Genesis, Chapters 1–11
Genesis begins with the story of God’s creation of the world and of Adam and Eve, whom he banishes from the idyllic garden of Eden after the serpent tricks them into disobeying God. Adam and Eve’s son, Cain, kills his brother Abel, but through Cain’s children and the children of Adam and Eve’s third son, Seth, humanity begins to grow. Later, God floods the earth when he sees the evil of humanity, sparing only one good man, Noah, and his family.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Genesis, Chapters 1–11
Genesis, Chapters 12–25
These chapters focus on the story of Abraham, whose faith is so strong that God promises to make his descendants into a great nation. This section of Genesis includes God’s destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah due to their wickedness and corruption, the birth of Abraham and Sarah’s son Isaac, God’s test of Abraham by asking him to kill Isaac, Isaac’s marriage to Rebekah, and Sarah and Abraham’s eventual deaths.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Genesis, Chapters 12–25
Genesis, Chapters 26–50
This last section of Genesis describes the conflicts and contrasts of Isaac and Rebekah’s twin sons Esau and Jacob. Jacob’s two wives, Rachel and Leah, compete with each other. Later, the jealousy of Jacob’s eleven elder sons against Jacob’s youngest and favored son, Joseph, causes the brothers to sell Joseph into slavery in Egypt. Joseph is eventually reunited with Jacob. Before he dies, Jacob instructs his rapidly growing family now known as the “Israelite people” to return to Canaan, the land God promised to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Genesis, Chapters 26–50
God chooses Moses to free the Israelites from the Egyptians who have enslaved them and to lead their return to the promised land of Canaan. When Pharaoh resists Moses’s demands, God inflicts a series of plagues upon the Egyptians until Pharaoh finally relents and the Israelites leave. Soon, though, the Israelites grow unruly, leading God to set forth his laws in the form of the Ten Commandments.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Exodus
This book focuses on the detailed Jewish ceremonial laws that God dictates to Moses while the Israelites are encamped at Mount Sinai. God promises great abundance to the Israelites if they follow these laws, but he vows to send destruction and famine if they are disobedient.
Angered by a lack of faith among the Israelites, God curses them to wander in the desert for forty years and vows that all the current generation, except for Joshua and Caleb, will die before they reach the promised land. With God’s help, the Israelites defeat the Amorites and settle their lands before angering God yet again, then winning back God’s favor and destroying the Midianites. At the close of the 40-year waiting period, God chooses Joshua to succeed Moses as the leader of the Israelites.
This book describes the actions of Moses shortly before he dies at the end of the Israelites’ 40-year journey as he reaffirms God’s strict laws to them, calls for the utter destruction of the Canaanite people, predicts their eventual disobedience to God, and tells them that God will welcome Israel back with abundance and prosperity whenever Israel returns to obedience.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Leviticus, Numbers, & Deuteronomy
God calls on Joshua to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River into Canaan, guarantees their victory, and promises to protect them if they follow his laws. The walls of the enemy city of Jericho collapse and its inhabitants are killed, but at the Canaanite city of Ai, the Israelites are humiliated because an Israelite took a religious relic in Jericho against God’s orders. After the Israelites kill the offender, they are victorious at Ai, which is followed by more victories until God grants the Israelites a rest for many years and the conquered lands are divided among the twelve tribes of Israel.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Joshua
After Joshua’s death, the Israelites follow a long pattern of falling into evil, being saved by a new leader (or “judge”) sent by God—such as Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, and Jephthah—and then reverting back to evil. One of these leaders sent by God, Samson, inflicts great damage on the Israelites’ Philistine oppressors, including killing their rulers by bringing down a temple with his great strength. After Samson’s death, the Israelites again relapse into evil and corrupt behavior.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Judges
The First Book of Samuel
First Samuel starts with the story of God choosing Samuel as the judge of the Israelites and is followed by a description of the reign of Saul, who is made the king of Israel and then challenged by David, a shepherd who becomes a great military leader after he slays the Philistine giant, Goliath. Saul’s reign begins with military triumphs, but after he disobeys God, he is overshadowed by David, whom God has selected to replace Saul. Saul falls on his sword and dies after defeat in battle against the Philistines.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of The First Book of Samuel
The Second Book of Samuel
After winning the civil war that erupted when Saul died and reuniting Israel, David defeats the Philistines and captures the city of Jerusalem. God grants Israel a period of relief from foreign opposition, but that period is marred by David committing adultery, arranging the death of his mistress’s husband, and losing control of his family, leading to another civil war (that David also emerges successfully from).
Read a full Summary & Analysis of The Second Book of Samuel
The First & Second Books of Kings
These books describe the last four centuries of kings of Israel from the end of David’s reign and the relative prosperity f Solomon’s reign. Then comes a long period of bad kings who ignore God’s laws, resulting in the division of Israel into a wicked kingdom in the south and an even worse one in the north. 1 Kings ends with the defeat of the north by the Assyrians and the banishment of its people, while the much shorter 2 Kings describes the waning years of the south which end in the defeat and exile of its people by the Babylonians.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of The First & Second Books of Kings
God allows Satan to inflict a series of terrible catastrophes upon a good man name Job to explore the question of undeserved suffering and faith in the face of pain.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Job
A man called “the Teacher” (who may or may not be the wise King Solomon) offers a series of observations that are meant to instruct its readers on the best ways to approach and live life.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Ecclesiastes
Psalms is a collection of poems focused on the history and the religious beliefs of the Israelite people from the time of Exodus to their exile in Babylon. Types of psalms include those expressing praise for God, lamentations and supplications, and those devoted to wisdom.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Psalms
The Song of Solomon
Sometimes called “The Song of Songs,” this book is a series of lyrical poems organized as a lengthy dialogue between a young woman and her lover. It may be allegorical for God’s love of humankind or for the intensity of divine love in the human heart, or it could have been intended only as a celebration of human love as well as the sensuous and mystical quality of erotic desire.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of The Song of Solomon
Proverbs is the largest collection of wisdom literature in the Old Testament (along with Ecclesiastes, Job, and portions of Psalms) whose chief goal is to teach rather than to relate a narrative. Proverbs contains thirty-one chapters, each comprised of twenty to thirty-five wise sayings that are each two poetic lines long.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Proverbs