"Introduction to the Old Testament"
Introduction to the Old Testament (Time Periods)
The Old Testament covers many events over a span of thousands of years. We will divide this time into four periods simply as a way to understand some of the major events better. These time periods are (1) Innocence, (2) Conscience, (3) the Patriarchs, and (4) Law and Prophets. Let us look at each of them briefly.
Innocence extends from the creation of man to his sin in the Garden of Eden. The length of this time is unknown.
Conscience spans the time from the Fall of Man (the original sin) to Abraham.
The time of the Patriarchs reaches from Abraham to Moses.
4. The Law and Prophets
The time of the Law and Prophets extends from Moses to Christ. Our first lesson covers the events from the Creation to the first judgment.
"Books of the Old Testament
II. Books of the Old Testament
1. The Bible Is Inspired of God Second Peter 1:21 says, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” Clearly, the Old Testament was inspired of God. According to II Timothy 3:16, all Scripture is given by inspiration of God. In the Greek language in which the New Testament was written, the word inspired means “God-breathed.” Scripture was not written by the will of men. That is, men did not merely decide to write about God. The Bible is not man’s book about God, but God’s Book to humankind. A key word in II Peter 1:21 is moved. In the original language, it means to be carried along, much as a ship is carried over the surface of the sea by the winds blowing its sails.
2. The Bible Is the Word of God
We should approach our study of the Bible with great reverence, because it is the Word of God, not the word of men. Each word is important.
God warned Moses, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you” (Deuteronomy 4:2). A similar command is found in Proverbs 30:6: “Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” Just before the close of the Bible, God inspired John to include these words in the Book of Revelation: “And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:19).
3. God’s Word Is to Be Preserved
God did not just give His Word to humankind; He promised to preserve it forever, so that everyone would have access to God’s revelation. “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever” (Psalm 12:6–7). On the same subject of the divine preservation of God’s Word, Jesus said, “And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail” (Luke 16:17). A tittle is a very small mark in the Hebrew language, in which the Old Testament was written. There is an easy method to remember the number of books in the Old Testament. The word Old has three letters; the word Testament has nine letters. If we put three and nine together we have thirty-nine, the number of books in the Old Testament. The Old Testament was penned by about thirty-two men as the Holy Spirit moved on them. It spans a period of at least 3,600 years of human history, and it required about 1,500 years to complete. We can divide its thirty-nine books into four sections: Law, five books; History, twelve books; Poetry, five books; and Prophecy, seventeen books, the first five usually being called Major Prophets and the last twelve usually being called Minor Prophets. The Bible is a powerful book, and a study of it can change the whole perspective of a person’s life. In the story of Mutiny on the Bounty, one incident illustrates this point. The mutineers sank their ship and landed with their native women on the lonely island of Pitcairn. There were nine white sailors, six natives, ten women, and a girl of fifteen. One of the sailors knew how to distill alcohol, and the island became filled with drunkenness and vice. After a time only one of the sailors was left living, surrounded by native women and their children. The sailor found a Bible in one of the chests taken from the Bounty and began teaching it to the survivors. As a result, his own life was changed, and finally the life of the whole colony. In 1808 the United States ship Topaz visited the island and found a thriving, prosperous community without whiskey and without crime. The Bible had totally changed the life of the colony! So it has been from age to age! “The entrance of thy words giveth light” (Psalm 119:130).
III. Creation Week
The first verse of the Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). The Creation account reveals that God made all things in six days. On the seventh day, He rested. Let us examine each day.
1. The First Day
On the first day, God said, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). Then God divided the light from the darkness. He called the light Day and the darkness Night (Genesis 1:3–5). At this point, the earth was still “without form, and void” (Genesis 1:2). There existed a mass of waters.
2. The Second Day
On the second day God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it ivide the waters from the waters” (Genesis 1:6). God called the firmament heaven; today we call it the sky. This firmament divided the waters into those under it and those above it (Genesis 1:6–8).
3. The Third Day
On the third day God said, “Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear” (Genesis 1:9). He called the dry land Earth and the gathered waters Seas. On the same day God also said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth” (Genesis 1:11). So the third day saw the appearance of dry land, the gathering of the waters into specific areas, and the creation of grass, herbs, and trees on the land (Genesis 1:9–13).
4. The Fourth Day
On the fourth day God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth” (Genesis 1:14–15). On this day God made the sun, moon, and stars to divide the light from darkness and to mark days, seasons, and years with their signs (Genesis 1:14–19).
5. The Fifth Day
On the fifth day God said, “Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven” (Genesis 1:20). By His spoken word God created the great whales and every living creature that moves in the water, as well as every winged fowl. God also said, “Be fruitful, and multiply . . . in the earth” (Genesis 1:22). On the fifth day, then, God created the fish and the birds (Genesis 1:20–23).
6. The Sixth Day
The sixth day saw the creation of animals and humankind. God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind” (Genesis 1:24).
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:26). Thus, God created man in His own image, and He made both male and female.
God said to them, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat” (Genesis 1:28–30). Humankind, then, is the only creation of God commanded to have dominion over all creatures and to subdue the earth. Humankind is also the creation made in the image of God (Genesis 1:24–31).
7. The Seventh Day
On the last day of creation week God rested (Genesis 2:1–3). Creation was complete, and God’s relationship with humankind was just beginning.
"POWER OF CHOICE"
IV. Power of Choice
1. Adam and Eve—Innocence
The second chapter of Genesis restates the creation of man and woman and gives more specific details. This chapter also reveals that God planted a garden eastward in Eden, where He placed the man, Adam. The garden was a beautiful place, growing every tree that was pleasant to the sight and good for food. Into this paradise God put Adam, with instructions for him to dress and keep the garden.
a. The Forbidden Tree
The Lord had other commandments for Adam as well. He was not left to his own will; one thing was forbidden him. God said, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:16–17). Another unusual tree found in the garden was the Tree of Life (Genesis 2:9). It was permissible for man to eat of that tree, but he was not to eat of the tree that would give him the knowledge of good and evil. He was in a state of innocence; eating of the tree would awaken his conscience.
b. Eve Given to Adam
The Lord had created Adam before Eve, and He noted that it was not good for man to be alone. God said, “I will make him an help meet for him” (Genesis 2:18). The words help meet are translated from one Hebrew word that means aid. The Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and He took one of Adam’s ribs, from which He made a woman. God brought the woman to Adam, and he said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23). In their innocence, both Adam and Eve were unashamed, though naked.
c. Humankind Given Free Will
Some have wondered why God placed the forbidden tree in the Garden. Would not it have been better if God had never given Adam and Eve the opportunity to do wrong? This question overlooks God’s purpose in creating man. God did not create a puppet or a robot. He created a being with the power of choice, or with a free will. God’s promises are to whosoever will (Revelation 22:17). Would it be possible for God to have joyful fellowship with a being who had no choice in the matter, who in essence was forced into that relationship? One of the major differences between humankind and the animal kingdom is this power of choice: to do good or evil. From the first, God has set before man the ability to choose to do right and live, or choose to do wrong and die. Two brothers were born into a family long ago. John Calvin was studious, thoughtful, and respectful. At the early age of twenty-seven, he wrote one of the most influential books in Christendom, The Institutes of the Christian Religion. The other brother, Charles, led a life in the gutters of immorality. What explains the difference between the two? Not heredity, environment, or education, for they grew up in the same home with the same influences and opportunities. The difference is explained in the power of choice.
2. The Fall
Chapter three of Genesis outlines the terrible mistake that Adam and Eve made and its tragic consequences.
a. Eve Visits the Forbidden Tree
Evidently, one of the first mistakes that Eve made was to visit the site of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Since she knew that it was a forbidden tree, she should have avoided it altogether. She should have stayed away from it. Romans 13:14 commands, “Make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” A similar admonition is found in Ephesians 4:27: “Neither give place to the devil.” Many hurtful temptations could be avoided if people stayed away from sinful environments and compromising situations. Nevertheless, Eve—as have multitudes since then—made the fatal error of knowingly and willingly making provision for temptation.
b. Satan Pays a Visit Also
Satan, who is very subtle, was waiting for the right opportunity to inject his deceitful influence into the tranquil setting of the Garden of Eden. He knew that he had only one possible course of action, and that involved the forbidden tree. It is important to notice the first words that Satan said to Eve: “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Genesis 3:1). Satan’s first method of attack is always to question God’s Word. In a very sly and crafty way, without actually denying God’s Word, he tempts humankind to question the Word of God.
c. Satan’s Wrong Interpretation
Next, let us observe the difference in God’s perspective and the devil’s viewpoint by comparing word for word what each said. God said: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it” (Genesis 2:16–17). Satan asked if God said: “Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden” (Genesis 3:1). This change may seem to be just a matter of semantics, or a play on words. But when we are talking about the Word of God, every single word is crucial, the phrasing is critical, and the perspective is important. This truth cannot be overemphasized! Now let us compare these statements again. God was speaking from a positive viewpoint; He told Adam that he could freely eat of every tree in the Garden except one. The serpent’s viewpoint was negative; he focused on the fact that they could not eat of every tree. By so doing, Satan was attempting to make Eve feel deprived rather than blessed! He wanted her to think about that little bit she could not have rather than all that she could have! Time and time again Satan uses this technique. We must always watch for this tactic. Satan will quote something that sounds so much like the Word of God and is so close to what God actually said that he will fool those who do not know the Word themselves. Moreover, it is important to note that Satan actually questioned whether God had really given such a command or not.
d. Eve’s Lack of Knowledge of God’s Word
The next tragic step in this scenario is that Eve did not really know what God had said. Eve’s statement sounds very close to what God said, but God forbids us to add or take away one word from what He has said. Eve added to what God had said: “And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die” (Genesis 3:2–3). Once again, let us compare this statement with what God actually said: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:16–17). God did not say, “Neither shall ye touch it.” Again, at first glance, this addition may not seem important. But we are not dealing with the word of people, we are handling the Word of God! And while it may seem that Eve strengthened God’s commandment by adding a condition that He did not mention, we must realize that we cannot strengthen God’s Word. If we add our own conditions, we go beyond the Word of God. By thus misquoting what the Lord had said, Eve revealed to the serpent a major flaw in her ability to resist temptation. A careful study of the temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4 will further clarify this point. The only way to resist the temptations of Satan effectively is to respond to his efforts with the Word of God, the pure Word of God. As he did with Jesus, Satan will attempt to enhance his temptation with his version of God’s Word. He misquoted and misapplied a verse from Psalm 91. Being the Word made flesh, Jesus caught him in his error and was not trapped. Satan is still in the business today of tripping up the unwary, those who do not know for themselves what God actually said. If Jesus were not too great to be tempted of Satan, neither are we. And we cannot vote the devil out of existence. If he is not around, someone is certainly doing his work! A young man once asked an older man, “I suppose you no longer believe in a devil?” “I certainly do believe in the devil,” the older man responded. “If I didn’t, I would have to believe that I was my own devil.”
e. Satan Attacks God’s Motives
The next step in the temptation of Eve was an attack on God’s motives. Having discovered that she did not really know what God said, Satan now directly contradicted God’s Word: “Ye shall not surely die; for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4–5). In short, Satan caused Eve to think that God prohibited her and Adam from eating the tree because he wanted to keep something good from them! This is another standard tool in the devil’s kit. He tries to convince people that it would be to their advantage to do those things forbidden by God and that God actually does not want the best for them but wants to keep them in ignorance and bondage.
f. Adam’s Disobedience
Eve took the next unhappy step down the road to spiritual death: she began to follow her physical desire instead of the Word of God. She saw that the tree was good for food (sight and taste) and that it was a tree to be desired to make one wise (an appeal to her pride). She ate the fruit, she gave some to Adam, and he ate also. What makes all this even more tragic is that, while Eve was deceived, Adam was not. He knew exactly what he was doing (I Timothy 2:14). In exploring God’s Word, we discover the following facts about the fall of man. “By one man [Adam] sin entered into the world” (Romans 5:12). “Death [came] by sin; and so death passed upon all men” (Romans 5:12). “Death reigned from Adam to Moses” (Romans 5:14). “By one man’s [Adam’s] offence death reigned” (Romans 5:17). “Therefore as by the offence of one [Adam] judgment came upon all men to condemnation” (Romans 5:18). “For as by one man’s [Adam’s] disobedience many were made sinners” (Romans 5:19).
After Adam and Eve ate the fruit, their eyes were opened, they knew they were naked, and they tried to cover up their shame by sewing fig leaves together and making aprons. Clearly, their conscience was awakened. The age of innocence was over.
3. God Comes Walking in the Garden
a. God Looks for Adam and Eve
Then Adam and Eve heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and in their shame and remorse they hid from His presence among the trees of the garden. Sin had broken their free relationship with God. The Lord called, “Where art thou?” (Genesis 3:9). Adam responded, “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10). God asked, “Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” (Genesis 3:11).
b. Adam and Eve Blame Someone Else
At this juncture, another development occurred that is typical of all humankind from that time to this: Adam blamed his sin on someone else. He answered God, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat” (Genesis 3:12). The fallen nature of humankind does not want to take responsibility for sin. This is why repentance is such a major step, and the reason it is absolutely necessary. The same tendency is seen in Eve. God asked her, “What is this that thou has done?” She said, “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat” (Genesis 3:13).
"THE FIRST JUDGEMENT"
V. The First Judgment
The immediate result of man’s choice to disobey rather than obey God was the first judgment on sin, in the form of four curses and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.
1. The Curse on the Devil
The first curse was on the serpent, the devil. God said to him, “Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life” (Genesis 3:14).
2. The Effect of the Curse on the Woman
The curse would be especially painful for Eve. To her God said, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Genesis 3:16).
As a result of Eve’s sin, she brought upon the female population of the human race increased sorrow. Even the very blessed and joyous event of childbirth is colored by pain and travail. In addition, God said the man would rule over the woman.
3. The Curse on the Land
The third curse was upon the land. God said to Adam, “Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it; cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat of the herb of the field” (Genesis 3:17–18). We must carefully plant and cultivate the food we wish to grow, but thorns, thistles, and other weeds grow without cultivation. Every time we struggle to grow a beautiful flower, each time we weed our garden, or work to free our lawn from dandelions, we have a reminder of human sinfulness and of our need of God.
4. The Effect of the Curse on the Man
The curse affected Adam too. God said, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Genesis 3:19). From this point forward, man would find life a struggle. He would live only by exertion, by effort, and would finally go back to the dust from which he was made.
5. The First Promise of the Redeemer
In the midst of these curses, however, there was a promise. God said to the devil, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). This was a prediction of the ultimate triumph of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, over Satan. From the very beginning, the devil’s fate has been sealed. He has never been within striking range of achieving victory in his evil struggle. From the beginning, he has been a defeated enemy. The state of innocence for Adam and Eve ended with God giving them a promise. God also provided a covering of skin for their nakedness, showing that by the shedding of blood He would make a provision to reverse the consequences of their sin (Genesis 3:21).
6. Adam and Eve Driven from the Garden
As a direct result of their sin, God put Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden. In order to prevent them from eating of the Tree of Life, the Lord God sent them from the Garden to till the ground. At the east of the Garden of Eden, God placed cherubims, or angelic creatures, with a flaming sword which turned in all directions to protect the access to the Tree of Life. When they sinned, Adam and Eve were spiritually dead—separated from the presence of God. They also faced physical death and after that eternal death, which they could avoid only by the saving grace of God. Since that time, every human being has been born in a sinful state, spiritually dead and facing eternal death. But through Jesus Christ we can have salvation and eternal life.