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Summary of Old Testament Bible Books
A brief summary of each of the books of the Old Testament Bible and their genre.
The Book of Genesis uses narrative form to tell us God created the universe and our world. God then created man. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve did not listen to God and were punished, called the “Fall”. God commanded Adam and Eve to populate the land. From there, we are told about family trees in sections called toledots. We learn about major characters and their families, mostly their sons. God was so upset with sin that He created a flood to destroy almost everything He created on earth. Noah was chosen by God so that he may save his family and other life in the arc that he built. Years later, Abraham was chosen next by God, this time, to create a nation. We learn about Abraham and how his faith was tested. God uses Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, to begin to fulfill the promises made to Abraham. Finally, we learn how Joseph, Jacob’s son, and his family moved to Egypt.
The first part of the Book of Exodus is narrative. The genre changes to law in verse 20. The narration picks up 400 years after Jacob’s family moved to Egypt. We are told of the oppression of his descendants, the Israelites, by the Egyptians. Moses was born an Israelite, but raised an Egyptian. God used a burning bush to speak to Moses and inform him that he is the one to deliver the Israelites out of bondage. Moses did not think he could convince Pharaoh to release God’s people. God gave Moses signs to use to convince the Israelites and Pharaoh that this is God’s command. Moses confronted Pharaoh with the ten plagues. The tenth plaque began the Passover ritual. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and to Mt. Sinai. At Mt. Sinai, God gave the people his commandments or laws. These laws taught the Israelites how to have a relationship with God and each other.
The Book of Leviticus uses the genre of law. Israelites are told how and why to have sacrificial offerings. These offerings are broken into three general categories. Consecratory offerings were used to dedicate a person or thing to God. Expiatory offerings were to acknowledge sin. Communal offerings were a way for communities to celebrate their thankfulness to God. The priesthood began so the Israelites and God had a mediator. The priests were the only ones to perform a sacrifice. God tells the Israelites of feasts and celebrations that will happen. The Sabbath was a day of rest. Passover was to celebrate the Exodus. Pentecost took place as the harvest began. Tabernacles included two holy days, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. God then informs of his rewards for obedience and punishment for disobedience. There are more instructions regarding justice and tithes. This all created the basis of Israelite society.
The Book of Numbers is of both the law and narrative genre. Per God’s instruction, Moses took a census of all the Israelites. This helped to organize them by their 12 tribes. Levites were not included in the count as they were to serve as priests. The Israelites left Sinai to go to the Promised Land. Along the way there were complaints and hardships. Israelites rebelled against Moses and God. God condemned them, but Moses interceded on their behalf. God showed them mercy. The Israelites defeated several powerful city-states and took their land. Before going to the Promised Land, Moses took a second census. Joshua was appointed to succeed Moses. The tribes of Rueben and Gad requested the land on the eastern side of the Jordan River. Moses agreed. Moses recorded Israel’s journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. Moses then described the land and laid out borders.
The Book of Deuteronomy is of law genre. Moses retells of what God has done for the Israelites. Moses starts by giving the historical account of the appointment of Moses as the leader. Moses recounts the rebellion and distrust on the journey to the Promised Land. Moses reiterates the wanderings of the desert and how the Israelites defeated several city-states. Moses restates the dividing of the land. Moses retells the Ten Commandments. Moses then tells the Israelites how to love the Lord as their God, and not worship other Gods. Moses gives instruction on clean and unclean food, tithes and feasts. In retelling this, Moses is retelling how the Israelites will have relationships with each other and with God. Also by retelling this, Moses is addressing future generations. Joshua was commissioned as Moses successor. Moses recites a song in closing to those assembled Israelites. At the end of the Book of Deuteronomy, we learn about Moses’ death.
The Book of Joshua is a narrative about Joshua conquering the Promised Land through God’s commands. Jericho was the first conquest after crossing the Jordan River. Rahab, a Canaanite, helped two Israelite spies escape. For her loyalty, the Israelites spared her family. Ai was next, although the first battle was lost. Ai’s first battle was lost due to Achan’s sin. After Ai was destroyed, Joshua renewed the Covenant of Moses. Joshua went on to defeat the different kings of the land. After the Promised Land was conquered, the land was divided among the tribes. Joshua then gathered the leaders and reminded them to follow the Book of the Law of Moses. He was saying his good-bye. Then he gathered the leaders at Shechem so that God could speak through Joshua. God reminded the leaders, elders, judges and officials of how He fulfilled the Covenant of Abraham.
The Book of Judges is a historical narrative of Israel’s cycles of committing “evil in the eyes of the Lord”. God chose leaders, or judges, to help Israel fight off oppression and restore peace to the land. There were many judges, but three major ones. God used Deborah to fight and win a battle with the Canaanites. The Song of Deborah gives an account of what happened. Next, Gideon helped when Israel was oppressed by the Midianites. Gideon was a coward, but had great faith in God. Before the battle that he would lead, God commanded Gideon to reduce his troops to 300 men. With 300 men, there was no doubt that the victory was God’s. The third major judge was Samson. Samson was to deliver the Israelites from the Philistines through his strength. Samson broke his Nazirite vows and God left him. After the account of Samson’s death, there are accounts of more sinful events.
The Book of Ruth is of narrative genre. Naomi and her husband move to Moab from Israel in search of a better life because of the famine. Their sons marry Moabite women, one is Ruth. Shortly after Naomi’s husband dies, her two sons die as well. Naomi declares she is heading back to her homeland. Ruth insists she is going with her as she states her love for Naomi and her God. Upon arrival Ruth gleans the fields, after the harvesters, on Boaz’s fields. Boaz was kind to Ruth, in part due to his faith in God. Ruth learned that Boaz was a kinsman-redeemer and proposed to him. But, he knew there was a closer kinsman-redeemer. He facilitated a deal so he could marry Ruth. The end of the book demonstrates the genealogy of Boaz and Ruth being the great-grandparents of David.
The Book of 1 Samuel is a historical narrative of Samuel, Saul, and David. The book opens with a description of the birth of Samuel to Elkanah, a priest, and his wife, Hannah. Samuel was dedicated to serve God as a judge. Meanwhile, the Philistines won a battle and captured the Ark of God. Through God’s intervention, the Ark was returned to Israel. Then Samuel intercedes with the Lord to subdue the Philistines. Because Israel asks for a king, Samuel anoints Saul, God’s choice. Saul looks like a perfect example of a king, but lacks faith in God. Goliath, a Philistine, waged a battle on Israel. David, who was anointed by God to be the next king, took out Goliath with one shot from his sling. Saul, then jealous of David being anointed next king, chased David in order to kill him. David escaped and eventually, Saul died.
The Book of 2 Samuel is a historical narrative of David ruling over Israel. David laments over Saul and Jonathan’s death. David is first anointed king of Judah, then Israel. David conquers Jerusalem and brings the Ark there. God sets out promises for David. David says prayers. He then defeats the Philistines and the Ammonites. David gets Bathsheba pregnant, even though she is married. David calls for her husband to be killed in battle and marries Bathsheba. Nathan, a prophet, cries out to David because of his sins. David and Bathsheba’s first child dies. Their second child is named Solomon. David’s other sons have a fight, Absalom kills Amnon. Absalom flees to Geshur. After he returned to Jerusalem, Absalom planned a takeover, but was killed. David avenges the Gebeonites by giving them seven of Saul’s descendants to be killed by them. David sings a song of praise to the Lord. David then builds an altar so that the plague of his people may be stopped.
The Book of 1 Kings is a historical narrative. David’s fourth son, Adonijah, tried to set himself up as king. Nathan, the prophet, warned Bathsheba who then warned David. Solomon is made king by David. Solomon prays and receives wisdom, insight and understanding from God. Solomon built a temple and a palace. The Ark was brought to the temple after the temple was completed. Solomon’s dedication of the Ark included prayers and many offerings. God gave Solomon a warning of what would happen if he or his sons turned from God. After Solomon’s death, his son, Rehoboam became king. Israel rebelled against Rehoboam. Jeroboam, who rebelled against Solomon in earlier times, took over the Northern Kingdom. Many kings ruled Israel. During Ahab’s reign, God sent the prophet Elijah to pronounce that rain will come. But, the Israelites still rejected God’s covenant. The book ends with Micaiah prophesied Ahab would lose his life in the battle at Ramoth Gilead.
The Book of 2 Kings is the genre of narrative. Ahab’s son, Ahaziah became king. God curses Ahaziah because he inquired about his survival to a pagan god. After Ahaziah’s death, Joram, his brother, took the throne. Elijah, the prophet dies. God uses Elisha to assist Joram in wars against the Moabites and the Arameans. Elisha sent a prophet to anoint Jehu king of Israel. Jehu killed Joram, king of the north, and Ahaziah, king of the south. He went on to kill Ahab’s family. Many more kings and dynasties followed, without much success in living up to the Covenant. Most of the kings of the Northern Kingdom “did evil in the eyes of the Lord.” Some of the kings of the Southern Kingdom “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” Hoshea became the last king of Israel. Because of Israel’s sins, they were exiled out of their homeland into Assyria and then Babylon.
The Book of 1 Chronicles is a historical narrative in a true sense. This narrative recaps Israel’s history that begins with the genealogy of Adam to Abraham’s descendants. The book lists Israel’s sons and their mighty men. It is recounted how David brought the Ark to Jerusalem. David gives a psalm of thanks to the Lord. Retold is the promise God makes to David about subduing his enemies. There is a recap of David’s victories and of some battles he pursued. After David made his son, Solomon, King, he divided the Levites into groups. The divisions of priests were recorded. Singers and musicians were listed. Other lists included gatekeepers, army divisions, officers of the tribes and the King’s overseers. David’s plans for the temple are retold even though he would not be the one to complete it. David praised the Lord in a prayer. David died sometime after Solomon was acknowledged as the second king of Israel.
The Book of 2 Chronicles is a historical narrative that continues where 1 Chronicles left off. This book is a retelling of the history of Israel. As king, Solomon asks God for wisdom. Preparations took place to build the Temple and royal palace. The Temple and its furnishings are described. The Ark is brought to the temple. Solomon stands before Israel and says a prayer of dedication. God appears to Solomon and gives him His blessing and a warning. Solomon’s riches are listed. After Solomon’s death, Israel rebels against Rehoboam, Solomon’s son that now was King. Rehoboam strengthens Judah. Summarized is Rehoboam’s reign and his son’s, Abijah, reign. The kings of Judah that followed and some of their actions are recapped. Some of these kings tried to bring Israel back to God. Because of Israel turning against God, Jerusalem was destroyed.
The Book of Ezra is a historical narrative of the Israelites that return to Jerusalem from their exile in Babylon. King Cyrus, of Persia, helps the exiles return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. Listed in their groups or divisions are the exiles who returned. First rebuilt was the Altar of God to sacrifice burnt offerings. Rebuilding of the Temple started, but faced some opposition. Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, wrote a letter to Darius questioning the authorization of rebuilding the temple. Darius had the royal archives searched and then issued a decree stating that indeed King Cyrus authorized the rebuilding. The Temple was completed and the dedication included celebrating Passover. Ezra went back to Jerusalem from Babylon. Listed are families that went with him. Ezra was a priest and a teacher of Law of God. Once back in Jerusalem, Ezra prays to God about sin, in particular, intermarriage. The Israelites confess their sins. Listed at the closing of the book are the ones guilty of intermarriage.
The Book of Nehemiah is narrative that continues the history of the Israelites after they return from exile. Nehemiah prays to God about Jerusalem and God’s promises. Nehemiah is sent from Babylon to Jerusalem where he inspects Jerusalem’s walls. Different sections were rebuilt by different groups of people. Through prayer, they were able to complete the rebuilding even when there was opposition. Nehemiah helped the poor by summoning the priests to make the nobles and officials take an oath to follow God’s law. A genealogical record is listed of the exiles who returned. Ezra read The Book of the Law to the Israelites. The Israelites prayed to God and confessed their sins and signed the Law of God. The Levites were brought to Jerusalem for the dedication of The Wall of Jerusalem. The Book of Moses was read out loud. Nehemiah warned the Israelites of selling food on the Sabbath. He also warned them of intermarriage.
The Book of Esther is of narrative genre. King Xerses drunk on wine decides to dispose of Queen Vashti. Later, he realized his mistake. A search for a replacement queen was conducted. Esther had won King Xerses’ favor and becomes queen. She was a Jew who hid her nationality. Mordecai uncovers a plot to kill King Xerses. Because Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman, Haman wanted to kill not only Mordecai, but all Jews. With Queen Esther’s help, Mordecai is honored and Haman is hanged. The King than writes a decree and copies of the text were issued to every province as law. The decree protects the Jews. The Jews celebrated, the celebration was names Purim. The book ends with the declaration of Mordecai’s greatness.
The Book of Job is of wisdom genre. Job was a righteous, rich man. God and Satan have a confrontation regarding Job’s faith in God. God allows Satan to test Job by taking away his family, sheep, camels, and servants. Job was passed the test. Job was tested again. This time it was his health that was taken away. Job speaks to his three friends and curses the day he was born. The four of them have a lengthy conversation as to why Job is being punished. Elihu enters the conversation and becomes somewhat angry with Job’s lack of faith in God. God speaks to Job in question form. Job repents. God speaks the three friends and advises them to sacrifice a burnt offering. Job was them made prosperous and was “given twice as much as he had before” by God.
The Book of Psalms is in the genre of psalms. Psalms are musical prayers and praise to God and of God. Psalms can be grouped into seven different categories: laments, thanksgiving, hymns, salvation-history, celebration-affirmation, wisdom and songs of trust. The Book of Psalms is divided into five books. The first book includes the first 41 Psalms. Most of these refer to David. The second book is Psalms 42 -72. Many of these refer to David. Psalm 72 begins with “Of Solomon.” Book three includes Psalms 73 – 89. Book four includes Psalms 90 – 106. Psalm 90 is a prayer of Moses. The fifth book includes Psalms 107 – 150. Psalms 120 – 134 are referred to as songs of ascents. Psalms 146 – 150 praise the Lord.
The Book of Proverbs is of the wisdom genre. Proverbs begins with the purpose of attaining wisdom and discipline. It is about “doing what is right and just and fair.” (1:3) Warnings are given of enticement and of rejecting wisdom. Listed are some of the moral benefits of wisdom. Throughout these proverbial sayings mentioned is the fear of the Lord. More benefits of wisdom and its superiority are listed. Warnings are given against adultery and folly. Even more warnings are given against adultery and adulteresses. Much of the book lists proverbs of Solomon. Listed are some sayings of Agur and King Lemuel. Proverbs ends with praise for a wife of noble character.
The Book of Ecclesiastes is of the wisdom genre. The author begins by telling the audience that everything is meaningless, including wisdom, pleasures, and toil. The author states that there is a time for everything that is a gift from God. Because of this gift, make sure you “stand in awe of God.” (5:4)The book has more to say on wisdom and the states to “obey the king’s command.” (8:2) Death is the same destination for all, even though wisdom fares better than folly. The author reminds the audience to remember God while young. The book concludes with “fear God and keep his commandments…for God will bring every deed into judgment.” (12:13-14)
Song of Songs
The Book of Song of Songs is in the psalm genre. This is a love song.
The Book of Isaiah is of the prophecy genre. Isaiah writes about Judah and Jerusalem’s rebellion. Isaiah notes the last days of Judah and Jerusalem and God’s judgment. Isaiah sings a song about a vineyard. The Lord tells Isaiah to speak to the people. Isaiah records God’s warnings of the people breaking the covenant. Isaiah prophesied the coming of the Messiah. Isaiah speaks of joy of the redeemed. Isaiah speaks of the king of Assyria threatening Jerusalem. Isaiah prophesied Jerusalem’s deliverance and King Hezekiah prayed. The king of Assyria, Sennacherib died just as God told Isaiah it would happen. Isaiah tells the Jews are indeed God’s chosen people. He tells of their deliverance from Babylon and of rebuilding of the nation of Israel. There is a reminder that God is the one and only. Idols are not acceptable.
The Book of Jeremiah is of prophecy genre. Jeremiah is appointed a prophet to the nations by the Lord. Israel is unfaithful and Jerusalem is attacked. Jeremiah addresses the people of Judah and declares that false religions are worthless. The covenant is not kept. Jeremiah complains to God of the wicked. God answered that Israel will be restored once they listen to Him. God tells Isaiah to tell the people of Judah to remember the Sabbath. Jeremiah prophesied to the people of Judah that they will be exiled for seventy years. While exiled, a letter was sent to the Jews stating what God wants them to do. There is a promise of Jerusalem rebuilding. God gave Jeremiah warnings about Egypt, the Philistines, Moab, Ammon, Edom, and Babylon. Because the warning was not heeded and the covenant was broken, Jerusalem fell.
The Book of Lamentations is of the psalms genre. Jeremiah wrote these songs about the Israelites sufferings and Jerusalem’s destructions. Even among all the suffering, Jeremiah sings of God’s mercy and faithfulness. In the song, Jeremiah prays for forgiveness of sin and rebellion.
The Book of Ezekiel is of prophesy genre, and has some apocalyptic genre. Ezekiel was living as an exile when God advised him that he would be speaking to the Israelites on behalf of Him. God made Ezekiel “watchman for the house of Israel.” (3:17)Ezekiel warned Israel that they will be held accountable for their sins. His warning included the siege of Jerusalem and destruction of idols and altars. The end of Israel will have come. Ezekiel prophesied God’s judgment on Israel’s leaders and the promise of Israel returning to their land. Ezekiel records a lament for Israel’s princes. The elders go to Ezekiel to inquire of the Lord of the judgment of Israel. Ezekiel issues prophecies against Ammon, Moab, Edom, Tyre, and Egypt. Ezekiel records his laments regarding Tyre, Egypt, and Pharaoh. Ezekiel is given a vision of the restoration of the Temple, division of the land and “the gates of the city will be named after the tribes of Israel.” (48:31)
The Book of Daniel is apocalyptic and narrative genre. In Babylon, God gave Daniel knowledge and understanding so that he could understand all kinds of dreams and visions. After praising God, Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s, king of Judah, dream. This interpretation saves Daniel and his three friends’ lives. The king makes a gold idol to worship. When he heard of three Jews who would not worship the ido, he had them thrown into a hot fire. They were unharmed and King Nebuchadnezzar praised God. While King Belshazzar was having a banquet and praising gods of gold and silver, writing on the wall appeared from fingers of a human hand. Only Daniel was able to read it. Daniel has an apocalyptic dream in which God interprets for him. The dream includes messages about Media, Persia and Greece. Daniel prays for all of Israel. Daniel is given a message of the end days.
The Book of Hosea is prophecy genre. The book opens with God telling Hosea to marry an adulterous wife, which he does. God tells Hosea what to name his children. Both the adulterous wife and naming the children is symbolic of the nation of Israel. The Lord issues a declaration about Israel’s punishment and restoration. God tells Hosea to love his wife again which represents when God will favor Israel again. God then brings charges against Israelites, which includes unrepentant. God then talks about Israel’s punishment for these charges. Even though God has loves Israel, He is angry with them. God then tells Israel if they repent, blessings will follow.
The Book of Joel is of prophecy genre. Joel gives warning of an invasion of locusts. The warning includes a cry to repent before the mighty army comes. God warns about returning back to Him. If the people of Judah return to God, He will bless them by sending “grain, new wine and oil.” (2:19) The day will come when the Lord will pass His judgment. He will restore Judah and Jerusalem and prepare them for war.
The Book of Amos is prophecy genre. Amos was a shepherd from Tekoa. God passes judgment on the nations surrounding Israel. God then judges and punishes Israel for its sins. Starvation, drought, and plagues are just a few punishments mentioned because Israel turned from God. God says a lament that includes the need for repentance. The day of the Lord is regarding God’s judgment. Complacency is not an excuse and will not be tolerated by God. God declares that He abhors the pride of Israel. Amos is showed by God judgments against Jacob. Amos pleaded for Him to forgive and stop. God stopped the first two judgments. Israel is to be destroyed because of their sin. The book ends with a declaration of restoration for Israel.
The Book of Obadiah is a prophecy genre. Obadiah’s vision is of Edom. God tells Obadiah that the nation of Edom will be despised. Friends of Edom will deceive and overpower them. God declares that all will be slaughtered. God declares that the people of Edom will have their deeds repaid to them. There will be no survivors. The people of Mount Zion and Israel will take over and it will be God’s kingdom again.
The Book of Jonah is of prophecy genre. God tells Jonah to go preach to the people of Nineveh. Jonah did not want to follow the Lord’s command and ran away by boarding a ship. The sailors knew that the great storm was because Jonah did no listen to God and threw him into the sea. Jonah was swallowed by a great fish and survived for three days and nights because that is what God wanted. Jonah prayed to God while inside the fish. The fish threw-up Jonah onto dry land. Jonah listens to God and goes to Nineveh. On the first day, Jonah made a proclamation that Nineveh will be overturned in forty days. The people of Nineveh and the king believed Jonah and fasted. God saw their faith and showed the people compassion by not destroying them. Jonah became angry at God. God showed Jonah that he has no reason to be angry.
The Book of Micah is a prophecy genre. Micah’s vision concerns Samaria and Jerusalem. The book alternates between judgment and deliverance. Samaria and Jerusalem will be destroyed. A lament is given about the weeping and mourning. God’s plan of disaster includes a promise of deliverance. God reprimands leaders and prophets. In the last days, God will judge the people. God has a plan to redeem the people. A prophecy is given for a ruler of Israel to come from Bethlehem. This ruler will be Israel’s peace. Micah tells the people God’s accusations against them. God will destroy Israel as punishment for their sins. Israel then prays and praises God.
Nahum is of prophecy genre. Nahum’s vision concerns Nineveh. God is angry and will take vengeance against His enemies. God is good and will take care of those who trust in Him. God will destroy Nineveh. The book ends with a lament of the destruction.
The Book of Habakkuk is a prophecy genre. Habakkuk complains to God about injustice, destruction and violence. God replies that the Babylonians will rise up and exterminate the injustice. Habakkuk complains again. His second complaint is how God can allow the Babylonians to be the ones to pass judgment. God replies that the Babylonians will be judged for their actions. Habakkuk prays. In this prayer, Habakkuk expresses that he may not understand why God does what He does, but he rejoice in God as his savior.
The Book of Zephaniah is of prophecy genre. Zephaniah gives his genealogy. God gives Zephaniah a warning of destruction that is to come. The destruction will be against all who live in Jerusalem. Judgment day is near. This will be a day of terrible distress. There is still time to seek righteousness before the Lord. The warnings are also for Moab, Ammon, Cush, and Assyria. After judgment day, God hopes that the people will again worship Him. The book ends with God will restore Israel’s covenant.
The Book of Haggai is of prophecy genre. God tells Haggai that it is time build the House of the Lord. God reminds His people to be strong while rebuilding the Temple. God also reminds the people that He is with them as that is the covenant He made to them. God blesses His people even though they were defiled. God tell Haggai that these people are His chosen people.
The Book of Zechariah is a prophecy and apocalyptic genre. God tells Zechariah that He is angry with Jews’ forefathers. God declares that they must return to Him. Zechariah has a vision of a man among the myrtle trees. In this vision, an angel tells Zechariah to proclaim that God was jealous for Jerusalem and Zion. But, God will return with mercy and have his house rebuilt. They again will be prosperous. Zechariah had a vision of a man with a measuring line. In this vision God tells Zechariah that He will be God will be the wall of fire around Jerusalem, and its glory within. God takes away Joshua’s, the high priest, filthy clothes. This is symbolically taking away Joshua’s sins. God promises to bless Jerusalem and care for Judah. God will judge Israel’s enemies and destroy them. Prophesied is the mourning of the Messiah, the one that is pierced. Judgment Day is described in detail.
The Book of Malachi is of prophecy genre. God tells Malachi that He loved Jacob and hated Esau. God will destroy Edom if they rebuild. God talks to the priests in their contempt for Him. If they do not listen to God, He will curse them. Judah has been unfaithful by breaking the covenant. Judgment day will be upon the people of Israel. God advises them to return to Him and to stop robbing Him. God reminds His people to remember the law of Moses.
Link to Summaries of the New Testament Books
- Summary of New Testament Bible Books
A brief summary of the New Testament Bible books and their genre.