Framework of the Old Testament

by: Bill Bratt


This is a brief overview of the Old Testament.

Letís begin with a question: What was the Bible that Jesus read? What was the Holy Scriptures that the apostles quoted from at the beginning of the New Testament church.

The Holy Scriptures that Jesus and the apostles used was what we call the Old Testament or the Hebrew Scriptures or the Greek Septuagint which was the Greek version of the Jewish Scriptures.

The book of James was probably one of the earliest books written which was canonized and became part of the New Testament. The date of this book was around 45 - 50 A.D. The last book written was in the 90's A.D. and that was the book of Revelation written by the apostle John.

It is Written

Letís notice that in the following passage Jesus said: "It is written."

"Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. {2} And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. {3} Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." {4} But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'" {5} Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, {6} and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you,' and, 'In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'" {7} Jesus said to him, "It is written again, 'You shall not tempt the LORD your God.'" {8} Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. {9} And he said to Him, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me." {10} Then Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.'" {11} Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him" (Matthew 4:1-11.)

Jesus was tempted three times by the Devil and each time Jesus said: "It is written." Where was it written? Jesus was referring to the Hebrew Scriptures, what we call the Old Testament. Notice that Jesus had faith in the Holy Scriptures.

The apostle Paul was talking to Timothy and he said: "But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, {15} and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. {16} All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:14-16.)

What is the "Holy Scriptures" that the apostle Paul was talking about? Again the answer is, the Hebrew Scriptures, what we call the Old Testament.

Misunderstood Terminology

Protestants and other people who are pro-Jewish believe that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were Jewish. But what does the Bible say: "Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew" (Genesis 14:13.) Here we see that Abraham was called a Hebrew. Now where does the term Israel come from? Abrahamís grandson was Jacob and at one point in Jacobís life, he got into a wrestling match with God and he prevailed with Him and God changed his name from Jacob to Israel. "And He (God) said, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed" (Genesis 32:28.)

Where did the Jews come from? We see from the following passage that Jacob had twelve sons and one of his sons was named Judah. "And it happened, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine; and Israel heard about it. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve: {23} the sons of Leah were Reuben, Jacob's firstborn, and Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun; {24} the sons of Rachel were Joseph and Benjamin; {25} the sons of Bilhah, Rachel's maidservant, were Dan and Naphtali; {26} and the sons of Zilpah, Leah's maidservant, were Gad and Asher. These were the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Padan Aram" (Genesis 35:22-26.)

The first place that the word "Jew" is used in the Scriptures is in the book of Esther: "In Shushan the citadel there was a certain Jew whose name was Mordecai the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite" (Esther 2:5.) The first place that the word "Jews" (plural) is used in the Scriptures is in the book of second Kings: "Then Rezin king of Syria and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to war: and they besieged Ahaz, but could not overcome him. {6} At that time Rezin king of Syria recovered Elath to Syria, and drave the Jews from Elath: and the Syrians came to Elath, and dwelt there unto this day. (2 Kings 16:5-6 KJV.)

Notice also in this passage that the Jews are at war with the Israelites.

Remember the following phrase: All Jews are Israelites but not all Israelites are Jews.


The Jewish people call the "First Testament" the Tanakh. The Jews donít like the term "Old" Testament because it implies that there is a "New" Testament.

TANAKH is an acronym for the three parts of the Old Testament:

1. Torah (teaching) - the law.

2. Neviíim (the Prophets)

3. Kethuvim (the Writings)

This acronym is composed of the first letter of the parts of the Old Testament: TaNaKh.

The Old Testament Canon

The arrangement of the books of the Old Testament are different in the English King James Version Bible compared to the Hebrew Bible. There are thirty-nine books in the English Bible and there are twenty-four books in the Hebrew Bible. The difference in the number of books is because certain books in the Hebrew Bible are combined. The order of the books are also different in the two Bibles.

See the chart labeled "The Old Testament Canon" for the Greek and Hebrew Canonical order.

Important Dates to Remember

There are a few important dates that we should remember in the Old Testament:

1446 B.C. - Exodus and Wilderness Wanderings.

1011 B.C. - David rules.

931 B.C. - Kingdom divided.

722 B.C. - Assyria conquers Israel (the Northern Kingdom.)

586 B.C. - Babylon conquers Judah, the Temple Destroyed.

515 B.C. - Temple Rebuilt.

If you could remember these dates it would give you a time reference of Old Testament events.

Write these dates down in the front of your Bible so you can refer to them quickly if needed.

The Eleven Foundational Books

There are eleven foundational books which serve as the historical background for the Tanakh or the Old Testament. If you read these eleven books you would have read the First Testament chronologically (in order.) Everything else in the Old Testament happens during the story and history of these eleven books. See the charts in the handouts for these eleven foundational books.

Three periods of History

The Old Testament is divided up into three periods of history.

The first period is called the "Formation of Israel" and includes the books of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua and Judges.

A few of the very important events that happened in this time period are:

Genesis 12: God called Abraham.

Exodus 12: The Passover and the Exodus.

Exodus 20: The Ten Commandments given.

The second period of history is the Monarchy period which is subdivided into two periods. The "United Monarchy" is covered in the books of first and second Samuel and covers the lives of King Saul, David and Solomon. The Divided Monarchy is covered in the books of first and second Kings.

The divided monarchy begins when Rehoboam begins to reign over the united Israel and he raises taxes. Jeroboam and the ten northern tribes rebelled and they caused Israel to split into the northern and southern kingdoms. The ten northern tribes formed the kingdom of Israel with itís capital at Samaria and the two southern tribes formed the kingdom of Judah with itís capital at Jerusalem.

Both kingdoms had a tragic end. In the northern kingdom of Israel the prophets warned the people to repent. They didnít and the kingdom of Assyria destroyed them in 725 B.C. In the southern kingdom of Judah the prophets warned them also to repent and they didnít. The Babylonians defeated the kingdom of Judah in 605 B.C. and carried them away to Babylon for the seventy year captivity.

The third period of history is called the Post Exilic period which is the period of time following the seventy year captivity and exile in Babylon. The two books that covers this time period is Ezra and Nehemiah.

In Conclusion: This article is a brief overview of the Old Testament.

We have taken a brief look at the eleven foundational books that covers the history of the Old Testament and see how the other books tie into this framework.

The charts included with this article hopefully will make you want to read and study the Old Testament. Keep these handouts handy and use them as you read and study the Old Testament.

For more information: Pick the following link:
The Eleven Foundational Books of the Old Testament