The Pentateuch

The Old Testament begins with the Torah - or Pentateuch - which has five books.

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The Old Testament begins with the Torah or Pentateuch, which has five books:

The Book of Genesis

Purports to cover all human history from creation to the death of Joseph (the one with the dreamcoat) in Egypt. It then turns its attention to the story of Abraham and the other Patriarchs, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.


The name Exodus comes from the Greek language and means a going out, a marching out or a solemn procession. All three meanings can be discerned in the rescue by God of some Hebrew slaves from Egypt.


Leviticus is a Latin word, which comes from the name of one of the sons of Jacob, Levi. He was the ancestor of all priests and their attendants (Levites) who served leading roles in the people’s worship of God. It is a law book, bringing together laws governing sacrifices of all kinds.


Numbers adds more laws and continues the story of what is happening in the desert. Twice in this book, a census or numbering of the people is taken. Hence the name.


In Deuteronomy, there are three great sermons of Moses encouraging the people to remain faithful to their God and to the way of life to which they have been called. There are further lists of laws, concerning justice, the care of the poor and strangers. There are laws concerning proper sexual relations and divorce. Joshua is commissioned to lead the people into the Promised Land.


Download the introduction to the Pentateuch.