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The Old Testament




_____ 1. The word "testament" is closest in meaning to

    A. testimony
    B. covenant
    C. tabernacle
_____ 2. "The memory of the just is blessed: but the name of the wicked shall rot" is a good example of
    A. apocalyptic prophecy
    B. antithetical parallelism
    C. the Deuteronomic view of history
_____ 3. The differences between the two versions of Creation in Genesis can be cited as evidence for the
    A. influence of Babylonian myths on the Bible
    B. centrality of the covenant
    C. documentary hypothesis
_____ 4. Abraham's willingness to kill his son Isaac demonstrates
    A. the Hebrew belief in human sacrifice
    B. Abraham's overly impulsive nature
    C. Abraham's absolute trust in God
_____ 5. The Golden Rule first appears in
    A. the Old Testament
    B. the New Testament
    C. early Greek philosophy
_____ 6. The phrase that comes closest to the meaning of "prophet" in the Old Testament is
    A. a spokesman for God
    B. an opponent of the establishment
    C. one who foretells the future
_____ 7. The Twelve Minor Prophets are called minor because
    A. their books are short
    B. they all came from Asia Minor
    C. later authorities regarded them as unorthodox
_____ 8. Which Jewish holiday is based on the Book of Esther?
    A. Passover
    B. Shavuot
    C. Purim
_____ 9. The prime source of Job's suffering can be found in
    A. original sin
    B. quarrelsome neighbors
    C. a cosmic bet
_____ 10. The description that best fits Jonah is
    A. a seagoing evangelist
    B. a reluctant prophet
    C. the savior of Nineveh

11. Almost every literary form in Western literature can be found in the Hebrew Bible. Discuss.

12. It has been said that God is the only true hero in the Old Testament. Do you agree or disagree?

13. Thomas Henry Huxley called the Scriptures "the greatest instigators of revolt against the worst forms of clerical and political despotism." What evidence from the Old Testament can you cite to support this view?

14. Show how the Old Testament historical books from Judges to 2 Kings express the Deuteronomic view of history.

15. No one who does not know the Scriptures can fully understand the Jewish calendar. Discuss.


_____ 1. Which statements about the Septuagint are true?

    I. It was commissioned by Alexander the Great.
    II. It made the Bible available to Jews who knew little Hebrew.
    III. It led to a cross-fertilization of Hebraic and Hellenic culture.
    IV. It influenced the biblical canon for Roman Catholics.
    A. I, III, and IV only
    B. I, II, and III only
    C. II, III, and IV only
_____ 2. Why do Muslims regard the Old Testament as sacred?
    A. They consider Esau the founder of the Arab nation.
    B. Muslims honor the Hebrew patriarchs as spokesmen for monotheism.
    C. Muhammad read the Bible aloud in public assemblies.
_____ 3. A sign of the Abrahamic covenant is the
    A. killing of the firstborn
    B. circumcision of male infants
    C. rainbow
_____ 4. Which one of the following is not specifically required by the Ten Commandments?
    A. Honor God through regular worship.
    B. Remember the Sabbath day.
    C. Do not covet.
_____ 5. When Moses came down after forty days on Mount Sinai, he found the Israelites
    A. worshiping a golden idol
    B. making sacrifices in honor of his return
    C. preparing to invade the land of Canaan
_____ 6. The Book of Ruth shows the blood ties between
    A. Ruth and David
    B. Ruth and Naomi
    C. Naomi and Boaz
_____ 7. Which statement best reflects Samuel's attitude toward the Israelites' demand for a king?
    A. In favor, because he wanted one of his own sons to be king.
    B. Opposed, because he thought God was the only king the Israelites needed.
    C. Opposed, because he favored a more democratic system.
_____ 8. The first king of Israel was
    A. Samuel
    B. Solomon
    C. Saul
_____ 9. Whom does the Old Testament specifically call maschiach, or Messiah?
    I. David
    II. Elijah
    III. Cyrus of Persia
    IV. Jesus of Nazareth
    A. All of the above
    B. II and IV only
    C. I and III only
_____ 10. The statement "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies" comes from:
    A. the Book of Proverbs
    B. Ecclesiastes
    C. the Book of Esther

11. Monotheism and polytheism are not just different ways of thinking about divine power; they are entirely different ways of looking at the world. Discuss.

12. Assess the reliability of the Pentateuch as a historical document.

13. Trace the development of the idea of the covenant from Noah to Abraham to Moses.

14. Compare the different ways in which Elijah, Jeremiah, and Jonah perceive and fulfill their mission as prophets.

15. For Jews, the Old Testament represents the whole of the Bible; for Christians, the Old Testament is a prelude to the New. Discuss.


  1. B
  2. B
  3. C
  4. C
  5. A
  6. A
  7. A
  8. C
  9. C
  10. B

11. Although much of the Old Testament- not only Genesis but also the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, among others- consists of chronological narrative, the Hebrew Bible contains a tremendous variety of literary forms. Parts of Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy and all of Leviticus comprise an extended law code. The Book of Proverbs is a collection of sayings, and the Book of Psalms is an anthology of hymns of praise to God. Extended poems include Ecclesiastes, a meditation on the cycles of human life; the Song of Songs, a celebration of love; and Lamentations, a sorrowful remembrance of Jerusalem in ruins. Magnificent poetry is also found in the books of the prophets. The books of Esther and Jonah are as tightly written as a short story, while Job reads like a combination of short novel and extended philosophical dialogue. One biblical figure, Jeremiah, has even given his name to a distinctive literary form- the jeremiad, a prolonged tale of woe.

12. In order to agree with the statement, you do not need to argue that the Bible has no human heroes. Certainly there are heroes in the Bible: Abraham the man of faith, Moses the lawgiver, David the poet-king, Solomon the wise, even such prophets as Elijah, Isaiah, Amos, and Jeremiah. The Bible makes clear, however, that these heroes are chosen by God for their heroic mission and remain heroes only to the extent that they express God's will and obey His commands. Especially in the cases of Moses, David, and Solomon, the Bible is not bashful about listing the hero's failings. Angry and frustrated at his faithless followers, Moses disregards the instructions that Yahweh has given him. David sins by committing adultery with Bathsheba and then having her husband killed. Solomon's extravagances oppress the people with heavy taxes and forced labor. One controversial way of disagreeing with the statement is to argue that the Old Testament God who banishes Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, commands Abraham to sacrifice his son, and makes bets with Satan to condemn Job, a righteous man, to unjustified suffering can hardly qualify as a hero. With a God so arbitrary and unapproachable, the true hero is the one who questions and challenges the divine will. Such heroes are Abraham, when pleading with God to spare Sodom; the prophet Habakkuk, in bravely inquiring why God lets the wicked prosper; and Job, who insists on knowing why he has been so cruelly punished.

13. Those who seek to rebel against tyranny find no shortage of examples in the Bible, including Moses, David, and (in the Roman Catholic canon and the Protestant Apocrypha) Judah Maccabee. Central to the history of the Israelites is their enslavement in and liberation from Egypt, which has served as a model for many freedom movements throughout the centuries. Belief in God and in their own special mission inspired the Jews, both in Old Testament times and after, not to bow down to secular and religious authorities. In the first book of Samuel, the prophet denounces in ringing terms the arbitrary use of kingly power; later, when Saul disobeys God's orders, the prophet anoints a new king. In the second book of Samuel, the prophet Nathan fearlessly holds David to account to a law higher than the king's own. Prophets such as Amos and Micah, speaking for God, scoff at priestly rituals if they are not accompanied by true righteousness and justice.

14. The Deuteronomic view of history is that as long as the people and their leaders follow the word of God they will be rewarded, but if they disobey they will be punished. This theme appears in the Book of Judges as a cyclical pattern. When the people turn away from Yahweh- when they go "whoring after other gods" (Judges 2:17) and worship idols- then the Lord sends an enemy to punish them. This punishment leads the people to cry out to God, who then sends new leaders- in the Book of Judges, such charismatic figures as Deborah, Gideon, and Samson- to deliver them from oppression. With deliverance comes prosperity, but with prosperity comes forgetfulness and renewed corruption, and a repetition of the entire cycle. In the books of Samuel and Kings, the sins of the leaders- the disobedience of Saul, David's adulterous affair with Bathsheba, Solomon's love for foreign women and his tolerance of alien cults- lead to conflict within the royal household and to division in the kingdom.

15. The most important holiday of the Jewish calendar is the weekly Sabbath, in keeping with the fourth of the Ten Commandments and in honor of the seventh day of Creation, on which God rested. The roots of the Passover holiday are in Exodus, when the Lord "passes over" the houses of the Israelites, claiming the firstborn only in the houses of the Egyptians. The Book of Esther is read on and commemorated in the Purim holiday, while the Book of Ruth is closely tied to Shavuot, the springtime harvest holiday. The holiday of Chanukah, while not sanctioned by the Hebrew Bible, has its basis in the Books of the Maccabees, which belong to the Roman Catholic canon and the Protestant Apocrypha. The method of counting years in the Jewish calendar is based on an ancient rabbinical calculation of how long ago (according to the Bible) the world began.


  1. C
  2. B
  3. B
  4. A
  5. A
  6. A
  7. B
  8. C
  9. C
  10. A

11. On a personal level, polytheism (belief in many gods) placed the individual at the mercy of a variety of contending powers, seen and unseen, not all of which could be placated at any one time. On the other hand, monotheism, as developed in the Old Testament, placed each individual in command of a world that was created for humanity to rule. At the tribal level, belief in many gods afforded no clear sense of the mission or destiny of a people, since different gods could have divergent purposes. In the Old Testament, however, belief in a single God who had offered them His special protection in exchange for their obedience equipped the Hebrews with a powerful way of looking at the world and their mission in it. At a universal level, polytheism implied a world in which rival tribes and their rival gods would exist in a state of perpetual competition. But the developing Old Testament idea of one God and one judgment for all humanity opened the way to the messianic belief in an era of universal peace.

12. The value of the Pentateuch as history is a sensitive and controversial problem. Unquestionably, there are statements in the Five Books of Moses that would be disputed by a great majority of scientists and archaeologists. The statement in Genesis that the world was made in only six days is at odds with the fossil and geological record, which measures in billions and millions of years the age of the earth and the presence of life upon it. The statement in Exodus and elsewhere that over 600,000 adult male Israelites left Egypt is difficult to square with Egyptian documents that mention no such event. Many biblical places, such as Kadesh-barnea, have been located, but many others, including Mount Ararat and Mount Sinai, have not. Various traditionalist answers to this problem include discounting the validity of the scientific and archaeological evidence that conflicts with the Bible, interpreting the text symbolically where the literal sense clashes with established fact, and expressing the faith that "when all the facts are in" the Bible will prove to be the true Word of God. Most modern biblical commentators accept the findings of scholars in other disciplines and do not seek to treat the Bible as an infallible guide to history and science.

13. The covenant of Noah is a pledge by God never again to destroy the world; no obligations are imposed on Noah or his descendants as a result of it. The sign of the covenant with Noah is the rainbow after a rainstorm. The covenant of Abraham, renewed with Isaac and Jacob, pledges God to make of Abraham and his descendants a great nation, and to give them their own land in Canaan. In general, the obligations imposed on Abraham and his posterity are faith in and obedience to Yahweh. The sign of this covenant- the circumcision of male infants- is also the first specific requirement imposed on the people of Israel. The covenant of Moses, acknowledged by the people of Israel at Mount Sinai, binds God to preserve the people of Israel as long as they agree to receive the divine commandments, live by them, and teach them to their children. The signs of this covenant are the tablets of the law.

14. The fundamental mission of a prophet is to act as a spokesman for God. Elijah, who prophesies in the ninth century B.C., is moved by an irrepressible zeal for the Lord. In a time when Israel's political leaders seek accommodation with the nation's pagan neighbors, he exposes the prophets of the fertility cults as frauds and proves Yahweh to be the real miracle worker. Jeremiah also is steadfast for the Lord, but for his prophecies of destruction, uttered in the late seventh and early sixth centuries B.C., the civil authorities have him flogged, tried for blasphemy, and thrown into prison. He views the task of prophecy as a painful burden he cannot give up. Jonah, who prophesies after the Babylonian Exile, regards the calling of the Lord as such a chore that he tries to shirk it. He ultimately fulfills his prophetic task not by zeal or strength of will but because the Lord will not let him escape his mission.

15. Taken literally, the statement is true, since no "complete" Jewish edition of the Bible includes the Christian Scriptures, while every "complete" Christian edition of the Bible starts with the Old Testament and ends with the New. You might want to point out, however, that the statement applies mainly to matters of religious belief; for purposes of scholarship and literary understanding, Christians can and do attempt to study the Old Testament on its own terms, in the context of ancient Israelite culture, just as Jews seek to understand the New Testament in its historical context. The rabbis who definitively established the Hebrew canon after the destruction of the Second Temple in A.D. 70 were influenced by the belief that divine inspiration had stopped after Ezra, in the fifth century B.C. The early Christians, on the other hand, saw the advent of Jesus five centuries later as God's most profound revelation to humanity. They did not reject the Hebrew Scriptures, with which many of them were well familiar; instead, they sought to reinterpret the ancient texts in the light of their own religious experiences. This difference in outlook is most evident in the treatment of the Old Testament passages prophesying the coming of a Messiah. Jewish authorities after the time of Jesus continued to view such prophecies as a promise of a great age that had not yet arrived, while Christian commentators interpreted many such texts as having been fulfilled by the coming of Christ Jesus.

[The Old Testament Contents]


    Compare and contrast the following pairs of characters, considering not only their personality traits but also the role each character plays in the Old Testament narrative.
    1. Jacob and Esau
    2. Moses and Aaron
    3. Samuel and Saul
    4. David and Solomon
    Each of the following has been the subject of much critical controversy. Summarize the conflicting views on each topic and then offer your own interpretation, based on a careful analysis of the biblical text.
    1. How "fortunate" was the fall of Adam and Eve?
    2. God, Abraham, and the binding of Issac
    3. David as a rebel
    4. Solomon's reign- triumph or disaster?
    5. The character of God in the Book of Job
    6. Women and men of the Bible- a feminist interpretation
    Analyze in detail the meaning and development in the Old Testament of a concept central to Hebrew belief.
    1. Monotheism
    2. Covenants and the meaning of "chosenness"
    3. Messianism
    4. Sacrifices, priesthood, and the Temple
    5. The role of the prophet
    Trace the influence of the Old Testament on subsequent developments in religion and the arts.
    1. The Old Testament and the New
    2. Hebrew belief and the teachings of Muhammad
    3. The Hebrew Bible and the Protestant Reformation
    4. The King James Version and English literature
    5. Old Testament characters in art and/or music
    Assess the impact of the Old Testament on contemporary life and thought.
    1. The Book of Genesis and modern science
    2. Zionism and the Old Testament
    3. The documentary hypothesis and its critics
    4. Archaeology and the Bible
    5. Implications of the Dead Sea Scrolls


ECC [The Old Testament Contents] []

© Copyright 1986 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
Electronically Enhanced Text © Copyright 1993, World Library, Inc.
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