Are There Heroes in the Bible?
- Aaron Brown Crosswalk Contributing Author
- 2021 1 Jul
Heroes. Hearing that word today would cause most people to imagine a police officer, nurse, teacher, or firefighter. Others may picture fictional characters like Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman. What all of these heroes have in common is their ability to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of another. Police officers risk their lives daily to protect the community, as does Batman when he patrols the streets of Gotham at night.
American society has such a strong relationship with heroes that we find various occasions to celebrate these people. We acknowledge specific days of the year as Veteran's Day or Teacher's Week. When we hear stories about civilians rescuing neighbors from overturned cars or burning houses, we often seek to award them with medals of honor. Fictional heroes also receive praise as we bestow characters like Superman with admirable traits such as charisma, intelligence, empathy, and most of all, love for others.
It's easy enough to find heroes in our personal lives, society, and the books we consume, but are there such obvious heroes in the Bible? Actually, yes, and more than just the one that immediately comes to mind - Jesus. In fact, as Christians, we can identify individuals in our lives as heroes based on the sense of morality taught to us by Jesus. He sets the example, and whenever we see someone exhibiting Jesus-like qualities, we think to ourselves, this is a hero.
We first come to this conclusion by acknowledging that no person is perfect except for Jesus (Romans 8:28). Everyone has traits that disconnect us from God and attitudes and behaviors that are immoral. Secondly, we acknowledge that this means no one is good aside from God (Mark 19:17). With these two truths, we can distinguish people as heroes for not only overcoming their sinful nature, but doing so in a way that supports, encourages, and uplifts other people. And in their accomplishments, they reflect the teachings of God.
This is true of the heroes in real-life, even if they are not Christian, and likewise with superheroes. For the biblical heroes, this is undoubtedly true, as they often profess a desire to please God through word and deed. Who are these heroes of the Bible? They are the ones who promoted others before themselves and put God before all. Let's explore some heroes of the Bible.
"But many who are first will be last, and the last first." (Matthew 19:30)
Who Are the Heroes of the Bible?
"So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions' den. The king said to Daniel, 'May your God, whom you continually serve, rescue you!'" (Daniel 6:16)
"Then Daniel spoke with the king: 'May the king live forever. My God sent his angel and shut the lions' mouths; and they haven't harmed me, for I was found innocent before him. And also before you, Your Majesty, I have not done harm.'" (Daniel 6:21-22)
Not every hero comes equipped with heat vision, a lasso, or a batarang. Sometimes they don't have a fire ax, taser, or a syringe, because prayer is enough. Daniel, our first hero, portrayed this truth after disobeying an ordinance put in place by King Darius. During Babylon's capture of the Israelites, the king signed an edict that forbade prayer or petition to any god or person except for the king himself (Daniel 6:7). He did this following the ill-advised suggestion of his subordinates. These subordinates knew of the king's affection for Daniel and were jealous of him. By turning the king against Daniel, they would eliminate any competition.
The king's new rule would last a month, and anyone who disobeyed would be put in a terrifying place - a lion's den. The expected outcome from such a consequence would be death. King Darius's subordinates, called the satraps, set themselves up as the villains of this particular story, acting as the foil for the hero Daniel. Instead of abandoning his faith, Daniel continued to pray. He put God before himself and eventually was discovered. Daniel faced King Darius' consequence, only his trip to the lion's den did not end in death. The courageous Israelite used the power of faith to prevent any lion from harming him.
The outcome for our hero was life, while his opponents were met with death (Daniel 6:24). Daniel showed himself to be a hero by standing up for what was right. He maintained his reverence for God and served as an example not only for the Jews of that time, but for present-day Christians. He made the sacrifice of personal comfort to be godly, despite the potential consequence.
"David said to the Philistine, 'You come against me with a sword, spear, and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of Armies, the God of the ranks of Israel—you have defied him.'" (1 Samuel 17:45)
"David put his hand in the bag, took out a stone, slung it, and hit the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown to the ground." (1 Samuel 17:49)
Heroes possess the ability and willpower to overcome opponents who are sometimes much larger in stature than themselves. This is true with Superman and Doomsday, as is the case with David and Goliath. Christians today can easily recognize David as a hero for two reasons: showcasing an unwavering faith in God and standing up to a much larger foe. Goliath represented the might and power of the Philistine army, but he did not represent God. On the other hand, David represented the frailty of man but the might of God.
With nothing but a rock, a slingshot, and plenty of faith, David routed his opponent. This is another example of someone showcasing the power of faith and putting God first. David did not enter into battle proclaiming the significance of man, but rather his reverence for God. David acted in this battle, not for the benefit of self, but the nation of Israel. He stood up to Goliath when no other warrior would, and he was only a shepherd.
Faith, putting others before himself, and defeating a mighty foe, David has become emblematic of any hero facing a giant enemy.
"As for you, lift up your staff, stretch out your hand over the sea, and divide it so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground." (Exodus 14:16)
Moses displayed himself as a hero by performing several good deeds on behalf of God and his people. He attained the Ten Commandments, enacted the various plagues in Egypt, freed the Israelites from slavery, and parted the Red Sea by the power of God. Much of what Moses did was to get the Israelites to the Promised Land; only Moses himself did not ever reach such a place. God did not permit Moses to enter (Deuteronomy 32:51-52). Even with this sad truth, in the next chapter, Moses blesses his people and speaks highly of God.
Heroes, even when they do not win for themselves, win on behalf of others. Moses portrays a painful sacrifice that not many would make, knowing that in the end, others would inherit a benefit and he would not.
"But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
What more noteworthy biblical hero is there than Jesus? He modeled faith perfectly in all that He did. Jesus displayed the ultimate sacrifice by being wounded not for anything He did, but for all the wrongs of humanity and all that He did right. Jesus did what no other man could do and paid the price. After Jesus' death, He returned, having conquered what many fear is the end; He shows us that we can find salvation through Him.
Through His actions, Jesus overcame numerous enemies: Satan, His persecutors, and death. He won in the end, and because of His win, His followers can also reap the benefit of salvation. Jesus was a hero throughout every chapter of His life on Earth, a reason why every believer and almost every nonbeliever knows the word. Not hero, but Jesus.
How Should We View the Concept of Heroes of the Bible?
As a Christian, the idea of heroism extends beyond beating up villains and fighting for justice. Heroism involves sacrifice, sometimes a sacrifice that means people reap a benefit that the hero does not. There are definite similarities between our biblical heroes and those we see around us day-to-day. Sacrifice. Empathy. Love. However, what the biblical heroes utilize just as much as the other traits is faith in God. If we want to be both heroes and Christians, we have to make sure we are not just serving humankind or ourselves; we have to serve God.
We should encourage ourselves and others with this truth. There is power in stories. There's a reason Superman's logo is recognized universally. There's also a reason why the name of Jesus is so profound. Heroes make a difference in their homes, communities, nations, and the entire world, not just today or the past, but also for the future - and they always will.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Bulat Silvia
Aaron Brown is a freelance writer, hip-hop dance teacher, and visual artist, living in Virginia. He currently contributes work to iBelieve, Crosswalk, and supports various clients through the platform Upwork. He's an outside-the-box thinker with a penchant for challenging the status quo.