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Book Overviews

Old Testament Overviews

Discover the Hebrew Bible in its original order. Get an overview of the TaNaK, a three-part collection of scrolls with one epic storyline.

41 Episodes

Episode 1
TaNaK / Old Testament
Did you know that the arrangement of the Old Testament in Protestant Christian Bibles is not original? Along with all ancient Jews, Jesus encountered the Scriptures as a three-part collection of scrolls known as the TaNaK. The Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, refers to the collection of Hebrew (and some Aramaic) books that were recognized as Scripture in ancient Israel. The traditional order we're talking about is referred to as TaNaK. TaNaK is an acronym for the names of the three large subcollections of the Hebrew Bible: Torah (Law), Nevi’im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings).
Episode 2
Genesis 1-11
In chapters 1-11, the book of Genesis recounts God’s good world and humanity’s repeated rebellion. How will God restore blessing to the world? We find the answer in the family of Abraham.
Episode 3
Genesis 12-50
In chapters 1-11, the book of Genesis recounts God’s good world and humanity’s repeated rebellion. How will God restore blessing to the world? We find the answer in the family of Abraham. God makes a covenant with Abraham, saying that all the nations will be blessed through his family. The rest of the book of Genesis traces this story through four generations. In each generation, we see human failure paired with God’s commitment to rescue and bless. As the story of Joseph summarizes at the end, “You planned this for evil, but God planned it for good, to save many lives” (Gen 50:20). As the book of Genesis closes, we see a promise of a king through the line of Judah who will be king over the nations and restore blessing to the world (Gen 49:8-13). It’s this promise that will find its fulfillment in Israel’s Messiah.
Episode 4
Exodus 1-18
Abraham’s family has fulfilled God’s original command to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth. But instead of ruling alongside God in his good world, the Israelites find themselves enslaved to a cruel leader in the land of Egypt. In response to their cries, God raises up Moses to deliver the Israelites. Moses confronts Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt through ten plagues, culminating in the Passover. God strikes down the firstborn sons in the land but provides a way of escape through the blood of lambs. When the Egyptians pursue the fleeing Israelites, God parts the waters of the sea for the Israelites to cross and swallows Pharaoh's army behind them. The first song of praise exalts God as their king and redeemer. However, shortly after, the Israelites begin grumbling, showing their own hardness of heart.
Episode 5
Exodus 19-40
The first part of Exodus recounts how God miraculously delivered Israel from Egypt. As they approach Mount Sinai, God’s presence covers the mountain in a dark cloud. Moses climbs the mountain to receive God’s law and a plan for the tabernacle. But immediately after this, Israel breaks the covenant, and Moses intercedes for them by asking God to remember his promise to Abraham. God relents and re-establishes the covenant. The tabernacle is completed and God’s glory fills it. However, Moses is unable to enter this holy space because of his own rebellion.
Episode 6
God made a covenant with Israel and brought his own presence to dwell with them. However, Israel cannot enter his presence because of their corruption. In response, God introduces a set of sacrifices, the priesthood, and purity laws in the book of Leviticus. Through sacrifice, God made a way for both praise and forgiveness. The ritual sacrifices and feasts allowed Israel to remember and relate to God as his people. In order to represent the people to God and God to the people, God institutes the priesthood, a royal responsibility for Aaron and his sons. God also introduces ritual and moral purity laws to help Israel see how God’s holiness affects every part of life. The book of Leviticus concludes with a call to covenant faithfulness. Despite the sin and impurity of Israel, God made a way for sin to be covered, allowing Israel to live near their God.
Episode 7
After centuries of living in foreign lands, the time comes for the Israelites to return to the land God promised to Abraham. But soon after they set out for Canaan, Israel perpetually complains, sins, and even incites rebellion against Moses and Aaron. Because of their unbelief, the people wander the wilderness for forty years and find that only their children can enter the promised land. Tired and frustrated, even Moses rebels against God's command and is forbidden from entering the promised land. Each time Israel rebels, God displays his justice and mercy together. A pagan prophet is hired to curse Israel, but he only hears words of blessing from God. Even in their rebellion, God continues to show his incredible love and provision for them. The book of Numbers becomes a warning and encouragement for us to follow God and trust his good plan for his people.
Episode 8
After 40 years of wilderness wandering, a new generation is ready to enter the promised land. Moses gathers them and delivers one final message. He recounts Israel’s rebellion and God’s grace up to that point, and he calls them to covenant faithfulness. At the conclusion of his speech, Moses gives a warning and ultimatum. To listen and obey God will lead to blessing, but to disobey will lead to devastation and exile. Moses knows the people will eventually choose rebellion. Yet Moses looks forward to a future day when God would give Israel a new heart so they could fully love God and live.
Episode 9
At the start of the book, Joshua is appointed as Israel's new leader, a new Moses. He commands obedience to the covenant, sends spies into the land, and brings the people of Israel through the waters of the Jordan River. The book then details a series of battles. The book is clear that these battles are not about Israel versus other nations but about God fulfilling his promise to the family of Abraham. In the battles that follow, Israel learns the hard way to walk in covenant faithfulness. As they do, some of the Canaanites surrender, while most try to extinguish the Israelites. The justice that God brings on human evil finds unique expression in Joshua as God drives out the Canaanites. Having defeated their enemies, the people of Israel divide the land by tribe and receive final words of challenge from Joshua to remain faithful to the covenant.
Episode 10
After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel begin a downward spiral. Israel begins to adopt the corrupt practices of the Canaanites they failed to drive out of the land. This leads to a cycle of sin, oppression, repentance, deliverance, and peace, which eventually leads back to sin. The book of Judges highlights six judges during this time and shows their increasing corruption. These judges start off fairly well but become increasingly worse. The book ends with two very disturbing stories that show how lawless the people have become. The central verse that summarizes this says, "In those days Israel had no king, and everyone did what was right in their own eyes."
Episode 11
Picking up in the days when the judges ruled, the book of Ruth tells the story of Naomi, the Moabite widow Ruth, and the farmer Boaz. The four chapters of the book are each designed with intentional symmetry. The first and last chapters reflect how loyalty turned this story of tragedy and death into a story of joy and birth. The inner chapters show how Naomi and Ruth make a plan, followed by an encounter between Ruth and Boaz, followed by Naomi and Ruth rejoicing. Curiously, God is hardly mentioned in the book of Ruth. At a time when we look for God to be active through a judge or king, God instead worked out his will through the everyday faithfulness of his people. This faithfulness not only benefits Naomi and her family but goes on to bless the world through the family of David, the line from which the Messiah would eventually come.
Episode 12
1 Samuel
The book of 1 Samuel focuses on three characters: Samuel, Saul, and David. A poem near the start of the book reveals the book's key themes: God’s opposition to the proud, exultation of the humble, faithfulness in spite of evil, and the promise of a messianic King. These themes are played out through the rest of the book as we see Saul rise to power, only to have his character flaws exposed as he disobeys God’s command. In contrast, God raises up David, a humble shepherd who trusts God. As the story progresses, we see these two characters in increasingly stark contrast. Saul slips into madness as David resolutely trusts in God’s timing and purposes.
Episode 13
2 Samuel
After the death of Saul, David unifies the twelve tribes as their king. In his new capital of Jerusalem, David desires to build God a house. Instead, God promises to build David an eternal house through a king from his lineage. This is a key moment in the book of 2 Samuel and in the Hebrew Scriptures that point us toward a messianic King who will come to fulfill the promise given to David and Abraham to bless all nations. However, we soon discover that David is not that king. After failing spectacularly, the kingdom slowly unravels. The final chapters of 2 Samuel highlight moments of David’s weakness, showing us how his own failure is similar to Saul’s. The book of 2 Samuel ends with us anticipating the future messianic King, the new David who will set right God's covenant with his people.
Episode 14
1 & 2 Kings
Known as 1 and 2 Kings in English Bibles, the book of Kings recounts the rule of Israel's kings from David's son Solomon up until the time of Israel's exile. The question at the center of this book is: Will God's promised Messiah come to rescue Israel in spite of their failures?
Episode 15
This book recounts the people’s return from exile and the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. Nehemiah rebuilds the walls, and Ezra, a descendant of Aaron, arrives in Jerusalem later and instills God's laws to the post-exile generation.
Episode 16
Though God is never mentioned in the book of Esther, we can see clearly that he is at work behind the scenes, ensuring that Haman’s plot to destroy the Jewish people is thwarted. Reading Esther reminds us that even when it seems like God is absent, he is still at work in our lives and will not abandon his promises.
Episode 17
Throughout the book, Job, his wife, and his friends speculate on why he, an upright man, suffers. Job accuses God of being unjust, and his friends believe that Job's sin caused his suffering. God reminds him that the world has order and beauty but it is also wild and dangerous. While we do not always know why we suffer, we can bring our pain and grief to God and trust that he is wise and in control.
Episode 18
The book of Psalms is a carefully designed collection of poetry that communicates key ideas about God’s character. It’s a book made for a lifetime of careful contemplation, where we can learn about the importance of prayer and the acknowledgment of pain, as well as the power of praise and fulfillment of prophecy.
Episode 19
Linked to Solomon and other wise men, the book of Proverbs includes hundreds of short, clever sayings designed to teach us how to live and act wisely. Each saying touches on a common area of life and shows us what it looks like to live well in God’s good world.
Episode 20
This book's author believes that life is *hevel*, temporary and fleeting like smoke or vapor. We all try to build meaning and purpose in life apart from God, investing in pursuits and things that have no lasting meaning, but time marches on. We all die and bad things happen to good people. In the end, the key to contentment comes from wisdom, accepting *hevel*, fearing God, keeping his commandments, and putting our trust in him. We remain puzzled by life's mysteries, but God will bring true justice that fuels our ability to live lives of honesty and integrity.
Episode 21
Song of Songs
A peculiar section of the Bible, the Song of Songs, also known as the Song of Solomon, is a poetic song between two lovers. So what is it doing in the Bible? Several themes begin to take shape within the poetry of this song, along with pearls of wisdom strung through its text about handling the fiery passions of sexual desire. Allegories of God's love for his people are also woven through the poem's tapestry, creating a beautiful picture of what God intended love to be.
Episode 22
Isaiah 1-39
Isaiah calls for Israel and the surrounding rebellious nations to repent and turn to God, warning of the judgment that will come if they do not. But Isaiah’s message is not without hope. He continually points to a coming servant, Immanuel, who will establish a new Israel and bring God's Kingdom to Earth. Jesus reads from the scroll of Isaiah and declares that the book’s messianic promises were being fulfilled in him.
Episode 23
Isaiah 40-66
Isaiah calls for Israel and the surrounding rebellious nations to repent and turn to God, warning of the judgment that will come if they do not. But Isiah’s message is not without hope. He continually points to a coming servant, Immanuel, who will establish a new Israel and bring God's Kingdom to Earth. Jesus reads from the scroll of Isaiah and declares that the book’s messianic promises were being fulfilled in him.
Episode 24
The people of Israel repeatedly refused to listen to Jeremiah’s warnings. But despite their continual breaking of the covenant, God has not abandoned them and promises to bless them if they turn back to him. But God’s justice can only allow evil to go so far. In one final act, God chooses Jeremiah to give the people of Israel's southern kingdom Judah one more chance. Turn from their wicked ways or be exiled to Babylon. The latter is sadly the result.
Episode 25
Lamentations is a collection of poems detailing Israel's grief after the exile and destruction of Jerusalem. This destruction was the direct result of Israel's constant rebellion against God despite his persistent warnings through his prophets. The people of Israel acknowledge their sin and cry out to God for restoration and repentance in these lament poems. These poems were a way for the people to process emotion and confusion at the disorder and chaos surrounding them. Lamentations shows us that communicating our distress to God is an appropriate response to evil in the world.
Episode 26
Ezekiel 1-33
Ezekiel is a prophet living in exile in Babylon. Ezekiel boldly speaks God’s message of Israel’s rebellion and makes clear that this exile is punishment for their covenant unfaithfulness. God's presence being revealed to Ezekiel demonstrates that holiness has nothing to do with geographical location—it’s about the condition of the heart. God is moved by the faithfulness of men like Ezekiel, who became his priest not because of status but because of his faith in dark circumstances. His example is a model for believers everywhere.
Episode 27
Ezekiel 34-48
Ezekiel is a prophet living in exile in Babylon. Ezekiel boldly speaks God’s message of Israel’s rebellion and makes clear that this exile is punishment for their covenant unfaithfulness. God's presence being revealed to Ezekiel demonstrates that holiness has nothing to do with geographical location—it’s about the condition of the heart. God is moved by the faithfulness of men like Ezekiel, who became his priest not because of status but because of his faith in dark circumstances. His example is a model for believers everywhere.
Episode 28
The book of Daniel is a rich piece of apocalyptic literature that includes several strange visions that point to the coming Son of Man, the messianic King who will deliver Israel and the nations. Daniel is also about hope and faith in the midst of exile. Daniel is living in Babylonian exile and endures significant trials of faith. But through all of it, he remains faithful to Yahweh and hopeful for the restoration of Israel and the return from exile.
Episode 29
Northern Israel's continued rebellion threatens their covenant with God, but God sends Hosea to compel them to repent. King Jeroboam II, one of the worst kings in Israel's history, grew apathetic and allowed idol worship to run amok in the nation, opening the doorway for Israelites to cheat, steal, and even murder each other on a constant basis. Growing cold and distant, they had forgotten about knowing God as their intimate first love, ushering in a disaster that would imminently strike through Assyria's siege. But God does not forget Israel even in their self-destruction, and he teaches us that love is the strongest force of all, even over sin.
Episode 30
The book of Joel describes the Day of the Lord through locust swarms, battles, and powerful imagery so that readers can understand its magnitude. There is no particular mention of Israel's sins in the book, but the consequences of the terrible events described are certainly clear. God will one day wipe out all evil and start creation over. But through this destruction also comes eternal protection for those who believe in him. Salvation from the messianic King is once again prophesied, but this time, the Holy Spirit is prophesied to come too, causing seemingly ordinary people to have visions, divine dreams, and be filled with God's Spirit. That's exactly what happened to Jesus' disciples during Pentecost after his death and resurrection, ensuring us that the Day of the Lord is even closer at hand today.
Episode 31
God calls a Judean shepherd named Amos to confront the wrongdoing of the people of Israel, offering them one more chance before they face God's judgement. Northern Israel had conquered other nations and enjoyed its recent successes, but they were spiritually bankrupt. Worshiping local pagan gods twisted their moral perceptions, and the people of Israel infamously cheated, stole, and sold their poor into slavery in foreign lands. God is grieved by the evils he sees the people of Israel doing, but he mercifully offers them another chance to change their ways.
Episode 32
The book of Obadiah may be small, but it packs a powerful punch against the arrogance of Edom and other ungodly nations. The Edomites, who were descended from Jacob's brother Esau, still carried the grudge their founder had for Jacob's deception. They refused to help Israel in their need, sold them as slaves, and even abused them while they were exiled to Babylon. Through Obadiah, God declares judgment over Edom and prophesies that they will be erased from history. Babylon overtook Edom 100 years later, and they never recovered.
Episode 33
Jonah poses fascinating questions for the reader. Do we truly forgive and love our enemies? Do we run from God when faced with certain issues, afraid of being exposed? The answer is different for every individual, yet God personally knows the answers to these questions. By examining ourselves in Jonah's story, we can learn to trust God in his final decisions and give all our concerns to him, while knowing that he desires to save every individual on earth and reunite with them forever.
Episode 34
The book of Micah describes God's coming judgment on Israel because of its rebellion. But God will show mercy and will one day gather and restore his people and all nations to the land. God will rebuild Jerusalem, defeat evil forever, and set a messianic King to rule over the people and bless all the nations. Before that can happen, though, God must confront and judge evil from among his people. Then he can show mercy and fulfill his covenant promise to Abraham and bless all the nations through Israel. His ultimate purpose is not to destroy Israel but to redeem and save the world.
Episode 35
The book of Nahum announces the destruction of Assyria and reveals that God will punish all arrogant, violent, and evil nations while protecting his humble and faithful people. He is committed to justice and will not allow any evil nation to endure forever. Though God will destroy evil, he makes clear his deep care for the innocent. He will provide a refuge on the day of distress for anyone who humbles himself before God, believes in his justice, and trusts in his plan to bring down oppressors in every time and place.
Episode 36
Throughout the book of Habakkuk, we see that Babylon is an example of any nation that exalts itself above God and practices injustice, violence, and idolatry. In the end, God reminds Habakkuk and every generation that God will deal with evil. We can continue to love and trust his timing and plan as we remain faithful to him.
Episode 37
The book of Zephaniah shows how God's justice and love work together to give the world hope. God's justice is a consuming fire that purifies the people. It is only through purification that he can bring restoration and remove evil forever to create a new Jerusalem. There his faithful remnant from all nations will gather and flourish in peace and praise him.
Episode 38
Haggai challenges the returning exiles to remember their covenant, remain faithful to God, and build the temple before constructing their own homes. While the new temple didn't meet their expectations, their efforts and faithfulness will be blessed. They can be encouraged by God's promise to build a new Jerusalem, defeat evil, and live in their midst. Future prophetic books contain more details about when these promises will be fulfilled.
Episode 39
Through a series of dream visions, the book of Zechariah gives hope to the Israelites and reminds them that the new Jerusalem will only come to pass if they remain faithful to the covenant. Even though the book doesn't follow a neat, orderly pattern and contains scary and bizarre images, it shows glimpses of God's hand at work guiding history toward his own purposes. We can look above the chaos and hope for the coming of God's Kingdom, which will motivate faithfulness in the present.
Episode 40
The book of Malachi is a stark indictment of Israel's rebellion, but it offers a surprising message of hope too. Even after years of rebellion and exile, God has not abandoned Israel. God promises to defeat evil and purify a faithful remnant, establishing a new Jerusalem and bringing peace, healing, and justice forever. It's that promise that prompts God's people to denounce sin, remain faithful to his covenant, and hope for the future.
Episode 41
1 & 2 Chronicles
Chronicles is the last book in the Hebrew Bible. It’s a summary of the whole story and emphasizes the continued relationship between God and Israel. The arrangement of the content in Chronicles invites the reader to explore the stories of each section, revealing interesting details about David, Solomon, God's temple, and the kings of Judah. The book ultimately leaves the reader waiting for the promised Messiah, who will restore Israel to their covenant partnership with God.
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