Meet the Authors of the Old Testament

Have you ever attended a “meet and greet” of an author? What about a “meet and greet” of twenty-nine authors? We’re going to take a brief look at twenty-nine men God used to change the world, leaving bread crumbs that lead us to the cross of Christ in the New Testament. 


We’ll glance at the known authors in the order they appear in the five divisions of the Old Testament.

1. Author of the Books of the Law

Books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy

Moses

Moses is the sole author of the first five books of the Bible—the books of the Law. Scholars also attribute Moses with having written Psalm 90 and maybe, possibly Job. God kept him busy. 

When Moses was born in Egypt, his parents floated him down the Nile River in a basket because Pharaoh planned to murder every Hebrew baby boy. But God planned for Pharoah’s own daughter to save and raise Moses. Sadly, Moses later became a murderer and fugitive. 

After Moses worked in Midian as a shepherd for forty years, God called to him from inside a burning bush to become a prophet and the leader of the nation of Israel. (The Lord was in the burning bush, not Moses.)

Through Moses, God commanded Pharaoh to let His people go. Then He sent ten plagues to prove that Egypt's gods were fake. After the tenth plague—the Passover—Moses led Israel out of Egypt through the Red Sea, which God parted. 

Moses led the Israelites for forty years through the wilderness to the Promised Land, where he completed and handed down the five books of the Law—a.k.a. the Pentateuch. Over the 120 years of Moses’ life, God transformed him into a mighty servant and the humblest man on earth (Num. 12:3). 

After Moses died, God buried him. Much much later, God placed Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration with the prophet Elijah where they talked with Jesus shortly before Christ went to the cross. Don’t you wish God would have instructed at least one of the three disciples with them (Peter, James, or John) to record the conversation?

2. Authors of the History Books

Books by Known Authors: Joshua, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah

Books by Unknown Authors: Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, Esther 

  • Either Samuel, Nathan, or Gad might have written Judges, Ruth, and 1 & 2 Samuel. 
  • Jeremiah may have written 1 & 2 Kings.
  • Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, might have written Esther.

Joshua 

Joshua trusted and followed God with his whole heart and wrote the book named after him. He served as Moses’ right-hand man in the wilderness. All the success Joshua enjoyed came from the Lord, not his own skills, which is not to say he had none. But they came from God. 

Joshua stood firm in his belief that God would fulfill all His promises. When Moses sent twelve spies into the Promised Land, ten brought discouraging reports back and made Israel’s courage wither. Joshua and Caleb stood strong and urged Israel to believe God, but they refused to enter the land. All those who doubted that God would give them the land died as they wandered in the wilderness for forty years. But not Joshua and Caleb. They never doubted. 

After Moses’ death, Joshua took over as the leader of Israel and served God as their strong military leader. Whether through the middle of the Jordan River on dry ground, over the crumbled wall of Jericho, or into the land of giants, the Israelites followed Joshua as they’d followed Moses. In other words, they weren’t always faithful nor fearless, but they followed. When Joshua led them into the Promised Land, God gave them the land—and peace on every side.

Ezra

Ezra was a priest and scribe and is commonly believed to be the author of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, which were once combined into one book. He may also have authored 1 and 2 Chronicles. 

Ezra led the second group of Israelites back to Jerusalem after seventy years in Babylonian captivity. As a priest, Ezra ministered in the temple of God and taught the returning Jews how to properly worship Him. As a scribe, he studied, transcribed, and interpreted God’s Word for the people. He wrote most of Ezra in Hebrew; only Ezra 4:8–6:18 and 7:12–26 are in Aramaic.

3. Authors of the Wisdom and Poetry Books

Books by Known Authors: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon

Books by Unknown Authors: Job, Psalms (Forty-eight of the 150 Psalms are by unknown authors)

King David 

King David penned many of the most beautiful verses in the Psalms, such as Psalm 23 and Psalm 51. Scholars attribute seventy of the 150 Psalms to David (Psalm 3–9; 11–32; 34­–41; 51–65; 68–70; 86; 95; 101; 103; 108–110; 122; 124; 131; 133; and 138–145). Acts 4:25 tells us he wrote Psalm 2. Hebrews 4:7 attributes Psalm 95 to David. He was a prolific poet.

Before David became an author (and king), he worked as a shepherd for his father. God chose him to become the second king over Israel, replacing the people’s first choice—unfaithful and paranoid King Saul. 

David didn’t always honor God with his life. He committed adultery with Bathsheba, murdered her husband, and was a dysfunctional father to several of his children. Oh, and he had lots of wives and took a census of his kingdom, both which displeased God. But David humbled himself and repented before the Lord with a broken and contrite heart. His sincere devotion to the Lord led God to call him “a man after my own heart”(Acts 13:22).

God gave him an enduring kingdom and eternal throne by placing David in the line of Christ. The New Testament authors called Jesus the Son of David.

Asaph

Asaph was a Levite who served as a worship leader during David and Solomon’s reigns. He composed twelve Psalms(50 and 73–83). He was also a prophet, which he displayed in Psalm 50 by warning God’s people of His coming judgment.

The Sons of Korah 

The sons of Korah wrote eleven Psalms (42; 44–49; 84–85; and 87–88). This fact is especially encouraging considering their subversive ancestor Korah (Moses’ cousin).

Korah and his gang rebelled against God because He’d chosen Moses and Aaron to be Israel’s leaders, not them. God commanded the ground to open and swallow them. Fortunately, the “sons of Korah” were either too young or too humble to join Korah’s rebellion. They revered the Lord and left us eleven beautiful psalms that lead us to worship the Lord in holiness.

Heman

Heman, a grandson of the prophet Samuel and descendant of Korah, wrote Psalm 88. He was so wise that the author of 1 Kings compared his wisdom to Solomon’s (1 Kings 4:31). 

Ethan

Ethan was a Levite, a prophet, and a choral director of the Psalms for David. He wrote Psalm 89, and that’s all we know for now. We’ll meet him in heaven.

Solomon

Solomon is credited with two Psalms (72 and 127), almost all of Proverbs,and the books of Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. He was the second son of King David and Bathsheba. (Their first child was conceived through David’s adultery with her and died soon after birth.) 

Solomon sat on the throne of Israel after David. Because he asked God for wisdom to rule His people well rather than wealth or long life, God gave him all three in abundance (2 Chron. 1). 

Unfortunately, Solomon proved it’s not enough to possess godly wisdom. We must also use it. Against God’s direct commands, Solomon married foreign women—a lot of them—and worshiped their gods. 

In all, Solomon married 700 women and had 300 concubines. (Not wise, Solomon. Not wise at all.) These marriages drew him and all Israel away from the true worship of God. 

His sin led God to rip the nation of Israel into two kingdoms—the southern kingdom of Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel. (Remember, God’s Word is inspired and perfect, not the human authors.)

The Wise

“The wise” were an unnamed group of authors in Proverbs. In Proverbs 22:17­–24:34, they wrote thirty “sayings” and a few “further sayings.” 

The Men of King Hezekiah of Judah

“The men of King Hezekiah of Judah” wrotechapter 25 in Proverbs.They wrote that they copied proverbs of Solomon. Does this make them more copyists than authors? 

Agur

Agur the “son of Jakeh” wrote chapter 30 in Proverbsand was a weary man who considered himself “too stupid to be a man” (v. 2). His proverb proves he was at least wise enough to humble himself before the Lord. 

King Lemuel

King Lemuel wrote one of the most famous chapters in Proverbs—Proverbs 31. Oh, to be a Proverbs 31 woman. “She is far more precious than jewels” (v. 10). 

Some believe King Lemuel is really King Solomon. Since his name means “for God” or “devoted to God,” Lemuel could have been an affectionate name his mother Bathsheba called him. 

Others believe Lemuel could have been King Hezekiah. Still others believe he and his mother are made-up characters Solomon created to reflect the ideal king and queen mother. Whoever he is, God used him to pen a masterpiece of truth.

The Prophets

Prophets were God’s chosen spokesmen. He put His words into their mouths (Jer. 1:9). God gave them the exact message He wanted them to deliver to certain individuals or groups. They either foretold the future or forthtold God’s message of encouragement or warning. To falsely claim to be a prophet of God would put them on exceedingly dangerous ground with God because their words carried His authority (Deut. 18:20). 

Above all, you know this: No prophecy of Scripture comes from the prophet’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Pet. 1:20–21)

Some prophets such as Elijah and Elisha didn’t author any of the books of the Bible. They only spoke God’s word. The major and minor prophets below both spoke and recorded God’s prophecies in writing. They’re known as “writing prophets.” 

Scholars refer to the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel as “major,” not because they were more important, but because they wrote longer books than the “minor prophets.” They also wrote a wider message to a wider audience. (The prophet Moses also wrote long books, but his messages belong in their own category—the Law.) 

After God had settled His people in the Promised Land, Moses warned them that if they stopped following Him to run after false gods, it would lead to serious trouble. They did, and it did. 

Serving as God’s prophet was the highest calling, but it was often lonely and dangerous. Encouraging God’s people of His faithfulness and coming deliverance made them popular, but warning them of His coming judgment didn’t. The prophets were often ignored or persecuted. Many were killed. 

4. Authors of the Books of the Major Prophets

Books: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel 

Each book is named after its author.

Isaiah

Isaiah was a prophet to the southern nation of Judah and most likely a priest. His name means “Yahweh is salvation.” He gave us some of the most glorious prophecies of the Messiah Jesus Christ, such as Isaiah 7:14; 9:1–7; 53:1–12. He mainly served the kingdom of Judah. 

Isaiah had the exceptional blessing of seeing the Lord on His throne in His holy temple (Isaiah 6). He also had the unenviable assignment to spend three years “stripped and barefoot . . . as a sign and omen against Egypt and Cush” (Isa. 20:2–4). 

The Bible doesn’t say how Isaiah died, but one tradition says he was forced into a sack, stuffed into the hollow of an old tree, and sawn in half by the order of King Manasseh. Hebrews 11:37 mentions that some heroes of the faith were “sawed in two.” If Isaiah is one of those men, we can rest assured that his reward in heaven far exceeds the suffering he endured.

Jeremiah

Jeremiah was a prophet to Judah and a priest. Nicknamed the weeping prophet, his name means “the Lord exalts.” 

Jeremiah wrote Lamentations, one of the shortest books in the Bible as well as Jeremiah, the longest book if you count by the number of Hebrew words (33,002). 

With tears and sorrow, Jeremiah warned the nation of Judah that God would send Babylon to conquer them if they didn’t stop worshiping idols and return to the Lord. They persecuted Jeremiah mercilessly, but his greatest sorrow came from their willful delusion and rebellion. 

Ezekiel

Ezekiel served God as a prophet to Judah and a priest. His name means “God makes strong.” God indeed strengthened him for the hard path he traveled as a prophet (Ezek. 3:8). 

Before Ezekiel was old enough to begin his priestly service, he was taken into captivity in Babylon, where God called him to be a prophet and to preach judgment on Judah for their sins. He also had to abstain from mourning the death of his wife as a picture of God’s judgment on Judah. 

Fortunately, Ezekiel’s life and ministry weren’t all tragic. He prophesied about the glorious day when God would deliver and restore His people like dry bones made fully alive again (Ezek. 37). He wrote about the ultimate deliverance and restoration Christ will bring His people in the New Jerusalem. Hallelujah! 

Daniel

Daniel ministered as a prophet to Judah and a statesman in Babylon. His name means “God is my judge.” He’s one of the few main historic characters in the Bible of which no sin or weakness is recorded. (Only Jesus was sinless.) 

King Nebuchadnezzar dragged Daniel and other Jewish captives to Babylon, where Daniel faithfully served and advised four (or five) godless kings of the Babylonian and Medo-Persian empires—Nebuchadnezzar, (Evil-Merodach), Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus.

God empowered Daniel to interpret dreams, which were actually prophecies concerning King Nebuchadnezzar and God’s purposes through and in this king. In Daniel 2, God foretold the future of Babylon. In Daniel 4, God foretold the downfall of the king until he recognized that Heaven rules. 

When Darius became king, Daniel ignored the law that required him to worship the king. Daniel determined to obey God’s law instead by refusing to worship any other god but the One True God. His enemies turned him in to Darius, whose law required Daniel be thrown into the lion’s den. God protected Daniel. He didn’t even have a scratch on him. 

In the latter half of his book, Daniel prophesied about the coming of Christ in the end times. His book is often taught alongside the book of Revelation. He wrote mostly in Hebrew, but Daniel 2:4b–7:28 are in Aramaic.

5. Authors of the Books of the Minor Prophets

Books: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. 

Each book is named after its author.

Hosea

Hosea served as a prophet to Israel. His name means “salvation.”Jesus and Paul quoted him concerning God’s desire for mercy and love toward His people (Matt. 9:13; 12:7; Rom. 9:25–26). 

Through Hosea, God illustrated His faithful love for His people despite their unfaithfulness to Him. God called Hosea to marry Gomer, a woman who continually ran after other men—she lived the life of a prostitute. Hosea remained faithful toward Gomer and restored her into his love, which demonstrated God’s loyal love for His people even though they continually ran after other gods. 

Hosea had one of the longest prophetic ministries. He served God for sixty to seventy years before the Babylonian captivity.

Joel

Joel was a prophet to Judah. His name means “Yahweh is God.”He wrote primarily about “the Day of the Lord,” a term that refers to God’s judgment, whether judgment in their day or when Christ returns. 

Joel prophesied of the glorious day when the Holy Spirit would be poured out on His people (Joel 2:28–32). God fulfilled this prophecy at Pentecost (Acts 2:16–21), and since that day, the Holy Spirit has indwelled all Christians from the moment of salvation (Rom. 8:9, Eph. 1:13–14).

Amos

Amos served God as a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel, but first he was a Jewish shepherd and farmer in Judah. His name may mean “carried by God.” 

The Lord plucked Amos out of the fig orchard and called him to serve as His prophet. Much of his message wasn’t popular. “Repent!” But Amos also preached great hope. “Seek me and live” (Amos 5:4). This message extends to all people in every generation.

Obadiah

Obadiah was a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah. His name means “servant or worshiper of the LORD (Yahweh).” 

Obadiah wrote the shortest book in the Old Testament—only 440 Hebrew words. As unusual as the name Obadiah is today, it was common when he lived. Thirteen Obadiahs appear in the Old Testament. 

The prophet and author of the book of Obadiah served God during the time of the Babylonian captivity and destruction of Jerusalem. He wrote to encourage Judah that God will not overlook their enemy (and brother) Edom’s part in their destruction. He would repay their evil and fulfill all His purposes for Judah’s good. 

Jonah

Jonah the son of Amittai prophesied to the Assyrian city of Nineveh. His name means “dove” but neither his message nor his life were even remotely as gentle as a dove.

Jonah endured a miraculous—and most disturbing—experience. God commanded him to go to the city of Nineveh and warn them of His coming judgment, but Jonah refused. He sailed in the opposite direction. One big gulp by a large fish and three messy days spent in its belly convinced him of the importance of obeying God (Jonah 1–2). 

After his slimy timeout in the fish, Jonah rushed to obey God and preach to Nineveh God’s message to repent or be destroyed. Just as he knew they would, they did, so God didn’t, and Jonah wasn’t happy. Jonah wanted God to destroy Nineveh. 

Through Jonah, we learn of God’s great mercy toward sinners—including God’s mercy toward His rebellious and sulky servants.

Micah

Micah served as a prophet primarily to Judah before the Babylonian captivity, but he also prophesied about Assyria and Israel. His name is an abbreviated form of Micayahu, which means “who is like Yahweh.” 

Micah’s message was much like that of the other prophets. Repent and walk humbly with your holy God or suffer the consequences of your sin. But if you trust and hope in God, you’ll enjoy the blessings of His deliverance and restoration. A timely message for them and a timeless message for us.

Micah’s prophecy of the Messiah’s birthplace is one of the most quoted at Christmas time: “Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are small among the clans of Judah; one will come from you to be ruler over Israel for me. His originis from antiquity, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2).

Nahum

Nahum prophesied against the Assyrian city of Nineveh 150 years after Jonah. His name means “comfort,” and his message no doubt comforted God’s weary people that He would bring Nineveh’s cruel tyranny to an end.

Nineveh had repented during Jonah’s time but returned to unspeakable—and unrepentant—evil in Nahum’s day. Nahum preached the good news of peace in one of the darkest periods of Judah’s history—King Manasseh’s evil reign. Nahum warned Nineveh that God’s time of grace toward them had come to an end. They’d get what they deserved. 

Habakkuk

Habakkuk ministered to the southern kingdom of Judah before the Babylonian captivity. His name likely means “one who embraces.” He indeed embraced God’s good and sovereign plan for his people—and God’s people. 

Habakkuk recorded a dialogue with God about His coming judgment on Judah at the cruel hands of Babylon. He responded to God’s declaration of judgment with a beautiful psalm, which ends in rejoicing. He could sincerely rejoice in the Lord because, even if Judah lost everything, God remains—and He is all they (and we) need. 

Zephaniah

Zephaniah was the last of the minor prophets to proclaim God’s judgment to the nation of Judah before God exiled them to Babylon. His name means “Yahweh has hidden,” or “Yahweh has treasured.” His name may reflect his parents’ faith during the evil reign of Manasseh. 

Zephaniah proclaimed the judgment to come on the whole earth when Christ returns. Zephaniahcalled every nation to repent or suffer judgment. To trust in the Lord and receive mercy. 

Some of his prophecies are yet to be fulfilled—such as the future reign of Christ when He will bring restoration and grace to His people (Zeph. 3:14-20). 

Haggai 

Haggai ministered to the discouraged nation of Judah after they returned from exile. His name means “festal,” which could mean he was born during a feast. 

Judah didn’t feel like celebrating. When they tried to rebuild God’s temple, they faced enemy bullies set on stopping them. Haggai strongly encouraged the Israelites to hope in God and finish the temple. They did. 

Many believe Haggai had seen the temple in its former glory before Babylon destroyed it. Since Judah was in exile for seventy years, Haggai would have been quite old when he delivered his messages after the exile.

Haggai was an excellent record-keeper. He not only signed the messages in his book, he dated them as well: August 29, 520 BC (Haggai 1:1); October 17, 520 BC (2:1); and two on December 18, 520 BC (2:10, 20). 

Zechariah

Zechariah was a priest, prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah, and one of more than twenty-nine Zechariahs in the Old Testament. His name means “Yahweh has remembered.”(It sounds like a lot of parents wanted God to remember them.)

Zechariah was born in Babylon and returned with the exiles to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity, where he ministered as a priest and prophet. 

Many scholars believe he was the Zechariah that Jesus mentioned as having been “murdered between the sanctuary and the altar” (Matt. 23:34–36). If he is, he was the last martyred prophet in the Old Testament. 

Malachi

Malachi is the final Old Testament prophet and book. He prophesied to the southern kingdom of Judah. His name means “my messenger.” His book is the final message God gave before He went silent for 400 years. And then Christ came. 

Malachi ministered to the exiles after they returned and rebuilt the temple and city of Jerusalem. Sadly, Judah had also returned to their sinful ways. His book ends the Old Testament with a message of judgment but also the promise of Christ, the only One who could to satisfy God’s judgment on sin and remove sin’s power (Mal. 4:5). 

The Stage Is Set

At least twenty-nine authors recorded God’s words and the events in the Old Testament—setting the stage for the New Testament. Each author revealed mankind’s dire need for salvation and exposed the truth that the blood of bulls and goats can’t save. Not forever. We need something—no, Someone—more. Which brings us to the New Testament and the salvation of Jesus Christ. 

What’s Next?

In our next article, we’ll meet the authors of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament—the men God chose to write the rest of His redemption story. 

Selected Bibliography

The following resources were consulted in preparation for this article:

John MacArthur, ed., MacArthur Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006).

R. C. Sproul, ed., The Reformation Study Bible (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2015).

GotQuestions.org, https://www.gotquestions.org/.

Blue Letter Bible, https://www.blueletterbible.org/.

Bible.org, accessed November 2, 2022, https://bible.org/.

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About the Author

Jean Wilund

Jean Wilund

Jean Wilund is passionate about leading women into a greater understanding of the Bible and a deeper relationship with God. She serves ROH as a member of the Leader Connection blogging team and a moderator for the Women’s Ministry Leader … read more …


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