How to Study the Bible, by Watchman Nee


Some have classified God’s relationship with man in the Bible according to the following considerations: 1) God, 2) men in general, that is, humanity in general, 3) the individual, 4) the God-man, 5) God and man, 6) God in man, and 7) God over men. This is a good division. First, we have God; this is clear enough. Second, we have all men, that is, humanity. This includes Adam’s fall and sin and everything that is in Adam. Third, we have the individual, which includes individual sin and individual judgment. Fourth, we have the God-man, which we see in the Gospels; the Lord Jesus is the God-man. Fifth, we have God and man, which involves the truth of the gospel preached in the Epistles. Sixth, we have God in man, which points to all of God’s operations within man, involving the deeper truths in the Epistles. Seventh, we have God over men, which refers the kingdom age, when God will be King over all men. This includes all future events. We can adopt this plan and write down all the subjects in seven different notebooks.


The study of biblical chronology may not reap much immediate benefit. But at least it will help the reader to develop a careful habit in reading the Word. The Bible contains clear records of chronology. One can calculate the exact number of years from man’s creation to the birth of Jesus. From Adam to the flood is clearly 1,656 years. The Bible clearly gives us a record of the number of years for each period of history. Thus, we know the number of years from the time of the exodus to the entrance into Canaan. We know the number of years the Israelites lived under the judges, the number of years they lived under the kings, and the number of years from that time until the time of Daniel and from then to the time of the Lord Jesus. Some numbers are found in Stephen’s words. We even find a record of the number of years a certain person slept on his right and the number of years he slept on his left (Ezek. 4:4-6). From the time of the rebuilding of Jerusalem to the coming of the Lord Jesus was sixty-nine weeks (483 years). In this way, we can trace the number of years all the way from Adam to the Lord Jesus. Beginning from Genesis God has laid down a chronology, and this chronology has never been interrupted. In order to study the Bible, we have to learn to be a careful and attentive person.

In studying chronology we can discover things we ordinarily would not discover. For example, when we study the history of the patriarchs, we find that Adam was still alive at the time Enoch was walking on the earth. Adam had seen God, but Enoch had never seen God. We may think that the one who had seen God should have been raptured. But in the end Enoch was raptured; Adam was not raptured. This is a lesson to us. Further along we find the name Methuselah, which means “when he dies, something will happen.” In the year that Methuselah died, the flood came. This also shows the accuracy of the Bible.

Paul tells us in Galatians 3 that grace preceded the law; it did not come after the law. We have to know the chronology, and then we will see that the grace of promise was in existence 430 years before the coming of the law.

It is easy to find biblical chronology from the book of Genesis. After Genesis it is more difficult to dig out the chronology. Yet the difficulty lies only in man’s reluctance to study the Word. How many years are there from Israel’s exodus out of Egypt to Solomon’s building of the temple? First Kings 6:1 says, “Then in the four hundred eightieth year after the children of Israel had come forth out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of his reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv (this is the second month), Solomon began to build the house of Jehovah.” Yet Acts 13:18-22 says, “And for a time of about forty years He carried them as a nurse in the wilderness.…And after these things, for about four hundred and fifty years, He gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. And afterward…God gave them Saul…for forty years. And when He had deposed him, He raised up David for them as king.” All these years added together equal 530 years. When David’s reign of forty years (1 Kings 2:11) and the three years of Solomon’s reign before he built the temple are also added, the number of years comes to 573. Hence the record of 1 Kings has ninety-three fewer years than the record of Acts 13. What is the reason for this difference? According to the record of Judges, the children of Israel were taken captive five times. The first lasted eight years (3:8), the second eighteen years (v. 14), the third twenty years (4:2-3), the fourth seven years (6:1), and the last forty years (13:1). All of these years added together equal exactly ninety-three years. It seems that 1 Kings is short of ninety-three years. Actually, it purposely deleted the years of captivity. There is a need of the supplement of the record of Judges. The records of the Bible are like a chain; no link in the chain can be missing. Every link has to be present. God Himself has put these together, and all we have to do is find the links. Hence, the study of chronology is very useful in training us to be accurate.

(How to Study the Bible, Chapter 5, by Watchman Nee)