We are using to see how dependent the New Testament is on the Old Testament. In fact, without the Old Testament, the New Testament would make no sense. Thus the Old Testament lays a foundation that the New Testament builds upon.
We should also be aware that the Old Testament itself – being written and compiled over a 1,500-year period – is built in layers, with each successive layer referring to the ones prior. The first layer was the Law of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). As books are added, we can see them making reference to things written in the books that were already there.
Because the order in which the Old Testament books appear is not strictly chronological, the linkages from one book to another are not always “from right to left.” For example, you can see below that the book of Ezra refers to the books of Haggai and Zechariah. However, in most English Bibles, the book of Ezra precedes the other two rather than following them. Therefore, the intertextual links don’t always appear to be sequential. Understanding the Bible’s pervasive intertextuality, however, allows the Bible to become a commentary on itself – reducing reliance upon others to explain its contents.
Below are some examples of an Old Testament book referencing something from a previous Old Testament book. It only scratches the surface of the Old Testament’s self-referential nature. Perhaps, though, it will be enough to give you a feel for how interwoven are the Bible’s ideas.
2 Samuel 11:21 ‘Who struck down Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? Did not a woman throw an upper millstone on him from the wall so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so near the wall?’–then you shall say, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.'”
In this verse, Joab is recalling for David an incident from Judges 9:50-54.
2 Kings 14:6 But the sons of the slayers he did not put to death, according to what is written in the book of the Law of Moses, as the LORD commanded, saying, “The fathers shall not be put to death for the sons, nor the sons be put to death for the fathers; but each shall be put to death for his own sin.”
This verse is speaking specifically of Deuteronomy 24:16, which is, of course, part of “the Law of Moses.”
2 Kings 17:7 Now this came about because the sons of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up from the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and they had feared other gods
2 Kings 17:8 and walked in the customs of the nations whom the LORD had driven out before the sons of Israel, and in the customs of the kings of Israel which they had introduced.
2 Kings 17:9 The sons of Israel did things secretly which were not right against the LORD their God. Moreover, they built for themselves high places in all their towns, from watchtower to fortified city.
2 Kings 17:10 They set for themselves sacred pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree,
2 Kings 17:11 and there they burned incense on all the high places as the nations did which the LORD had carried away to exile before them; and they did evil things provoking the LORD.
2 Kings 17:12 They served idols, concerning which the LORD had said to them, “You shall not do this thing.”
2 Kings 17:13 Yet the LORD warned Israel and Judah through all His prophets and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep My commandments, My statutes according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you through My servants the prophets.”
2 Kings 17:14 However, they did not listen, but stiffened their neck like their fathers, who did not believe in the LORD their God.
2 Kings 17:15 They rejected His statutes and His covenant which He made with their fathers and His warnings with which He warned them. And they followed vanity and became vain, and went after the nations which surrounded them, concerning which the LORD had commanded them not to do like them.
2 Kings 17:16 They forsook all the commandments of the LORD their God and made for themselves molten images, even two calves, and made an Asherah and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal.
2 Kings 17:17 Then they made their sons and their daughters pass through the fire, and practiced divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him.
2 Kings 17:18 So the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them from His sight; none was left except the tribe of Judah.
2 Kings 17:19 Also Judah did not keep the commandments of the LORD their God, but walked in the customs which Israel had introduced.
2 Kings 17:20 The LORD rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until He had cast them out of His sight.
2 Kings 17:21 When He had torn Israel from the house of David, they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. Then Jeroboam drove Israel away from following the LORD and made them commit a great sin.
2 Kings 17:22 The sons of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them
2 Kings 17:23 until the LORD removed Israel from His sight, as He spoke through all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away into exile from their own land to Assyria until this day.
This passage explains why the Northern Kingdom (called “the Kingdom of Israel” in contrast to the Southern Kingdom which was called “the Kingdom of Judah”) was captured by the Assyrians and taken into exile. The simple reason? Failure to heed Moses and the Prophets. This passage characterizes and encapsulates Israel’s history from the time in Egypt to this point in the book of 2 Kings.
2 Kings 18:4 He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan.
The “He” to which this veres refers is King Hezekiah. The incident with Moses and the bronze serpent is found in Numbers 21:8,9. (The incident is also mentioned by Jesus in John 3:14.)
2 Kings 18:5 He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him.
2 Kings 18:6 For he clung to the LORD; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the LORD had commanded Moses.
King Hezekiah is the “he” referenced here. When the king adhered to the Law of Moses and the warnings of the prophets, the nation fared well.
2 Kings 18:11 Then the king of Assyria carried Israel away into exile to Assyria, and put them in Halah and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes,
2 Kings 18:12 because they did not obey the voice of the LORD their God, but transgressed His covenant, even all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded; they would neither listen nor do it.
The “he” referenced here is King Hoshea of the Northern Kingdom. Because he was a wicked king, like those who had preceded him, the people fared poorly. The nation rose and fell based on its faithfulness, or lack thereof, to the Scriptures first handed down by Moses.
2 Kings 21:8 “And I will not make the feet of Israel wander anymore from the land which I gave their fathers, if only they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that My servant Moses commanded them.”
This verse is making a general reference to the Law of Moses. There are so many of them in the Scriptures that only a minuscule fraction of them can be shown in this post.
2 Kings 23:21 Then the king commanded all the people saying, “Celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God as it is written in this book of the covenant.”
2 Kings 23:22 Surely such a Passover had not been celebrated from the days of the judges who judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel and of the kings of Judah.
2 Kings 23:23 But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, this Passover was observed to the LORD in Jerusalem.
Verse 22 makes reference first to the time covered by the books of Judges and Ruth, and then by the time covered by the books of Samuel and Kings. Of course, the reference to the original Passover is a reference to Exodus 12.
Ezra 5:1 When the prophets, Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them,
Ezra 5:2 then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them supporting them.
Haggai and Zechariah are two prophets, responsible for books that bear their names in the Old Testament. See also Ezra 6:14, where a similar reference is made.
Malachi 4:4 “Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel.
The prophet Malachi is here calling the people of Israel to be faithful to the Law given to them through Moses. Of course, this was a common appeal by the prophets.
The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)