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Biblical Personality Profiles


Like his father, Asa, King Jehoshaphat was faithful to the Lord and received God’s blessings. He strengthened his kingdom both spiritually and militarily, and appointed teachers to go throughout Judah and teach the people concerning the Book of the Law. Large armies served Jehoshaphat, and he built up fortresses and store cities in Judah. He had great riches and honor. Jehoshaphat is criticized, however, for his association with the ungodly northern kingdom, including a marriage alliance with King Ahab. Such alliances caused the king to “help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord” (19:2). Despite his shortcomings, Jehoshaphat is remembered primarily for his great faith and leadership and as one who did “what was right in the sight of the Lord” (20:32). (2 Chronicles 19:4)


Uzziah was 16 years old when he became king, following the assassination of his father, Amaziah. Like many kings before him, Uzziah’s reign began with a period of faithfulness and blessing: “as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper” (26:5). But this was followed by a period of sin, leading to punishment from the Lord. Uzziah successfully battled the Philistines and demanded tribute from the Ammonites. His fame spread far and wide. Sadly, Uzziah’s success led to pride, and he began to desire spiritual as well as political authority over the people. Ignoring God’s law, he entered the temple to burn incense and was confronted by the priests. Rather than repent of his actions, Uzziah grew angry. The Lord immediately struck him with leprosy, forcing him to withdraw from his royal duties. (2 Chronicles 26:3–5)


Ahaz was a wicked king whose apostasy led Judah astray and brought the nation to ruin. Rather than worship the God of Israel, Ahaz made images of Baal. He even sacrificed his own children to the false god, a practice strongly condemned by the Lord. Because of his wickedness, God allowed both Syria and Israel to successfully attack Judah. Ahaz did not repent and turn to the Lord for help in his time of distress, but rather sought help from the king of Assyria. The plan backfired, however, when the Assyrians “came against him and afflicted him instead of strengthening him” (28:20). Even then, Ahaz still turned away from the Lord. Not only did he close the doors of the temple, but also “in every city of Judah he made high places to make offerings to other gods” (28:25). (2 Chronicles 28:22–27)


Manasseh, son of Hezekiah, ruled over Judah for 55 years. He was the longest reigning king in the nation’s history. Unlike his father, who honored the Lord, Manasseh was perhaps the worst of Judah’s kings. He actively pursued practices forbidden by God, and even built altars to false gods inside the temple. Manasseh burned his sons as child sacrifices, and practiced fortune-telling and sorcery. Unlike other evil kings, however, when Manasseh faced the judgment of the Lord for his actions, he repented. When he was taken as a captive to Babylon, he “entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers” (33:12). God heard Manasseh’s prayer, and restored him to his kingdom. (2 Chronicles 33:9–14)


King Cyrus of Persia decreed that the Jewish exiles in Babylon should return to Jerusalem and rebuild the destroyed temple. Zerubbabel, whom the prophet Haggai refers to as “governor of Judah” (Hag. 1:1), was one of the first exiles to return. Along with the priest Jeshua, he rebuilt the altar of the Lord so that sacrifices could once again be made. The following year, under the guidance and supervision of Zerubbabel and Jeshua, work began on the temple itself. The foundations of the temple were laid, but opposition from local governors prevented its completion for more than 20 years. With the support of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, Zerubbabel and Jeshua resumed and completed the reconstruction of the temple during the reign of King Darius. (Ezra 5:2)


Ezra is described as “a man learned in matters of the commandments of the Lord and his statutes for Israel” (7:11). Both a priest and scribe, Ezra was commissioned by King Artaxerxes of Persia to establish the Law of Moses in Jerusalem. The king also gave him money from the royal treasury to beautify the temple. Arriving in Jerusalem 57 years after the temple was rebuilt, Ezra appointed judges to administer the law. Seventy years of Babylo­nian exile had had a negative effect on the people’s relationship with the Lord. The Lord enabled Ezra to guide Israel as they sought once again to live according to the law. (Ezra 7:1–6)


As a Jewish captive in Babylon, Nehemiah held the distinguished position of cupbearer to King Artaxerxes. He was devastated to hear that the Jews who had returned to Jerusalem were in “great trouble and shame” (1:3). He expressed his concern to the king, and the king allowed him to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city’s walls. Many of the non-Jewish people in Judah opposed the rebuilding effort, and the returned exiles soon became disheartened. Nehemiah encouraged the men, saying, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes” (4:14). Under his leadership, the walls were rebuilt despite the difficult circumstances. As governor of Judah, Nehemiah was used mightily by God to bring the Jews back into a life of covenant faithfulness. (Nehemiah 2:17–18)


Esther was a Jew living among the exiles in Persia, during the reign of King Ahasuerus. Following the death of her parents, Esther was raised by her cousin, Mordecai. Esther was a beautiful woman, and she won favor in the eyes of all who saw her. When the reigning queen was removed from power, a beauty contest was held to choose her replacement, and Esther was chosen. As queen of Persia, Esther risked her life to save the Jewish people from annihilation. She and Mordecai instituted the Feast of Purim to commemorate their deliverance. (Esther 4:14)


Mordecai was a Jew living in exile in Persia. When Mordecai’s cousin Esther became an orphan he took her as his own child. Eventually Esther became queen, and Mordecai became a royal official. One day, while serving King Ahasuerus, Mordecai discovered and reported a plot to kill the king, thus saving the king’s life. Later, when Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman, who was second in command to the king, Haman persuaded the king to call for the death of all Jews. With the help of Queen Esther, Mordecai saved the Jews of Persia from this death sentence. Haman was hanged on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai, and Mordecai replaced Haman as second in command to the king. (Esther 9:4)


Job was a wealthy man whom the Bible describes as “blameless and upright” (1:1). When God pointed out Job’s faithfulness, Satan responded that Job feared God only because the Lord had protected and blessed him. To test Job’s integrity, God allowed Satan to take away all of Job’s possessions and his children. In a single day Job lost everything, yet he responded faithfully (1:21). Next God gave Satan permission to attack Job’s health. He struck Job with painful sores (2:7). Job’s wife then urged him to “curse God and die” (2:9). Job’s friends wrongly concluded that his sins caused his suffering, but Job refused to accept this. Instead, Job asked God to explain why he was suffering. God eventually answered Job’s cries, and Job humbly submitted to God’s sovereignty. The Lord then restored Job’s fortune, giving him “twice as much as he had before” (42:10), and blessed him with more children. (Job 19:25)


After the Lord allowed Satan to afflict Job, three of his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, came to comfort him. However, all three wrongly assumed that Job’s suffering was the result of some hidden sin. Each man urged Job to repent so that God would have mercy on him. But Job insisted that he was innocent. Although it is true that some suffering is a result of sin, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar oversimplified this truth. They believed that all troubles are punishments for wrongdoing, which was not the case for Job. The wrong actions of Job’s three friends should remind believers today to be wise and sensitive when dealing with people in distress. The Lord rebuked Job’s three friends and instructed Job to pray for them. (Job 42:7–9)


Elihu rebuked both Job and his three friends. He was angry at Job for defending himself rather than God, and he was angry at Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar for failing to provide an answer for Job. During his lengthy speech, Elihu shifted the focus away from Job to God as the only source of certainty and hope. At the same time, he seemed to overestimate his own understanding, even claiming to speak “on God’s behalf” (36:2). Actually, Elihu didn’t understand the reasons for Job’s suffering any more than the three friends did, and his statements were often similar to theirs. Although there was some truth in Elihu’s argument, his application of those truths and the conclusions he drew about Job were often incorrect. (Job 32:1–5)


The book of Isaiah reveals few details about the prophet himself. We know that he was the son of Amoz, that he was a husband and a father, and that at God’s command he used some rather unusual methods of getting his point across (20:2–6)! With the exception of a few details such as these, the Bible focuses exclusively on the prophet’s message. God called Isaiah to be a prophet in a time when the people of Judah were no longer faithful to the covenant. The nation’s disobedience meant that their prospects for the future involved God’s judgment rather than his blessing. Isaiah denounced the people’s hypocrisy, greed, and idolatry. The heart of his message, however, is found in the meaning of his name: “Yahweh is salvation.” Isaiah’s vision is ultimately a message of hope for sinners through the coming Messiah. (Isaiah 6:8–13)


Jeremiah was born in Anathoth, a small town outside of Jerusalem. Called by God as a young man, he served as a prophet for more than 40 years. Jeremiah had a difficult life. By God’s command, he never married, and he apparently had only two converts during his entire ministry. The nation of Judah did not respond favorably to his messages of repentance. He was scorned in his own hometown and even falsely imprisoned on charges that he was collaborating with the Babylonian invaders. Like many of the Lord’s prophets, Jeremiah suffered public mockery and physical abuse. Yet God used his faithful servant to deliver the good news that in future days God would make a new, unbreakable covenant with his people (31:31). Hebrews 8:8–12 quotes Jer. 31:31–34 as evidence that this new covenant has come through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Jeremiah 31:31–34)


Baruch, whose name means “blessed,” was Jere­miah’s friend, scribe, and disciple. Like Jeremiah, Baruch was a faithful servant of God. He helped Jeremiah purchase a field from one of the prophet’s relatives. The Lord would use this as a symbol of hope despite the disaster that was to befall Judah: since the field had been bought and paid for, they could be assured that, after the exile, some of the people would return to the land. Baruch also recorded Jeremiah’s prophecies on a scroll, and because Jeremiah had been barred from entering the temple, it was Baruch himself who read the words of the scroll. It was a warning from God to the nation of Judah. These prophecies angered the king so much that he burned the scroll. Baruch experienced serious persecution alongside Jeremiah. (Jeremiah 36:4–10)


Ezekiel ministered during the same troubled times as the prophet Jeremiah. He was among the thousands of Judeans exiled to Babylon, where he probably spent the remainder of his life. About five years into the exile, at the age of 30, Ezekiel was called as a prophet. God commanded him to speak the word of God fearlessly to the people, regardless of whether or not they listened. He was appointed as a “watchman” for Israel (3:17; 33:1–9), whose task it was to warn the people that God would punish them unless they repented. Courageous sermons, dramatic visions, and symbolic actions characterized Ezekiel’s ministry. God asked Ezekiel to enact difficult messages, often at a great personal cost. When his wife died, Ezekiel was commanded not to mourn for her, as a sign to Israel (24:15–27). Like Jeremiah, Ezekiel remained a faithful, humble servant despite his difficult life as a prophet. (Ezekiel 33:1–9)


Daniel was a young man from a noble family who was deported from Judah to Babylon by King Nebu­chadnezzar (605 b.c.). The Babylonians trained Daniel for three years in their language and culture. The Lord blessed Daniel with exceptional wisdom in these areas. He also gave Daniel the ability to interpret dreams. When Daniel interpreted a dream for Nebuchadnezzar, the grateful king gave him an important position in the royal court. After the fall of the Babylonian Empire, Daniel served in a similar role in the Medo-Persian Empire that succeeded it (6:28). Daniel was a faithful servant of the Lord who consistently refused to disobey God. At the same time, he remained respectful to those in authority over him. Daniel, along with his friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, did precisely what God had commanded the exiles to do in Jeremiah 29:7: they were a blessing to their captors while at the same time remaining true to their Lord amid extraordinary pressures. (Daniel 1:17–21)


Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were Jewish exiles and friends of Daniel in Babylon. As he did for Daniel, God gave them a remarkable understanding of Babylonian literature and culture. They, too, were given positions of great leadership in Babylon. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were always faithful to God and trusted him entirely. While they showed deep respect for King Nebuchadnezzar, they were unwilling to follow any orders that would mean compromising their faith. When commanded to worship a golden image, they refused to do so, even though it meant being cast into a fiery furnace. The three men assured Nebuchadnezzar that their God was able to save them from the furnace, but that even if he chose not to save them, they would still not deny him. (Daniel 3:16–18)


Nebuchadnezzar was the powerful King of Babylon who destroyed Jerusalem and deported a number of the city’s inhabitants to his own land. When the king had a dream that only Daniel could interpret, he acknowledged the power of Daniel’s God. The mighty king had to be brought very low, however, before he turned to the Lord. After failing to heed a warning from God, Nebuchadnezzar was forced to live in the wilderness, where he ate grass and lived like an animal. At the end of God’s appointed time of judgment, however, Nebuchadnezzar turned to the Lord and he regained his sanity. God restored his kingdom to him, demonstrating that the Lord is able to humble the proud and exalt the humble. The great and mighty persecutor of Israel, the destroyer of Jerusalem, was humbled by God’s grace and brought to confess God’s mercy. (Daniel 4:28–37)


Hosea ministered to the northern kingdom of Israel during the latter half of the eighth century b.c., the most difficult time the nation had ever faced. Israel had forsaken the Lord and was worshiping Baal instead. Hosea understood that this was why the Lord intended to judge the nation. God commanded Hosea to marry, but warned him that his wife would be unfaithful to him. Hosea married Gomer, who indeed became unfaithful to him. When Gomer left Hosea, God instructed him to reclaim her. This would be a sign to the people that, though their sins were shameful, the Lord still loved Israel, his spiritually unfaithful wife. Hosea’s marriage to Gomer, her unfaithfulness, and their eventual restoration were thus a parable of the Lord’s relationship to Israel. (Hosea 3:1–5)