Updated: Nov 5, 2019
Many Christians camp out in the New Testament. I did the same thing at first.
However, the whole Bible – both the Old Testament and New Testament - is God’s word to us. And the first 5 books of the Bible are critical to read because they lay the theological groundwork for the rest of the Scriptures!
These books explain the origin of the world, of the nations, and of God’s people.
If you are new to reading the Bible you probably should spend some time in the New Testament – especially one or two of the Gospels and then Acts. But then go back and read the first 5 books of the Bible.
The first 5 books of the Bible are called the Torah in Hebrew. “Torah” is commonly translated to “Law.” And often is referred to as the Law of Moses.
These books are called the Pentateuch in Greek. The Greek word “Pentateuch” means “five vessels or scrolls.”
Torah (Hebrew)/ Law (Torah translated)/ Pentateuch (Greek) mean the same thing - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.
The first 17 books of the Old Testament are the historical books. They tell you the history of God’s people. There is a lot in this history we can learn from. And the Pentateuch (first 5 books of the historical books) is the foundation of Scripture.
The Pentateuch is God’s instructions for a nation learning to be God’s people while living in the world. It explains the need because of human sin for God’s direct intervention in human history. The stories show how God acts in the lives of his people. These books teach us truths about God and the world He created.
Source: Bible Overview, copyright 2012, Rose Publishing, pages 13 and 14 (affiliate link)
The Law includes His self-revelation, His deeds on His people’s behalf, and His covenant that includes rules for living. To act according to God’s Law is to act in accord with His commands, His deeds, and His revealed character.
Source: LifeChange Series – Joshua, copyright 1988 by The Navigators, page 27 (affiliate link)
We learn God created the world simply by speaking. Everything was to be perfect – no disease, evil, violence, broken relationships, or pain. All creation was to live in perfect harmony. But the first man and woman decided to disobey the One who created them. Evil and sin were introduced into God’s creation. Life became a battle. But God in His infinite mercy, because He loves us so, came up with a plan to redeem us.
God chose one man, Abraham, to become the father of a nation, Israel, and to be an example to all nations of people in a relationship with God.
We read about Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and his twelve sons including Joseph.
The book of Exodus is the historical account of how God’s people were in bondage in Egypt and how God delivered them from slavery. It is about their “exodus” from Egypt – hence the name of the book. (Think about the movie The Ten Commandments with the plagues and God saying, “Let my people go!”) God gave his written Law on Mount Sinai. We see God’s covenant promise to Abraham fulfilled - that God would make his descendants into a great nation (without a homeland yet though.) Exodus is about the deliverance of His people and His moral law.
God gives specific instructions on the building of the tabernacle where He will live with His people. Ritual purification rites are established to provide a way for people to be able to approach God. And God implements a way to deal with sin. The atoning sacrificial system was a way for sinful people to be restored. This system was in place until Jesus became the atoning sacrifice for our sin. God equipped His nation to be His holy people. In the book of Leviticus we learn about God being holy and His expectation for us to live holy lives.
God organizes His people to be a mighty army. The people are disobedient and grumble a lot. As a result they wander in the wilderness for 40 years. The people were punished for their disobedience, but God did not destroy them. God extended His grace to the next generation. The big names in Numbers are Moses, Aaron (Moses’ brother), Miriam (Moses’ sister), Joshua, and Caleb.
They wandered in the desert for 40 years and now God’s people are at the edge of the Promised Land, but they haven’t entered yet. Deuteronomy is Moses’ farewell to them and God’s instruction for the next generation. “Deuteronomy” means “second law.” Moses remembers the past, repeats the law, and tells them the penalty for not being obedient. The Ten Commandments are repeated in Deuteronomy 5.
The Torah/ The Law/ The Pentateuch
These books that contain the Old Testament law are a critical part of God’s revelation to us. They continue to reveal God to us, teach us about God’s character, help us to understand the life and death of Jesus better, and also provide us with guidance in righteous living.
Source: Reading the Bible for Life Workbook copyright 2011, George Guthrie, page 77 (affiliate link)
God reveals a lot to us in the Pentateuch.
Read Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy to have a firm theological foundation for reading the rest of the Bible.
After reading the Pentateuch and then later when you go back to the New Testament books, you are going to have “aha” moments and the dots will connect together. You'll understand things like why did Jesus have to die? Why is He referred to as the Lamb of God? All of Scripture will come together.
You will go, “Oh, now I get it!"
That’s a very good thing!