Lesson 1: An Introduction to the Old Testament

Old Testament Survey

We are beginning a journey which will take us through the Old Testament. This will be an exciting journey. We will become acquainted with some of the greatest men and women who have ever lived. We will also learn about some of the most important events in the history of the world. We will study about the creation of the universe and all things in it. We will learn about the beginning of sin, and see the gradual unfolding of God’s plan to save man from his sins.

Our journey will begin with the creation of the world. We will travel to the Garden of Eden and then on to the Great Flood which covered the whole earth. We will watch as God chooses a man from whom He will make a nation. This nation will be the means by which God sends His Son into the world. We will see this nation become slaves in Egypt. We will watch as God delivers them and leads them to His Promised Land. We will see God’s people when they are ruled by judges and later by kings. We will observe the chosen people’s division into two nations. We will learn about the good kings of the two kingdoms as well as the bad ones. We will also become acquainted with great men God sent to His people who are known as prophets. We will study their prophecies which told of the coming of Christ and His kingdom.

However, before we start on our journey, we need to learn about the make-up of this book called “The Old Testament.”

The Bible is one book which is made up of sixty- six separate books. The Old Testament has thirty-nine books in it. The New Testament has twenty-seven. The Bible can be summarized by three statements concerning Jesus Christ, its chief character: (1) “Someone is coming” is the message of the Old Testament; (2) “Someone has come” is the message of the first four books of the New Testament; (3) “Someone is coming again” is the message of the rest of the New Testament.

Old Testament Sections

The Old Testament can also be divided into four sections according to the content of the books. The first section is known as “The Law.” These are the five books from Genesis to Deuteronomy. They are also called “The Pentateuch,” which means “five volumes.” The Books of Law were written by Moses.

The next section of the Old Testament is called “The Books of History.” These twelve books begin with Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land. They tell about the judges, kings, priests, and prophets of God’s people. The Books of History are Joshua, Judges, Ruth, First and Second Samuel, First and Second Kings, First and Second Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther.

The next section of the Old Testament is known as “Poetry.” Sometimes it is also called “Wisdom Literature” because of the many wise sayings found in it. This section begins with the book of Job and includes Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. There are five books of Poetry and Wisdom Literature.

The last section of the Old Testament contains the inspired writings of prophets of God. There are seventeen books of prophecy. These are usually divided into two sections: (1) Five books known as “Major Prophets;” and (2) Twelve books known as “Minor Prophets.” The books of the Major Prophets are not more important than those of the Minor Prophets. They are simply greater in length.

Inspired by God

The word “inspired” means “God breathed.” This shows that the Bible came from God not from men. The Holy Spirit revealed God’s word to men whom He had selected. These men wrote the books of the Old and New Testaments. God used thirty-two different men to write the books of the Old Testament. From Moses, who wrote the first book, to Malachi, who wrote the last book, was 1,000 years. Yet, all the books fit perfectly together. This shows there was one Source from which the message of all of them came.

The New Testament claims the Old Testament was given by inspiration (Please read 2 Timothy 3:16,17). The Apostle Peter wrote: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20,21).

The Old Testament also claims it was given by inspiration of God. David, who wrote many of the Psalms, said: “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, And His word was on my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:2). Jeremiah claimed that God gave him his message: “Then the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me: ‘Behold, I have put My words in your mouth’” (Jeremiah 1:9).

Why Study the OT Today?

The Old Testament was God’s law for Israel. The New Testament is God’s law for all men today. In the Old Testament, God foretold the time when He would make a new covenant or testament ( Please read Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Hebrews 8:6-13). The New Testament became God’s law following the death of Jesus Christ for our sins and the beginning of the church of Christ on Pentecost Day (Acts 2). Since we live under the New Testament today, some have wondered why we should study the Old Testament.

First, we should study the Old Testament because the New Testament is built upon its foundation. A man named Augustine said: “The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed. The New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.” The promises and prophecies of the Old Testament are fulfilled in the New Testament. Neither one would be complete without the other.

Second, we should study the Old Testament because we can learn much about how God deals with men. We serve the same God the people of Israel served. His law has changed, but He is still the same (Malachi 3:6). We learn from the Old Testament that God’s spiritual blessings are only given to those who obey Him. We see that the righteous are rewarded and the wicked are punished. We learn that God is both just and merciful (Romans 11:22).

Third, we can be encouraged by the lives of the great men and women of faith. Paul said of the Old Testament: “For whatsoever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4). We will never understand fully the New Testament unless we understand the Old Testament.

Other Old Testament Facts

There are some other things about the Old Testament which are very helpful to know. First, the Old Testament was first written in the Hebrew language. Small portions were also written in Aramaic, a language which is similar to Hebrew.

Second, the Old Testament covers several thousand years of history. It begins with the creation of the world and ends with the prophet Malachi who lived about 400 years before Jesus.

Third, God’s revelation to man can be divided into three time periods: (1) The Patriarchal Age which lasted from creation to the giving of the Law of Moses to Israel at Mt. Sinai; (2) The Mosaic Age which lasted from the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai to the death of Jesus Christ on the cross; (3) The Christian Age which began with the cross of Christ and will continue until the Lord comes again. The Old Testament covers the first two ages. The New Testament covers the last age.

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    Fill in the blanks:
  1. The Bible is made up of  books.
  2. There are books in the Old Testament and books in the New Testament.
  3. The Old Testament can be divided into sections according to the content of the books.
  4. The books of Law are also called "The ."
  5. There are books of history.
  6. The books of are also known as Wisdom Literature.
  7. There are books of prophecy in the Old Testament.
  8. There are books of the Major Prophets and books of the Minor Prophets.
  9. The word means "God breathed."
  10. God used different men to write the books of the Old Testament.
  11. From Moses to Malachi was about years.
  12. The Old Testament was God's law for .
  13. The New Testament is God's law for men.
  14. The Old Testament was first written in the language.
  15. Parts of the Old Testament were also written in .
  16. Check the correct answer.
  17. True    False The Old Testament is the last part of the Bible.
  18. True    False Jesus Christ is the chief character in the Bible.
  19. True    False The Major Prophets were more important than the Minor Prophets.
  20. True    False The books of the Old Testament all perfectly blend together.
  21. True    False The Old Testament does not claim to be inspired by God.
  22. True    False The Old Testament is God's law for all men today.
  23. True    False Since we live under the New Testament, it is not necessary to study the Old Testament today.
  24. True    False The New Testament is built upon the foundation of the Old Testament.
  25. True    False We serve the same God Israel served.
  26. True    False God does not change.
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