What is the Bible: The Old Testament

The Old Testament of the Bible is a source of shadows, hints, clues and mysteries. If you were given only the Old Testament and were asked to answer the question “What is the Bible?”, you might have a hard time giving a complete answer. The Old Testament is a shadow of things to come. It provides hints and clues and figures but does not reveal the full picture.

The Old Testament tells of events from the creation of the heavens and the earth, until some time before the birth of Jesus. God speaks many times in many ways.

Click here for an overview of the Bible: What is the Bible: one BIG book? or a LIBRARY of books?

Four Divisions

Remember that the Old Testament can be divided into four sections:

  1. Books of the Law: Genesis to Deuteronomy
    1. Theme: knowledge of sin
  2. Books of History: Joshua to Esther
    1. Theme: evidence of sin
  3. Books of Poetry: Job to Song of Solomon
    1. Theme: lift up your eyes to see the Creator
  4. Books of Prophecy: Isaiah to Malachi
    1. Theme: warning of judgment and the promise of coming salvation

Four Themes, many books

Each of the divisions consists of several books. The 39 books of the Old Testament are organized in following way:

The Books of the Law consist of:

  • Genesis
  • Exodus
  • Leviticus
  • Numbers
  • Deuteronomy

These books establish the fact that man is a sinner. The Law was given not with the intent that man would be able to fulfill it, but rather to show man that he would not be able to. Romans 3:20 declares: “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”

The Books of History consist of:

  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • Ruth
  • 1 Samuel
  • 2 Samuel
  • 1 Kings
  • 2 Kings
  • 1 Chronicles
  • 2 Chronicles
  • Ezra
  • Nehemiah
  • Esther

These books demonstrate the fact that man is a sinner. Actions speak louder than words, and the actions recorded give clear evidence of sin. Judges 17:6 and Judges 21:25 state: “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

The Books of Poetry consist of:

  • Job
  • Pslams
  • Proverbs
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Song of Solomon

These books encourage the reader to look around and get to know the Creator. Ecclesiastes 12:1. Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth.

The Books of Prophecy consist of:

  • Isaiah
  • Jeremiah
  • Lamentations
  • Ezequiel
  • Daniel
  • Hosea
  • Joel
  • Amos
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Micah
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk
  • Zephaniah
  • Haggai
  • Zechariah
  • Malachi

These books warn man of what is ahead because of his sin and also give hope to those who look to turn from their ways. Those who choose to not heed the warning will be judged, and those who choose to heed the warning will find salvation. John 3:36 sums it up nicely “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

They wanted to know more…

The writers of the Old Testament wrote what the Spirit of God led them to write. As they wrote, I am sure they asked themselves what it all meant. What they were writing, was a foreshadowing of what was to come. As much as they wanted to know more and have all the details, it was not revealed to them. Even the Angels were trying to understand the full picture.

Not until the coming of Christ would the purposes of God be made clear. In the chapter of faith, in Hebrews 11:39 – 40 light is shed on the long term plans God had in place. “And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”

The Old Testament prophets were servants paving the way, and “It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.” 1 Peter 1:12

I feel for Daniel. After receiving so much revelation, he was told in Daniel 12:4 “But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” (ESV) Not only would the details he received remain sealed, he also expresses his confusion as to the meaning of those details in Daniel 12:8 when he says “I heard, but I did not understand. Then I said, “O my lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?””. He was told in no uncertain terms, “That’s it Daniel, no more, sorry, go away”. The Angel “said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end.” Daniel 12:9 (ESV).

The writers of the Old Testament got nothing more than a preview or a “Trailer”, and were left hanging with… “coming soon”.

A Tough Challenge

Reading the Old Testament can be a little challenging the first time through. There are lots of names, places, numbers and timeline crossovers.

But don’t worry, I will take you through the plot one step at a time and sort through the exciting cause and effect, action / reaction and partial prophecy fulfillment.

Using Printable Bible Lessons you will be able to follow along to make sense of it all. What will eventually emerge is an amazing message written to you, confirmed by the Author himself.

Action Point: Summarize the Old Testament

  1. Take a few minutes to watch this short video describing the general themes of the Old Testament. Watching the presentation will reinforce what you
    have read and help you to understand and process the information.
    1. Watch the short video here: What is the Bible: The Old Testament
  2. Now take a few minutes to review this printable bible study lesson.
    By filling in the chart with the information learned, you will reinforce
    the learning process. Feel free to read through the post and re-watch
    the video as often as you need to in order to properly fill in the
    1. Download the PDF worksheet here
  3. Solve online or download a printable PDF Bible Word Search of the Old Testament books here
  4. Go here to find out more about the New Testament
  5. If you have not already done so, please establish a personal Bible Reading Plan. In order to benefit from the Bible Study Lessons you will need to keep reading the Bible even if it is only for a short time or a few chapters per day.
    1. Visit this post to select and download your Printable Bible Reading Plan.

18 thoughts on “What is the Bible: The Old Testament”

  1. Hello Mitchguy. I hope you are having a good time and merry Christmas in advance. Thank you for sharing this educative article about what the Bible is (The Old Testament). Good to know how the Bible is divided into four parts and the themes for each. The Bible is such an amazing book which when obeyed guarantees a better life here and beyond.

    1. As Moses communicated to the people of Israel speaking of God’s words to them, “For it is no empty word for you, but your very life,” Deuteronomy 32:47 (ESV)

  2. Did you ever read the book of Enoch? It was also supposedly in the old testament where they talk about watchers etc. They also refer to Enoch somewhere in the old testament (cannot remember where exactly).

    He was the great-grandfather of Noah. If it was removed from the bible, then I wonder what the reason was? 

    1. The message Enoch preached was pretty direct according to what the book of Jude says. Some immediately discard the book of Enoch as heresy, while I would tend to be a little more cautious, maybe not treating it as Scripture, but certainly allowing for historical significance.

      I have browsed through the entire book of Enoch and have read portions of it. It certainly is an interesting book. Truth be told in many ways, the style and mysterious edge is similar to the first parts of the book of Ezequiel. It is a little hard to understand. It does however add an interesting nuance to what was really going on in the times before the flood. In the book of Job chapter 1, there is also an interesting reference that may be a connection with what is found in the book of Enoch.

      Enoch is mentioned several times in the Scriptures. He is mentioned in the genealogies of Genesis 5, 1 Chronicles 1 and Matthew 1 and is shown to be the great-grandfather of Noah. He is also mentioned in Hebrews 11 as a man of faith. The preaching of Enoch was known to Jude. These mentions in Scripture, validate the historicity of the person, and confirms that he delivered a message.

      I encourage you to read this post about an article I wrote looking at the meaning of names in Genesis 5: https://creatorclues.com/old-t…. Look for the title Get to the Point – Enoch located towards the end of the article. It even includes a reference to the book of Enoch.

      There is still much mystery revolving around the book of Enoch. There are several books that hold the name, with one being considered the most likely candidate for the source of the reference found in Jude. The discovery of the book of Enoch is quite recent historically speaking, and the first English translation was only produced in 1821 Likely the style and the “far out” content has people approaching it with quite a bit of reservation. As far as I can tell, the book of Enoch was never included even in the Jewish Scriptures (the Old Testament) and as such was never “removed”.

  3. Growing up I attended bible studies classes and then we moved to having a these classes in our home for many years, I loved it and I also loved going to Sunday School. 

    I learned so much about life, love and religion but unfortunately as a teenager I moved away from it. 

    I am glad I found your website, it gives me a chance to spend some of my free time delving back in and seeing what comes of it! 

    1. I hope that the website can truly be a help to you. Please keep me posted on how things are going and if you need any help or encouragement, please feel free to ask.

  4. The Old Testament sure was clouded with a lot of mysteries. I bet those back then did not even know what was going on except for maybe a select few.  We have heard a lot about the Bible and how it was written. I would like to ask you something if it is true. I always hear that some part of the Old Testament was deliberately removed. I don’t know how true this is and would like to hear your opinion on this.

    1. There are several translations of the Bible that include what some consider as historical books though I am not sure if those are the ones that you are referring to. There has been much debate, going back centuries, whether or not these books should be included in the “official” Scriptures. And the same can be said about certain books in the New Testament.

      As a side note, you have given me an idea for a future post on this issue where I will try to address it in more detail. Thank you.

      Likely there will never be an end to the debate about what should be, and should not be included in the “Bible” that we hold in our hands. And you know what, I’m OK with that. The Bible has likely been the most scrutinized book in all of history, and despite all the attacks, and the attempts at making it disappear, it still stands strong. An interesting thought on the promise the Lord made… “my word shall not pass away”. God’s word is sure and we have the privilege of holding a written copy in our hands.

      One thing that I have come to understand, is that not one truth in Scripture depends on only one verse or on only one book. It might seem strange to consider, but if taking out a part of the Bible changes the message of the Scriptures, I don’t really want anything to do with it.

      What I have found in my study of Scriptures, is that they are SOLID. There are so many interconnecting pieces and doctrines that even if you “cut out” some of it, it still stands strong.

      I am happy to be able to study what I have available to me as “Scripture”. I do not completely discard all of the books that were not included in what is considered to be the Protestant “canon of Scripture”. I have read a number of them and I think that there is at the very least some historical significance to them.

      At the same time, there are some books that have been discovered to be fraudulent and do not coincide with the message of the Scriptures. Those I would avoid. A rule of thumb is that Scripture confirms Scripture, if a doctrine cannot be corroborated by other Scriptures, it is a red flag. This applies both to verses and to books.

      Until the followup post on this topic.

  5. That’s interesting. I’ve never divided up the Old Testament like that.  I’ve always just enjoyed certain books out of the Bible… Isaiah, Job, Ruth, Judges, Genesis, etc.  I don’t like one more than the other, I just really enjoy them when I am studying them.  The Bible is really enjoyable and I love the outlook that you gave with it.  Thank you!

    1. Thank you for your kind comments. I hope that by showing the “divisions” in the Bible, it will help people to understand that it is not just one BIG book like a novel.

      I actually did a post sharing the perspective that the Bible is like a Library with a bunch of books in it dealing with different topics. You can read that post here: https://creatorclues.com/what-

  6. Hey there,

    thanks for this interesting and informative article, I really enjoyed reading it! I’ve learned a lot of new things today 😉 I always wondered, what exactly is bible and what kind of knowledge it has to offer to a person. I didn’t know that bible is divided into some many different divisions and books, wow! It was interesting to discover that The Old Testament covers the events from the creation of earth and heaven- well that would be very exciting to learn about! Keep up the great work 😉 

    1. I’m glad that the article was of use to you. I hope that your interest inspires you to find out even more of what the Bible teaches. I am learning something new every day and I am excited to be able to share some of it with you.

  7. The structure of the Holy Scripture consists of The Old and New Testament. I have recently started reading an Old Testament and it looks pretty tough but at the same time familiar because I read a New Testament 3 or 4 times. 

    I call the Holy Scripture my life’s manual. I could not find any book which shows so much and everything in one place. I only needed to find and explore it over time. But everything is written and true. 

    Thanks for sharing some tips and advice on how to study and read the Holy Scripture. It is so much valuable and in need nowadays. 



    1. Hopefully this post got to you just at the right time as you start reading the Old Testament. I agree, reading through from Genesis to Malachi can be pretty tough. If you have a general overview before you start, it might help sort out a few things for you as you go along.

      The Scriptures sure are a “one stop shop” for everything related to life. And God gave it to us at no cost. He just wants us to take, and read it, and know it and live it.

  8. Enjoyed your post on the Old Testament. Explaining the divisions of the Old Testament  were very well done. Being somewhat of a Bible scholar, I appreciated how you separated out the books in sections, such as history, poetry, etc.  You outlined the relationship of God with his children, and how the Jewish people and their surrounding nations grew to know God, yet still never understood God’s oneness. I don’t quite agree with you that the Old Testament is a book of shadows; there is much that God revealed,  however, much was not revealed until Jesus’ birth.   This is a very complete post on the literary breakdown of the Old Testament. I’m glad you are doing it. You spent a lot of time  on research. 

    1. Thank you for your kind comments.

      There is certainly a lot to be learned from the Old Testament and God definitely revealed himself in different ways. We see him as the Creator in Genesis 1 then he reveals himself to Abraham as the Omnipotent one, the later to Moses as the “I am that I am”.

      The shadow reference I elude to has more to do with the salvation that God had in store for mankind. Shadows and hints were seen in the Old Testament but the prophets did not understand it all, and even the angels were trying to figure it out. It was not until Jesus Christ came to earth that everything became clear.

      “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” Hebrews 1:1 – 3 (ESV).

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