June 23, 2023

What Are the First Five Books of the Bible Called?

The Bible is a compilation of 66 different books that were written over a span of 1,500 years.  The Pentateuch, or commonly known as the “Torah ” or the “Five Books of Moses,” is the name given to the first five books of the Bible. Pentateuch is derived from the Greek words pente and teucos, meaning “five” and “books,” respectively. These books include Genesis (Be-reshit), Exodus (Shemot), Leviticus (Va-yikra), Numbers (Be-midbar), and Deuteronomy (Devarim). Let us further discuss these in detail below.

Who Wrote the First Five Books of the Bible?

Many people believe that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. His education supports this premise in the courts of Egypt and his close relationship with Yahweh, the Hebrew name for God. Plus, both the scribes and Pharisees of His time and Jesus Himself confirmed Moses’s authorship. Acts 7:22 proves this, saying, “Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.” John 5:45-47 also says, “…If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”

Biblical scholars have also put forth evidence that points to Moses as the author of the Pentateuch, including linguistic similarities between the book itself and Moses’s other writings. The statements made by characters in the book also lead Moses as the one who wrote it. While there is no definitive proof that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch, the evidence supports this claim accordingly.

The First Five Books of the Bible

The first five books of the Bible focus on God revealing Himself to mankind through special individuals chosen by Himself: Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. The first five books of the Bible also explain how God brought His chosen people out of Egypt on a journey that took them to Mount Sinai, and the founding of the Israel nation, formerly known as Canaan.

1. Be-reshit or Genesis

The book of Genesis is the first book of the Bible that is the key to understanding the beginning of the world and God’s promises to His people. The word “Genesis” comes from the Greek word toledoth, which means “beginning, “origin,” or “generation.” 

The book of Genesis starts with the world’s creation, including the creation then the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, and ends with Joseph’s death in Egypt. In between, it tells the story of the Israelites, who were about to embark on their journey from slavery in Egypt back to the Promised Land. This follows the narrative that God made a covenant with Abraham who started his living in Mesopotamia before moving south into Canaan and Egypt. 

Abraham or Abram’s story is believed to begin around 2091 BC. This puts the book’s timeframe at about 3000 years, making it the longest period covered by any book in the Bible. Given its scope, it’s no wonder Genesis lays the foundation for all that comes after, both in terms of chronology and theology.

Although Genesis contains several covenants, sins entered the world that broke the relationship between God and mankind (Genesis 3). So, instead of receiving the blessing God has intended for them, humanity was burdened with a curse.

Nonetheless, Genesis serves as a prologue to God’s restorative plan to redeem the world through His Son, Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, we see God’s steadfast devotion to His people even as they turn against Him and face His promised punishment for their disobedience. But still, later on, God’s plan for redemption and blessing was established through covenants with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

2. Shemot or Exodus

The book of Exodus is the second book of the Bible. It gets its name, Exodus, from the Septuagint, which is based from this primary event found in the book: the deliverance from slavery and “exodus” or departure of the Israelite nation out of Egypt through Yahweh, the God of their forefathers. 

God’s promise to Abraham that his descendants would one day be delivered from slavery and become a great nation is where the book of Exodus begins. This promise was passed down to Abraham’s son Isaac and grandson Jacob, who had twelve sons who became the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel. This story focuses on around 80 years, from a short time before Moses was born (around 1526 BC) to the events at Sinai in 1446 BC. 

Moses grew up in Egypt. When a new Pharaoh came to power in Egypt, he witnessed the Israelites being enslaved and subjected to harsh treatment at the hands of the Egyptians. But God had not forgotten His promise, and He raised up Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery. This made it possible when God has shown 10 miraculous plagues, allowing the Pharaoh to allow the Israelites leave Egypt. However, as they were fleeing, Pharaoh changed his mind and sent his army after them. 

Along the way, Moses and the Israelites face many challenges, including an epic battle with the Egyptian army at the Red Sea, which seems to have no way to escape. But once again, God came through and parted the waters of the Red Sea, allowing His people to escape while the Egyptian army was drowned.

After their deliverance from Egypt, God led the Israelites to Mount Sinai, where He established His covenant with them through Moses, later known as Mosaic Covenant. This was also when God gave them the Ten Commandments—the laws that form the basis of righteousness in Judaism and Christianity. 

Through this law, God says that all life relates to Him and nothing is outside His jurisdiction. It also regulates every aspect of Jewish and Christian life in holiness, from common eating practices to worship regulations. Importantly, this law points out Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the law, who will die on the cross to take away the sins of His people but will rise from the dead and provide eternal life for all who trust Him.  

Thus, in general, the overall theme of Exodus is redemption—how God redeemed His people from servitude and made them His own. This theme is carried throughout the Bible, from the Old to New Testament, until God’s great plan of salvation unfolds.

What Are The Lessons We Can Learn From Exodus?

Though the Mosaic Covenant no longer binds us, the principles of redemption and consecration to God established under that covenant are still relevant to believers today. Just as the Israelites were redeemed from slavery in Egypt and set apart as a holy people, we have been redeemed from our slavery to sin and set apart as God’s children. And just as the Israelites were required to offer annual sacrifices for their sins, we are called to present ourselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). This means letting go of our old, sinful ways that defy God and instead living life according to the standards set by the Holy Spirit. Only through Christ’s sacrifice can we do this, as He is our perfect example and source of strength. As we yield our lives to God, He enables us to live in a way that is pleasing to Him and brings glory to His name.

3. Va-yikra or Leviticus

Leviticus is the third book of the Bible and, as its title suggests, deals primarily with the subject of worship. In particular, it lays out the regulations for sacrifices and offerings, which were essential to Israelite worship. These sacrifices were to be offered regularly, reminding of God’s holiness and Israel’s need for His forgiveness. The book of Leviticus also contains instructions for how the people were to live their lives in a way that would please God. This included everything from how they were to conduct themselves in worship to how they should treat strangers and widows.

The laws in the book of Leviticus cover a wide range of topics, including worship, sexual morality, diet, cleanliness, and proper treatment of others. While some are specific to the Israelite community, others have a more general application. For example, the commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself is found in both Leviticus and Matthew. As Christians, we are called to follow the spirit of the law, even when Jesus’ teachings have superseded the latter.

However, Christians do the opposite, neglecting its teachings due to its seemingly mundane lists of laws. And yet, upon closer inspection, we see that these laws are rich in meaning and provide valuable insights into God’s character. For example, the sacrificial system established in Leviticus was designed to allow God’s people to enjoy His fellowship through worship. It also allowed for repentance and renewal, two essential components of a healthy relationship with God. In addition, the detailed instructions regarding diet and social behavior reveal the holiness of God and His utter “otherness” in this book. 

As this book states, for many years, the Law of Moses dictated that animal sacrifices were necessary to atone for human sin. However, these sacrifices were only temporary solutions; they could not completely remove the stain of sin. That is why God sent His Holy Son, Jesus Christ, to be the ultimate sacrifice. 

While the Old Testament sacrificial system was once required, it is no longer in effect today. As a result, future animal sacrifices were no longer necessary. This fulfilled the Law and rendered them null and void. Thanks to Jesus Christ, we have been set free from our sinful past and can now live in relationship with God.

Generally, the Leviticus book is all about sanctification or becoming holy. The book’s overall message is that once we have received God’s forgiveness and acceptance, we should follow it up with righteous living and spiritual growth. It also teaches to be purified into a people worthy of our God. Finally, we are taught that following His commands is essential to live a healthy and prosperous life. 

What Are The Lessons We Can Learn From Leviticus?

Just as God instructed the Israelites to live a life in holiness because He is holy and just, we, as Christians, are also called to set ourselves closer to God. In the New Testament, 1 Peter 1:15-16 refers Leviticus 19:2, saying, “Like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'” This implies we have been redeemed by the grace of God, and we are commanded to present ourselves to Him as offerings of our living. Jesus, on our behalf, offered Himself as the sacrifice, taking the punishment Himself for us to be forgiven.

When we trust in Jesus, we become God’s children and are saved by grace. This is what Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us. In the same way God sanctified the Israelites, He has also redeemed and set Christians apart for His purposes.  So, we should live our life holy that pleases Him. This way, we are giving importance to our covenant with God.

4. Be-midbar or Numbers

The book of Numbers tells the story of the Israelites’  40 years of wandering in the desert after they were freed from slavery in Egypt. The book gets its name from its many numerical data, including population counts, tribal figures, and priestly statistics. The book opens with a census of the Israelite men who were able to fight in battle. It then tells the stories of the Israelites’ interactions with various tribes in the desert and their battles against those who opposed them.

The next few chapters detail the Israelite camp’s organization and the Levites’ duties. In chapter 4, it lists the responsibilities of Levites for caring for the Tabernacle and its furnishings. The remainder of Numbers consists primarily of laws and regulations regarding worship, acceptable sacrifices, purity, sexual morality, diet, and business transactions. There are also instances of God’s miraculous interventions on behalf of Israel (such as the sending of manna and quail in chapter 11), and the accounts of Israel’s rebellion against God. These accounts are interspersed throughout the book (such as the incident with the golden calf in chapter 32).

The book ends with a review of the boundaries of the Promised Land and instructions for dividing it among the tribes. Although much of Numbers deals with dry legal matters, it ultimately points to God’s faithfulness in keeping His covenant promises for those who remain faithful to Him. 

As Moses prepared to hand leadership over to Joshua, he wanted to ensure that the people knew how to stay faithful to God and obey His commands. However, it also records people’s disobedience and lack of faith, which led to the deaths of many of their leaders. Nevertheless, God remained faithful to them and even promised eternal life.

What Are The Lessons We Can Learn From Numbers?

In the book of Numbers, we read the story of the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness. This account covers the early days of Israel in detail, but it also gives readers a new appreciation for how much God values obedience. Although Israelites often complain and disbelieve the divine, God remains faithful and never ceases to support them. But this is not always the case. God has also shown His wrath to those who rebelled against His laws through punishments. 

As modern readers and followers of God, we can learn from the example of the Israelites  to avoid complaining, rebelling, and disbelieving His prowess. Instead, we should have humility and sincerity in following Him. Doing so allows us to live righteously and worship God through our words and works.

5. Devarim or Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Bible, and it contains Moses’s sermons to the Israelites as they prepared to enter the Promised Land. The name “Deuteronomy” comes from a mistranslation of a Hebrew word that simply means “second law.” In reality, Deuteronomy does not offer a copy of the Law, but rather a restatement of it for a new generation. Moses’s sermons emphasize key points of the Law, such as loving God and obeying His commands. They also contained warnings about the consequences of disobedience.

Deuteronomy is important because it shows how God’s laws are relevant to different situations and generations. Deuteronomy also outlined several new laws specific to the Israelites’ situation. For example, it introduced the concept of cities of refuge, where accidental murderers could go to escape retribution from relatives of the victim.

In Deuteronomy, Moses warned the people not to forget what God had done for them. Thus, when the nation of Israel was camped on the east side of the Jordan River, ready to enter the Promised Land, Moses gave them a final review of God’s covenant with them. This took place around 1406 BC, at the end of the forty 40 years they had wandered in the wilderness. He reminded them of how He had led them out of slavery in Egypt and brought them safely through the wilderness to the brink of the Promised Land. He also reminded them of how God had provided for their needs along the way, including giving them water from a rock and manna from heaven.

Moses then reviewed the Ten Commandments and other laws that God had given them. He exhorted them to obey these laws and to teach them to their children. He warned them that if they disobeyed, they would be punished with sickness, defeat, and exile from the land. But he also promised that if they were obedient, they would be blessed with health, success, and longevity in the land.

After reviewing the covenant, Moses blessed the people and then died. Joshua then took over as leader and led the people into the Promised Land. As they began to conquer and settle the land, they remembered Moses’ words and obeyed God’s laws. As a result, they experienced His blessings in their new home.

Moses addressed his remarks to “all Israel” at least 12 times in Deuteronomy to emphasize the country’s oneness. This was achieved through their agreement with God at Mount Sinai and refined in the wilderness. What distinguished Israel from other countries was that they worshiped one God, Yahweh, instead of multiple deities. Their God was one-of-a-kind; none of the other deities worshiped by the neighboring cultures were like Him. In Deuteronomy 6:4, the Shema – the basic confession of faith in Judaism even today – codifies this belief. The verses read, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD [Yahweh] is our God, the LORD [Yahweh] is one!”

Indeed, the covenant between Yahweh and Israel was a two-way street, unlike the covenant God made with Abraham. If the people remained faithful, God would keep His promise to bless the nation. The adult Israelites were too young to have participated in the first covenant ceremony at Mount Sinai, so Moses reviewed the Law. He urged this new generation before they entered the Promised Land to re-covenant with Yahweh and recommit themselves to His ways. By doing so, they would be able to enter into the Promised Land and receive all of His blessings.

How Do We Apply The Lessons in Deuteronomy?

“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life so that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice, and holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days.” (Deuteronomy 30:19–20)

 This verse  implies a relationship with God marked by faithfulness, loyalty, love, and devotion. Moses’s Last words implores the people to choose life by loving God, obeying His voice, and holding fast to Him. To do so, people must recommit their hearts to Him daily.

As modern readers and believers of God, we can apply the lessons of Deuteronomy by remaining faithful to Him no matter what circumstances we face. When we experience His blessings, let us remember to praise and thank Him. And when we go through difficult times, let us turn to Him for comfort and strength. Doing so will show our love for God and our desire to obey Hiscommands. This way, we will experience the abundant life He has promised to us as we remain faithful to Him.

Bottom Line

The Books of Moses, or the Pentateuch—the first five books of the Bible—outline God’s plan for humanity’s redemption from the fall and detail His covenant with His people. The Pentateuch is essential to understanding the rest of Scripture because, through these books, we see God’s character, His love for His people, and His plan of salvation.

If you want to understand the origin stories in the Bible, starting with Genesis, as the beginning section of the five books, is essential. This way, you will easily understand the flow of God’s greatness, covenant, blessings, and even His wrath and judgment. Finally, as you read these books, remember that they are not just a collection of stories—they are God’s stories of redemption.


Sarah Goodwin

A passionate Christian and Bible enthusiast, I find joy in delving deep into Scripture and sharing its timeless wisdom with my readers. Through words, I aspire to illuminate the profound lessons the Bible offers, hoping to inspire faith and purpose in every heart. Join me on a journey of biblical exploration and spiritual growth.Enter your text here...

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