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INTRODUCTION TO THE
OLD TESTAMENT

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We don’t need to just “believe in God,” we need to “believe God;” “for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me,” Acts 27:25.  Believing God means believing what God says.  “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD:  and He delighteth in his way.”  Psalm 37:23.  When we trust God, He will guide our steps.  But notice, God delights in our way; when we trust Him.  He delights in our ways when we “Trust in the LORD with all [our] thine heart; and lean not [on] unto thine own understanding,” Proverbs 3:5, and “in all [our] thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct [our] thy paths,” Proverbs 3:6.  We need to follow God out of obedience, not out of information.  Genesis 12:4 tells us that Abram left, not because he had all the information he needed for the journey, but out of obedience to Gods Word.  Most of us don’t experience God’s blessings because we want God to tell us what He is going to do before He does it.  Finally, God tests us not to reveal Himself to us, but to reveal who we really are; and also how much we really trust Him.  When God’s Ways become your ways, then God’s Ways will be your Ways.

 

The Old Testament has within It 39 Books, five of which begin the Old Testament, and are generally known as the “Pentateuch,” or better, the “Five Books of Moses.”  The next twelve Books are considered to be the Historical Books.  While the next five Books are poetic and the last 17 are considered as being prophetic.

 

The Books of the Law (a.k.a. Pentateuch or Torah):  Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy -- written by Moses (Exodus 24:4; Numbers 33:2; Deuteronomy 31:9, 22); confirmed by Joshua 8:31-32; First Kings 2:3; Second Kings 14:6; 21:8; Ezra 6:18; Daniel 9:11-13; Malachi 4:4, and by Jesus Himself (dare to argue with Him and you have a bigger problem), Mark 12:19; Luke 20:28; John 5:46-47; 7:19, and lastly, the Apostles (Acts 3:22; Romans 10:5).  These Books describe from the Creation to the end of the time the Jewish people spent in the wilderness.

 

The Historical Books:  Joshua, Judges, Ruth, First Samuel, Second Samuel, First Kings, Second Kings, First Chronicles, Second Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther -- which tell the history of the nation of Israel and describe from the conquest of the Promised Land to Israel's Restoration after the Babylonian captivity.

 

The Poetical Books (a.k.a. The Books of Everyday Wisdom or The Writings):  Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes.

 

The Prophetic Books:  Major Prophets -- Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel.  Minor Prophets -- Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.

 

The Hebrew language is a very precise language.  As an example, the English language has within it, millions of words and meanings.  Whereas, in the Old Testament alone, there are about 8,000 words in Hebrew; and of those, approximately 5,000, the vast majority, are proper names and places.  Therefore, of the about 3,000 words being used, there is a tremendous amount of information being communicated.

 

However, since the Hebrew language is so precise, we can rely on its authenticity.  Otherwise you can come to the conclusion that the Biblical text is simple; which for the average Christian they know that not to be true.  Or that it does not communicate complex ideas and concepts; which most Christians still struggle with an understanding of various passages (to the point of arguing over them).  Or, and this is most important here, that word order and usage mean something.  Once this concept is grasped, then your average Christian can move on into a higher understanding and reflection of God’s Word.

 

Now this is not to say that your baby Christian or average Christian cannot grasp the simplest, to even some very comprehensive concepts without a thorough knowledge of God’s Word.  However, as my band teacher used to say, “Practice, Practice, Practice.”  Therefore, it goes without saying, the more you delight in and study God’s Word, the more you will get out of It.  And the less you will be fooled by the foolish and devilish interpreters of Scripture.

 

Let the simple explain itself; The difficult be explained by other texts or context; The basics be studied by staying within the guidelines; The principles be kept within the parameters; The standards stay composed in the regulations; The directions never forcefully pushed to a different level then was intended; The obvious left alone; the understandable and clear be forcefully implied; The noticeable by clear; The observable become recognizable; and stand by what you have determined to be truth as long as you can justify it with God.

 

Since the Old Testament was written in the Hebrew language, we must understand that it contains no punctuation marks in its original language form.  Therefore, the language structure was developed in other ways to communicate very important and significant ideas.

 

One of the ways that a Hebrew writer of the Bible could emphasize a certain attribute (of God for this example), was by repeating it three times.  As the Creation account comes to the apex of God’s creative work, the text we will consider, emphasizes the unique importance of created humanity.  The Hebrew term “bara’,” meaning, “to create,” always refers to and “has only” “God” as its subject.  That is, it is only God that has the power to create without being dependent on pre-existing matter.  Here the text describes the creation of man:  “So God created (bara’) man in His Own image; in the image of God He created (bara’) him; male and female He created (bara’) them.”  Genesis 1:27.  It becomes easy to notice the three-fold repition of the Hebrew word “bara’,” i.e., “created.”  In Isaiah’s vision and call, the seraphim repeat the words, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts.”  Isaiah 6:3.

 

In Daniel, Chapter 3, we have a repetition (with variations) of the phrase “the image which Nebuchadnezzar set up,” Daniel 3:1 & 2 & 3 & 5 & 7 & 12 & 14 & 15 & 18.  This phrase, or variations of it, is repeated 10 times in the Chapter to contrast Nebuchadnezzar’s action in defiance of the image God revealed to him through Daniel (Daniel 2:31-45). The emphasis here is on humanity’s seeking to make itself into a god to be worshiped, in contrast to the only true God, the only One worthy of worship.  The point is, when you see this occurring, sit up and take particular notice more than you have been previous.

 

One scholar has compiled a list of 2,688 specific references from the New Testament that quote from the Old Testament.  Specifically, 400 from Isaiah, 370 from the Psalms, 220 from Exodus, and so on.  If one were to add to this list allusions, themes, and motifs, the number would greatly increase.  The New Testament authors are replete with references to the Old Testament that are often introduced with the phrase, “It is written,” Matthew 2:5; Mark 1:2; 7:6; Luke 2:23; 3:4; Romans 3:4; 8:36; 9:33; First Corinthians 1:19; Galatians 4:27; First Peter 1:16.  All of this confirms that the Old Testament Scriptures are the foundation upon which the teachings of Jesus and the apostles rest.

 

Old Testament (Hebrew) Names.  The name “YHWH,” pronounced “Yahwen,” appears 6,828 times in the Old Testament.   It seems to be a form of the verb “hayah,” meaning, “to be,” in which case it would mean, “the Eternal One,” “the Existent One,” “the Self-Existing One,” “the Self-Sufficient One,” or “the One who lives eternally.”  The Divine attributes that are emphasized by this title are definitely those of “self-existence.”  It goes along with, “I AM THAT I AM,” Exodus, 3:14, God’s true Name, as explained by God Himself.

 

All Semitic names of people have meaning and usually consist of a phrase or short sentence that comprised of a wish, or an expression of gratitude, or of the times and places the parents were placed into at the time, or even better, a prophecy.  For example, Daniel means “God is my judge,” Joel means “Yahweh is God,” and Nathan means “Gift of God.”  No Hebrew name was given without some sort of meaning or expression.  Even God gets involved, Abram means “Father is exalted,” with God changing it to Abraham, which means “Father of a multitude,” see Genesis 17:6.

 

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