The Pentateuch – The Origin
The Pentateuch refers to the first five of the Bible’s Old Testament books and the first of five Old Testament sections. It is has long been called by the Greek word Pentateuch, derived from pente (five) and teuchos (scroll or vessel). More accurately, both in origin and definition, the label Torah (Hebrew) can be applied since the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and Torah means to teach or teaching.
The earliest scrolls or writings of the Bible have come to us through the meticulous and thorough work of ancient scribes who copied the original writings of God’s inspired authors. Their tedious works proceeded with the same conscientious care by succeeding generations. The five books of the Pentateuch are credited in the Old and New Testaments alike to being authored by Moses.1 They contain the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
The books (in order) are named in Hebrew by the first significant word of the section.2
- Bereshit or Genesis known as: beginning or creation
- Shemot or Exodus referring to: exodus from captivity
- Wayikra or Leviticus proclaiming: laws
- Bemidar or Numbers referring to: numbers [census] of Israelites
- Debarim or Deuteronomy meaning: these are the words of second law
The Pentateuch – Purpose and Theme
The Pentateuch’s basic purpose is to teach of God and record instructions for His people. Each book has its own designed purpose, but in reading, we should begin at the beginning. The revelation of God Himself is the beginning of the entire Bible; He is the beginning and the end, “the Alpha and Omega…who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8).
Genesis, the first book of the Pentateuch, describes God’s creation of the world and everything within it. It tells us of the first of mankind, Adam and Eve, and God’s divine intention for unique human relationship with Him. Because of free will, they chose to disobey God and therefore begat the corrupted human race that followed. The Genesis of mankind was then shown their need for the forgiveness and sovereign power of their Creator.
Exodus is a record of the Israelite descendants of Adam and Eve and their continued journey from the bondage of slavery (because of their disobedience), to their deliverance by God from their Egyptian captors. During this book, we see the emergence of God’s hand-picked spokesman (Moses), the parting of the Red Sea, and the Ten Commandments.
Leviticus is in an obvious guidebook to the Hebrew people and the priests who were to oversee the Tabernacle and Temple. It is a book of rules, regulations, and laws by which they were to live in accordance with thanks, devotions, and atonements. Its theme is to promote worship to God and to strive for holiness.
Numbers is where the first census of a nation took place. God first instructed Moses to number the men according to tribe or family. After much disobedience and lack of faith, the Israelites had wondered the desert for many years. He punished the unholy and strengthened the righteous; then they were numbered again. God had separated them in preparation for moving on to the Promised Land and proved again that mankind needed His provision and guidance for the coming battles of their journey.
- Deuteronomy, the last book of the Pentateuch, calls for unyielding devotion and faithfulness to the Lord. Moses strongly urged the people to not forget, and not neglect telling their children all God had faithfully done for them and what He expected from them. About to enter the Promise Land, they were camped on the east banks of the Jordan River where Moses reviewed their history and God reinstated His covenant with them.
The Pentateuch – Relevance Today
The most important and relevant message in the books of the Pentateuch is in the spiritual message God wants to reveal. What truths might God be saying about Himself, His sovereign power, and His promises to you?
The theological lessons of the Pentateuch illustrate what God has done and will do toward man’s reconciliation and restoration to Himself. Because of mankind’s disobedience and rejection of God, we all have need for forgiveness. As He brought the Israelites out of bondage and set before them the leader of Moses, He shows us that today we too have bondage of sin. Regardless of the trials and battles of our personal journey, He can see us through to the Promise Land as He did with the people in the books of Moses. He has given us a New Covenant and freedom from sin through Jesus Christ.
He is the One and True living God who doesn’t want anyone to perish. His arms are open to all people from every nation who will receive Him with faith. John 1:12-13 says, “Yet to all who receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural decent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” We each have the opportunity to be delivered from sin as were the Israelites from their idolatry and bondage. The theology of the Pentateuch is today’s example for our Lord’s eternal promises and protection.
1 (Old Testament) Deuteronomy 1:5; 4:44; 31:9; 33:4; Joshua 8:31-34; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 14:6; 23:25; 2 Chronicles 23:18; Ezra 3:2; Nehemiah 8:1; Malachi 4:4; (New Testament) Luke 2:22; 24:44; John 1:17; 7:19; Acts 13:39; 28:23; 1 Corinthians 9:9; Hebrews 10:28
2 Holman Pocket Bible Dictionary; www.jewishencyclopedia.com
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