now a
very old man, a high place in honor and in power. Among all the rulers over the land,
Daniel stood first, for the king saw that he was wise and able to rule. This made the other
princes and rulers very jealous, and they tried to find something evil in Daniel, so that
they could speak to the king against him.

THE STORY OF THE FIERY FURNACE


Fiery furnace
Fiery furnace

There was in the land of Judah a wicked king-named Jehoiakim, son of the good Josiah.
While Jehoiakim was ruling over the land of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar, a great conqueror of
the nations, came from Babylon with his army of Chaldean soldiers. He took the city of
Jerusalem, and made Jehoiakim promise to submit to him as his master. And when he
went back to his own land he took with him all the gold and silver that he could find in
the Temple; and he carried away as captives very many of the princes and nobles, the best
people in the land of Judah.
When these Jews were brought to the land of Chaldea or Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar
gave orders to the prince, who had charge of his palace, to choose among these Jewish
captives some young men who were of noble rank, and beautiful in their looks, and also
quick and bright in their minds; young men who would be able to learn readily. These
young men were to be placed under the care of wise men, who should teach them all that
they knew, and fit them to stand before the king of Babylon, so that they might be his
helpers to carry out his orders; and the king wished them to be wise, so that they might
give him advice in ruling his people.
Among the young men thus chosen were four Jews, men who had been brought
from Judah. By order of the king the names of these men were changed. One of them,
named Daniel, was to be called Belteshazzer; the other three young men were called
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. They were taught in all the knowledge of the
Chaldeans; and after three years of training they were taken into the king’s palace.
King Nebuchadnezzar was pleased with them, more than with any others who
stood before him. He found them wise and faithful in the work given to them, and able to
rule over men under them. And these four men came to the highest places in the kingdom
of the Chaldeans.
At one time King Nebuchadnezzar caused a great image to be made, and to be covered
with gold. This image he set up, as an idol to be worshiped, on the plain of Dura, near
the city of Babylon. When it was finished, it stood upon its base or foundation almost a
hundred feet high; so that upon the plain it could be seen far away. Then the king sent out
a command for all the princes, and rulers, and nobles in the land, to come to a great
gathering, when the image was to be set apart for worship.

THE STORY OF JONAH AND THE WHALE


Jonah and the whale
Jonah and the whale

At this time another prophet, named Jonah, was giving the word of the Lord to the
Israelites. To Jonah the Lord spoke, saying:
“Go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it; for its wickedness rises up before me.”
But Jonah did not wish to preach to the people of Nineveh; for they were the enemies of
his land, the land of Israel. He wished Nineveh to die in its sins, and not to turn to God
and live. So Jonah tried to go away from the city where God had sent him. He went down
to Joppa and took a ship for Tarshish.
But the Lord saw Jonah on the ship; and the Lord sent a great storm upon the sea, so that
the ship seemed as though it would go to pieces. The sailors threw overboard everything
on the ship; and when they could do no more, every man prayed to his god to save the
ship and themselves. Jonah was now lying fast asleep, and the ship’s captain came to
him, and said:

THE STORY OF ELIJAH, THE PROPHET


Elijah the prophet
Elijah the prophet

One of the greatest of all the kings of the Ten Tribes was Jeroboam the second. Under
him the kingdom of Israel grew rich and strong. He conquered nearly all Syria, and made
Samaria the greatest city of all those lands.
But though Syria went down, another nation was now rising to power—Assyria, on the
eastern side of the river Tigris. Its capital was Nineveh, a great city, so vast that it would
take three days for a man to walk around its walls. The Assyrians were beginning to
conquer all the lands near them, and Israel was in danger of falling under their power.
One of the kings who ruled over Israel was named Ahab. He provoked the anger of the
Lord. His wife, Jezebel, who was a worshiper of Baal, persuaded him to build an altar to
the false god.
Elijah, a prophet of the Lord, was sent to him and proposed a test. Two altars were built;
one to Jehovah and one to Baal. The priests of Baal called upon their god to send down
fire; but there was no answer. Then Elijah called upon the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac
and Israel, and fire came down and burnt up the offering.
The people turned upon the priests of Baal and killed them all. Later the wicked queen,
Jezebel, coveted a vineyard for Ahab, and she caused Naboth, the owner of the vineyard,
to be placed in front of the battle. When he was slain Ahab took the vineyard.
Once more Elijah came and denounced Ahab and Jezebel, telling them that they had done
wickedly, and that the Lord would punish them.
In a little while the prophet’s words came true, for Ahab was slain in battle and Jezebel
was put to death by order of King Jehu. Elijah was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire.
There was another prophet, a companion of Elijah, whose name was Elisha, a brave and
courageous man who did not fail to deliver God’s message.
It happened that when Elisha was an old man there can to him King Joash,
who had been made king when he was only seven years old. Joash was now a
young man and was trying to do right in the sight of the Lord. But he felt the need of the
prophet’s aid, and he came to Elisha and said:
“My father, my father, you are more to Israel than its chariots and horsemen.”
Elisha, though weak in body, was yet strong in soul. He told Joash to bring him a bow and
arrows, and to open the window to the east, looking toward the land of Syria. Then Elisha
caused the king to draw the bow; and he placed his hands on the king’s hands. And as the
king shot an arrow, Elisha said:
“This is the arrow of victory; of victory over Syria; for you shall smite the Syrians in
Aphek and shall destroy them.”
It happened as Elisha had foretold and the Syrians were defeated and their cities taken.

THE STORY OF SOLOMON AND HIS TEMPLE


Solomon and his temple
Solomon and his temple
During the later years of David’s reign, he laid up great treasure of gold and silver, and
brass, and iron, for the building of a house to the Lord on Mount Moriah. This house was
to be called “The Temple”; and it was to be made very beautiful, the most beautiful
building, and the richest in all the land. David had greatly desired to build this house
while he was king of Israel, but God said to him:
“You have been a man of war, and have fought many battles, and shed much blood. My
house shall be built by a man of peace. When you die, your son Solomon shall reign, and
he shall have peace, and shall build my house.”
So David made ready great store of precious things for the temple; also stone and cedar to
be used in the building. And David said to Solomon, his son: “God has promised that
there shall be rest and peace to the land while you are king; and the Lord will be with you,
and you shall build a house, where God shall live among His people.”
But David had other sons who were older than Solomon; and one of these sons, whose
name was Adonijah, formed a plan to make himself king. David was now very old; and
he was no longer able to go out of his palace, and to be seen among the people.
Adonijah gathered his friends; and among them were Joab, the general of the army, and
Abiathar, one of the two high-priests. They met at a place outside the wall, and had a
great feast, and were about to crown Adonijah as king, when word came to David in the
palace. David, though old and feeble, was still wise. He said:
“Let us make Solomon king at once, and thus put an end to the plans of these men.”
So at David’s command they brought out the mule on which no one but the king was
allowed to ride; and they placed Solomon upon it; and with the king’s guards, and the
nobles, and the great men, they brought the young Solomon down to the valley of Gihon,
south of the city.
And Zadok, the priest, took from the Tabernacle the horn filled with holy oil, that was
used for anointing or pouring oil on the head of the priests when they were set apart for
their work. He poured oil from this horn on the head of Solomon, and then the priests
blew the trumpets, and all the people cried aloud, “God save King Solomon.”
All this time Adonijah and Joab, and their friends were not far away, almost in the same
valley, feasting and making merry, intending to make Adonijah king. They heard the
sound of the trumpets, and the shouting of the people. Joab said: “What is the cause of all
this noise and uproar?”
A moment later, Jonathan, the son of Abiathar, came running in. Jonathan said to the men
who were feasting:
“Our lord King David has made Solomon king, and he has just been anointed in Gihon;
and all the princes, and the heads of the army, are with him, and the people are shouting,
‘God save King Solomon!’ And David has sent from his bed a message to Solomon,
saying, ‘May the Lord make your name greater than mine has been! Blessed be the Lord,
who has given me a son to sit this day on my throne!’”
When Adonijah and his friends heard this they were filled with fear. Every man went at
once to his house, except Adonijah. He hastened to the altar of the Lord, and knelt before
it, and took hold of the horns that were on its corners in front. This was a holy place, and
he hoped that there Solomon might have mercy on him. And Solomon said:
“If Adonijah will do right, and be faithful to me as the king of Israel, no harm shall come
to him; but if he does wrong, he shall die.”
Then Adonijah came and bowed down before King Solomon, and promised to
obey him, and Solomon said, “Go to your own house.”
Not long after this David sent for Solomon, and from his bed he gave his last advice to
Solomon. And soon after that David died, an old man, having reigned in all forty years,
seven years over the tribe of Judah, at Hebron, and thirty-three years over all Israel, in
Jerusalem. He was buried in great honor on Mount Zion, and his tomb remained standing
for many years.
The great work of Solomon’s reign was the building of the House of God. It was
generally called the Temple. It was built on Mount Moriah, one of the hills of Jerusalem.
King David had prepared for it by gathering great stores of silver, stone and cedar-wood.
The walls were made of stone and the roof of cedar. Solomon had great ships which
visited other lands and brought precious stones and fine woods for the building. Seven
years were spent in building the Temple, and it was set apart to the worship of God with
beautiful ceremonies in which Solomon, in his robes of state, took part.
Solomon was indeed a great king, and it was said that he was also the wisest man in all
the world. He wrote many of the wise sayings in the Book of Proverbs, and many more
that have been lost.

THE STORY OF THE CAVE OF ADULLAM


Cave of Adullam
Cave of Adullam

Now Saul had a son, Jonathan, near David’s own age. He and David became fast friends
and loved one another as brothers. Saul the king became very jealous of David because
the people praised him after his fight with Goliath. He even threatened to take David’s
life. He tried to catch him in his own house, but David’s wife let him down from a
window by a rope and he escaped. He met his friend Jonathan, who told him that he
should flee. They renewed their promises of friendship, which they kept ever afterward.
From his meeting with Jonathan, David went forth to be a wanderer, having no home as
long as Saul lived. He found a great cave, called the cave of Adullam, and hid in it. Soon
people heard where he was, and from all parts of the land, especially from his own tribe of
Judah, men who were not satisfied with the rule of King Saul gathered around David.
Saul soon heard that David, with a band of men, was hiding among the mountains of
Judah, and that among those who aided him were certain priests.
This enraged King Saul, and he ordered his guards to kill all the priests. The guards would
not obey him, for they felt that it was a wicked thing to lay hands upon the priests of the Lord.
But he found one man whose name was Doeg, an Edomite, who was willing to
obey the king. And Doeg, the Edomite, killed eighty-five men who wore the priestly
garments.
All through the land went the news of Saul’s dreadful deed, and everywhere the people
began to turn from Saul, and to look toward David as the only hope of the nation.
When Saul died he was followed by David, the shepherd boy, now grown to manhood and
greatly loved by the people. He had many battles to fight with the Philistines and was
nearly always victorious. He was a warrior king; but he was more than a warrior. He
played on his harp and composed many beautiful hymns and songs, which are collected in
the book of Psalms. He was a good king and tried to obey God’s command. He had a long
reign and his people were happy and prosperous. He had many sons and daughters and
beautiful palaces for them to live in.

THE STORY OF THE FIGHT WITH THE GIANT


David fights the giant
David fights the giant

All through the reign of Saul, there was constant war with the Philistines, who lived upon the lowlands west of Israel. At one time, when David was still with his sheep, a few years after he had been anointed by Samuel, the camps of the Philistines and the Israelites were set against each other on opposite sides of the valley of Elah. In the army of Israel were the three oldest brothers of David.
Every day a giant came out of the camp of the Philistines, and dared some one to come from the Israelites’ camp and fight with him. The giant’s name was Goliath. He was nine feet high; and he wore armor from head to foot, and carried a spear twice as long and as heavy as any other man could hold; and his shield bearer walked before him. He came every day and called out across the little valley:
“I am a Philistine, and you are servants of Saul. Now choose one of your men, and let him come out and fight with me. If I kill him; then you shall submit to us; and if he kills me, then we will give up to you. Come, now, send out your man!”
But no man in the army, not even King Saul, dared to go out and fight with the giant.
Forty days the camps stood against each other, and the Philistine giant continued his call. One day, old Jesse, the father of David, sent David from Bethlehem to visit his three brothers in the army. David came, and spoke to his brothers; and while he was talking with them, Goliath the giant came out as before in front of the camp calling for some one to fight with him.
They said one to another:
“If any man will go out and kill this Philistine, the king will give him a great reward and a high rank; and the king’s daughter shall be his wife.”
And David said: “Who is this man that speaks in this proud manner against the armies of the living God?
Why does not some one go out and kill him?” David’s brother Eliab said to him:
“What are you doing here, leaving your sheep in the field? I know that you have come down just to see the battle.”
But David did not care for his brother’s words. He thought he saw a way to kill this boasting giant; and he said:
“If no one else will go, I will go out and fight with this enemy of the Lord’s people.”

THE STORY OF DAVID, THE SHEPHERD BOY


David the shepherd boy
David the shepherd boy

Living at Ramah, in the mountains of Ephraim, there was a man whose name was
Elkanah. He had two wives, as did many men in that time. One of these wives had
children, but the other wife, whose name was Hannah, had no child.
Every year Elkanah and his family went up to worship at the house of the Lord in Shiloh,
which was about fifteen miles from his home. And at one of these visits Hannah prayed to
the Lord, saying:
“O Lord, if thou wilt look upon me, and give me a son, he shall be given to the Lord as
long as he lives.”
The Lord heard Hannah’s prayer, and gave her a little boy, and she called his name
Samuel, which means “Asked of God”; because he had been given in answer to her
prayer.
Samuel grew up to be a good man and a wise Judge, and he made his sons Judges in
Israel, to help him in the care of the people. But Samuel’s sons did not walk in his ways.
They did not try always to do justly.
The elders of all the tribes of Israel came to Samuel at his home in Ramah; and they said
to him: “You are growing old, and your sons do not rule as well as you ruled. All the
lands around us have kings. Let us have a king also; and do you choose the king for us.”
This was not pleasing to Samuel. He tried to make the people change their minds, and
showed them what trouble a king would bring them.
But they would not follow his advice. They said: “No; we will have a king to reign over
us.”
So Samuel chose as their king a tall young man named Saul, who was a farmer’s son of
the tribe of Benjamin. When Saul was brought before the people he stood head and
shoulders above them all. And Samuel said:
“Look at the man whom the Lord has chosen! There is not another like him among all the
people!”
And all the people shouted, “God save the king! Long live the king!”
Then Samuel told the people what should be the laws for the king and for the people to
obey. He wrote them down in a book, and placed the book before the Lord. Then Samuel
sent the people home; and Saul went back to his own house at a place called Gibeah; and
with Saul went a company of men to whose hearts God had given a love for the king.
So after three hundred years under the fifteen Judges, Israel now had a king. But among
the people there were some who were not pleased with the new king, because he was an
unknown man from the farm. They said:
“Can such a man as this save us?”
They showed no respect to the king, and in their hearts looked down upon him. But Saul
said nothing, and showed his wisdom by appearing not to notice them. But in another
thing he was not so wise. He forgot to heed the old prophet’s advice and instructions
about ruling wisely and doing as the Lord said. It was not long before Samuel told him
that he had disobeyed God and would lose his kingdom.

THE STORY OF RUTH, THE GLEANER


Ruth the gleaner
Ruth the gleaner

In the time of the Judges in Israel, a man named Elimelech was living in the town of
Bethlehem, in the tribe of Judah, about six miles south of Jerusalem. His wife’s name was
Naomi, and his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. For some years the crops were poor,
and food was scarce in Judah; and Elimelech with his family went to live in the land of
Moab, which was on the east of the Dead Sea, as Judah was on the west.
There they stayed ten years, and in that time Elimelech died. His two sons married women
of the country of Moab, one named Orpah, the other named Ruth. But the two young men
also died in the land of Moab; so that Naomi and her two daughters-in-law were all left
widows.
Naomi heard that God had again given good harvests and bread to the land of Judah, and
she rose up to go from Moab back to her own land and her own town of Bethlehem. The
two daughters-in-law loved her, and both would have gone with her, though the land of
Judah was a strange land to them, for they were of the Moabite people.
Naomi said to them: “Go back, my daughters, to your own mothers’ homes. May the
Lord deal kindly with you, as you have been kind to your husbands and to me. May the
Lord grant that each of you may yet find another husband and a happy home.”
Then Naomi kissed them in farewell, and the three women all wept together. The two
young widows said to her:
“You have been a good mother to us, and we will go with you, and live among your people.”
“No, no,” said Naomi. “You are young, and I am old. Go back and be happy among your
own people.”
Then Orpah kissed Naomi, and went back to her people; but Ruth would not leave her.
She said:

THE STORY OF SAMSON, THE STRONG MAN


Samson the strong man
Samson the strong man

Now we are to learn of three judges who ruled Israel in turn. Their names were Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon. None of these were men of war, and in their days the land was quiet.
But the people of Israel again began to worship idols; and as a punishment God allowed them once more to pass under the power of their enemies. The seventh oppression, which now fell upon Israel, was by far the hardest, the longest and the most widely spread of any, for it was over all the tribes. It came from the Philistines, a strong and warlike people who lived on the west of Israel upon the plain beside the Great Sea. They worshiped an idol called Dagon, which was made in the form of a fish’s head on a man’s body.
These people, the Philistines, sent their armies up from the plain beside the sea to the mountains of Israel and overran all the land. They took away from the Israelite's all their swords and spears, so that they could not fight; and they robbed their land of all the crops, so that the people suffered for want of food. And as before, the Israelite's in their trouble, cried out to the Lord, and the Lord heard their prayer.
In the tribe-land of Dan, which was next to the country of the Philistines, there was living a man named Manoah. One day an angel came to his wife and said:
“You shall have a son, and when he grows up he will begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines. But your son must never drink any wine or strong drink as long as he lives. And his hair must be allowed to grow long and must never be cut, for he shall be a Nazarite under a vow to the Lord.”
When a child was given especially to God, or when a man gave himself to some work for God, he was forbidden to drink wine, and as a sign, his hair was left to grow long while the vow or promise to God was upon him. Such a person as this was called a Nazarite, a word which means “one who has a vow”; and Manoah’s child was to be a Nazarite, and under a vow, as long as he lived.
The child was born and was named Samson. He grew up to become the strongest man of whom the Bible tells. Samson was no general, like Gideon or Jephthah, to call out his people and lead them in war. He did much to set his people free; but all that he did was by his own strength.
When Samson became a young man he went down to Timnath, in the land of the
Philistines. There he saw a young Philistine woman whom he loved, and wished to have as his wife. His father and mother were not pleased that he should marry among the enemies of his own people. They did not know that God would make this marriage the means of bringing harm upon the Philistines and of helping the Israelite's.
As Samson was going down to Timnath to see this young woman, a hungry lion came out of the mountain, roaring against him. Samson seized the lion, and tore him in pieces as easily as another man would have killed a little kid of the goats, and then went on his way. He made his visit and came home, but said nothing to any one about the lion.
After a time Samson went again to Timnath for his marriage with the Philistine woman.

THE STORY OF GIDEON AND HIS THREE HUNDRED SOLDIERS


Gideon and 300 soldiers
Gideon and 300 soldiers

At last the people of Israel came into the promised land, but they did evil in the sight of
the Lord in worshiping Baal; and the Lord left them to suffer for their sins. Once the
Midianites, living near the desert on the east of Israel, came against the tribes. The two
tribes that suffered the hardest fate were Ephraim, and the part of Manasseh on the west of
Jordan. For seven years the Midianites swept over their land every year, just at the time of
harvest, and carried away all the crops of grain, until the Israelites had no food for
themselves, and none for their sheep and cattle. The Midianites brought also their own
flocks and camels without number, which ate all the grass of the field.
The people of Israel were driven away from their villages and their farms, and were
compelled to hide in the caves of the mountains. And if any Israelite could raise any
grain, he buried it in pits covered with earth, or in empty wine presses, where the
Midianites could not find it.
One day, a man named Gideon was threshing out wheat in a hidden place, when he saw
an angel sitting-under an oak-tree. The angel said to him:
“You are a brave man, Gideon, and the Lord is with you. Go out boldly, and save your
people from the power of the Midianites.” Gideon answered the angel:
“O, Lord, how can I save Israel? Mine is a poor family in Manasseh, and I am the least in
my father’s house.”
And the Lord said to him: “Surely I will be With you, and I will help you drive out the
Midianites.”
Gideon felt that it was the Lord who was talking with him, in the form of an angel. He
brought an offering, and laid it on a rock before the angel. Then the angel touched the
offering with his staff. At once, a fire leaped up and burned the offering; and then the
angel vanished from his sight. Gideon was afraid when he saw this; but the Lord said to
him:

THE STORY OF THE GRAPES FROM CANAAN


Grapes from Canaan
Grapes from Canaan

The Israelite's stayed in their camp before Mount Sinai almost a year, while they were
building the Tabernacle and learning God’s laws given through Moses. At last the cloud
over the Tabernacle rose up, and the people knew that this was the sign for them to move.
They took down the Tabernacle and their own tents, and journeyed toward the land of
Canaan for many days.
At last they came to a place just on the border between the desert and Canaan, called
Kadesh, or Kadesh-barnea. Here they stopped to rest, for there were many springs of
water and some grass for their cattle. While they were waiting at Kadesh-barnea and were
expecting soon to march into the land which was to be their home, God told Moses to
send onward some men who should walk through the land and look at it, and then come
back and tell what they had found; what kind of a land it was, and what fruits grew in it,
and what people were living in it. The Israelite's could more easily win the land if these
men, after walking through it, could act as their guides and point out the best places in it
and the best plans of making war upon it.
So Moses chose out some men of high rank among the people, one ruler from each tribe,
twelve men in all. One of these was Joshua, who was the helper of Moses in caring for the
people, and another was Caleb, who belonged to the tribe of Judah. These twelve men
went out and walked over the mountains of Canaan and looked at the cities and saw the
fields. In one place, just before they came back to the camp, they cut down a cluster of
ripe grapes which was so large that two men carried it between them, hanging from a
staff. They named the place where they found this bunch of grapes Eshcol, a word which
means “a cluster.” These twelve men were called “spies,” because they went “to spy out
the land”; and after forty days they came back to the camp, and this was what they said:
“We walked all over the land and found it a rich land. There is grass for all our flocks, and
fields where we can raise grain, and trees bearing fruits, and streams running down the
sides of the hills. But we found that the people who live there are very strong and are men
of war. They have cities with walls that reach almost up to the sky; and some of the men
are giants, so tall that we felt that we were like grasshoppers beside them.”
One of the spies, who was Caleb, said, “All that is true, yet we need not be afraid to go up
and take the land. It is a good land, well worth fighting for; God is on our side, and he will
help us to overcome those people.”

THE STORY OF MOSES, THE CHILD WHO WAS FOUND IN THE RIVER



Moses found in the river
Moses found in the river

The children of Israel stayed in the land of Egypt much longer than they had expected to
stay. They were in that land about four hundred years. And the going down to Egypt
proved a great blessing to them. It saved their lives during the years of famine and need.
After the years of need were over, they found the soil in the land of Goshen, that part of
Egypt where they were living, very rich, so that they could gather three or four crops
every year.
Then, too, the sons of Israel, before they came to Egypt, had begun to marry the women in
the land of Canaan who worshiped idols, and not the Lord. If they had stayed there, their
children would have grown up like the people around them and soon would have lost all
knowledge of God.
But in Goshen they lived alone and apart from the people of Egypt. They worshiped the
Lord God, and were kept away from the idols of Egypt. And in that land, as the years
went on, from being seventy people, they grew in number until they became a great
multitude. Each of the twelve sons of Jacob was the father of a tribe, and Joseph was the
father of two tribes, named after his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.
As long as Joseph lived, and for some time after, the people of Israel were treated kindly
by the Egyptians, out of their love for Joseph, who had saved Egypt from suffering by
famine. But after a long time another king began to rule over Egypt, who cared nothing
for Joseph or Joseph’s people. He saw that the Israelite's (as the children of Israel were
called) were very many, and he feared that they would soon become greater in number
and in power than the Egyptians.
He said to his people: “Let us rule these Israelite's more strictly. They are growing too
strong.”
Then they set harsh rules over the Israelite's, and laid heavy burdens on them. They made
the Israelite's work hard for the Egyptians, and build cities for them, and give to the
Egyptians a large part of the crops from their fields. They set them at work in making
brick and in building storehouses. They were so afraid that the Israelite's would grow in
number that they gave orders to kill all the little boys that were born to the Israelite's;
though their little girls might be allowed to live.
But in the face of all this hate, and wrong, and cruelty, the people of Israel were growing
in number, and becoming greater and greater.
At this time, when the wrongs of the Israelite's were the greatest, and when their little
children were being killed, one little boy was born.

THE MYSTERY OF THE LOST BROTHER

Lost brother
Lost brother

The food which Jacob’s sons had brought from Egypt did not last long, for Jacob’s family
was large. Most of his sons were married and had children of their own; so that the
children and grandchildren were sixty-six, besides the servants who waited on them, and
the men who cared for Jacob’s flocks. So around the tent of Jacob was quite a camp of
other tents and an army of people.
When the food that had come from Egypt was nearly eaten up, Jacob said to his sons:
“Go down to Egypt again, and buy some food for us.”
And Judah, Jacob’s son, the man who years before had urged his brothers to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites, said to his father: “It is of no use for us to go to Egypt, unless we take Benjamin with us. The man who rules in that land said to us, ‘You shall not see my face, unless your youngest brother be with you’.”
And Israel said, “Why did you tell the man that you had a brother? You did me great harm when you told him.”
“Why,” said Jacob’s sons, “we could not help telling him. The man asked us all about our
family, ‘Is your father yet living? Have you any more brothers?’ And we had to tell him,
his questions were so close. How should we know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother
here, for me to see him’?”
And Judah said, “Send Benjamin with me, and I will take care of him. I promise you that I
will bring him safely home. If he does not come back, let me bear the blame forever. He
must go, or we shall die for want of food; and we might have gone down to Egypt and
come home again, if we had not been kept back.”
And Jacob said, “If he must go, then he must. But take a present to the man, some of the
choicest fruits of the land, some spices, and perfumes, and nuts, and almonds. And take
twice as much money, besides the money that was in your sacks. Perhaps that was a
mistake, when the money was given back to you. And take your brother Benjamin, and
may the Lord God make the man kind to you, so that he will set Simeon free, and let you
bring Benjamin back. But if it is God’s will that I lose my children, I cannot help it.”
So ten brothers of Joseph went down a second time to Egypt, Benjamin going in place of
Simeon. They came to Joseph’s office, the place where he sold grain to the people; and
they stood before their brother, and bowed as before. Joseph saw that Benjamin was with them, and he said to his steward, the man who was over his house:
“Make ready a dinner, for all these men shall dine with me today.”
When Joseph’s brothers found that they were taken into Joseph’s house, they were filled
with fear. They said to each other:

THE STORY OF THE MONEY IN THE SACKS

Money in the sacks
Money in the sacks

When Joseph was made ruler over the land of Egypt, he did just as he had always done. It
was not Joseph’s way to sit down, to rest and enjoy himself, and make others wait on him.
He found his work at once, and began to do it faithfully and thoroughly. He went out over
all the land of Egypt, and saw how rich and abundant were the fields of grain, giving
much more than the people could use for their own needs. He told the people not to waste
it, but to save it for the coming time of need.
And he called upon the people to give him for the king one bushel of grain out of every
five, to be stored up. The people brought their grain, after taking for themselves as much
as they needed, and Joseph stored it up in great storehouses in the cities; so much at last
that no one could keep account of it.
The king of Egypt gave a wife to Joseph from the noble young women of his kingdom.
Her name was Asenath; and to Joseph and his wife God gave two sons. The oldest son he
named Manasseh, a word which means “Making to Forget.”
“For,” said Joseph, “God has made me to forget all my troubles and my toil as a slave.”
The second son he named Ephraim, a word that means “Fruitful.” “Because,” said Joseph,
“God has not only made the land fruitful; but he has made me fruitful in the land of my
troubles.”
The seven years of plenty soon passed by, and then came the years of need. In all the
lands around people were hungry, and there was no food for them to eat; but in the land of Egypt everybody had enough. Most of the people soon used up the grain that they had
saved; many had saved none at all, and they all cried to the king to help them.
“Go to Joseph!” said king Pharaoh, “and do whatever he tells you to do.”

THE DREAMS OF A KING

Dreams of a King
Dreams of a King

The men who bought Joseph from his brothers were called Ishmaelites, because they
belonged to the family of Ishmael, who, you remember, was the son of Hagar, the servant
of Sarah. These men carried Joseph southward over the plain which lies beside the great
sea on the west of Canaan; and after many days they brought Joseph to Egypt. How
strange it must have seemed to the boy who had lived in tents to see the great river Nile,
and the cities thronged with people, and the temples, and the mighty pyramids!
The Ishmaelites sold Joseph as a slave to a man named Potiphar, who was an officer in
the army of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Joseph was a beautiful boy, and cheerful and
willing in his spirit, and able in all that he undertook; so that his master Potiphar became
very friendly to him, and after a time, he placed Joseph in charge of his house, and
everything in it. For some years Joseph continued in the house of Potiphar, a slave in
name, but in reality the master of all his affairs, and ruler over his fellow-servants.
But Potiphar’s wife, who at first was very friendly to Joseph, afterward became his
enemy, because Joseph would not do wrong to please her. She told her husband falsely,
that Joseph had done a wicked deed. Her husband believed her, and was very angry at
Joseph, and put him in the prison with those who had been sent to that place for breaking
the laws of the land. How hard it was for Joseph to be charged with a crime, when he had
done no wrong, and to be thrust into a dark prison among wicked people!
But Joseph had faith in God, that at some time all would come out right; and in the prison
he was cheerful, and kind, and helpful, as he had always been. The keeper of the prison
saw that Joseph was not like the other men around him, and he was kind to Joseph. In a
very little while, Joseph was placed in charge of all his fellow-prisoners, and took care of them, just as he had taken care of everything in Potiphar’s house. The keeper of the
prison scarcely looked into the prison at all; for he had confidence in Joseph, that he
would be faithful and wise in doing the work given to him. Joseph did right, and served
God, and God blessed Joseph in everything.
While Joseph was in the prison, two men were sent there by the king of Egypt, because he was displeased with them. One was the king’s chief butler, who served the king with
wine; the other was the chief baker, who served him with bread. These two men were
under Joseph’s care; and Joseph waited on them, for they were men of rank.
One morning, when Joseph came into the room where the butler and the baker were kept,
he found them looking quite sad. Joseph said to them:
“Why do you look so sad today?” Joseph was cheerful and happy in his spirit; and he
wished others to be happy also, even in prison.

THE STORY OF JOSEPH AND HIS COAT OF MANY COLORS


Joseph and his coat
Joseph and his coat

After Jacob came back to the land of Canaan with his eleven sons, another son was born
to him, the second child of his wife Rachel, whom Jacob loved so well. But soon after the
baby came, his mother Rachel died, and Jacob was filled with sorrow. Even to this day
you can see the place where Rachel was buried, on the road between Jerusalem and
Bethlehem. Jacob named the child whom Rachel left, Benjamin; and now Jacob had
twelve sons. Most of them were grown-up men; but Joseph was a boy seventeen years
old, and his brother Benjamin was almost a baby.
Of all his children, Jacob loved Joseph the best, because he was Rachel’s child; because
he was so much younger than most of his brothers; and because he was good, and faithful,
and thoughtful. Jacob gave to Joseph a robe or coat of bright colors, made somewhat like
a long cloak with wide sleeves. This was a special mark of Jacob’s favor to Joseph, and it
made his older brothers envious of him.
Then, too, Joseph did what was right, while his older brothers often did very wrong acts,
of which Joseph sometimes told their father; and this made them very angry at Joseph.
But they hated him still more because of two strange dreams he had, and of which he told
them. He said one day: “Listen to this dream that I have dreamed. I dreamed that we were out in the field binding sheaves, when suddenly my sheaf stood up, and all your sheaves came around it and bowed down to my sheaf!”
And they said scornfully, “Do you suppose that the dream means that you will some time
rule over us, and that we shall bow down to you?”
Then, a few days after, Joseph said, “I have dreamed again. This time, I saw in my dream
the sun, and the moon, and eleven stars, all come and bow to me!”
And his father said to him, “I do not like you to dream such dreams. Shall I, and your
mother, and your brothers, come and bow down before you as if you were a king?”
His brothers hated Joseph, and would not speak kindly to him; but his father thought
much of what Joseph had said.
At one time, Joseph’s ten brothers were taking care of the flock in the fields near
Shechem, which was nearly fifty miles from Hebron, where Jacob’s tents were spread.
And Jacob wished to send a message to his sons, and he called Joseph, and said to him:
“Your brothers are near Shechem with the flock. I wish that you would go to them, and
take a message, and find if they are well, and if the flocks are doing well; and bring me
word from them.”

THE STORY OF THE LADDER THAT REACHED TO HEAVEN


Ladder that reached to Heaven
Ladder that reached Heaven

After Esau found that he had lost his birthright and his blessing, he was very angry against his brother Jacob; and he said to himself, and told others:
“My father Isaac is very old and cannot live long. As soon as he is dead, then I shall kill
Jacob for having robbed me of my right.”
When Rebekah heard this, she said to Jacob, “Before it is too late, do you go away from
home and get out of Esau’s sight. Perhaps when Esau sees you no longer, he will forget
his anger, and then you can come home again. Go and visit my brother Laban, your uncle,
in Haran, and stay with him for a little while.”
We must remember that Rebekah came from the family of Nahor, Abraham’s
younger brother, who lived in Haran, a long distance to the northeast of Canaan, and that
Laban was Rebekah’s brother.
So Jacob went out of Beersheba, on the border of the desert, and walked alone, carrying
his staff in his hand. One evening, just about sunset, he came to a place among the
mountains, more than sixty miles distant from his home. And as he had no bed to lie down
upon, he took a stone and rested his head upon it for a pillow, and lay down to sleep.
And on that night Jacob had a wonderful dream. In his dream he saw stairs leading from
the earth where he lay up to heaven; and angels were going up and coming down upon the
stairs. And above the stairs, he saw the Lord God standing. And God said to Jacob:
“I am the Lord, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac your father; and I will be your God, too.
The land where you are lying all alone, shall belong to you and to your children
after you; and your children shall spread abroad over the lands, east and west, and north
and south, like the dust of the earth; and in your family all the world shall receive a
blessing. And I am with you in your journey, and I will keep you where you are going,
and will bring you back to this land. I will never leave you, and I will surely keep my
promise to you.”

THE STORY OF JACOB


Jacob
Jacob

After Abraham died, his son Isaac lived in the land of Canaan. Like his father, Isaac had
his home in a tent; around him were the tents of his people, and many flocks of sheep and
herds of cattle feeding wherever they could find grass to eat and water to drink.
Isaac and his wife Rebekah had two children. The older was named Esau and the younger
Jacob.
Esau was a man of the woods and very fond of hunting; and he was rough and covered
with hair.
Jacob was quiet and thoughtful, staying at home, dwelling in a tent, and caring for the
flocks of his father.
Isaac loved Esau more than Jacob, because Esau brought to his father that which he had
killed in his hunting; but Rebekah liked Jacob, because she saw that he was wise and
careful in his work.
Among the people in those lands, when a man dies, his older son receives twice as much
as the younger of what the father has owned. This was called his “birthright,” for it was
his right as the oldest born. So Esau, as the older, had a “birthright” to more of Isaac’s
possessions than Jacob. And besides this, there was the privilege of the promise of God
that the family of Isaac should receive great blessings.

THE SALE OF A BIRTHRIGHT

THE STORY OF ABRAHAM AND ISAAC


Abraham and Isaac
Abraham and Isaac

You remember that in those times of which we are telling, when men worshiped God,
they built an altar of earth or of stone, and laid an offering upon it as a gift to God. The
offering was generally a sheep, or a goat, or a young ox—some animal that was used for
food. Such an offering was called “a sacrifice.”
But the people who worshiped idols often did what seems to us strange and very terrible.
They thought that it would please their gods if they would offer as a sacrifice the most
precious living things that were their own; and they would take their own little children
and kill them upon their altars as offerings to the gods of wood and stone, that were no
real gods, but only images.
God wished to show Abraham and all his descendants, those who should come after him,
that he was not pleased with such offerings as those of living people, killed on the altars.
And God took a way to teach Abraham, so that he and his children after him would never
forget it. Then at the same time he wished to see how faithful and obedient Abraham
would be to his commands; how fully Abraham would trust in God, or, as we would say,
how great was Abraham’s faith in God.
So God gave to Abraham a command which he did not mean to have obeyed,
though this he did not tell to Abraham. He said:
“Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love so greatly, and go to the land of
Moriah, and there on a mountain that I will show you, offer him for a burnt-offering to
me.”

STORY OF HAGAR AND ISHMAEL

Hagar and son Ishmael
Hagar and son Ishmael

After the great flood the family of Noah and those who came after him grew in number,
until, as the years went on, the earth began to be full of people once more. But there was
one great difference between the people who had lived before the flood and those who
lived after it. Before the flood, all the people stayed close together, so that very many
lived in one land, and no one lived in other lands. After the flood families began to move
from one place to another, seeking for themselves new homes.

THE STORY OF NOAH AND THE ARK


Noah and the ark
Noah and the ark

After Abel was slain, and his brother Cain had gone into another land, again God gave a
child to Adam and Eve. This child they named Seth; and other sons and daughters were
given to them; for Adam and Eve lived many years. But at last they died, as God had said
they must die, because they had eaten of the tree that God had forbidden them to eat.

THE STORY OF ADAM AND EVE


Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve

The first man’s name was Adam and his wife he called Eve. They lived in a beautiful
Garden away in the East Country which was called Eden, filled with beautiful trees and
flowers of all kinds. But they did not live in Eden long for they did not obey God’s
command, but ate the fruit of a tree which had been forbidden them. They were driven
forth by an angel and had to give up their beautiful home.
So Adam and his wife went out into the world to live and to work. For a time they were
all alone, but after a while God gave them a little child of their own, the first baby that
ever came into the world. Eve named him Cain; and after a time another baby came,
whom she named Abel.
When the two boys grew up, they worked, as their father worked before them. Cain, the
older brother, chose to work in the fields, and to raise grain and fruits. Abel, the younger brother, had a flock of sheep and became a shepherd.

THE STORY OF STEPHEN, THE FIRST MARTYR

STEPHEN THE FIRST MARTYR In the New Testament, in the book of Acts, you will learn how the members of the church in Jerusalem gave ...