The book of Proverbs is a collection of essays, poems, and sayings expressing the wisdom of ancient Israel. Some of the material probably originated as folk wisdom, circulating in the family or the clan. Other parts reflect the life of the royal court. Arrangement began during the time of Solomon (about 961-922 B.C.), and the final edition was likely produced during the exile in Babylon (about 587-539 B.C.). Jeremiah 18:18 refers to the priest, the wise, and the prophet as leaders in Israel; the book of Proverbs is the product of the work of “the wise.”
The genre of Psalms is Songs and Poetry of all kinds. It is written by multiple authors; David wrote 73, Asaph wrote 12, the sons of Korah wrote 9, Solomon wrote 3, Ethan, and Moses each wrote one (Ps. 90), and 51 of the Psalms are anonymous. They were written over the span of approximately 900 years (Beginning at the time of Moses 1440 B.C. and through the captivity in 586 B.C.).
The Psalms include praises of joy, laments, blessings, and thanksgivings. They are directed at God and they help us to express and communicate ourselves to Him. We read about the Psalmist’s emotions from one extreme to another, from praising, delighting in and worshiping God with fervor, to repentance and crying out to Him in despair. Mainly, the Psalms were written to help us deliver praise to God who is worthy of such. As psalms 150:6 reads, €Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.€
The book of Ruth tells the story of three people: Naomi, a widow from Bethlehem in Judah; Ruth, her daughter-in-law from Moab; and Boaz, a gentleman farmer from Bethlehem. Ruth, in a supreme act of devotion, follows Naomi home from Moab and there meets Boaz, Naomi’s close relative. Boaz understands that Ruth, though a foreigner, is a woman of worth. Through a scheme of Naomi to send Ruth to meet Boaz in secret, and through the cleverness of Boaz, who claims Ruth before the city elders, Boaz and Ruth marry and have a child, thus insuring the continuation of the Davidic line that eventually leads to the birth of Jesus.
The Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs) is a unified collection of poetry on the theme of human love, following the relationship of a man and a woman from courtship and onward. This book has frequently been read as an allegory of God’s love for Israel (in Jewish communities) or of Christ’s love for the church and for individual believers (in Christian communities).
The book of Zechariah is Narrative History, Prophetic and Apocalyptic in genre. It is a post-exilic book, meaning it was written after (post) the return from captivity (exile) in Babylon. The prophet Zechariah wrote chapters 1-8 approximately 520-518 B.C. (Before the temple completed), and then wrote chapters 9-14 approximately 480 B.C. (After the temple is completed). Zechariah is among the most precisely dated books in the Bible. Key personalities are Zechariah, Zerubbabel and Joshua.
The purpose of this book is that Zechariah wrote to encourage the remnant, who had recently returned from exile. Their faith in God was weak and they were not motivated to build the temple. They needed to learn and conform to the law of God again.
The small book of Zephaniah is Narrative History and Prophetic Oracle. Zephaniah wrote it circa 630 B.C. very soon before the fall of Judah in the Southern Kingdom. The purpose of this book was to show that God raised up his prophet Zephaniah to proclaim a warning of coming judgment and to encourage repentance.
The Southern Kingdom was complacent in their wicked lives. They not only suffered under wicked kings they also would suffer under the holy judgment of God. Zephaniah was God’s method in bringing a stern warning of the day of the Lord €Near is the great day of the Lord…a day of wrath is that day€ (1:14-15). He also brought a message of hope, when the nation would be restored.
The book of Nehemiah is Narrative History. Nehemiah authored it at about 430 B.C. Key personalities include Nehemiah, Ezra, Sanballat, and Tobiah. Nehemiah wrote it to records the events of returning to Jerusalem and rebuilding the walls in 445 B.C.
Jerusalem had a temple but there was no protection for the city from further attack. Nehemiah travels to Jerusalem and uses his leadership skill to rally a citywide construction crew. Within a few weeks, the walls around Jerusalem were built and standing tall and their enemies lost their confidence.
The book of numbers is largely Narrative History as far as its genre. It was written by Moses about 1450-1410 B.C. Key personalities include Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Joshua, Caleb, Eleazar, Korah, and Balaam.
The purpose of the book of Numbers is to tell about how Israel prepared to enter the promise land, but sinned and was punished. It describes Moses taking two population censuses, hence the name Numbers.
The book of Obadiah is a book of Prophetic Oracles. The prophet Obadiah wrote it. Its authorship is difficult to date but was possibly written about 853-841 B.C. or 605-586 B.C. The key personalities are the Edomites. The purpose of Obadiah is to show that God will judge all those who are against His children, His chosen people; Edom is used as the example of this truth.
Obadiah is only one chapter (the shortest book in the Old Testament) yet it tells of God’s prophet Obadiah as he announces God’s powerful and authoritative judgment on the nation of Edom. This is the fateful end of the nation of Edom. They had been in conflict with Israel since ancient times, in reality Edom is the descendants of Esau, Jacobs’s brother.
The book of Judges presents the story of the individual tribes that became Israel from the death of Joshua to the birth of Samuel. Its title comes from the individuals called by God to be “judges” (charismatic leaders) of Israel, delivering the people from the oppression of neighboring peoples and leading them in faithful obedience to the Lord. Within the framework of the Deuteronomistic History, Judges illustrates the dire consequences of the lack of faithful leadership and paves the way for the discussion of monarchy in the books of Samuel and Kings.
The five poems of Lamentations respond to a catastrophe in Judah. Written in third- and first-person voices, the book both acknowledges the present as the consequence of past disobedience and challenges the adequacy of that acknowledgement to account for the current suffering. God has judged; human enemies have attacked. But the extent and relentlessness of the suffering are unbearable. Theological claims about God’s mercy and justice are not operating in life as it is currently experienced by the speakers. The content pleads for God to look, see, and act. The book consists of prayers of sufferers, not theology about suffering.
Leviticus is a book of law that demonstrates a concern with many different aspects of daily life.
It contains detailed laws regulating the offering of sacrifices, the duties of priests, the liturgical calendar, the sexual, dietary, and economic practices of the Israelites, and many other issues of ritual and moral holiness. Set at Mount Sinai in the time before the wilderness wanderings, Leviticus offers the children of Israel instructions on how to live as a people set apart by God, a people called to “be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy” (19:2).
Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament and is a book of Prophetic Oracle. It is a post-exilic book, meaning it was written after the return from captivity in Babylon. The prophet Malachi wrote it approximately 430 B.C. Key personalities include Malachi and the priests. The purpose of this book is that Malachi wrote to ensure that the hearts of the Jews was right and that they were keeping God first in their lives.
The book of Micah is a Prophetic Oracle. The prophet Micah wrote it 742-686 B.C. shortly before the Northern Kingdom’s fall in 722 B.C. Key personalities are all the people of Samaria and Jerusalem.
The purpose of the book of Micah was to proclaim warning and judgment to both the Northern and the Southern Kingdoms. His message was similar to that of Isaiah and was written at about the same time. Micah described the impending judgment that would eventually exile the nation.
The book of Nahum is a Prophetic Oracle. The prophet Nahum wrote it approximately 663-612 B.C. just before the fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C. He was raised up to preach God’s judgment for a second time to Nineveh. Jonah was the first about 120 years earlier.
Its purpose is to pronounce the final warning and judgment upon Nineveh, and he also addresses the rest of the Assyrian empire. They returned to wickedness shortly after they repented back in Jonah’s day. They would neglect Nahum and his message.
Within fifty years, Nineveh would be completely decimated and utterly wiped from the face of the Earth.
Genesis is a book about beginnings.
It moves from the morning of the world to the ordering of families and nations to the birthing of the fathers and mothers of Israel. The ancestral stories begin with Abraham and Sarah and continue with Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah/Rachel, and the sons of Jacob, focusing on Joseph.
While God was there “in the beginning,” Genesis also testifies to the beginnings of God’s activity in the world. It is a new day for God, too. And, given the divine commitment to the creation, God will never be the same again.
The book of Habakkuk is Narrative History and displays Prophetic Oracle. Habakkuk wrote it approximately 612-589 B.C. just before the fall of Judah in the Southern Kingdom. Key personalities are Habakkuk and the Babylonians. As is true of the many other prophets, Habakkuk is a short book. The information in it was vital since it carried God’s message to His people. Its purpose was that Habakkuk was announcing a familiar message of judgment. He was identifying the wickedness and sin of Judah before them. Habakkuk declared that God is the €Rock€ (1:2) and that they would be judged.
The book of Haggai is Narrative History and Prophetic Oracle. The prophet Haggai wrote it approximately 520 B.C. Haggai is among the most carefully and precisely dated books in the entire Bible. It is a post-exilic book, meaning it was written after (post) the captivity (exile) in Babylon. Key personalities are Haggai, Zerubbabel, and Joshua.
The purpose of this book was that Haggai was called by God to encourage the people to finish the construction of the temple in Jerusalem. The construction had ceased because of opposition and because the neighboring countries, and the Jews were frightened.
The book of Hosea is a Narrative History and Prophetic Oracle. Hosea is the first book in the sections of Minor Prophets. They are called Minor Prophets not because their material is less important or insignificant, but because of the size of the book they wrote was shorter in length. The prophet Hosea wrote it at approximately 715 B.C. It records the events from 753-715 B.C. including the fall of the Northern Kingdom in 722. The key personalities are Hosea, Gomer, and their children.
Its purpose was to illustrate the spiritual adultery of Israel and God’s boundless love for His sinful people. Hosea brings God’s message to the wicked Northern Kingdom.
During this time, they are active in oppressing the poor in slavery and worshipping idols. God, because of His grace, sent another opportunity for Israel to repent and turn to Him. Shortly thereafter, the Northern Kingdom went into permanent captivity.
The first part of this long book contains messages of judgment and warning similar to those of the other eighth-century prophets. Isaiah condemns hypocritical worship, complacency, and the failure to act with justice for the poor. The prophet also speaks resounding words of promise, announcing God’s coming messianic kingdom. The second part of the book brings words of comfort and hope to the exiles in Babylonian captivity in the sixth century B.C. This section introduces God’s suffering servant in passages that have become well known to believers in every generation. A third part of the book contains both warnings and promises for the community after its return to Jerusalem following the fall of Babylon in 538 B.C.
The book of Jeremiah is the longest book in the Bible (in terms of words and verses), and it is certainly one of the most complex. The nature of its structure and flow of thought are sharply disputed among scholars, evidence that the book does not lend itself well to summary statements. Jeremiah is a prophetic book that reports the ministry of the prophet Jeremiah to the people of Israel both before (primarily) and after the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 587 B.C.E. The preaching of Jeremiah speaks sharp words of indictment and judgment to an idolatrous people. Initially Jeremiah speaks in the hope that they will turn from their wicked ways, but in the wake of a lack of repentance the prophet portrays an inevitable judgment. Jeremiah also speaks words of hope, but recognizes that such a hopeful future will be realized only on the far side of the fall of Jerusalem. The book, however, is concerned not only to report the prophet’s preaching, but also to speak a word of God to a people that has already experienced horrendous hardships in the fall of Jerusalem.
The book of Job is Narrative History. Its author is unknown yet it is possible that Job himself wrote it. It is possible that Job is the oldest of any book of the Bible written approximately 2100-1800 B.C. Key personalities of this book include Job, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, Zophar the Naamathite, and Elihu the Buzite.
In Job, we see a man who God allows to be directly attacked by Satan. He is an example of faithfulness as he loses everything important to him yet remains faithful to God. Its purpose is to illustrate God’s sovereignty and faithfulness during a time of great suffering.
The genre of Joel is Narrative and Prophetic Oracle. The prophet Joel wrote it around 841-835 B.C. sometime before the fall and exiles of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. Key personalities are Joel and the people of Judah. Its purpose was to call the Southern Kingdom to repentance or prepare for the coming judgment. Joel describes the locust that inflicts severe damage to everything in their paths, and warns that it is only the beginning of what is to come.
The book of Jonah is Narrative History and a Prophetic Oracle. The prophet Jonah wrote it approximately 785-760 B.C. before Assyria conquered Israel’s Northern Kingdom. Key personalities include Jonah, the captain and the ship’s crew and the people of Nineveh.
The purpose of this book is to show that God is a merciful and gracious God. Although the wicked city of Nineveh deserved to be crushed immediately, God was patient towards them. A reluctant prophet, Jonah originally ran from God before delivering a message of repentance to the nation of Nineveh.
Joshua is the story of the Israelites’ entry into Canaan (the Promised Land) after forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Led by Joshua, the successor to Moses, the Israelites conquer the Canaanites and then redistribute the land to the twelve tribes of Israel. The book ends with a covenant renewal ceremony, in which both Joshua and the Israelites declare, “We will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:21).
The book covers the prophecies, visions, and symbolic actions of Ezekiel, a prophet among the Jews during the exile in Babylon. This book is one of the Major Prophets, filled with deeply symbolic visions and extreme actions from a man of zealous faith and profound spiritual vision. It includes an awesome vision of the throne-chariot of God as the “glory of the Lord”; prophecies of the judgment of God on Judah and Jerusalem (including the future and final fall of the city); prophecies against the nations surrounding Israel; and many highly symbolic actions and visions. The book concludes with visions of the future restoration of the land and the temple, and the return of the glory of the Lord (God’s presence) to Israel forever.
Second Samuel continues the story of King David begun in 1 Samuel, including his military victories, centralization of the cult in the new capital of Jerusalem, and God’s promise of an eternal dynasty. David’s human failings–as a person, as a father, and as a king–as well as God’s judgment and grace, complete this portrait of Israel’s greatest king.
The purpose of the book of Amos was to announce God’s holy judgment on the Kingdom of Israel (the Northern Kingdom), call them to repentance, and to turn from their self-righteous sins and idolatry. God raised up the prophet Amos, as an act of His great mercy to a people who repeatedly shunned and disobeyed Him.
Daniel 1-6 is set in exile. The Babylonian rulers, presuming to be in charge of the affairs of the world, challenge the faith of Daniel and his three fellow Judeans. Readers are to be encouraged because of the examples of God’s care for Daniel and his friends during their ordeals. Daniel 7-12 depicts both the hardship to be experienced by those who will live after Daniel and the actions of rulers who reign after the Babylonians. The final scenes shift to Palestine, the violence escalates, and rulers directly assault the people of God. Each vision ends with the affirmation that God will prevail; evil will not have the last word.
Deuteronomy is couched in the form of a farewell discourse delivered by Moses on the plains of Moab (1:1-5). It opens with a review of how God had brought the people to the verge of the Jordan (1:1-4:43). In a second discourse, Moses explains the significance of the covenant (chapters 5-11) and introduces the Deuteronomic Law Code (chapters 12-26), the heart of the book. This is followed by instructions for the renewal of the covenant (chapter 27), a list of blessings and curses (chapter 28), and a final exhortation to observe the covenant (chapters 29-30). The Song of Moses (chapters 31-32), his final blessing of Israel (chapter 33), and the account of his death on Mt. Nebo (chapter 34) bring the book to a close.