The Books of the Bible: The Old Testament
is the collection of books comprising the sacred scripture of the Hebrews and recording their history as the chosen people; the first half of the Christian Bible. After you review a short synopsis of each book, take a look at some INSIGHTS TO SCRIPTURE so you can more than “know” – you will start to “grow”.
“Beginnings.” Takes us from creation through the establishment of the covenant with Abraham, and ends with the death of Joseph in Egypt.
- What’s the first indication that God would provide a solution to the sin problem? Read Messiah to find out.
- How did Abraham negotiate for Sodom and Gomorrah? Read Abraham-Master Negotiator to find out.
- Read about Joseph’s dream in A Dream That Won’t Die – Do YOU have such a dream?
- Is Evolution really true? Read Evolution Revolution to find out.
The main story is the deliverance of Israel from the bondage of Egypt, the Ten Commandments, and the establishment of the Tabernacle.
The rules of the law relating to every day life lived out in holiness before God. A key word is “holy” which appears more than 80 times.
- Does the Bible recommend New Year’s resolutions? See Not Your Typical New Year’s Resolutions
Wanderings in the wilderness: the Israelites travel from Mount Sinai to the River Jordan. Contains the famous story of the twelve spies sent into the land of Canaan. (Chapter 13)
- Waiting on God? Character counts! See Character Study: Moses – Humility
Deuteronomy is the “second reading” of the law by Moses as a reminder to the people of their special covenant with God in preparation of entering the Promised Land.
Note: The first five books of the Bible are called the Pentateuch, meaning “five scrolls”. Because of their unity, they are more like five sections of one book and can be viewed as a whole.
Joshua takes over leadership of the people; they enter the land of Canaan and begin to take possession of their inheritance. Contains the fall of Jericho and the beautiful story of Rahab the prostitute who becomes part of the lineage of Christ. (Chapter 2)
- What you speak matters. Read more in What Did You Say?
The time in which Israel is ruled by Judges. There is a constant cycle of disobedience to God, oppression by an enemy, a turning back to God and then deliverance. Famous last line of the book is “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Note: Kind of reminds you of today doesn’t it?)
- How does your courage compare? See in Deborah – God’s Iron Lady
- Should we test God? Read more in Gideon – Testing God
Set during the time of Judges, Ruth exemplifies loyalty and courage in contrast to the nation’s constant rebellion. Only four chapters long but power packed and still a best loved book. Boaz is seen as a type of Christ in this book as the “Kinsman redeemer.” Famous line: “For wherever you go, I will go: and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.”
- If you long for God’s restoration read Call Me “Mara”
Beginning with Hannah’s cry for a son and the resulting birth of Samuel, this book tells the story of the beginning of the era of kings over Israel. Saul is established as the first king but is rejected through disobedience and David begins to ascend. The story of David and Goliath is in Chapter 17. The book ends with the death of Saul.
- Read the story of Hannah, an ordinary woman living in extraordinary times: Great Prayers of the Bible – Hannah.
- What difference in character made all the difference for these two kings? Character Study: Saul & David.
Ascendance of David to the throne of Israel and the 40 years of his reign. David restores the Ark back to Jerusalem, subdues his enemies and Israel is established as a major power. There are many famous stories in this book, a major one being David and Bathsheba, (Chapter 11) and the birth of Solomon.
1 Kings begins with the death of King David and the rule of Solomon in his place. Solomon requested wisdom from God as he began his kingship and became known as the wisest man who ever lived. Even today the term, “the wisdom of Solomon” is used and understood. Other key events are the building of the Temple, the visit of the Queen of Sheba, the emergence of the prophets Elijah and Elisha.
- Read Solomon’s full story in: Read Great Prayers of the Bible-Solomon
Spanning about three hundred years, this book chronicles the numerous kings both faithful and unfaithful to God. By now there are two kingdoms, Judah and Israel, due to a split in the tribes after Solomon’s death. In the end, both kingdoms are led away into captivity as punishment for their deep rebellion and apostasy against God. These books are heart wrenching as you watch a cycle of sin end in devastating consequences that God never intended.
This book, plus 2 Chronicles is a retelling of 1 and 2 Kings but from a different viewpoint. Assumption is made that the reader knows the history of the reigns of the kings. Written after their return from captivity in Babylon, the readers are reminded of their glorious past and why God’s judgment was deserved and an admonition that the people must never let this falling away happen again.
- Do you know how to pray to be delivered from evil? Read Delivered from Evil-An Ounce of Prevention
A continuation of the history as in 1 Chronicles. A famous scripture from this book is 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” This cry has been going up for many years in the American church and throughout prayer circles as a plea to bring much needed revival to the United States.
- Going through tough economic times? Read Hard Times for help not dependent on circumstances.
The story of the Jew’s return from exile in Babylon and the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. Ezra is a priest filled with holiness and zeal for true worship to return to the people. His name literally means, “The Lord has helped.” The theme of the book is restoration.
Nehemiah continues the story of Ezra and the restoration; in fact, in times past these two books were seen as one. Nehemiah’s name means “Yahweh Comforts” which is one reason this master builder and organizer is often viewed as a type of the Holy Spirit. Because of his strong leadership abilities and inspired organization skills this is a good book to study by business people. Nehemiah, as Governor of Jerusalem, was a passionate intercessor and highly organized leader.
The book of Esther takes place during exile in Persia and recounts the plot to exterminate the Jewish nation. Since Esther has miraculously become Queen, she is in a unique position to foil the evil plot. Her cousin Mordecai utters this famous quote to Esther regarding her divine destiny: “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Chapter 4:14)
Righteous Job is tested by God through Satan and in the end God’s confidence in him is well placed. My favorite passage is “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (Chapter 2:10) In other words, do we only like God’s sovereignty when it works in our favor? I’m afraid the answer is often yes.
- What was so great about Job’s confession? Read Great Prayers – Job’s Confession
- Is it okay to complain about your troubles? Read When Why Becomes Whine
- Have you already tried every type of prayer with no results? Read Prayer of Relinquishment
150 hymns or songs to God, a great number written by David. Beautiful, emotional, heart wrenching, brutally honest, breathtaking poetry, this is the best place to go in the Bible for comfort and intimacy with the Lord.
- If you struggle with gripping fear, please read ALL My Fears
- If “trust” is your issue, The Place of Safekeeping will help.
- Why is David called a man after God’s own heart? Read: Great Prayers of the Bible-David for more.
- Has darkness settled over your heart? Try: When Darkness Falls.
- How should God’s people respond to economic downturns? Here’s help: Hard Times
- Is it hard to think up your own prayers? Praying the Word of God
- Check yourself to make sure who you are serving: Who Is Your God?
- Have you ever tried to sing your prayers? Prayer that Sings
- How to handle Disappointment in Prayer – End Results
- For those trapped in a cult, read Life In A Gated-Community
A collection of pithy little nuggets of wisdom. Full of practical advice about all the major and mundane issues of life. There are 31 chapters in Proverbs making it a good book to study through in a month by taking one chapter every day. Then start over; there’s no end to how much wisdom you need!
- Is there such a thing a “Superwoman”? Read The Proverbs 31 Woman
- Can you teach your children how to serve God? Read Spiritual DNA-How To Pass It On
- Are you a prophet? Learn more about HOW to deliver your message in Prophecy: Delivery with Wisdom
Part of the wisdom literature of the Bible, the writer calls himself the “Preacher” on a quest for the true meaning of life. The book may initially come across as cynical since everything in life is “vanity.” A passage in common usage still today is from Chapter 3:1-8 which begins; “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die…”
- Need time management help? Read Time Enough
Song of Solomon
A celebration of romance, human sexuality and passionate love between a man and woman. This book is often “spiritualized” by the Church, seeing the ardor between the two lovers as representing the love of Christ for His Bride-the Church. Perhaps that is true but there is no reason to believe that was the original intent or the way it was seen by the original readers who may not have been as prudish as later generations. This is a lovely book which puts God’s seal of approval on human sexuality in case there was any doubt.
Isaiah prophesied about the coming judgment and captivity while Israel was still prosperous and quite unwilling to be concerned. Still, his proclamations are full of hope about restoration and redemption and a major thrust of the book is the promise of the coming Messiah. (See Chapter 11 and particularly Chapter 53)
- Who is the Messiah and what did the prophets say about him? See Name of God: Messiah
Known as the weeping prophet, Jeremiah lived to see the prophesied destruction of Jerusalem he knew would happen but took no pleasure in being right. He was reviled by his contemporaries and the people and the kings tried to put him to death. His tenacity in the face of such harsh long term persecution is remarkable and a testimony to God’s great grace working in his life. Famous passage is from Chapter 29:11; “For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”
- What kind of prayer has no words? Read Travail – Liquid Prayer
Jeremiah’s anguished song of mourning over the ruin of Jerusalem and the Temple destruction.
Ezekiel means “God strengthens.” His ministry occurred during the early years of the Babylonian exile. The book is filled with fantastic visions and divine revelations. One of the best known is the one in Chapter 37 about the valley of the dry bones.
A prophet who came to have great authority and favor in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar during the Babylonian exile. His visions and prophesies mainly dealt with the future and with the End Times. Therefore, Daniel is greatly studied today for signs of fulfillment regarding the return of Christ. The famous story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den (Chapter 6) and the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in the fiery furnace (Chapter 3) are from this book.
- Daniel has much to say to workers in Marketplace Witness-Integrity on the Job
- Who is the Supreme Court Justice of the whole universe? Call on the Ancient of Days
This book proclaims the themes of God’s love to His covenant people despite their unfaithfulness. God instructs Hosea to marry a woman who is unfaithful to him over and over as parable of His own relationship of faithfulness to unfaithful Israel.
This book of prophecy contains the phenomenal prophecy about the time coming when God’s Spirit would be poured out on all flesh: “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.” (Chapter 2:28-29) This prophecy was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost according to the Book of Acts and continues to be fulfilled during this age of grace we are still living in today until Christ returns.
Amos was a shepherd called to prophesy to Israel, the Northern Kingdom. He speaks of justice for the poor which was totally lacking at that time. Martin Luther King used this passage of scripture to depict the justice for African Americans that he was longing for: “But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Chapter 5:24)
A prophecy against Edom. The Edomites were descendants of Esau so they were actually kin of Israel but because God’s covenant with Abraham went through Jacob instead of the elder brother Esau there was jealousy and bitterness between the two peoples. Obadiah denounces Edom’s pride. Herod the Great, who ruled the Jews at the birth of Christ, was a descendant of the Edomites.
Small book but a whale of a big story. Actually, we don’t know that it was a whale that swallowed Jonah as the Bible account says, “great fish.” This is the story of God reaching out to the pagan people of Nineveh and calling them to repentance through the reluctant prophet, Jonah. Nineveh does actually repent at Jonah’s preaching and this makes him mad as the Ninevites had been oppressors of the Jews. Jesus compares his own coming burial time with the time Jonah spent inside the fish. (See Matthew 12:39-41)
- Don’t miss more detail in: Jonah-Out of the Depths.
Micah prophecies to Samaria and Jerusalem against the constant idolatry and the exploitation of the poor from greedy business people. It is in Micah that we find out that Bethlehem will be the birthplace of the expected Messiah. “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.” (Chapter 5:1-2) Another oft quoted passage dealing with the prophetic nature of the book is; “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Chapter 6:8)
Again dealing with Nineveh, this is prophecy of God’s judgment against the city and the whole Assyrian Empire. While God had used Assyria to punish adulterous Israel, now the destroyer will be destroyed.
The prophet Habakkuk asks many of the same questions we still ask today; where is God’s justice and why does evil flourish? But the great passage in the end of the book proclaims God’s great faithfulness and trustworthiness.
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail, and the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places.” (Chapter 3:17-19)
- If you prayer walk, this information will help evaluate your city: Does Your City Have “Woes”?
Zephaniah means “the Lord hides” and indicates God’s power to hide and protect his worshipers in times of danger. In this prophecy, God promises to keep a remnant, “But I will leave among you a humble and lowly people, and they will take refuge in the name of the Lord.” (Chapter 3:12)
A prophet who ministered to the remnant who returned to Jerusalem after the 70 years Babylonian captivity. He entreats them to keep their priorities right and to complete the rebuilding of the Temple. This will ensure God’s blessings.
Zechariah’s name means “Yahweh Remembers.” There are eight visions given to the prophet in this book which had meaning at the time to God’s people and still have relevance today. God asks Zechariah to convey his great love and concern for his people and there is a powerful coronation scene which speaks of the coming Messiah in Chapter 6.
The last book of the Old Testament, Malachi warns against indifference toward God especially through insincere sacrifice that is only lip service and not real worship. True tithing is called for and the keeping of the marriage covenant. New Testament gospel writers saw John the Baptist as fulfilling the prophecy of Malachi 4:5, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”