Sample Book Review Paper on Encountering the Old Testament by Bill T. Arnold, Second Edition

This book is an in-depth review of the contents as well as the significance of the Old Testament of the Bible. It is written with study questions and guidelines which make it suitable for both students and the instructors or novice pastors. This paper is a description of the book highlighting its contents and some of the techniques the writer has employed which make it different from the actual Bible. The book begins with a preface in page 13, a message to “The Professor” on page 15 which provides an overview of how the instructors can use the book effectively. On page 17 is a message to “The Student” which is also just a student’s guide on where their major focus should be and how they can maximize their gain from the book. The book is made up of 4 major parts. It informs the student the importance and how to utilize some contents of the book such as sidebars, focus boxes, chapter outlines, chapter objectives, summary, key terms, visual aids, study questions and key places and people.

What Is the Old Testament and Why Study it?

The author also discusses the relevance of studying the Old Testament and what it means. In this section of the book, he defines what the Bible is and gives the popular definition of it as a collection of 66 books i.e. 39 in the Old Testament (OT) and 27 in the New Testament (NT)and highlights questions that people often ask concerning the books in the Bible. He also describes a canon as the measuring standard of the Bible. he also describes the test for canonicity which explains how books containing God’s will were separated from the writings that expressed people’s will. He explains that they were discerned in the following ways; they were written by a prophet or a spirit-led person, addressed to all generations and were written in accord with the previous revelation. These principles are what guided the Hebrews to know which books belonged to the OT. when he describes the formation of the canon. He also includes a chart of the OT books in order and the comparison of the Hebrew and English book order.

He also explains how the bible which was done through inspiration and gives specific examples from the Bible for example, what Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” He explains what writers like Peter say about how the scripture was written and how the Holy spirit aided them so it was basically not the will of the prophets they wrote. He also explains how the Bible became available today and the changes it underwent especially the contribution of the Scribes in what he calls the Scribal care of the Old Testament text and how the Bible was translated into other languages and concludes this part by explaining how we interpret the Bible.

 Where and When Did the Events of the Old Testament Take Place?

The book also gives a description of where the Old Testament take place. He places the events in places that they actually transpired. He explains the three regions of the ancient Near East which include Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Syria-Palestine and were joined by an arch, four sub-regions of Israel which include the ridge or central mountain range, Rift the Transjordanian highlands, coastal plains, and the Jordan Rift and the highways of the ancient Near East. These highways have the two major highways which stretch through Syria-Palestine and the King’s Highway. The history of this periods takes a span of around two millennia. It also explains some of the events that are explained in the Old Testament which is mainly about Israel. It highlights the story of Israel from its ancestry (the Patriarchs) and leadership. It discusses the beginning of Israel covering the stories of Moses and Joshua to when Israel was a state discussing its political eras including kings and their dynasties like that of David. Israel’s exile and restoration are also covered in the Old Testament and the roles of leaders like Ezra and Nehemiah during these events.

Part 1: Encountering the Pentateuch

The Pentateuch consists of the first books of the Old Testament namely; Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy and describes how God’s people came into existence or simply the birth of God’s people. The Pentateuch talks about several themes. It talks about God’s sovereignty. God is depicted as the maker of the whole world and can control everything in it. He created all humans and has the power to do what is considered impossible. The author also talks about history as it is found in the Pentateuch. This is the history of the Israelites and the beginning of everything. Another theme the author talks about is the fallen condition of humanity.  The Pentateuch also talks about salvation and Holiness. It talks about what makes one unholy and how God always liberates his people. Moses is depicted as the key human figure here. He liberated the Israelites from Israel and led them in the wilderness and spoke to God directly on behalf of the Israelites.

The book also explains the authors of the Pentateuch. This is an area that has given rise to so many questions in the past two centuries by the Old Testament scholars. It explains the authorship,traditional consensus and modern critical approaches concerning the authorship such as tradition criticism, source criticism, canonical criticism, redaction criticism, literary criticism, andform criticism.

Genesis 1-11: The Prelude to Israel

Genesis chapter 1-11 is introductory to Israel, how Israel came to be. The first and the second chapter talks about the story of creation and its nature. The book says that the account of Mesopotamia is the closest to the Hebrew account of creation as compared to the others found in the literature found in the Near East. The first chapter gives an overview of creation while the second chapter describes a creation account which is specific. How God created Adam and Eve who were the first human beings in his own image and likeness and put them in charge of all the other creations. It talks about how God did this on his own and in the order, he did them. In chapter three to chapter eleven, sin is described as well as its nature as the moral failure of humanity. It explains how the first sin was committed, what made the first humans sin and the consequences that followed. This part of Genesis also explains the relationship between God and the people and how this relationship changed when sin came in between, there was a gap between God and the people he created. The sin committed was of a rebellious nature.

Sin increased until God resorted to using floods to destroy the earth and the sinful humans. He, however, ordered Noah to build an arc to save a few. A poem from ancient Mesopotamia known as the Epic of Gilgamesh and Noah’s story share some similarities as explained in the book. The book gives an example of the extent of human rebellion and pride using the tower of Babel.

Genesis 12-50: The Patriarchs; The Ancestors of Israel’s Faith

This chapter is about the ancestors of Israel and the Patriarchs. The three main Patriarchs were Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This book illustrates the lives of this person focusing on the covenant of Abraham, his doctrine of conversion, how he was ready to offer his son Isaack as a sacrifice to God. Jacob is also talked about and his 12 sons and how Joseph was faithful to God even in the face of adversities. It also dwells on the fact that these Patriarchs were called by God without considering other factors. The chapter dwells on three theological concepts namely; covenant, election, and promise.


Exodus: A Miraculous Escape

Exodus can be defined as a quick exit. In Exodus, God liberates Israel from Egypt leading them to Mount Sinai through the desert. God was present among his people and dwelled in the Tabernacle. God gave the people the ten commandments through Moses which formed the basis of the Sinai covenant. The Israelites celebrated the Passover to commemorate how God freed them from Egypt. The problems found by scholars concerning Exodus are; the route of the Exodus, historicity, and date. Some scholars put the date in the thirteenth BC while others in the fifteenth BC. The three possible routes of the Exodus are; southern, central and northern routes. Theologically the covenant, deliverance, and God’s presence are what makes the book important.     

Leviticus: Instructions for Holy Living

The descendants of Levi are the ones referred to as Levites who were priests. Israelites used sacrifices in a special way even though it was a common practice in the ancient Near East. Leviticus majors on the priesthood, cleanliness, uncleanliness, Holiness code and offerings. The priest made a sacrifice on the Day of Atonement on behalf of himself and the nation. During this period the major types of sacrifices included sin, guilt, cereal, burnt and peace offerings. God calls us just like he did the Israelites to live a Holy life. The major themes in this chapter are; law, sacrifice, and Holiness.

Numbers: Failure in the Desert

This chapter explains the arrangement of the book of Numbers in three parts i.e. encampment at Mount Sinai, 40 years of wondering in the desert and encampment on the plains of Moab. This chapter also talks about the disobedience of the Israelites and the consequences of such disobedience e.g. Moses at Kadesh. Israelites have been brought out as forgetful and kept complaining despite where God had brought them from (Egypt). This message of disobedience has been used in 1 Corinthians and Hebrews in the NT.

Deuteronomy: restoring the Covenant

The book is organized in chiasm i.e. a five-concentric pattern. The faithfulness of God is Moses’ first topic followed by the review of the covenant and sanctions of the covenant in his third speech. The ancient Near East and the Israelites had different approaches i.e. monotheism and polytheism respectively. The major topics of the Decalogue are followed by the arrangement of the law in chapters 12-26. The book portrays Deuteronomy as the center of primary history in the OT and is the foundation of Deuteronomist history.

Part 2: Encountering the Historical Books

The book explains the importance of the historical books in this chapter and their relevance for example how Joshua stresses the importance of obedience. Judges explain how the Israelites almost became hopeless after conquest while the sovereignty of God in caring for the faithful despite national challenges is explained in the book of Ruth. Samuel here traces how monarch in Israel came about while Kings tell the history of monarchy beginning from Solomon to when Jerusalem fell. Chronicles are discussed as the first commentary of the Biblical scriptures. Ezra and Nehemiah talk about the restoration of Israel in the 5th century BC. Esther talks about how God took care of his people in a special way. The book also explains that the authorship of the historical books is anonymous and gives the popular theory that the different sections might have been joined by an anonymous editor. The author also talks about the Christian, the Jewish canon and the relevance of the historical books to theology.



Joshua: Conquest and Division

The book talks about the main themes of conquest and division of Canaan that Israel used, God’s faithfulness to his people and the transition of power from Moses to Joshua as well as the influence Joshua had. The book explains the battle plans that the Israelites used where they started a key battle at Jericho which was later followed by the battle in the southern and northern spheres which was effective (conquest and division). Israelites were corrupted by the pagans who they failed to drive out of the land. This chapter also talks how the land was divided and how the people settled in it e.g. Levites received 48 cities. The land was divided among the 12 tribes of Israel. Before Joshua’s death, he encouraged the Israelites never to forget all the things God has done for them.

Judges and Ruth: Israel’s Moral Crisis

In the book of Judges, disobedience is a key factor. It is a period where Judges were the leaders of Israel. Repentance, sin, judgment, and deliverance are also discussed. As a result of the disobedience of the Israelites, God permitted other nations to attack them as a punishment. 12 judges in total existed with half major and the other half minor. The Israelites forgot the rules and did whatever one considered appropriate referred to as moral relativism. The book of Ruth is majorly about the unpleasant circumstances Naomi went through. It also talks about Boaz and God’s which knows no boundaries be it gender, racial or national.

First Samuel: God Grants a King

The book examines the authorship and date of this 1st Samuel, setting and the themes. It also talks about the decline of Saul which was majorly due to disobedience and the Rise of King David. It also discusses the period of transition in chapter 1-15. The book talks about how the Israelites sinned by asking for a physical king when they already had God as their king. It also reveals God’s nature when he chose David to be king and how he helped him defeat Goliath and protected him from Saul.

Second Samuel: David’s reign

The book examines the background of 2nd Samuel providing the date, authorship, and themes. The book also discusses the contents of 2nd Samuel which is about David and the rise of Israelite Empire. It talks about major events during the reign of David like relocating his capital city to Jerusalem and the reasons for this. The sin of David is also discussed and the consequences as well as God’s sufficient grace and the events that led to the discontent of his reign e.g. Absalom’s rebellion.

First Kings: The Glory of Solomon and the Beginning of the End

The book discusses the author and the methods employed in writing. It is discussed as one of the earliest types original historiography and the regnal method that was used to write it also explained. The book also explains the sources that the author wrote 1st Kings from which is annals from the royal archives. The contents of the book were mainly about Solomon, how he ruled and some of the sins he committed which overshadowed his accomplishments which were much. It also discusses the relationships between God and Solomon giving him the wisdom to preside brilliantly over legal issues. Solomon also allowed the worshiping of foreign gods due to the foreign wives he married and this did not please God.

Second Kings: The End of National Israel

The book analyzes two major themes in 2nd Kings which are, the role of prophecy and the view of the history of Israel from the Mosaic law. The book also examines the content of 2nd Kings which include the new role that the prophets like Elijah and Elisha would now assume and the instability of Israel which is evident by the quick succession of kings. It also talks about the destruction of Israel and the Babylonian exile of Juda.

First and Second Chronicles: A Look-Back

The book talks about the authorship of the 1st and 2nd Chronicles, themes and contents. It argues that it has not always been clear as to who wrote them in the past but it is attributed to an anonymous postexilic author by recent scholarships. The book also compares it to Samuel and Kings and evaluates its position in the canon. In the Hebrew canon, it is among the last books while in the English Bible it comes before Ezra just after Kings. The major themes in Chronicles are David and his dynasty and the proper worship of God.

Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther: A Time to rebuild

The three have an origin in the Persian period of the Jewish history. It talks about Ezra and Nehemiah, their contents and their problem of interpretation as well as Ester and its contents and themes Ezra was a scribe among those who came from Babylon. Ezra and Nehemiah led the people to the renewal of the covenant. Ester is a romantic novel and it shows how God through Ester and Mordecai saved the Jews.

Part 3: Encountering the Poetical Books

The poetical books include Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs and the book also explains the nature of Hebrew poetry and how parallelism, chiasm, meter and acrostics played a role in it. Job answers the question of why the righteous suffer while Psalms has provided songs with roots from ancient Israel. Proverbs outlines guidelines which assist people on their lives. The meaning of life is explored in Ecclesiastes while Song of Songs talks about the joy brought about by romantic love.


Job: One Man’s Search for Justice

The book evaluates the ancient Near Eastern and Old Testament wisdom literature viewing their relationships e.g. wise men from Canaan, Mesopotamia etc. compared to Solomon. The book also explains that there was no evidence as to who the author is. The book talks about Job and tends to answer some of the most challenging life questions e.g. the problem of theodicy.

Psalms: The Songbook of Ancient Israel

The book talks about the authorship of Psalms and the contribution of David, Moses, Asaph, Solomon, the sons of Korah, and other anonymous writers. The book also discusses the importance of Psalms as helping us understand how the Israelites worshiped. The stratification of Psalms is also discussed herein.

Proverbs: Advice on Living in God’s World

The book defines a proverb as a short life advice but not a command. The contents of Job are instructional literature, unlike Job which is discursive. The book also explains the components of Psalms and how the audience they target e.g. 1-9 parents to their children.

Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs: Israelite Faith in Everyday Life

The book gives the definition of Ecclesiastes as a leader, preacher or the speaker of the assembly. The author of the book is anonymous while the message is that to withstand all the tests and trials of the world then an individual has to follow the will of God. The book Song of songs is defined as a song that is better than the rest. The book is about a husband and wife’s sexual love.



Part 4: Encountering the Prophets
Introduction to the Prophets: Voices of God’s Servants

The book in the last part talks about the prophets comparing them with those of the ancient Near East, their relevance and how they were chosen. Prophets are explained to have been individuals who conveyed God’s message to the whole nation, warn people of God’s wrath when they sinned and condemned evil. The book also categorizes these prophets according to the period they prophesized. The book thoroughly analyzes the nature of prophecy including how it was passed to us including their major themes.

Isaiah 1–39: Prophet of Judah’s royal Court

The book dwells on the themes of the remnant, the Messiah, Holy one of Israel and Gods sovereignty. The book gives the background of Isiah the man and when his prophecy begun in 740 BC. It also describes the times, authorship of this book and the contents. Isiah’s services were enjoyed in Judah’s royal court but also included other nations in his prophecies like Israel. He prophesized about the coming Messiah.

Isaiah 40–66: Great Days Are Coming!

The book talks about the authorship of Isaiah examining the multiple and one author’s views. The theme found in this part of Isiah is that of the captivity of people because of their sins.

It also talks about God’s people, servants, and restoration.

Jeremiah 1–20: Struggling with God’s Call

This chapter talks about the background of Jeremiah, his call and how (1:1-19). Jeremiah also describes the state of Juda which was sad. This part also covered how Jeremiah wrestled with the people and God.


Jeremiah 21–52 and Lamentations: Dealing with Disaster

This chapter examines the contents of this part of Jeremiah. Jeremiah challenged leadership and false prophecy. It also talks about the power of repentance as God promised to spare the king and the people if they did so.

Ezekiel 1–24: rough Days Are Coming

The book talks about the background of Ezekiel and the events that led to his call. It explains the authorship which is autobiographical. Ezekiel talks about the day of the lord and when the glory of the Lord departed. He also talks about the Judgement of Jerusalem.

Ezekiel 25–48: God’s Planning an Exciting Future!

Here the book continues explaining the message of Ezekiel which included the restoration of Israel which would not only be physical but also spiritual, their new Temple and the Oracles against the nations such as Egypt, Moab, Ammon etc.

Daniel: The Kingdom of God—Now and Forever

The book describes the authorship of Daniel which is apocalyptic, the themes of the book e.g. victory of Gods saints, human pride, and God’s sovereignty. The book also explains the contents of the book and the problem of interpretation.The book also talks about the date the book of Daniel was composed.

Hosea, Joel, and Amos: A Call for repentance and a Promise for Blessing

The book examines the men individually assessing their backgrounds, times and the content of their books.

Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah: God’s Plan for the Nations

Obadiah spoke about the fall of Edom. The book examines the contents of the book of Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah their message and authorship.

Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi: rebuilding a People

The book examines the messages of these prophets and their lives. In Haggai, it talks about dealing with people who don’t care, Zachariah tells people to get ready for Gods kingdom while Malachi focuses on how people should contribute to God.


The book in general talks about the chosen people of God who were the Israelites and the stages they passed and how God helped them along the way. It also focuses on the theme of disobedience which is always accompanied with punishments from God. The book has used pictures and maps that help the reader understand better with questions and provide additional materials for further reading.