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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Are the Right Books in the Old Testament?

Don Stewart :: What Were the Non-Canonical Books That Were Mentioned in the Old Testament?

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Question 11

What Were the Non-Canonical Books That Were Mentioned in the Old Testament?

During the Old Testament period, a number of books were composed. In fact, the writer of Ecclesiastes made the following admission about the making of books:

Of anything beyond these, my child, beware. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. (Ecclesiastes 12:12 NRSV)

Therefore, it seems that there was much literary activity occurring in the ancient world.

The Old Testament mentions the existence of a number of books that have not been placed in Holy Scripture. These include the following:

  1. The Book of the Wars of the Lord

    In the Book of Numbers there is a quotation from the “Book of the Wars of the Lord.” It says the following:

    Wherefore it is said in the Book of the Wars of the LORD. (Numbers 21:14-15 NRSV)

    The author, as well as the exact contents of this book is unknown.

  2. The Book of Jasher (the Upright One)

    The “Book of Jasher,” or the “Scroll of the Upright One” is mentioned as recording Joshua’s long day. Scripture says:

    The sun stood still and the moon stood motionless while the nation took vengeance on its enemies. The event is recorded in the Scroll of the Upright One. The sun stood motionless in the middle of the sky and did not set for about a full day. (Joshua 10:13 NET)

    This book seems to be well-known to the readers of Joshua. Yet, we know nothing about it.

  3. Solomon’s Proverbs and Songs

    Scripture speaks of the number of proverbs and songs of Solomon. We read about this in the Book of 1 Kings. It says:

    He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. He described plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also taught about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. (1 Kings 4:32-33 NIV)

    The Book of Proverbs does not contain three thousand proverbs. The Song of Solomon is the only part of Scripture that contains a song from Solomon. For some reason, many of the proverbs and the songs of Solomon were not placed in Holy Scripture.

  4. The Acts of Solomon

    There is reference to a book called, “The Acts of Solomon,” or the “Annals of Solomon.” We read about this work in First Kings:

    As for the other events of Solomon’s reign - all he did and the wisdom he displayed - are they not written in the book of the annals of Solomon? (1 Kings 11:41 NIV)

    Nothing is known about this book beyond its mention here.

  5. The Annals of the Kings of Israel

    The writer of First Kings mentions a source known as, “The Annals of the Kings of Israel.” It says the following:

    The other events of Jeroboam’s reign, his wars and how he ruled, are written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel. (1 Kings 14:19 NIV)

    This would not be the same as the canonical book of First Kings. The author and contents of this particular work are unknown.

  6. The Annals of the Kings of Judah

    There is the mention of a work titled, “The Annals of the Kings of Judah.” We read about this in First Kings. It states:

    As for the other events of Abijah’s reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? There was war between Abijah and Jeroboam. (1 Kings 15:7 NIV)

    Nothing is known about the author or the contents of this book.

  7. The Records of Samuel, Nathan, and Gad

    The prophets Samuel, Nathan, and Gad are said to have recorded events in the life of King David. The Bible says:

    As for the events of King David’s reign, from beginning to end, they are written in the records of Samuel the seer, the records of Nathan the prophet and the records of Gad the seer. (1 Chronicles 29:29 NIV)

    Samuel is credited with writing First and Second Samuel. He also possibly wrote Judges and Ruth. Nothing is known about the writings of Gad.

    In another place, Nathan the prophet is also credited with writing something about Solomon. The chronicler wrote:

    As for the other events of Solomon’s reign, from beginning to end, are they not written in the records of Nathan the prophet, in the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite and in the visions of Iddo the seer concerning Jeroboam son of Nebat? (2 Chronicles 9:29 NIV)

    Along with Nathan, there is mention of other writings: the prophecy of Ahijah, and the vision of Iddo the seer. Again, we know nothing else of these writings.

  8. The Records of Shemaiah the Prophet and Iddo the Seer

    A prophet named Shemaiah, and a seer named Iddo, recorded the acts of king Rehoboam. The Bible says the following:

    As for the events of Rehoboam’s reign, from beginning to end, are they not written in the records of Shemaiah the prophet and of Iddo the seer that deal with genealogies? There was continual warfare between Rehoboam and Jeroboam. (2 Chronicles 12:15 NIV)

    Nothing has ever been found of these works.

  9. The Annals of Jehu

    Jehu the King is said to have recorded the acts of another King, Jehoshaphat. This is also recorded in the Book of Chronicles:

    The other events of Jehoshaphat’s reign, from beginning to end, are written in the annals of Jehu son of Hanani, which are recorded in the book of the kings of Israel. (2 Chronicles 20:34 NIV)

    It seems that certain things that were written in the annals of Jehu were incorporated into the biblical books of First Kings.

  10. The Acts of Uzziah

    The prophet Isaiah recorded the acts of King Uzziah. The Chronicler wrote the following:

    The other events of Uzziah’s reign, from beginning to end, are recorded by the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. (2 Chronicles 26:22 NIV)

    This written record of Isaiah is not the same as the biblical book that bears his name.

  11. The Laments of Jeremiah

    There is a mention of the laments of Jeremiah. We read about this in Second Chronicles. It says:

    Jeremiah composed laments for Josiah, and to this day all the men and women singers commemorate Josiah in the laments. These became a tradition in Israel and are written in the Laments. (2 Chronicles 35:25 NIV)

    The lament of Jeremiah is not the same as the biblical book of Lamentations. That particular work was written after the destruction of Jerusalem and it laments its devastation.

Why Are These Works Not Included in the Old Testament Canon?

These are some of the written works mentioned in the Old Testament that have not become part of sacred Scripture. Indeed, the writer, or writers, of Chronicles, First and Second Chronicles, mention seventy-five different sources for the contents of this work!

Some of these works cited were used as sources for the Old Testament Scripture. Obviously, they would have been accurate records for this to happen. Yet, these accurate ancient records were not included in the Old Testament canon of Scripture.

As to why they were not included in Holy Scripture, it is not possible to know. For some reason, known to God, and to Him alone, these works were not placed into the Old Testament canon of Scripture.

All of these works have perished. It is only the sacred Scriptures that have been miraculously preserved through the annals of history. This is exactly what we would expect as the prophet Isaiah wrote:

Grass dries up, and flowers wither, but the word of our God will last forever. (Isaiah 40:8 God’s Word)

The Hebrew Scriptures, the Word of God, has indeed survived. This is another testimony to its character.

Summary - Question 11
What Were the Non-Canonical Books That Were Mentioned in the Old Testament?

There seems to have been a number of literary works composed during the Old Testament period. The Old Testament mentions a number of ancient written works, alongside the authoritative books. Some of these were used as sources for the biblical books. For example, there are seventy-five different sources listed in the Books of Chronicles. Yet these writings, for whatever reason, were not included in Scripture. As to why they were not included, we do not know. Because we do not know the answer to this question, it is useless to speculate.

What we do know is that God’s Word, the Old Testament Scriptures, have not perished. As predicted, the Word of the Lord has lasted forever.

What Are Some of the Inadequate Reasons Why a Book Would Be Part of the Old Testament Canon? ← Prior Section
Why Was the Authority of Certain Old Testament Books Questioned? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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