The key to understanding of Old Testament interpretation is to understand why God gave us the Old Testament. This is big…
Old Testament Interpretation
Why do you think God gave us the Old Testament? Was it for historical information? We know that is not true because He doesn’t give us all the historical facts. He doesn’t fill in all the blanks. He definitely picks and chooses parts of history to give us. The purpose is not just so we would have a good history of the people of Israel that leads up to Jesus. That is not the point.
What about for moral lessons? Did He give us the Old Testament for character studies, to teach us about how to be courageous, wise, brave, or strong? Or, did He give us the Old Testament for examples in life? Is that the purpose of the Old Testament?
The last three encapsulate what are probably the primary reasons we give that affect the way we interpret the Old Testament. This is what I mean by that:
Why We Interpret the Old Testament
When we go to the Old Testament, most often we look at the stories, and we use them as moral lessons, character studies, or examples for our lives. It starts when we are children growing up in Sunday school, or Bible study, or whatever it may be. We learn the story of David and Goliath, and we learn to have strength in our battles. We look at Abraham and we learn to have faith. Also, we look at these different characters and we say, “We need to be like them. We should learn from them.”
As I mentioned earlier, I am not saying that it is not good to see some of these characteristics in these people, but I am saying we need to be careful not to make a quick jump from our lives to their lives. God was doing something much broader than just giving us some character studies. These people were playing a unique role in history.
Identifying the Hero
What is interesting when we do Old Testament interpretation and study and begin to look at characters is that we always identify with the hero in the story. Who studies David and Goliath and says, “Now we are the people who are scared to death in the background?” No one says that. You don’t want to be that group of people. We are going to study Cain and Abel – who are you going to choose? We always see ourselves in the role of the hero. Whatever applies to them also applies to us.
We look at Moses, in Exodus 1, and see this baby that is born and is saved from the destruction that is going on around him. We automatically think that God will take care of us, and we equate ourselves with Moses instead of equating ourselves with the countless other Hebrew babies that did not make it through the destruction. What right do we have to identify with Moses and not to identify with the others?
Here we begin to see how we can begin to misinterpret the Old Testament if we don’t have an overall picture of why things unfold the way they do.