Understanding the Old Testament - Lesson 5

Intro Pentateuch

This lesson introduces the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, also known as the Mosaic Collection. The lesson explores the covenantal structure of the Pentateuch, beginning with Genesis as the Covenant Prologue, detailing the revelation of God's identity and his chosen people. Exodus through Deuteronomy are the Books of the Covenant, focusing on Moses' role as the covenant mediator and the authorship debate surrounding the Pentateuch. Internal and external evidence supporting Mosaic authorship is presented, along with insights into the historical context and textual updates over time. Through this analysis, you will grasp the significance of the Pentateuch as the foundation of Israel's covenantal relationship with God and its relevance for understanding biblical theology.

Miles Van Pelt
Understanding the Old Testament
Lesson 5
Watching Now
Intro Pentateuch

I. Overview of the Pentateuch

A. Structure of the Mosaic Collection

1. Covenant Prologue: Genesis

2. Books of the Covenant: Exodus through Deuteronomy

II. Authorship of the Pentateuch

A. Traditional Attribution to Moses

B. Internal Evidence

1. Exodus 17:14 - Command to Write

2. Exodus 34:27-28 - Covenant Code Inscribed

3. Deuteronomy 31:9, 24 - Completion of Writing

4. Joshua 8 - Recognition and Copying of the Law

C. External Evidence

1. References in Later Old Testament Books (Ezra, Chronicles, Nehemiah)

2. New Testament Affirmations (Luke, John, Romans)

D. Redaction and Updating

1. Moses' Initial Writing

2. Editorial Work by Later Figures (Possibly Ezra)

III. Covenantal Nature of the Pentateuch

A. Covenant Prologue: Genesis

B. Books of the Covenant: Exodus through Deuteronomy

1. Covenant Establishment and Renewal

2. Covenant Responsibilities and Blessings

3. Covenant Relationship between God and His People

IV. Implications for Understanding the Old Testament

A. Importance of Recognizing Covenantal Framework

B. Significance for Interpreting Subsequent Old Testament Texts

C. Relevance for Christian Theology and Understanding of God's Relationship with Humanity

  • Engage with the Old Testament to grasp its Gospel-centered nature. From Genesis to Ecclesiastes and Psalms, discover foundational truths, wisdom, and insights on suffering. Strengthen your faith and find enduring hope in God's Word.
  • Gain insight into the Old Testament's theological core, centering on Jesus Christ. Explore its diverse genres, languages, and authors, unified by Jesus as its focal point. Understand how biblical evidence supports Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, shaping interpretation.
  • In this lesson, Dr. Miles Van Pelt provides the thematic framework for the Old Testament. The Old Testament's thematic core is the Kingdom of God. Through this lesson, you'll understand its covenantal nature, from pre-temporal arrangements to various administrations like redemption, works, and grace, unveiling God's salvation plan in Christ.
  • Discover the intricate covenantal structure of the Bible, revealing its theological depth and unity, from the division of the Hebrew Bible to its mirroring in the New Testament, all centered around Jesus Christ.
  • Gain insight into the Pentateuch's covenantal structure, Moses' authorship debate, and evidence supporting it. Understand its significance as the foundation of Israel's relationship with God and its relevance for biblical theology.
  • Through this lesson, you will understand the theological, structural, and thematic intricacies of the book of Genesis. You'll grasp its role as a foundational text in both the Old and New Testaments, exploring themes of covenant, creation, fall, redemption, and the fulfillment of promises. You'll gain insights into the genealogical structure of Genesis, its portrayal of key biblical figures like Adam, Noah, and Abraham, and its connection to the overarching narrative of the gospel.
  • Exodus reveals Yahweh's promise—"I will be with you"—unfolding divine presence and covenant. It anticipates Jesus as fulfillment—a better Moses and Tabernacle—ushering in God's eternal presence among humanity.
  • Studying Leviticus unveils the intricate system of laws and rituals at Mount Sinai. It explains sacrificial atonement, priestly consecration, purity laws, and the theme of holiness, prefiguring Jesus as the ultimate priest, sacrifice, and source of holiness.
  • Discover the Book of Numbers' insights on Israel's journey, God's faithfulness, consequences of disobedience, and parallels to Christ, cautioning against questioning God's holiness and emphasizing His desire to dwell among His people through the Holy Spirit.
  • Gain insight into Deuteronomy's covenant renewal for Israel entering Canaan, emphasizing obedience, typology, and its relevance for Christian living.
  • Gain deep insight into the former prophets, exploring themes of Yahweh's faithfulness, Israel's unfaithfulness, and the typological significance of the Mosaic covenant. Understand its relation to the Abrahamic covenant and its fulfillment in the New Covenant under Jesus, revealing God's plan for restoration.
  • Joshua unveils Joshua's leadership, divine promise fulfillment in Canaan, obedience's significance, and Jesus as the ultimate fulfiller of God's promises.
  • Discover the Book of Judges, detailing Israel's history and faith journey. Learn about judges as deliverers from oppression and idolatry, portraying parallels with Christ's ministry. Uncover a pattern of uncreation due to idolatry, emphasizing the need for an eternal judge—Jesus Christ—to save from corruption.
  • In this lesson, Dr. Miles Van Pelt provides insights into the book of Samuel, exploring its characters, themes, and the transition from judgeship to kingship in Israel. Learn of the significance of the Davidic covenant, culminating in Jesus as the ultimate King of Kings.
  • Gain insights into the Book of Kings, revealing its historical and theological significance. Discover the fulfillment of Davidic covenant, reasons for Israel's exile, and anticipation of the new covenant. Recognize Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of its promises.
  • This lesson reviews latter prophets' insights into Israel's exile for breaking the Mosaic Covenant, the prophetic office's nature, diverse prophecy genres, and the execution of covenant lawsuits, all pointing to God's judgment and hope for restoration.
  • Explore Isaiah's profound prophetic themes, from redemption to impending judgment. Unravel his life and ministry's context, review the debate around authorship, and learn essential tools for study.
  • Enjoy this lesson on Jeremiah, a second Moses figure, and his prophetic message of repentance, redemption, and a new covenant. Explore the book's chiastic structure, historical context, and theological significance, offering hope amidst Judah's fall.
  • Studying Ezekiel reveals its focus on the glory of the Lord and the temple. You learn of Ezekiel's exile, his visions, and themes like covenant theology, creation, and apocalyptic elements, offering profound insights into hope amidst crisis.
  • Discover insights into the minor prophets' diverse genres and themes, from covenant infidelity to divine restoration. Witness Jonah's repentance narrative and prophetic visions culminating in Christ's fulfillment. Embrace Yahweh's justice and compassion, urging Israel's return, leading to Jesus as the ultimate authority.
  • Understand the structure and themes of the Hebrew Bible's writings section. Explore diverse literary forms, intentional divisions mirroring prophets, and the overarching theme of exile and return, illuminating Israel's covenant journey.
  • Discover the depth of the Book of Psalms: 150 songs divided into 5 books, expressing diverse emotions and worship forms. Explore themes, structure, and practical applications for personal devotion and prayer.
  • Gain insights into human suffering and theodicy through Job's trials. Explore themes of faith, resilience, and God's sovereignty amidst adversity. Discover hope in God's incomprehensible sovereignty amid life's trials.
  • Proverbs is a book of timeless wisdom from Solomon, who was gifted by God. By studying this book, you can learn to navigate life with righteousness and discernment, rooted in the fear of the Lord.
  • Journey through Ruth, where redemption, loyalty, and divine providence intertwine. Ruth, a symbol of strength, aligns with Boaz, embodying ancient customs. Their union shapes history, reflecting the enduring legacy of faith amidst life's complexities.
  • Explore the Song of Songs for insights into marriage and intimacy. It navigates the tension between true love and temptation, advocating for unwavering commitment and passionate intimacy, reflecting God's desired relationship. Discover timeless wisdom for modern-day love and marriage.
  • Ecclesiastes reveals life's futility without God, emphasizing the necessity of fearing Him. Through Solomon's wisdom, it prompts reflection on divine purpose amid existential questions.
  • In Lamentations, mourn the fall of Jerusalem and exile, finding hope in God's sovereignty.
  • The book of Esthers contains themes of providence, hiddenness of God, and faithfulness in exile. You will uncover the intricacies of Esther and Mordecai's roles in the deliverance of the Jewish people, as well as the establishment of the festival of Purim. This study will equip you with insights into how God's providence operates amidst human events, even when His presence may seem concealed, and how faithfulness in exile can lead to unexpected outcomes of deliverance and restoration.
  • Through this lesson on the book of Daniel, you'll gain insights into its structure, themes of faithfulness in exile, comparisons with Joseph, and its significance for understanding apocalyptic literature, providing a comprehensive understanding of God's sovereignty and care for His people.
  • Explore Ezra and Nehemiah for insights into post-exilic restoration, intertwining faith, governance, and cultural renewal. These books point towards a deeper longing for true and lasting restoration and echo themes found in apocalyptic literature such as the book of Revelation.
  • The Book of Chronicles traces Israel's history, emphasizing kingship, priesthood, and divine selection. It anticipates restoration, pointing to Jesus as the ultimate priest-king who fulfills God's promises.

Understanding the Old Testament 
Dr. Miles Van Pelt
Intro Pentateuch
Lesson Transcript


We're now ready to take off on our journey through the Old Testament, moving from Genesis to Chronicles, and in the categories of the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. We're going to begin with the Law, and so this lecture is an introduction to the Pentateuch as we begin our studies through it. Some of it we've mentioned before, but I want to reinforce some important ideas as we begin to work through each of these books.

The Mosaic Collection, that is, the Law, the Pentateuch, the Books of Moses, or Genesis through Deuteronomy, whatever we call it, this Mosaic Collection has two primary sections, as suggested by the Covenantal arrangement of the Bible. We have, for example, maybe something like Roman numeral I, the Law, point A, Genesis, point B, Exodus through Deuteronomy, if we were giving this an outline. Point A, Genesis, constitutes the Covenant Prologue, the Covenant Prologue, and it answers two basic questions.

Who is God, and who are his people? Well, who is God? He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and he is the Covenant God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Who are his people? The children of Israel were from the line of Seth, not Cain, but from the family line of Noah, Shem, and then Abraham. 

The Covenant Prologue answers two questions: Who is God, and who are his people? The next section, Exodus through Deuteronomy, is formally the Books of the Covenant, and these books are framed by the birth and death of the Covenant mediator, Moses. Moses is born at the beginning of Exodus, and he dies at the end of Deuteronomy, and in the middle, which contains his life and teachings amid God's people. Just like in the Gospels, we have four books that begin with the birth and the death of the Covenant mediator, Jesus, and contain his life and teachings among God's people.

So, when we're thinking about the Pentateuch, we're thinking about the Gospels of the Old Testament, fundamentally, the Gospels of the Old Testament, those Covenant books in the category of Covenant Prologue, and then the Covenant itself. In terms of authorship, traditionally, Moses is understood to be the author of the book. But this is one of the most hotly contested subjects in Old Testament studies, who wrote the Pentateuch? In these introductory survey lectures, we're not going to cover the debate about who wrote the book. We're just going to assume that Moses wrote it. However, if you would like a fuller survey of this particular topic about the authorship of the Pentateuch, see my lectures, my Old Testament Survey lectures in the Biblical Training Institute, where we have done a little bit fuller treatment. There's a link below if you're interested in those lectures. 

But let's think about Moses as the author for a moment and see what that does for us. Some defend Mosaic authorship, and I'm one of those people who does so. There is both internal evidence in the Pentateuch itself, and there's also external evidence outside of the Pentateuch. And it just helps us to think about how the rest of the Old Testament works and how the New Testament thinks about these books in terms of who wrote them, because who wrote them and when they were written impacts how you read the rest of the Bible. So let's begin with internal evidence, that is, within the Pentateuch itself.

Let's consider first, I'm going to give you six texts to consider here, or five texts to consider with one outside of the Pentateuch. The first is Exodus 17:14, which says there's a war that goes on there, and Israel wins, and it's pretty spectacular, but the whole point is, is that from the very beginning, God is commanding Moses to write down the events that are occurring during his ministry. We move on to Exodus 34:27, where the Lord says to Moses after the golden calf, where Moses has destroyed the tablets of the covenant, and he's asked to write them down again for the people as a witness.

It again says in Exodus 34:28, now the ten words is just a summary, but what it means is he wrote down all of the covenant code from Exodus 20-24 on the front and back of those tablets, two copies, both of which would be deposited in the Ark of the Covenant. Number four, we're moving to Deuteronomy now, where it is recorded here in Deuteronomy 31:9, towards the end of the book, and it says, reflecting on Deuteronomy and Moses' life, and then in a few more verses in Deuteronomy 31:24. So not only did Moses write, not only did he write the covenant code and the history of Israel, but he also wrote them to the very end. So some sense of completeness or fullness there.

It's interesting then that in Joshua chapter 8 when they're renewing the covenant, what we have here is very interesting, that the people in Joshua 8 are already living in light of the book of the law of Moses, singular, and they're copying that book so that it may be again. So an amazing amount of internal evidence that Moses had an extensive literary ministry in the midst of being the covenant mediator for God and Israel. 

Well, what about outside of the Pentateuch? Well, we have some great spots all over the place with reference, but I'll just mention a couple at the end of the canon for you. For example, there's Ezra 6:18, which mentions the book of the law of Moses, or 2 Chronicles 25:4, which mentions the book of the law of Moses, or 2 Chronicles 35:12, which mentions the book of the law of Moses, all the way at the end of the canon. A thousand years later, they're identifying this book as the book of Moses. Another interesting example is found in Nehemiah 13:1, when it says, On that day, this is a covenant renewal day, they, that is the Israelites, read from the book of Moses in the hearing of the people, and it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God. We'll talk about that, but here we have the fact that we have God's people reading from God's word already written, so there's evidence there. 

In the New Testament, we have several instances of reflecting on the fact that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch. For example, Luke 20:28, says, "And the people asked him a question, saying, 'Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for him.'" Well, notice here we have the designation that Moses wrote. Or John 1:17, For the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Christ. Or John 1:45, Philip and Nathanael said to him, We have found of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth.Very interesting. Finally, we have something like Romans 10:5, where Paul says, "For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them." 

Now, all this is to say is that the Pentateuch itself, the Old Testament that follows, Jesus, and the apostles all recognize Moses as the author of that corpus of literature.

 So I'm very comfortable with saying Moses is the author of that material. Now, I do also agree with this, that Moses wrote, let's say, in 1400 BC. We can say, given what we know about the Exodus and stuff like that, that if the Exodus happened in 1446 BC, and Moses lived 40 more years until he died, Joshua took the people into the Promised Land, and the book of Exodus was written between 1446 and 1406 BC.

But that is not to say that Moses' book was not updated at the appropriate time, both in terms of its font, because he used a script that was very old and needed to be updated in terms of things like the account of his death or the names of certain cities that had changed over time. We call this a redactor or an editor, and someone like Ezra would have put the book into its final form and given us this updated script and all these little notices that help update the text so it's understandable and meaningful to the people. Okay, so the Law of Moses comes to us in two parts.

It's highly covenantal. From beginning to end, these are the books of the covenant. You've got the covenant prologue and the covenant itself in Exodus of Deuteronomy. And what we want to do is now step through each of those books, in turn, to see the nature of the covenant revealed and how we as God's people relate to him.