Why should we study the Old Testament?

Have you ever read or watched a sequel before reading or watching the original? If the story continues into the second book or movie, it can be difficult to figure out what's going on in the plot. If you don’t know what happened in the first one, you'll find yourself pretty confused. In the same way, the Old Testament helps us to better understand the New Testament and, therefore, should not be ignored! Here are five key reasons to study the Old Testament:


Reason #1: To UNDERSTAND God's Plan

The Bible is divided into two large parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament consists of the first 39 books of the Bible and is a record of God’s interactions with humankind from creation until just before the time of Jesus.

The word "testament" literally means "covenant." A covenant is an agreement between two parties, and the Old Testament serves as a record of covenants (agreements) between God and specific people or groups of people. God used the lives of these individuals or groups to further His purposes before the coming of Jesus.

A large portion of the Old Testament teaches us about God’s provision for the forgiveness of sin in the time before Jesus. Before Jesus, forgiveness of sin required the intervention of priests and the shedding of blood from an innocent, sacrificial animal (Numbers 15:25-27; Leviticus 4:31). Unbeknownst to the people at the time, many generations later, this practice would point to Jesus—the ultimate sacrifice who shed His blood for the payment of sin (Hebrews 9:22).

When Jesus came, He did not do away with the Old Testament law, rather He perfectly fulfilled it. This means that He was the final sacrifice for the sin of the world—one sacrifice for all people (Matthew 5:17; Hebrews 10:14). With His sacrifice, Jesus instituted a new covenant through His own perfect blood (Luke 22:20). This is why we have the New Covenant (New Testament). People are no longer required to sacrifice animals to have their sins forgiven; now we turn to Jesus and believe in His sacrifice for our salvation (John 1:12).

We need the Old Testament in order to fully understand the powerful events of the New Testament. The Old Testament lays the foundation for the New Testament because the Bible is a progressive revelation. This means that God revealed His plan bit by bit, over time, starting in the Old Testament. Each testament helps to explain the other—concerning their events, characters, laws, sacrificial systems, covenants, promises, etc. Even though we have the New Covenant (New Testament), we still need to study the Old Testament to understand the full scope of God’s plan.

Reason #2: To MARVEL at God’s Plan

Roughly 4,000 years passed from the time Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden to the time that Jesus came into this world to be the Savior for all humanity. While God could have chosen to wait until Jesus came before revealing His plan through the authors of the Bible, God wanted to prepare the hearts of those who were waiting for salvation from the original sin. Instead of leaving everyone in the dark about His plan, He gave them revelations about their coming Savior so they could know about Him, anticipate His coming, and watch for His arrival.

In the Old Testament, we can read over 300 prophecies (or predictions) about Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection—and they ALL came true. The fulfillment of these prophecies was not something that could have aligned by accident or that anyone could have made happen on their own. They were very specific and happened generations after the prophecies were written.

Only God could accurately state what was going to happen in the future. Only God had the power to make the prophecies come true. Some of these prophecies were about where and how the Savior would be born, what family He would be born into, what He was going to do, how He was going to die, and that He would come back to life after being murdered.

The fact that these events were recorded in the Old Testament hundreds to thousands of years before they happened is proof that the Bible is truly God’s inspired Word, that it is trustworthy, and that Jesus is the promised Savior. The Old Testament leaves us AMAZED at God’s marvelous plan.

Reason #3: To KNOW the History of the World

The Old Testament is a record of God's relationship with His whole Creation from the beginning of time until the end of time. Specifically, it highlights God’s chosen people, the Jews, and narrates the lives those who followed God and those who went their own way and what happened.

  • Joseph and Daniel were young men who followed God and did not give into the pressure from those around them to do wrong. (See Genesis 37-50 and the book of Daniel.)
  • Ruth and Esther were women who were bold enough to follow God—even when that meant leaving their family/country. They were used by and blessed by God for their obedience. (See the books of Ruth and Esther.)
  • Jonah was a prophet who was fearful, angry, and resistant to God. His disobedience almost cost him his life when he was swallowed by a giant fish! (See the book of Jonah.)

One of the reasons God has given us the Old Testament is so we can learn from the examples of others—their victories, their stumblings, and their failures. The Old Testament also reveals important truths about God and His character. We get to see God's faithfulness, love, justice, mercy, and grace enacted in real situations, which can help us understand Him more. Since God is unchanging, His attributes will always stay the same. When we know the history of our great God, that can help give us confidence for the future.


The very first book in the Old Testament is Genesis. This word means "beginnings" and details many different beginnings including the creation of the world (Genesis 1-2), the entrance of sin and its consequences (Genesis 3), the first promise of a Savior from the fatal consequences of sin (Genesis 3:15), the first family (i.e. Adam and Eve, plus their children, grandchildren, etc.), the first murder (Genesis 4:8), the beginning of languages (Genesis 11:9), the Patriarchs (heads) of the Jewish people, and more.

Studying the Old Testament helps to lay the foundation for understanding key biblical concepts like creation, sin, and salvation. The Old Testament also lays the foundation for our understanding of the law, which reveals that we are unable to perfectly fulfill God’s standard of holiness (Galatians 3:24). This understanding points us toward the New Testament when the perfect Savior would come to fulfill the law once and for all (Matthew 5:17-20).

Some may feel that the Old Testament is outdated, unimportant, or unrelatable. But that’s simply not true! Jesus continually quoted the Old Testament and taught people from it all throughout His ministry. He perfectly fulfilled the law of the Old Testament and the hundreds of prophecies made about Him.

Ultimately, we should study the Old Testament because it is God’s Word.

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." —2 Timothy 3:16-17



Some may feel that the Old Testament is outdated, unimportant, or unrelatable. But that’s simply not true! The Old Testament is very important to study because it helps us understand the overarching history of God's Creation, the fall of humanity to sin, and God's plan for redeeming us from our sin. God chose to reveal His plan over time, starting in the Old Testament, and this story spans the entire Bible—from Genesis to Revelations. Both Old and New Testaments point to each other, showing how everything is connected between major events, pivotal characters, God's laws, sacrificial systems, covenants, promises, principles, and more. Knowing the Old Testament helps understand and be amazed at God’s plan as fully realized in the New Testament. The whole Bible is God’s Word and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Writer: Hanna S.

Hanna loves spending time with kids and teens. She enjoys being detectives with them to investigate God's Word to discover truths to answer any questions. She is the co-author of a newly published apologetics curriculum for children and teaches one online for highschoolers-adults. To learn more about her ministry you can visit networkerstec.com. For fun, she likes to play Ultimate Frisbee, read historical fiction, and paint.

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