The word testament comes from the Latin Testamentum (“testament, testimony”), itself translated from the Greek διαθήκη / diathếkê (“testament, contract, convention”). In a religious sense, testament means “covenant”.
The books of the Old Testament refers to all the writings of the Bible prior to the life of Jesus Christ – for Christians – and synonymous with “the Torah” for Jews (in Judaism).
What Christians call Old Testament comes from a set of religious texts written for the vast majority originally in Hebrew and came to us in the form of copies. The rest has been written in Aramaic or Greek…
Many Bible readers find the books of the Old Testament difficult. Many think that, with the exception of the Psalms and some other passages, it contains only stories about ages long gone; for us, these texts would today have at most a historical value. Others see the Old Testament as the Holy Scriptures of the Israelites, but see nothing more. Christians need only the New Testament. Such conceptions do not do justice to the true meaning of the Old Testament scriptures. The latter is the Word of God, as much as the New Testament. […]
It was written between 1473 and 460 BC. : ie before the advent of Jesus Christ and retraces the creation and formation of the nation of Israel (the people God chose to reveal himself to Humanity). God made the Jewish people a special nation and Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, was born in his bosom. The Old Testament is full of stories about the sin of the people of Israel, the Judgment of God, their forgiveness and their decision to send them into exile.
The history of Israel is also accompanied by the poems and hymns used in worship, the laws that govern it, and the messages of the prophets to warn the people against sin and the judgment of their God. on the one hand, and to make known his promises of deliverance and the coming of Christ, on the other hand.
By the content of the books of the Old Testament, we see from a general point of view, the vision of God, the plans of God for Humanity which are read between the lines of the history of the Jewish people with God, the Creator of all things (sea, land, and sky, including all that they contain …).
The books of the Old Testament are subdivided into four main types of Books. We will try to explore these 4 major types of books that make up the 39 books of the Old Testament:
I – The Four Broad Types of Books Comprising the Books of the Old Testament
1 – The Pentateuch (5 Books) or the Books of the Law
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, were written by Moses between about -1450 and -1407. The last six verses of Deuteronomy may be from Joshua. This part, called the Pentateuch, relates the events of Creation until the death of Moses.
Note Genesis is the first book of the Bible: one that traces the story of Creation and sin, as well as the beginning of God’s rebuilding for the plan of salvation through his promises. Genesis, the book of origin, it is the sketch of almost all the great subjects of Scripture.
As for the Exodus, it marks where God has actually chosen a people in order to reveal himself to all humanity. The Exodus addresses the following theme: Redemption and Divine Resources. This translates as follows: The deliverance of the people of God, redemption = redemption; deliverance from the oppression and slavery of the enemy of the people of God; God leading his people as pilgrims in the wilderness; the law, revelation of God and the sanctuary or tabernacle: how to approach God.
In general, concerning the books of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, they are essentially books of law. They contain the civil regulations that governed the nation of Israel, religious rites for worship, and the law of morality that governed the relations between individuals. Some historical texts can be combined with texts on the law. Specifically, one could see and understand each of his books as follows:
The Book of Leviticus
– The book of Leviticus deals with the Sacrifice and Priest topics and what they apply to.
And on the other hand, how to be in a relationship with God; worship (chapter 1-3); sin and the sacrifices it makes necessary (chap 4-5). External purity and impurity, images of the moral characters necessary to those who are in a relationship with God.
The Book of Numbers
– As for the book of Numbers, he relates the walk through the desert. The lessons learned from the crossing of the desert by the people sons of Israel: Complaints, murmurs, disputes and permanent rebellions. How God faces this, through priesthood and purification and grace, while maintaining his holiness in his government. Nothing, not even all the power of Satan, will prevent God from bringing his people into the land of Canaan according to His promise.
The Book of Deuteronomy
– With regard to the book of Deuteronomy, its theme is: to hear the word of God and to remember. This book seems to recall the great points stated by the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers.
2 – The Historical Books (12 Books)
The next 12 books are called historical books.
The Book of Joshua
– The Book of Joshua. Writer: Joshua. Writing in the 14th century BC Theme: the conquest of Canaan and sharing.
The Book of Judges
– The book of Judges. Writer: unknown. Writing Thirteenth Century BC Theme: victories and defeats in the generations that succeeded Joshua. Here we see the decline, everyone does what’s right for them.
The Book of Ruth
– The book of Ruth. Writer: unknown. Writing 12th century BC Theme: redemption. Ruth’s story is in the time of the Judges. Through Ruth’s story, we see grace responding to faith.
The 2 Books of Samuel
– The 2 books of Samuel were written in the tenth century. The themes are Samuel, Saul and David. If the book of 1 Samuel presents us: the king according to the flesh. The book of 2 Samuel presents us: the king according to the heart of God.
The 2 Books of Kings
– The 2 books of Kings. Writers: unknown. Writing in the sixth century, are intended to tell the story of royalty in Israel, then after the schism, in the two opposite kingdoms of Israel and Judah.
The 2 Books of Chronicles
– The 2 books of Chronicles. Writers: unknown. Writing in the fifth century, complete the history of royalty by giving more details on certain episodes and jumping others.
The books of the Chronicles present a parallel narrative with that of 1 and 2 Samuel and the 2 books of the Kings. Incredulity has made much use of the differences of narrative between these books to claim the existence of contradictions or errors in the Word of God. On the contrary, the parallel and the differences between these texts are useful (as for the 4 Gospels) to develop different aspects of God’s thought in relation to the circumstances of history. The books of 1 and 2 Kings present rather the side of the responsibility of the man and the government of God, while Chronicles returns the side of the grace of God. Even the genealogies of 1 Chronicles 1 to 9, far from being arid, insipid and full of gaps, are sources of remarkable manifestations of God’s thought and ways in grace, but also in government.
Note: These 4 books (Kings and Chronicles) form a whole. These books covering a long period, it is likely that successive scribes were instructed to write the history of the kingdom. The last book ends with the last kings of Judah and the 3 successive deportations. For these books, all the historical facts that have been compared with secular history overlap exactly. For the following books, virtually every detail could be verified.
The Book of Ezra
– The Book of Ezra. Writer: Ezra. Writing in the fifth century. Theme: return from exile. In the same way the subject of the altar and the temple.
The Book of Nehemiah
– The book of Nehemiah. Writer: Nehemiah. Writing in the fifth century. Theme: reconstruction of the walls of Jerusalem.
The Book of Esther
– The book of Esther. Anonymous writer. Has sometimes been attributed to Mordecai, Esther’s uncle. Writing in the fifth century. The story takes place during the reign of Xerxes. This book touches the providence of God; the one rising will be lowered.
3 – Poetic and Wisdom Books (6 Books).
The next 5 books are grouped under this title. One could also add the Lamentations of Jeremiah, whose style is addictive. (Many other books also contain poetic passages).
The Book of Job
– The book of Job. Writer: unknown, but maybe Job himself. Unknown date of writing, but according to the details of the story, it happens at the time of the patriarchs. Theme: the problem of suffering.
Important book in that it deals with the question of the suffering, inflicted by Satan, on a righteous man (“perfect, right, fearing God and withdrawing from evil”): why does this happen? Job’s friends are unable to find the solution of this mystery (4-32). God gives the solution and leads Job to grasp his ignorance and tiny littleness before God (end number 39) and to judge himself and to repent (chapter 42: 1-6), the purpose of God through of the event ending with an overabundant blessing.
– The Psalms. 150 psalms written by various writers, the majority being from David. Writing from the tenth century. Theme: praise. The psalms are seen as the heart of the scriptures (feelings of the faithful through the trial).
– Proverbs. Writers: Solomon, Agur and Lemuel. Writing the 10th century. Theme: wisdom. It is wisdom teaching his “sons” to know how to behave in this world.
– Ecclesiastes. Writer: Solomon. Writing in the tenth century. Theme: human reasoning. But especially with a crucial and central truth: “Everything is vanity! “.
Song of Songs
– Song of Songs: Solomon writer. Writing in the tenth century. Theme: love. This is the hymn of the beloved.
4 – The Prophetic Books (16 Books)
The title of each prophetic book indicates the name of the writer. These texts were written by prophets (or doctors of the law) in Israel. They warn against sin, announcing the imminent judgment of God, his promise of salvation, and the coming of Christ. The prophetic books begin with Isaiah and go to the end of the Old Testament. These books can be divided into 3 groups:
The prophets prior to exile: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah.
The prophets of exile: Ezekiel, Daniel, Obadiah.
The prophets after exile: Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.
II – Summary of the Books of the Old Testament
1 – the Old Testament: From the Origin of the Man to Moses
The books of the old testament are full of stories that are part of one great story:
That of origins first, told in the first chapters of Genesis: the origin of the universe, our land and the life it houses; origin of the man, especially. A man and a woman created in the image of God, crowning and responsible for a creation that they are offered in management. It is also the story of the first steps of humanity, its tragic distance from its Creator.
Constitution of the people but also the constitution of a particular people, Israel. One can even say that the books of the old testament are above all the story of God inviting this people to know Him, so that in the long course of time, the whole world can in turn learn to know him and to love him. . Because, the man loving a guilty and bitter freedom, has put away his Creator. But God, loving father, returns tirelessly to meet our suffering humanity to offer us a new beginning. This is the whole story of the Bible and the meaning of the coming of Christ to which the whole Old Testament points.
But do not rush things and start again from the beginning …
A long time ago (1800 BC), a man named Abraham lived in the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates (now Iraq). God told him to go with his family to Canaan (Palestine), 600 km away. God promised him to give this homeland to his descendants and to make of them a particular nation, Israel, by which the whole world would be blessed, by which God would make his love known to all nations.
A famine in Canaan forced Jacob (grandson of Abraham) to seek help in Egypt. The family settled there and prospered. But after a while, the descendants of Abraham – now called the people of Israel – were reduced to slavery, working for the great buildings of the Egyptian kings, the pharaohs. God, however, had not forgotten them: he called Moses to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt in a colorful escape. It was during this exodus that the miraculous passage of the “Red Sea” took place.
In the desert, before their return to Canaan, God gave the Israelites the law, which was intended to offer a harmonious social life to the people of Israel, in communion with their Creator.
2 – the Books of the Old Testament: from Moses to the Promise of the Messiah
Israel is the mirror, a prototype of our humanity: its history will be marked by chronic disobedience to the law of God and by God’s indefatigable patience with him.
Under Joshua, successor to Moses, Israel established itself in Canaan, “the promised land.” But they constantly suffered attacks from neighboring countries. The so-called “historical” books tell us about Israel’s settlement in this promised land and its stormy relations with the neighboring countries of the Middle East, as well as other adventures. David (the one who fought Goliath) was a great king, who ensured the country’s security against his enemies (circa 1000 BC). Solomon was important as a builder of the Temple, the center of worship, in Jerusalem.
Solomon’s Son Rehoboam Was an Oppressor
But the risk with kings is that they end up loving power too much. Solomon’s son Rehoboam was an oppressor. The greater part of the nation rebelled against him and formed the northern kingdom, taking the name of Israel, while Rehoboam and his successors guarded the southern part around Jerusalem, known as Judah. But these two kingdoms rivaled God with unfaithfulness and sank into evil. God patiently sent them prophets to warn them that if they persevered in evil, a judgment would come upon them.
And that happened … The Northern Kingdom lasted two hundred years, as an independent state, before falling under the attack of the Assyrian aggressors. A large part of his population was exiled to other parts of Assyria and never returned to his own country. The kingdom of Judah lasted for another 135 years, before being invaded by the Babylonian power that ravaged the country, destroyed Jerusalem and took all the important citizens into exile.
God Did Not Forget
But God did not forget his people. Fifty years later, Babylon herself fell, a victim of the Persian king, Cyrus, who allowed the Jews to return to their country and rebuild their lives. Despite economic and social problems, the Temple was rebuilt. The walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt. The law was reconsidered and followed with a new seriousness.
However, Jews still lived under foreign rule. They yearned for freedom. The prophets spoke of a future Savior, who would free them from all their enemies: the messiah …
CURRENT QUESTION: The texts of the books of the old testament sometimes seem very obscure, very far from us, sometimes violent … Why do we read them again?
Indeed, many believe that there is a great contradiction between the Old Testament, which presents a violent and cruel God, while the New Testament presents a God of love. And it is true that there are texts in the books of the old testament that show a violent God. But this is also true for the New Testament, which is why I refute this model of contrast between the two Testaments. And if we read the books of the old testament a little closer, we find that there are also many texts that present us with a merciful God, a God of love and closeness. It is often considered that the Old Testament is the Bible of the Jews, and presents a particularistic God, the God of the Jews, while the New Testament shows a universal God, the God of all. This second opposition is also incorrect, because the books of the old testament describes a God who creates all humanity, a God of love, a God who longs to bring humanity back on the true path, a God who seeks to show to humanity the dangers of sin, and the gravity of rebelling against God, a God who presents humanity with justice, mercy, power, and supremacy […]
Why do you still have to read the books of the old testament? Answer: ” The New Testament is hidden in the Old; the Old Testament is open in the New.”