Torah/Pentateuch (5 Books)
Pentateuch is a combination of two Greek words that mean "Five Scrolls." These first and foundational five books of the Bible are also called the Torah, Hebrew for law or instruction. These five books contain the covenants, the patriarchs, the laws of God, the laws for Israel and the foundations of the nation of Israel, God's chosen people. They describe the beginning of Israel in Abraham and the patriarchs, as well as Israel's God-led exodus out of slavery in Egypt, the formation of the nation at Mount Sinai, the law God laid down for their nation, and the promises for the land that would be theirs. It also contains the lessons learned in the wilderness between God's rescue in Egypt and Moses' death, ushering in new leadership by Joshua to take the land.
Most likely, Moses wrote the Pentateuch while traveling with Israel for 40 years in the wilderness. Many of the laws look forward to living in the Promised Land. They include case laws as examples, standard laws for all time, moral, civic, and ritual laws, and narratives about the patriarchs and Israel in the wilderness. Moses did not write every section of the Pentateuch. There are times when towns are named by modern Israelites, probably editing for current readers of their time. Moses also did not write sections of high praise for him. Joshua probably wrote of Moses’ death at the end of Deuteronomy. But the vast majority of the Pentateuch was written by Moses.
Date: 1400-1360 BC
Purpose: To tell the beginnings of creation, the Fall and wickedness, recreation through the flood, the nations, the nation of Israel, and the trip to Egypt.
Key People: Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph
Key Passages: Genesis 1:26-27; 12:1-3; 39:9; 50:20
I. The Beginning of the World (1 – 11)
A. Creation and the Fall of Humanity (1 – 3)
B. The First Murder, Cain’s and Adams Genealogies (4 – 5)
C. Noah, the flood and Re-Creation (6 – 9)
D. The First Great Nations and the Tower of Babel (10 – 11)
II. The Beginning of Israel (12 – 39)
A. Abraham, the Father of Faith (12 – 23, 25)
B. Isaac, The Father of Peace (24 – 27)
C. Jacob, the Father of Hope (28 – 36)
D. Joseph, the Man of Destiny (37 – 39)
III. The Blessing of Israel in Egypt (40 – 50)
A. Joseph’s Rise to Power (40 – 41)
B. Joseph and His Brothers (42 – 45)
C. Joseph’s Family in Egypt (46 – 50)
As the first book of the Bible, Genesis tells the beginnings of everything from creation itself to the fall of humanity to the first murder to God’s first judgment to the beginning of the nation of Israel and beyond. Its original Hebrew name is Berashit (Heb. bear*a*sheet) is taken from the first word of the book, meaning “In the beginning.” It chronicles the life and times of the patriarchs of Israel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. The book starts at the creation narrative, taking us through the flood in Noah’s time to the beginning of the nation of Israel with Abraham. This book lays the foundation for the rest of the Bible. It takes us from ancient times to the current time of its author, Moses. It explains much of what the Old Testament will reference.
Date: 1400 BC
Purpose: To describe the Exodus from Egypt, the formation of Israel as a nation, the giving of God’s laws, and the layout of the tabernacle.
Key People: Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Pharaoh
Key Passages: Exodus 13:21-22; 14:13-15
I. Israel in Egyptian Bondage (1-2)
II. Israel Freed and the Law Given (3-23)
III. Pattern for the Tabernacle Given (24-31)
IV. Israel Breaks the Law (32-34)
V. The Tabernacle Built (35-40)
As the second book of the Pentateuch, Exodus picks up 400 years after Genesis ends. The descendents of Jacob are living in the land of Goshen amidst the Egyptians. After 400 years of living in the land of Egypt God raises up Moses to be the leader of Israel. As God’s agent Moses stands before Pharaoh and is used by God to show that He is the true God of the whole world. God moves by His mighty hand to create plagues that test the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart and eventually bring His people out of Egypt. “Exodus” is Greek for “going out.” God takes this ragtag band of slaves and turns them into His nation that represents Him among the nations. God gives them laws and cultural rules that set them apart from the world around them. He begins to prepare them to go into his promise land. Exodus not only tells us that historical account of the making of His nation but begins to lay down His Torah.
Date: 1400-1360 BC
Purpose: To give instruction to Israel on how to make sacrifices pleasing to the Lord and practice holiness according to the law.
Key People: Moses
Key Passages: Leviticus 11:45; 19:18
I. Laws about Offerings (1-7)
II. Laws about the Priesthood (8-10)
III. Purification Laws (11-22)
IV. Laws about the Feasts (23-24)
V. Laws about the Land (25-27)
The third book of the Pentateuch, Leviticus is one of the hardest books for Christians to read through. Many find its repetition of the how to’s of sacrificial law and ceremonial law hard to read continuously. The whole book focuses on about a year as Israel encamped around Mount Sinai to receive these laws. Leviticus refers to the Levites and their service as priests and trustees of the tabernacle and temple. This book lays out the differences between the Canaanites and the Israelites. As God’s nation on earth, they were to practice their religion much differently than nations around them. Because God is holy they were to also live holy both as His representatives and to be able to have His presence in their midst.
Today most Christians apply the Levitical laws as principles for how we live. Sacrificial laws show how Jesus is the perfect sacrifice and great high Priest. The writer of Hebrews in the New Testament clarifies how Christians are to use these laws as principles of holiness. Jesus changed the way Christians view the Levitical laws. Many of them have been fulfilled through his sacrifice and ministry. But these laws show how much holier God is than us.
Date: 1400-1360 BC
Purpose: To organize the camp of Israel for military service and service throughout the camp.
Key People: Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Caleb
Key Passages: Numbers 6:24-26; 32:13
I. Beginning at Mount Sinai (1-9)
II. From Mount Sinai to Kadesh (10-19)
III. From Kadesh to Moab (20-39)
As the fourth book of the Pentateuch, Numbers is also a hard book for Christians to read through. Most of the book is concerned with numbering the Israelites in the wilderness and showing how God has made a great nation out of slaves. It shows how even in the wilderness God has been faithful to grow the people into their current number. Numbers is also a record for military service. In preparation for taking the Promised Land the military leaders would need to know how many available soldiers there were in the army. Interspersed throughout the book of numbers are small historical accounts of Israel’s dealings in the wilderness.
Date: 1360 BC
Purpose: To recount the wilderness wanderings for the second generation of Israelites and prepare them to take the Promised Land and settle in it.
Key People: Moses, Joshua
Key Passages: Deuteronomy 6:5; 33:27
I. Remember Israel in the Wilderness (1-4)
II. Obey God’s Law (5-27)
III. Take Heed for the Future (28-34)
As the last book of the Pentateuch, Deuteronomy is the final address of Moses to the people of Israel before they enter the Promised Land. “Deuteronomy” comes from two Greek words meaning “second law.” He speaks to the second generation of Israelites in sermonic fashion who will take Canaan for their home. Much of the book rehashes Israel’s time in the wilderness, their growing relationship, and continuing revelation of God to His people. For a new generation Moses stresses the historical narrative of Israel’s history, describing the importance of continuing under the covenant that God has placed between Him and His people. Moses challenges Israel to remain faithful to God especially as He blesses them with the land of Canaan as the Promised Land.