Old Testament Overview

The Old Testament is a foundational pillar of the Christian faith.  Unfortunately, it is often avoided due to its complex nature, extensive lists, and historical distance.  As believers, we are called to embrace the entirety of God’s Word for our sanctification.

God’s Word teaches us regarding the importance of knowing the entire counsel of God:

  • Joshua 1:8
  • Psalm 119:160
  • Acts 20:27
  • 2 Tim. 2:15
  • 2 Tim. 3:16-17

Why the Old Testament Is Important

  1. It displays the magnificent character of God.
  2. It contains our spiritual heritage.
  3. It explains the mess that God will redeem.
  4. It establishes the truth that sincere faith provides needed righteousness.
  5. It provides the moral code for the believer.
  6. It foreshadows Jesus.
  7. It includes Jesus.
  8. It proclaims the gospel.

The Old Testament Narrative

In reading the biblical narrative, one must be aware of the three levels:

  1. Top Level– the complete universal plan of the Sovereign God being worked through His creation
  2. Middle Level– key aspects of God’s plan centering around God’s people
    1. Old Testament– Israel
    2. New Testament– Church
  3. Bottom Level– composed of hundreds of individual narratives that provide the content for the other two levels
  • To grasp the significance of the bottom level, we must read it with the other two levels in mind.
  • God is the hero of every narrative, every book, and every verse.
  • Narratives are not intended to give every detail, but it provides the big picture.
  • The Old Testament is not compiled in chronological order.

Old Testament Sections

  1. Law– the origin of God’s people and God’s rules [provided the content of the Law]
  2. History– the rise and fall of Israel [showed the need for Law]
  3. Writings– wise guides for life [showed the wisdom of the Law]
  4. Prophecy– warnings for the nations [reminded the consequences for the Law]

Old Testament Books

  1. Genesis– the beginning
  2. Exodus– exit
  3. Leviticus– rules for worship
  4. Numbers– wanderings and people
  5. Deuteronomy– 2nd telling of the Law
  6. Joshua– the conquest of the Promised Land
  7. Judges– idolatrous cycle
  8. Ruth– the king’s family tree
  9. 1 Samuel– judges to King Saul
  10. 2 Samuel– rise and fall of King David
  11. 1 Kings– King Solomon and division
  12. 2 Kings– the divided kingdom to exile
  13. 1 Chronicles– Israel’s history to Solomon
  14. 2 Chronicles– Solomon and rest of Judah’s history
  15. Ezra– remnant returns to rebuild the temple
  16. Nehemiah– rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem
  17. Esther– God’s protection of Israel
  18. Job– wisdom in suffering
  19. Psalms– wisdom in worship
  20. Proverbs– wisdom in living
  21. Ecclesiastes– wisdom in obedience
  22. Song of Solomon– wisdom in marriage
  23. Isaiah– God’s judgment on Judah
  24. Jeremiah– foretells New Covenant and warning of fall of Jerusalem
  25. Lamentations– grief over fall of Jerusalem
  26. Ezekiel– ministers to exiled Jews in Babylon
  27. Daniel– visions for the future of the exiled
  28. Hosea– spiritual adultery
  29. Joel– terrifying judgment
  30. Amos– Israel rejects God’s warning
  31. Obadiah– a judgment against Edom
  32. Jonah– a judgment against Nineveh
  33. Micah– moral decay of Israel
  34. Nahum– Nineveh will be destroyed
  35. Habakkuk– Babylon will punish Judah
  36. Zephaniah– Day of the Lord is coming
  37. Haggai– houses before the temple
  38. Zechariah– finish the temple
  39. Malachi– complacency of spiritual leaders

15 Narrative Keywords

While the Old Testament can be a complex book, an understanding of the most pivotal events can provide the needed framework to study its entirety.  Here are 15 narrative keywords to help outline the major message of the Old Testament:

  1. Creation– God’s Creation of the world
  2. Fall– Mankind’s rebellion
  3. Flood– God’s punishment for sin
  4. Covenant– God’s covenant with Abraham’s family
  5. Placement– God’s placement of Israel in Egypt
  6. Exodus– God’s removal of Israel from Egypt
  7. Commandments– God’s giving of His commandments
  8. Wanderings– Israel’s sins causing delay to the Promised Land
  9. Canaan– Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land
  10. Cycle– idolatrous cycle of sin during the time of the judges
  11. Rejection– Israel rejects God as King
  12. Kingdom– Kingdom established under David and Solomon
  13. Division– Kingdom divided due to leaders’ sins
  14. Exile– God punishes His people and sends them to pagan lands
  15. Return– God rescues His people and a remnant returns