Genesis 1-12 – the story of creation and the fall of mankind. We were created by God, but turned against him.
Genesis 12-end – the history of the people of , centred on from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.
Exodus – the history of the flight from to the Promised Land, centred on Moses, and including the 10 Commandments.
Leviticus – guidelines for worship, and including the commandment quoted by Jesus “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
Numbers – the journey of the Israelites from Mount Sinai (where the 10 Commandments had been given) to the border of the Promised Land (the river ).
Deuteronomy – a treaty between God and his people. God’s promises of blessing are conditional on the people obeying God’s laws
Joshua and Judges – entering and settling in the Promised Land, under different leader, including Gideon and Samson.
Ruth – the story of a real outsider, a non-Jewish widow, whose devotion to her mother-in-law and to God are commended. (She becomes an ancestor to Jesus.)
1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, I Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles – the history and Judah under the Kings, including King David and king Solomon. (Chronicles covers the same material as Samuel and Kings.)
Ezra and Nehemiah – leaders of the people who came back from exile to build the Jerusalem and the Temple .
Esther – a Jewish girl who becomes a wife of the King of Persia and saves her people from wholesale massacre.
Job – the story of a God-fearing man who suffers terribly through no fault of his own, and who continues to trust in God. Some of the book is an imagined debate over his fate between God and Satan.
Psalms – poems and songs addressed to God, expressing praise, thanks, triumph, anger, disappointment, failure and other common emotions.
Proverbs – wise sayings, both about obeying God and practical matters.
Ecclesiastes – a book of doubt, even despair, and frustration at the injustices of life.
Song of Songs – a book of love poems, possibly by Solomon, reflecting a favourite Bible theme of the love of God for his people being like that of a husband for a wife.
The Prophets Common themes for all the prophets are warnings of the judgement to come for disobedience to God, along with promises of future restoration of Jerusalem . Many passages look forward to the coming of the Messiah, or rescuer, and a time when there would be a new relationship between God and his people.
Isaiah – includes descriptions of a new king (eg “he sent me to give good news to the poor…”) which Jesus claimed for himself.
Jeremiah – contains God’s promise to make a “new covenant” with his people.
Lamentations – laments over the fall of Jerusalem .
Ezekiel – promises the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Daniel – the story of a Jewish teenager in exile in Babylon who stayed faithful to God, even under persecution.
Hosea – uses the prophet’s own difficult marriage, with a wife who is repeatedly unfaithful, to illustrate God’s desire to forgive and restore the relationship with his people.
Joel – looks to judgement on the people, and beyond to the coming of the Holy Spirit for everyone.
Amos – warns against religion that exists in name only, and against social injustice.
Obadiah – the judgement on .
Jonah – the reluctant follower of God, who had to learn that God is far readier to forgive than to punish.
Micah – more warnings against oppressing the poor, and a promise of hope for the future, from one to be born in Bethlehem .
Nahum – the fall of the city of Nineveh .
Habakkuk – the prophet asks God why was suffering at the hands of violent people, but also rejoices in God despite present troubles (“though the fig tree shall not blossom…”).
Zephaniah – warning against idolatry.
Haggai – encouragement to returning exiles to rebuild the Temple .
Zechariah – speaks of a king who will come “triumphant and victorious, riding on a donkey” as Jesus later did.
Malachi – rejoices in God’s mercy.