Joseph Flamboyant dresser. One of Jacob's twelve sons. The ultimate victim of sibling rivalry: his brothers sold him into slavery. Had "a beautiful body and handsome face," which (due to lustful wife of powerful master) ended up getting him thrown into prison. Unique ability to interpret dreams ended up landing him job as ruler of Egypt. Famous/dramatic quote, to his brothers, who hadn't a clue that the emperor to whom they'd been begging was in fact their long-lost brother: ""I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt!" Apparently not good at keeping secrets.
Moses Arguably the major Old Testament figure. As a Jew living in Egypt he killed an Egyptian; he encountered God via a burning bush; he orchestrated the terrible plagues on Egypt; he led Israelites out of slavery in Egypt into the "wilderness" of the Sinai desert; he famously parted the "Sea of Reeds." On Mount Sinai, it was Moses who received the Ten Commandments from God. Tradition has it that Moses also wrote the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament. As much as anything else, it is Moses' palpable humanity -- his fears, doubts, insecurities -- that make him such an inspiring, memorable figure. In The Book of Numbers (the fourth book of the Old Testament), he is described as "more humble than any other person on the earth." Famous quote, pronounced to the Pharaoh of Egypt: "Yahweh, the god of Israel says: ‘Let my people go …'"
Joshua Moses promised the land of Canaan to the the Israelites; as the leader of God's army, Joshua made sure they got it. A phenomenal military leader: six nations and thirty-one kings (not to mention the fortified city of Jericho) fell to him. Spent forty years as apprentice and then right-hand man to Moses. Prior to the Israelites taking it, Moses sent Joshua and eleven other scouts to reconnoiter Canaan. Ten of those scouts came back saying the situation was hopeless ("We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are.") But what did Joshua and his buddy Caleb report back? Famously, "Do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up." And boy, did they ever.
Ruth Left alone in the world by the deaths of her husband and sons, an elderly Jewish woman named Naomi decides to return to her home of Bethlehem. Ruth, her Gentile daughter-in-law, refuses to abandon her, accompanying Naomi all the way back to Bethlehem. Though now a stranger in a strange land, Ruth goes alone into the fields of the wealthy Boaz to pick leftover grain, so that she and Naomi won't starve. Via one of the sweetest romantic episodes in the Bible, she ends up marrying Boaz. She gives birth to Obed, the grandfather of David, from whom Christ is descended. Famous quote (to Naomi): "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God my God." Sniff.
Samson Had Fabio hair. The Hercules of the Bible. Served Israel as Judge (as in leader, as in The Book of Judges in the Old Testament) for twenty years. Tore a lion apart with his bare hands. (It's possible the lion had leprosy, but not likely.) A brilliant brute. Killed one thousand Philistines (then the rulers of Israel) with the jawbone of a (apparently huge) donkey. Made mistake of falling in love with a Philistine woman, Delilah. She cuts his hair (the source of his strength); the Philistines grab him, blind him, and bring him shackled into their temple so that he might entertain them. Instead, he pushes down the pillars supporting the temple, successfully killing himself and thousands of Philistines. Awesome. Famous quote (said, alas, to Delilah): "If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man." Also famously said (to the heavens, as he pushed on the pillars) "Let me die with the Philistines!"
Saul First king of the state of Israel. Exceptional military leader. Eventually grew so jealous of the young, handsome, accomplished, naturally athletic, giant-slaying David (a feeling not exactly attenuated by the women of Israel singing, "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands") that one day, while David was playing the harp for him, he tried to kill David by hurling spears at him. One of the all-time tragic figures of world history. Died, in battle, by suicide. Fairly startling quote, wherein he states the price David would have to pay in exchange for marrying his daughter Michal: "The king wants no other price for the bride than a hundred Philistine foreskins … ." And you thought scalping a man was rough.
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