Lesson Two: Old Testament Overview
The Old Testament consists of the 39 books of the original Jewish Bible, still used by Jewish people today. The word "Testament" means "covenant, agreement, contract". The word "Old" means "older, original," or the way God related to men and women before the Coming of Christ.
Perhaps we could title the Bible God's Plan. The Old Testament would be Volume One: The Plan Begins. And the New Testament would be called Volume Two: The Plan Completed.
The Purpose of the Old Testament was to reveal THE PERSON AND WORK OF THE COMING KING! All through the Old Testament the student of the Scriptures can find Jesus.
The Subject/Theme of the Old Testament was to reveal THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND THE COMING KING. All of the Old Testament looks forward to the Messiah and His kingdom.
The General Content of the Old Testament:
Please open your Bibles to the 'Table of Contents' as we work through this material. The Old Testament is neatly divided into three major sections.
a. HISTORY, Genesis to Esther.
b. POETRY, Job to Ecciesiastes
c.PROPHECY, Isaiah to Malachi
The Specific Content of the Old Testament Books.
The first five books of the Old Testament are called "The Pentateuch" and are believed to be written by Moses.
GENESIS is the book of beginnings or origins....of the world, the human race and especially the Hebrew nation. It contains the stories of Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, and the biographies of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.
EXODUS is the book of the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian slavery. It includes the origin of the Passover, the Red Sea crossing, and the Ten Commandments.
LEVITICUS is a detailed description of Jewish religious ceremonies and sacrifices.
NUMBERS records the journeyings of the Israelites from Mount Sinai, where they received the Ten Commandments, to the Jordan River, just before their conquest of the Promised Land.
DEUTERONOMY means 'second law.' It is a of repeat of Leviticus and Numbers.
JOSHUA is about the new generation of Israelites crossing the Jordan River and beginning the conquest of Canaan, or "The Promised Land" under the leadership of Joshua. This book includes the famous story of the battle of Jericho.
JUDGES is the record of thirteen judges or popular leaders. The book records the sad result of man doing what is right in his own eyes. Main characters include Samson and Gideon.
RUTH is a simple but beautiful love story. Ruth is a gentile who becomes the great~grandmother of King.David.
I SAMUEL records the history of Israel from the last judge, Samuel, to the death of Israel's first king, Saul.
2 SAMUEL is the story of Kings David and Solomon.
I KINGS records the history of Israel from David's death, through the reign of Solomon, to the life of the prophet Elijah. After Solomon's death, the Jewish kingdom is divided into Israel, or "the North" and Judah, or "the South."
2 KINGS is about the ongoing civil war between Israel and Judah. Both kingdoms are finally destroyed by the judgment of God.
1,2 CHRONICLES are a kind of repeat of 1,2 Kings, with an emphasis on the history of the southern kingdom, Judah, from the reign of David to the Babylonian Captivity.
EZRA and NEHEMIAH are about the return of the Jews to Israel after 70 years of captivity in Babylon. Ezra is about rebuilding the Jewish temple, while Nehemiah is about rebuilding the wall and city of Jerusalem.
The second section or division of the Old Testament is Hebrew poetry. All of these books were written at different times during the historical record of the first 17 books. Psalms, for example, was written by a number of people, most notably David, during the books of Kings and Chronicles.
JOB, the oldest book of the Bible, tries to explain the most difficult question or life: why bad things happen to good people.
PSALMS is a book of prayer and praise.
PROVERBS is a collection of wise sayings.
ECCLESIASTES is about how to trust God and obey his commands, even when life makes no sense and even God seems unfair.
SONG OF SOLOMON is a love story. It has often been understood as a picture of God's love and relationship with us.
The prophetic books have been subdivided into two categories: the Major Prophets, called "major" simply because they are longer books, and the Minor Prophets, or shorter books of prophecy.
ISAIAH is about the future kingdom of the Messiah. Isaiah is full of beauty and hope. Some of the most familiar passages of Bible prophecy are found in Isaiah.
JEREMIA AND LAMANTATIONS are prophecies of warning and judgment on wayward Israel.
EZEIKEL was written during the Babylonian captivity of Israel. It is about how the glory of God will return one day to the sanctuary in Jerusalem.
DANIEL is history and prophecy concerning Gentile world rule in relation to Israel and the Kingdom of Christ. It includes the famous stories of the three men in the fiery furnace and Daniel in the Lion's den.
HOSEA about backsliding and spiritual adultery.
JOEL, the prophet of Pentecost.
AMOS, about judgment on complacency and materialism.
OBADIAH one short chapter on the doom of ancient Edom.
JONAH, and the whale, Of course!
MICAH about Israel's sin and God's grace in the promised Messiah.
NAHUM, about the doom of ancient Nineveh.
HABAKKUK, the just shall live by faith.
ZEPHANIAH, on God's judgment and the future of Israel.
HAGGAl, about Zion's temple.
ZECHARIAH, a fairly long "minor" prophet with several chapters on Armageddon and the end of the world.
MALACHI, on robbing God, judgment, and the return of Elijah in the last days.
The Teaching of the Old Testament
(from material prepared by W. P. Ern Baxter).
One word sums up all..Christ. But let's see how this comes to pass. We will imagine a stranger with only an Old Testament in his hand. He opens to Genesis 1 and begins reading verse by verse. Soon he comes to Chapter 3, with its promise of Someone coming. He reads on and finds a repetition of the same promise in almost every book, until as he reads from Isaiah onwards the very Fullness of prophecy appears. But he comes to Malachi 4, the last chapter of the Old Testament, and the promises have not been realized. The reader has now become conscious the Old Testament is ,.. a book of unfulfilled prophecies.
So he turns back to Genesis 1 and starts again. Soon he is conscious of something strange and unusual: sacrifice and offering already in Genesis 4. He wonders what can be the purpose of it again in chapters 9, 12, and 22, and still more clearly in Exodus, until in Leviticus there is an entire organization of sacrifices, offerings, rites and ceremonies. He sees them referred to again and again, with very little explanation of their real meaning, until once more he reaches Malachi 4 without the light he needs. He is now conscious that the Old Testament is also ... a book or unexplained ceremonies.
Once more the reader returns to Genesis, and it is not long before he becomes aware of another great fact: man's great desire and longing for God. He reads of it in chapters 4, 5,15, 28, and 49 and throughout the rest of Bible history, but most of all in Job, Psalms and the Prophets. He reads again and again about people crying out for relationship with the living God and for the blessings God has promised. There are often answers, and there are great moments of satisfaction, but something is still missing. Again, the Old Testament ends without the complete realization of satisfaction in mans relationship with God. And our reader becomes conscious of yet another fact, that the Old Testament is ... a book of unsatisfied longings.
These are three threads running through the Old Testament making it by itself an incomplete book. It ought to be studied from this standpoint and with this perspective if it is to be rightly understood. Only thus will it be appreciated as the foundation of the New Testament.
And we will imagine that someone now gives our stranger a copy of the New Testament. As he begins to read, he finds there the very things he has failed to discover in the Old Testament! On the very first page he reads, 'That it might be fulfilled...."
And soon he realizes that:
Jesus the Prophet fulfills in His life, the prophecies.
Jesus the Priest explains. in his death, the ceremonies.
Jesus the King satisfies. in his resurrection, the longings.
Jesus, my Prophet, Priest and King, is thus the key to the lock, the perfect explanation of Old Testament history, ceremony and prophecy.