Six types of writing in the Bible and why they matter

Dalton Blankenship

I always wanted to read more than I wanted air! My mother showed me that reading could transport me wherever I wanted to go, show me worlds I would never see, and introduce me to people who were long gone, but still worth knowing.

She painted word pictures with her voice. Together we discovered stories could be told in many different ways. As a craftsman uses different tools for each part of a project, storytellers often use different kinds of literature to share stories.

God authored the Bible to share His story and help us understand who He is.

6 Types of Literature in the Bible

1. Law

When God set Israel apart as His people, He gave them commands for how to live, worship, and govern. The first five books of the Bible — Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy — are called "the law."
Through the law, God taught His people to focus on Him while revealing blessings for obedience and consequences for disobedience. You might hate reading that stuff in Leviticus about icky skin conditions, but as we read, we can be thankful that Jesus has rescued us from them!
Keeping laws cannot give us eternal life, but reading God’s law gives us insight into His character.

2. History

Historical literature relates actual events. Throughout the Bible, God has recorded history through His messengers. He wants us to know the who, what, when, why, and how of His people.
Biblical history records tragedy that occurs when God’s people turn from Him, relying on their own strength. It also tells the stories of redemption — when God’s people got it right — repented, were forgiven, and followed in obedience.
Reading these stories gives us hope. With salvation, we become part of God’s redemption history!

3. Poetry

Poetry may seem dry as dirt in a drought. But biblical poetry is different than what you’ve read before. The words don’t rhyme!  In Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon, we are front and center observing the spiritual life of each writer.
Pain, suffering, grief, blessing, praise, anger, wisdom, regret, even the unique joys of marriage — these are emotions that all humans experience but don’t always know how to express.
Through poetry, we can often find words to tell our heart’s story. 

4. Prophecy

God chose to speak warning and make promises to His people through His prophets. From Isaiah through Malachi, prophecies revealed consequences for not obeying God’s commands — and announced God’s plan of redemption through the promise of a Savior!
Hearing God’s plans in advance should have helped people change. But most of the time, people wouldn’t listen. Because we have the benefit of Old and New Testaments, we know the prophecies came true.
Fulfilled prophecy helps us believe God can be trusted today because He has always been faithful to keep every promise.

5. Genealogy

Remember those boring, unpronounceable lists of biblical names who begat, or were the son of? You may be tempted to skip them as I have. But don’t! Each name was a person important to God; each list places God’s family in history.

Genealogies also show the importance of Jesus to that history, proving He was both human and divine. Boring? Try reading Luke 3:21-38 with the Star Wars Imperial March in the background, and a drum roll toward the end.
The genealogies of mankind in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 are God's proof that He authored His family story.

6. Narrative

Probably the easiest to read, narratives are woven throughout the Bible in most every book. They simply tell stories of countless, ordinary people doing wonderfully extraordinary things for God. But in each one, we discover they are real people —flawed and sinful people — just like us!
If God can use an uneducated fisherman (Peter), a murderer (Paul), and a teenage unwed mother (Mary), it’s easier to believe He can use us, too!
The Bible is literature, but don’t let that stop you from reading it. 
Because the Bible is “living and active,” reading it is the most important way to learn about God and who He is calling us to be (Hebrews 4:12). The Bible is God’s Word, come down from heaven to tell us, through the Holy Spirit, and those chosen to write it: “This is who I’ve been since the beginning. This is who I am and will always be. And I love you!” Who wouldn’t want to read about that?
Need help getting started reading the Bible? Find Bible reading plans and devotional guides here.

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