Salvation History Timeline

The Jesse Tree is based on the salvation history timeline – the recounting of God’s love for all people, evidenced by His work in human history from creation through the birth of Jesus.

There are SO many great timelines out there! We love the Great Adventure Kids by Emily and Jeff Cavins (available through Ascension Press), if you are looking for something. But you don’t need to purchase a system in order to understand, know, and use a salvation history timeline.

History is a recounting of past events and how they influence us today. Salvation history is a remembering how God was present in particular ways at particular times in human history, of how His love for us manifests itself in a plan to bring us to Himself – a plan that always leads to Jesus.

Starting a Jesse Tree tradition can feel overwhelming. There are SO many differing symbols, events, and people to include. Some instructions use 25 symbols (one for each day in December, like an Advent calendar); some have has little as four (one for each week of Advent); and everything in between! Really, you can make it work for YOU!

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I think AGE is the biggest factor in planning your Jesse Tree. If you have a houseful of younger children, 25 symbols will likely be overwhelming (to you and to the kiddos). The best way to go about it is to research a few different suggestions, then decide what symbols will mean most to your household’s understanding. If you do it year after year, you can start small and get familiar with a basic timeline, then add a few extra things every year – deepening understanding.

Here are a few of my suggestions for understanding a timeline of salvation history:

Salvation History Timeline for Young Children

There are THREE basic points to begin to teach young children:

  • Creation/Adam and Eve (you don’t have to put a year on it)
  • King David (about 1000 years before Jesus)
  • Jesus

These three are a great way to reference Bible events and stories. For example, if you are reading the story of Daniel and the Lions’ Den, you could preface it by saying, “Before Jesus was born, but after the days of King David”. Similarly, if you are talking about Noah’s Ark, you could say, “Long before King David, sometime after the days of Adam and Eve, there lived a man named Noah.”

Old Testament history is long and complicated. These three pins in the timeline are a good way to begin placing other events. Of course, three events is not nearly enough for a Jesse Tree! So, here is a list that would give you TWO symbols a week – manageable for younger children or busy households!

2 Symbols a Week

  • Creation/Adam and Eve – week 1 (God’s love created the world – symbol – apple and snake; the Earth)
  • Noah – week 1 (God’s covenant with all people – symbol – a rainbow)
  • Abraham – week 2 (first Patriarch; God’s promise to make Abraham’s descendants as numerous as the stars) – symbol – a star; a sky full of stars)
  • Moses – week 2 – (God leads His people out of slavery. Symbol – 10 Commandments)
  • Ruth – week 3 – (Ruth’s devotion to Naomi and adoption of the ways and God of Israel leads her to become the great-grandmother of King David)
  • King David – week 3 (God chooses David to be king; David is a “man after God’s own heart”; David unites Israel into a kingdom; the house of David becomes the royal house of Israel. Symbol – sceptre; royal crown; purple robe)
  • Jonah – week 4 – (kids are so familiar with Jonah and the whale, it is a good one to put in there. God will always take care of us. Symbol – whale!)
  • Isaiah – week 4 (Isaiah has many prophecies concerning the coming Messiah. Symbols – tree stump/stump of Jesse; lion and lamb)
  • Jesus (symbols – manger; baby; star over a stable)

3 Symbols a Week

  • Week 1
  • Creation (God created the world. Symbol – Earth)
  • Adam and Eve (The First Sin. Symbol – snake and apple)
  • Noah (Noah listened to God, even though it seemed crazy at first. God’s covenant with all peoples to never flood the whole earth again. Symbol – rainbow)
  • Week 2
  • Abraham (see 2 Symbols/week Plan)
  • Joseph (God has a plan, even when all seems lost. Though Joseph was sold into slavery through the treachery of his brothers, God saves them all through Joseph. Symbol – coat of many colors)
  • Moses (God called Moses to lead Hebrews out of Egypt to the Promised Land. Symbol – 10 Commandments; Red Sea)
  • Week 3
  • Judges (after entry into the Promised Land and before the days of the kings, Israel was ruled by a series of 12 Judges. Symbol – 12 chairs; or pick one Judge and his/her symbol)
  • Ruth (see 2 Symbols/week Plan)
  • David (see 2 Symbols/week Plan)
  • Week 4
  • Jonah (see 2 Symbols/week Plan)
  • Isaiah (see 2 Symbols/week Plan)
  • Daniel (faithful to God even though living in exile. Symbol – lion)
  • Christmas Eve or Day – Jesus!

4 Symbols a Week

  • Week 1
  • Creation (see 2 Symbols/week Plan)
  • Adam/Eve/First Sin (see 3 Symbols/week Plan)
  • Noah (see 2 Symbols/week Plan)
  • Abraham (see 2 Symbols/week Plan)
  • Week 2
  • Isaac (son of Abraham, Patriarch of Israel. Story – Sacrifice of Isaac. Symbol – ram)
  • Jacob (son of Isaac; Patriarch of Israel. Story – Jacob and Esau. Jacob dreams of angels and ladder. Symbol – ladder)
  • Joseph (see 3 Symbols/week Plan)
  • Moses (see 2 Symbols/week Plan)
  • Week 3
  • Judges (see 3 Symbols/week Plan)
  • Ruth (see 2 Symbols/week Plan)
  • David (see 2 Symbols/week Plan)
  • Isaiah (see 2 Symbols/week Plan)
  • Week 4
  • Elizabeth and Zechariah (the fulfillment of the covenant begins. Symbol – mother and child; Scroll and quill.)
  • St. John the Baptist (Forerunner of the Messiah. Symbol – hairy shirt; scallop shell)
  • Mary (Mother of the Messiah. She believed God’s promises. Symbol – white lily; the word “yes” or “fiat”)
  • Shepherds (the first to hear the Good News of the Messiah. Symbol – sheep)
  • Christmas Eve or Day – Jesus!

5 Symbols a Week

  • Week 1
  • Creation (see 2 Symbols/week Plan)
  • Adam/Eve/First Sin (see 3 Symbols/week Plan)
  • Noah (see 2 Symbols/week Plan)
  • Tower of Babel (a turning away from God. Symbol – a leaning tower)
  • Abraham (see 2 Symbols/week Plan)
  • Week 2
  • Isaac (son of Abraham, Patriarch of Israel. Story – Sacrifice of Isaac. Symbol – ram)
  • Jacob (son of Isaac; Patriarch of Israel. Story – Jacob and Esau. Jacob dreams of angels and ladder. Symbol – ladder)
  • Joseph (see 3 Symbols/week Plan)
  • Moses (the call of Moses. Symbol – a burning bush)
  • The 10 Commandments (the Exodus and Desert wanderings. Symbols – 2 stone tablets)
  • Week 3
  • Judges (see 3 Symbols/week Plan)
  • Ruth (see 2 Symbols/week Plan)
  • David (see 2 Symbols/week Plan)
  • Elijah (representative of the prophets. God calls Elijah to bring the people back to worship of God. Elijah and the still, small voice. Taken up to heaven by fiery chariot. Symbol – stone altar; fire on stone altar; mountain; fiery chariot)
  • Isaiah (see 2 Symbols/week Plan)
  • Week 4
  • Elizabeth and Zechariah (the fulfillment of the covenant begins. Symbol – mother and child; Scroll and quill.)
  • St. John the Baptist (Forerunner of the Messiah. Symbol – hairy shirt; scallop shell)
  • Gabriel (messenger of God. Came to Zechariah and Mary and Joseph)
  • Mary (Mother of the Messiah. She believed God’s promises. Symbol – white lily; the word “yes” or “fiat”)
  • Shepherds (the first to hear the Good News of the Messiah. Symbol – sheep)
  • Christmas Eve or Day – Jesus!

Of course, there are so many more symbols to chose or to add. I think an intriguing Jesse Tree would be a look at salvation history through the lives of women, from Eve to the “New Eve”, or Mary. I can think of 12 solid choices, creating 3 symbols per week for 4 weeks:

  • Eve (Mother of all the living. First to eat the apple/sin. Symbol – apple)
  • Sarah (Wife of Abraham; Mother of Isaac; Mother of the Jewish Nation. Symbol – a tent)
  • Rebekah (Wife of Isaac; mother of Jacob. Symbol – a well)
  • Rachel (wife of Jacob; mother of Joseph. Symbol – a camel)
  • Jochebed (mother of Moses. She hid her baby from the Egyptian slaughter of infants, and entrusted his safety to the river. Symbol – a river basket)
  • Miriam – (sister of Moses; leader of Israelites. As a child, she kept watched over Moses in the river until he was safe. She helped Moses to lead the people out of Egypt. She led a song of praise after the crossing of the Red Sea. Symbol – musical notes)
  • Rahab (mother of Boaz; a “woman of ill repute” in Jericho at the time the Israelites took possession of the Promised Land. Hid and helped Israelite spies. Married into the Israelites, and became the mother of Boaz and the great-great-grandmother of King David, thus becoming part of Jesus’s genealogical line. Symbol – a red rope)
  • Deborah (one of the 12 Judges of the Israelites. A prophet, judge, and a just and wise woman. She was known for judging from under a palm tree. Symbol – palm tree)
  • Ruth (Moabite woman who married an Israelite who immigrated to Moab. After her husband’s death, and that of her father-in-law and brother-in-law, Ruth devoted herself to her mother-in-law, Naomi. Ruth left her homeland, her gods, and her family to return with Naomi back to the Israelites. Ruth adopted all the ways of Israel, found a second marriage with Boaz (Rahab’s son), and became the mother of Obed and the great-grandmother of King David)
  • Hannah (mother of Samuel. Samuel was the last judge of Israel and anointed both Saul and, later, David, as king. Hannah prayed to bear a child, and promised to dedicate her child to God. As God was faithful to His promises, so was she. Symbol – praying hands; mother and child)
  • Judith (one of the Deuterocanonical books of the Bible. This story is not meant to be taken as every line is historical truth, as there are many inaccuracies, but a retelling of a real story that became something of a legend of a real Israelite women who saved her people. When her town was under siege from General Holofernes of King Nebuchadnezzar, Judith managed to charm the General into a sense of security, then beheaded him by her own hands. Strong, wise, and brave, Judith was revered as a woman of action. Symbol – a sword)
  • Esther (In the days of exile, Esther was chosen as Queen of Persia. Esther was brave and faithful, and through her, all the Jewish people in Persia were saved. Symbol – crown; sceptre)
  • Elizabeth (Wife of Zechariah; mother of St. John the Baptist. When the angel Gabriel visited Zechariah to tell him the good news that, although getting older, Elizabeth would have a son who would be the prophet of the Messiah, Zechariah had trouble believing Gabriel. Elizabeth believed and rejoiced. When Mary, pregnant with Jesus, later visited her, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and recognized both the Messiah and his mother. Symbol – mother and child)
  • Mary (wife of Joseph; mother of Jesus. She who believed. Mary has been called “the New Eve” by early Christian writers, for she said yes to God, where Eve doubted and fell. Symbol – an angel; white lily; stable)
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