The Old Testament

THE OLD TESTAMENT

The Old Testament is a collection of the first 39 books, which can be broken into three parts:    

HISTORICAL BOOKS (17)

BOOKS OF WISDOM (5)

BOOKS OF PROPHESY (17)

The Old Testament tells the history of the world, from its creation until the time of Jesus’ birth.

The Old Testament is our story because the Christian faith is intrinsically tied to Israel. Christianity is the fulfillment of what Israel and the Jewish people are all about. Jesus was born to Jewish parents and all humankind can trace our lineage back through Jesus into Israel.

Jesus completed the Jewish religion by coming as the Messiah (Christ) whom the prophets had long foretold. Everything recorded in the Old Testament is preparation for the coming of Christ to atone for man’s sin. The New Testament constitutes the establishment of Christianity, the fulfillment of what Israel and the Old Testament Jewish people were all about – waiting for the Messiah to arrive.

The Old Testament’s message was that God had a plan to rescue humankind from sin and give them salvation through Jesus Christ. God promised a savior and that Savior was Jesus. Christianity was a fulfillment the Jewish religion.

Christians originated as Jews who believed in Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah. People who  did not accept Jesus’ role as Messiah did not accept Christianity. A Christian is a person who believes in Christ.

The Old Testament describes a relationship between God and His chosen people (known as Hebrews, Jews, or people of Israel). It tells the history of God’s relationship and dealings with the Hebrew people, the development of the nation of Israel, its rise to prominence, collapse into moral and physical defeat, and finally its restoration. The Old Testament books are connected and are sequels of the same history.

During the 2000 years of Old Testament times, the Jewish people would obey God for a while, and then slip back into sin and wickedness. When they obeyed him, God protected them from their enemies, they lived with abundant blessings, and life was very good for them. However, when they turned against God and worshiped other gods, God would then withdraw His protection, and their enemies would be victorious.

Repeatedly, the Jewish people would repent and turn back to God, God would then restore His protection and abundant blessings back on them and life would once more be very good for them. Then they would then start turning back against God, start to follow other gods, and the same scenario would then repeat itself all over again.

HISTORICAL BOOKS (17)

The first 17 books of the Old Testament outline the history of the Hebrew people, spanning thousands of years before the birth of Christ. They tell the story of the Jewish people from the very beginning of the world, almost to the days of the birth of Jesus. They discuss the creation of man and the development of the nation of Israel.

HISTORICAL BOOKS (1-5)

The Pentateuch is the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

These books are traditionally said to have been written by Moses (with the exception of the few verses that record his death, which were added by a later writer) at the end of the forty-year period in the desert. Moses wrote the Pentateuch to instruct those that would enter the promise land after his death.

These five books furnish the basis for the history, the law, the worship, and the life of the chosen people of God.  Moses wrote not primarily for the purpose of recording the Law, but to outline God’s covenants with Israel.

They tell God’s divine purposes and plans, and explain how sin entered the world. In the Pentateuch we also see God’s response to sin, his relationship with mankind, and we gain insight into the character and nature of God.

The period that preceded the migration to Egypt is also called the prehistoric era of the Hebrew people. Remember, none of these accounts was written by eyewitnesses of the events that were recorded, rather, they were written by Moses.

Creation of the world

Garden of Eden

The Fall: Adam and Eve Sin

The Great Flood: In the flood of Noah, God destroys all humans with the exception of Noah and his family because everyone was so wicked and evil.

Hebrew Lineage Began with Abraham: Abraham was promised that he would become father to a great nation and inherit the land of Canaan. God said that Abraham would be the father of “many nations”

Isaac was Abraham’s son. Isaac had twelve sons, giving rise to the twelve “tribes” of Israel.

Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel) was Isaac’s son.

Joseph, one of Jacob’s sons, was sold into slavery in Egypt, leading to Jacob and his family coming to Egypt and later their descendents becoming slaves in Egypt.

Four Hundred Years of Egyptian Bondage: The Egyptian pharaoh began a policy of hostilities toward them, forcing them into a condition of servitude and slavery.Then after being in slavery for four hundred years, the Jewish people cried out to God for forgiveness and deliverance. God heard their cries, felt sorry for them, and sent Moses down to get them delivered.

Moses led the Exodus from Egypt: Freeing the Israelites from bondage. The Exodus from the land of Egypt marked the turning point in the history of the Hebrew people and enabled them to become a separate nation.

The Wilderness Period: The Exodus was followed by a period of wandering in the wilderness for forty years prior to their entrance into the land of Canaan. During this time, God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses. A covenant was established between God and the people of Israel. The basis of the covenant was the body of laws that God had given and that the people had agreed to obey. God promised to care for the people, supplying for their needs and protecting them against attacks by their enemies. His promise to remain as their God was conditional on their living up to the terms of the agreement. Whenever they failed to obey the laws he had given to them, he was no longer bound to protect them or even to claim them as his own people. After Moses’ death, the people entered the Promised Land.

HISTORICAL BOOKS (6-17) Joshua

The last 12 books detail the history of God’s people, the troubles and their triumphs. They record the history of Israel, beginning with the conquest of the land of Canaan and ending with the return of God’s people from foreign captivity.

Israelites Established in the Promised Land of Canaan. After the death of Moses, God called on Joshua to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River and take possession of the promised land, Canaan.   After forty years in the desert, the Israelites, known also as Jews, entered the promised land of Canaan under the leadership of Joshua. God protected the Jews as they resettled in the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

During this time, there were constant problems with the Jewish people believing in idols and other “gods.”

Israel Ruled by Judges: Israel is repeatedly oppressed by neighboring tribes and kingdoms, and God faithfully raises up heroes (“judges”) to deliver His people. During this time, judges were appointed to rule over the various tribes. These judges were governed by God, who communicated directly with them.

Israel Ruled by Kings: Judges” led the people until about 1000 B.C. when Kings were installed, yet these were still thought of as people doing God’s bidding (not as other nations’ kings which had all power being theirs alone).This kind of government ended when the people demanded a king, and Saul was chosen to head the newly formed monarchy. He was succeeded by David, and after David, Solomon, who was the last ruler of the kingdom. The country became divided after Solomon’s death.

After many years, the Israelites crowned a king, David, whom God called, “A man after my own heart.”

God spoke to the Jews through David and other godly men, called prophets, reminding them to be holy as a witness to all nations. When the Israelites sinned, the Lord warned Israel through these prophets, that if they continued to sin, He would allow a foreign nation to overrun their country.

In spite of these warnings, Israel was disobedient and rebelled against God, rejecting His laws and killing the prophets who testified against them.

King David and King Solomon led a united, strong country — which became divided after Solomon’s death:

Kingdoms Divided into Israel and Judah

Ten tribes revolted and formed what came to be known as the northern kingdom, or the Israelite nation. The two tribes that did not revolt became the southern, or Judean, kingdom.

Southern Kingdom — called Judah, though consisting of both the “tribes”
of Judah and Benjamin; this group included the city of Jerusalem.
The Southern Kingdom fell to the Babylonians in 586 B.C.

Northern Kingdom– called Israel, consisting of the other 10 “tribes”;
this group included Samaria.
The Northern Kingdom fell to the Assyrians around 722 B.C.

Babylonian and Persian Empire

The two separate kingdoms existed until about the year 722 B.C., when the Assyrian empire overran the northern kingdom. The people were taken into captivity, and their national existence ended.

Finally, after eight hundred years of rebellion, Israel was taken out of her own land and was made captive in the nations of Assyria and Babylon.

The southern kingdom continued until 586 B.C., when the Babylonians conquered it, and a large portion of the Hebrew people was forced to live in exile.

The Babylonian exile lasted for more than a century but finally ended when permission was given to the Hebrews to return to their own land. The Hebrews rebuilt the city of Jerusalem, restored the Temple and its services, and organized their state along lines that had been laid down by the prophets and priests of the exile. However, the restored state never enjoyed the peace and prosperity that was anticipated. Internal difficulties arose, the land was troubled with drought and pestilence, and the danger of attack from surrounding states never diminished.

Greek Ruler Antiochus Torments the Jews

The close of the Persian period and the death of Alexander the Great brought about a new set of circumstances most unfavorable to the Hebrews. Egypt and Syria were two rival powers, each struggling for supremacy over the other, and the Jewish nation became a buffer state between them. Toward the latter part of the second century B.C., the Maccabean wars, launched by Antiochus of Syria, brought extreme suffering to the Jews and threatened complete destruction of their state. Fortunately, the Jews were able to survive this crisis.

Jews have independence for 100 years

Under the leadership of Judas Maccabeus and his successors, they were able to regain the land that was taken from them and once again become free and independent. However, this situation did not last very long, for the Roman government ultimately conquered the region.

Although the Hebrews rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem in 520 B.C., they never regained strength and were eventually conquered by Rome.

The struggles of the Hebrew people and their dispersion from their country were thought to be from their belief in idols and heathen “gods” (mostly resulting from their marrying non-Jews who brought in outside religions). The prophets (including Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel) were spokesmen for God to the people and to their leaders: they often disagreed with the men in power and had no fear of expressing their messages from God — generally directing against the idolatry and “false gods.”

There are many points of wisdom (Books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job). Poems and hymns of the Hebrew people are expressed in Psalms.

Roman Government takes over Israel

But God continued to speak through prophets during the Jews’ captivity. Some of the messages were calls to repentance, while others were prophecies about the Savior who would come to rescue sinful mankind.

Finally:Finally, the near the end of the Old Testament, God tells the Jewish people that they are going to be driven from their homelands and scattered throughout the entire world. He tells them they will be the most persecuted people throughout history because of their disobedience and refusal to accept Him and His ways for them.

Once again, God pulls back His protection, and this time it ends up being for good. some of the higher ranking Jewish leaders were the ones who ended up putting Jesus to death on the cross when He came down to our earth in the flesh. It was shortly after putting Jesus to death in the year 70 AD that the Jewish people were finally driven out of their homeland and scattered throughout the nations of the world.

However, to show you how awesome and loving God the Father really is – God says near the end of the Old Testament after pronouncing the above judgment on the Jewish people, that He still will not forsake them, and that He will eventually bring them back to Israel at the end of time shortly before Jesus returns back to us in His second coming.

He says that when all is said and done, He will still be their God and they will still be His people. God says that He will still honor the original pact and covenant that He made with their earlier forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in that He would never completely forsake them.

BOOKS OF WISDOM (5)

The books of wisdom contain the poetry of the Hebrew nation and they provide the reader with important stories, poetry, and wisdom.

  1. Job
    The book of Job is a study in human suffering and how we should handle it.
  2. Psalms
    Psalms is a collection of songs which were used in worship to God.
  3. Proverbs
    Proverbs is a study in wisdom … accompanied by a collection of short, wise sayings.
  4. Ecclesiastes
    Written by Solomon, this book is an essay on the meaning of life and what Solomon concluded were the truly important issues of life.
  5. The Song of Solomon
    Song of Solomon is sort of like an ancient marriage manual, graphically portraying the intimate love between a husband and wife.

BOOKS OF PROPHESY (17)

The prophetical books of the Old Testament are those that define the prophecy for Israel. A prophet was a divinely chosen representative who, having received God’s message, proclaimed it in oral, visual, or written form to the people. A prophet is one who speaks forth the message that God has revealed to him.

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