Genesis – Deuteronomy are the first five books of the Old Testament. They form the foundation of the entire Bible. They introduce us to characters and themes that are developed throughout the rest of Scripture. Our understanding of the gospel and what it means to be a Christian is deficient without them. Yet very few people read or preach from them on a regular basis.
That is because these books contain some material that is dry. There are lists of names, sections of laws, and a lot of counting. Some material in these books is also disturbing. Old men are circumcised and old women give birth. Towns and nations are destroyed by plagues. The ground opens up to swallow people whole. At times you may ask yourself, “What am I reading?”
But these five books cannot be ignored. If you want to grow closer to God and be effective in your faith, you must read them. They are long and can be difficult to read. But just as gems and precious stones do not lie on the surface but require digging, so God’s Word often requires discipline and hard work in order to mine its riches. (For more on this, see my post Why You Should Read the Old Testament).
Genesis – Deuteronomy tell a united story. It is best to think of them not as five books, but as one book with five parts. Taken together, they tell how God begins to redeem mankind. Each book makes its own contribution to the story:
Genesis: “In the beginning”
God creates a perfect world that is ruined by Adam and Eve’s sin. Mankind becomes so wicked that He destroys them with a flood, but Noah and his family are spared to repopulate the earth. He calls Abraham to an unknown land and promises to bless him with many descendants. Through them, He promises to bless all mankind.
Exodus: “The way out”
Abraham’s descendants (called “Israelites”) are oppressed as slaves in Egypt. God hears their cries and raises up Moses to be their deliverer. With signs and wonders, Moses leads them out of Egypt and into the desert. He receives God’s laws at Mt. Sinai and oversees the construction of a portable tent called the tabernacle.
Leviticus: “Pertaining to the Levites”
God instructs Moses how the Israelites ought to worship Him. They are to acknowledge and approach Him as holy. He gives regulations for offering sacrifices and distinguishing clean from unclean. He establishes feasts for them to celebrate every year. Moses consecrates Aaron and his sons to be priests and sets them apart to serve God.
Numbers: “In the desert”
Moses counts the Israelites who left Egypt. They refuse to enter the Promised Land because they are afraid, so God sentences them to forty years of wandering in the desert. He provides for them although they continue to grumble against Him. They conquer and settle territory east of the Jordan River. They camp on the plains of Moab across the river from Canaan.
Deuteronomy: “The second law”
Moses gives his final speech to the Israelites. He reviews their journey and reminds them of what God has done. He reviews the law and reminds them to obey God. He renews the covenant and reminds them not to worship other gods. He predicts their rebellion and blesses them before he dies. Joshua succeeds him as leader of the nation.
(Over the next few months, I will write about more major sections of the Bible. If you are interested, subscribe to my blog via e-mail to automatically receive new posts.)
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