|Overview of the
The first thirty-nine books of the Bible comprise the Old Testament. They chronicle the time from the creation (no longer ago than 10,000 BC) to the time of
Malachi (about 400 BC).
These thirty-nine books were penned by various men known as prophets, from Moses (about 1500 BC) to Malachi (about 400 BC). All the books were written
in Hebrew, with portions of Esther, Nehemiah and Daniel written in Aramaic.
In the Hebrew Bible, the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament are divided into three groups: 1) The Torah; 2) The Prophets; and, 3) The Hagiographa. The
Torah (Hebrew for law) contains: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The Prophets are divided into the Former Prophets, containing
Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, and 1 & 2 Kings; and the Later Prophets, containing Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah,
Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zachariah and Malachi. The Hagiographa (meaning sacred writings) contains Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of
Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah and 1 & 2 Chronicles.
In the English Bible, the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament are divided into four, for five groups: 1) The Law; 2) The History of Israel; 3) The Poetry, or
Wisdom Literature; and 4) the Prophets (sometimes divided into the Major and Minor Prophets). The Law contains Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers
and Deuteronomy. The History of Israel contains Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. The
Poetry contains Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. The Prophets are divided into the Major Prophets containing Isaiah,
Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel and Daniel; and the Minor Prophets containing Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah,
Haggai, Zachariah and Malachi.
In order to understand the Old Testament, it is necessary to see how each of these divisions fit together to form the unit which is the Old Testament. Each
division has its purpose and peculiarities. These need to be remembered as each book is studied to obtain the proper perspective on its contents. But, first
we must look at the overall purpose of the Old Testament.
From the promise of the Seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15 to the prophecy of the Son of righteousness in Malachi 4:2, the Messianic prophecies of the Old
Testament point to the salvation that would come through Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus, and His mission of salvation, "God hath spoken by the mouth of all His
holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me;
him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be
destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many has have spoken, have likewise foretold of
these days [the days of salvation in Jesus Christ -- the Christian Age]" (Acts 3:21-24). "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that
we might be justified by faith" (Galatians 3:24). The Old Testament is preparatory for Christ, and the Christian Age.
The first five books of the Old Testament comprise the Law, also known as The Torah, The Pentateuch, or the Five Books of Moses. These books written by
Moses form the foundation of the Old Testament, delineating Israel as a nation.
THE HISTORY OF ISRAEL
The next twelve books of the Old Testament comprise The History of Israel. These books chronicle the history of the nation of Israel upon the Promised
Land, from the conquering of Canaan to the captivity of Babylon to the restoration to the Promised Land.
THE WISDOM LITERATURE
The next five books of the Old Testament are the Wisdom Literature, also known as Poetry, and sometimes as the Hagiographa (although the Hagiographa
as found in the Hebrew Bible contains more than these five books). They speak of the problems of life, usually in poetry, and the answers which inspiration
The next seventeen books comprise the Prophets, divided into two groups -- the Major Prophets and the Minor Prophets. These books contain the writings of
the prophets, recording their prophecies and their deeds. The difference between the Major Prophets and the Minor Prophets is not one of significance, but
of length. All of the Minor Prophets could be placed within the Book of Jeremiah with room left over.
The Old Testament chronicles the dealings of God with man through the time of Malachi. It is God's revelation of how He blessed, regulated, chastised and
punished man. It is a revelation of the character of God, and a revelation of the character of man in relation to God. It reveals the wrath, justice and mercy of
God. It reveals His plans of grace, in providing for the eternal salvation of man through the coming Messiah. Hope is raised, but it is not fulfilled.