For years I struggled to read the Old Testament. I didn’t have a problem with the famous stories like Noah or Moses. It was all the other books, details, numbers, and strange laws that lost my interest, not to mention my biggest frustration: it’s out of order!
I’m not suggesting God made a mistake, it’s in perfect order. I just mean it’s out of historical, chronological order. Maybe you’ve noticed this: The book of Numbers repeats several stories from Exodus, and 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles repeat a lot of the same stories as well. Did you know that Job is one of the oldest books of the Bible even though it’s the 18th book of the Bible?
When the Old Testament was being assembled it was organized by genre, like this:
The Pentateuch, or the Books of the Law (Torah): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy
Historical Books: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther
Wisdom Literature: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon
The Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi
But that’s not the historical order of events. Everything changed for me when I began to read the Old Testament in chronological order. Once I understood the order of events, the prophets and laws made more sense.
You may already know this, but just in case you don’t, let me give you a quick overview of the story of the Old Testament.
- God made man.
- Man sinned, making every person born a sinner by birth.
- God promised to use Abraham to create a nation of people, called Israel, to establish a way of life and display his love and great power. God would be known as the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Abraham’s son and grandson.)
- Egypt made God’s people (Israel) slaves for 400 years until Moses showed up and led Israel out of Egypt.
- Israel was supposed to follow Moses to the Promised Land, but on their way, they sinned against God and ended up spending 40 years in the desert.
- After Moses died, Joshua finally led Israel into the Promised Land, and they established a place to call home.
- There were no kings because God wanted to be their king, so there were Judges established by God to make decisions and protect the people from their enemies, but God’s people were rebellious, turned their backs on God, and began to do wicked things.
- God raised up a boy named Samuel to be a prophet and be a spiritual leader to Israel, but they wanted a king so God made Saul the first King of Israel.
- Saul turned his back on God, so God made David king. David was the greatest king of Israel.
- His son Solomon became king after David died, and Solomon eventually turned his back on God.
- After Solomon, Israel was split and both nations, their kings, and the people were rebellious and sinful, so God used Prophets to predict the coming of Jesus, and to warn the people that if they didn’t repent and turn from their sin, they were going to be captured and destroyed by their enemies, but they didn’t listen.
- Babylon attacked and destroyed Israel, and the people who weren’t killed were taken as captives and moved to Babylon.
- While they lived in Baylon God spoke to and used certain Jewish people in miraculous ways (Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Esther, etc.)
- 70 years later, God used a man named Nehemiah to return to Israel’s home and rebuild the city.
- Some of the Jewish people returned to their homeland, but not everyone, and they lived there for around 400 years until the birth of Jesus Christ.
The Old Testament is a story about how much God loves his people, but because humans are sinners, they keep turning their backs on God. God keeps patiently and lovingly blessing and disciplining them, trying to win their hearts, but humanity desperately needed a savior who was coming (Jesus).
If you read the Old Testament with this story in mind, it helps make sense of some of the sections that otherwise seem random or peculiar (I wrote this post to help make sense of some of the strange laws in the OT). Everything in the Old Testament is about God trying to lead a nation and point to the Savior (Jesus) who was coming.
I hope this helps.
For years I have used this Bible Reading Plan. You read some of the OT, NT, and a Psalm or Proverbs every day, but the Old Testament is in Chronological order.
Don’t get discouraged. Keep reading. Keep learning. Keep listening for God’s voice.
BTW, the New Testament is out of order too, but we’ll talk about that later 😉