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Biblical Personality Profiles


#21

Balaam was a well-known non-Israelite prophet. Balak, the king of Moab, was terrified of the Israelites, and so he summoned Balaam to place a curse on them. God spoke to Balaam, however, and forbade him to curse Israel. He permitted Balaam to go to Balak on the condition that he speak only as the Lord instructed. God reinforced this condition in a grimly humorous episode involving a talking donkey. Balak tried many times to persuade Balaam to curse Israel, but his plan backfired. Balaam instead pronounced four blessings on the nation. Although Balaam was unable to curse the Israelites, he later advised Balak to send women to seduce Israel away from God and into idolatry (31:6). (Numbers 22:22–35)


#22

Eleazar was the third son of Aaron. His older brothers, Nadab and Abihu, died after offering unauthorized fire before the Lord. Following their death, Eleazar and his younger brother, Ithamar, were placed in charge of the tent of meeting. Eleazar supervised those who guarded the sanctuary. After Aaron’s death, he became high priest of Israel. He assisted Moses in taking a census of Israel. This was to establish the size of the tribes so that each could be given an appropriate inheritance. Moses commissioned Joshua as his successor in the presence of Eleazar, who later helped Joshua divide the Promised Land among the tribes of Israel. Eleazar died soon after the death of Aaron. He had one son, Phinehas, and was an ancestor of Ezra the scribe. (Numbers 20:25–28)


#23

Joshua was a spiritual and military leader of Israel. He accompanied Moses part of the way up Mount Sinai and also assisted him at the tent of meeting. He was one of the 12 spies sent to explore the land of Canaan. Upon their return, most of the spies said it would be impossible to conquer the land, but Joshua and Caleb encouraged the people to trust the Lord for victory. Because of their obedience and faith, Joshua and Caleb were the only two men of their generation allowed to enter Canaan. The Lord appointed Joshua to lead Israel into the Promised Land. He was also put in charge of dividing the land among the tribes. (Numbers 27:18–23)


#24

Rahab was a Gentile prostitute who lived in Jericho. When Joshua sent two spies to gather information about the city, she hid the men from the king. She also deceived the men who came looking for the spies. She convinced them to leave the city in pursuit of the spies, who were actually hidden on her roof. She demonstrated a remarkable awareness of Israel’s history and of the Lord’s intention to give Israel the land of Canaan. In response to her kindness, Joshua spared Rahab and her household when Israel destroyed Jericho. Rahab was Boaz’s mother and is one of four women listed in the genealogy of Jesus. She is commended in the NT for her faith and for her good works. (Joshua 2:10–11)


#25

The story of Ehud begins by saying that he was “a left-handed man” (3:15), and in fact the Lord used Ehud’s left-handedness to defeat Israel’s enemy. Ehud led a delegation to pay tribute to Eglon, king of Moab, who was ruling over Israel. Because he was left-handed, Ehud was able to conceal a sword on his right thigh, where it would not be expected. He then pretended to have a secret message for the king. While he was alone with King Eglon, Ehud killed him, then managed to escape before the king’s servants realized what had happened. The graphic details in this account show the rough nature of this time in Israel’s history and the earthy character of many of its “heroes.” (Judges 3:28)


#26

When the Canaanite king Jabin, with his 900 chariots of iron, oppressed Israel, the Lord raised up a woman to save them. Deborah, a prophetess, was called to lead the nation as a judge and deliverer. Since women did not usually go into battle, Deborah called upon Barak to lead the army against Jabin, but then Barak insisted that Deborah go into battle with him. Following the victory, Deborah and Barak sang a song of praise to the Lord. The defeat of Jabin ushered in a period of 40 years of peace for the people of Israel. Although many of the judges made poor choices during their rule, Deborah’s actions and words consistently pointed to God. (Judges 4:4–7)


#27

Gideon was called by God to free the Israelites from oppression by the Midianites. After destroying an altar of Baal, he was given the name Jerubbaal, which means, “let Baal contend.” The name was a mocking challenge to this powerless false god. The God of Israel proved his own power by leading Gideon to choose his army in a very unusual way, reducing it from 32,000 to only 300 men. Those 300 men defeated the Midianites, not with the sword but with trumpets, torches, and pitchers! Gideon was viewed as a hero, and the people tried to make him king. He refused their request, rightly declaring that “the Lord will rule over you” (8:23). Sadly, however, Gideon went on to do things that suggested a heart filled with pride rather than humility. (Judges 6:36–40)


#28

Gideon’s son Abimelech became king over the city of Shechem thanks to his family’s successful campaign to influence the city’s leaders. He then removed his strongest competition for leadership by ruthlessly killing 70 of his own brothers. Abim­elech’s youngest brother Jotham, who alone had escaped the murderous rampage, courageously condemned Abimelech and the leaders. He told a fable that predicted the judgment that would fall on Abimelech and the leaders for the deaths of Gideon’s sons. When the people of Shechem later turned against Abimelech, he successfully resisted their rebellion by killing many people and destroying their city. But then, as he tried to capture a nearby city, a woman dropped a millstone on his head, crushing his skull. This episode in Israel’s history shows some of the consequences of Israel’s unfaithfulness to the Lord (8:33–34). (Judges 9:5–6)


#29

Jephthah, one of the judges of Israel, was a mighty warrior from Gilead. Because he was the son of a prostitute, his half brothers rejected him. He fled to another town, where he associated with “worthless fellows” (11:3). This was probably a reflection on his own character as well. When enemies began oppressing the Israelites, they appointed Jephthah as their leader without seeking God’s approval. Before going into battle with the Ammon­ites, Jeph­thah made a foolish vow: that if he were victorious, he would sacrifice to the Lord the first thing to emerge from his house upon his return. When he did return victorious, he was greeted at the door by his daughter, his only child. Jephthah followed through on his irresponsible vow, even though the Mosaic law did not require him to do so. (Judges 11:5)


#30

Samson was the twelfth and final judge of Israel. God raised him up to deliver Israel from the Philis­tines. Possessing great strength, he often battled the Philistines single-handedly. Samson was a life-long Nazirite, but he broke every one of his vows. He made particularly bad decisions regarding his relationships with women. This is most evident in his relationship with Delilah, to whom he revealed the secret of his strength. Paid by the Philistines to seduce Samson, Delilah cut off his hair while he slept. He was attacked and blinded by a group of Philistines lying in wait, and taken as their prisoner. His final feat of strength was to bring down a Philistine temple, killing about 3,000 Philistines along with himself. Despite Samson’s sinful life and continued unfaithfulness, God used him to save Israel. (Judges 15:14–17)


#31

Naomi, along with her husband and two sons, moved from Israel to Moab to seek relief from a famine. In Moab, one of her sons married Ruth, a Moabite. When Naomi’s husband and sons died, she decided to return to her home in Bethlehem. Naomi urged Ruth to stay behind in her native land, but out of love for her mother-in-law, Ruth chose to return with her to Bethlehem and to serve the Lord. Following her mother-in-law’s daring plan, Ruth took courageous steps to provide a new family for herself and Naomi. She married Boaz, and they had a son, Obed, who became the grandfather of King David. This means that Ruth was included in the lineage of Jesus Christ. Ruth’s expression of love for her mother-in-law (1:16–17) has set a high standard for godly relationships down through the ages. (Ruth 1:16–17)


#32

When Naomi and her Moabite daughter-in-law Ruth came to Bethlehem as childless widows to start a new life, they encountered Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s deceased husband. He was a good man who allowed the poor to glean in his field, as God commanded in the Law. The report of Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi and to the Lord impressed him, and he protected Ruth while she worked in his field. By Israelite tradition, Boaz was among those who could rescue Naomi and Ruth from poverty. He could do so by redeeming Naomi’s ancestral land and by marrying Ruth, thus providing heirs for Naomi’s and Ruth’s deceased husbands. After Ruth revealed her interest in Boaz, he agreed to do all of this. As he and Ruth moved toward marriage, Boaz was very careful to make sure that everything was done in an orderly and honorable way. Boaz and Ruth became the parents of Obed, who became King David’s grandfather. (Ruth 4:9–10)


#33

Hannah was one of Elkanah’s two wives. Although his other wife, Peninnah, had children, Hannah did not. While at the temple in Shiloh, Hannah wept bitterly because of her inability to have a child. Deeply distressed, she prayed to the Lord. She vowed that if he gave her a son, she would dedicate the child to God. Eli the priest observed Hannah praying and thought that she was drunk. When he realized that her display of emotion was genuine, however, he blessed Hannah. God answered Hannah’s prayer, and she gave birth to Samuel. When the child was weaned, she took him to Eli at the temple in fulfillment of her vow. Hannah’s song, praising God for her new son, is very similar to the prayer of Mary in Luke 1:46–55 as she looked forward to the birth of her son Jesus. (1 Samuel 1:9–11)


#34

Eli was a priest at Shiloh and a judge of Israel. He became Samuel’s guardian after Hannah brought her son to the temple. When God spoke to Samuel, it was Eli who realized the voice was the Lord’s, and he told Samuel how to respond. Eli had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who also served as priests. Both of them were wicked and blasphemed God. Although Eli rebuked his sons, they did not listen. A messenger from God announced to Eli that his household had been rejected by the Lord. Eli died after receiving news that both of his sons had been killed in battle and the ark of the Lord had been captured. (1 Samuel 4:12–18)


#35

Samuel’s birth was God’s answer to Hannah’s prayer for a son. Dedicated to the Lord as a small child, he lived and ministered at Shiloh. When he was a young man, the Lord spoke to him and established him as a prophet. Samuel called the people of Israel to repent and put aside idolatry. During Samuel’s lifetime, Israel changed from a collection of tribes ruled by various temporary “judges” to a nation ruled by a king. As the last judge of Israel, Samuel anointed Saul as Israel’s first king. When Saul disobeyed God and was rejected as king, Samuel anointed David as his successor. Samuel acted as a faithful judge, prophet, and priest, foreshadowing the work of Christ as king, prophet, and priest (Heb. 1:1–3). (1 Samuel 3:19–21)


#36

God chose Saul to be the first king of Israel. Soon after Samuel anointed him privately, the entire nation discovered by means of casting lots that he was to be their king. Saul was a gifted military leader who won the confidence of Israel by saving the city of Jabesh-gilead from the Ammonites. The Bible describes him as a tall, handsome man. Although Saul was chosen by God, he was not faithful to the Lord. He eventually grew proud and disobedient, and God rejected him as king. Tormented into paranoia by a harmful spirit, Saul became insanely jealous of David’s popularity and success and sought to kill him. He was wounded in a battle against the Philistines, and ultimately took his own life to avoid capture. (1 Samuel 11:15)


#37

David was the youngest son of Jesse of Bethlehem. When Saul was rejected as king, God chose David as his successor. A handsome and gifted man, David played the lyre to soothe Saul, gaining his favor and eventually becoming his armor-bearer. On a mission to deliver food to his older brothers, David fought and killed the giant Goliath. He became Israel’s greatest king, and made Jerusalem the nation’s capital city. Although he was a godly man, David fell into sin with Bathsheba. God used him not because he was mighty or perfect, but because he found favor in God’s sight. The Lord promised David an eternal throne (2 Sam. 7:16), and through his lineage came Jesus Christ the Messiah. (2 Samuel 7:1–29)


#38

Jonathan was King Saul’s oldest son. He showed great trust in God at Michmash (14:6), where he led a daring raid that brought an Israelite victory over the Philistines. Jonathan became a close friend of David. The Bible says that he loved David “as his own soul” (18:1). When his father sought to kill David, Jonathan warned his friend and helped him escape. As Saul’s popular eldest son, Jonathan would have been easily accepted as Saul’s heir. He showed radical self-denial, however, in giving up any right to the throne of Israel. He gave his absolute support to David as the Lord’s choice to succeed Saul as king. Jonathan remained devoted to his father, dying alongside him at Mount Gilboa. (1 Samuel 18:1–4)


#39

Abigail was the wife of Nabal, a wealthy but extremely foolish man. Nabal insulted David by refusing to care for and feed David and his men. His rudeness made David very angry, but Abigail wisely convinced David not to take vengeance. She sent food to David and spoke humbly and respectfully to him. Abigail calmed David’s anger and persuaded him not to kill her wicked husband and his household. Impressed by Abigail’s wisdom and discernment, David blessed Abigail and sent her home in peace. When she told Nabal what had happened, his “heart died within him” (25:37). A few days later, the Lord struck Nabal and he died. Following his death, David married Abigail. (1 Samuel 25:32–35)


#40

Abner was the commander of Saul’s army. When Saul died, Abner took the king’s son, Ish-bosheth, and made him king of Israel. During the Battle of Gibeon, Abner killed Asahel, one of David’s mighty men. This led to hostility between himself and Asahel’s brothers, Joab and Abishai. After a quarrel with Ish-bosheth, Abner convinced the elders of Israel that they should side with David. He was welcomed by David but was then murdered by Joab. David cursed Joab for killing Abner and held a public funeral for the murdered warrior. David called Abner “a prince and a great man” (3:38). (2 Samuel 3:38)