The Old Testament is something of an enigma to the average Christian. Getting a grasp on the chronology of the Old Testament is the solution.
Genesis to Deuteronomy, followed by Joshua, Judges and Ruth is all relatively simple. At the end of 1 Samuel most are still following, but then things get tricky. More than one account of the rest of the OT exists. 1 & 2 Chronicles sound so different to 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings, yet it seems to be the same time period. And when you make it through 2 Chronicles, you’ve still got more than half of the OT ahead of you! Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther seem a little disjointed from everything before, and where do we even begin to place Job, the Psalms and all the many prophets?
The answer is thankfully relatively simple. Here is a basic flow of the entire OT chronology. Everything else in the OT not on this list, fits somewhere in this list.
Genesis takes you from the very first day of Creation to the growing nation of Israel in Egypt (Job fits in between Genesis 11 and 12 probably).
Exodus to Deuteronomy follows on the heels of Genesis bring the nation of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land.
Joshua and Judges are the entry into the Promised Land and the first few generations of Israeli’s in the Land. (Ruth fits in the time of the Judges).
1 Samuel is about the last Judge (Samuel) and the first King (Saul).
2 Samuel is about the second King of Israel (King David) and is paralleled by 1 Chronicles.
1 & 2 Kings are about all the successive kings of Israel, which splits into Israel and Judah, both eventually led off to other lands. This is all paralleled by 2 Chronicles with the life of Daniel taking place near this end.
Then, returning to the Promised land, we read about Ezra (with Esther happening between Ezra 6 and 7) and subsequently also Nehemiah.
So the OT history comes to an end. It is really quite simple.
All of the Psalms, Proverbs and the rest of the Wisdom literature, as well as all the Prophets unfold during the time from 1 Samuel to Nehemiah (with a Psalm or two from Moses, because there are always exceptions to everything right?).
When you read the OT, try to place yourself in the right time period. All the books give you those reference points, even if the book itself isn’t written chronologically. On our Resources Page you can find a Bible reading plan tracing a simple continous history of both the Old and New Testament.