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Biblical Personality Profiles


“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”

  • I Peter 2:9


Adam, whose name means “man,” was the first human being. Created out of dust, he was made in the image of God. Adam was given dominion over the rest of creation and was placed in the garden of Eden to care for it. God created Eve as a helper for Adam, and together they enjoyed perfect fellowship with their Creator. But Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, which brought sin and death into the world. Because of their sin, all humans are now born sinners and will someday die. The Bible tells the story of how God redeems his creation from the curse of Adam’s sin. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22). (Genesis 2:7)


God created Eve, whose name means “life,” as a helper for Adam. Fashioned from one of Adam’s ribs, Eve became the mother (that is, the female ancestor) of all human beings. Though enjoying perfect fellowship with God, Eve was deceived by the serpent and disobeyed God by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Because of their sin, Adam and Eve were driven from the paradise of Eden and began to experience great hardship. For Eve, that included pain in childbearing. Yet, as promised in Gen. 3:15, one of her offspring would defeat the serpent and bring salvation and eternal life to all who put their trust in him. (Genesis 2:23)


Noah was a righteous man who faithfully walked with God despite the wickedness of his generation. When God chose to destroy the earth because of its hopeless corruption, Noah alone found favor in his eyes. God instructed Noah to build an ark that would keep him and his family safe during the coming flood. Noah also took representative pairs of each kind of animal with him into the ark, to replenish the earth after the flood. God made a covenant with Noah, promising that he would never again destroy the earth with a flood. The NT calls Noah a “herald of righteousness” (2 Pet. 2:5). (Genesis 6:7–8)


God called Abraham to leave his native country for a land that he would show him. When Abraham arrived in Canaan, God promised to give the land to him and his descendants, who would become the nation of Israel. The Lord promised that the whole world would be blessed through Abraham and his descendants. Abraham faced the ultimate test of faith when God commanded him to sacrifice his son Isaac. Because Abraham was willing to do so, God once again promised to bless him and to multiply his offspring. God spared Isaac from death by providing a substitute sacrifice, foreshadowing the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross. (Genesis 15:5–6)


Melchizedek is among the most mysterious figures in Scripture. King of Salem, a city identified with Jerusalem, and “priest of God Most High,” Mel­chiz­edek’s name means “king of righteousness.” Following Abraham’s defeat of Chedorlaomer and his rescue of Lot, Melchizedek provided a meal of bread and wine for Abraham and his men. He then blessed Abraham, attributing Abraham’s victory over his enemies to God Most High. In response to Melchizedek’s blessing, Abraham gave the priest-king a tenth of everything he had. David mentions Melchizedek in the messianic Psalm 110, and the writer of Hebrews presents Melchizedek as a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, who is both priest and king. (Genesis 14:18–20)


Ishmael was Abraham’s eldest son. His mother was Hagar, the maidservant of Abraham’s wife Sarah. Ishmael was around 16 years old when his half-brother, Isaac, was born. Sarah overheard Ishmael mocking his younger brother, so she angrily expelled Hagar and Ishmael from her household and sent them to wander in the desert. God protected them, however, and promised that Ishmael would become a great nation. Ishmael grew to be strongly independent and, as the Lord had prophesied, he lived a life of hostility toward others. Ishmael settled in the wilderness of Paran, where he became an expert archer. Because Ishmael was Abraham’s son, God blessed him. He had 12 sons, who became princes of 12 tribes. (Genesis 16:11–12)


Sarah was Abraham’s wife and was also his half-sister. On two occasions, to save himself from possible danger, Abraham said that Sarah was his “sister,” failing to mention that she was also his wife. After many years of not being able to bear children, Sarah encouraged Abraham to start a family with her maidservant, Hagar. This plan backfired when, upon conceiving, Hagar became condescending toward Sarah. Later, God promised Abraham that he would give him a son through Sarah. Since she was 90 years old at the time, and Abraham himself was 100, Sarah’s initial response to the promise was laughter. However, one year later, Sarah gave birth to Isaac, the child of promise. She thus became an ancestor of Christ. (Genesis 17:15–16)


Abraham’s nephew Lot traveled with him to the promised land of Canaan. When the combined wealth of Abraham and Lot proved too much for one place, Abraham generously offered his nephew first choice of the land. Lot chose the fertile Jordan Valley, settling in Sodom. Later, Abraham rescued Lot when he was taken captive by invaders. When the wicked city of Sodom was destroyed, God allowed Lot’s family to escape. Lot’s wife disobeyed by looking back, however, and was turned into a pillar of salt. Filled with fear, Lot and his daughters hid in a cave. Both daughters, desperate to have children, tricked Lot into fathering a son with them. Despite his shortcomings, Lot is described in 2 Pet. 2:7–10 as a righteous man. (Genesis 19:15–16)


God had promised Abraham that the world would be blessed through his descendants. When Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah, it was the initial fulfillment of that promise. At God’s command, Isaac was almost sacrificed by his father, but his life was spared when God provided a ram to be sacrificed in his place. This prefigured the sacrifice of God’s own Son in the place of all who would believe in him. Isaac settled in Gerar, a Philistine city, where he became prosperous. He married Rebekah, who bore him twin sons, Jacob and Esau. Although Esau was his favorite son, Isaac was tricked by Jacob into giving him the blessing intended for his older brother. (Genesis 21:1–3)


Because he did not want Isaac to marry a Canaanite, Abraham sent his servant to Mesopotamia to find a wife for his son. The servant prayed for a sign to help him recognize the woman God had appointed for this purpose. Rebekah’s actions were the precise answer to the servant’s prayer. She was beautiful and hospitable, and in an act of faith she left her country and her family so that she could journey to Canaan and marry Isaac. Like Sarah, Rebekah was barren. Isaac prayed on her behalf, and God heard his prayer. Rebekah gave birth to Jacob and Esau. Favoring Jacob above his brother, Rebekah instructed him to trick his father into giving him the blessing intended for Esau. (Genesis 25:23)


Esau, whose name means “hairy,” was the son of Isaac and Rebekah and the elder twin brother of Jacob. Esau was a skillful hunter and his father’s favorite son, but he brought misery upon his parents by marrying two Hittite women. Esau carelessly sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew. Jacob then tricked Isaac into giving him the blessing intended for his brother. In response, Esau tried to kill Jacob. Years later, however, Jacob and Esau were reconciled. Esau founded the nation of Edom, which became an enemy of Israel. Jacob the chosen one and Esau the one not chosen typify the age-long struggle between the people of God and their adversaries. (Genesis 27:36)


Jacob was the son of Isaac and Rebekah. His name means “he grasps the heel” or “he cheats.” Jacob used deception to receive the blessing intended for his brother Esau. He then fled to the home of his uncle Laban. When Jacob asked permission to marry Laban’s daughter Rachel, Laban agreed but then tricked him into marrying her older sister Leah instead. However, Jacob was allowed to marry Rachel as well, and he eventually became the father of 12 sons and a daughter. As he was returning to Canaan, Jacob wrestled with an angel of the Lord. During this struggle he was given a new name, Israel, which means “struggles with God.” Jacob’s 12 sons became the 12 tribes of Israel. (Genesis 32:27–28)


Rachel was the daughter of Laban, uncle of Jacob. She became Jacob’s wife. Since she was a shep­herdess, it is fitting that Rachel’s name means “ewe.” Rachel was a beautiful woman, and the Bible says that Jacob loved her immediately. So deep was his love for her that after being deceived into marrying her older sister Leah, Jacob promised to work an additional seven years for Laban so that he could marry Rachel as well. There was constant strife between the sisters because Jacob favored Rachel, and because Rachel was envious of Leah’s ability to have children. After many years of waiting, however, Rachel gave birth to Joseph and Benjamin. Ruth 4:11 says that Rachel and Leah “together built up the house of Israel.” (Genesis 29:18, 20)


Joseph was the son of Jacob and his favored wife Rachel. Jacob therefore showed favoritism toward Joseph, which made his brothers despise him. Out of jealousy, they sold him into slavery. Joseph was taken to Egypt, where he was purchased by a royal official. Joseph was imprisoned on false charges but was released after interpreting the dreams of Pharaoh. Because the dreams had predicted seven years of famine, Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of preparing for the famine. During the famine Joseph’s family unknowingly came to him for help, and Joseph forgave his brothers and rescued his family. Through Joseph, God used evil to work out his good purposes, foreshadowing the time when he would bring the supreme good of eternal salvation out of the wicked actions of those who crucified Jesus. (Genesis 50:19–20)


Moses’ life was spared when his mother hid him in a reed basket and set him adrift on the Nile. Rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter and raised as a prince, Moses nonetheless recognized the Hebrews as his people. After killing an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave, Moses fled to Midian, where he married Zipporah. God spoke to him through a burning bush, instructing him to return to Egypt and rescue the Hebrews from slavery to the Egyptians. After performing powerful signs before Pharaoh, Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt and brought them to Mount Sinai, where he received the Law and the Ten Commandments. He led the people of Israel for 40 years as they wandered in the wilderness. Through Moses God redeemed his people from slavery in Egypt, prefiguring Christ’s eternal redemption of his people from slavery to sin. (Exodus 33:17)


Aaron was Moses’ brother and his spokesperson before Israel and Pharaoh. When Pharaoh refused to release the Hebrews, Aaron stretched out his rod to bring plagues upon the Egyptians. He helped Moses lead the Israelites out of Egypt and through the wilderness. At Sinai, however, Aaron gave in to the Israelites’ sinful demand and designed a golden calf for them to worship. On another occasion, when the Lord miraculously provided water in the wilderness, both Moses and Aaron failed to give proper honor to the Lord, and as a result they were forbidden entry into the Promised Land. As a descendant of Levi, Aaron became Israel’s first high priest, and all future priests were his descendants. (Exodus 4:15)


Miriam was the sister of Moses and Aaron. It was probably Miriam who saw Pharaoh’s daughter rescue Moses from the water, and offered to call a Hebrew woman to nurse the child. As a result, Moses was nursed by his own mother, who was paid wages to care for him. Miriam was a prophetess. Following the exodus she led the women of Israel in song and dance to celebrate God’s deliverance. Along with Aaron, she criticized Moses for marrying a Cushite woman, thus challenging his authority. God punished Miriam by inflicting her with leprosy, though she was healed after Moses prayed for her. Micah 6:4 lists Miriam alongside her brothers as one whom God appointed to lead Israel. (Exodus 15:20–21)


Caleb was one of 12 tribal leaders sent by Moses to spy out the land of Canaan. Of the 12 spies, only Caleb and Joshua brought back an encouraging report. The other spies emphasized the strength of Canaan’s inhabitants and concluded that Israel would face certain defeat. However, Caleb and Joshua urged the people not to rebel against the Lord’s promise to give the land to them or to fear Canaan’s inhabitants. They reminded the people that the Lord would protect them and keep his promise if they obeyed. When the congregation responded with anger, the Lord punished their disbelief. He promised that the entire generation would die in the wilderness, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua. When Caleb was 85 years old, he was given Hebron for an inheritance. (Numbers 14:24)


Korah, who was from the tribe of Levi, led a rebellion against Moses and Aaron. Dathan, Abiram, and 250 well-known chiefs of the congregation joined with him. Korah and his men accused Moses and Aaron of exalting themselves above the people of Israel. They failed to recognize, however, that it is God who gives authority to whomever he chooses. As punishment for their rebellion, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, together with their households and possessions, were swallowed up by the earth in front of the people of Israel. God sent fire to consume the 250 chiefs. The people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron and remained sympathetic to the punished rebels, so God sent a plague as further punishment. (Numbers 16:31–35)