Helpful guide to the Old Testament

See Bible 101: What’s in the New Testament here.

By James-Michael Smith from Helpful guide to the Old Testament – National methodist | Examiner.com.

Unfortunately, most readers–Christians included–of the Bible rarely know how to read and interpret the Hebrew Bible (or as it’s more commonly known, the Old Testament or OT).  The church and those of us who have been called by God to teach His word are largely to blame for this for a number of reasons, which we won’t get into at this point.

However, during my time in seminary my eyes were opened to the importance, relevance and insight to be gained from a continuing and thorough study of the Bible of Jesus and His first followers.  I love helping people discover some of the treasures contained in the Hebrew Scriptures and have had the joy of leading hundreds of adults into deeper levels of study and a newfound familiarity with this often-neglected part of the Bible.

What I’ve found is the number one reason why people put down the OT in frustration or boredom or confusion is because they don’t have an understanding of the framework upon which the texts rest.  Like someone trying to put a jigsaw puzzle together one piece at a time with no border in place, many people find themselves bogged down in a lifeless mass of hard-to-pronounce names and detailed description of obscure religious rituals.

So in an effort to help you better understand the OT–and by extension, the NT that it’s built upon–I wanted to give any interested readers a big-picture overview of the OT to help in your reading and study.  The Bible is not a book of abstract holiness sayings or philosophical teachings.  It is a library containing mostly the historical account of God’s interaction with humanity primarily through the lens of His Covenant promises to Abraham’s offspring.  In order to make sense of any of the non-narrative parts of Scripture, we must first understand the metanarrative–the overall story of the Covenant people.  Here is an outline that may provide a helpful guide through the pages of the OT in its major literary/historical epochs.  This is not exhaustive, there are many sections which function as subsections of the books which are not listed below.  But if you were to read the passages below you would come away with a solid view of the major historical events of the OT.

Pre-history

  • Creation – Gen. 1-2
  • The Fall of mankind – Gen. 3
  • Humanity’s downward spiral – Gen. 4-6:9
  • The Great Flood – Gen. 6:10-9:17

The Patriarchs

  • God’s choosing of Abram – Gen. 12-14
  • The Blood Covenant with Abram – Gen. 15
  • Abram becomes Abraham – Gen. 16-20
  • Isaac’s birth and life – Gen. 21-24
  • Jacob’s birth and life – Gen. 25-35 (Jacob becomes Israel in 32)
  • Joseph and his brothers – Gen. 37-50

The exodus

  • Moses brings the Israelites out of Egypt – Exod. 2-18
  • God’s Covenant with Israel – Exod. 19
  • The 10 Commandments – Exod. 20
  • The building of the Tabernacle – Exod. 35-40

Israel in the wilderness

  • The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) – Lev. 16
  • Israel refuses to enter the Promised Land – Num. 14
  • Moses’ summary of Israel’s dealings with God – Deut. 1-30
  • Joshua becomes the new leader of the people – Deut. 31
  • Moses’ death – Deut. 34

Israel in the Promised Land

  • The battle with Jericho – Josh. 2-6
  • The partial conquest of the land – Josh. 7-24
  • Joshua’s death – Judg. 2
  • Ehud the Judge – Judg. 3:12-30
  • Deborah the Judge – Judg. 4-5
  • Gideon the Judge – Judg. 6-8
  • Jephthah the Judge – Judg. 11
  • Samson the Judge – Judg. 13-16
  • Israel’s anarchy – Judg. 19-21
  • The story of Ruth – Ruth 1-4
  • Samuel the Prophet – 1Sam. 1-4

Israel’s Monarchy

  • Israel’s request for a king and Saul’s anointing – 1Sam. 8-14
  • Saul’s rejection and David’s anointing – 1Sam 15-16
  • David and Goliath – 1Sam. 17
  • David’s rise and Saul’s downfall – 1Sam. 18-2Sam. 6 [1Chr. 11-16]
  • David’s Mighty Men capture Jerusalem – 1Chr. 11:4-47
  • God’s Covenant with David – 2Sam. 7:1-17 [1Chr. 17]
  • David’s adultery with Bathsheba – 2Sam. 11-12
  • David’s commission to Solomon to build the Temple – 1Chr. 28
  • David’s death and Solomon’s succession to the throne – 1Kgs. 2-3
  • Solomon’s prayer for wisdom – 2Chr. 1:1-13
  • Solomon builds the Temple – 1Kgs. 6 [1Chr. 3-5]
  • The dedication of the Temple – 1Kgs. 8-9:9 [1Chr. 6-7]
  • Solomon’s death – 1Kgs. 11:41-43

The Divided Monarchy

  • The kingdom divides into – 1Kgs. 12 [2Chr. 10]
  • Elijah’s ministry – 1Kgs. 17-19:18
  • Elisha’s call to ministry – 1Kgs 19:19-21
  • Elijah taken up in flaming chariot– 2Kgs. 2:1-12
  • Elisha’s ministry – 2Kgs. 2:13-8:15
  • Elisha’s death – 2Kgs. 13:14-21
  • Jonah’s Ministry – Jon. 1-4
  • The fall of Israel – 2Kgs. 17:6-41
  • King Josiah reforms Judah – 2Kgs. 22-23:30 [2Chr. 34-35]
  • The first deportations to Babylon – 2Kgs. 24:8-17
  • The fall of Judah – 2Kgs. 25 [2Chr. 36:15]

The Exile & Return

  • Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo – Dan. 3
  • Daniel and the Lions’ Den – Dan. 6
  • Daniel’s vision of the Son of Man – Dan.7:9-14
  • Esther’s rescue of the Jews – Esther 1-10
  • The return of the first exiles – 2Chr. 36:22-23 [Ezra 1]
  • Rebuilding of the Temple – Ezra 4:24-6:22
  • Return of the last exiles – Neh. 7
  • The people renew the Covenant – Neh. 8-10

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