The Major Divisions of The Old Testament

lightstock_150291_medium_user_4899867Sometimes the Old Testament seems overwhelming doesn’t it? Thirty-nine books probably written over a period of at least 1000 years. Yeah, that’s a lot of information. So, if you struggle to understand how all the parts fit together, you’re not alone.

We hear Sunday School stories from the OT that have helped us learn, but many times they were out of order and nothing was said about how they fit into the overall chronology of the OT.

Imagine for a moment if we had learned our US history out of order and without dates. We’d probably figure out that Colombus came before Abraham Lincoln and that the Tea Party was before the Civil War, but it would be confusing and require extra thinking. And really, who has time for that?!

When it comes to the OT, most of us probably won’t remember all the dates or be able to list all the OT kings in chronological order, and that’s okay.

It’s very helpful to know, though, the 5 major structural divisions and which books fit into each. This helps us understand how each story fits into the greater whole.

The Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
The Pentateuch refers to the first five books of the Old Testament and authored by the prophet Moses. In it contains the history of the beginning of the world, the patriarchs, and the Law of Moses for the Jewish nation.

The Historical Books: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther
These books primarily contain stories often told from a prophetic view.

The Poetry (or Writings): Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon
These books contain practical wisdom in poetic form geared toward helping people apply knowledge and wisdom to every day life.

Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel
The Old Testament prophets were God’s mouthpieces to warn the nation when they disobeyed and draw them back to the Lord. They also reminded the nation of God’s promises. The major prophetic books are so named because of their length rather than the prominence of the prophet who wrote the book.

Minor Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
The minor prophets wrote for similar reasons as the major prophets, but their books are much shorter.

Note: Throughout the coming fall, we’ll look into some of the stories of the Old Testament in greater depth and see how these narratives help us learn about God and live our lives for his glory.