In an essay I wrote entitled “Movies I Want Hollywood to Make, Keep On Making, or Start Making Again”, the stories in the Bible are included in my enumeration of the kinds of movies I like to see made. The stories in the Bible are so epic, so awesome, and so thrilling, with deep and larger-than-life characters, that they seem to be works of fiction… except that they happened for real.
I was a kid when I was an avid reader of Bible stories, so you can imagine how these characters impressed a kid like me. I will not detail everything and every story about a character but only the things that made him stand out. Let me enumerate my top ten characters of the Bible…
10.) & 9.) ELISHA & ELIJAH
(if you notice, that is not Elijah and Elisha, but Obi Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker… since, it’s almost hard to find a “official” picture for Bible characters, I will sometimes use pop culture icons as allusion to the Bible characters instead. So, example, just as Obi Wan and Kenobi were master and apprentice, this was also the relationship of Elijah and Elisha.)
Elijah and Elisha were prophets during the time of the Kings of Israel and Judah, so they were mostly tasked to carry the Lord’s angry messages to a rebellious land which forgotten the Lord. Being able to boldly rebuke entire mobs and even kings would take badass courage indeed. All prophets at that time carried this responsibility. Some were even killed when they deliver God’s message of warnings of punishment and rebuke, which the people did not want to hear. Elijah and Elisha were two of the prophets that were not killed (though were also persecuted) because of carrying “bad messages”. And among the prophets of that time, Elijah and Elisha (sorry Isaiah and Jeremiah) were the two that fascinated me the most.
So, let’s start with Elijah…
Elijah, with the God-given courage of a prophet, with no fear of death or punishment, would just suddenly barge in Israel’s throne room, to confront and rebuke King Ahab of Israel and Queen Jezebel a.k.a. “the most evil bitch in the Bible.” Elijah would always get on this wicked couple’s nerves, but would strangely go away unharmed from these confrontations (that’s Providence’s protection!).
One time, Elijah, representing God, challenged all 450 priests of the idol Baal in a duel to determine who the real God is. The challenge was this: the two parties would make an offering (animal meat sacrifice) to their respective god and whoever answers with fire is the real God. So, the priests of Baal, in elaborate ceremony, prepared their offering, and chanted and danced for hours. Meanwhile, Elijah was on the corner ridiculing and trash talking at the Baal priests: “Hey! Make your voice louder! Maybe Baal is asleep! LOL!” By mid-afternoon, Baal’s prophets gave up. So, Elijah prepared his altar of stones for God and then ordered men to build a trench around it. Then, he asked them to fill the trench with water and to soak the altar as well as the meat with water! Then he called out to God and God sent a big fireball to eat it all up – not only the sacrifice but the water and stones as well! Oh, by the way, this duel has something on the line, not only for determining the real god, but the lives of the participants were on the line as well. Thus, the prophets of Baal were slaughtered. Well, if religious debates are settled like this nowadays, we would never be confused regarding religion (just kidding, people).
Later the same day, Elijah would outrun a chariot. I kid you not. Read your Bible to be acquainted with the entire story.
Elijah was also the famous Bible character who was fed by bread-carrying ravens each day. And, of course, he's the guy who went to heaven with style.
Elisha was the only one who waived Elijah off on his departure for heaven. Before Elijah left, he took Elisha under his wing first and trained him to be his successor. And Elisha became as badass as his master.
Elisha is most known for healing the Syrian General Naaman from his leprosy by making him bathe in the Jordan River seven times. But the stories I liked most about Elisha were when Elisha’s prayer summoned Heaven’s army of chariots of fire and when he summoned bears to maul the youths who were insulting him. Even when Elisha was already dead, he continued to show some awesomeness, as the mere touch of his bones can revive a dead person. Don’t believe me? Again, look it up in your Bible.
We also can find some fun romance stories in the Bible. Jacob working for seven years for Rachel, and when he got conned to marrying Leah, he worked another seven years for Rachel, and “they seemed unto him a few days, for the love he had to her.” That line says it all. We also have Isaac and Rebekah, which story proved that “love at first sight” does happen. But not as this world perceives it.
But the best of all of these romantic love stories is Hosea’s love to Gomer. Hosea is a prophet of God. Gomer is a whore. And by God’s will and command, Hosea married Gomer. Now, you understand the “Pretty Women” reference. But this is much more interesting since Hosea is a prophet, a man of God. By today’s standard, that’s like a missionary marrying a call girl/hooker!
You might think that this is the type of story in which, prior the marriage, love converted Gomer to live a new life after “falling in love” with Hosea. Quite the contrary, Gomer left Hosea after their marriage – and after boring some children – and returned to her whoring and adulterous ways. Hosea had to “divorce” her for infidelity. But in the end, Hosea has to “buy her back.” And again, in modern times, that is like after the pastor married her, she cheated on him and the pastor still accepted her back even if it would cost him! Ponder on the absurdity.
Well, you might say that Hosea only did all of these because God commanded him all the way. This is true, but I doubt that Hosea would ever put up with it if he did not love Gomer. And that’s why Hosea fascinated me… his life story, his love affair with Gomer, is as unique as a love story can be. Really, can any love story top that? I am a cynic when it comes to this romantic love stuff, but Hosea’s love for Gomer just touched me. Its analogy is one of the factors that made me appreciate what is the real importance and message of marriage (the perfect matrix and analogy to the Church’s relationship with Christ). The Hosea-Gomer love story was meant as an allegorical illustration for God’s love for His people, both referencing to the conditions during the time of the Old Testament Israel and, ultimately to prepare the concept of what Christ did for His Bride, to the New Testament Church. Because their story is an analogy to the relationship of Christ and Church, we can assume that Gomer finally realized, accepted and returned Hosea’s love, since the Church/Bride responds to Christ/Bridegroom with love.
So Hosea is number eight because I find what he did for love was outrageous and unparalleled but special, and just made me realize how outrageous and unparalleled but special God’s love really is.
Moses, the first leader of the Hebrew nation, gets the number 7 spot.
The early part of his life story seems like something that came out from a TV soap. The Israelites at that time were staying in Egypt and were slaves of the Egyptians. The pharaoh was worried since the Israelites were rapidly increasing in population, so he ordered that every Israelite baby be thrown to the Nile to be eaten by crocodiles. Horrible thought, picture wailing babies get tossed to be shredded and devoured by crocs, and the Nile becoming scarlet from it.
Anyway, Moses’ mom, instead, placed baby Moses in a basket and then set him afloat on the river Nile, while Miriam, the big sister, while hidden from sight, was tasked to watch the basket moving along the river. In a twist of fate (if there is such thing), the daughter of the pharaoh was bathing in the river and found the baby Moses. She decided to adopt him and wondered aloud on who might be able to take care of the baby. Miriam revealed herself and volunteered her mother and their family to do it. So, in the end, Moses’ mother got to raise Moses – who is now a Prince of Egypt, since a princess adopted him. Very much like a TV soap opera.
His life as an adult continued to be dramatic. When he was 40 years old, raised and trained and educated as a Prince of Egypt, he encountered an Egyptian slave overseer punishing a Hebrew slave. And in his anger after witnessing the maltreatment, Moses killed the Egyptian overseer. Eventually, Moses fled to the land of Midian when he realized that the pharaoh might punish him for what he did. There, he managed to become a shepherd for a priest named Jethro and married one of his daughters, Zipporah. After 40 years, God talked to him through the now legendary Burning Bush incident. Moses returned to Egypt, and with the help and company of his brother Aaron, tried to convince the pharaoh to let the Jew slaves go. After the infamous Ten Plagues of Egypt, pharaoh finally agreed to let the Israelites go.
Moses would lead this nation of nomads, which was a stubborn and rebellious lot, to journey towards the Promise Land. Pillars of fire and cloud, Golden calf fiasco, orgies, several rebellions, manna from heaven, low flying quails, battles, lots of complaining by the people, the development of the Ten Commandments and the Jewish Law, the earth swallowing those who displeased and rebelled against God, snakes streamed the encampment, continual wickedness and lack of appreciation by the Israelites… all these and more happened under Moses’ leadership of the Hebrew horde. Because the Israelites continued to sin and murmur against God, they spent 40 years (another 40 year span in Moses’ life chapters) travelling in circles in the desert, until all the first generation Israelites, except Caleb and Joshua, died. And only then, with the second generation of Israelites, were the Jews permitted to enter the Promise Land. Moses himself did something wrong (the “striking instead of whispering” incident) that disqualified him from entering the Promise Land. So he left the leadership of Israel to Joshua, who is another awesome Bible character but was not able to make this list, though another “Joshua” would take the number one spot.
So that’s the summary of the interesting things that happened to Moses’ life story.
And, oh, aside from his dramatic life story, this epic event was a major factor why Moses made it to this list:
Daniel was among the exiles of Judah that were sent to Babylon after the Chaldeans crushed Judah. Like Joseph, Daniel was given by God the ability to interpret dreams. As a result, that’s a major reason he became an invaluable adviser to King Nebuchadnezzar (which I also have to point out, had encountered God, realized his greatness, and humbled himself before him) of Babylon. When the Persians conquered Babylon, he became a friend of King Darius and he was appointed as a high ranking adviser.
The most popular anecdote of Daniel was the incident on the Lions’ Den. Coming out unscathed from a den of lions is so awesome! To those who are not aware of the story, here is a brief summary: Some of the king’s advisers, who were jealous of Daniel, decided to set him up. They tricked the king to pass a law that no one should honor or bow down to any god or man, except to the king, for thirty days. Whoever breaks it was to be thrown to the lions. So as expected, Daniel ignored this law and continued to pray and bow to his God. Thus, though against his will, the king sent Daniel to the lions’ den. But Daniel came out unharmed from the den the next day, since God protected Daniel. The king was overjoyed and sent the plotters and their families to be thrown to the lions instead. Then King Darius decreed that all the people of the Persian kingdom shall honor the God that Daniel worships and serves.
Daniel’s best buds, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, had a similar experience before Daniel had the Lions’ Den experience, in which this immortal and powerful quote was delivered: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." I just add this here since I love this story about Daniel’s friends (look this particular story up, it’s worth it).
Before the Spartans’ 300, the Jews had the first legendary 300. And they were led by this man Gideon.
Before the reign of the Kings, just after Joshua successfully led the nation of Israel to conquer Canaan, the young nation experienced persecutions and plundering from neighboring countries and surrounding roving tribesmen when they forget about God and then start practicing wicked things. God then would send a “Judge” – a champion – to lead and save them from their foes. One of them was Gideon.
The bad guys who were terrorizing Israel that time were the Midianites. And when an angel of God told Gideon that God wants him to lead Israel to beat the Midianites, he initially didn’t believe it. However, after asking for signs to confirm that God indeed chose him, Gideon gained courage and believed. So, he gathered the leaders of Israel and the nation assembled 32,000 men. But the Midianite army was still bigger than Israel’s. A lot bigger. But instead of gathering more men, Gideon went on to cut back the militia’s numbers. This was to show that a victory is not because of their might, but God’s. First, Gideon asked that whoever was afraid to fight should leave and go home. All but 10,000 left. However, Gideon thought that this was still too many. So he asked them to drink from a brook. Most of them were careless, putting their faces down to the river to drink. But 300 kept their heads up, on the lookout for danger, as they scoop water by their hands to drink. These 300 were the only men that were allowed to join Gideon’s army.
The 300 is definitely the nation’s elite, since they were the only ones that had the sense and battle instinct to keep alert. With the elite 300, Gideon put his God-inspired strategy into motion. He commanded the 300 to surround the Midianite camp stealthily at night. At Gideon’s signal, the 300 smashed pitchers that contained torches, blew their trumpets, waved more torches, and shouted the battle cry, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” Then the Israelite army charged down towards the camp, 300 against thousands. With the stillness of the dark night suddenly broken by the noise and light from Gideon’s army, the Midianites were startled and begun to panic. The Midianite army thought that they were surrounded by a bigger army. They were in chaotic panic in the night’s darkness that they even attacked one another. So, with the Midianite’s panic totally for Gideon’s advantage, the 300 defeated the bigger Midianite army.
Gideon would be my most favorite Judge if not for…
When Samson grew up, he became to be a man of much strength. He was even able to kill a lion barehanded. Samson would be a falsely motivated Judge, but nonetheless, fulfilled the prophecy that he would destroy the Philistines.
For instance, he decided to marry a Philistine, and during his wedding day, he gave a riddle, wagering for rich shirts and robes, for his guests to answer. The Philistines can’t answer the riddle, so in desperation, they blackmailed Samson’s wife to tell them the answer. By the time that the answer is due, the Philistines had the answer to Samson’s riddle. Realizing that he was tricked, that they got the answer from his wife, he became furious. He indeed gave robes to the Philistines he wagered against, but they were from other Philistines that he had slaughtered.
When Samson’s anger cooled, he decided to go back to his wife. But he discovered that in his absence, the father of his bride gave her to his best man. Samson was angered again and decided to set afire to the Philistine fields by letting lose several foxes with flaming torches attached to their tails. In retaliation, when the Philistines realized that it was the fault of his wife and her father that Samson was angered, they set afire to the home of Samson’s father-in-law with him and Samson’s wife still in it. Samson was so furious that he killed those responsible.
For this, the Philistine army demanded that Samson’s people should hand over Samson to them or they will massacre their people. To avoid this, Samson agreed to surrender, to be bound, and to be handed over to the Philistine army. When Samson was at last in Philistine hands, his enemies thought that they had won. But when Samson caught a glimpse of a donkey’s jawbone, he suddenly burst out from his binds, and grabbed the jawbone. And with this weapon he slaughtered a thousand Philistine soldiers.
Let me repeat that, if you miss the awesome badassery of what happened. Samson – one man – killed one thousand soldiers – again, one thousand soldiers – with just a donkey’s jawbone as weapon. What a body pile.
Sometime later, in a Philistine city, the Philistines tried to trap Samson by closing the city gate. If you are aware of how cities are back then, you know that they are surrounded by thick walls, and their city gates are heavy-duty and gigantic. But at midnight, as Samson decided to leave, he broke the city gate and carried it off!
But, eventually, we all know that Samson was finally beaten by the whore, Delilah. She tricked a love-sickened Samson on revealing the secret of his strength, that he was dedicated to God and made a promise that he would never cut his hair, and when he does, would be weak as any man. So with this information gotten from Delilah, the Philistines chained him when he was asleep, cut his hair, and when he woke up, blinded him by gorging out his eyes.
He was then made to grind grain in a prison. But, as time passed, his captors did not notice that his hair had grown again. In the feast of the god of the Philistines, Dagon, Samson was brought at the temple to be mocked by his enemies. But Samson got himself towards the pillars of the temple, and with a final prayer to God, broke the pillars as the foundation of the temple broke. The giant temple of the heathen Philistine idol crashed to the ground. Samson died, but he also took thousands of his enemies with him.
Samson made several wrong decisions, but these were used by the Lord to bring his purpose to fruition: to destroy Israel’s enemies, the Philistines.
In a sense, New Testament guys’ adventures are not that “exciting” compared to the adventures of the Old Testament guys. It also holds true with Paul, though his life is still dramatic. He once persecuted Christians, then in the road to Damascus, he encountered the Lord Jesus Christ, and that’s where it started. Being named Saul, he changed his name to Paul. He became a zealous and prominent preacher, missionary, and early Church leader. He brought to life a boy that fell asleep in one of his sermons and fell down the window. Got mistaken for Hermes, the Greek god. Healed people, including a demon possessed fortune teller. Got imprisoned more than one time. Sang praises to God when in prison. Wrote letters while in prison. Made tents as livelihood. Traveled mostly by foot in his mission work. Got bitten by a poisonous snake, but never died or even became ill. Got shipwrecked. And several other adventures as well.
But I rate Paul this high, not majorly depending on his life story, but his life’s work. Paul would write several letters to the early churches, and these letters are the most articulated piece of literature on Christian doctrines. Up to modern times, most of the Christian doctrines are based on these epistles. It goes without saying that Paul is intelligent. Prior to being a Christian, he was a well educated scholar of law and academics. If we equivalent it to modern times, he is someone that has several MAs and PhDs, as well as being a lawyer. Thus, his intelligence showed when he discussed and interpreted Christianity, using perfect analogies and references, hypothetical cases, and logical arguments, in his fluent writing. He’s a sort of C.S. Lewis, only that we can trust that Paul never made some mistakes in his case for Christianity.
Arguably, Paul is the greatest of the apostles. Humble enough to declare that he is the “least of the apostles” makes my point.
As a kid until he was in his teens, David was a shepherd to his father’s sheep. And he was good at it, protecting them from bears and lions (oh, he killed them. Imagine that). During this time, he was anointed by Samuel the prophet to be the next king of Israel. But he was never a braggart about it. Aside from being anointed as a future king and being a bear-and-lion-killing badass shepherd, David was also an excellent singer and musician (the harp being his instrument). He was so good that he was even called upon by King Saul for a gig in his palace.
Then, came the incident with Goliath the Giant, and we all know how it goes. With just a slingshot, David knocked the giant out and beheaded him. This catapulted him to become King Saul’s champion and a national hero. But the king was really jealous of David’s success and thought of ways to get the latter killed. Several times, he tried to plot on ways to kill David, but Saul failed on all of them. So, eventually, David fled from Saul and became an outlaw. Many great fighting men joined up with David. He and his men would had some adventures, including beating off Amalekite raiders, and at the same time, David would continue fleeing from Saul, and even though he had, several times, got the chance to kill Saul, he did not do so.
Saul would fall in a battle against the Philistines, and David would assume the throne. However, Saul’s youngest son, Ishbosheth, crowned himself king as well. Thus, Israel erupted on a civil war. But in the end, since David’s forces are stronger, it left Ishbosheth with few followers, this led two of his officers to betray and kill him. So with Ishbosheth out of the way, David was undisputed king of Israel. As a king, David made Israel a military power, conquering lands and making Israel an empire.
Okay, let me again interpret David’s life to modern times’ standard to explain further if you didn’t grasp the badassery of it. It was like David was a cowboy in his youth, became a rock star, saved his country from terrorists singlehandedly, which propelled him to be the no. 1 Navy SEAL of the country, had many successful missions, became a legend, but corrupt and jealous politicians set him up for a crime he did not commit, he fled a la Jason Bourne-Evelyn Salt, became a mafia boss with strong members in his famiglia, elected as president and led his country, then after a brief Civil War, made his country powerful and rich and crushed all its opponents.
David was not perfect. His major sin was when he committed adultery and then plotted to get the husband killed. Though David repented, his sin would lead to many crises in his family including incest, rape, murders, and a plot to overthrow David.
But, still, David is the one that was called “a man after God’s own heart.” He realized that God alone can make him feel secure, happy, and satisfied, thus he had a very close relationship with God. This reflects on his psalms. And that is the main lesson we can derived from David’s life: only God can satisfy. David had experienced all the things a man wants. Adventure, talents, power, sex, richness, etc. But all of these failed to compare to the joy David found with his God. (David’s son, Solomon, would also reach this same conclusion in his life.)
Like I said, the other “Joshua” in the Bible got the number one spot (“Jesus” was the modern name for “Joshua” at that time. Both names mean "deliverer"). Plenty of good stories in the Bible, plenty of legendary characters, but God is the real main character of the Bible. And Jesus is God incarnated as human.
The world was never the same when he arrived. His birth separated an age of before his birth and after his death – BC and AD. Old traditions, concepts and cultures were destroyed, and new traditions, concepts, and cultures were founded in him. Miracles, revolutions, murders, charity, and wars were done in his name. Religions were created, delivering and distorting his message. It can’t be denied that his impact to this world was great.
Jesus’ life is the most dramatic and touching story in the Bible. It’s also the most important. He was humbly born in a manger, was a carpenter’s son and then a carpenter, unknown and unpopular for the first thirty years of his life, and only after being baptized by John the Baptist he started his ministry. He performed miracles, healed the sick, raised the dead, casted out demons, multiplied loaves and fishes, stilled storms. He ate, he drunk, had fun, played with children, joked, partied, hang out with sinners, and grant forgiveness. He taught about God and morality, talked philosophy and law with teachers, psyched out and offended religious leaders, told fictional stories with morals called parables, made friends and followers, made enemies, made admirers, made haters. He fasted, was tempted by the devil, felt hungry, felt anger, felt thirst, got hurt, got tired, got sleepy, probably sang and danced, felt sad, felt happiness… he experienced human emotions and situations. He was praised and honored, he was cursed, he was betrayed, he was denied, he was tortured, he was humiliated, and he was crucified and died. But he rose again and ascended into Heaven. And he would come back for His people, to establish His kingdom and to judge humanity.
Jesus brought the message of the Gospel. HE is the GOSPEL. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
One great thing about Jesus is how he picks those he wants in his team. It doesn’t matter who or what one is. Sex, race or social status does not matter. He picked tax-collectors, fishermen, whores, criminals, teachers, shepherds, magi. He picked ordinary people. He picked sinners. And he changed these sinners and gave them new lives… and missions from the King. All these Bible characters – whether from the Old or New Testament – were like that. Ordinary people. Sinners. But he made them special and relevant. Gave them grand missions and purposes. Made their biographies exciting and glorious.
So, indeed, it is a great honor to be picked by Jesus. And it doesn’t end with these Bible characters. Up to now, Jesus picks people for his team. Regardless of past, present, sex, status, or race. Ordinary people. Sinful people. He gives them extraordinary lives and transforms them to saints. Just like the Bible characters.