Literary Genre: Historical Narrative

Literary genre is a category of written works. Recognizing the type of writing prepares one for how to read and observe the text. For example, historical narratives are stories of what God did to and through people. The stories may not have a moral lesson, because they record history whether good or evil.

There are lots of examples of this genre: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings, 1&2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Jonah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Haggai, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts.

When you encounter historical narratives, you can read them literally and take the natural meaning of the words.

The stories usually emphasize God's nature and revelation as He interacts with human beings from the beginning with Creation and to the end in the process of fulfilling His promises to Abraham. Some stories may be difficult to understand, because God may not explain how and why He did certain things.

How should you read a historical narrative?

  • Read each story as a unit.

  • Understand the plot.

  • Study the character(s). Some characters may be bad examples, but observing what not to do can be just as important as what to do.

  • Look for accounts of the same event in other books and observe the additional details that could help you understand what is happening.

  • Because the stories are so true to life, they can help us understand our own lives.

Asiatic statue

Other religions have supernatural events and base their "bible" on stories that are mythical and fictional. How do you know the stories of the Bible, including supernatural events, are historical and true?

There is archaeological evidence that substantiate people, places and events. For example, one of the oldest and significant stories in the Bible is the Exodus that indicated the early presence of the nation of Israel in Egypt.

An Egyptian statue was discovered in Goshen featuring an Asiatic skin tone and "mushroom" hair style usually associated with people from the area of Canaan. The statue's clothing also featured a multi-colored tunic.

The Bible records this feature of Joseph: Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his other sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a multicolored tunic. (Gen 37:3)

The statue also had a throw stick on one shoulder which was a significant symbol of political leadership. Thus this statue of a person from Canaan was in some important leadership role in Egypt.

There is geographic evidence that substantiate an event.

The Waterway of Joseph

The Waterway of Joseph (Bahr Yussef) can be seen today as a canal connecting the Nile River with Lake Moeris in the area of the Faiyum Oasis. No one knows how this 200 mile waterway came to commemorate a non-Egyptian name, but its function was to: a) control the flooding of the Nile River, b) regulate the level of the Nile River in the summer, and c) provide irrigation for the immediate area. The Waterway of Joseph is dated to the reign of Amenemhat III and the early rise of the city of Avaris in the region of Goshen.

Nile flood records, discovered in 1844, were inscriptions on a cliff face marking the flood heights of the Nile. During the reign of Amenemhat III (12th dynasty), consecutive years were found to have floods 9 meters over normal or 4x normal volume of water.

The construction of the Canal of Joseph reclaimed over 150,000 acres of the marshy Faiyum Oasis. Amenemhat III would celebrate this accomplishment and chose to be entombed in a pyramid in Dahshūr nearby.

The only ancient historical record that may be associated with this canal is found in the Bible, and it is the narrative of Joseph.

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