Don't be tempted to separate the Old and New Testaments as if they are unrelated or contain stories of two different gods. God is the same in the Old and New Testaments and both work together to tell one grand story of His character, His plan, and His truth.
Plenty of authors contribute to the 39 books in the Old Testament. Most Bibles are not compiled in chronological order, but each book does tie together.Many are easier to read than others, several detailed, few are wonderfully poetic, and a hearty portion include great historical references. I've given a brief description of each section and shared why I believe time is worth dedicating to devouring each portion of Scripture.
The Pentateuch - (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy - also known as the Torah) The first five books of the Old Testament cover creation, when/how sin enters the world, how God feels about it, the Israelites being chosen as God's people, the Ten Commandments, and the agonizing journey to the Promised Land.
Why read it? You'll see the power and holiness of God, understand the sin of this world, and see the covenant between God and His people lived out and under pressure. The Pentateuch is full of incredible stories from the fathers of our faith with a few duller moments (Numbers, for instance), but here is where God's holiness and justice are established.
Historical Books - (Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I & II Samuel, I & II Kings, I & II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther) These books tell the story of the Israelites as a nation under priests, prophets, and judges until they beg for a king. The story continues under kingdom rule beginning with a unified Israel ultimately leading to a split nation. The books tell the story of each king and corresponding prophet, then follow the scattering of Israelites due to enemy rule and the emotional return to their home country.
Why read it? History unfolds from a unique perspective, in relation to the world's Deliverer. God's enduring love shines brightly in these pages where mankind is fickle, forgetful, and foolish.
Major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel) Read more in depth the laments of the prophets and the backlash they experience. Working for God is not glamorous, but obedience and reverence drives them. Generational sin is exposed, God boasts LOUDLY about who He is and what He can do.
Why read it? The boldness of these men is inspiring. God is patient while watching His people disgrace His name and world. It's eerily close to present day.
Minor Prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi) The Lord uses people to warn those He loves of consequences for their choices. Sadly, few, if any, change their ways. Witness God longing for His people, utilizing and refining messengers along the way, and holy discipline when we don’t live according to His ways.
Why read it? Understand consequences are real, not desired for anyone, but inevitable for everyone who ignores God's wisdom. Faithful men do the work of God and go unappreciated. It's many people's stories. Relate, realize how you rebel, and be reminded of God's pursuit of His loved ones.
Wisdom Books. (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon) Job suffers tragedy and endures terrible advice from friends before getting corrected by God Himself. Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes are heavy hitting journey entries - easy reads that relate to every day. Song of Solomon is a provocative love story teaching readers of intimacy, lust, and commitment.
Why read it? Tragedy, foolish friends, emotional outbursts, despair, love, joy, and perspective are all part of this group. Demonstrated in these books is what commitment to God and an authentic relationship with the Almighty in daily life means. These books are challenging, rewarding, informative, and inspiring.
God’s faithfulness and desire to reconcile His people to Himself is consistent throughout the Old Testament. After mankind refuses to listen to the LORD and His prophets, there is an estimated period of silence from God toward His people of 400 years. This is the dramatic backdrop to the New Testament.