TaNaK / Old Testament
The Hebrew Bible is a three-part collection of scrolls known as the Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketuvim, or TaNaK.
Like all ancient Jews, Jesus read the Scriptures as a three-part collection of scrolls known as the TaNaK. In this video, we’ll explore why this matters and what happens when you read the Hebrew Scriptures in the traditional Jewish order.
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 of these books is called the TaNaK. The TaNaK is an acronym for the names of the three large subcollections of the Hebrew Bible: Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketuvim.
The first part of Genesis describes humanity's downward spiral into sin, but it also offers a future hope of restoration and redemption.
God creates a good world and commissions humans to rule it, but they choose rebellion again and again.
When God looks at the world he made, he declares it good. He installs humans as his partners in ruling creation, but the humans choose to do what is good in their own eyes, leading ultimately to death. The first eleven chapters of the Bible record God's goodness and humanity's repeated rebellions, which introduce violence, disorder, and the founding of Babylon. It's these first chapters that set the plot in motion for God to respond to human evil with his redemptive plan.
In the Beginning
Translated as "origin" from Greek, the book of Genesis sets the stage for the redemptive storyline of the Bible.
The story opens with God confronting chaos and disorder to bring order and beauty in creation. Humans are formed and appointed to participate in God's divine rule of the universe. As his representatives, humanity can choose to trust God for wisdom to rule, resulting in blessing for the entire world.
However, the humans choose to define good and evil on their own, which begins a destructive cycle that reintroduces chaos and disorder back into God's good world. The first eleven chapters of Genesis show a repeated theme of rebellion, from the garden to Cain and Abel, the "sons of God," the flood, and finally Babylon.
God continues to give humanity the chance to bring blessing into the world, and they continually choose their own way. Yet God promises, even in our rebellion, that a wounded victor will come to defeat evil at its source. It's this plan that God sets into motion beginning in Genesis 12.
God promises to bless the world through Abraham’s family, despite their repeated failure.
God makes a promise to bless all nations through the family of Abraham. But with aging husbands, impatient matriarchs, deceptive brothers, and family betrayal, how will God’s promise prevail?
God Calls Abraham
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 will restore blessing to the world (Gen 49:8-13). It’s this promise that will find its fulfillment in Israel’s Messiah.
In the first part of Exodus, God frees the enslaved people of Israel through his servants Moses and Aaron with an epic showdown between good and evil.
God rescues the Israelites from slavery and confronts Pharaoh’s evil.
How does God respond when his people cry out to him? The first part of the book of Exodus recounts a powerful confrontation between God and the injustice of Pharaoh. This section is a fast-paced narrative that leads to divine justice, rescue, and deliverance.
Let My People Go
Abraham’s family has fulfilled God’s original command to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth (Exodus 1:7). 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 as his representative 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.
God leads the Israelites from Egypt to Mount Sinai, where he establishes the covenant with them through a set of commandments.
God initiates a covenant with Israel and promises to dwell among them.
At Mount Sinai, God invites Israel into a covenant relationship. He calls them to be a kingdom of priests and send the blessings of Yahweh out to the nations. But Israel immediately fails to hold up their end of the agreement.
As the Israelites approach Mount Sinai, God’s presence covers the mountain in a dark cloud. Moses climbs the mountain as a representative for the people to receive God’s law and a plan for God’s own dwelling space, the tabernacle.
Filled with symbolic Eden imagery, the tabernacle becomes the place where God’s space overlaps with humanity’s space. 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 space. How will God's people be in his presence when they continually fail to live by the covenant?
In the book of Leviticus, God establishes the moral and purity laws that serve to set Israel apart from other nations.
God graciously provides a way for people to live in his presence.
God desires to live with Israel, but even Moses is unable to enter the Tabernacle. How can Israel, with all their moral corruption, become God’s covenant partners to bless the nations? Leviticus answers this question in three surprising ways.
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 (who learn the hard way to respect their calling!). 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 God.
The Israelites continue to rebel and are made to wander the wilderness for forty years. Only their children will enter the land. Will they ever learn?
Israel’s repeated rebellion in the wilderness is met by God’s justice and mercy.
On their way to the promised land, Israel rebels against God again and again. God responds with short-term severity and long-term generosity that speaks to his covenant faithfulness.
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 in God's presence. Eleven days of travel in the wilderness become 40 years because of their unbelief, and 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.
The next generation of Israel finds new hope and a fresh start as an aging Moses gives a final message before the people enter the promised land.
Moses gives Israel final words of warning and blessing.
At the end of his life, Moses delivers a final call to covenant faithfulness. He covers the story so far, a collection of laws, and a charge for Israel to listen and obey rather than rebel. He sees Israel’s dismal future as well as their promised hope.
Hear, O Israel
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. In this section we find the Shema (which Jesus later calls “the first and greatest commandment”). The heart of the Shema is a call to listen and obey by devoting your emotions and will to God alone. Moses then shares laws for Israel’s worship and leaders as well as for their civil and social life.
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 well enough to know they will eventually choose rebellion. Yet even then, Moses looked forward to a future day when God would give Israel a new heart so they could fully love God and live.