Humanity in Biblical Figures


Whenever Bible stories involving well known, familiar characters are told, it's hard not to think at least one of the following thoughts:

"How many times does he have to tell you before you get it?"   (Think - All the disciples)

"Why would you ever do/say/think THAT?!"    (Think: Abraham acts like Sara is his wife, Abraham & Hagar, David & Bathsheba, the Israelites & the golden calf, Moses and the burning bush, etc)

Basically, we want people to get with the program, make the decisions we can see they are obviously supposed to make, and do what should be done. It just seems so EASY.

I consider myself a fairly empathetic person, but for some reason that empathy is not something I've always found easy to extend to Biblical characters. I find their stories easy to skim, the conclusions foregone, the lesson clear - and I forget that they were people, living moment by moment, with no sense of their historical importance or the immortalization of their actions.

They were doing their best with the information, resources, and human natures they had to work with, and the main reason their stories can start to feel trite or pithy is because we forget that. 

Abraham, whose faith was credited to him as righteousness, wasn't operating in that at the time. He knew of great, bold promises whose fulfillment he was not seeing. He was stuck with a barren wife in inhospitable political climates and a changing world, the father of a people and religion that didn't even exist yet, and he was taking a step at a time. Sometimes with great faith and forethought, and other times with fear and anxiety and ego. He was a HUMAN.

Ruth, a women of noble character, whose act of sleeping at the feet of Boaz seems so simple to us today, but who was risking her honor, favor, and way of life. Do we remember she was a grieving a widow, a women who essentially saw her extended family obliterated, emigrated to a foreign land filled with foreign people, and was embracing a new faith. Nothing about her eventual marriage, wealth, and place in the lineage of Christ was known to her, much less a foregone conclusion. The path she took was not worn smooth by centuries of all-knowing readers having gone before her - it was tread slowly, one foot at a time, with a great margin for error if it had not gone well. She was a HUMAN.

Every individual in the Bible, revered or abhorred, was a HUMAN trying to make sense of their world, find their path, and make it through this crazy thing called life. They dealt with emotions, interpersonal conflict, hormones, physical ailments, family drama, insecurities, self doubt, and all the existential crisis' we feel today. They didn't have more foresight of the next moment than we do, and the Bible we have (something they were never privy to) is a chronicle of their path to seeking God in the best way they knew how. It is riddled with human missteps, errors, poor judgment, mistaken understandings - it is riddled with humanity.

As you enjoy the Profiles and Promises study during the month of July, I hope you will read with fresh eyes - instead of considering the "giants of the faith" we know Biblical characters as today, consider them to be HUMANS who are doing their best, and often failing.

To explore this humanity idea further, you could check a historical novel based on Biblical times. I've found that exploring the reality of the times and people helps me remember they they were actual people, and gives me more appreciation for the facets of life we don't always hear about in the Bible. Tessa Afshar did a great job detailing 21 Novels Set in Biblical Times ; click the link to check out some great authors who have written novels set in Biblical times, or about Biblical characters.


Just a reminder that novels set in this time period don't have the weight of being Biblical truth. There is a degree of creative licence taken to recreate the types of thoughts, emotions, conversations, and climates that may have influenced people. It is an exploration of humanity, not an extension of the Bible itself!