Old Testament Overview

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The Books of todays Old Testament Bible

Genesis Ecclesiastes
Exodus Song of Songs
Leviticus Isaiah
Numbers Jeremiah
Deuteronomy Lamentations
Joshua Ezekiel
Judges Daniel
Ruth Hosea
1 Samuel Joel
2 Samuel Amos
1 Kings Obadiah
2 Kings Jonah
1 Chronicles Micah
2 Chronicles Nahum
Ezra Habakkuk
Nehemiah Zephaniah
Esther Haggai
Job Zechariah
Psalms Malachi

The Sacred Writings of the Old Testament


The first book of the Bible tells about the beginning of the world and the first people—like Adam, Eve, and Noah.Two of the most important people are Abraham and Sarah. God promised to bless them and all their descendants.Their great-grandson was Joseph, the young boy who became an important ruler in Egypt.


The name Exodus means "leaving."This book tells how God used Moses to help the Hebrew people (Israel) leave behind their terrible life as slaves in Egypt. God helped them cross the Red Sea and travel through the desert to Canaan, a land of freedom with lots of food.God made a serious agreement (covenant) with these people: if they would obey the laws God gave them, then they would be the special people of God.


Leviticus is a book of laws and instructions that God gave the Hebrew people (Israel) so they would know how to live right.Many of these laws describe the proper way to worship God and how the priests are to offer sacrifices.


The Hebrew people spent forty years traveling from Egypt to Canaan, the land God promised to give them as their own. The book of Numbers tells about the events during their travels and gives instructions about worshiping God and celebrating special holidays.The name comes from the two lists that "number" the people before and after this trip.


Just before Moses died, he gathered together all the Hebrew people and told them everything that had happened to them since they left Egypt.He repeated over and over how God loved them and took care of them all along the way. Moses also reviewed the laws and instructions God had given them.The name Deuteronomy ("second law") is taken from this review of the laws.


The young boy Joshua had been Moses' assistant.After Moses died, Joshua became the leader and led the Hebrew people across the Jordan River and into the promised land of Canaan.This book is named after Joshua and describes all the victories of the people asthey settled into their new life in Canaan.The book ends with the division of the land among the twelve tribes (groups) of Israel.


Special leaders in Israel were called "judges."This book tells about several judges and how they helped Israel break free from their enemies.Some of these leaders were Gideon, Samson, and Deborah.


This short book tells about the love a young woman named Ruth had for her mother-in-law Naomi.Ruth left behind her own country to start a new life in Naomi's country.Once there, Ruth found a new husband and had a son.

1 Samuel

This book is named after Samuel the prophet and the last judge of Israel.It tells about the first kings in Israel.Saul was the first king of Israel, but he disobeyed God and was rejected. God then chose the young shepherd David to take Saul's place as king.

2 Samuel

Originally a part of 1 Samuel, this book describes the rule of King David and the special agreement (covenant) God made with him.God promised that one of David's descendants would always rule over Israel.Even Israel's greatest king, David,had hard times during his rule—much of this book tells howhe struggled to keep control of his kingdom and his family.

1 Kings

The book of 1 Kings continues the history of Israel by telling about the rule of wise King Solomon and the building of the temple in Jerusalem.After Solomon died, Israel divided into two separate kingdoms: the north (Israel) and the south (Judah).This book describes this division and the history of both kingdoms.This book also has stories about the prophet Elijah.

2 Kings

Originally a part of 1 Kings, this book continues the history of the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah.Eventually, both kingdoms were defeated by foreign nations (Assyria and Babylonia) and their people were taken away as prisoners to live in other countries (exile).This book also has stories about the prophet Elisha.

1 Chronicles

The books of 1 and 2 Chronicles repeat much of Israel's history told in 1 and 2 Kings—but from a different point of view.In them, David is the true hero of Israel, and nothing negative is mentioned about him. The first book of Chronicles tells how he chose Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel.

2 Chronicles

The book of 2 Chronicles continues the history of David's kingdom and describes the rule of his son Solomon.A major difference from 2 Kings is that 2 Chronicles never mentions the northern kingdom of Israel or any of its kings; it focuses only on the southern kingdom of Judah.


Ezra begins where the book of 2 Kings ends: with the people of Israel living as captives in Babylonia.The new ruler of the kingdom, King Cyrus of Persia, allowed these people to return to their homelands and rebuild their cities and the temple in Jerusalem. The book is named after Ezra the priest who taught the people how best to obey God's law.


Nehemiah was a servant in the palace of a Persian king.Nehemiah was later appointed as a governor of Judah who returned to Jerusalem to oversee the rebuilding of the city walls.


Esther was a Jewish woman who married a Persian king and so became the Queen of Persia.She was able to use her important role to uncover a plan to destroy the Jews living under the king's control.Esther proved her bravery by standing up to the king and proving that his servant was behind this plan.


Job was a rich man who was completely obedient to God.But over time he lost everything that was important to him: his children, his animals, and his own health.Friends tried to convince Job that he had done something to make God angry, but Job refuses to believe them and claimed over and over that he is innocent.Finally, God speaks directly to Job and reminds him of the awesome power and wisdom that only God has.


The book of Psalms is a collection of 150 prayers (or songs) to God.These psalms were used long ago by the people of Israel to worship God in the temple and in homes.The psalms are all different and reflect several human emotions—from joy to sadness, from comfort to fear, from hope to despair.


Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings and good advice on how to live right and obey God.Many of these are common sense lessons about life written by wise teachers and rulers.


The name Ecclesiastes means "the Preacher."The book is filled with his thoughts about life, hard times, the joy of being young, and being obedient to God.

Song of Songs

The poems of this book were first spoken between two people whowere deeply in love.They have also been understood to describe God's love for the people of Israel.


This book is named for Isaiah, a prophet in Israel around 740 B.C.He warned the people about the need to obey God and promised them God's forgiveness.Isaiah also encouraged the people to worship only God.


The book of Jeremiah contains the messages of the prophet Jeremiah, a prophet in Israel around 600 B.C.He warned the people about God's coming punishment for their disobedience and told them to expect to be taken away as captives (exile) by the foreign nation of Babylonia.Jeremiah also looked toward a happy future for the people.


Five poems make up the book of Lamentations.These poems are sad reflections on the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.But it also talks about God's unending love for the people of Israel.


Ezekiel was a prophet who lived around 580 B.C., during the time that the people of Israel had been forced to leave their homes and live as captives in Babylonia (exile).This prophet had many words of hope and promise about Israel's future, including a vision of a new temple in Jerusalem.


Daniel was a young officer who served the kings of Babylonia and Persia.The stories in this book describe Daniel's faith in God and how he remained obedient to God's law even as a prisoner in Babylonia.Daniel also had visions about the future and how God's people will one day defeat their enemies.


Hosea was a prophet who lived in the northern kingdom of Israel around 725 B.C.Hosea accused the people of being unfaithful to God by worshiping foreign gods.But he also said that God loved them and was ready to forgive them for being disobedient.


Joel was a prophet who compared Israel's enemies to a swarm of plant-eating locusts.He warned the people that these enemies would destroy their land if they continued to be unfaithful to God.


Amos was a sheep farmer who was called to be one of God's prophets.Amos reminded the people of Israel they were to be kind to everyone, not just to people like them.Amos preached a lot about being especially kind to the poor and to the people who are treated like slaves.


Obadiah was a prophet in Israel who predicted the defeat of Edom, a nation to Israel's south.Edom refused to help Israel during a time of attack, so Obadiah spoke against this foreign country and warned them about God's punishment.


The book of Jonah tells the story of the prophet Jonah who refused to follow God's direction about preaching to the people of Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria.After Jonah ran away and hid on a ship, God used a large fish to teach the prophet about God's forgiveness and love of all people.


Micah was a prophet who preached about the dangers of being rich and forgetting about helping people who are poor.He told the people about the need to be fair and honest, and promised them a future based on God's fairness.


Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, the foreign nation that defeated the kingdom of Israel.The book of Nahum is named after the prophet Nahum, who celebrated the defeat and fall of Nineveh.


This book is a dialogue or conversation between God and the prophet Habakkuk.The dialogue is about why some people suffer and others are so unfair.At the end, Habakkuk praised God for always being fair and powerful.


Zephaniah was a prophet who warned the people of Israel about a future day when God would punish everyone who had been unfaithful to God and reward those who remained loyal.Zephaniah encouraged the people to remain faithful so they would be blessed.


After the Jewish people were allowed to return to Judah from their captivity in Babylonia (exile), the prophet Haggai encouraged them to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem so that God would bless them with success.


Zechariah was a prophet who encouraged the people to rebuild the temple after returning to Jerusalem.Zechariah promised them that God would help them if they remained obedient to God.Zechariah also taught the people about a future time when there would peace in all the nations.


Malachi was a prophet who warned the people who had returned from captivity in Babylonia (exile) about carefully obeying the laws God had given them long ago.Malachi warned them about God's punishment if they chose to disobey these laws.

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