What are the Old Testament Bible books about?

Last updated on June 10, 2024

Old Testament Bible books

The Bible is not one single book, but a collection of books written in different times and by different authors. Below is a very short description of the content of each Bible book that is contained in the Old Testament and was written before Jesus Christ was born as a human baby. For some of these Bible books, we also have a more extensive overview article (just click on the link if provided).

The Pentateuch: five books written by Moses

  • Genesis Records the creation of the world, the early history of mankind and the great flood. Moreover, it contains the life stories of Israel’s forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
  • Exodus Records how the people of Israel are freed from their slavery in Egypt and travel towards the promised land of Canaan. On this journey, they receive God’s law and build a tabernacle.
  • Leviticus Contains detailed ceremonial laws as a way for sinful people to have a relationship with a holy God.
  • Numbers Records how the Israelites wander for forty years in the desert, because they did not trust God when they were about to enter the land of Canaan.
  • Deuteronomy Tells how Moses repeats God’s laws for the people before they enter the land of Canaan, and then dies.

Further historical books

  • Joshua Records how the Israelites, under Joshua’s leadership, conquer the land of Canaan and settle there.
  • Judges Tells about Israel’s life as a nation before they had a king. This period was a repeating pattern of Israel leaving the Lord, the Lord judging them, the people repenting and God saving them from enemies and other troubles — and then they were unfaithful again. This pattern became ever worse.
  • Ruth This little book contains the life story of Naomi and Ruth. The latter was a foreign widow who found new happiness in Israel and became the ancestor of Israel’s royal family.
  • 1 and 2 Samuel Covers the period of Samuel’s leadership and the reign of Israel’s first kings, Saul and David. Saul appears to be a bad king, but both Samuel and David try to serve God.
  • 1 and 2 Kings Covers the period from David’s successor Solomon onward, describing all Israel’s later kings, most of whom turned away from the Lord. Finally, the land is destroyed and the people exiled by the Babylonians, as God’s judgment on their idolatry and unfaithfulness.
  • 1 and 2 Chronicles These books give an overview of Israel’s history, starting with Adam and focusing on David’s reign and the building of the temple. They also record how later kings turn away from God and how finally the people are exiled and the temple is destroyed.
  • Ezra Records how a remnant of the Israelites returns from their captivity and rebuilds the temple in Jerusalem.
  • Nehemiah Tells about the same period, from the perspective of Nehemiah who meets much resistance and trouble when he tries to rebuild Jerusalem’s city walls.
  • Esther Tells how a Jewish girl becomes queen of Persia and the Jewish people are saved from destruction.

Poetic books

  • Job Tells how a God-fearing man faces huge trials, and wrestles to understand God in the midst of his suffering by discussing his situation with his friends.
  • Psalms A collection of 150 songs, mainly written by David. Some of these songs are very private poems, but many are intended for public worship.
  • Proverbs A collection of wise sayings about life, gathered by king Solomon.
  • Ecclesiastes A philosophical reflection on the right way of living and the meaning of life.
  • Song of songs A collection of love poems celebrating the pure love between a man and a woman ­— and hinting at the love of God for his church.

Prophetic books

  • Isaiah Contains many warnings about the coming Babylonian captivity, but also prophecies of hope about a future restoration and the coming Messiah.
  • Jeremiah In a context similar to Isaiah’s, this book announces God’s judgment on Israel’s unfaithfulness and sin, but also gives the perspective of a new covenant that God will make with Israel and the nations.
  • Lamentations A collection of dirges written by Jeremiah, lamenting the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple by the Babylonians.
  • Ezekiel Written for Jews during their captivity. Contains messages of warning and comfort, and visions of a new temple.
  • Daniel Tells about the experiences of Daniel, a high-ranking wise man in the Babylonian and Persian empires. This book also contains apocalyptic visions of Daniel concerning the future of Israel and the world.
  • Hosea Contains God’s accusations about Israel’s unfaithfulness, but also stresses that God will remain faithful to His covenant and will restore them after having punished them.
  • Joel Announces woes upon Judah and surrounding countries, but also promises a better future where God’s Spirit will be poured out on all flesh.
  • Amos Prediction that the northern kingdom of Israel and other neighboring nations will be punished by conquerors from the north, and of the fulfillment of the Messiah’s kingdom.
  • Obadiah Warning against the neighboring people of Edom, for they treated the Israelites very badly and will now face God’s judgment.
  • Jonah Story about a reluctant prophet who has to preach against Nineveh but doesn’t want to, since he knows God will be merciful if the people repent. But God proves stronger than Jonah, and the people of Nineveh are saved indeed.
  • Micah Announces God’s judgment on the idolatry, social injustice, religious hypocrisy, and political corruption of Judah and its leaders. Micah also provides some glimmers of hope about the future Messiah and God’s Kingdom of justice.
  • Nahum Predicts the downfall of Assyria’s capital city Nineveh (which was Israel’s arch-enemy)
  • Habakkuk This prophet complains to God about the injustice and violence in Judah, but is stunned that God will address this by sending the Babylonian armies. Habakkuk is deeply disturbed, but keeps trusting God.
  • Zephaniah Warns that God will judge Israel and the surrounding nations, but also promises that He will restore them in peace and justice.
  • Haggai Exhorts the returned exiles to rebuild God’s temple.
  • Zechariah Visions about God’s work ‘behind the scenes’, and prophecies regarding Israel’s restoration
  • Malachi Exhortation to a renewed faithfulness to God’s covenant — not just outwardly, but wholeheartedly. Moreover, Malachi announces the coming of the Messiah.

These are very short descriptions. To learn more about these Bible books, you could enroll in our five Read Scripture courses. These offer introductions on every single Bible book. The courses are totally free, and after completing a course you will receive a certificate. Feel free to sign up and try for yourself!

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