The Pentateuch (Pentatook) Genesis through Deuteronomy.
These five books are otherwise known as the books or book of Moses. Christians refer to them as the books of Moses, while the Jews and Israelites refer to them as a whole, the book of Moses.
Genesis is the book of beginnings. It should be divided into at least two sections: chapters 1-11 which deal with the most ancient of the beginnings; and chapters 12-50 which deal with the beginnings of the Hebrew, Israelite, and Jewish nation. The former section should be read at the beginning of one’s study, but deeper, more serious study would be better enhanced at a later time after investing some serious time and study into the rest of, at least, the Old Testament. Why? It would be most helpful to know and locate the other passages of Scripture that help the Christian conclude that these opening chapters of the Bible are as truthful and trustworthy as any other passages of the Bible. It has been noted that competent Bible scholars can find, teach, and preach almost every Biblical doctrine from these opening chapters of Genesis. The material covered in these scant eleven chapters is widely debated amongst not only scholars, but many lay-people as well. Such controversy is not conducive to the edification of the saints, especially when the saints in question are, as the Apostle Paul put it, yet babes, and unable to handle the meat of the Word of God, but must be fed with milk!
Beginning in Genesis 12 God covenants with Abram, a man of Ur of the Chaldees, and calls him to leave the land of his nativity and journey to a land which God will not only show him, but give to him and his descendants as an everlasting possession. This “everlasting covenant” becomes a major theme throughout the Bible. It is reiterated with Isaac and Jacob, Abram’s son and grandson. From Abram descend not only the children of Israel (Jacob), but the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother, both sons of Isaac. Yet these are not the only peoples of Genesis that warrant attention. Abram had a nephew named Lot who had two daughters and through incestuous relationships produced the Ammonites and Moabites, two groups of people who were “thorns in the flesh” of the Israelites for centuries. Abram also had another infamous son, Ishmael, by his wife, Sarah’s, handmaid, and his descendants become important because Ishmael’s twelve sons are the ancestors of the Arabian nations. Yet, Abram, late in life had another wife named Keturah, and through her another group of people populated the wilderness areas, one of which, in particular was the Midianites, from which Moses chose a wife after fleeing Egypt. Other groups of notable people appear in Genesis such as the Philistines, Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, the Medes, and Persians, as well as others not quite so noteworthy for Bible study.
God, through the Holy Spirit, began early in man’s existence to introduce him to the concept and practice of prophecy, and the book of Genesis documents several prophecies that later Bible writers assert were fulfilled in their lifetimes. Prophecy, in all its forms, is another very important theme which permeates the Bible. Messianic prophecies appear in Genesis, although they were certainly not understood as such when they first appeared in writing. To help prepare His people to receive and understand prophecy, God forewarned Abram that his descendants would be captive in a foreign land; a prophecy which came to pass when the children of Jacob (Israel) were found too numerous in Egypt after the death of Joseph, and the Pharaoh which arose not knowing of Joseph and his people placed the Hebrews in slavery building the royal cities of Rameses and Pithom. God also began to prepare the children of Israel, and in some ways, the world as well, for prophecy and its fulfillment by giving to Joseph, son of Jacob, the power to interpret dreams. God’s use of prophecy was not limited to the Hebrews alone, for the story of Joseph and Pharaoh as well as many others in the Bible tell of God sending dreams to various kings and then providing some man of God to provide an interpretation.
The book of Exodus opens with the children of Israel in Egypt and quickly recounts the facts surrounding their eventual enslavement which was a fulfillment of prophecy. In chapter two God provides a deliverer, Moses, who will eventually lead the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt. After 430 years of sojourning in Egypt, some of which time was spent in bondage, Moses, through the miraculous power given him by God to perform various miracles, but even more important, through the series of ten plagues which God sent upon the Egyptians as judgment for their harsh and abusive treatment of His people, Israel, leads the children of Israel from Egypt toward the Promised Land. Within a few short months the multitude of the Israelites encamp at the base of Mount Sinai where they spend about two years and receive from God the written covenant including the ten commandments. In Exodus 20 Moses begins the account of the written law and that account continues through the rest of the book of Exodus, the entirety of Leviticus, and concludes at Numbers 10:10; because in Numbers 10:11, the Israelites receive the command from God to journey on toward the Promised Land.
Other noteworthy events in the book of Exodus include Moses being discovered and raised in the house of the daughter of Pharaoh; the aforementioned ten plagues upon Egypt; Moses call to service at the burning bush; Israel’s apostasy while Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the law by forcing Aaron to make the golden calf; the judgment upon the Israelites for that apostasy; and the fulfillment of the instructions God gave Moses concerning the building of the tabernacle.
The Book of Leviticus is best understood as a handbook for the priests. It contains details of many of the laws and proscriptions of the same; it provides the priests with instructions on how to determine leprosy and other ailments. It also provides dietary laws, as well as the laws concerning the feasts and other holy celebrations that Israel was to observe.
The Book of Numbers opens with the last portions of the law: the census to prepare Israel for the wars of conquest of the Promised Land; instructions as to the encampment of Israel as they journeyed; the call of the Levites and their respective duties in the tabernacle service; the law of jealousy; the Nazarite vow; and the production and use of the two silver trumpets. In chapter 10:11 the children of Israel are instructed to journey onward toward the Promised Land. The rest of the book of Numbers tells the stories of the obstacles that the Israelites encountered as well as the apostasy that came to be their normal reaction to those obstacles. Their unwillingness to trust God and enter Canaan to begin the conquest at the report of the spies who were sent to scout out the land, resulted in God condemning them to wander in the wilderness for forty years until the entire generation that murmured at the spies’ report was consumed by death. As the book of Numbers closes, the nation of Israel is at least forty years older and is once again about to enter Canaan. Moses and Aaron are forbidden by God to lead Israel into the Promised Land for their disobedience to God’s commandments to speak to the rock at Meribah, striking it twice instead with his rod. Moses passes the leadership of the children of Israel over to God’s chosen one, Joshua, then ascends Mount Nebo to die. But before he ascends Mount Nebo, he speaks to the children of Israel the words of the Book of Deuteronomy.
The Book of Deuteronomy is best understood as the “second law”. Early in this book Moses recounts some of the events of the wilderness journey as well as the law which he received from God on Mount Sinai, and exhorts the children of Israel to obedience. Passages worthy of note include Moses’ prophecy of Israel’s future apostasy; God’s promise to assist Israel in the conquest of Canaan coupled with His instructions to “utterly destroy” the inhabitants so that they will not lead Israel astray into serving idols; God’s prophecy that Israel will desire a king and the criteria by which that king is to be chosen; the tokens of a woman’s virginity; Moses’ discourse on divorce; the blessings and curses for obedience and disobedience; the concepts of the remnant and regathering of Israel; Moses’ song and his blessings upon the children of Israel. One specific passage already mentioned by another name requires additional comment, that of the blessings and curses found in chapter 28, for within the 68 verses of that chapter the astute student can identify the rise of not only apostasy of Israel prophesied, but also the rise of the four world kingdoms and empires prophesied by Daniel.
As was said of the first eleven chapters of Genesis, that the competent Bible scholar can identify the vast majority of Bible themes within those scant few chapters, it is equally true that the same can be said of the entire Pentateuch itself. The greatest majority of the themes of the Bible can be found in various passages of these books, usually in the form of prophecy, but also in the form of types and antitypes; a study which itself is much deeper and involved than most rank and file church members would ever care to engage in.
In our next segment we will look at the books of Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 Kings containing the accounts of the conquest of Canaan, the period of Judges when everyone did that which was right in his own eyes, and the theocracy under Kings Saul, David, and Solomon.