Beginner’s Guide to the Old Testament

Why bother about the Old Testament?

Because God gave it to us to read – we shouldn’t spurn his gift.

Because the Old Testament was the Bible Jesus knew and loved so to be like Jesus includes knowing about its teaching.

Because you can’t fully understand the New Testament without some knowledge of the Old Testament.

The purpose of this paper

This paper will give a brief overview of the Old Testament, suitable even for those with little or no knowledge of the subject. This will give a sense of perspective and it also includes an outline of well-known stories from the Old Testament together with Old Testament (messianic) prophecies about Jesus which will add a little more content to the summaries. After reading this paper it is recommended to read “The Detailed Outline of the Old Testament” which will give a fairly good knowledge of its history and teaching together with explanations and help with some of the difficult passages.

What is the Old Testament about?

Creation and the establishment of the world.

God’s choice and preparation of a people from whom the Messiah would be born.

God’s law and standards of behaviour.

The need of a blood sacrifice for sinful humanity, pointing to the death of Jesus.

Prophecies about the coming Messiah, including his second coming. 

A brief outline of Old Testament History

DatesThe StoryRelevant Books
 Creation: Adam and EveGenesis
 The Fall (into sin) of Adam and EveGenesis
 The Flood destroys sinful civilisation except Noah and his family who escaped in the Ark.Genesis
c. 2091 BC

c. 1921 BC
Abraham called to be the father of the chosen people from whom Messiah would come and moved to the Promised Land. His grandson Jacob (later re-named Israel) had 12 sons from whom the 12 tribes of Israel descended.Genesis
c. 1876 BCJacob and family move to Egypt to avoid famine but eventually are enslaved by the Egyptians.Genesis
c. 1446 BCMoses presses the Pharaoh (king) of Egypt to let the Israelites go. He only does so because God allows various plagues to afflict the Egyptians culminating in the death of Egyptian firstborn. The Israelites were instructed to put the blood of a lamb over their doors so that the angel of judgment would “pass over” them. Hence the “Passover” celebration (which Jesus celebrated as the Last Supper).Exodus
 Moses leads the Israelites into the desert towards the Promised Land. Exodus
 God reveals the 10 Commandments and many other laws, including about animal sacrifices (which foreshadow the sacrifice of Jesus).Exodus & Leviticus
 However, despite God’s miraculous provision for them the Israelites disobey God and eventually God says that generation won’t enter the Promised Land.Numbers
 After 40 years wandering in the desert, Moses teaches the next generation how to behave in the Promised Land.Deuteronomy
c. 1406 BCAfter the death of Moses Joshua leads the Israelites into the Promised LandJoshua
 Despite a number of god-fearing leaders (‘judges’), including the Prophet Samuel, the Israelites persist in disobeying God.Judges & 1 Samuel

970-930 BC
One of the greatest leaders was King David who followed the Lord and wrote many of the Psalms. His son, Solomon, known for his wisdom (much of which is written in Proverbs) succeeded him. He built the first Temple in Jerusalem.2 Samuel & 1 Kings & 1 & 2 Chronicles, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs
 Sadly, after that, despite warnings from numerous prophets, including Elijah and Elisha, and promises about the coming Messiah, the country went from bad to worse and divided in two (Israel and Judah).1 & 2 Kings & 1 ChroniclesProphets: Obadiah, Jonah, Amos, Isaiah, Hosea, Micah, Nahum, Habbakuk, Zephaniah
722 BC586 BCEventually, Israel (the northern kingdom) was taken into captivity by the Assyrians and later Judah (the southern kingdom) by the Babylonians.2 KingsProphets: Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel
538-432 BCThe Jews (as they were now called) returned to the Promised Land, led by Ezra and Nehemiah, and rebuilt the Temple.Ezra, NehemiahProphets: Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
 The scene was set for the coming of the prophesied Messiah. 

An outline of well-known Bible stories

Christians differ in their understanding of the early stories in Genesis 1-11 (Adam and Eve, Noah and the Flood, the Tower of Babel). Some see them as entirely literal. Others see them as being partly literal but with symbolic aspects included. Still others see them as totally symbolical, but teaching important truths. Some see stories such as those of Elijah, Elisha and Daniel etc., as partly literal but with symbolic aspects included.

Adam and Eve (Genesis 2-3)

Genesis describes how Adam and Eve, the first human couple, were created and lived in the beautiful Garden of Eden. They were in a state of innocence and had a close relationship with God. But Satan (described as a serpent) tempted them to rebel against God (to eat the forbidden fruit of a particular tree). The result was “The Fall” – Adam and Eve were excluded from the close relationship with God and the Garden of Eden. They and their descendants experienced the difficulty and pain of what has become normal human life.

Noah and the Flood (Genesis 6-8)

Many years after Adam and Eve fell to temptation, the human race had become increasingly wicked and rebellious against God. However, Noah and his family, were servants of God. God’s patience with a sinful world ran out and he told Noah he was going to judge mankind with a great flood. He told Noah to build an ark – a boat big enough for the whole family and for many different animals. God wanted the human race to continue through Noah’s descendants and the animal kingdom to continue through the animals on the ark. It rained heavily for 40 days and the resulting flood, which lasted 150 days, fulfilled God’s intention of judgment on both humanity and the animal kingdom. When the flood subsided God made a covenant with both Noah’s family and with the animal kingdom that never again would he bring judgment through a flood.

Tower of Babel (Genesis 11)

Some time after the flood, the nations of the world (who all spoke the same language) decided to build a tower which was so high that they thought it would reach heaven. God knew the potential for evil of the nations being able to co-operate in such a way so Genesis tells us that God confused their languages – different nations now spoke different languages. As a result the great tower project was abandoned. Because of the confusion of language involved it was called the Tower of Babel (or Babylon. “Babel” sounds like the Hebrew word for ‘confused’).

Abraham (Genesis 12-22)

Abraham was born in what is now Iraq and moved to what is now Southern Turkey, close to the border with Syria. God called him to go to the Promised Land (then called Canaan) and promised that He would make his descendants a great nation and bless the whole world through them. Later God confirmed this by making a covenant with Abraham promising that he would be the “father of many nations.” This covenant would be everlasting and Canaan would be “an everlasting possession.” As a condition, Abraham and all his male descendants had to be circumcised. God promised Abraham a son, yet he and his wife, Sarah, were childless and Sarah was past the childbearing age. However, a year later Isaac was born.  Abraham’s nephew Lot went to live in Sodom which was a very evil city, characterised by sexual sins such as gang rape. He was warned that the city, together with nearby Gomorrah, was about to be destroyed (probably by a great earthquake). Lot and his family escaped just in time, although his wife turned back and was killed. God decided to test Abraham’s faith and obedience. Human sacrifice was part of the ancient culture and God called Abraham to sacrifice Isaac – the child of promise through whom the covenant would be fulfilled. Abraham set out to obey and at the last minute God stopped him. He sacrificed a ram instead. It is interesting that this happened on the site in Jerusalem where centuries later the Temple with its animal sacrifices was built. 

Joseph (Genesis 37-50)

Abraham’s great grandson Joseph had 11 brothers. He was his father’s favourite and they resented him. He told them about dreams he had that they would eventually all bow before him, which made him even more unpopular. One day they took the opportunity to sell Joseph as a slave and they told his father that he had been killed by a wild animal. Joseph was taken down to Egypt and became a servant in the household of one of the king’s (Pharaoh’s) senior officials. The official’s wife lied about Joseph’s behaviour and he was put in prison. The other prisoners discovered he was able to interpret dreams. One of the prisoners was released and returned to serving Pharaoh. Eventually Pharaoh had a dream which no-one could interpret. This ex-prisoner then remembered about Joseph. Pharaoh sent for him and Joseph told him the dream meant there would be a 7-year famine in Egypt. Pharaoh was so grateful that he appointed Joseph to oversee preparation for the famine. Joseph was second in command to Pharaoh. The famine affected Canaan and eventually his brothers came down to buy food from Egypt. They did not recognise Joseph and he didn’t reveal who he was. Instead, he let them suffer for a time. They also were required to bow down to him. Eventually he revealed who he was and the whole family came down to live in Egypt.

Moses (Exodus 3-40; [Leviticus]; Numbers 13-21)

About 350 years after Joseph became a senior leader in Egypt, the Egyptians felt threatened by the number of Israelites in the country. Pharaoh therefore ordered that Hebrew male babies should be killed. Moses’ mother did not allow this to happen but put the baby in a basket and floated it on the River Nile. Pharaoh’s daughter discovered the child and decided to bring him up as her own. But Moses did not forget he was an Israelite and as an adult he killed an Egyptian who was beating an Israelite. When this became known he had to flee to Sinai. There, God met with him at a bush which was on fire but not being consumed. He called him to go back to Egypt to urge Pharaoh to let the enslaved Israelites go. Pharaoh would not listen and so a series of plagues hit the Egyptian people (some Christians believe these were a natural sequence events but the timing was miraculous). The plagues consisted of water being turned into blood (some say it was not literal blood but red sediment), followed by plagues of frogs, gnats, flies, then the death of livestock followed by plagues of boils, excessive hail, locusts and darkness. Despite wavering at times, Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites go. So God allowed the final plague: the death of all Egyptian firstborn sons (and cattle). In preparation for this, God led Moses to tell the people to sacrifice a lamb and daub some of its blood on their door lintels. He explained that when the destroying angel saw the blood he would pass over that house. This was the inauguration of the Passover (and Jesus celebrated it as the Last Supper referring to his own sacrifice as the Lamb of God). So the Israelites left Egypt and crossed the “Red Sea.” (It is likely that this was, in fact, the southern end of Lake Menzaleh). A very strong wind blew back the water but by the time the Egyptian army (which Pharaoh had sent after the Israelites) the water returned and the chariots and horses were trapped by the mud and water (Exodus 3-14).

Moses led the people towards the Promised Land. The Lord revealed a pillar of cloud by day and of fire at night to guide them. They experienced numerous miracles: bitter water was made sweet, a miraculous provision of manna (it is uncertain what this food was – it was described as “white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey”), a large flock of quail (providing meat) and miraculous provision of water (when Moses struck a rock). They reached Mt Sinai and there God revealed to Moses the Ten Commandments and other moral laws. He also revealed the ceremonial law about the construction of a mobile sanctuary (the Tabernacle) which included the Ark of the Covenant: a small box with a solid gold lid on the edges of which were two golden cherubim. This was a very holy object because it was regarded as the place where God’s presence dwelt. God also ordained various animal sacrifices (pointing forward to the sacrifice of Jesus). He also established various festivals: the Sabbath (which was particularly important), Passover, Firstfruits, Weeks (Pentecost), Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), Yom Kippur, Tabernacles (Booths) (Exodus 15-40 and Leviticus).

The people then approached the Promised Land and sent out 12 spies to explore it. Two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, brought back positive reports, saying the Israelites could easily take possession of the land. But the other 10 spies brought back scare stories about giants in the land. The people rebelled against God by believing the negative reports. They wanted rid of Moses and even to return to Egypt. Thus began 40 years of wandering in the desert. God decided that none of the adult generation which left Egypt would reach the Promised Land (Numbers 13-21).

Joshua (Joshua 1-6)

Eventually, Moses died and Joshua led the people into the Promised Land. They were confronted by the town of Jericho and sent two spies into it who were protected by the prostitute Rahab. Then Joshua led the people to process all the way round the city every day for a week. On the 7th day they processed round it seven times before sounding trumpets and shouted loudly. The walls of Jericho collapsed (an earthquake?) and the Israelites captured it. So the conquest of the Promised Land continued under Joshua’s leadership until his death.


The Lord raised up a number of God-fearing leaders (“Judges”) to lead the Israelites after the death of Joshua but Israel continually lapsed back into rebellion against God. This led to defeat at the hands of their enemies. Gideon was one of the judges, although reluctant to take a leading role. An angel came to Gideon and called him to deliver Israel from the Midianites. He asked for a sign that it really was God calling him. He put a wool fleece on the ground and asked that the next morning the fleece would be damp with dew and the ground dry. It happened. But he was still not satisfied so he did the same thing again, asking God that the fleece should be dry and the ground damp with dew. It happened. Gideon then chose a fighting force but God wanted to use a small force, so he asked Gideon to send home all who were afraid and those who got down on their knees to drink water. He ended up with 300 men who had lapped water with their hands to their mouths. In the middle of the night they took torches concealed in jars and some trumpets and crept up to the Midianites. At a given signal they broke the jars, revealed the torches and blew the trumpets. The Midianites fled in fear and confusion, fighting each other (Judges 6-7). 

Another judge was Samson who was a rather dubious character. God called him to be a Nazirite which meant he was not allowed to drink alcohol or to cut his hair. He also was a man of great strength. He had various brushes with the Philistines and attacked them on various occasions. Eventually he married Delilah. The Philistines pressed her to find out the secret of his strength so they could capture him. He lied to Delilah about how he could lose his strength but eventually he told her the truth. If, as a Nazirite, he had his hair cut off he would lose his strength. She cut his hair whilst he slept and so the Philistines were able to capture him. They blinded him and kept him in captivity. But they forgot about his hair growing. The time came when large crowds of Philistines met to worship their god. Many of them were on the roof of the temple. They called Samson out to perform for them and he stood between two pillars. He got hold of the pillars and, because his hair had grown and his strength had returned, he was able to pull the pillars until they collapsed and the building with them. So many Philistines were killed (Judges 13-16).

The prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 1-10)

Samuel’s mother had prayed earnestly for a child and when he was born she dedicated him to serve the Lord assisting Eli the priest in the Temple. One night Samuel heard a voice calling him more than once and thought it was Eli. Eventually Eli realised it was the Lord speaking to Samuel. The Lord told him that Eli’s wicked sons would not succeed him in the priesthood. It was widely recognised that Samuel was a prophet. Eli’s sons were killed in battle and Eli also died. Samuel took over leadership in Israel and was greatly respected. However, when Samuel reached old age, the Israelites wanted a king, like other nations. Samuel advised against this because the Lord was their king. But they persisted and eventually God told him to appoint a king. 

King Saul (1 Samuel 9-31)

A young man called Saul went out looking for his father’s lost donkeys and was advised to ask Samuel where they were. The Lord told Samuel that Saul was to be king so Samuel anointed him before sending him back home. Samuel called the Israelites together and they acknowledged Saul as king. He was successful in fighting Israel’s enemies. But on one occasion he wanted Samuel to offer a sacrifice to obtain the Lord’s favour in a battle against the Philistines. Samuel was delayed and Saul decided to make the offering instead, which was against God’s law. When Samuel arrived he rebuked Samuel and told him his kingdom would not last. Saul failed in other ways and eventually Samuel told him the Lord had rejected him as king. The Lord instructed Samuel to go to Jesse of Bethlehem and to anoint one of his sons as Saul’s replacement. 

King David (1 Samuel 16-2 Samuel

Samuel looked at seven of Jesse’s sons but knew God had not chosen them. Eventually, he saw the youngest son, who had been out tending sheep – David. Samuel secretly anointed David as the next king. David was enlisted by Saul’s attendants to play the harp – especially when Saul flew into a demonically-inspired rage. David also volunteered to fight Goliath – a nine-foot tall Philistine warrior – whom no other Israelite was willing to take on. Goliath taunted the Israelite army. The thing is that David had become an expert at using a sling to kill lions and bears who threatened his father’s sheep. Goliath mocked David but David used his sling and brought Goliath down with a stone to the forehead before killing him with his own sword. David became an instant hero. But, sadly, David’s growing popularity made Saul very jealous. He tried to kill David on more than one occasion. Jonathan, Saul’s son, was great friends with David and warned him about his father’s violent tendencies. Eventually, David decided to flee from Saul who was determined to kill him. He was still loyal to Saul as king and, in fact, refused to take more than one opportunity to kill Saul. Finally, Saul was mortally wounded in a battle against the Philistines and he committed suicide. David mourned Saul’s death.

So David was made king and conquered Jerusalem. He brought the Ark of the Covenant (see above under “Moses”) to the city with great rejoicing. David was devoted to the Lord (as the many Psalms he wrote indicate) and very successful in fighting Israel’s enemies. However, on one occasion he committed adultery with Bathsheba and arranged for her husband to be killed in battle, so he could marry her. The prophet Nathan rebuked him for this and David was very penitent. David’s son Absalom rebelled against his father and David had to flee from Jerusalem. Absalom was killed, contrary to David’s wishes, and so David returned to Jerusalem. He wanted to build a Temple for the Lord but the Lord said his son Solomon would do this because David, as a warrior, had shed much blood.

King Solomon (1 Kings 1-11)

David designated his son Solomon as his successor. The Lord came to Solomon in a dream and said he could ask for whatever he wanted. Solomon replied that he wanted wisdom and he became very famous for his wisdom, some of which is recorded in the Book of Proverbs. He set about building the Temple in Jerusalem – a magnificent building. One of the people who heard of his wisdom was the Queen of Sheba (which was probably in Arabia). She visited Solomon and was very impressed both by his wisdom and his wealth. However Solomon lacked wisdom in one respect. He married hundreds of wives, many of them foreigners who worshipped false gods. The Lord had forbidden such marriages because they would lead Israelites into idolatry, which happened to Solomon. The Lord therefore predicted that the kingdom would be torn away from him. Sure enough, after Solomon’s death the nation divided in two, with rival kings.

The prophet Elijah (1 Kings 17-2 Kings 2)

The rival kingdoms of Judah and Israel deteriorated morally and spiritually and God raised up prophets to call the back to himself. One of these was Elijah. God performed various miracles through him. For example, in a time of drought a widow fed him with the last of her food and God ensured that her food supply never ran out after this. Then Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal (a false god) on Mt Carmel. He challenged them by saying that the God who sent fire to consume a sacrifice on the altar would prove to be the true God. The prophets of Baal prayed at length to their god and cut their bodies to urge him to respond. Nothing happened. Then Elijah took over. He commanded that the sacrifice and the altar should be saturated with water and prayed to the Lord. Then fire (presumably lightning) descended and consumed both the sacrifice and the altar. Elijah immediately had the prophets of Baal executed. But then Elijah was afraid of sinful King Ahab and especially his wife Jezebel so he fled to the south of the country. Ahab died and his successor Ahaziah had an accident so he sent messengers to consult Baal. They bumped into Elijah who sent a message of rebuke to Ahaziah. The king then sent a group of 50 soldiers to bring Elijah to him. But Elijah called down fire from heaven to destroy them. This happened twice but on the third occasion the commander asked Elijah for mercy so Elijah went with him to the king and told him he would die from his injuries. Elijah had by this time chosen Elisha as his successor. They went down to the River Jordan near Jericho and Elisha asked for “double portion” of Elijah’s prophetic spirit. Then suddenly a chariot of fire appeared and swept Elijah up to heaven.

The prophet Elisha (2 Kings 2-13)

Elisha left the Jordan and began his prophetic ministry which was accompanied by miracles. For example, he purified the water in a spring near Jericho by putting salt in it and a poisoned stew by adding flour. On the other hand, Elisha was mocked and jeered by some young men (which would be regarded as extremely serious in those days) and two bears came and mauled them. Through Elisha, the Lord ensured that a widow facing serious debts was miraculously supplied with a large amount of oil which enabled her to pay her debts. Elisha also raised the son of another widow from the dead. On another occasion he multiplied loaves to feed a large number of people. Elisha’s miracles became well-known and one day a senior Syrian army commander, Naaman, came to Elisha to be healed from leprosy. Elisha didn’t even come out to meet him but sent a message that he should wash himself seven times in the River Jordan. Naaman was offended and refused but his men persuaded him to do what Elisha said. He was healed. Elisha prayed and the army of Aram who had come to attack Israel were struck with blindness. Elisha led them into the Israelite city of Samaria where the Lord restored their sight. Elisha said they should not be killed. 

The prophet Daniel

Daniel was taken off with the people of Judah into exile in Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, had an important dream that no-one could interpret (he couldn’t even remember the dream which made matters worse). He was very angry and planned to put all his “wise men” to death. However Daniel heard of the matter and was able to give the interpretation. God revealed to Daniel that the dream was of a large statue with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, thighs of bronze and legs of iron and clay. He interpreted the dream as a prediction of Babylon (gold) being conquered by the Medes and Persians (silver) who in turn would be conquered by Greece (bronze) which would be conquered by Rome (iron and clay). Daniel was made ruler over the province of Babylon. Later Nebuchadnezzar ordered that everyone must worship a huge stature he had made. Daniel’s Jewish friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused and were thrown into a furnace. But God protected and delivered them. Daniel interpreted another of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams which predicted the king would have a complete mental breakdown. Some years later King Belshazzar, the son (or grandson) of Nebuchadnezzar, held a feast using cups plundered from the Temple in Jerusalem and honouring idols. Suddenly, a human hand appeared and wrote words on the wall. Daniel was called to interpret them. He said it was predicting the downfall of Babylon to Darius, king of the Medes and Persians, which happened that night. Darius promoted Daniel but his enemies planned his downfall. They persuaded Darius to ordain that for 30 days people were only allowed to pray to the king. However Daniel continued to pray to the Lord. With great sadness Darius ordered that Daniel be thrown into a den of lions. But the Lord protected and delivered him.


Sadly, the Israelites didn’t really listen to the prophets but persisted in disobedience to God. Eventually this led to Israel (the northern kingdom) being taken into captivity by the Assyrians (722BC) and later Judah (the southern kingdom) by the Babylonians (586BC). The Book of Esther describes the situation of the Jews in captivity. Esther was chosen as his queen by Xerxes, king of the Persian Empire which conquered the Babylonians. Her cousin Mordecai discovered a plot by Haman, a senior official of Xerxes, to assassinate the Jews throughout the empire. When Esther heard of this, she told the king who listened to Esther’s plea that the Jews should be protected. Xerxes executed Haman and ordained that the Jews could defend themselves using force. The king also promoted Mordecai for conveying the message about Haman’s evil intentions. Ever since then, the Jews have celebrated this victory in the annual feast of Purim.

Prophecies about Jesus (Messianic Prophecies) in the Old Testament

The Old Testament pointed towards Jesus and gave remarkably detailed prophecies about him and his atoning death, hundreds of years before he was born. It said the promised Messiah would:

Be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.

Be born of a virgin and called Immanuel – God with us (Isaiah 7:14) “The Lord himself will give you a sign: the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Be a descendant of David (whose father was Jesse), be anointed by the Spirit and ultimately will bring peace and justice to the whole world(Isaiah 11:1-10) “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord— and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.”

Be the Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace over an eternal kingdom (Isaiah 9:6-7) “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”

Be despised and rejected (Isaiah 53:3) “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.”

Bear our sins (Isaiah 53:4-6, 8-11, 18) “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all … By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished.He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.”

Suffer in silence (Isaiah 53:7) “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”

Be forsaken by God and despised by men (Psalm 22:1, 6-8, Jesus quoted this messianic psalm on the cross) “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me … I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. ‘He trusts in the Lord,’ they say, ‘let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.’ … They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.”

Favourite passages from the Old Testament

People who are not familiar with the Old Testament sometimes think that it is full of negative and uninteresting material. But some of the most inspiring passages in the Bible are found in the Old Testament. Here are some of them:

Exodus 34:6-7 The Lord described himself to Moses: “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” 

Numbers 6:24-26 “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace.”

Deuteronomy 7:9 “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love 
to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.”

1 Chronicles 16:27 “Splendour and majesty are before him; strength and joy in his dwelling place.”  

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways 
acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Isaiah 12:2 “Surely, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.  The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and 
my song; he has become my salvation.”  

Isaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.

Isaiah 30:18 “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion.  For the Lord is a God 
of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”

Isaiah 40:31 “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they 
will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  

Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and 
help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 46:4 “Even to your old age and grey hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you.  I have made you and I 
will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”  

Jeremiah 29:11-13 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Jeremiah 31:3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”

Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet 
you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” 

The Psalms have many inspiring passages. The following very helpful worship passages which you can change into the first person singular so they become what you are saying to the Lord.

Psalm 8

Psalm 9:1, 7-10

Psalm 29

Psalm 47:2-9

Psalm 63:1-8

Psalm 66:2-7a

Psalm 89:1-2, 5-9, 11-16

Psalm 92:1-5

Psalm 93

Psalm 95:1-7a

Psalm 96:1-9

Psalm 98:1-4

Psalm 99:1-4a

Psalm 100

Psalm 103:1-20a

Psalm 104:1-15

Psalm 111

Psalm 113:1-8

Psalm 135:1-7, 13-14

Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26

Psalm 138:1-5

Psalm 145:1-20a

Psalm 146

Psalm 148

Psalm 150

(See also Jeremiah 10:10-13)

Some other helpful passages in Psalms:

Psalm 27:1 “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life – 
of whom shall I be afraid?”  

Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.”

Psalm 36:5-6 “Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.  Your righteousness is 
like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep.”  

Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” 

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”   

It is recommended to read The Detailed Outline of the Old Testament which will give a fairly good knowledge of its history and teaching together with explanations and help with some of the difficult passages.

© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction