Understanding how to interpret Old Testament narrative texts can be both confusing and difficult at times. Knowing how to best approach this biblical genre will greatly aid students of Scripture in gleaning all of the wisdom that fill the Scriptures.
Seminary professor and Bible Commentator Gordon Fee shares ten principles for interpreting Old Testament Biblical Narrative which should help avoid obvious errors in interpretation:
1. An Old Testament narrative usually does not directly teach a doctrine.
2. An Old Testament narrative usually illustrates a doctrine or doctrines taught propositionally elsewhere.
3. Narratives record what happened–not necessarily what should have happened or what ought to happen every time. Therefore, not every narrative has an individual identifiable moral of the story.
4. What people do in narratives is not necessarily a good example for us. Frequently, it is just the opposite.
5. Most of the characters in the Old Testament narratives are far from perfect and their actions are, too.
6. We are not always told at the end of a narrative whether what happened was good or bad. We are expected to be able to judge that on the basis of what God has taught us directly and categorically already in Scripture.
7. All narratives are selective and incomplete. Not all the relevant details are always given (cf. John 21:25). What does appear in the narrative is everything that the inspired author thought important for us to know.
8. Narratives are not written to answer all our theological questions. They have particular, specific limited purposes and deal with certain issues, leaving others to be dealt with elsewhere, in other ways.
9. Narratives may teach either explicitly (by clearly stating something) or implicitly (by clearly implying something without actually saying it).
10. In the final analysis, God is the hero of all biblical narratives.
Taken from the book How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon Fee, page 78 in the 1982 edition.
Bonus Video: Gordon Fee answers: How Should We Read the Bible?