Old Testament Connections

In the Old Testament, we read about the forefathers of our Lord Jesus Christ. This part of the Bible explains how God the Father promised to the chosen people of Israel to send His Only-begotten Son to earth for man’s salvation. In the New Testament, we learn of the events that occurred after the Incarnation: Our Lord’s life on earth, His Passion, His Resurrection and the history of the Church. We can’t read one Testament without the other; we need both of them to understand God’s plan for the salvation of humankind.

In this page, we are offering resources for teaching nine Old Testament stories, with a focus on uncovering secret connections to the New Testament. As explained by the Fathers of the Church, these hidden Old Testament connections directly point to the appearance of the Theotokos and to the Birth of Christ.

The connections between the two Testaments form a recurring theme in the liturgical life of the Orthodox Church, as they are encountered in various readings (especially at the Orthros and Vespers), icons (such as the icons of the Old Testament prophets and variations of the Root of Jesse icon type), as well as in hymns (such as the Canons and the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos). This theme also has a prominent place in the Nativity season, and it is especially celebrated on the Sunday preceding the Nativity of Christ, the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers.

OUR MATERIAL

Terms of use

Please note: The copyright of our work belongs solely to Orthodox Pebbles. We are offering our material to the public to be used as a whole, and only for classroom and personal use. This means we do not allow for users to break our material up into individual parts (images or text), and use those parts in their own creations – analog, digital, or online – even if these creations are only meant to be used for teaching. For example, a user is not permitted to include our material in any way in their own slideshows, worksheets or videos (local or in the “cloud”), even if they mention us as the source. If you are interested in creating a specific teaching activity with our material, please contact us – we may be able to create it instead, for the benefit of the whole Orthodox community.

Additionally, we love seeing photos on social media of our material being used; however, if you want to showcase our resources differently in a website, newsletter, blog or social media post, please contact us first.

Finally, we kindly ask that you do not directly share the material you download from our website with others. Please point them to our website instead, so they can download it from here.

Thank you for being fair and respectful of our work!

FREE CRAFT TEMPLATES

Download our printable packet to access the craft templates. *Note: Not all crafts require a template.*


ADDITIONAL TEACHING RESOURCES

Free printable teaching packet

An explanation of the Old Testament stories and their connections to the New Testament, with worksheets for the child to work on.


Free lesson plan

Background information and extra teaching material on the prefigurations of the Theotokos in the Old Testament.


A Different Jesse Tree: Craft Kit

Printed templates and a pack of cards to help spark reflection and discussion.


NATIVITY RETREAT

We have successfully used the above material, as well as exclusively prepared additional resources, to conduct a Nativity retreat. Let us plan an engaging learning experience for the children and families in your group!


TEACHING THE STORIES OF THE OLD TESTAMENT

PLANNING THE LESSON

The main theme of this lesson is that the Old and New Testaments are connected through hidden symbols. Exploring each story, we get to understand what these symbols are.

To teach each story, you can use:

  • The Old Testament text.
  • The suggested craft.
  • Our printable teaching packet (link provided above).
  • The icon of the corresponding Old Testament prophet.
  • We have also created a slideshow that you might find useful.
  • Additional activities on this topic can be found following the links provided at the top of this page.

You can customize your lesson to cover the needs of the children you are ministering to. It is not necessary to teach all of the stories at once. Even teaching one or two will get the main point across. You could alternatively turn this study into a unit, spread out over a series of lessons. If you are teaching a large group on one session, you could separate the children in smaller groups, each group working on one story. At the end of the session, each group presents their craft, story and symbols to the others.

As mentioned, the main theme of this lesson is depicted in the icon type of the Root of Jesse. You can find out more about it and its variations at our webpage, A Different Jesse Tree.


Jacob and the Ladder (Genesis 28:10-17)

THE STORY AND SYMBOL

Jacob left his home and went away to marry. On the way, he spent the night in the wilderness, sleeping on the ground with a rock for a pillow. That night, he dreamed of a ladder extending to heaven, with angels stepping up and down on it. God was standing next to him and promised that, as long as Jacob and his offspring worshipped Him, they would be His people and they would fill the earth.

Jacob’s Ladder is a prefiguration of the Theotokos: Just as the ladder connected heaven and earth, the Theotokos made the way for our Lord to come down to earth from heaven. Additionally, through our prayers to the Virgin Mary and her intercessions for us to her Son, we are able to connect with God in heaven while we are still on earth.

In the icon of Jacob, we often see him pointing to a ladder, as shown in the 18th c. icon from the iconostasis of the Kizhi monastery in Russia (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons).

THE CRAFT

You will need:

  • One sheet of colored crafting paper for the ladder
  • One page, colored or white, for the background
  • The page with the angels from our printable packet
  • The Theotokos page from our printable packet
  • Scissors, glue, tape, string or twine, hole puncher, colors

What to do:

  • Cut out one of the Theotokos circles. Cut out as many angels as you will be using and color them if you wish.
  • Fold the colored paper in half crosswise. Fold it again, and then one more time. Cut off one side to reach your desired ladder width. Cut off rectangles out of the remaining folded piece of paper as shown in the photo. Unfold, and you have the ladder. Glue it onto the background paper.
  • Cut two long pieces of string. They should be long enough to wrap around the whole page lengthwise. Tape the angels onto the piece of string, close to the middle.
  • Punch two holes on the top of the ladder and two on the bottom as shown. Thread one piece of string through a top hole and through the corresponding bottom hole, then tie it in a knot at the back. Repeat with the other string. Glue the Theotokos in front of the ladder.
  • READY! The child can pull the strings on the back of the page, to make the angels move up and down.

Moses and the Burning Bush (Exodus 3:1-6)

THE STORY AND SYMBOL

Moses was married and a shepherd of his father-in-law’s flock. He was tending to the sheep when he saw a bush on fire – but the fire did not destroy the bush. Then God talked to Moses, giving him instructions on how to take his people away from Egypt.

The burning bush of Moses is a prefiguration of the Virgin Mary: Just like the bush was not destroyed by the flames of the fire, she was not burned by the divinity of Jesus, even though God Himself was present inside of her. Additionally, the burning but not consumed bush symbolizes her ever-lasting virginity.

In the icon of the Prophet Moses, we often see him pointing to a symbol of the burning bush, as shown in the 18th c. icon from the iconostasis of the Kizhi monastery in Russia (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons).

THE CRAFT

You will need:

  • Three pages of colored card stock, orange, yellow and/or red
  • The fire template from our printable packet
  • Colored tissue paper, orange, yellow, and/or red
  • The Theotokos page from our printable packet
  • Scissors, glue, double-sided tape is optional but very handy

What to do:

  • Cut out the template.
  • Fold the colored card stock in half crosswise. Using the template, cut out the fire shape while the page is still folded as shown. Repeat with the other two pages.
  • Make the 3D fire:  Glue one half of one fire shape onto one half of another fire shape back-to-back. Continue in the same way until you have a 3-D fire. 
  • Cut the tissue paper into strips, then fold one strip over and over until you have a little packet. Cut out many flame shapes out of the packet at once. Continue with another strip, in the same or another color.
  • Insert the Theotokos circle at the top of the fire as shown. Tape the flame shapes all over the fire. READY!

The Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:10-22)

THE STORY AND SYMBOL

God also told Moses how the people should worship Him. He asked Moses to build the Ark of the Covenant, a golden chest to keep the sacred objects of the Israelites. He instructed Moses to sculpt two angels on the cover of the Ark. God promised that He would dwell between the two angels to meet with Moses and give him commands for the people.

The golden Ark is a prefiguration of the Theotokos: Just as God was present in the Ark, He was also present inside the Theotokos. Additionally, all the sacred objects inside the Ark are prefigurations of the Theotokos and Christ: the manna in the Jar is Christ, while the Jar itself is the Theotokos; the Law inscribed on the tablets is Christ, while the tablets themselves are the Theotokos; the almond blossoms and fruit on Aaron’s staff are Christ, while the staff itself is the Theotokos.

THE CRAFT

You will need:

  • A sturdy piece of colored paper (yellow or gold, card stock or poster board)
  • The cherubim page from our printable packet
  • The Theotokos page from our printable packet
  • Scissors, glue, craft knife, double-sided tape is optional but very handy

What to do:

  • Cut out two rectangles from the paper, dimensions 8.5″x4″ and 3.5″x4″. The larger rectangle will become the Ark and the smaller will become its cover. Cut two long and narrow pieces out of the paper for the handles.
  • Fold the larger rectangle 5 times crosswise as shown in the photo. Four parts should be equal to each other and one part on the edge should be much shorter, about 0.5 inch wide, forming a tab.
  • Cut out one Theotokos circle. Tape the Theotokos circle on the side that is next to the tab, with the bottom toward the tab. Using the craft knife, cut one vertical slit, about 0.5 inch long, on each side of the Theotokos circle. Cut two similar slits on the opposite side.
  • Fold the rectangle into a rectangular prism. Insert the protruding tab inside the prism and glue in place to close the shape. Thread one pipe cleaner through the slits to make the Ark handles.
  • Fold the smaller rectangle in half lengthwise, then fold up about 0.5 inch from the edge of each half to make a tab. Glue the tabs onto the top of the rectangle prism to make the cover.
  • Cut out the angels and color them if you wish. In the photo, we printed them on yellow paper. Glue two angels together back-to-back, making sure not to glue the rectangular tabs underneath their feet. If you are using plain printer paper, sandwich a piece of thicker paper between the two angels to make the angel shape sturdier (we did this in the photo). Tape each angel at the top of the Ark cover using the tabs. Each tab should go on a different side of the cover. READY!

Aaron and the Staff that Sprouted
(Numbers 17:8)

THE STORY AND SYMBOL

God had promised Aaron, the brother of Moses, that he and his descendants would be the priests of the Israelites. The leaders of the other eleven tribes rebelled against Aaron and Moses. Then God asked Moses to gather the staffs of all twelve leaders. The next day Aaron’s staff had sprouted leaves, almond flowers and fruit. That way, God showed that the priests of the Israelites should come from Aaron’s tribe of Levi.

Aaron’s staff is a prefiguration of the Mother of God: As the staff miraculously sprouted, so she miraculously became pregnant and bore Christ our Lord. As mentioned, the leaves, blossoms and almonds are symbols of Christ.

In the icon of the Prophet Aaron, we often see him pointing to a symbol of the staff, as shown in the 18th c. icon from the iconostasis of the Kizhi monastery in Russia (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons).

THE CRAFT

You will need:

  • A stick or a long narrow piece of carboard for the staff
  • Green paper (we are using scrapbook paper in the photo) and white and/or pink tissue paper
  • The Theotokos page from our printable packet
  • Scissors, glue, double-sided tape is optional but very handy

What to do:

  • Cut long strips out of the green tissue paper. Fold one strip over and around, repeating until you have a little packet. Cut out many leaves at once from the packet.

Make the flowers

  • You can stack a few sheets of tissue paper together to make more flowers at the same time. First fold the paper in half. Then fold in half again. Fold the bottom corner up diagonally to make a triangle. Depending on the original size of your paper, there may or may not be a rectangle protruding at the top edge of the triangle. If there is a rectangle, cut it off so that only the triangle remains.
  • Fold the triangle in half to make a smaller triangle. Fold in half one more time.
  • Hold the triangle from the corner and cut off a scalloped design on the free edge.
  • Unfold the triangle, and your flower petal circles are ready.
  • To make one flower, hold a petal circle from its center, scrunching it up and twisting it at the same time.
  • Tape or glue the Theotokos circle onto the branch, then tape on the leaves and flowers. READY!

Gideon and the Fleece (Judges 6:36-38)

THE STORY AND SYMBOL

There was a time when the people of Israel were oppressed by the people of Midian. At that time, the Israelites had all forgotten about God. Prophet Gideon was the only one who still believed in the Lord. So God promised Gideon that He would help him free the people of Israel.

Gideon asked God for a sign to help him trust God’s promise: Gideon would put a fleece of wool outside for the night; if the dew would only fall upon it, leaving the earth around it dry, then Gideon would believe in the words of God. So it happened: Gideon wrung a whole bowl of water out of the fleece but the land around it was completely dry. Gideon then trusted God’s promise.

Gideon’s fleece is a prefiguration of the Theotokos: As the dew descended from heaven upon the fleece, so our God came down from heaven inside the Theotokos. The fleece also alludes to the ever-virginity of the Theotokos, as it is the sheep’s coat entirely unadulterated, after its first shearing and before any processing on it.

In the icon of the Prophet Aaron, we often see him pointing to a symbol of the staff, as shown in the 18th c. icon from the iconostasis of the Kizhi monastery in Russia (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons).

THE CRAFT

You will need:

  • A piece of grey, beige, brown, or white felt
  • Knitting thread, preferably shaggy
  • Liquid glue and silver or blue glitter – or glitter glue – to make the dew drops
  • Our printable page with the Theotokos circles
  • Scissors

What to do:

  • Cut an organic oval shape out of the felt.
  • Glue some knitting thread onto the felt, looping and scrunching it all around.
  • Drop large blobs of glue on several spots on the fleece. Sprinkle them with glitter and let dry. Clear away the remaining glitter. You can alternatively just use glitter glue.
  • Glue a small part of the Theotokos circle underneath the felt, then fold it upwards. READY!

Isaiah and the Tongs (Isaiah 6:6-7)

THE STORY AND SYMBOL

The Prophet Isaiah dreamed that he was standing in front of the throne of God in heaven. There, God asked him to prophesy His will to the Israelites. Isaiah wondered how he, being a sinner, was able to see God. Then an angel came down to the Prophet, holding a burning coal with a pair of tongs, and wiped Isaiah’s lips with the coal. Isaiah’s sins were thus cleared away.

Isaiah’s tongs that safely held the burning coal symbolize the Virgin Mary: She was blessed to carry Christ, without being hurt from the fire of His divinity. This symbol also refers to the mysteries of Confession and Holy Communion: like the coal in Isaiah’s dream, they clear away our sins and cleanse our body and soul.

In the icon of the Prophet Isaiah, we often see him pointing to a symbol of the tongs. In the 18th c. icon from the iconostasis of the Kizhi monastery in Russia (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons) this is not shown, he is only holding the scroll with his prophecy. However, it can be seen in other icons of the prophet, such as this example.

THE CRAFT

You will need:

  • One page of colored card stock, yellow, grey, metallic silver or gold
  • The tongs template from our printable packet
  • The Theotokos page from our printable packet
  • A brad (paper fastener)
  • Scissors, glue, hole puncher
  • Red colored tissue paper is optional. Scrunch a piece up to make the coal. You can even wrap it a few times around an LED votive light to make it look like the coal is burning.

What to do:

  • Cut out a Theotokos circle and the template.
  • Fold the card stock in half crosswise. Use the tongs template to cut two mirroring pieces out of the card stock. This is easily done if you cut both pieces together while the card stock is folded.
  • Cross the two tong pieces at the center and punch a hole where marked on the tongs template. Insert the brad through the hole and fasten.
  • Glue the Theotokos circle on one of the handles. READY!

Ezekiel and the Sealed Gate (Ezekiel 44:1-4)

THE STORY AND SYMBOL

The priest and Prophet Ezekiel had a vision: an angel showed him the East Gate of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem and said that the Gate was sealed forever because the Lord had passed through it.

The sealed and impassable gate is a prefiguration of the Theotokos: As God passed through the gate, so He passed through the Theotokos, the purest person on earth, to become human.

In the icon of the Prophet Ezekiel, we often see him pointing to a symbol of the Gate, as shown in the 18th c. icon from the iconostasis of the Kizhi monastery in Russia (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons).

THE CRAFT

You will need:

  • One page of colored paper, brown, grey or similar (we are using scrapbook paper in the photo)
  • A small piece of card stock, preferably metallic or grey, to make the lock
  • The Theotokos page from our printable packet
  • A piece of ribbon, preferably silver
  • Scissors, glue, tape, marker, hole puncher

What to do:

  • Fold the brown paper in half crosswise and cut it into a gate shape as shown in the photo. On one side, cut a slit along the middle, from bottom to top, without reaching all the way to the top. Then cut a curvy slit across the top of the gate, from the center toward the right, following the shape of the gate, as shown in the photo. Do the same on the other side.
  • Fold out the two doors. Punch a hole on each door as shown.
  • At the right and left edges of the gate, glue together the front and back. To make the door stand, fold the back lengthwise down the middle.
  • Cut out the Theotokos circle.
  • Using the marker, draw a keyhole on the lock rectangle.
  • Thread the ribbon through the holes, then tape the edges of the ribbon behind the lock shape.
  • Glue the Theotokos circle to the top of the gate. READY!

Daniel and the Mountain Unhewn (Daniel 2:34,45)

THE STORY AND SYMBOL

The righteous Daniel had become the counselor of King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. One night the king saw a dream, in which a huge statue of himself was made of different materials.

Suddenly, without any human intervention, an enormous stone was cut off from the peak of a nearby mountain, rolled down thrashing into the statue, and crashed it into pieces. Prophet Daniel was called immediately to explain the king’s dream.

The unhewn mountain symbolizes the Theotokos and the stone symbolizes Christ Himself: as the stone was cut off the mountain without the work of a human hand, so Christ became man through the Theotokos without the help of a human father. The unhewn mountain also alludes to the ever-virginity of the Theotokos.

In the icon of the Prophet Daniel, we often see him pointing to a symbol of the Mountain, as shown in the 18th c. icon from the iconostasis of the Kizhi monastery in Russia (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons).

THE CRAFT

You will need:

  • One paper lunch bag
  • Green and red colored paper
  • The Theotokos page from our printable packet
  • Scissors, glue, double-sided tape is optional but very handy

What to do:

  • Fold the top of the bag as shown in the photo and glue it in place. Open up the bag, crumpling up the top a little, to make a shape that roughly resembles a mountain, as they appear in Orthodox icons.
  • Cut out some bush shapes and small circles/fruit out of the colored paper. It is easier if you fold the paper over a few times and cut many shapes at once.
  • Glue or tape some bushes with fruit onto the mountain.
  • Cut out the Theotokos circle. Glue or tape the Theotokos circle to the top of the mountain. READY!

Zachariah and the Seven-light Lampstand (Zachariah 4:2)

THE STORY AND SYMBOL

The Priest-Prophet Zachariah had a vision: An angel guiding the Prophet showed him a lampstand with seven lights.

Zacharia’s seven-light lampstand symbolizes the Theotokos: as the lampstand held the light, so she became the vessel to hold the Light of the World, our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the icon of the Prophet Zachariah, we often see him pointing to a symbol of the seven-light lampstand. In the 18th c. icon from the iconostasis of the Kizhi monastery in Russia (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons) this is not shown, he is only holding the scroll with his prophecy. However, it can be seen in other icons of the prophet, such as an example at the St. Antonios Antiochian Orthodox Church, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (scroll down the page that comes up to see Prophet Zachariah).

THE CRAFT

You will need:

  • The lampstand template from our printable packet
  • The Theotokos page from our printable packet
  • A sheet of colored or white paper for the background
  • A sheet of colored paper for the lampstand (we are using scrapbook paper in the photo)
  • Red and/or yellow and/or orange tulle fabric or tissue paper
  • Scissors, glue, stapler

What to do:

  • Cut the tulle fabric into squares, with a side of about 3″.
  • Stack a few tulle pieces together, fold in half, then roll into a cone and secure with a staple. Repeat until you have seven cones. They will become the flames of the lampstand.
  • Fold the colored paper in half lengthwise. Position the lampstand template onto the folded paper as shown, then cut out the lampstand shape (you will be cutting out half of the lampstand. When you unfold the paper, you will get the whole shape).
  • Place the lampstand on the background page. Mark the top of the background page so you know where each flame should go. Turn it over, and staple the flames on top, at the appropriate spots.
  • Turn the page over again, and glue on the lampstand so that it covers the staples.
  • Cut out the Theotokos circle and glue it on the lampstand. READY!

EXPLORE FURTHER