Old Testament Survey

by Billy Houston

General Introduction

  • A survey is a look at the structure of Scripture; there are two ways of approach to Bible study, the use of the microscope or the use of the telescope (analytical or synthetical – going from the parts to the whole or from the whole to the parts).

  • Luther describes Scripture as one great tree with limbs (66 books), branches (1189 chapters – 929 Old Testament / 260 New Testament), leaves (31,173 verses – 23,214 Old Testament / 7,959 New Testament); to complete the picture, there are 773,692 words in the Bible – 592,439 Old Testament / 181,253 New Testament and there are 3,566,480 letters – 2,728,100 Old Testament / 838,380 New Testament.


Should we be bothered with the Old Testament? How much of it do we know?

(a) The Bible would be only half a drama without it.

(b) The ministry of Christ would be impossible to comprehend without it.

(c) It is a valuable contribution to the revelation of God.

(d) It is an invaluable spiritual resource for every child of God.



  1. breakdown of books according to

(i) Literary character

– 17 history / 5 poetry / 17 prophetic

(ii) Chronology

– 1450 – 1000 B.C. Genesis – Joshua

– 1000-786 1&2 Samuel / Song of Songs? Ecclesiastes? Psalms (many, perhaps not all)

– 786-736 Amos, Jonah, Hosea

– 736-686 Hosea (continues), Isaiah, Micah

– 686-636 Proverbs, Nahum

– 636-586 Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Obadiah

– 586-536 Lamentations, Daniel (continues), Ezekiel (continues), 1&2 Kings (completed)

– 520 (approx.) Haggai, Zechariah

– (before) 420 Joel? Malachi

– 420-326 Psalms (perhaps completed), Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, 1&2 Chronicles (completed)

N.B. In the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament consisted of 24 books due to Samuel / Kings / Chronicles / Ezra-Nehemiah / and 12 Minor Prophets each taken as one book; the breakdown is as follows:

5 books of the Law (Torah, Genesis – Deuteronomy).

8 books of the prophets (Nebhiim, 4 earlier prophets Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, and 4 later prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Twelve).

11 books of Writings (Kethubhiim, 3 former writings Psalms, Proverbs, Job, 5 rolls [Megilloth] Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, and 3 later writings Daniel, Ezra – Nehemiah, Chronicles).

(b) A knowledge of geography, major events, leading individuals, and nations:

Geography – 8 bodies of water including the Mediterranean, Galilee, Jordan, the Dead Sea, the Nile, the Tigris, the Euphrates, and the Persian Gulf.

Major Events – 9 main eras including Creation, the Patriarchs, the Exodus, the Conquest, the Judges, the Kingdom, the Exile, the Return, the Silence.

Leading Individuals – 9 are singled out here including Adam, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samson, David, Daniel, Ezra and the Pharisees.

Leading Nations – 5 will be noted including Israel (Canaan/Palestine), Egypt, Assyria, Babylon and Persia.


Recommended Reading List

1. 30 Days to Understanding the Bible – Max E. Anders – Kingsway Publications.

2. Survey of the Bible – William Hendriksen – Evangelical Press.

3. The Unfolding Drama of Redemption – W. Graham Scroggie – Kregel.

4. All About Bible Study – Herbert Lockyer – Zondervan.

5. God’s Wonderful Word – Trevor F. Knight – Young Life.