BibleProject - Old Testament - Lesson 1

Old Testament Overview

In this video, you will learn about the Old Testament, also known as the Hebrew Bible or the TaNaK. The video provides an overview of the literary design and flow of thought of the entire Old Testament. The Old Testament is divided into several sections, including the Pentateuch (also known as the Torah), the Historical Books, the Wisdom Literature, the Major Prophets, and the Minor Prophets. The Pentateuch consists of five books, including Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, and tells the story of God's relationship with humanity, including the creation of the world, the fall of humanity, the covenant with Abraham, and the exodus from Egypt. The Historical Books describe the history of Israel, from Joshua's conquest of Canaan to the return of the exiles from Babylon. The Wisdom Literature includes books such as Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon, which offer practical and philosophical insights into life. The Major Prophets, including Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel, provide prophetic messages about God's judgment and redemption. The Minor Prophets, which include twelve books, offer short but powerful messages about repentance and faithfulness to God.

Taught by a Team
Taught by a Team
BibleProject - Old Testament
Lesson 1
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Old Testament Overview

I. Introduction to the Old Testament

A. Protestant Old Testament

B. Jewish TaNaKh

II. Composition and Authors

A. Role of Prophetic Scribes

B. Divine Guidance

III. Torah

A. Creation and Fall of Humanity

B. Abraham's Family and God's Promise

C. Moses and the Covenant

IV. Nevi'im

A. Former Prophets (Joshua's Leadership and Israel's Downfall)

B. Latter Prophets (Messages of Failure, Purification, and Hope)

V. Ketuvim

A. Psalms

B. Wisdom Scrolls (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job)

C. Other Texts (Ruth, Esther, Daniel, Chronicles)

Related Classes

  • By watching this video, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the Old Testament, including its literary design and flow of thought. You will learn about the different sections of the Old Testament, including the Pentateuch, Historical Books, Wisdom Literature, Major Prophets, and Minor Prophets. You will also gain insights into the stories, themes, and messages of each of these sections and how they contribute to the overall narrative of God's relationship with humanity.
  • By studying Genesis, you will gain a deeper understanding of the Old Testament and its key themes and characters, as well as the literary features of the book, such as its structure, style, and genre. The creation story is a key part of the book, as are the stories of Abraham and the patriarchs, the fall and sin, the flood and Noah, and God's covenant with Israel. Additionally, Genesis introduces readers to the Old Testament and sets the stage for the Pentateuch and Books of Moses, while also introducing many themes and motifs that continue throughout the Bible.
  • Discover the captivating stories of the patriarchs in Genesis Part 2, exploring themes of covenant, God's sovereignty, human responsibility, faith, and obedience.
  • Explore the Bible's book of Exodus to gain insight into God's rescue of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, the significance of the covenant and law, and its connection to the New Testament.
  • Gain insight into the book of Exodus and its themes of salvation and redemption, revealing God's character through his interactions with Israel, with significant influence on Jewish and Christian traditions and connections to the New Testament through its foreshadowing of Jesus Christ.
  • By studying Leviticus with The Bible Project, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the historical and literary context, themes, and structure of this important book in the Old Testament. You will also learn about the significance of Leviticus for understanding the Torah and its relevance for Christians today.
  • By studying The Bible Project's lesson on Numbers, you'll comprehensively understand its structure, themes, and significance, gaining insight into the journey of the Israelites in the wilderness, God's guidance, rebellion, priesthood, and offerings, as well as its historical, theological, and contemporary relevance.
  • Explore Numbers' authorship, context, structure, and theology to gain a comprehensive understanding of its significance to the Pentateuch and the Old Testament, as well as its relevance to the Christian faith today.
  • You will gain knowledge and insight into the book of Joshua, including its historical context, literary genre, and summary. You will learn about the book's themes, such as God's faithfulness, obedience, and judgment, and its significance in foreshadowing Christ's work and providing historical and theological implications.
  • Explore the historical and cultural context, literary design, and theological significance of the book of Judges in the Old Testament, and learn how it fits into the broader biblical storyline, including its relevance for today.
  • Explore the Book of Ruth to understand its historical context, literary features, themes of loyalty and faithfulness, redemption, the kinsman-redeemer's role, and its Old Testament significance.
  • Studying the Book of Samuel provides insight into the rise of the Israelite monarchy, the lives of Saul and David, and the importance of obedience to God, covering themes of leadership and kingship with the presence of the Ark of the Covenant.
  • By exploring the story of Absalom in 2 Samuel and the broader context of the Old Testament Historical Books, you will gain insight into the themes and messages of these books, as well as their historical and modern-day significance.
  • Through the study of 1 Kings and 2 Kings, you will gain a deeper understanding of the history of Israel and Judah, as well as valuable spiritual lessons from these Old Testament books.
  • By studying this lesson, you understand the historical and literary aspects of 1 and 2 Chronicles, emphasizing God's sovereignty, covenant faithfulness, worship, and obedience.
  • Through this lesson, you grasp the historical context, key themes, and modern applications of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, enriching your understanding of faith, community, and commitment to God's Word.
  • You will gain an understanding of the book of Esther, a narrative in the Hebrew Bible that tells the story of a Jewish woman named Esther who becomes queen in the Persian court and, with the help of her cousin Mordecai, saves the Jews from genocide orchestrated by the villain Haman. The story highlights God's sovereignty and providential care, and the feast of Purim celebrates the Jews' victory.
  • By studying the Book of Job, you will explore the complexities of human suffering, the search for divine wisdom, and the tension between God's sovereignty and human limitations within a unique literary structure.
  • You will gain a comprehensive understanding of the book of Psalms, including its background, structure, authorship, and theology. You will also learn about the various themes and motifs present in the Psalms, which will help you better understand and appreciate this important book in the Old Testament.
  • By studying Proverbs, you will understand the definition and purpose of wisdom, the fear of the Lord, and the personification of wisdom in the book. You will also gain insights into the literary structure of Proverbs and the themes of the book, including the importance of listening to wisdom, the power of words, and the value of hard work.
  • In the Ecclesiastes lesson, you gain insights into the book's structure, themes, and significance, while exploring the search for meaning, vanity, and the importance of fearing God and enjoying life.
  • You will gain an understanding of the literary features, interpretation, theology, and application of the book Song of Songs, including its authorship, historical and cultural context, allegorical and literal interpretation, and its teachings on God and human love, sexuality, and relationships.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insight into Isaiah's historical context, literary features, major themes, and its significance in the Old Testament.
  • Discover how Isaiah's prophetic message of judgment and hope for Jerusalem evolves, as it predicts the fall of Israel's kingdom and envisions a new, purified Jerusalem where God's kingdom will be restored through a future messianic king, uniting all nations in peace.
  • Through this lesson, you will gain understanding of the book of Jeremiah, including its historical and cultural context, literary features, major themes and message, and significance in the Old Testament.
  • In this lesson, you learn about the Book of Lamentations, its structure, themes, and the role of God in the midst of suffering and divine judgment, while ultimately highlighting His faithfulness and mercy.
  • In the book of Ezekiel, you follow the story of a priest named Ezekiel who has a vision of God's glory riding on a royal throne chariot, and is commissioned by God to accuse Israel of rebellion and warn them of their impending destruction due to their covenant violations and rampant social injustice, while also providing a small glimmer of hope for the future.
  • By viewing this lesson on Daniel, you will gain understanding of its structure, themes, and significance in the Old Testament, gaining knowledge about living as faithful exiles in a hostile culture, God's sovereignty and faithfulness in times of trial, and remaining faithful to God even in difficult circumstances.
  • Through this lesson, you grasp the complexities of Hosea, discovering the book's themes, messages, and its role in the Old Testament, emphasizing the relationship between Israel's unfaithfulness and God's unwavering love.
  • By studying the book of Joel, you will gain insight into the historical and cultural context of Judah, the literary features of prophetic literature, and the themes of repentance, restoration, and the Day of the Lord. Joel's prophecy also has significance in the New Testament as it is quoted by Peter at Pentecost, emphasizing the fulfillment of Joel's vision through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
  • In the Amos lesson, you explore its historical context, literary features, and themes, enhancing your understanding of justice, the Day of the Lord, and God's sovereignty within the Old Testament.
  • By studying Obadiah, you will gain insight into the historical context and literary features of this prophetic oracle. You will learn about the pride of Edom, their judgment, and the hope for Israel. Through understanding the significance of Obadiah in the Old Testament, you will have a deeper appreciation for the themes and message of this book.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insight into Jonah's themes, including God's mercy, human rebellion, repentance, and the significance of mission, while also understanding its connections to other biblical narratives.
  • Studying the book of Micah will give you an understanding of its historical context, literary genre, prophetic message of judgment and restoration, and insights into God's character and how He interacts with His people.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into the historical context, structure, and themes of the book of Nahum, learning about God's sovereignty, justice, and the relevance of these concepts in today's world.
  • Studying Habakkuk will deepen your understanding of how to wrestle with difficult questions about God's character and the problem of evil and respond with faith and trust in God's sovereignty.
  • In this lesson, you explore the book of Zephaniah, gaining insights into its background, context, literary features, themes, and significance in the Old Testament, including the central message of the Day of the Lord and the promise of future hope.
  • You will gain an in-depth understanding of the Book of Haggai, including its historical and cultural context, literary structure, purpose and themes, individual sections, and theological significance in relation to the Exile, Restoration, and Messiah.
  • In this lesson, you gain insights into Zechariah's historical context, structure, themes of restoration, the coming Messiah, God's sovereignty, and its significance in the Old Testament.
  • Discover the last book of the Old Testament and its themes, such as God's love for Israel, the importance of worship, and the coming of the messenger and the day of the Lord, as well as its connection to the New Testament, which prophesies the coming of John the Baptist and Jesus and calls for a return to God.

BP100-01 Old Testament Overview 
If you open a Protestant Christian Bible and look at the table of contents, you will notice the first three quarters is a collection called the Old Testament. If you look at the list of books, you will see it is made up of 39 smaller works that are grouped into four main sections. The first five are called the Pentateuch, followed by the historical books, then the poetic books and finally the books of the prophets. Now, that seems simple enough but actually it is more complicated and way more interesting. This arrangement of the books in a single volume called the Old Testament is a later Christian tradition that develop after Jesus and the apostles. In ancient Jewish tradition these works were all on separated scrolls and were conceived of as a unified three part collection called TaNaK. It is a Hebrew acronym for "Torah" which means "instruction", "Nevi'im" which means "prophets", and "Ketuvim" which means "writings". The TaNaKh has the same books as the Protestant Old Testament but they are arranged differently. The "Torah" corresponds to the Pentateuch. But the "prophets" consist of four historical narrative books and then the 15 works named after specific prophets. After this comes the "writings", a diverse collection of poetic and narrative texts. This 3-part design is really, really old. It is referred to in ancient Jewish texts like the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Wisdom of Ben Sirach. Even Jesus of Nazareth mentioned it That is because this 3-part shape is woven into the compositional design of the scrolls themselves. If you pay attention, you will discover that every scroll has been coordinated by means of cross references that link each work into the larger 3-part collection. So, who put all these scrolls together? it was a long process. Some of the famous contributors are named, like Moses or David. But most of the authors remain anonymous. In the Bible, they are simply called "Scribes" or "the Prophets". These scrolls took shape throughout Israel's history as generations of prophetic scribes collected earlier stories and poems, integrated them into larger compositions, and then eventually shaped all of this material into the unified library of scrolls, the "TaNaKh". It is clear from texts in the Psalms and Prophets that these prophetic scribes believed that God's Spirit was guiding this whole process so that through these human words, God speaks to his people. That is why they treasured these texts, studying and composing them into a unified collection. We do not know when precisely this process was finished, but it was somewhere in the last centuries before the time of Jesus. In its final shape, the TaNaKh offers a prophetic interpretation of Israel's history that claims to reveal God's purposes to rescue the whole world. While we cannot do justice to the whole collection in one video, it is helpful to get an overview what these scrolls are all about. The Torah begins with God creating and blessing a great piece of real estate: our very good world. God entrusts it to a creature that reflects the divine image: human. Or, in Hebrew, "Adam". God appoints humanity to rule the world as kings and queens of creation. The question is whether they will trust God's wisdom to discern good and evil or seize autonomy and define good and evil for themselves. But there is another creature with the humans: a mysterious snake. It is in rebellion against the Creator. And it dupes the humans to foolishly rebel against God's generosity. As a result, humanity is separated from its divine source of life and exiled from a garden of blessing to die in a dangerous wilderness. From there, humanity keeps spreading and redefining good and evil. And things go downhill fast. They build cities plagued by violence and oppression, all leading to the foundation of a city called Babylon where people exalt themselves to the place of God. Now the basic plot conflict of the whole Bible is set. God wants to bless his world and rule it through humans. But now, humans are the problem. They are under the influence of evil. They are stupid and short-sighted and headed for self-destruction. This is all a setup for God's solution: We need a new kind of human. So God promises that a new human will come who won't give into the snake. In fact, he will crush it and will be crushed by it. From here, the story traces the promise lineage to a man and woman: Abraham and Sarah. God entrusts them with the same divine blessing given to humanity on page 1. So they leave Babylon to a new garden-like land that God promises to give his family. What follows is a story of Abraham's family. Three generations: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, followed by 12 sons. Our hopes are high, until we read their very dysfunctional and destructive family story. They lie, cheat, nearly kill each other, not to mention the sex scandals. But, what did you expect after the garden story? They are human. Eventually, Abraham's family ends up exiled down in Egypt. All these failures of Abraham's family form a dark background for the handful of bright moments in the story. God stays committed to these people. He even makes them an eternal promise called a "covenant" that he will rescue and bless all humanity through them. How exactly is not clear. But Abraham's family is at its best when they stop their selfish scheming and trust God's promise with radical faith. From here, the family grows. They end up enslaved in Egypt. And we are introduced to the Torah's other main character, Moses. God raises him up to rescue the Israelites and bring them to a mountain where they are all invited into a covenant relationship with God They are given 613 terms of the relationship, guidelines for becoming new kinds of humans who will faithfully represent God to the world. Moses brokers this whole deal because he is awesome. He is the ultimate prophet who speaks God's word to Israel. He is a priest who represents them before God and he is even called a king, Israel's leader and deliverer in time of need. But as the Torah progresses, the Israelites fail, big time. They violate the covenant and even Moses rebels against God. In fact, the Torah ends with Moses predicting that Israel's failure will continue as they go back into the Promised Land. And they are going to end up in exile once again. But, he has hope that God will fulfill his promise to rescue Israel. One day he will cover for their failures, he will heal their selfish hearts so they can truly love God and live. And then, Moses dies. The final sentences of the Torah scroll are surprising. They zoom forward in time and we hear from the prophetic scribes who shape the TaNaK. They reflect back on the story of Moses from their vantage point. They tell us that never again in Israel's history did a prophet like Moses arise. Man, I wish another prophet-priest-king like him would come along. With that, we move into the Nevi'im. It has two sub-collections. First, the former prophets. Four narrative works about Israel's story in the Promised Land, told from the later perspective of the prophet. Things start great with Joshua's leadership. We are told he is successful because he is just like Moses. And, he meditates on Scripture day and night. But, eventually, even Joshua fails beginning Israel's long and violent descent into self destruction, just like Moses and the garden story anticipated. These stories mostly focus on the failure of Israel's kings, prophets and priests, how they lie, cheat, kill each other and worship idols. It is basically a longer, bloodier replay of the ancestors' failures. But there are some bright spots. God reaffirms his covenant promise to bless humanity through a new human. It will be a king from the line of David. You get some stories about people like David or Solomon who have moments like Abraham when they trust God But it never lasts. Wouldn't you know it, the family of Abraham ends up right where they began, conquered and exiled in Babylon. But remember, this whole story is being told from the later perspective of the prophet. They know exile is not the end. So they design these stories of Israel's past as pointers to their future hope. When God does rescue his people out of Babylon, he will send that new king who will be like Moses and David and Solomon were on their good days. In fact, this is what the second part of the Nevi'im, the latter prophet, is all about. There are 3 large and 12 short works connected to specific prophets. This design intentionally recalls the 3 plus 12 ancestors from Genesis whose stories of failure contained the seeds of hope. These prophetic scrolls are loaded with cross references that link back into the narrative of the Torah and the Prophets and they carry the story further. The job of lsrael's prophets was to be like Moses, to accuse the old Israel of failure and corruption, and to warn them about the looming result: the great Day of the Lord, which ended with defeat and exile in Babylon. But the prophets also promised that God had a purpose: to purify his people and recreate a new Israel who would be faithful like Abraham was. They will live in a new covenant relationship with God under the reign of that promised ruler who is described as a new Moses but called by the name, David. He will be the one to restore God's blessing to the entire world. The conclusion of the Nevi'im is just like the Torah. There is a note from the TaNaK's prophetic scribes. They reflect back over the whole story so far. They urge readers to anticipate the arrival of a new Moses-like prophet who they call "Elijah". He will announce the arrival of Israel's God to purify and save his people. From here, we move into the TaNaKh's third and final sub-collection, the Ketuvim, a diverse collection of scrolls. Each one has been designed to link back into the key themes from the Torah and the Prophets and develop them further through an elaborate tapestry of cross references. For example, the Psalms scroll is introduced by two poems that are coordinated to the beginning of the Torah and the Prophets. In the first Psalm, we meet the Righteous One who is described as a new Joshua, a successful leader who meditates on the Scriptures. He is like the king promised by Moses. And he is like the eternal tree of life in the Garden of Eden. Psalm 2 then identifies this figure: it is the promised king, the son of God from the line of David who is going to defeat evil among the nations and restore God's blessing to the world. The rest of the Psalms scroll teaches God's people how to pray as they wait for this future hope. Then there are the wisdom scrolls that address some of the most difficult questions raised by the story of the Torah and the Prophets. So Proverbs sounds like Moses in the Torah: trust in God, be faithful and obedient, and you will have peace and success. But then, Ecclesiastes and Job reflect back on Israel's complicated history and say, "Yeah, we tried that, and it is not that simple." These three books carry on a profound conversation about what it means to live wisely in God's good and often confusing world. Two of the last books of the TaNaKh to be written make a crucial contribution. The Daniel scroll looks back over the long history of Israel's failure and suffering as a strange door of hope into a new future for the world. One day, that new human promised in the Torah and the Prophets will arrive. He is going to be trampled by humanity's animal-like inclinations towards evil. But then God will vindicate him and raise him up to rule the world in divine power. Finally, the scroll of Chronicles retells the entire story of the TaNaKh, from the beginning up to Israel's return from exile. The author focuses on God's promise to David of a future king who will reunite God's people in a new Jerusalem and bring divine blessing to the nations. The final lines of the Chronicles scroll have been coordinated with key texts from all over the TaNaKh. They keep alive the hope of an ultimate return from exile, pointing to the arrival of an Israelite whose God is with him that he may go up and restore the new Jerusalem. That is how the story ends. The TaNaKh is a majestically and intentionally designed collection of ancient Hebrew scrolls. These diverse texts from all periods of Israel's history have been woven together as a unified story about God's covenant promise to Israel and to all humanity. They were made for a lifetime's worth of reading and reflection as these remarkable human words offer a divine word of wisdom and future hope that still speaks today.