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March 22, 2018

10 Obscure Bible Characters and Their Stories

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With over 66 books of Scripture covering thousands of years of history, the Bible mentions hundreds of people in great detail (heroes Abraham, David, Paul, for example) and gives others just a passing mention. This article shares the stories of some of the more obscure Bible characters.

1. Naaman

2 Kings 5 tells the story of Naaman, a successful Syrian commander who had the disease of leprosy and was desperate for a cure. At the suggestion of a servant girl, Naaman went to see the prophet Elisha. Namaan’s story is one of turning to the Lord, filled with twists and ironies.

2. Jabez

Jabez is only mentioned in a few verses of Scripture and is known for his famous prayer mentioned in 1 Chronicles 4:10:

Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, ‘Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!’ And God granted what he asked.

It is a simple prayer prayed in faith and serves as a powerful example of answered prayer.

Learn more about praying the Prayer of Jabez in 25 Powerful Prayers from the Bible.

3. Josiah

King Josiah started his reign at eight years old and proved to be one of the greatest kings to ever rule God’s people. 2 Kings 22:2 shares his legacy: “he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.”

The key part of his story is found in 2 Kings 22. The high priest found the Book of the Law which had been neglected for years. The high priest gave it to his secretary who read it for King Josiah. King Josiah tore his clothes and pled with the Lord to not punish Israel for their disobedience to His Word. Josiah then read the Book of the Law publicly and made a covenant with the Lord along to obey Him with all of his heart and soul (2 Kings 23:3).

This is truly a marvelous story of repentance, spiritual leadership, and the mercy of God!

4. Mordecai

We find the story of Mordecai in the Book of Esther. Mordecai is the cousin and guardian of Esther, a foreigner who becomes queen of Persia. Mordecai uses his position in the king’s court to stand up for the oppressed people of God and foil a plot to assassinate the king. The Book of Esther plays a pivotal role in the Bible story because if the Jewish people had been destroyed, the story of God’s saving work through the Jewish people (and eventually Christ) would have come to an end.

Oh, what God can do through courageous people who fear Him!

5. The Thief on the Cross

The thief on the cross’s powerful story is told in Luke 23:32-43. He was one of two thieves crucified next to Jesus. (We’ll call this thief the penitent one.) The first criminal mocked Christ, “Save yourself and us!” (23:29). The penitent thief, defended Jesus in a humble manner:

“Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” (vv. 40-41)

Then he pleaded with Jesus to “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” This desperate and humble cry for mercy is all that God needed to welcome him into the family of God. Jesus answered, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (v. 43).

What an incredible story! A man who led his entire life in opposition to God, by the great mercies of God, was saved in his dying moments. This demonstrates that a humble heart that cries out to God for salvation will be heard!

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Romans 10:13)

Go deeper into the thief’s story in the book Heaven, How I Got Here: The Thief on the Cross by Pastor Colin Smith.

6. Ehud

The story of Ehud, the left-handed judge, is found in Judges 3, and would fit in nicely in the plot of a thriller movie.

Israel was under the oppressive rule of Eglon, the king of Moab, and cried out to the Lord for deliverance. The Moabites worshipped idols and did evil in the sight of the Lord. God sent Ehud and his cubit-long (about a foot and a half) sword to assassinate the king and liberate God’s people from his rule.

Ehud must have been a smooth talker, because when he told the servants of the king that he had a “secret message” for him (Judges 3:19), they left Ehud all alone with the king on a private rooftop. Ehud’s “secret message” was a sword, and the “special delivery” was a fatal stab to the belly of the overweight king! (Read Judges 3:21–22 for a more graphic description.) Then Ehud quietly locked the doors to the roof to keep the guards out and made a quick getaway. Ehud then gathered the people of Israel to return and conquer the Moabites.

7. Korah

Unlike all of the previous obscure biblical characters, Korah’s legacy is not a positive one. Numbers 16 describes his story.

As Israel wandered the wilderness after the Exodus, Korah rallied together a mob of Israelites to oppose Moses’ leadership, questioning the idea that Moses was God’s only spokesperson. God didn’t take too kindly to what is known as “Korah’s Rebellion”, and caused the earth to swallow them up in judgment (Numbers 16:32). Opposing God’s anointed leader is the same as opposing God.

8. Jethro

Jethro was the father-in-law of Moses. In Exodus 18, Moses was overwhelmed with his task to lead Israel. It seemed like everyone who had a problem came to Moses to mediate!

Exodus 18:13-27 describes Jethro’s wise suggestion for Moses. He recommended installing leaders for tens, fifties, hundreds, and thousands to reduce his leadership burden and delegate responsibility to the people of Israel. Jethro said if Moses followed his suggestion, “God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace” (Exodus 18:23). As a good son-in-law, Moses obeyed! This allowed Moses not to be held up with trivial matters but rather enjoy the fruits of a wise system of delegation.

9. Elishama

We do not know a lot about Elishama, who was a scribe/secretary mentioned briefly in Scripture (Jeremiah 36:12). What makes this obscure Bible character of interest is the extra-biblical evidence that we have for him, and in turn, the historical reliability of Scripture.

In 1986 outside of Jerusalem a clay seal was found that says “Elishama, servant of the king,” proving that he was indeed a scribe in the exact time setting and situation that Scripture describes. That is true evidence that all of Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16–17), even down to the most tiny detail and seemingly insignificant person!

10. Balaam

Balaam the Prophet is perhaps best known as the guy who got called out by a donkey (see Numbers 22). He was sent by Balak, king of Moab, to pronounce curses upon Israel. But God had other ideas. God told Balaam to pronounce blessings upon Israel and not return to Balak. Balaam disobeyed the Lord by returning to the king Balak. Balaam, riding his donkey, is then confronted by an angel of the Lord.

Ironically, the donkey can see the angel of the Lord, but Balaam, a prophet (also called a “seer”) cannot.  The donkey is understandably startled to see the angel of the Lord on the road and stops several times in fear. Thinking his donkey had gone mad, Balaam started to beat the donkey until God opened the mouth of the donkey, asking, “Why have you beat me these three times?” Then Balaam’s eyes were opened to the angel of the Lord—and his sin.


Take a Flight Through the Bible Story

The Flight, is a 3-session journey through the Bible story. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you know about the Bible, the three sessions of “The Flight” are a great place to begin:

  • 5 People from the Old Testament
  • 5 Events from the Life of Jesus
  • 5 Gifts God Gives to Every Christian

Want to go deeper? Journey through the Bible story in 30 sessions in “The Drive” or take our deepest journey in 50 sessions in “The Hike.” Your understanding of the Bible will never be the same.


Kevin Halloran

Product Manager

Kevin serves as Product Manager for Open the Bible and leads the Spanish-language outreach of the ministry. Kevin loves spending time with his wife, Jazlynn, and two young daughters. In his free time, you can find him reading, writing (in English at Anchored in Christ and Spanish at Anclado en Cristo), and serving at his church. Kevin is the author of When Prayer is a Struggle: A Practical Guide for Overcoming Obstacles in Prayer (P&R) and the free video course Pray the Bible. Connect with Kevin by subscribing to his newsletter that shares new articles and free resources to build your faith.
Kevin serves as Product Manager for Open the Bible and leads the Spanish-language outreach of the ministry. Kevin loves spending time with his wife, Jazlynn, and two young daughters. In his free time, you can find him reading, writing (in English at Anchored in Christ and Spanish at Anclado en Cristo), and serving at his church. Kevin is the author of When Prayer is a Struggle: A Practical Guide for Overcoming Obstacles in Prayer (P&R) and the free video course Pray the Bible. Connect with Kevin by subscribing to his newsletter that shares new articles and free resources to build your faith.