Appendix 1 People in the Bible

Main index Appendix 2: Terms Appendix 3: Anecdotes
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Contents:

Abiathar Abimelech Abraham Aquila Baruch Bathsheba Caleb David Elijah Elisha Elizabeth Ephraim Gideon God Jacob James Jerubbaal Joseph Jotham Lot Luke Mary Mary, Martha and Lazarus Miriam Melchizedek Moses Paul Prisc[ill]a Reuel Saul Solomon Thaddaeus Zechariah

See also the anecdotes in Appendix 3:

Boaz David Goliath God Jacob Jesus Jonah Moses Moses Noah Noah Ruth Samson Solomon

Abiathar: see comment on Mark 2:26.

Abimelech was a son of Gideon.

Abram / Abraham

Abram travelled as a nomad (a lifestyle that survived until the 1900s, confirming many features of Genesis, according to Drane page 42). In Genesis 15 Abram ("Exalted Father") was renamed Abraham ("Father of many"); "ha" was added to his name, and at the same time Sarai was renamed Sarah ("Princess"). Abraham is discussed by Paul in Galatians 3:6f as an example of faith:

  1. Righteousness was credited to him when he believed God (Genesis 15:6).
  2. He received a promise that he would be the father of many nations (Genesis 17:4).
  3. He showed sacrifice and resurrection when he ascended the mountain with Isaac (Genesis 22).
  4. He received most of the promises before he received the sign of circumcision, so circumcision did not help him receive them; they were free gifts.
  5. When the promise that he would have sons seemed slow to be fulfilled he took matters into his own hands. See Galatians for Paul's analysis.
  6. The promise to Abraham was to him "and his seed", not "seeds". The use of a singular word when a plural is logical points, Paul argues, to fulfilment in Christ. (This is stretching the point a little since in Galatians Paul argues that "seed" means "posterity".)
  7. Paul misquotes Habakkuk 2:4 to read "the one who by faith is righteous will live".

Abraham was promised many ancestors on three occasions: Genesis 12, Genesis 15 and Genesis 17. That leads in Genesis 18 to him ministering prophetically and pastorally to Lot. This seems similar to Jesus re-instating Peter three times, leading to his ministry as shepherd of the church. Abraham was also promised blessing and land.

We are also told three times that Abraham was God's friend: 2 Chronicles 20:7, Isaiah 41:8 and James 2.23.

Aquila: see Prisca below.

Baruch means Blessed.

Bathsheba is actually Bat Sheba, which means daughter of Sheba.

Caleb was one of the spies sent to see the promised land in Numbers 13:6f, and one of only two to bring a favourable report in Numbers 13:30. But in Numbers 14 the Hebrews believed the other spies rather than Caleb and Joshua. Caleb and Joshua did not have to die in the wilderness like the other Hebrews in Numbers 14:30, cf. Deuteronomy 1:36. Caleb was rewarded with Hebron as a special inheritance in the promised land in Joshua 14:13–14.

David saw himself as a servant of God (2 Samuel 7:27–29); perhaps others saw God as a resource to be manipulated. See also 1 Chronicles 13:3. God seemed pleased with David despite his great sins; perhaps the reason lies in Psalm 51 — he acknowledged his sin and prayed to be cleansed. In Acts 13:22 St Paul makes David an example of a man after God's heart, a surprising accolade for a man whose family life was disastrous and whose public actions were often violent. Which of David's qualities should we emulate? An online search reveals many suggestions. 1 Kings 9:4 mentions his integrity, and his life (apart from the Bathsheba incident, for which he repented) shows a consistent desire to achieve goodness. His methods were typically pragmatic rather than legalistic, though his belief in the absolute sanctity of an anointed ruler (2 Samuel 1:16) could be regarded as legalistic. In this respect he anticipated the example set by Jesus, who offended legalistic people and cited David in his defence (Matthew 12:1–14). We can also learn from the failings for which Saul was rejected in favour of David: he lost his courage (1 Samuel 10:22) and lost patience with God (1 Samuel 13:9–14).

Elijah See Matthew 17:10–12.

Elisha

The key passages are 2 Kings 2:6–24; Ephesians 4:16. He was an ordinary person (1 Kings 19:16 note the reference to his cloak). He was chosen by God (after the "still small voice" experience in 1 Kings 19:11–12). He served an apprenticeship under Elijah. He demonstrated some New Testament principles e.g. he "went the extra mile" in 2 Kings 1. When Elijah was taken up he chose to take the job on: to inherit (like the eldest son — Deuteronomy 21:17) in 2 Kings 2:9. This was granted in 2 Kings 2:12. Possession of Elijah's cloak gave him a semblance of authority for his new role, and note the word-play of being cloaked in Elijah's clothes, leading to resemblance. He did similar actions to Elijah, and said similar words, but had certain problems:

1) 2 Kings 1:10, 2:14 he cast doubt on God's existence — failed!
2) 2 Kings 2:18 he wasn't believed — failed!
3) 2 Kings 2:24 he misrepresented God's character — failed!
4) 2 Kings 2:19f helped a village — succeeded!

SCORE: 1 out of 4?

However, he went onto be a good prophet — but not the greatest. Malachi 4:5 promised that Elijah would return to prepare the way for the Messiah. Jesus said that John the Baptist fulfilled this prophecy. Jesus said that John the Baptist was the greatest of the sons of men (i.e. greater than Elisha). He was a hermit who preached in the desert and baptised people, but did no miracles.

Elizabeth means The Lord remembers.

Ephraim means Twice Fruitful according to the NIV footnote to Genesis 41:52.

Gideon was one of the Judges who led the people before kings were appointed, when Midian was a dominant enemy. He followed Deborah in this role. His call is recorded in Judges 6:11. His times were turbulent, and he had 70 children by many women (Judges 8:30), yet he seems to have died peacefully (Judges 8:32). Chaos followed his death, and Abimelech, one of his sons, killed all his siblings except the youngest, Jotham (Judges 9:5). Abimelech became king (Judges 9:6), despite Jotham's protestations about has suitability (Judges 9:7–20).

God's work was finished according to Genesis 2:2, so he rested. However, Jeremiah 9:24 says he is doing just works. He is a righteous judge, stirred to action by our complaints (Genesis 4:10, Luke 18:2–8).

Jacob wrestled with a man at Peniel ("face of God") in Genesis 32:30 and was changed by the encounter. He fathered twelve sons plus a daughter called Dinah.

James is a free English-speaking translation of the New Testament Greek form of the Jewish name Jacob.

Jerubbaal is another name of Gideon according to Judges 7:1.

Joseph: see the Genesis section about the patriarchs.

Jotham was the youngest sone of Gideon.

Lot was son of Haran and thus a nephew of Abraham (Genesis 11:27). He left Ur of the Chaldeans with Abram (Genesis 11:31) and went with him, apparently still single, via Haran (Genesis 12:5) and Egypt (Genesis 13:1) to Canaan (Genesis 12:5) and they both became wealthy (Genesis 13:6). He chose the easier ("broad" — Matthew 7:13) road, and lived among the Canaanites (Genesis 13:11). At first he lived apart (Genesis 13:11) but gradually became absorbed into Cananite town society (Genesis 14:12) until he was a city elder in Sodom (Genesis 19:1). They were weak people and Abraham had to rescue him (Genesis 14). His absorbtion into Canaan seems to have involved compromise rather than making his allegiance to God known, hence in Genesis 19:9 the men of Sodom were surprised by his judgmental reaction when they demanded sex with the men who were staying with him, and in Genesis 19:14 his relations did not believe his warning to escape the coming judgment. Though he was unwilling to face up to his neighbours he was quite prepared to argue for compromise with angels (Genesis 19:18). It seems likely that Lot's wife was a Canaanite, unlike the Patriarchs who married Hebrews, because he was apparently unmarried until he got there. She had to be dragged out of Sodom (Genesis 19:16) and disobeyed the order not to look back (Genesis 19:26), perhaps to gloat (Proverbs 17:5), and shared the fate of the rest of the city. Jesus used her as an example to avoid (Luke 17:32 and perhaps Luke 9:62) despite being offered salvation on account of her relationship with a believer. Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert after his baptism (Matthew 4:1), a dry and lonely experience which must have made him hanker after the earlier good times. Similarly the Hebrews missed the benefits of Egypt when they were in the desert (Numbers 21:4f). It seems that following God's call is not fun in the early stages.

See also comment on Genesis 12:4 and Genesis 19:37.

Luke was a physician and accompanied Paul on some missionary journeys. He was traditionally believed to be a Syrian who died in Greece around 150 C.E. It follows that when he interviewed surviving witnesses of the events recorded in his Gospel he was a young man; he went on to witness some of the events recorded in Acts first-hand. There is a sarcophagus in Padua, Italy which came from Greece via Constantinople and is claimed to contain Luke's skeleton. DNA tests confirm that the body is probably not Greek but probably Syrian or possibly Turkish (New Scientist 20 October 2001, page 29, quoted with permission).

Mary is the same name as Miriam, sister of Moses.

Mary, Martha and Lazarus appear in Luke 10:38–42, John 11:1–44 and 12:1–11. Mary is the same name as Miriam, sister of Moses. John 11:1–2 tells us that Mary and Martha were sisters who lived in the same town as their brother Lazarus. There is no indication that their domestic arrangements followed the usual pattern of marriage and raising of children. Indeed, the accounts of Jesus being anointed before his death (Matthew 26:6f, Mark 14:3 and John 12:1–3) indicate that Martha prepared a meal for Jesus in the house of Simon the Leper. I speculate that they were on the fringes of society, making their home quieter than many and thus suitable for Jesus to find peace and recuperation.

Melchizedek means King of Righteousness (Hebrews 7:2). He had a lot in common with Jesus — see Hebrews 5:6f. Melchizedek is the same name as Michael in the Qumran tradition.[1 p.111]

Moses was brother of Miriam. Psalm 99:6 says he was a priest. Exodus 2:11–12 implies that he "had a short fuse" [2].

Paul was a Roman Citizen (Acts 16:37). He was imprisoned in Philippi (Acts 16:23) and Rome among other places. Those who say that Paul's letters were not regarded as scripture until about a century after they were written must reject any suggestion that 2 Peter 3:16 implies otherwise.

His ideas seem to have developed as time passed; in Acts 17:2, Acts 17:17 and Acts 18:4 we see him reasoning with the Jews every Sabbath, but by the time he wrote 1 Corinthians 2:2 he had apparently decided that such reasoning was pointless (because it relied on human strength not God's?), and instead he resolved not to hide the foolishness of the Gospel.

In an article Dazzling Transformation in Church Times 20 February 2004 page 11, Robin Griffith-Jones presents Paul as the New Testament Moses; clumsy in speech, but speaking for God, and confirmed by wonders.

It is usual to interpret the nature of Paul's mission as entirely evangelistic and church-planting; that is, when Paul promotes productive work (2 Thessalonians 3:10), to interpret it as doctrine (P. Esler, '2 Thessalonians', in The Oxford Bible Commentary (ed. J. Barton and J. Muddiman; Oxford: OUP, 2001, p.1213) rather solving a practical problem. I question this interpretation; could these passages not have been pastoral in nature?

Prisca, sometimes called Priscilla (the diminutive form of the name), was the wife of Aquila [3]. See comments on 1 Corinthians 16:19. They also appear in Acts 18:2, Acts 18:18, Acts 18:26, Romans 16:3–4, 2 Timothy 4:19.

Reuel means friend of God.

Saul See 1 Chronicles 13:3.

Solomon means 'peaceful' as in Shalom. In 2 Samuel 12:25 he was surnamed Jedidiah, which means 'loved by God'.

Thaddaeus is named in Matthew 10:3 and Mark 3:18. John 14:22 mentions "Judas (not Iscariot)" which may be the same person, Judas being his first name and Thaddaeus his family name. References elsewhere to "Jude" may refer to the same person.

Zechariah means The oath of God.

References:

  1. Hengel, Martin The Johannine Question (London: SCM, 1989)
  2. David Winter writing in New Daylight 28 March 2017
  3. Paula Gooder Phoebe p.228

© David Billin 2002–2019