top of page

What is The Old Testament?

Updated: Dec 2, 2021

Webster's 1828 Dictionary states an excellent definition of what the word Testament means. "The name of each general division of the canonical books of the sacred Scriptures; as the Old Testament; the New testament - The name is equivalent to covenant, and in our use of it, we apply it to the books which contain the old and new dispensations; that of Moses, and that of Jesus Christ." (Websters Dictionary, 1828)(Bold lettering is mine).

2 Corinthians 3:14 "But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.

Did you know that The Old Testament is not a collection of books or even sacred texts. Nowhere in the scripture does God ever refer to the books of scripture as a Testament. The Old Testament is what the book of Hebrews states was a Covenant made with the Children of Israel concerning the keeping of the law given to Moses on Mt. Sinai.

Here are the two accounts of how the events surrounding the giving of the law unfolded. These are often missed, and are incredibly important:

Exo 19:1-6 "In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai. For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount. And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and [how] I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth [is] mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These [are] the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel."


Exodus 24:1-8 "And he said unto Moses, Come up unto the LORD, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off. And Moses alone shall come near the LORD: but they shall not come nigh; neither shall the people go up with him. And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do. And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the LORD. And Moses took half of the blood, and put [it] in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled [it] on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words."

In light of the previous passages of scripture, please allow me to discuss some details of the Old Covenant.

The Old Covenant, or Testament, was made between the Children of Israel and God. This is unique because it was, at it's core, a business transaction between a certain group of people and God. This deal was made upon some pretty faulty promises, but the fault was not on God's end of the deal. The fault was on man's end. They promised to keep the entire law. Unfortunately this did not happen.

The blood that sealed the covenant was the blood of oxen. In God's economy, blood is the only thing that really seals a deal. It's also what had to be shed to forgive the trespasses of the Old Testament Law. I am so glad that when God made the better promise of The New Testament (Covenant), He made it in Jesus’ blood and not the blood of bulls and goats. When the people came to make this deal with God, Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on everything God told him to: the people, the tabernacle, and The Law. This of course signifying that the covenant was sealed until a better Covenant was made in the very blood of God (Hebrews 9:19-28).

This covenant was made with a certain group of people: The Children of Israel. (This may seem fairly redundant, but I wish to make a separate point than the one made above.) It was not made with all of humanity. Some people would love to teach that this Covenant applies to all of mankind. They would be wrong. This Covenant was made with the people of Israel. Allow me to share an illustration that would put this into perspective. Imagine, if you will, that you are buying a house. You go with your spouse to the lawyer's office and just after you, the lawyer and the realtor sign all of the papers, someone walks in and takes the keys to the house off of the table, drives to your house and moves their stuff in. This is what gentiles enjoy doing to the law and the Old Covenant. The book of Colossians says that as a gentile, I was never even invited to this covenant! Ephesians 2:11-13 "Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ." It's a good thing I have a better promise to which I cling. It is not my promise to perform in a certain way for God, but the promise of Jesus Christ and His finished work!

The Old Covenant was for a certain purpose – to sanctify unto the Lord a peculiar people. He separated these people from everyone else on earth by the rules and restrictions they kept and adhered to. Now we are separated by the blood of Christ and our faith in what God has done for us. 1 Corinthians 6:11 "And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."

The Old Covenant was not perfect. Hebrews 7:19 "For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God." Let us not exalt it above the level that God places it at. Let's celebrate what Jesus has done for us in regard to The New Covenant and what He has for us here and now, and in the world to come.

Post: Blog2_Post

Thanks for submitting!

Excited about the message of The Gospel Perspective? Donate here! 

bottom of page