A while back, I said that Vashti was the best person in the Bible. And while I still think she's a good choice for that award, I'd like to consider all possible candidates. Here is my attempt to do that. Let me know if I've left out any of your favorite Bible characters.
- The Talking Serpent
OK, so maybe he wasn't human, but he was the wisest and most honest character in Genesis. Here's his conversation with Eve.
Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. Genesis 3:1-5
And the serpent was correct, according to the Bible anyway. When Eve and Adam ate from the tree of knowledge, they didn't die*, and their eyes were opened to know good and evil.
The Bible doesn't say much about Eve. There is only one conversation recorded and that is with a talking serpent. But in it she shows a courageous love of goodness, beauty, and truth.
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat. Genesis 3:6
At Sarah and God's insistence, Abraham sent Hagar and their son Ishmael into the desert. When Ishmael was about to die, Hagar left him under a bush and cried because she couldn't bear to see him die.
And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs. And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bow shot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept. Genesis 21:15-16
Zipporah saved Moses from being killed by God by cutting off the foreskin of their son with a sharp stone. I don't know how she knew what had upset Moses' psychopathic god, but she figured it out quickly and did what had to be done. Then she threw the bloody foreskin at Moses' feet saying, "a bloody husband you are to me."
It came to pass ... that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him.
Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. Exodus 4:24-25
- The ten honest scouts
Moses sent out twelve scouts to check out the land of Canaan. When they returned, one of the scouts (Caleb and maybe Joshua) told Moses that it would be easy to invade and conquer the people of Canaan. But ten other scouts disagreed.
The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature.
And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight. Numbers 13:32-33
Those men that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died by the plague before the LORD. Numbers 14:37
- Korah and his companions
Moses and Aaron had absolute authority over the Israelites -- until it was challenged by Korah and his companions. Here's what they said to Moses.
Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD? Numbers 16:3
So God and Moses arranged a test. If Korah and his companions die a natural death, then God didn't send Moses. But if Korah and his friends (and their families) are buried alive, then God is Moses' special friend.
And Moses said, Hereby ye shall know that the LORD hath sent me.
If these men die the common death of all men ... then the LORD hath not sent me.
But if the LORD make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the LORD. Numbers 16:28-30
The test proved that Moses is God's special friend (since the other guys were buried alive).
But if the LORD make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the LORD.
And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them:
And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods.
They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation. Numbers 16:28-33
- The people who complained about God's killings
During the Exodus, God burned and buried people alive, had people stoned to death, and killed tens of thousands in plagues. So, as you might expect, the people were pretty freaked out about it. Here's what they said:
All the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of the LORD. Numbers 16:41
So God sent a plague and killed another 14,700.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a moment. ...
Behold, the plague was begun among the people. ...
Now they that died in the plague were fourteen thousand and seven hundred. Numbers 16:44-49
- The couple murdered by Phinehas
The Israelites pissed off God by having sex with Moabite women.
the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. Numbers 25:1So God sent a plague to kill them all. Then Phinehas saw an Israelite man and a Moabite woman,
One of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman. Numbers 25:6and impaled them with a spear through their bellies.
When Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand ... and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. Numbers 25:7-8God was so pleased by Phinehas' double murder that he stopped killing people with the plague, after only 24,000 died. (Well, 23,000 if you believe Paul.)
So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel. nd those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand. Numbers 25:8-9
- The daughters of Zelophehad
Then came the daughters of Zelophehad ... Mahlah, Noah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Tirzah.
And they stood before Moses, and before Eleazar the priest, and before the princes and all the congregation, by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying,
Our father died in the wilderness ... and had no sons.
Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son? Give unto us therefore a possession among the brethren of our father.
And Moses brought their cause before the LORD.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
The daughters of Zelophehad speak right: thou shalt surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father's brethren; and thou shalt cause the inheritance of their father to pass unto them. Numbers 27:1-7
- The peaceful unsuspecting people of Laish
The children of Dan ... came unto Laish, unto a people that were at quiet and secure: and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city with fire. Judges 18:26-27
When David was fighting with Saul, he hung out "in the wilderness" with a gang of outlaws. While there, he heard about a rich man named Nabal and sent some of his "young men" to pay him a visit. So they went and introduced themselves to Nabal and told him to give them whatever he owned.
David sent out ten young men, and David said unto the young men, Get you up to Carmel, and go to Nabal, and greet him in my name. ...
Give, I pray thee, whatsoever cometh to thine hand unto thy servants, and to thy son David. 1 Samuel 25:5-8
But Nabal was on to David's protection racket. He refused to give his belongings to people he didn't even know just to get them to go away and leave him alone.
And Nabal answered David's servants, and said, Who is David? ...
Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be? 1 Samuel 25:10-11
When David heard about it, he swore to kill Nabal and all his men (everyone "that pisseth against the wall").
So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that pertain to him by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall. 1 Samuel 25:22
But, as it turns out, God beat him to it and killed Nabal for David,
And it came to pass about ten days after, that the LORD smote Nabal, that he died. 1 Samuel 25:38
and gave David his wife and other stuff.
When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, Blessed be the LORD .... And David sent and communed with Abigail, to take her to him to wife. 1 Samuel 25:39
Saul had given Michal his daughter, David's wife, to Phalti.
But later, after he had collected a half dozen or more wives, David demanded Michal back. (Heck, he paid 200 foreskins for her!)
And David sent messengers to Ishbosheth Saul's son, saying, Deliver me my wife Michal, which I espoused to me for an hundred foreskins of the Philistines. 2 Samuel 3:14
Poor Phatiel must have loved her dearly since he "went along weeping behind her."
And Ishbosheth sent, and took her from her husband, even from Phaltiel the son of Laish. And her husband went with her along weeping behind her. 2 Samuel 3:15
When the ark was being transported to Jerusalem, Uzzah, one of the drivers of the cart, reached out his hand to steady the ark to keep it from falling. God thanked him in his usual way: he killed him.
And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart. ...
And when they came to Nachon's threshingfloor , Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it.
And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God. 2 Samuel 6:3-7
David bought his first wife with 200 Philistine foreskins. She was the daughter of Saul and her name was Michal. She rescued David from her father by lowering him on a rope through the window (1 Samuel 19:11-17), which was both brave and clever. But what impresses me even more was the way she criticized David for dancing nearly naked in front of God and everybody.
David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. ...
Michal ... said, How glorious was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself to day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself! 2 Samuel 6:14-20
Of course God doesn't like it when anyone criticizes David. So he made her die childless. (But not really.)
Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death. 2 Samuel 6:23
To appease God and end a famine that was caused by his predecessor (Saul), David agrees to have two of Saul's sons and five of his grandsons killed and hung up "unto the Lord."
There was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David enquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites. ...
Wherefore David said unto the Gibeonites, What shall I do for you? and wherewith shall I make the atonement. ...
And they answered the king ... Let seven men of his sons be delivered unto us, and we will hang them up unto the LORD. 2 Samuel 21:1-6
So David rounded up and delivered two sons of Rizpah, Saul's concubine, and five sons of his daughter Michal, and they hung them up before the Lord.
The king took the two sons of Rizpah ... whom she bare unto Saul ... and the five sons of Michal ... And he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the hill before the LORD: and they fell all seven together, and were put to death. 2 Samuel 21:8-9
Rizpah stayed with her dead sons, chasing the birds away in the daytime and animals away at night.
And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth, and spread it for her upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest until water dropped upon them out of heaven, and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest on them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night. 2 Samuel 21:10
And God stopped the famine after Saul's two sons and five grandsons were killed and hung up for him.
They gathered the bones of them that were hanged ... And after that God was intreated for the land 2 Samuel 21:13-14
- Jeroboam's wife
Jeroboam's wife (the Bible doesn't bother giving her a name) was worried about her sick son. So she went to see the blind prophet Ahijah to see if he could help.
Jeroboam's wife ... arose, and went to Shiloh, and came to the house of Ahijah. 1 Kings 14:4
When she arrived, Ahijah had a message from God regarding her son.
Bhold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, and will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, till it be all gone. 1 Kings 14:10
Which wasn't particularly good news to Jeroboam's wife, since her sick son had pissed on a few walls here and there.
But it got worse as the prophet elaborated a bit.
Him that dieth of Jeroboam in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat: for the LORD hath spoken it. 1 Kings 14:11
So God was going to kill all of the male descendants of Jeroboam, strew their dead bodies on the ground like dung, and use them for dog and bird food.
Oh and her son? He would be dead by the time she got home.
Arise thou therefore, get thee to thine own house: and when thy feet enter into the city, the child shall die. 1 Kings 14:12
And Jeroboam's wife arose, and departed, and came to Tirzah: and when she came to the threshold of the door, the child died; 1 Kings 14:17
- Vashti: The best person in the Bible?
Vashti refused to entertain the king's drunken guests.
The king made a feast ... seven days, in the court of the garden of the king's palace ... And they gave them drink in vessels of gold ... and royal wine in abundance.
On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded ... Vashti the queen ... with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on.
But the queen Vashti refused. Esther 1:5-12
- Job's wife
In the book of Job, God and Satan play a cruel gambling game with the lives of Job and his family. Satan bets that Job will curse God to his face if Job's life is made unpleasant enough. So God (or Satan, it's hard to tell them apart) kills Job's family and sends various torments upon him.
Job's wife rightly says that if Job is to keep his integrity, he should curse God (for playing vicious games with Satan) and die. She is the only voice of reason in the book of Job.
Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. Job 2:9
* God told Adam that he would die the day that he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Yet he and Eve ate from that tree and lived another 930 years. (In the case of Adam, anyway. The Bible doesn't say how long Eve lived.)