By Matthew Foley, ISOW Writer

The Old Testament is a LARGE book… Massive.

For reference, the Oxford English Dictionary contains 600,000 words, while the ESV Old Testament has 581,112 words. In other words, the ESV Old Testament has only about 20,000 fewer words than a book that aims to include and define every possible word in English.

There are several surprising things in the Old Testament you may not realize.

Considering the vast amount of information in the Old Testament, regardless of how many Sunday School classes you’ve attended, there are probably several OT facts you were unaware of. Here are just a few.

1. The book of Genesis covers an impressive time span of about 2,268 years.

Remarkably, the first book of the Bible covers a time period longer than all the history covered from Exodus to the end of the New Testament! From the creation of the world, to the flood wiping out an old corrupt global society, to Abraham leaving Ur, up to Joseph rising to the second in command of Egypt, the book of Genesis is filled with history.

The fall of humanity spreads in a shockwave. Adam and Eve’s sin causes the exponential growth of wickedness spreading throughout the whole earth in Genesis 1-11.

The has an insightful article breaking down the overarching story Genesis tells us of mankind’s downfall from grace.[1]

The book covers hair-raising details as well as mysterious figures, like Enoch, who disappeared from the earth (Genesis 5:1-24). The bottomless mysteries contained in Genesis are an intriguing glimpse into the earliest history of humanity.

2. Each of the ten plagues visited upon Egypt were direct challenges and refutations of the false “gods” of Egypt.

Most people know that the ten plagues were designed to bring Egypt to its knees, but not as many know that the plagues clearly and visibly demonstrated that the God of Israel could easily defeat the so-called “gods” of Egypt.

Years ago, famous Bible teacher Chuck Missler, who started Koinonia House, a Bible study content creation ministry, wrote about how the Egyptians would have perceived each of the ten plagues.

  • Waters turned to blood (Exodus 7:14-25) defied the chief god of the Nile, Osiris.
  • Frogs overrunning the land (Exodus 8:1-15) was God’s judgment upon the frog-headed goddess, Hekt. The Egyptian’s respect for frogs kept them from dealing with the infestation and caused a strong odor.
  • The plague of gnats, lice, or sand flies (Exodus 8:20-32) was a direct assault on the earth god, Geb.
  • The “swarms” of scarabs or dung beetles, (“of flies” does not appear in the original), defied the king of the gods, Amon-Ra.
  • The plague upon the livestock and cattle (Exodus 9:1-7) was a knock against Apis, the bull god, and Hathor, a goddess depicted with the head of a cow.
  • The incurable skin disease or boils (Exodus 9:8-12) that broke out on the people was a direct challenge to the god, Thoth, the ibis-headed god of intelligence and medical learning.
  • The plague of fiery hail (Exodus 9:13-35) was a challenge to Shu, thought to be the god of wind; Nut, goddess of the sky; and, Horus, god of the sky.
  • The plague of locusts (Exodus 10:1-20) was a sign against Nepri, god of grain; Ermutet, the goddess over birthing and harvest; Anubis, god of the fields; and, Osiris, a leading god, who ruled farming and agriculture.
  • The darkness over the land (Exodus 10:21-229) was an insult to many gods related to sun activity, but most of all, Ra the god of the sun.
  • And, of course, the death of the firstborn was God’s direct challenge to Pharaoh who thought of himself as a god. Further, the blood of the lamb applied to the doorpost of each Jewish home prophetically foretold of the coming of Jesus, King of all kings and Lord of all lords.

To learn more about this, check out the Audio CD, Angels Volume II: The Invisible War by Chuck Missler.

3. King Jeroboam of Israel recreated the sin of the Golden Calf.

Want to know one of the biggest face-palm moments of the Old Testament?

After Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, showed himself to be a jerk to the older and wiser leaders in Israel, the nation of Israel was divided. Ten of the twelve tribes aligned themselves with Jeroboam, a former official in the court of King Solomon. While two tribes remained loyal to King Rehoboam. Failing to learn from history, Jeroboam repeated a sin that had marked Israel’s past bringing God’s swift judgment.

Jeroboam didn’t want the people to return to Jerusalem, which was still under the authority of Rehoboam, to worship God. To stop this from happening, he recreated one of the biggest sins in Israel’s history, the sin of the golden calf. He built two alters in Dan and Bethel with two golden calves, claiming that they were the gods that had brought Israel out of Egypt (1 Kings 12:28). Yeah, really!

This sin of idolatry eventually cost Jeroboam and his family line their share of the kingdom (1 Kings 14:14).

4. The Book of Psalms contains a lot of prophecies about Jesus!

While most astute Bible readers will think of Isaiah when it comes to prophecies about the Messiah, there are plenty of “easter eggs” about Jesus, our coming king, found in the book of Psalms.

The book of Psalms describes moments of deep worship, but also contains prophetic insights into the life of the Messiah, our King Jesus. Some of these prophecies include that:

  • He would be rejected as King by the nations (Psalm 2)
  • He was made a little lower than the angels (Psalm 8).
  • He would be resurrected (Psalm 16).
  • He would be an intercessor for humanity (Psalm 17).
  • He would provide salvation (Psalm 20).
  • He would be king of glory (Psalm 24).
  • He would be betrayed by a close friend (Psalm 41).
  • He would be hated without a cause (Psalm 69).
  • He would be eternal (Psalm 102).
  • He would love those who rejected him (Psalm 209).
  • He would become the Chief Cornerstone (Psalm 118).

All of this and more is tucked away in the amazing book of Psalms.

5. The book of Jeremiah is the longest book in the Bible.

Coming in at a grand total of 42,659 words, Jeremiah beats out Isaiah (37,044 words) as the longest book in the Bible!

Jeremiah, known as the “weeping prophet” had a tough go at things, since he was often beaten and rejected by his people for delivering God’s message.

As tough as that is, though, after Babylon invaded and ransacked Jerusalem (which Jeremiah warned would happen), Jeremiah lived in peace. The chief officer and some high officials sent someone to release Jeremiah from prison after taking Jerusalem (Jeremiah 39:11-14). Apparently, they were pretty impressed that he had prophesied their invasion.

Jeremiah lived the rest of his life in peace. Maybe it was during his “free time” that he put all of his prophecies together to form what would become the longest book in the Bible.

6. Jonah didn’t just get swallowed by a big fish. He may have actually died.

VeggieTales didn’t make this one clear for any of us.

Jonah wasn’t just swallowed by a “great fish.” He may have ended up dying while in the belly of that fish.

Most historical interpretations among Christians regarding this incident have been that Jonah was alive while inside the great fish, surviving a “near death” experience. But the poem or song Jonah wrote about his experience seems to indicate that he may have died while inside the fish. Check out Jonah 2:2-6. 

“Out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
And You heard my voice.
For You cast me into the deep,
Into the heart of the seas,
And the floods surrounded me;
All Your billows and Your waves passed over me.
Then I said, ‘I have been cast out of Your sight;
Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’
The waters surrounded me, even to my soul;
The deep closed around me;
Weeds were wrapped around my head.
I went down to the moorings of the mountains;
The earth with its bars closed behind me forever;
Yet You have brought up my life from the pit,
O Lord, my God.
—Jonah 2:2-6 NKJV

Jonah’s poem contains a vivid description of his soul departing to the underworld or “Sheol” (2:2). While many believe Jonah to be describing a “near death” experience, there are some who maintain that Jonah literally died during this time.

This makes sense for New Testament readers because Jesus claimed that the religious leaders would only be given the “sign of Jonah.” Just as Jonah’s body was in “the belly of a great fish” for three days and nights, so Jesus’ body would be in the earth for three days (Matthew 12:38-42).

“But he answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.’” —Matthew 12:39-40 ESV

Many people don’t realize how much there is to know about the Old Testament. It’s easy to fail to grasp the vast amount of history covered in the Old Testament and the mind-blowing mysteries contained there, as well. These six facts are just a sampling of the riches waiting to be unearthed.

Do you want to know more about the Old Testament? Check out ISOW’s Old Testament Survey. It will give you an overview of all 39 books, revealing details you may have missed.

To view courses in Spanish, click here.

[1] Shara Drimalla and The Bible Project Team, “How Do We Make Sense of the Book of Genesis,” Bible Project (Dec. 21, 2021),