Friday, November 13, 2015

The Structure of the Old Testament

'The Old Testament is made up of 39 books that can be categorized as follows:
5 books of the Law (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy)
12 books of Old Testament History (Joshua through Esther)
5 books of Wisdom (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs)
5 books of Major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel)
12 books of Minor Prophets (Hosea through Malachi)
Throughout these books God’s plan unfolds. First we have the covenants He made with Adam and Noah and Abraham. We watch the Israelites follow God, turn to idols, turn back to God, fall away again, over and over. The miracles and love are abundant and yet they keep being “adulterous” so to speak. From the perspective of the Jews there are two kinds of people: Jews and Gentiles. And I think that this is also God’s perspective. It’s like you have two children, your firstborn and your second born. The Jews are God’s firstborn, but the Gentiles are in the family, too, and the promises and inheritance are for the Gentiles as well.
The first 5 books give us the history of man from Adam on and the formation of Israel as God’s chosen people (and yes, Adam and Eve were real, not myths, and the Jews recounted their genealogies and named names all the way back to them). These books tell us of all of the laws for living and how to make offerings to God, peace offerings, sin offerings, grain offerings, etc. We find the 10 commandments in Exodus and Deuteronomy. God does get angry with man when he disobeys and there are consequences. He is a firm and fair parent.
The 12 books of Old Testament History record the events after the Jews entered the Promised Land. We find the rise and fall of David’s kingdom, the Babylonian exile and the return.
The 5 books of Wisdom are meditative and prayerful and poetic. There are several chapters in Psalms, Proverbs and Lamentations that were written as acrostics, that is, each verse (or series of verses) begins with the next consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. There are 22 letters so it’s easy to see the pattern when a chapter has 22 (or 66) verses. Of course the Bible wasn’t written with the verse numbers, but you can see the poetry of verses in the original. Smack dab in the middle of the Bible you will find Psalm 119, the longest chapter of the Bible. There are 176 verses (8 x 22) so the first 8 verses each start with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the next 8 with the second letter and so on. Some people think these are hidden codes. I think they are not hidden at all, but quite obvious. God in his infinite intelligence has woven his word together in an intricate pattern that is fascinating and awesome. (For further amazement and inspiration see my book Crossing the Scriptures.)
The 5 books of the Major Prophets are filled with prophecies, naturally. Isaiah is like a mini-bible in that it has 66 chapters divided in the same way as the Bible: 39 chapters of idolatry and disobedience, then 27 chapters of hope and redemption. The New Testament quotes Isaiah more than any other prophet, most likely because it has the greatest OT revelations of Christ (read chapters 40 and 53 especially). Lamentations is not prophetical, but it is the eyewitness account of the destruction of the Temple by Jeremiah who prophesied that it would happen and that they would be exiled 70 years (exactly right on).
The 12 books of the Minor Prophets continue the old, old story: prophets say repent but people turn away and God judges, people return to worship for a time, they receive blessings then fall off again, time for another prophet . . .

There are hundreds of prophecies throughout that tell of a coming Messiah. Most of the Scriptural requirements for what he will do and what will happen during His reign can be found in Isaiah. Hundreds of prophecies were fulfilled with Jesus’ first coming and the rest will be fulfilled at His second coming. Some prophecies are so precise that they are impossible to ignore.


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