The Bible has some great stories -- so good that Hollywood has raided some of them for the plots of movies! (See: "The Ten Commandments," "Jesus of Nazareth," and more). At the center of every great Biblical story is a mighty hero for the Lord, or a rogue who listened to the devil perched on their shoulder.
It's also worth noting that God -- especially in the Old Testament -- seems to have a soft spot for unlikely heroes, even antiheroes. There's more than one rogue in the scriptures who struggles with a taste for the ladies, or a quick temper, or a streak of skepticism about God's ability to actually carry out His plans. Time and again, the Lord patiently brings these imperfect sinners back to the task at hand. Moses thought he almost certainly wasn't the right man to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Jonah disliked the pagans of Nineveh so much that he literally ran away from God's command to preach to them. He found out the hard way you can't hide from God!
You probably know who betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. But the Bible's lesser-known characters are intriguing as well. Who refused to dance for a heathen king -- thus giving a faithful Israelite woman a chance to ascend to queenhood? Who sold his birthright for lentil stew? And who brought down an entire temple on himself and a large number of Philistines? (Hint: He was renowned for his great strength, which, in turn, was based on his never cutting his long locks).
Can you separate the sheep from the wolves -- and identify what exactly they did to make religious history? Try your luck now!
Judas Iscariot identified Jesus to the high priests who wanted to arrest him. There are two stories about how he died: that he hanged himself, or that he fell to his death in a field that he bought with the silver.
Cain farmed, while Abel was a herder. Abel's sacrifice of animals was acceptable to the Lord, while Cain's, of produce, was not. This led to the jealousy that inspired the murder.
Esther became a queen and was in a position to save her people from the wicked Haman. A book of the Bible is named for her.
The feats of Samson are told in the book of Judges. The source of Samson's strength was his long hair -- he was a nazirite, dedicated to God's service.
Noah acted on God's command, building the ship with his sons. Archaeological expeditions have actually sought out the remains of such an ark on Mt. Ararat, where, according to popular belief, it landed.
Moses was spared from an edict that all male Israelite infants should be killed, because his mother placed him in a basket in the river. Thus he survived to be the later leader of his people.
This is the incident that brings David to Saul's attention. Thereafter, David became part of Saul's entourage and army -- but increasingly, he became a threat to Saul's power as well.
In this story from Genesis, Abraham is afraid the king will kill him to get Sarah. So he says that she is his sister. He's half telling the truth -- Sarah was Abraham's half-sister.
Jacob could not defeat the angel (in some traditions, believed to be God himself). But neither would he let the angel go until he had given Jacob a blessing.
Delilah persuaded Samson to finally tell her the secret of his strength: his long hair. After that, it was easy to have her manservant cut off Samson's hair while he slept, thus stealing his strength.
Menthuselah isn't the only man in Genesis's genealogies to have a lifespan much longer than modern humans do. But he *is* the champ, at nearly a millennium.
Elijah's follower Elisha saw him taken up into heaven in a chariot of fire. Elijah's mantle fell on Elisha, marking him as Elijah's successor.
There's an old Sunday School song about how "Joshua fought the battle of Jericho." Actually, he brought the city walls down just by having the priests blow ram's horns and the people shout.
This is one of the more unpleasant episodes in the Bible. Technically, there was peace between Sisera and Heber, the husband of Jael, and he sought refuge in Jael's tent. She gave him milk and let him fall asleep, then killed him. So much for the Middle Eastern tradition of hospitality!
These three were all children of King David. The book of 2 Samuel says that David was angry with Amnon, but would not hurt him, because he was the firstborn (and in line for the throne.)
Remember, David was a musician before he was a warrior or king. He used to play the lyre for King Saul, when the king was afflicted by fits. (He apparently suffered from some kind of mental illness.
Salome was acting on her mother's instructions in making his request. John the Baptist had been telling Herod that it was not lawful for him to have taken his brother's wife as his own. Herod had arrested John for this, but had been afraid to have him killed. Salome's request, made in front of guests, forced Herod's hand.
This happened after Babylon had conquered Israel. Daniel was a trusted adviser of the king, Darius -- but this didn't stop Darius from having him cast into a lions' den to satisfy political foes.
Technically, the disciple is not named, but popular belief holds that it was Peter. He acts rashly throughout the Gospels; a temperamental man whom God will make a leader and saint.
Ananias and Sapphira's story is found in Acts chapter 5. We won't spoil it for you, but it doesn't have a happy ending.
This story is found in Acts chapter 12. "Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and said, 'Get up quickly.' And the chains fell from his wrists." (Acts 12: 7)
Herod was afraid of the newborn Messiah, whose birth he had been made aware of by the three wise kings passing through his territory. The death edict was his extreme reaction.
This one was Jesus himself. His temptation came between his baptism and the beginning of his ministry.
Jacob is one of the Bible's tricksters. He disguised himself as his brother Esau and obtained his father's blessing, which at that time was much more than a well-wish, but a kind of spiritual successorhood.
Joseph was in Egypt because his brothers sold him into slavery. However, he was a wise man, and rose to a position of prominence, interpreting the Pharaoh's dreams of crop failure.
This occurs in Joshua chapter 10. "Thus sun stopped in midheaven, and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. There has been no day like it before or since." (Joshua 10:13)
Jonathan was close to David from the first time they met. David grieved to hear of his fall in battle against the Philistines.
Nathan was unafraid to tell powerful King David that he had done wrong in the eyes of the Lord. (Or if he was, he hid it well). The story of the poor man's lamb was about David's seduction of the married Bathsheba.
Absalom the usurper died an undignified death. When his mule went under an oak, Absalom's head was caught in low-hanging branches, and Joab, who served David, ran him through with several spears.
Rahab was a prostitute, the book of Joshua tells us. But she was saved, along with her family, when the city of Jericho was sacked, because she helped the two spies who were scouting out the city.
The book of 1 Kings tells us that it took Solomon seven years to build the temple. 1 Samuel chapter 6 goes into great detail about the materials that went into it: cedar wood, olive wood, gold and more.
The queen of Sheba came not just to bring gifts, but to test Solomon's wisdom. When he was able to answer all her questions, "The spirit went out of her." (Do you get the feeling she was used to being the smartest person in the room?)
We can understand if you chose "Jesus" here. Several of Elisha's miracles prefigure those of Jesus, like causing food to multiply to feed the hungry, and raising a person from the dead.
Haman is found in the book of Esther. She must intercede with the king to derail Haman's plans. This story is comemmorated in the Jewish festival of Purim.
All three men were punished for not worshiping an idol in Babylon, which had conquered the Jews. This story is found in the book of Daniel, and closely parallels the story of the lions' den, which likewise has a happy ending.