Bible Study

Books of The Law: An Overview

A quick guide to understanding these books which are often considered a cornerstone for the rest of Scripture.

The first five books of the Old Testament are known as the books of The Law or the books of Moses, who is their traditionally accepted author. While each of the books stands as a separate unit, together they form a larger and united unit, meant to be read as a whole. They were most likely written between 1450-1410 B.C. 

Purpose of the Pentateuch:

Moses wrote the Pentateuch to prepare Israel for faithful service to God in the conquest and settlement of the Promised Land.

In application to our faith, and in the larger picture of Scripture, the Pentateuch illustrates the partial fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham.

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

Genesis 12:1-3

Considered the cornerstone for the rest of Scripture, the books of The Law are foundational because they introduce God’s plan for humanity’s redemption. And lay the foundation for our understanding of who God is and how we should behave toward him and in society.

These books, like all of Scripture, “were written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope,” (Romans 15:4). “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction,” (1 Corinthians 10:11).


Genesis (Book of Beginnings)

Name: Genesis is Greek meaning ‘beginnings’ or ‘origins’.

Key words: Beginnings, Generations

Main theme: Man’s sin and the initial steps taken for his redemption. Including the promise of a Redeemer and the choosing of the nation, through Abraham, from which that Redeemer would come.

Genesis covers creation, the fall of man, God’s covenant with Abraham and promise of redemption, the formation of civilizations, and God’s covenant relationship with the chosen nation of Israel. Its final and 50th chapter closes with God’s people in slavery to the Egyptians.


Exodus (Book of Redemption)

Name: Exodus is derived from the Greek esodos, meaning exit, leave, or departure.

Key words: Redemption, Deliverance

Main Theme: The history of Israel from the death of Joseph to the erection of the tabernacle in the wilderness.

Exodus begins with the birth and rising of Moses (the central character) as the Isrealite’s deliverer. It recounts God’s delivering them from 400 years of slavery in Egypt and leading them through the wilderness toward the Promised land. And continues with God issuing instructions for building the tabernacle, how they were to worship, and the 10 commandments. The book concludes with God’s glory descending on his tabernacle in the 40th chapter.


Leviticus (Book of Holiness)

Name: Taken from the Greek leuitikon it means ‘belonging to the Levites’, God’s chosen priests.

Key words: Access, Holiness

Main Theme: How can sinful man approach or draw near to a holy God?

The 27 chapters of Leviticus expand on the instructions given in Exodus, outlining how God’s people were to worship, celebrate, sacrifice, eat, and live. Focusing on God’s holiness, and holiness as a requirement for his people, it presents a moral core upon which much of our Christian theology is built.


Numbers (Wilderness Wanderings)

Name: Based on the two times the Israelites were numbered in chapters 1 and 26.

Key word: Wanderings

Main Theme: Unbelief hinders us from entering into the abundant life.

The 36 chapters of Numbers primarily document Israel’s nearly 40 years of wandering through the desert. An 11 day journey which became a 38-year trek of suffering, agony defeat, and death because of their disobedience. But during which God continued to provide for them in spite of their sin and rebellion. And patiently prepared them for their conquest and settlement of the Promised Land.


Deuteronomy (Reiteration and Reviewing)

Name: Derived from two Greek words: deuteros meaning ‘second’ and nomos meaning ‘law.’

Key words: Covenant, Remember

Main Theme: Deuteronomy is a review and expansion of the law given at Sinai. It served to remind the Isrealites of all that God had done for them and what he expected of them. And called on them to keep their covenant with him by obeying the law after they entered the Promised Land. The book closes with the appointing of Joshua as leader. And in the 34th and final chapter, with with the death of Moses.


The Pentateuch is also rich in prophecies, symbols, and types that point to Christ. From Adam to Joseph in Genesis. Through the Passover, feasts, and the tabernacle in Exodus. With the sacrificial offerings and the high priest in Leviticus. The serpent lifted up and the daily manna found in Numbers. And in Deuteronomy, Moses who like Christ was prophet, priest, and king.

The fact that we see Christ even in the first five books should come as no surprise to us for he is Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. The subject of the Bible from start to finish.

And the Pentateuch is especially important because it sets the stage for Christ’s incarnation.

[Image by StockSnap on Pixabay.]

2 comments

  1. A wonderful review, Sheila, capturing the essence of each book yet presenting the unifying factors, especially that Jesus is revealed in the prophecies, symbols, and types recorded in these books I remember the first time Joseph was presented to me as a type of Christ. The list of similarities is quite astounding!

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    1. Thanks Nancy. I find I learn a lot through these Bible posts I’m doing. Sometimes I think we can get in a rut of just reading our Bibles. Which is good, but without taking the time to dig in, study, and analyse the Scripture, we can lose sight of the bigger picture of what God is saying and of his future plan. My personal goal, lately, is to take the time and make sure I really undertand what I’m reading. Otherwise, wading through some of the books of The Law can pretty tedious! But when I realize that Christ is all the way through them – wow – it is astounding!

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