Today’s author is Prince of Peace member, Sharon Rachner.

Why is it important for each of us to study the various characters in the Bible?  

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The Bible is filled with characters, literally and figuratively. Perhaps the best way to describe how the Bible portrays its characters is “human” because they are, in fact, human. The Bible is true and the people that inhabit its pages were real people with real problems, just like us. The Bible does not shy away from presenting both the strengths and weaknesses of those it portrays. This makes the characters in the Bible “practical” in the sense that we can relate to them and educational in the sense that we can learn from their successes and failures.

Adam and Eve were disobedient blame-shifters. Abraham was a liar. Jacob was a schemer. Joseph had somewhat of the “I’m better than you” attitude. Moses made excuses. Saul was jealous. David was an adulterer. Solomon was the smartest fool in the history of the world. Elijah seemed to be somewhat bi-polar. Peter definitely had “foot-in-mouth” disease. The list goes on and on. No matter your personality and struggles, there is someone in the Bible you can relate to and learn from.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Ultimately, that must be our goal when we study Bible characters. Where they were successful in following God, we are to emulate them. Where they failed, we are to avoid making the same mistakes. “Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did…These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us…No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:6-13).

It is undeniable that relatively few women are mentioned in the Bible, and extremely few have what might be considered “major” roles. The reasons for this are mainly cultural. However, several women in the Bible had huge roles to play, and the honor they were given continues to this day.

During the historical periods covered by the Bible, most societies were patriarchal, meaning men held exclusive power with the rare exception of a ruling queen. These power dynamics extended to every part of life, including religion, government, and family. Since the Bible mainly records historical events, such as the rise of the nation of Israel, and the acts of leaders such as prophets and priests and kings, the vast majority of people mentioned are men.

Many Bible scholars point out that the number of women who are recorded in the Bible is unusual, given the male-dominated society in which the Bible was written. The inclusion of the stories of women, from Hannah and Ruth and Esther and Deborah in the Old Testament to Mary and Elizabeth and Priscilla in the New, seems to indicate that God values women more than society as a whole did. Of special note is the resurrection account. The disciples of Jesus, all male, were hiding in fear while the women went to the tomb, discovered it empty, met the risen Lord, and became the world’s first evangelists (Matthew 28).

During most of the world’s history, women played a smaller role than men, and that reality is accurately reflected in the Bible. The majority of kings and other leaders were men. Women were accustomed to being relegated to secondary roles. That’s part of why the woman at the well was shocked that Jesus spoke to her: “The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’” (John 4:9). It wasn’t just that she was a Samaritan, but that she was a Samaritan woman that caused her to think Jesus would overlook her. But she was wrong; Jesus had come to seek and save all who were lost, women included. And, in Christ, men and women are absolutely equal (Galatians 3:28).