It is very striking that we have the first five books in our Bible, Genesis to Deuteronomy, in the particular order, and for a reason also. The names of these books have meanings, and the meanings will help unravel the reason as to why they are in this particular order, why Genesis is first, then Exodus, and so on. These are known as the five books of the Law of Moses, also known as the Pentateuch – Penta means five.
Genesis is a Greek word, meaning ‘origin’, ‘source’, or a better word is ‘beginning.’ Therefore, it is quite fitting that Genesis is the first book of the Bible, just by its meaning. We have in Genesis an introduction as to Who God is – the Creator of the earth and all its fullness. The time span of the events in Genesis reaches over more than 2000 years, from about 4004 BC to about 1804 BC.
If we look at chapters 1- 11, this in itself is a period of about 1914 years, with all the generations from Adam through to Noah. Then from chapters 12-50 there is a period of about 286 years. Why is that the case? Because in the first 11 chapters, we have people from Adam to Noah living for an average of 900 years, with the exception of Methuselah, who lived for 969 years, the oldest man in the Bible. The other exception is Enoch, who lived for 365 years, and then he was taken up, being the youngest man in the Bible, with Abel the exception. Noah himself lived 950 years, so all these people lived very long lives until after the flood.
Now we come to chapters 12-50, starting with the call of Abraham. This section gives an account of the patriarchs of the Jewish nation, Israel. When God revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush, He said in Exodus 3:6, “And he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look at God.” The other thing in Genesis is that we see the lives of seven different people. In Adam, there is a figure of life and death. God breathed in him life, but figuratively speaking, Adam died when he sinned against God. He was separated from God. We also see in the New Testament that Christ is the ‘second’ or ‘last’ Adam. The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:45, “Thus also it is written, The first man Adam became a living soul; the last Adam a quickening spirit.” Adam is also a type of the Lord Jesus who was to come (Romans 5:14).
We then go to the next person, Enoch. He was the seventh seed from Adam (Jude 14). Enoch may be a type of the Lord Jesus in that both ascended or were taken up to heaven (Genesis 5:24; Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9). Enoch is also a striking example of the Church (true believers in Christ), in that he did not go through the flood, so the Church will not go through the great tribulation (Revelation 3:10).
Noah is the third person to consider. He was the eighth person (2 Peter 2:5) saved from the flood in the ark that he built. Whereas Enoch represents the Church, Noah represents the remnant that will be saved during the great tribulation and receive the earthly blessing (Genesis 8-9; Revelation 21).
The fourth person is Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel. We have the account of his calling by God in Genesis 12, and in Abraham we see faith and separation. He had faith when he left his country, not knowing where he was going (Hebrews 11:8). Abraham was also separated from the evils around him, just as we too need to separate ourselves from the world and all its evils.
Isaac, Abraham’s promised son, is a type of the Lord Jesus in submission to his father. We have before us in the wonderful chapter of Genesis 22 Abraham, a picture of God the Father, with Isaac, a picture of God the Son (the Lord Jesus). Figuratively speaking, Isaac died – ‘to the world.’ God the Father sent the Son to die for the sins of the world, not sparing Him (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 8:32). We are also to die to the world, and not live according to our own selves (Galatians 2:20).
We then come to Jacob, Isaac’s son, speaking to us of discipline and restoration. God dealt with Jacob according to how Jacob dealt with others, for example, Jacob deceived his father (Genesis 27), therefore, God disciplined him in that his uncle, Laban, also deceived him and made him labour for the woman he so loved (Genesis 29). Therefore, we have the principle that whatever a man sows, that he will also reap (Galatians 6:7). However, Jacob did confess his failures and then he was restored. How gracious is God?!
Genesis closes with the last person, Joseph (Genesis 37-50). Joseph speaks to us of a godly man (the true believer in Christ today) who suffers, but then is exalted. Therefore, we see a full picture of the Lord Jesus in Joseph – rejected by his brothers and hated, sold for silver coins, suffered at the hands of the Gentile people, but then resurrected and exalted. So, we see the theme that a Christian will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12), but will be exalted (Romans 8:18; 1 Peter 4:12-13). It is also worthwhile to consider that all these people mentioned, with the exception of Joseph (Jacob’s son) are all ancestors of the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 3:23-38). What a blessed fact!
The author of Genesis is Moses, but one might wonder, ‘how did Moses write Genesis when he hadn’t been born yet?’ There is one clear answer. When Moses was with God at the burning bush (Exodus 3), he went back to the Israelites after 40 years. While we don’t have a record about what happened, we can be sure that God directed him and inspired him to write the book of Genesis. When God introduced Himself to Moses, he did not have a clue as to who were Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Therefore, God would have pointed out to Moses His glory and greatness, and all the history in the book of Genesis. While we cannot be sure if this happened, we can assume it did happen, because why would Moses spend 40 years in one place? It was God’s purpose.
We now come to the book of Exodus. The word ‘Exodus’ means ‘going out.’ The Greek title means ‘Book of Departure.’ We have a continuance in Exodus, from where Genesis ended, “And all the souls that had come out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls; and Joseph was in Egypt. And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation. And the children of Israel were fruitful, and swarmed and multiplied, and became exceeding strong; and the land was full of them. And there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” (Exodus 1:5-8).
The time span of the events of the book of Exodus reaches to about 430 years after the end of Genesis, the time that the Israelites spent in Egypt under bondage. Therefore, the events in Exodus occurred sometime from around 1804 BC to about 1444 BC.
In Exodus 1-18 we see God’s marvellous work of redemption from bondage, or slavery. Now the Israelites were in Egypt, a picture of the world. Pharaoh speaks to us of Satan, controlling the system of the world. This is a figure of us, who once were sinners and in bondage to sin and Satan, but have been redeemed by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 Peter 1:18- 19). There was no hope for Israel in Egypt, so they thought, considering themselves dead. We too were dead in our sins and trespasses, but have been made alive in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:1-9) by His wonderful grace. Two chapters in Exodus present a clear type of Christ. The first is the Passover lamb in chapter 12, its blood a type of the precious blood of Christ, redeeming us from the guilt of our sins. The second chapter is that of the crossing of the Red Sea in Exodus 14, speaking of the salvation we have upon believing that Christ died for our sins and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Once saved, we are free from bondage, and also free from the power of death. After we have been saved, we still have responsibilities, as the children of Israel from chapter 19 onward. The Christian life requires responsibilities, and by not obeying the Word of God, we put ourselves under discipline (Hebrews 12:5-11), but NOT under judgment.
Again, the author of Exodus is Moses, inspired by God. Biblical writers have attributed Exodus to Moses, for example, see Malachi 4:4; John 1:45 and 1 Corinthians 10:1-4. Having set before us the book of Genesis as the book of beginnings, it is fitting that the book of Exodus should come second. Exodus is the book of redemption, and redeemed people of God, going out of the world into the place of blessing.
Following Exodus is the book of Leviticus. This book is named for Levi, meaning ‘joined’ or ‘attached.’ God’s people came out of Egypt, crossed the Red Sea joined together, therefore, God wants them to worship Him together, in unity. The time span of the events in Leviticus reaches about one month, straight after the events in Exodus, perhaps in the same year. This book shows us the Holy of Holies, God’s sanctuary. Perhaps one reason why Leviticus is the third book is that the number three is the number of the Godhead trinity, the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. The other reason is that once the children of Israel have been redeemed, they wanted to worship the God who redeemed them. Therefore, we have in this wonderful book God’s Law, a shadow of the good things to come (Hebrews 10:1).
People often skip the book of Leviticus when reading the books of the Law. Their reason is this, ‘why should I? These things don’t concern me at all. Besides, I’m not under the Law anymore, I live in the time of grace.’ However, Leviticus is in the Word of God, and every Scripture is divinely inspired and profitable for us (2 Timothy 3:16). The Lord Jesus is seen throughout the book of Leviticus. Firstly, the four offerings in chapter 1- chapter 6:7 are all types of Christ in His work on the cross. I wrote that there are four offerings because the sin and trespass offerings are very closely related, and there is hardly any difference between them. A trespass is a sin. These four offerings represent Christ is four different aspects, which is why we have four Gospels in the New Testament, each offering connecting with one Gospel.
The high priest in chapter 16 is also a type of the Lord Jesus, the great High Priest, the major theme in the New Testament book of Hebrews. The seven feasts of chapter 23 are also types of Christ. The Passover speaks of the substitutionary death of the Lamb of God. Christ died on the day of Passover (John 18:39- 40; John 19). Unleavened Bread speaks of the holy walk of the believer (1 Corinthians 5:6-8). Firstfruits speak of Christ’s resurrection as the firstfruits of the resurrection of all believers (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). Pentecost speaks of the descent of the Holy Spirit after Christ’s ascension (Acts 2). Trumpets, the Day of Atonement and Tabernacles all speak of events associated with the second coming of Christ. However, God did not want the children of Israel to do all this just for rituals, but the most important purpose is that of drawing near to God in holy worship, the great theme of Leviticus. Again, there is no doubt that Moses wrote the book of Leviticus.
We now come to the book of Numbers. This book is fourth because the number four is the number of the earth. On the fourth day of Creation, God created the material things of the earth. The fourth commandment in Exodus 20 concerns rest from all labour on the earth. In the book of Daniel, four earthly kingdoms are prophesied (chapters 2 and 7). Finally, the fourth book (Numbers) is the book of the wilderness journey on earth.
After having before us God’s sanctuary and His holiness and glory in the book of Leviticus, the children of Israel went out and continued their journey in the wilderness, speaking of the world. Now, as pilgrims in the wilderness, the children of Israel were supposed to be witnesses, having known the glory and holiness of God from the book of Leviticus. We too, having been redeemed by the blood of Christ (Exodus), knowing the glory and holiness of God and worshipping Him (Leviticus), we are to be witnesses to the outside people in our journey in the wilderness world (Numbers). Again, the Lord Jesus is shown in the book of Numbers.
Before I mention the types of Christ in Numbers, the time span of the events of the book of Numbers reaches approximately 40 years, the time that the children of Israel spent wandering in the wilderness because of their rebellion. This would be from about 1444 BC to about 1404 BC.
We have in Numbers 6 the characteristics of a Nazarite, finding their full exemplification in Jesus of Nazareth. The next main picture is in Numbers 17 when Aaron’s rod budded, blossomed and yielded almonds. This speaks of Christ who was cut off from the land of the living, and in His resurrection, has brought forth fruits, which declare that His priesthood is of God and forever (Hebrews 7). Then the sacrifice of the red heifer in chapter 19 is a type of Christ’s work on the cross. Then all the world with its things great and small, and its glory is crucified to the believer (Galatians 6:14). We then go to Numbers 21, when Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the wilderness. The Lord Himself referred to this in John 3:14, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, thus must the Son of man be lifted up.” This is a picture of the death of Christ on the cross.
Finally, in Balaam’s prophecy of a Star coming out of Jacob, we have a figure of the Saviour. Balaam was a false prophet who was ordered by Balak to curse Israel (Numbers 22), but by the force of God, he spoke this word in Numbers 24:17, “I shall see him, but not now; I shall behold him, but not nigh: There cometh a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and he shall cut in pieces the corners of Moab, and destroy all the sons of tumult.”
We now come to the last of the five books of the Law, the book of Deuteronomy. This book is a review of what God has done for Israel, a review of the Law, and preparation to enter into the Promised Land. The reason that it is the fifth book is that the number five speaks of human responsibility. We have in Exodus 20 the Ten Commandments in two sets of five. The first set is human responsibilities toward God, and the second set is human responsibilities toward men. God made a covenant with the children of Israel in chapter 28, but they had a responsibility to God. We too have a responsibility to God, knowing that we have heavenly blessings.
The time span of the events of the book of Deuteronomy reaches about one month, just like in Leviticus. The time was about 1404 BC, at the end of the forty-year journey, when the new generation was on the verge of entering Canaan under Joshua and Caleb. The clearest picture of Christ in Deuteronomy is in chapter 18:15, “Jehovah thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him shall ye hearken.” The apostle Peter said this in Acts 3:20-26 when preaching to the multitudes, was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Moses is a picture of Christ in many ways, as he is the only biblical figure other than Christ Himself to fill the three offices of prophet (Deuteronomy 34:10-12), priest (Exodus 32:31- 35), and king (although he was not king, he functioned as ruler of Israel (Deuteronomy 33:4-5).
Both Moses and Christ were in danger of death at birth, both are saviours and intercessors, and both have been rejected by their brethren.
In concluding the books of the Law, we have seen why they are in the order that they appear in. We have also examined the main types and pictures of Christ in each of the books of the Law, as they all point out to Christ Himself, the greatest theme in the Bible.