O.T. Prophecy

 Prophecy is not really about the future. The Prophets spoke the Word of God to the People of God. Their main point was to remind them of God’s laws, warn them of future punishments or promise them of future rewards.Of all the prophetic material:

  • Less than 2% is about the MessiahLess
  • The than 5% is about the New Covenant
  • Less than1% is about our future (opinions vary depending on your theological system)

Remember that much that was predicted by the author was future to them, but is in the past from our point of view.


· Come in 2 main groups. Some SPOKE to the people, and we know them more from their biographies. Examples are Elijah and Elisha. Others WROTE, and we know little about their biographies. An example is Amos.

· The Writing Prophets are divided into Major and Minor. The Major Prophets include the books of: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel and Daniel. The Minor Prophets are all of the remaining 12 books. This distinction is based on the length of the books. The “Minor Prophets” were in a single book in the Hebrew bible called “The Twelve”.

· The prophets apply the blessings (e.g. Lev 16:1-13, Deut 4:32-40; 38:1-14) and the curses (Lev 26:14-39; Deut 4:15-28; 28:15-32, 42) from the O.T. covenant law.

· Therefore they did not invent their teaching, but restated what was already known – although they did this creatively and each prophet has his own style.

· “Oracles” are the inspired utterances that the Prophets gave in different times and places. Each speech is an “oracle.” These oracles were collected together in the books of Prophecy. When reading Prophecy, think “oracle” just as you think “paragraph” when reading a narrative. (Amos 5 has three oracles: v. 1-3; v. 4-17 and v. 18-27).

· It is helpful to use Bible Dictionaries, Commentaries and Handbooks to discover the situation for each oracle. It is difficult to just read through a book like Isaiah.

· The written Prophets were concentrated between 760 B.C. (Amos) and 460 B.C. (Malachi). These were times of social upheaval, religious unfaithfulness and changes in national boundaries. Literary form of the Prophets:

  •  Lawsuit (Isaiah 3:13-26) where the sins of the people are treated as if they were presented in court.
  •  The Woe, which is an expression of grief over the doom that was about to come. (Habakkuk 2:6-8)
  •   The Promise includes references to the future, to radical change and to blessings. (Amos 9:11-15).   
  • Poetry. We are most familiar with meter and rhyme in English poetry. In Hebrew the most familiar form is Parallelism. This is where two or more statements are set beside each other. “Synonymous Parallelism” is where the second line agrees and restates the first. (Isaiah 44:22) “Antithetical Parallelism” is where the second line contrasts with the first.(Hosea 7:14) “Synthetic Parallelism” is where the second line gives further information. (Obadiah 21)

· Sometimes the N.T. seems to give a “fuller meaning” to the text. This can only be done with certainty where the author was inspired by God. So be careful of drawing out these meanings. (I Corinthians 10:4; Exodus 17; Numbers 20) 


· The Prophets are not always clear about the sequence of events. Things that are near in time are mixed with things that are distant events. An example is Jesus reading the scriptures in the Synagogue of Nazareth (Luke 4:16-20). He read Isaiah 60:1,2a. Look at Isaiah 60:2b and see why he stopped there. · It is helpful to see that what from one angle appears as a single object, may be seen as two from a side view. For example, if you look from the side at a mountain range, it may look like one mountain. If you look from the front, you will see that there are two or more mountains. From reading an O.T. text, it may look like it refers to one event, but from the New Testament perspective, we can see that it may refer to two events. This explains why Jesus first Advent is resembles the Servant of the Lord, and his Second Advent resembles the Victorious Lord.

O.T. Law

             The O.T. contains over 600 specific laws.  These are found from Exodus 20 (the Ten Commandments) through the end of Deuteronomy.  The word “Law” in the O.T. can mean:

 ·        The Books of Moses (Genesis – Deuteronomy – see Joshua 1:8).

·        The whole Old Testament (see Matthew 5:17-18).

·        The material from Exodus 20 through Deuteronomy.  We will use the third meaning in this study. 

The Christian and the OT – Six Guidelines

1.      The OT law is a covenant.  A covenant is a binding agreement between two parties.  In return for the benefits and protection God gave, Israel was expected to keep over 600 commandments.

2.      The OT is not our Testament.  “Testament” is another word for “Covenant”.  We start with the assumption that none of its laws are binding on us unless they are renewed in the New Testament.  The idea of showing loyalty to God remains, but the HOW has changed.

3.      Some OT Laws have NOT been renewed in the NT.  First, the Civil Laws, which specify penalties for various crimes do not apply to us.  Second, the Ritual Laws having to do with worship of God, such as the priesthood and the sacrifices, do not apply to us.

4.      Part of the OT is renewed in the NT. Some parts of the Ethical law are restated in the NT.  The Two Greatest Commandments are restated by Jesus (Dt. 6:5; Lev 19:18; Mt 22:40).  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reapplied some OT laws. (Mt 5).

5.      All of the OT law is still part of the Word of God.  We are not obligated by covenant to keep these laws, but they serve to instruct us on the character of God and of righteousness.

6.      Only that which is clearly renewed from the OT Law can be considered part of the NT.  Included here would be the Ten Commandments, since they are cited in various ways as being still binding (Mt 5:21-37; Jn 7:23), and the Two Greatest Commandments (Mt 22:34-40)   

Observations about the Old Testament: The Law did not save in the OT, but it both brought people to an awareness of their need (the sacrifices) and guided them in righteous living.  Note that Israel was already “saved” from
Egypt when they received the Law in Exodus 20.
The Food Laws often make good sense from the standpoint of health – eating pork can be dangerous even in our day if not properly stored and cooked. Blood Sacrifices set out the principle, set out in Hebrews 9:22, that God would accept the death of one living being as the penalty for the sins of another.  Christ’s death, as a substitute for us, brought an end to these commands because he fulfilled them completely. (Heb 9:12) Unusual Prohibitions, such as Dt 14:21 or Lev 19:28, were often given so thatIsrael would avoid the practices of the Canaanites.
 In Summary:

·        DO see the OT as God’s inspired word, but DO NOT see them as God’s direct command to you. ·        DO see the OT law as the basis for the OT Covenant with
Israel, but DO NOT see the OT Law as binding on Christians, unless specifically renewed.

·        DO see God’s justice, love and high standards revealed in the OT Law, but DO NOT forget that God’s Mercy triumphs over judgment.

·        DO NOT see the OT as a complete guide to life, but see it as a model that provides examples for a wide range of behaviors.

·        DO see that the 10 Commandments and the 2 Greatest Commandments are repeated in the NT

·        Do see that the Law is a gift.  (Psalm 19:7-14; Psalm 119) 


Read Leviticus 19:1-18 Briefly list what is commanded

·        Put a + next to those that are binding on Christians

 ·        Put a X by those that are not ·        If you don’t know put a ?

·        If you think it is a good idea put a                                                                                              

Reading Narratives

             Narratives are stories.  The Bible is 40% Narrative.  So it is important to understand how to read these kinds of passages.

            It is important to see how a particular narrative fits into the larger picture of God’s plan in the world.  Individual stories can be part of larger narratives.  For example, the “Sacrifice of Isaac” in Genesis 22 is part of the “Abraham Narrative” in the Book of Genesis.  It is important to read that story in the light of the whole section of Abraham, then in relation to the Book of Genesis, then in relation to the whole Bible.

            Narratives are NOT: 

            Just Stories about people.  We love to tell stories because when they are well told, they are fun to hear.  Have you noticed how you will tell the same stories to your friends and family, and the retelling is just as fun as the first telling.  Biblical stories are not mere entertainment; they talk in some way about God’s work in history.

            Allegories, that is stories filled with symbols, where everything is supposed to represent something else.  The Wizard of Oz is an extended allegory, as is Gulliver’s Travels.  Biblical narratives have meaning at the plain and historical level.  One should not always seek hidden or spiritual meanings.  For example, a story about catching 153 fish has been speculated upon in history – what symbolic meaning is there for 153 fish.   In this case 153 simply means 153.

            Moral Lessons.  We are accustomed to treat biblical stories as if they are one of Aesop’s Fables. Be careful in taking the story out of context and adding a meaning to it that suits your fancy.  (e.g. “The story of David and Goliath shows that the Cubs could win the World Series”). Be careful in taking the experience of people in the past and saying that it is what we should do in the present. (e.g.  “The church in
Jerusalem all spoke in other languages in Acts 2, so should you!”)

            Ten principles for reading Narratives:

  1. They do not usually teach a doctrine.
  2. They usually illustrate a doctrine taught clearly elsewhere in the Bible
  3. They record what happened, not necessarily what should have happened.
  4. What people did in the Bible is not necessarily an example to follow.
  5. The people in the Bible are less than perfect
  6. They do not always interpret themselves; we are expected to be able to judge what happened on the basis of Biblical teaching.
  7. Narratives are selective in what is included; don’t obsess over what is not said.
  8. They are not written to answer every theological question
  9. They can teach explicitly, by clearly stating something, or implicitly, but showing without saying.
  10. In the final analysis, God is the hero in all the biblical narratives.

Avoid These Mistakes:

·        Allegorizing – which is giving every word or object a hidden meaning.

·        Taking out of context – You can “make” a text say anything if you ignore how the author used it to make a certain point.

·        Selectivity – where you ignore parts of the story to highlight others

·        False Combination – putting things together to create a false meaning. 

·        Redefinition – changing the intended meaning into your preferred meaning.

·        Using Extra-biblical authority

·        Moralizing – creating a moral that is not stated or implied

·        Individualizing – reading the Bible as if it is just for you.

·        Present-ism – evaluating the past by present standards of taste or morality.

Practice Passage

Genesis 22 – Abraham and Isaac


Genesis 22:1-24 ESV

    After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” [2] He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” [3] So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. [4] On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. [5] Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” [6] And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. [7] And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here am I, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” [8] Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
    [9] When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. [10] Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. [11] But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” [12] He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” [13] And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. [14] So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
    [15] And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven [16] and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, [17] I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, [18] and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” [19] So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba. And Abraham lived at Beersheba.
    [20] Now after these things it was told to Abraham, “Behold, Milcah also has borne children to your brother Nahor: [21] Uz his firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel the father of Aram, [22] Chesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel.” [23] (Bethuel fathered Rebekah.) These eight Milcah bore to Nahor, Abraham’s brother. [24] Moreover, his concubine, whose name was Reumah, bore Tebah, Gaham, Tahash, and Maacah.



Read the Chapter several times.

Think about how it fits into Genesis 11-25.

Look for “interpretive clues”

Ask Questions

Draw it out if you like

Compare translations




About Translation (repeat)

The Bible was not written in English, but in ancient languages.  Except for specialists who know Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic, we read the Bible in English translation. There are dozens of translations to choose from.  

With FRESH READ, we will use a literary translation, such as the New Revised Standard Version. 

  ·        This is midway between “word for word”  literal versions and the freer “idea for idea” versions.  

 ·        The NRSV strives to be gender inclusive – it will usually only use male pronouns when that was the original intent. This is important for a FRESH READ. 

Since the goal is to experience the biblical text itself.  We will not attend to the observations and opinions of previous readers.  It is important to use a literary version that  reflects the language and the meaning of the Bible, and that is reads clearly in English. If you want to read more on this topic, keep reading.  If not, feel free to stop here! 

 Translations can be divided into four categories: Literal, Literary, Dynamic and Interpretive.  Literal translations try to follow the original in a word for word fashion.  This can lead to awkwardness and even confusion in English.  For example, the King James Version of Psalm 48:1:  Psalm 48:1‑2 – KJV       “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. [2] Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.”    The phrase “mountain of his holiness” could suggest the image of the immensity of the holiness of God.  It actually is a literal translation of the Hebrew grammar, which means “His holy mountain.” 

Literary translations try to be “as literal as possible and as free as necessary.”  They try to retain as much as the flavor of the original text, while at the same time making it clear in English. 

Psalm 48:1,2 – NRSV“Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised,in the city of our God.His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation,is the joy of all the earth,Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King.”  Dynamic Translations try to translate ideas for ideas.  They are not as concerned to carry over into English the structure or the words of the original.  They are freer in form, but try to stay close to the meaning of the original text.

Psalm 48:1,2 – NIV“Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise,in the city of our God, his holy mountain.It is beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth.Like the utmost heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion,the city of the Great King.” 

Interpretive translations are really a more personal reflection upon the text.  These can be very free and offer insights by the translator into the text.  The New Century Version is one example:

Psalm 48:1,2 – NCV“The Lord is great; he should be praisedin the city of our God, on his holy mountain.It is high and beautifuland brings joy to the whole world.Mount Zion is like the high mountains to the north;it is the city of the Great King.” 

 It us usually best to read more than one translation.  We suggest a more literal translation and a more free version.  The more literal is a safeguard against following some one else’s interpretation.  The more free version guards against obscurity. 
Below is a Chart of some of the most popular current translations, but certainly not all of them: 


  • New American Standard Bible
  • English Standard Version
  • King James Version
  • New King James Version 

  • Revised Standard Version         
  •  New Revised Standard Version
  • Revised English Version   
  • Jerusalem Bible 



  • New International Version                            
  • New Century Version         



  • Living Bible The Message         
  • Phillips Translation
  • New Living Translation 


A good web site where you can search for passages or specific words in the Bible as well as compare several translations is: http://www.biblegateway.com