Modern Bible readers (myself included) struggle with understanding the meaning of literary structure. Partially because our minds are controlled by chapter and verse divisions, isolated Sunday school stories, and other impediments, we have a hard time seeing how the narratives in Scripture actually flow and relate to each other. The significance, weight, and resonances of certain moments can be lost on us altogether.
To remedy this problem in full would require nothing short of a rich education in biblical literacy (and literature in general), and that's beyond the scope of anything I could talk about now. But I want to draw attention to a medium which lacks this problem entirely: television.
Unlike literature, we moderns are very adept at implicitly absorbing the meaning of structure in TV series. The flow of seasons, with their premiers and finales and midpoints, are familiarly meaningful to us. We understand their rhythms and connections. When TV writers put certain events, or even certain locations or characters, in certain points along an arc, we get at a gut level what such features imply.
For this reason, I've thought for some time it could be illuminating to divide the stories of the Bible into seasons and episodes, marking out "premiers" and "finales" that shape the narrative. Such an attempt will be the project of several posts. My hope is that this will be illuminating as for anyone trying to understand the way the biblical storyline works. I'll start with a first two seasons here. These early bits might feel fairly obvious; my hope is that it will prove more helpful as we move on into less familiar material. (As always, this is provided without warranty. I know I'm not 100% satisfied with a couple bits of this first batch.)
Episode 1: Prologue
(Genesis 1-9) Creation, the fall, Cain and Abel, and the Flood.
Episode 2: A New Humanity
(Genesis 10-15) Abram's call and covenant
Episode 3: The Promised Seed
(Genesis 16-21) Ishmael and Isaac
Episode 4: The Second Generation
(Genesis 22-25:11) Isaac's sacrifice and marriage
Episode 5: Grasping at Heels
(Genesis 25:12-30:24) Jacob and Esau
Episode 6: The Fruit of Jacob
(Genesis 30:25-36) Jacob's children and Isaac's death
Episode 7: King of Dreams
(Genesis 37-50) Joseph
Episode 8: From the House of Bondage
(Exodus 1-17) The Exodus
Episode 9: The Law of the Covenant
(Exodus 18-40) The giving of the Law
Episode 10: Priestcraft
Episode 11: The March
(Numbers 1-13) Census, various laws, rebellions
Episode 12: Reformation
(Numbers 14-36) Wandering, rebellion, Balaam, census, Joshua
Episode 13: Covenant Renewal
(Deuteronomy 1-26) Moses recaps
Exodus 14: Moses' Farewell
(Deuteronomy 27-34) Moses' final addresses, Israel left by the Jordan