The Old Testament is, amongst other things, an assembly of 39 books covering various notable events in the Middle East, and particularly the Levant, from about 4000 BC to 395 BC. The Apocrypha, of 15 books, which is not included by the Anglicans, then takes us up to the birth of Christ.
It is worth remembering that such history in the earlier years, not only described true happenings but was also richly embellished with legends. Initially, these stories tended to be mainly transmitted by word of mouth. Indeed, the recording of early biblical history, as we understand it, was never a strong point with the Jews: the chroniclers were more concerned with religious significance than with factual information. Consequently, over the ages, these narratives became distorted and often exaggerated; in fact, varying versions of the same episode were repeated several times over. For example, the story of the First Temple in Jerusalem is to be found in the Books of Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Jeremiah and Ezekiel; and that of the second Temple in Ezra, Haggai, Zechariah and parts of the Apocrypha.
On the other hand, many learned and influential scholars today argue that accurate and substantiated Israelite history only began with the Solomonic Age. This is because, surprisingly, virtually no contemporary evidence exists in support of earlier events that affected the Israelites. For that, we need to turn to those Egyptian and Assyrian records that have survived.
The following study, based as it is upon the most recently published archaeological and textual information available, and centring upon these two Temples, at times differs from accounts in the Holy Bible. This, however, must not be interpreted as an attempt to belittle or scorn the latter, nor to diminish the spiritual messages that it contains.
Although the death of King Solomon in 931 BC was once regarded as the first secure and irreproachable date in Biblical history, it has become possible to move this datum backwards as far as 1540 BC; namely, 13 years before the birth of Moses. Thus, for the purpose of this presentation only, any date mentioned which is prior to the death of Solomon, will carry the suffix 'NC' instead of the usual 'BC'. Dates following Solomon's death may be regarded as fairly accurate; certainly to within one year.
The span and content of this overview is so huge that, for the sake of brevity, it has been necessary either to condense or exclude many anecdotes which, albeit absorbing in themselves, do not directly affect the main substance of this particular narrative.
(Numbers in brackets link to the appropriate Biblical references at Appendix B)