Every Christian should memorize the books of the Old Testament. The Bible is the word of God. It chronicles the journey of faith for those who love God and are loved by God. The Bible is filled with testimonies, instruction, guidance, worship, and hope. It is foundational to knowing God. If a book is that important, then we need to make memorizing the order of the books a priority so that we are better equipped to use the Bible.
It is helpful to memorize the books of the Old Testament when we realize that there is a structure to the Old Testament. There are collections of books that are held together by common themes or types. On the library shelves, we will find that history books are together. In the same way, there is a special section for the poetry books. So it is with the Old Testament as well. These groups can be very beneficial in memorizing the sets of books, but also in understanding the Old Testament as a whole.
How to memorize the books of the Old Testament? I am going to share with you the strategy that I have used for years in Sunday School and with my children to help them. (To be honest, this is how I finally cemented them into my memory too!)
The Old Testament is divided into five groups: Law, History, Poetry, Major Prophets, and Minor Prophets. Help your child/student notice this organization. There are wonderful images out there to use to help children visualize these groups. We are going to break our memorization goal down into chunks based off of these five major groups.
Introduce each section and repeat that section, with intensity and frequency, until it is mastered by the group/child. The, add the next section. Keep the numbers 3 & 5 in mind as these will be the bite-sized chunks we use to create out memorization groups.
Sing the Books?
What about a song? Wouldn’t this be easier with a song? Yes, and no. We sing a song to aid in our memorization at our house. A song can become a crutch though. So, instead of knowing that Daniel comes after Ezekiel, you find that you have to sing the song from the beginning until you get to Daniel. The Bible is so important that we want mastery. This method works well alongside a song but helps us move past the limitations of the song.
Law – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Number, Deuteronomy
This group of five works perfect for your hand. Use the finger from the other hand and point to each finger in turn as you repeat the names of the books over and over again.
History – Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1st Samuel, 2nd Samuel, 1st Kings, 2nd Kings, 1st Chronicles, 2nd Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther
The first set of 3: Joshua, Judges, Ruth. This set, I make into a sentence: Joshua judges Ruth. Of course, Ruth and Joshua never met each other in real life. Joshua never sat in judgment of Ruth. But those three books in a row sound like a sentence.
The next set of 3 is actually 6: 1st & 2nd Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles.
The last set of 3 in this group: Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther => ENE. This grouping gives you three sets of three letters: JJR, SKC, & ENE.
Poetry – Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon
The initials are JPPES. Make this into a word that sticks with your child or group. Insert an “o” to get JoPPES. Insert an “um” and get JumPPES. Use whatever funny, corny, or silly thing that sticks in the kids’ brains.
Major Prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel
Make this one into a name like I.J. Led. To memorize this, I insert a picture of a LED light bulb. Prophets help people see the light. Prophets show us the right way to follow God. Point to your eye and say I (Isaiah) Then, make a swooping “J” with your pinky finger (Jeremiah). After that, I hold a pretend LED lightbulb above my head (Lamentations, Ezekiel, & Daniel.) Prophets help people see the light and show us the right way to God.
(Cheesy? Whatever it takes!)
Minor Prophets – Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi
This last section is the most challenging. There are twelve minor prophets to memorize! Divide these guys up into four groups of 3. The first two sets share a “J” prophet in the middle. The last two sets share a “Z” prophet, the first at the end and the second in the middle. If you write these down, you will see a pattern emerge. Circle these patterns like you were working on a crossword puzzle. These patterns create a great mental picture to help organize all these minor prophets.
Notice that the prophets in the first two sets have slightly shorter names than in the last two sets. This can create a rhythm when you repeat them. Again repetition is the key. Say each set of three over and over again until they are a set piece in your head.
This is one way of memorizing the books of the Old Testament. There are many creative ideas out there. We are all unique, and some tips may work better for one person than for another. In the end, frequency and intensity will hide that vital information in our hearts, and we can use it to explore God’s word.
You can do it!
It is hard work to memorize the books of the Old Testament, but it is worth it. Knowing what books make up the Old Testament and to find them, is the first key to unlocking the mysteriousness of the first half of the Bible.
The Bible is the Word of God. If we are going to base our lives off of it, then we need to be empowered to study it. What benefits have you seen for yourself or your children in memorizing the books of the Bible? What tips and tricks do you have for remembering the books of the Old Testament?
Need the inspiration to memorize? Need more practical ideas? Check out these articles.