Well, now the Bible is no small book. And since I will not remember the early books very well by the time I finish Revelation, I figured I’d review them in sections. Since it took me two weeks to read the Pentateuch, it seemed like a good point to write a review of it.
Pentateuch – The Pentateuch consists of five (hence, “penta”) books, namely, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Genesis concerns just that, the genesis or beginning.
Most are pretty familiar with the stories in Genesis. Adam and Eve, Noah, and Abraham are all well known, so there isn’t too much unfamiliar about the book. I did find it mildly amusing that God gives only plants to mankind to eat at creation but after the flood gives him animals as well. So are we therefore mandated to be carnivores and not vegetarians? I can’t say as I would find this argument a strong one even if someone wanted to use it, but I did find it amusing. I was also happy to read about Rebekah, who I feel is a most overlooked strong female character in the Old Testament. Unlike her husband Isaac, with whom God has his covenant, she alone understands God’s plan for her twin sons. It could be considered deception that she aids Jacob in taking the blessing of the first born, but Genesis 25:23 says that the LORD said to her that she had two nations struggling within her womb and “the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.” Here God does not reveal his plan to Isaac but only to Rebekah, to a woman. And so she acts accordingly. Isn’t it fantastic that for all those feminists who faint at the word [whispering] “patriarchy,” here you have, in the heart of the beginning of the patriarchs of the Old Testament (OT) there is a woman blessed to not only hear the voice of God but be told of his plan as well. I must say it made her one of my favorite females in the Pentateuch.
Exodus follows God’s freeing of his people from Egypt and forming his covenant with them. I noticed as I progressed to Exodus, after God uses Moses and frees the Israelites from Egypt that what was considered morally acceptable by God gets narrowed and fine-tuned. What was acceptable for Abraham doesn’t necessarily please God by the time Moses is in charge. While I certainly knew the Israelites were an unruly bunch, I was pleasantly surprised at how often Moses not only pleads on behalf of his people, but in fact prostrates himself and begs for mercy on their behalf even while God is offering Moses his own kingdom if he will let God destroy the Israelites. I had to sympathize with Moses as the people argue and complain nonstop even after seeing pillars of smoke and fire, walking through the Red Sea, seeing the plagues God brings on Egypt and seeing water flow from rocks. They are like children whining and complaining no matter what is done for them. Of course, I cannot criticize them but remember that this was a different time and a more primitive way of thinking about life and about God. Overall I enjoyed Exodus except for all those specifications on the building of the ark, the tent of meeting, the lampstand, etc. that read like stereo instructions. Ugh.
Leviticus focuses primarily on the order of priests that is set up for Israel in its covenant. I found Leviticus somewhat boring at all the specifications of offerings, etc. All I will say is every priest today should thank God that he is not a priest from the Old Testament. If anyone thought the rules of the RCC today to be tough, imagine the ones of then not to mention how bloody and violent all those sacrifices were! Yuck!
By Numbers I found myself pleasantly surprised. Numbers did include some of the repitition of the offerings, etc. But overall I found it quite enjoyable continuing the history of Israel and all their grumblings in the desert. It read very much like a historical novel but with the significance of truth in God’s love for his people. I also loved Balaam’s donkey. I want a talking donkey now! Imagine if when you left your house your dog always diverted you from danger and then when you got frustrated proceeded to talk to you about what it was doing. Too cool.
Deuteronomy I found to be probably the most difficult book in the Pentateuch to read. It was like a recap of the previous three books. I felt like I was reading the Cliff’s Notes to the previous three books. It also seemed to not only repeat the previous books, but repeat itself a few times. Out of all five books, this one took me the longest to read and gave me the hardest time.
Overall I found the Pentateuch quite enjoyable and despite its slower parts, it should be read by everyone at least once. It is a testament in itself to God’s love for man and his aching desire for us to be one with him in trust and virtue. Trusting God and faithfulness in Him are central themes of the whole Bible that spans from the beginning unto the end and I think if people could get this much from the Bible, the rest would fall into place.