Re-Thinking How We Read the Old Testament

The inspired words of God’s prophets declare His righteousness. However, parts of the Bible are not revelation of Divine truth such as the words of Job’s friends.  That said, the production of the volume known as the Bible is clearly God’s work through His Spirit.

Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness:”  English Revised Version – correct translation of 2 Tim. 3:16. (See: How is the Bible Inspired)

This passage is endorsing the inspired scriptures of the Old Testament to which it refers – not all scripture contained in the volume we know as the Bible.

There is a need to understand whether the history books of Ezra/Nehemiah were correct and are profitable for instruction in righteousness, or whether they fall into the catagory of Job’s friends and claim to be the will of God but are not. The contemporary prophets  condemn the final actions of the Jews in the Old Testament.  Zechariah who was present at the building of the second temple was murdered by the Jews.  Fortunately God inspired the writers of Ezra and Zechariah to date their comments and actions to the reign of Darius so we can see that Zechariah was condemning the Jews while the building of the temple was taking place. At the same time the Book of Ezra is praising the actions of the Jews. Zechariah was murdered after the temple was completed as per Jesus comment –

Zechariah son of Berekiah (son of Iddo), whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.”Matt 23:35 (See Last Events of Old Testament – Right or Wrong?)

Not all scripture reflects what God wants done, or is for training in righteousness – some is to see where others went wrong and learn from it –  reflecting  what people did and said according to mans perspective. This is not profitable to copy, but profitable to avoid. The history books at the end of the Old Testament were written from a Jewish male perspective as were the histories of all ancient nations – Sumerians, Akkadians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Egyptians etc. It was a patriarchal world.

This explains why 90% of the people named in the Old Testament are men – largely due to the lineage lists which didn’t include women. This custom of leaving women out also explains why even New Testament writers left Mary out of her own lineage in Luke 3, why the number present at the feeding of the 5,000 was generally in terms of men present, and why no mention is made of the women at the last supper who came under the umbrella of ‘disciples’.  It was a ‘known’ thing that of course the Passover was for entire families to keep.  The 12 got a special mention because it was one of the 12 who would betray Jesus – as opposed to all the rest. (See: Missing Women at the Last Supper)

The Old Testament ends with the Jews searching their lineage so they could be accepted after their return from Babylon. In contrast to this the New Testament opens with John the Baptist telling them that God can raise children to Abraham from the stones.  Jesus came and showed how the Law should have been applied. It is in understanding this that we see more clearly where the Jews went wrong.girl preaching

Jesus showed that it was never about literal Jewish male lineage – neither being Jewish nor male was what mattered – John 1:13

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a
husband’s will, but born of God.

The revelations of Jesus  were not new teachings – they were showing what should have always been known under the Law of Moses – things  Jesus expected Nicodemus the teacher to know. In a patriarchal world, God’s teachings were extraordinary – we have to discern which parts of scripture  God endorses to copy, and which parts are there to show the customs of men to avoid.

If we think we should cut people off because the Jews excluded foreigners, then we will be going as far astray as they did.  The so called enemies of Joshua and Zerubbabel who wanted to help build the temple were enemies from the Book of Ezra perspective.  We have to discern if the Ezra perspective was God inspired or only reflecting the Jewish interpretation of cutting off foreigners.  Ezra himself was not God’s prophet, he was a scribe and  “teacher of the Law” with a glorified lineage – in contrast to this the author of the 4th Gospel lost their identity and wrote from the perspective of ‘a beloved disciple’ because earthly lineage never mattered.

Comparing records we see that the Jewish temple was stained with the blood of Zechariah – Why wasn’t this event recorded in the Old Testament? Zechariah was God’s beloved prophet.

See the comparison below


The elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching …of Zechariah, a descendant of Iddo. They finished building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel. Ezra 6:14

( events up to the 6th year of Darius as portrayed by Ezra)


“Upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah (son of Iddo), whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.”Matt 23:35

ZECHARIAH (God’s prophet – murdered for his message)

They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord … had sent …through the earlier prophets. Zech 7:9-12

(4th year of Darius – before Zechariah was murdered)

Notice that Zechariah was preaching in the 4th year of Darius –  I love the way these 2 events ( In Ezra & Zechariah) are actually dated so we can compare them. The temple was completed in the 6th year of Darius – During its completion in the 4th year of Darius, Zechariah was saying that their hearts were set like flint and they didn’t listen to God – harsh words – we later find out from Jesus that he was murdered for his message. If we didn’t bother searching this out we would take the words of Ezra at face value and think the Jews were right to reject the foreign offer of help “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the Lord, the God of Israel” Ezra 4:3

Yet comparing this exclusive Jewish attitude with the words of God’s earlier prophets like Isaiah (who Zechariah alluded to) we find God wanted foreigners to help build his temple – Is 56:7 “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

This radically changes the way we read the Old Testament.  We need to understand what parts are from the perspective of the Jews and what parts are from God’s perspective.

Jesus’ words in John 1:13 were not a new teaching, they were just not understood by those who couldn’t see beyond the surface of legalism

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. John 1:13

Under God’s true law, Jews were never above gentiles of faith, men were never the rulers over women of faith.  Children born of God were always equal, but not so in a Jewish patriarchal society which required proof of birth to claim ones heritage and only listed men in genealogies –this was of man, not of God.

From Jesus we know that Moses gave the Jews laws for their ‘hardness of heart’ and the Jews kept adding to those laws. We also know that Moses did not write the Torah in its present form but unknown Jews added commentary which talked about Moses and attributed motives to God.

For it was the LORD himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the LORD had commanded Moses. Josh 11:20

Alarm bells should ring when we read this verse – if God commanded Moses to exterminate everyone without mercy, then why was this law broken (with approval) before they even conquered the land?  Deuteronomy 7 said to show no mercy, destroy totally, make no covenants or marriages with the inhabitants of  the land.

“You must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons” Deut. 7:2-3

 Yet the 2 spies made a covenant with Rahab, showed her mercy,  she married into Israel and became the ancestor of Jesus. The point is made of this by including her in the genealogy of Matt. 1 along with all the other foreign women in the line of Jesus, and also Uriah the Hittite.   Jesus advocated showing mercy, and it’s only by God’s mercy we will be saved.  Consider events in the table below which seem to contradict the surface teachings of THE LAW

GOD & JESUS LAW Breaking the Law for MERCY commended
Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy Matt 5:7 NO MERCY OR COVENANTS

And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them. Deut 7:2

 Covenant to Rahab: Swear to me by the Lord (covenant) that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Josh 2:12 (Mercy/kindness)
When Christ came into the world, he said:“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Heb 10:5  RULES FOR SACRIFICES

The first seven chapters of Leviticus describe the various offerings and how they are to be carried out (burnt, grain, peace, sin, trespass) it doesn’t say they weren’t required.

For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. Hos 6:6

On the surface, The Law demanded sacrifices – God said he didn’t desire them.

It has also been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, brings adultery upon her.

Matt 5:23


Ezra 10:2.. “Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all these (foreign) women and their children, in accordance with the counsel of my lord and of those who fear the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law

Mal 3:16   “The man who hates and divorces his wife, ” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty.”


These are God’s words condemning divorce (via His prophet) – contemporary with those insisting on it – under the pretence of following the Law

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I tell you not to resist an evil person. Matt 5:38

Here, Jesus quoted the Law but set it aside for a greater one.


If there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise Exodus 21:24

He said to David, “You are more righteous than I; for you have dealt well with me, while I have dealt wickedly with you. 1 Sam 24:17

David did not carry out ‘eye for eye’ but chose compassion

Neither do I (condemn you). Go and sin no more. John 8:11

David received mercy from God, not death, after adultery with Bathsheba

Have mercy on me, O God,

according to your unfailing love;

according to your great compassion

blot out my transgressions.

2Wash away all my iniquity

and cleanse me from my sin. Psalm 51


This woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. John 8:4

“‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife–with the wife of his neighbour-both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death. Lev 20:10 (no ifs or buts – the Law said to kill adulterers)

Mary was also assumed to have committed adultery outside her engagement vow (as binding as marriage) yet Joseph was called righteous for breaking The Law of stoning concerning adultery:

“Joseph her husband, being righteous and not willing to shame her publicly, resolved to divorce her quietly.”Matt 1:19

He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. Psalm 103:10 Rebellious Son to be Stoned:

If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother … all the men of his town are to stone him to death. Deut 21:18

Absalom rebelled against David

“More and more people were joining Absalom and supporting his plot. … “When you hear the sound of the trumpets, you must shout, ‘Absalom now rules as king in Hebron!’” 2 Sam 15:10               David did not kill his rebellious son – he loved him – he broke the law for dealing with rebellious sons.

God always wanted foreigners.  Jesus equated the words of Isaiah 56:7 with the temple of His time – not just a future kingdom

“My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Mark 11:17

The first occasion the Jews tried to kill Jesus – Luke 4:27

was when he said the Gospel had gone to Syria and Lebanon

Destruction and Rejection of FOREIGNERS

Thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee: Deut 20:17

No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, not even in the tenth generation. Deut 23:3

Ruth the Moabitess  was accepted and the ancestor of Jesus

Rahab was a Canaanite

Uriah was a Hittite and Godly man

The Jews themselves were descended from Hittites and Amorites – This is what the Sovereign Lord says to Jerusalem: Your ancestry and birth were in the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. Ezek. 16:3

To those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. John 1:13 Roman Law of Man as the Head:  “Women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.” 1 Cor 14:34

There is no law in the Old Testament silencing women

“In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Gal 3:26-9

This equality in Christ broke all the social norms.

There have always been those who saw beyond the literalism of the Law and understood that mercy triumphs over judgement.  The beatitudes of Matthew 5 show how Jesus interpreted the Law of Moses as it should always have been applied – mercy over judgement.  “Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy”.  Matt 5:7

See also How is the Bible Inspired ?

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About alsowritten

Another voice in the wilderness
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1 Response to Re-Thinking How We Read the Old Testament

  1. Pingback: How is the Bible Inspired? | alsowritten – Robin's Blog

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