EXODUS is an account of the children of Israel in their enslaved condition in Egypt, their preparation for and deliverance from Egypt, and their journey to Sinai. Some of the happenings during their eighteen-month stay there are also reported. Laws, ordinances, and priesthood are revealed; and the portable sanctuary or the tabernacle is built.
LEVITICUS records the legal codes (religious and civil), priesthood ordinances, rites, and instructions for the children of Israel. The establishment of a system of offerings and feasts of the “law of Moses,” are also explained in this book.
NUMBERS is the only account of the travels of the children of Israel from Sinai to the land of Canaan. It outlines their preparation and organization for travel and details their journey to the land of promise. Rebellion at the borders of Canaan results in the forty-year sojourn in the desert. Incidents concerning this experience are mentioned only briefly. The record concludes with the eventual arrival of Israel at the river Jordan, ready to enter the Promised Land.
DEUTERONOMY suggests the “second law” and contains the last discourses of Moses to the people. The record also reports some of the history of the previous forty years; reviews many of the laws, commandments, feasts, and ordinances; and contains prophetic statements concerning Israel’s future destiny.
JOSHUA tells of the conquest of the land of Canaan, although not all of the territory is secured to the Israelites during this period. It then proceeds with the division of the Promised Land into inheritances for each of the tribes and concludes with Joshua’s final instructions and warnings to the people.
JUDGES contains the few historical events recorded from the time of the death of Joshua until the birth of Samuel, with the exception of the book of Ruth that is contemporary with this time period. During this era, Israel is determinedly courting apostasy.
RUTH comprises a testimonial of the conversion of a Moabite woman that takes place during the time of the judges.
1 SAMUEL begins with the birth of Samuel and relates the works of this prophet among the children of Israel. The appointment of Israel’s first king, Saul, and some of the events of his life, including those with the young man, David, until Saul’s death, are also found in this book.
2 SAMUEL deals with the history of the reign of David as king until his death. Some of the stories about the works of the prophets of Israel (Samuel, Nathan, Gad) are also found in this narrative.
PSALMS was written partly by David; others he or someone else may have compiled. Many of them pertain to David’s reign or period of history.
1 KINGS reports the death of King David and continues with the account of the reign of Solomon, his son. During the reign of Solomon, the temple of the Lord was built and dedicated. After his death, a schism between the tribes and their leaders resulted in the division of the kingdom into two separate nations—Israel and Judah. The record continues with a seesaw and fragmented account of the kings of both kingdoms. Numerous prophets are mentioned, but particular notice is given to Elijah. The book concludes in the midst of the reign of King Ahab’s family over the kingdom of Israel.
PROVERBS is mostly attributed to Solomon, although other authors are mentioned in the compilaton itself. It is generally considered “wisdom literature,” more practical and experiential than revelatory.
2 KINGS continues the summary of the events of the divided kingdoms down to the fall of the kingdom of Israel or the northern tribes at the hands of the Assyrians. It then proceeds until the capture of Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah by the Babylonians. Only a few of the prophets of this period are mentioned in this narrative, notably Elijah and Elisha.
Note: The following books of the Old Testament—Joel, Jonah, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Obadiah, Jeremiah—are the records of the prophets who lived and labored among the children of Israel and Judah from 850 B.C. to 587 B.C. Primarily they contain prophecy and teachings of the prophet named. Many contain only a part of the works of the prophet, and some include history and narrative.
1 CHRONICLES and 2 CHRONICLES contain a brief history of the people of Israel, from the Creation down to the return of Judah from captivity. Portions of the record are outline or genealogical in form; the remainder is parallel to or supplementary to the accounts in 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings.
Note: At the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s first capture of Jerusalem (597 B.C.), he removed into exile the then reigning king of Judah, Jehoiachin, and many thousands of the people of Judah. (2 Kgs. 24:10–16.) Among those taken captive were Ezekiel and possibly Daniel, both of whom were significant leaders during the years of captivity and exile in Babylonia.
EZEKIEL records the writings (prophecies) of Ezekiel given primarily between the first capture of Jerusalem by the Babylonians and its fall in 587 B.C. It also recounts some of the activities of the people then living in exile.
DANIEL is a narration of various events in the life of Daniel and his associates. It also contains some of his prophecies.
ESTHER is generally accepted as a story that took place in Persia during the period of the later part of the exile of Judah, or possibly even after many had returned to Jerusalem.
EZRA is the account of the return of the people of Judah from exile, under the decree of Cyrus. The temple was rebuilt and Ezra authorized to organize and assist his people.
NEHEMIAH is a continuation of the account in Ezra. Nehemiah receives a commission to direct the rebuilding of the walls of the city of Jerusalem, and the project was completed. He also instituted a series of reforms among the people.
HAGGAI AND ZECHARIAH assisted Ezra during the period of the rebuilding of the temple. Their writings are a combination of history, teaching, and prophecy.
MALACHI contains some of the writings of the prophet who followed the days of Nehemiah. He is the last prophet who labored against the impending apostasy and who prophesied among the people of Judah.