Bible Society of South Africa

Biblical Persons

[Philemon]
Aaron

Aaron is the brother of Moses. He is the first high priest of the people of Israel.
When Moses stays away for a long time in the desert, the Israelites become impatient and Aaron makes an image of a bull-calf in gold for them.

Abel

Abel is the second son of Adam and Eve and the brother of Cain. Abel is murdered by his brother Cain, but God notices the blood of Abel. The blood of Abel in the New Testament refers to righteous people who died even though they were innocent.

Abimelech (King of Gerar)

Abimelech is the king of the city of Gerar, in the territory of the Philistines, on the border with the land of Canaan. Both Abraham and Sarah, as well as Isaac and Rebecca, spend some time as foreigners in this city.

Abner

Abner is related to Saul and is the commander of his army. After Saul’s death, he commands the army of Saul’s son Ishbosheth. Abner is killed by Joab, David’s army commander, after he went to see David to negotiate peace.

Abraham

Abraham is one of the patriarchs of the nation of Israel. God orders him to leave his family and go to the land of Canaan. When Abraham is very old, he has a son called Isaac, in Canaan. This son is the fulfilment of God’s promise that Abraham will be the forefather of a great nation.

Adam

Adam is the man who with Eve, forms the first human couple mentioned in the Bible. Adam is the forefather of mankind. Adam and Eve live in the Garden of Eden until God sends them away. Together they are the parents of Cain, Abel and Seth.

Agrippa

King Agrippa II is the son of Herod Agrippa I and a great-grandchild of Herod the Great. He reigned from AD 48 to around 93.

Ahab

Ahab was king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel from around 871 to 852 BC. He followed in the footsteps of his father Omri, and provided economic prosperity. According to the Bible, Ahab was a bad king, because he served the fertility god, Baal.

Ahasuerus

Ahasuerus is king of the Persian Empire. He grants permission to his most important minister, Haman, to murder all the Jews in his kingdom. But then Ahasuerus discovers that his favourite wife, Esther, is also a member of that people.

Amram

Amram is the father of Moses, Aaron and Miriam. Like his wife Jochebed, he belongs to the tribe of Levi.

Archelaus

Archelaus is one of the sons of Herod the Great. After the death of his father, Archelaus is given the authority over Judea, Samaria and Idumea. Archelaus is ruler over these territories from 4 BC to AD 6.

Asher

Asher is the second son of Jacob and Zilpah, and the brother of Gad. He is one of the forefathers of the people of Israel. His mother is Zilpah, but he is counted as a child of Leah. Asher plays no specific role in the stories about Jacob’s children.

Athaliah

Athaliah was queen of the Southern Kingdom of Judah from around 845 to 840 BC. Her reign was the result of a bloody coup d’état. The Bible writers portray a negative picture of Athaliah; she was violent and encouraged the worship of Baal.

Augustus

Augustus was the first emperor of the Roman Empire. He was named Gaius Octavius when he was born, but as emperor he was given the name Augustus (the “exalted one”). He was emperor from 27 BC to AD 14.

Barak

Barak is the army commander at the time when the prophetess Deborah is a judge over Israel. She orders him to fight the Canaanites. Barak defeats the army of the Canaanites and their commander flees. He hides in a tent, but is killed by a woman. After the battle is over, Barak and Deborah sing a victory song that is known as “The Song of Deborah and Barak” (Judges 5:1).

Bartimaeus

Bartimaeus is a blind beggar who is healed by Jesus in the city of Jericho. After he is healed, Bartimaeus becomes one of Jesus’ followers.

Bathsheba

Bathsheba is one of the wives of King David and the mother of his successor Solomon. David misuses his power as king in a shameful way in order to marry her. As queen mother, Bathsheba has a lot of political influence.

Benjamin

Benjamin is the younger son of Jacob and Rachel. He is one of the forefathers of Israel. Together with his full brother Joseph, he is a favourite of his father Jacob.

Bilhah and Zilpah

Bilhah and Zilpah are concubines of Jacob. Rachel gives her servant Bilhah to Jacob as his wife, to bear children for her. Leah does the same with her servant, Zilpah.

Boaz

Boaz is a rich farmer from Bethlehem. He marries Ruth, who comes there from Moab as a widow. Boaz and Ruth have a son named Obed, who is the grandfather of King David. 

Cain

Cain is the eldest son of Adam and Eve and the brother of Abel. He kills his brother Abel. As a punishment, he has to wander over the earth.

Cyrus the Great

Cyrus the Great is the founder of the Persian Empire. He ruled from around 559 to 530 BC.
Cyrus allowed the communities in his empire to worship their own gods, and according to the Bible, he gave permission for the Judean exiles to return home and to rebuild their Temple in Jerusalem.

Dan

Dan is the eldest son of Jacob and Bilhah, and the brother of Naphtali. He is one of the forefathers of the people of Israel. His mother is Bilhah, but he is counted as a son of Rachel. Dan has no specific role in the stories about Jacob’s children.

David

David is the second king of Israel. The story of his fight with the Philistine Goliath is one of the best-known sections of the Bible (1 Samuel 17). The house of David sits on the throne in Jerusalem from the tenth to the sixth century before Christ. God promises David that he will be king for ever.

Deborah

Deborah is the only female judge in the book of Judges. She is also called a prophetess. Under the leadership of Deborah and Barak, the army of Israel defeats the army of the Canaanites (Judges 4). This victory is also celebrated in the Song of Deborah and Barak in Judges 5.

Dinah

Dinah is the daughter of Jacob and Leah. One day she is raped by someone who later wants to marry her. When Dinah’s brothers hear what happened, they think up a scheme to avenge the rape of their sister.

Elijah

Elijah was a prophet in the Northern Kingdom of Israel during the time of King Ahab and his son Ahazia. Elijah wanted the people to worship the God of Israel and not Baal, the god of fertility.

Elimelech

Elimelech is the husband of Naomi and comes from Bethlehem. During a time of famine, he takes his family away to live temporarily in the land of Moab. While they are there, Elimelech and both his sons die.

Elisha

Elisha is the pupil of the prophet Elijah and his successor. He begins his ministry as a prophet in the Northern Kingdom of Israel at the time when the reign of the family of Ahab is coming to an end. Like his master Elijah, Elisha performs miracles and heals people.

Elkanah

Elkanah is married to two women, Hannah and Peninnah. Elkanah loves Hannah although she has not given him any children. Eventually Hannah becomes pregnant and has a son whom she calls Samuel.

Emperor Claudius (AD 41-54)

Claudius is the fourth emperor of the Roman Empire. He reigned from AD 41 to 54.

Enoch

Enoch is a descendant of Adam. He lives in such a close relationship with God that he does not die in the normal way, but is taken away by God.

Ephraim

Ephraim is the younger son of Joseph and his Egyptian wife Asenath, with an older brother called Manasseh. Their grandfather Jacob considers them as important as his own sons, so at the end of his life, he specially blesses them.

Esau

Esau is the son of Isaac and Rebecca and the twin brother of Jacob. Though he is the older brother, he does not receive the blessing of the first-born. Esau is the forefather of the Edomites, with whom the Israelites were regularly in conflict.

Eve

Eve is the woman who with Adam, forms the first human couple mentioned in the Bible. As the mother of all living people, she is given the name Eve. Eve and Adam together are the parents of Cain, Abel and Seth.

Ezra

Ezra is a priest and a legal expert who explains to the Judean exiles how to be faithful to the Law of God.
The book of
Ezra is named after him. This book concerns the situation of the Jews in the Persian province of Judah in the first centuries after the Babylonian exile.

Gad

Gad is the eldest son of Jacob and Zilpah, and the brother of Asher. He is one of the forefathers of the people of Israel. His mother is Zilpah, but he is counted as the child of Leah. Gad has no specific role in the stories about Jacob’s children.

Gideon

Gideon is called by God to free Israel from the Midianites. With a group of 300 soldiers, he attacks the Midianites and drives them away. The Israelites then ask him to reign over them, but he refuses. But although Gideon is officially not a king of Israel, he in fact behaves like one.

Hagar

Hagar is an Egyptian servant in Abraham’s household. She is the mother of Abraham’s eldest son Ishmael, the forefather of the Arab people (Genesis 25:12-18).
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, the servant Hagar embodies the old covenant with Moses, while Abraham’s wife Sarah symbolises the new covenant that has become possible through Christ.

Ham

Ham is the youngest son of Noah. Together with his parents and his brothers Shem and Japheth, he survives the great flood in the ark. After the flood, Ham becomes the forefather of various nations, including the Canaanites.

Haman

Haman is the most important man in the court of the Persian King Ahasuerus. He wants to have all Jews in the kingdom of Persia and Media killed. His plan fails because of the intervention by Queen Esther and her foster father, Mordecai. The Jews are given permission to defend themselves and Haman is killed.

Hannah

Hannah is the wife of Elkanah and the mother of Samuel. She has been childless for a long time, but begs God for a son. She promises that this child will serve God all his life.

Herod Agrippa I

Herod Agrippa I is the grandson of Herod the Great. Thanks to a good relationship with the Roman emperors between AD 37 and 44, he is given control over the entire region that his grandfather had ruled. The book of Acts mentions Herod Agrippa in connection with the persecution of the first Christians.

Herod Antipas

Herod Antipas is a son of Herod the Great. After the death of his father, he is given control over Galilee and Perea, from 4 BC to AD 39. Herod Antipas has John the Baptist beheaded. According to Luke’s Gospel, he is also involved in sentencing Jesus to death.

Hezekiah

Hezekiah was king over the Southern Kingdom of Judah from around 725 to 697 BC. His revolt against the Assyrian oppressors leads to the destruction of great areas of the country. Still, the Bible writers see Hezekiah as a good king, because he saw to it that no false gods were worshipped any more.

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