An overwhelming impression of the historical books, otherwise known as the former prophets, is that the Lord (Yahweh) is indeed the Almighty God of heaven and earth, sovereign and all-powerful, faithful to His promises, and acts in accord with His word.
The books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings provide excellent historical continuity, while demonstrating amazing theological truth. These books reveal a truly astonishing history of Yahweh’s dealings with His covenant people, the nation of Israel. Beginning with Joshua, Israel is in the immediate context of the conclusion of the Torah. They are on the plains of Moab awaiting instruction and guidance to enter the land of Canaan as Yahweh promised (cf. Joshua 1:1). Throughout the book of Joshua, the sovereignty and power of Yahweh is seen in addition to His covenant faithfulness. The Torah remains a prime feature echoed by the prophets, judges, and kings, because disobedience and sin remain a consistent feature throughout the life of the people. When disobedience first befalls Israel under Joshua’s leadership, the punishment is prompt and severe. When Israel obeys, they experience blessing and protection from Yahweh. However, through each of the books, when Israel fails to obey, Yahweh is faithful to His word in that He allows their enemies to afflict and even rule over them. Amid general success, the conquest led by Joshua remains incomplete, which sets the stage for the cycle of disobedience and the crying out to Yahweh for deliverance, as seen in the book of Judges.
The book of Judges opens with a clear indication that Israel has not dispossessed the inhabitants of the land, but are still fighting against them. The second chapter of Judges illustrates the situation with Israel, wherein Yahweh declares, “I will never break My covenant with you … but you have not obeyed Me” (Judges 2:1-2). So a pattern begins wherein Israel does “evil in the sight of the Lord and serves other gods,” and as a consequence they become oppressed. Yahweh then raises “up judges who delivered them,” and they experienced rest for a time. Gross spiritual failure and immorality characterize much of the behavior of Israel, and its leaders, during the time of the Judges. But Yahweh remains faithful and is longsuffering.
The book of Samuel then shines a new light in the darkness of the days of Judges, when “there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 25:21). Beginning with a view of faithfulness and true commitment to Yahweh (1 Samuel 1:1-28; 2:1-11), the Lord ushers in a key prophet and judge: Samuel. Though Samuel was a righteous judge, the people continued in dissension and eventually demanded “a king … to judge us like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5). Saul, the first king typified the disobedient nature of Israel. Consequently, “the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul” (1 Samuel 16:14) and “selected a king … among [Jesse’s] sons” (1 Samuel 16:1). Now David was “a man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14), the one whom Yahweh made a covenant with regarding kingship over Israel (cf. 2 Samuel 7:8-17). Yet, even David sinned terribly and failed to honor the Lord consistently. Treachery and evil plague David and his family the rest of His days, concluding the book of Samuel with an emphasis on the Son to come, who will reign true and faithful in complete fulfillment of the promise made to David.
What appears to be the immediate fulfillment of this promise is seen in the opening chapters of the book of Kings. Solomon takes the throne and explicitly declares that “he” has fulfilled the word of the Lord as the son who would rise and establish a place for the name of Yahweh forever (cf. 1 Kings 8:20-21). But Solomon “turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been” (1 Kings 11:4). So the kingdom divides, and one king after another, with few exceptions, fails to obey, sins against Yahweh, and causes the people to sin. The conclusion of the book is a terrible scene in which the 10 northern tribes are exiled and scattered by the Assyrians, Jerusalem is destroyed, and Judah is taken captive to Babylon.