Old Testament at a Glance A Brief Description of Each Book and Section
It is obviously impossible to capture the entire truths contained in the Old Testament within this brief format. Our purpose for this page is to provide a brief overview of the contents of each book. As we read without prejudice, we'll discover the many spiritual principals of God's dealings with humankind, particularly the chosen nation of Israel, woven into these writings. See the Bible Book Guide for more detailed background information and interpretation principles on each book and section.
Navigation Notes: As with other long pages on our site, we place links at the end of most sections which minimize scrolling. You may click on the "[TOC]" links to return to the Table of Contents. If you follow a link to another page, you can click the "Back" button on your browser to return to this page.
Table of Contents
- Books of the Law (Moses)
- Historical Books
- Books of Wisdom (Poetry)
- Major Prophets
- Minor Prophets (Book of the Twelve)
Books of the Law
These books were written by Moses in the 1400's BC. They cover the events from Creation (~4000BC) to just prior to Israel's entry into the Promised Land (~1400BC).
The creation and early history of the human race, and the birth of the nation of Israel. Almost all major doctrines are introduced, which sets the stage for the rest of scripture.
God's rescue of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, their establishment as a Holy nation, and the giving of the law.
The ceremonial law, establishing how Israel is to fulfill their call as a kingdom of priests, primarily by holiness and worship.
Israel's wandering in the wilderness due to rebellion against God, a time of testing and preparation for taking the Promised Land (Canaan).
The law is re-confirmed to a new generation of Israelites, and the death of Moses.
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These books cover God's dealings with the nation of Israel from the entry into the promised land (~1400BC) to the return from exile (~400BC).
Israel's partial conquest and settlement of the Promised Land of Canaan.
Israel's struggles in the land, wars with the Canaanites, cycles of disobedience, repentance and deliverance by God.
Story of Ruth, the great-grandmother of King David and ancestor of Jesus the Messiah.
Transition of leadership from the judges to Israel's first king (Saul). Saul is rejected due to disobedience to God. David is anointed King, but Saul continues to reign until his death.
David's reign, his sins with Bathsheba, and the resulting consequences.
The reign of David's son Solomon, and succeeding kings, the division of the kingdom into the northern (Israel) and southern (Judah) nations, and the ministry of the prophet Elijah.
Continues the tragic history of the two divided nations. Israel is conquered and deported by the Assyrians and later, Judah by the Babylonians.
Along with 2nd Chronicles, relates the same period of Jewish history as Samuel and Kings, but told from the perspective of the exiles who had returned from captivity to the Promised Land.
see 1st Chronicles
Continues from 2nd Chronicles, relating the first two returns to the Promised Land from Babylon, and the rebuilding of the Temple.
The third and last return from exile, the rebuilding of Jerusalem's protective wall, and the reviving of religious and social reforms.
God's protection of the Jewish race from extermination through the courage of Esther, Jewish Queen of Persia.
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Books of Wisdom (Poetry)
These books contain a wide variety of wisdom literature, including poems and songs of worship, proverbs of practical truths, discussion of the problems (and some solutions) of life, and much more.
Wrestles with the question "Why do bad things happen to good people", and stresses the sovereignty of God.
An assortment of poems, covering the full range of human emotions on such diverse topics as war, peace, judgment, prophecy, worship, prayers and more. Written by David and others, it serves as a hymnbook, prayer and devotional guide.
Practical instruction for dealing with the challenges of everyday life.
The futile search for satisfaction and meaning of life on earth apart from God.
Song of Songs
A love song, filled with allegories, metaphors and imagery.
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The prophets served as God's messengers to the divided kingdom of Israel and to the world. These books are written largely in Hebrew poetry, appealing to both the will and emotions in order to spur the people to action as well as understanding. These books are called "Major Prophets" due to their longer lengths (compared with the "Minor Prophets), not because they were more important or noteworthy.
A series of visions and prophecies to Judah, including justice and judgment, redemption and restoration, and the glorious coming of the Messiah and the Messianic Age.
A harsh message of doom for the people of Judah, tempered with compassionate pleas for repentance and obedience to God. The people's rejection of the message results in the fall of Jerusalem, but Jeremiah also forecasts the future restoration of Jerusalem and the promise of the new covenant.
Intensely emotional collection of five laments by Jeremiah over the destruction of Jerusalem.
Series of prophetic visions and dramatic stories to the exiles, providing the basis of judgment on Judah and surrounding nations, and the promise of restoration for the kingdom of Israel.
Story of Daniel's exile in Babylon, his life of integrity under intense political pressure, including extensive prophecies of historical kingdoms and the end times.
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Minor Prophets (Book of the Twelve)
See Major Prophets above. These were originally one book with twelve authors addressing various themes during the divided kingdom, exile and post exilic eras.
Addresses the moral corruption and spiritual adultery of the nation of Israel (northern kingdom) prior to their fall to the Assyrians.
Warns the nation of Judah (southern kingdom) of approaching judgment, but also gives them hope of the coming day of salvation that will follow.
Addresses self-indulgence, the excessive pursuit of wealth and pleasure, oppression of the poor, and other social issues during a period of great prosperity in Israel.
Pronounces condemnation on the nation of Edom, descendants of Esau, twin brother of Jacob (Israel), for persistent opposition to Israel and Judah, God's chosen people.
Delivery of message of repentance to the city of Nineveh in Assyrian. Because Assyria was Israel's enemy, Jonah initially refuses to deliver the message, resulting in a big fish tale that Jesus verified to be true.
The most diverse book of the minor prophets, predicts judgment and restorations, pleas for repentance, and includes several messianic prophecies.
Proclaims the downfall of Nineveh, when the Ninevites returned to their violent and idolatrous ways about one hundred years after the preaching of Jonah.
Depicts the prophet's struggles with the question of God's timing and method concerning His response to injustice in Judah just prior to it's fall.
Prophesizes the coming day of the Lord (judgment day), followed by blessings in the person of the Messiah.
Admonishes the exiles, who had returned to Jerusalem, to get their priorities straight and rebuild the temple before remodeling their own houses.
Encourages the people to complete the rebuilding of the temple, so that it could be inhabited by the glory of the Messiah in the future.
Condemns the corrupt priests, hypocrisy, infidelity, and general apathy that plagued the nation once again living in the land, calls the people back to obedience to God, and prophesizes the coming of the Messiah and John the Baptist (which would occur 400 years later).
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