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Everything you need to know about the Old Testament

The Old Testament is the first section of the Bible and makes up about three-quarters of its material. It lays out the story of Creation, humanity’s fall into sin, and God’s covenant to rescue us from sin.

Its core is the love God has for each of us. He formed each of us and created a plan of salvation to rescue us.

The Old Testament helps us to understand the character of God—His love, His patience, and His care. It outlines the history of the Israelite people, showing us the results of sin and disobedience while providing instructions, warning, and hope.

Those principles still matter to us today.

As we learn from the experiences of men and women in the Old Testament, we catch a glimpse of the heart of God and His purpose for us.

Let’s answer some key questions about the Old Testament by digging into:

The Purpose of the Old Testament

You may be wondering: Why two testaments? Is it necessary for Christians to read the Old Testament and follow its teachings since we now have the New Testament?

Yes!

And here’s why.

Have you ever read a sequel before reading the book it is based on? If you did, you probably missed details that helped set the stage for the second story.

The New Testament is like a sequel to the Old Testament. The Old Testament provides the backdrop for the events in the New Testament—namely, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and the fulfillment of God’s promise to His church.

So how does it provide that backdrop?

  1. It shows us our origins.
  2. It helps us understand the beginning of the battle between good and evil.
  3. It foreshadows and illustrates God’s plan of salvation.
  4. It describes the history of God’s people and their longing for the Messiah.

Let’s look at these four ways in more detail.

The Old Testament shows us our origins

Seashore and green fields as sun shines in the horizon and we learn of God's Creation as mentioned in Genesis account.Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, begins by walking us through God’s creation of the world.

It shows the care and value God has for humans, whom He created in His image (Genesis 1:27).

He placed the first couple in a paradise, known as the Garden of Eden. He intended that they would enjoy its bliss, rule over the earth, and populate it. Like a loving Father, He never wanted them to experience sorrow, pain, or death.

Everything was “very good” (Genesis 1:31, NKJV). Adam and Eve spent time with God face to face.

So what changed?

A battle entered our world. We’ll look at that next.

It helps us understand the beginning of the battle between good and evil

Because God is love (1 John 4:8), He created us with the capacity to love as well.

And true love respects freedom of choice.

Eve plucking forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good & evil as we study humanity's fall in Genesis.At the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 3:1–19), Adam and Eve first encountered the choice between trusting God’s way and giving in to doubt.

They were confronted and tempted by the devil in the form of a serpent. They were to either choose to continue on God’s path, or believe the serpent and eat that fruit of that would make them “like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5, NKJV).

What did they choose?

Sadly, they believed the devil’s lies and doubted the character of God.

And any human being in their place would have done the same.

Genesis shows us how this decision led down a very difficult path. They indeed began to “know good and evil.”

Today, we still have to live with those results, in a world full of both good and evil. This tug-of-war between good and evil has played out over and over again since the time of the Old Testament:

  • The people in Noah’s time became so evil that God had to destroy the earth with a flood (Genesis 6–8).
  • People built the Tower of Babel in their attempts to outsmart God (Genesis 11).
  • During the time of the judges, the Israelites repeatedly rebelled against God. They did whatever seemed best for their own selfish interests (Judges).
  • David, God’s chosen king, fell into adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11).

And the list could go on.

But all was not lost!

God had a plan for His people to overcome evil.

It foreshadows God’s plan of salvation

As soon as the first couple had sinned, God gave them a glimmer of hope:

“And I will make enemies of you [the serpent] and the woman, and of your offspring and her Descendant; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise Him on the heel” (Genesis 3:15, NASB).

Adam, Eve, and their descendants knew this promise was about the coming Messiah. God would send a Deliverer to gain the victory over the serpent (bruise its head)!

In the process, He also would suffer (have His heel bruised).

The promise was the first hint of God’s plan to rescue humanity from sin. Adam and Eve’s decision had plunged humans into a war between good and evil, but the Messiah would be the ultimate winner of that battle and bring an end to it.

This plan was already in place during Old Testament times. The apostle Paul writes that this good news had been “promised before through His prophets in the holy Scriptures” (Romans 1:1-2, NKJV). The only Scripture available to Paul was the Old Testament.

In the book of Exodus, God outlined a sanctuary (temple) to be an object lesson of this plan (Exodus 25). In the sanctuary, the Israelites sacrificed animals as symbols of the ultimate sacrifice the Messiah would make.

Jesus came and fulfilled these sacrifices through His death on the cross for sin.

He lived out the plan of salvation foreshadowed in the Old Testament.

It gives an overview of God’s people from the first humans to the time of Jesus

Travelers on camels near pyramids and sun shinning across the horizon as we learn about deliverance of Israelites from EgyptThe Old Testament tells the story of the ancient Israelites, people chosen by God to be a light to the world. It highlights major historical and spiritual events and the lessons we can learn from them (1 Corinthians 10:11).

Abraham was the great patriarch of this nation. God promised to bless him and make him a blessing through his innumerable descendants (Genesis 12:1–3; 17:2). This was the first covenant God made with the people of Israel.

A couple generations later, a famine forced Jacob (the grandson of Abraham) and his sons to sojourn in Egypt. Unfortunately, they became enslaved there (Exodus 1).

But with God’s direction, Moses led the Israelites from Egypt and brought them to Mount Sinai. There, God renewed His covenant with them (Exodus 19–24).

Testament is actually another word for covenant, which is like an agreement or a contract.

At Mount Sinai, God spoke the Ten Commandments to the Israelites together with an exhibition of thunder, lightning, and smoke. The powerful display helped the Israelites understand that they were entering into a solemn agreement.

The Ten Commandments were the conditions for this covenant or contract between God and His people.

Moses took the “book of the covenant,” which contained the agreement, and read it to the Israelites. In response, the Israelites said, “All that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient” (Exodus 24:7, NKJV). This began what was known as the “old covenant.”

Unfortunately, this covenant soon failed.

And it wasn’t because of any problem on God’s part!

The problem was with the people: They had relied on themselves to obey. They forgot that they needed to rely on God.

Now that they realized this, God later gave them a new promise—that He would write His law in their hearts and minds (Ezekiel 36:26–27). This is known as the new covenant.

Other promises highlighted the coming of the Messiah to fulfill this covenant.1 The new covenant is often associated with the New Testament because Jesus became that Messiah who lived it out.

The Old Testament, on the other hand, shows us the weakness of the old covenant.

It documents the history of the Israelite nation and how they tried to obey the covenant in their own strength and failed. Many times, they walked away from God.

As a result, foreign nations came and invaded their land. Finally, the Babylonians besieged Jerusalem and destroyed it, taking the Hebrews into captivity.

Not until the end of the Old Testament (the book of Malachi) does the Hebrew nation fully come out of Babylonian captivity.

Throughout the events of the Old Testament, God’s people expressed their longing for the Messiah through:

This longing builds to the end of the Old Testament and then finds its fulfillment in Jesus and the New Testament.

Who Wrote the Old Testament?

Scroll in a museum as we study how the Old Testament writings were written and copied on scrolls in ancient Hebrew.The Old Testament, also known as the Hebrew Bible, was written by at least 40 different individuals. Scholars deduce that its writing process occurred over a large span of time, sometime between 1200 and 165 BC.

Moses is credited as the author of the first five books of the Old Testament (the Torah), though the Torah was probably compiled after his death.

It’s likely that the Bible stories were shared verbally and passed along through oral tradition, which was the common form of “documentation” at the time. Eventually, the words were written on scrolls in ancient Hebrew.

Some possible authors are:

  • Moses
  • Joshua
  • Samuel
  • David
  • Solomon
  • Various scribes
  • Various prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, etc.)

Some Old Testament books may have had more than one author, and were developed over a long period of time. (It took a lot longer to gather and verify information back then!)

Like Moses being credited with the Torah, David was assumed to have written the Psalms.

But here’s what’s most important to remember:

God inspired all Scripture. He called these authors to share their observations and spiritual revelations.

The ultimate Author is identified early in Bible scripture, starting with Moses.

“And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and rules, that you might do them in the land that you are going over to possess” (Deuteronomy 4:14, ESV).

Ezra is also very aware of who the real author of Scripture is.

“…this Ezra came up from Babylon; and he was a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given. The king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him” (Ezra 7:6, NKJV).

This is confirmed in the New Testament, which reminds us:

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NKJV).

Major Themes and Lessons in the Old Testament

The Old Testament is not just a document of events. It is a story that shows us many themes and lessons, including the following:

  • The core of God’s character and law is love. Love toward Him, and love toward others.
  • Relying on mere human ability, or human-made idols, is pointless.
  • Things get messy when people turn away from God.
  • God comes through for those who have faith in Him.

Let’s expand on these lessons:

The core of God’s character and law is love

Number 10 on a rock as we study how the the ten commandments or the Law of God is law of love and reflection of His characterOne key theme throughout the Old Testament (and the whole Bible) is the character of God. When the serpent tempted Eve, he insinuated that God was selfish.

The battle between good and evil on this earth is a battle over whether to trust God and His character or the devil and his character.

The Old Testament shows us God’s character of goodness, love, and mercy (Exodus 34:6)

God’s law is also a reflection of who He is. Many words that describe God’s character also describe the law:

  • Perfect (Psalm 18:30; 19:7)
  • Pure (Psalm 18:26; 19:8)
  • True (Psalm 19:9; Jeremiah 10:10)
  • Righteous (Exodus 9:27; Psalm 19:9)
  • Holy (Leviticus 11:44; Romans 7:12)

The first four of the Ten Commandments are principles of love to God. The last six are principles of love to humanity (Exodus 20:1–17). Jesus Himself confirmed this (Matthew 22:34–40).

God wanted these principles to be in the hearts of His people. Moses equated keeping God’s commandments with loving Him:

“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?” (Deuteronomy 10:12–13, NKJV).

Turning to idols or human ability is pointless

People gathered for a musical concert as we learn how trusting in our own abilities or talents is a form of idol worship.Because Adam and Eve chose to doubt God’s way, they brought a cascade of evil on all humanity.

In their power, humans cannot overcome this evil.

The Old Testament illustrates this idea through the physical enemies of the Israelites. Whenever the Israelites would reject God and turn to idols, they would lose the battles against their enemies (both external and internal).

The same would happen when they trusted in their own abilities instead of trusting God.

The following stories show the emptiness of trusting idols and human ability:

  • When the Israelites went to battle against a small town called Ai, they thought they had an easy win ahead of them. But they had failed to consult God first. Otherwise, they would have found out about the defiance and disobedience in their camp. As a result, they were defeated (see Joshua 7).
  • During the time of the judges, the Israelites would often let themselves be influenced by the nations around them, which led to them worshiping those nations’ “gods.” By turning their allegiance away from God, they became vulnerable to their enemies (Judges 2:12–15).
  • King Saul took matters into his own hands and trusted in himself instead of waiting for God’s instructions through the prophet Samuel, as he had been told to do (1 Samuel 13:1–12). This choice eventually led to King Saul’s demise (1 Samuel 13:13–14).

Isaiah 42:17 summarizes this lesson:

“They will be turned back and be utterly put to shame, who trust in idols, who say to cast metal images, ‘You are our gods’” (NASB).

Things get messy when people turn away from God

Tree surrounded by water under a dark and cloudy sky during a storm as we learn more about Noah and the Global flood.The serpent in the Garden implied that God’s parameters were overly restrictive, and unnecessary to a happy life (Genesis 3:5).

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

Sin is breaking God’s law of love. In short, it’s selfishness. It’s when God is pushed away.

And after Eden, now with a weakness toward sin, humans can’t stop the selfishness in their hearts without the help of God and His principles.

The history of the Old Testament proves it. Human nature is relentless.

Before the flood, people tried to live free of God’s principles. They wanted ultimate control.

It became so bad that every thought of their hearts was evil (Genesis 6:5). God had to destroy the earth before they destroyed themselves by violence (Genesis 6:11).

Likewise, the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were on the brink of destruction because of their evil practices—including rape and sexual immorality (Genesis 18–19).

Things didn’t get much better during the time of the judges.

The writer of Judges records that the people began to set their own standards for right or wrong (Judges 17:6). And when selfishness is the motivating factor, immorality reigns (Judges 19).

Sadly, the same story repeated itself throughout the rest of Israel’s history. Whenever they turned from God, they didn’t improve—they degenerated.

The battle between good and evil was playing out.

God comes through for those who have faith in Him

In the words of Isaiah, “The Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save” (Isaiah 59:1, ESV).

God has the power to deliver His people—both from sin and their enemies—if they are willing to depend completely on Him.

Faith was, and still is, the key.

When the Israelites fled Egypt and came to the Red Sea, God parted it for them (Exodus 14).

All they had to do was trust Him.

The same was the case when the Israelites were preparing to enter the land of Canaan. They were going to face enemy nations, but Moses assured them:

“The LORD your God is He who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory” (Deuteronomy 20:4, ESV).

When God’s people had faith in His power, He came through for them as we notice in the following stories:

  • Gideon defeated the Midianites with an army of only 300 (Judges 6–7).
  • The Israelites under King Jehoshaphat went into battle singing. They were victorious over their enemies without having to even engage in combat (2 Chronicles 20).
  • God influenced the Persian kings to release the Israelites from captivity (Ezra 1; Nehemiah 1).

And today, He still wants to empower us in our battles against sin.

Is the God of the Old Testament the same as the God of the New Testament?

According to the New Testament, Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8, NKJV). But this idea isn’t new; the Old Testament expresses God’s unchanging nature too.

The book of Malachi records God speaking about judgment against sinners (Malachi 3:5). In the same breath, God promises that He will return to those who choose Him again (verse 7).

The verse in between?

God says in Malachi 3:6, “I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” (NKJV)

Here, God is declaring His steadfast patience and compassion, even toward those who have walked away from Him and deserve judgment. His character of love does not change.

But how do we understand His love when He seems to be a stern judge in the Old Testament? How about His wrath?

Let’s look at the way God expresses these qualities.

God’s Sternness

Silhouette of a father holding his child as we learn how God cares for us more dearly than parents care for their children.Some of the stories in the Old Testament can give us the sense that God is harsh and dictatorial toward His people—that He will strike them dead if they don’t obey every little detail.

But that idea misses the big picture.

How about all the times He was merciful with them when they rebelled against Him?

The prophet Nehemiah looked back on the Israelites’ journey from Egypt and said:

“They refused to obey,
And they were not mindful of Your wonders
That You did among them.
But they hardened their necks,
And in their rebellion
They appointed a leader
To return to their bondage.
But You are God,
Ready to pardon,
Gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger,
Abundant in kindness,
And did not forsake them” (Nehemiah 9:17, NKJV).

God treats us so much better than we deserve (Psalm 103:10)! He is known for His mercy (2 Samuel 24:14).

And even what seems to be stern enforcement was God’s desire for His people to understand the consequences of sin.

Think of God as a parent who wants the best for His children.

If a mother or father notices that their child is about to run across the street in front of a car, they will yell to stop the child. Yelling may seem harsh, but it is necessary for the urgent circumstances and the child’s level of maturity.

It’s similar to the Israelites.

Having just come out of Egypt, they were a primitive nation that had some maturing to do.

To get their attention, God sometimes had to instruct them in ways that might feel harsh or abrupt to us. But He did so to keep them from hurting themselves or others.

This is why Proverbs 3:11–12 says, “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (ESV).

God’s wrath

Child in anger and pain as we study how God deeply loves and cares for His children and is even angry on those who hurt them.Then, there’s the question of the destruction of the wicked. God destroyed everyone on the earth through a flood. He directed the killing of whole nations—including women and children.

How were those fair?

Consider this:

If you saw someone abusing a child, would it make you angry? Would you want to defend that child?

No doubt you would!

And your anger would be justified!

God had reason to be angry with the Canaanite nations. They had engaged in incest, bestiality, and other sexual sins. They were even sacrificing their children to their gods (Leviticus 18:2–30).

God had reason to be angry with the people before the flood too. He knew that they would destroy others and themselves if allowed to continue their violence.

It grieved His heart (Genesis 6:6).

But He didn’t destroy them without warning. He sent Noah to be a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5) so that everyone had an opportunity to escape the flood. People were able to choose whether to enter the ark or not. If they refused to enter or allow their children to enter, who was at fault?2

When God was ready to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham pleaded with Him.

Wouldn’t God save the city if there were even ten people who honored Him? He said He would (Genesis 18)!

God is all about giving people the opportunity to choose Him instead of choosing selfishness and evil.

When speaking of the Amorites, a heathen nation during the time of Abraham, He said that “the iniquity [rebellion] of the Amorites is not yet complete” (Genesis 15:16, ESV). They had not rejected Him so completely that there wasn’t still an opportunity to live for the true God instead of their own gods.

Remember, this same God in the Old Testament was the one who promised a Messiah to save His people. He knew that His Son would die (Isaiah 53).

And He chose to go through with it.

Ultimately, He wants everyone to accept the salvation He offers.

But sometimes, there comes a point where God can’t do anything more because people have rejected every last offer to change. Then, out of love, He respects their choice and allows them to experience the consequences of evil.

All the while, it pains His heart.

When God’s people accused Him of being unfair, He pleaded with them,

“For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies. Therefore turn and live!” (Ezekiel 18:31–32, NKJV).

To understand more of the heart of God for all of humanity, read this article on God’s plan to save us.

Can we find Jesus and the plan of salvation in the Old Testament?

Lamb as we study how Jesus Christ, as prophesied in Isaiah 53-7, is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.Yes, we do find Jesus in the Old Testament. Jesus Himself said that all the Scriptures speak of Him.3

Jesus is a member of the Godhead. For this reason, His presence is implied in the first words of the Old Testament (Genesis 1:1). He was with the Father and the Holy Spirit for the creation of the world, as the New Testament later attests (John 1:1–3).

In John 8:58, Jesus calls Himself the I AM, which was a special name used by God in the Old Testament to describe His infinite existence. By taking this name, Jesus identified Himself as the one who spoke to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3:4–14).

He was also the one who was with Israel as they traveled to Canaan (1 Corinthians 10:4).

But most importantly, He was the promised Messiah that would come to deal with the problem of evil and sin (Genesis 3:15).

When Adam and Eve doubted God’s way, they accepted the devil’s way of selfishness and evil. If it hadn’t been for God’s mercy, they would have had to face the consequences of their actions on their own.

But God had a plan already.

He would send His Son to be the Deliverer (Messiah) of His people. This Deliverer would come and live a perfect life and die the death that humans deserved to die. In this way, those who accepted Jesus’ death in place of theirs would have the opportunity to live forever without sin. We call this the plan of salvation.

In the New Testament, this plan is clearly spelled out with Jesus as its focal point.

But in the Old Testament, prophecies give hints of Jesus’ birth, life, and death.4 Scholars estimate that over 300 prophecies foretold the Messiah.

The people of that time didn’t know the name Jesus. Instead, they knew Him as God’s Son, the Messiah, or the Savior.

One of the greatest illustrations of the plan of salvation was the special sanctuary service that God set up after the Israelites came out of Egypt (Exodus 25:8). In this system, the Israelites would sacrifice animals—often a lamb or a goat—when they sinned against God (Leviticus 4:32).

This animal took the place of the sinner, symbolizing the way Jesus would come and die.

Jesus was going to become that perfect sacrificial lamb.

Isaiah 53:7 tells us:

“He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter.” (NKJV)

The Messiah foreshadowed in the Old Testament is the Jesus of the New Testament.

We find glimpses of the plan of salvation through the Old Testament’s symbols and prophecies; but in the New Testament, Jesus lives them out.

God’s promises in the Old Testament

Eagle soaring with wings spread, as we are reminded of God's promises in Isaiah 40-31 for those who wait on the Lord.The Old Testament has many wonderful promises that apply to our lives.

Though God gave the promises to His people then, many of those words have a spiritual application for us today.

We may not need assurance of victory over enemy nations; but we need assurance of victory over sin. We may not be journeying to an earthly Canaan, but we’re looking forward to heaven.

Here are some promises you can claim:

He assures us that we don’t have to fear because He is with us:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9, NKJV).

He says that He will give us strength:

“But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31, NKJV).

He will keep us in perfect peace:

“You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3, NKJV).

He has remarkable plans for our lives:

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV).

His love for us doesn’t change:

“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you” (Jeremiah 31:3, NKJV).

The Old Testament Is Relevant Today

The Old Testament is the story of the ancient Israelites.

But it’s also the story of humanity—our story.

It shows how sin strained our relationship with God.

Even so, God doesn’t give up on us. He promised Jesus—the Ultimate Sacrifice to pay our penalty.

God longed to restore the relationship with His people, the Israelites. He wanted to walk among them and be their God (Leviticus 26:12).

And the Old Testament, together with the New Testament, points to the relationship God longs to have with us now.

As we read the Old Testament, we find encouragement, even in the darkest of stories. God’s patience is evident throughout. His love is present in the Psalms (Psalms 139). His wisdom speaks through the Proverbs (Proverbs 9:10). His authority shines in the book of Job (Job 9:1–31).

So take some time in the Old Testament. With an open heart, read it slowly and look for ways in which you see the love of God. Keep Jesus as the focus.

You’ll be surprised at the insights you find!

What Books Are in the Old Testament?

The Old Testament of most Christian Bibles contains 39 books that can be divided into four major sections:

  • The Law (Five Books)
  • History (Twelve Books)
  • Poetry (Five Books)
  • Prophecy (Five Major Prophets and Twelve Minor Prophets)

The following list gives an overview of the books in each section.

The Pentateuch

The first five books of the Bible are known as the Law, the Pentateuch, or the Torah. They are all written by Moses.

  1. Genesis – Genesis is a book of beginnings. It outlines Creation and the fall into sin and then shows the events leading up to the start of the Israelite nation.
  2. Exodus – God sets the Israelites free from slavery and establishes them as His special people. He reveals His name, His law, and His covenant to them.
  3. Leviticus – Leviticus means “concerning the Levites” (the Israelite priests). It gave the Israelites guidance in worshiping God and becoming holy like Him.
  4. Numbers – Numbers documents the journey of Israel in the wilderness before they entered the Land of Canaan. We see their rebellion and God’s judgment, mercy, and guidance.
  5. Deuteronomy – In Deuteronomy (“repetition of the Law”), Moses reiterates God’s law and covenant with His people.

History

The history books trace major events in the nation of Israel from the time that it was established in Canaan until its release from Babylonian captivity.

Scholars believe that scribes played a significant role in recording these accounts. Jewish tradition also credits 1 and 2 Kings to Jeremiah and 1 and 2 Chronicles to Ezra.

  1. Joshua – The book of Joshua, possibly written by Joshua himself, tells the story of the Israelites taking possession of the Promised Land (Canaan) and dividing it among their tribes.
  2. Judges – Judges shows the sin cycle of the Israelites: They turn from God and are conquered by a foreign nation. While in captivity, they repent, and God sends a judge to deliver them.
  3. Ruth – Ruth is an account of a young woman who had true faith in God during the period of the judges. Though she wasn’t an Israelite, she joined God’s people and became part of the lineage of Jesus.
  4. 1 Samuel – 1 Samuel documents Israel’s demand for a king and Samuel’s anointing of Saul, who later turns from God. It shows how Samuel then anointed David and how David rose to the pinnacle of his reign.
  5. 2 Samuel – With David as ruler, God prospered the nation of Israel and confirmed His promises.
  6. 1 Kings – First Kings shows the rise and fall of rulers within Israel and the involvement of God through the prophets. It begins after David’s death with Solomon’s rise to kingship.
  7. 2 Kings – Second Kings continues the history of God’s people who have divided into separate nations: Judah and Israel. Both struggle with faith and obedience and are eventually forced into exile.
  8. 1 Chronicles – First Chronicles is a retelling of Israel’s history during the time of the kings.
  9. 2 Chronicles – Second Chronicles continues Israel’s story and tells of the return of the Jews from captivity.
  10. Ezra – The prophet Ezra records the return of God’s people from captivity and their rebuilding of the temple.
  11. Nehemiah – Nehemiah tells of the struggles he and Israel faced in re-establishing Jerusalem.
  12. Esther – Esther, a Jew, becomes queen of Persia and saves the entire Jewish nation.

Poetry

  1. Job – Job, a faithful servant of God who lived around the time of Abraham, suffers by the hand of Satan but never loses faith in God. God rewards his faith by restoring his health and life. This account may have been written by Moses.
  2. Psalms – The Psalms are sacred poems and prayers to God, written for the purpose of worship. King David of Israel wrote the majority of them, though Moses and various scribes contributed also.
  3. Proverbs – Proverbs, the wise sayings of King Solomon, guide people in practical ways to live for God.
  4. Ecclesiastes – Solomon looks back on his life and mistakes. He shares the keys to faith and contentment, as well as the pitfalls that can cause us to stumble.
  5. The Song of Solomon (also called Song of Songs) – Song of Solomon, also authored by King Solomon, celebrates the joys of love, marriage, and sex. It illustrates Jesus’ love for His bride (the church) too.

Prophecy

The prophecy books can be divided into two sections. The major prophets consist of five books that are fairly large and apply to a broad audience. They are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel.

The minor prophets consist of twelve books that are shorter and more specific in their messages: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

Each book carries the name of its author.

  1. Isaiah – The prophet Isaiah warns of the coming judgments and the Assyrian captivity. He also includes poetic prophecies that point to the Messiah and God’s restoration of the earth.
  2. Jeremiah – Jeremiah warns of the coming captivity of Judah to the Babylonians. Despite the exile, Jeremiah urges the people to seek God and prophesies that they will return to their land.
  3. Lamentations – Jeremiah grieves over the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC while offering hope in God for the future.
  4. Ezekiel – The prophet Ezekiel teaches God’s authority over Creation and history, providing insight and comfort to Israel while in captivity.
  5. Daniel- Daniel presents the hope God provided His people while they were in Babylonian captivity. It contains prophecies of future events down to the end of history, showing how God will ultimately triumph over evil and set up His kingdom.
  6. Hosea – The book of Hosea was written right before the Israelite nation came to its end through Assyrian captivity. Despite Israel’s disloyalty to God, Hosea displays God’s loyalty and great love for His people.
  7. Joel – Joel alerts Judah to God’s coming judgment. God promises mercy to those who seek it.
  8. Amos – Amos wrote this message during Israel’s reign under Kings Uzziah and Jeroboam II. He tells of judgments that are coming to Israel.
  9. Obadiah – The prophet Obadiah urges the people of Edom to repent.
  10. Jonah – The prophet Jonah preaches to the city of Nineveh about the judgment coming upon them. They listen and turn to God, asking forgiveness for their sins. God forgives them while also trying to teach Jonah to have a spirit of mercy.
  11. Micah – Micah predicts the devastation of Judah and foreshadows the coming Savior.
  12. Nahum – Nahum’s name means “comfort.” This prophet brings comfort to Nineveh despite God’s necessary discipline.
  13. Habakkuk – Habakkuk is the prophet’s monologue to God about unfairness and misery in the world.
  14. Zephaniah – Zephaniah announces God’s judgment. He offers hope of restoration for those who seek God.
  15. Haggai – When people put God first, they are blessed. These prophecies talk about the rebuilding of the temple after Judah’s captivity under Babylon.
  16. Zechariah – Zechariah encourages the Jews in their work of rebuilding the temple after the Babylonian exile.
  17. Malachi – Malachi means “my messenger.” He spoke to the Israelites after their return from captivity. He calls for repentance and points them to the coming Messiah.
  1. Micah 5:2, Isaiah 9:6–7; Isaiah 53 []
  2. Hodge, Bodie. “Isn’t the God of the Old Testament Harsh, Brutal, and Downright Evil?” Answers in Genesis, March 27, 2015. https://answersingenesis.org/who-is-god/isnt-the-god-of-the-old-testament-harsh-brutal-and-downright-evil/ []
  3. John 5:39; Luke 24:27, 53; Acts 26:22–23 []
  4. Psalm 2:7; Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 53; Micah 5:2; Malachi 4:2–3 []

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