Characters of the Bible
|SERMONS, ESSAYS AND OPINIONS||
There are many stories of people in the Bible that give insight into history and culture and life. The central figure in the Bible is God who was revealed to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God revealed himself to Abraham who is a key figure in Genesis. He revealed himself to the Moses who delivered the Israelites out of slavery, and to David whom he made king over Israel. There is much to learn from every character in the Bible.
God is the central figure of the Bible. The Bible opens in Genesis 1:1 with the words that God created the universe. The following chapters and books then focus on God's revelation of himself to the world and their acceptance or rejection of him. In the New Testament it becomes apparent that God himself became the man Jesus. As John puts it in John 1:1, Jesus (the Word) was God
- In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The first eleven chapters of the book of Genesis give an account of some of the first humans beginning with the first man Adam, his wife Eve, their children Cain, Abel and Seth and Seth's descendent Noah. Many Christians accept that these people were actual real figures in history. Some Christians however believe that these stories are more like parables that explain the human condition and point to one God who created everything.
The second half of Genesis describes the story of the Patriarchs. The Patriarchs were the fore-fathers of ancient Israel and include Abraham, Isaac. Jacob and his 12 sons. The patriarchal period refers to the time from Abraham (around 1,800 BC) to Joseph, the son of Jacob.
Moses and the Exodus and Conquest of Canaan
The Book of Exodus records that the Hebrews were enslaved in Egypt for 400 years following the time of the Patriarchs. Their rescue from slavery was predominantly through God's amazing intervention through the work of one man Moses. Following their exodus from Egypt the people invaded the land of Canaan led by Joshua, the sucessor of Moses.
The Time of the Judges
Following the conquest of the land of Canaan by the Israelites, the people were led by judges such as Samson and Gideon. A biblical judge (not to be confused with modern day legal judges) was a person that God called to be a deliver to the people of Israel in a time of need.
The Kingdoms of Israel and Judah
Following the time of the judges, Israel was ruled by kings. The first king was Saul who was succeeded by David and then his son Solomon. After this the kingdom broke up into a northern half and southern half, both of which continued to be ruled by absolute monarchs.
The Prophets and the Exile and Return
During the time of the kings the people of Israel and Judah continued to fall away from God into pagan beliefs and practices. God raised up men such as Elijah and Isaiah to call the people back to him. These men were known as prophets. Ultimately, as the books of the kings explains, the people did not respond and God brought about the invasion and exile of first the northern kingdom and then the southern kingdom. Around the time of the exile, prophets such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel continued to call on the people to repent and turn to God and brought God's promise to return the people of Judah back to their homeland - something which eventually happened under Cyrus, ruler of the Persian Empire.
Following the return, Jerusalem including its walls and temple were rebuilt under the guidance of leaders such as Nehemiah.
Jesus, the Apostles and the first Christians
After the rebuilding of Jerusalem the Bible is quiet on the state of Israel and its people until the coming of John the Baptist who announced the way for Jesus in the New Testament. The Gospels and book of Acts describe the earthly life of Jesus and describe his followers. His closest followers were known as the apostles and include men such as Peter, John and Paul, all of whom were instrumental in the early church.