My children don’t have difficult names, but I guess they are slightly unusual. For me and my husband, we were excited to name our boys after influential people in the Bible. Yes, we are that family.
When people I know who have no biblical background do their best to hide their real opinion of my boys’ names and simply say, “Oh, that’s an interesting name,” I don’t even think twice about it.
But when Christians ask how we came up with the names Silas and Titus, I’m a bit shocked. Not that I expect every Christian to remember every name of every person in the Bible. But I thought Silas and Titus were a bit more familiar. I’m surprised at the reality that my son’s names are incredibly foreign to just about everyone we meet, Christians included.
Not that this bothers me enough to change the names of my children, but it made me understand that there are far more influential people in scripture that will never make the top 20 biblical names list.
Of course, we know Paul and the many ways he influenced and paved the way for the early church. But we don’t equally know Silas, who was with Paul for just about all of his ministry. There are many other noteworthy people who were worth being mentioned in the Bible that we just forget about.
Here are eight bible characters I think we should pay a little bit more attention to and learn from.
Josiah: 8 Going on 80
We really don’t expect much out of kids. But God does.
The first noteworthy person on the list of people you may not know about in the bible is King Josiah.
Quick refresher on the timeline of the kings: so there was King Solomon (David’s son), the guy who started off really strong but then fell into idol worship after being influenced by his literally hundreds of wives. After Solomon died, the kingdom split into two opposing nations: the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and the Southern Kingdom (Judah). Sixteen kings later, our boy Josiah makes it onto the scene.
Josiah became king of Judah after his father, Amon was killed.
Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years…He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed completely the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left. (2 Kings 22:1-2)
For as young as Josiah was, he ruled better than 70 percent of the rest of the kings throughout the history of Israel and Judah. Somehow, some of the Books of the Law written during the time of Moses were misplaced. Josiah found them, read them, and began a reformation in his kingdom. The bible actually says that Josiah grieved and was angered by the way his ancestors had disobeyed the laws of God. At this time, he was about 27 years old and leading the people of Judah back towards who they were always meant to be—the people of God.
As young as Josiah was during the time of his kingship, he led with a sense of boldness and humility. I don’t see many Christian leaders twice the age of King Josiah leading themselves or those following them with the same sense of passion and conviction for righteousness. King Josiah was not flawless, but he goes down as one of the very few good kings to lead the nation of Judah.I don't see many Christian leaders twice the age of King Josiah leading themselves or those following them with the same sense of passion and conviction for righteousness. Click To Tweet
The Daughters of Zelophehad: Five For Justice
It’s no secret that the infrastructure within many societies has not been good at supporting or empowering women. Whenever change is made, it is because of the hard work and courage of women to make things right.
That’s exactly what happened for the daughters of Zelophehad. Mahlah, Noa, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah were brave women, especially for their time. In biblical culture, women were seen as second class citizens without any rights or power. There were no laws or social structures to protect them from abuse or abandonment. There was certainly no opportunity for them to pave their own way to even survive, let alone succeed, apart from a husband or father.
So when these five sisters heard news of their father’s death they went before the most influential leader in their community to ask for justice. At this time, the law stated only men could carry on the inheritance of their fathers. As it turns out, Zelophehad only had daughters, and all of his possessions would be lost based on the structures of the law. Instead of accepting the injustice of their culture, Mahlah, Noa, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah made their case in the sacred tent of meetings before Moses, Eleazar the priest, and the entire community.
So Moses brought their case before the Lord, and the Lord said to him, “What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and give their father’s inheritance to them.” (Numbers 27:5-6)
Even greater than their bravery was the Lord’s ruling. He told Moses to give the sisters their inheritance. The bible goes on to tell us that the law was changed moving forward. Women were now able to receive family inheritance. This was monumental for not only the five sisters but for all women in the nation of Israel. It recognized women as members of society who deserved justice in the same way men did. God never intended for women to be stripped of their value and worth.God never intended for women to be stripped of their value and worth. Click To Tweet
Not That Judas
The personality or actions of someone have a way of either tainting or building up a name. Judas is one of those names. For obvious reasons, there is a deeply negative connotation associated with the name Judas. For that very reason, I don’t imagine you have ever met a person named Judas.
This is probably also one of the reasons why we are far less familiar with Judas, son of James. He also goes by the name of Thaddaeus or Labbeus but that doesn’t seem to help his case all that much.
The less well-known Judas was actually fundamental in the establishment of the early church. He was one of the twelve apostles who went throughout the known world preaching the gospel. He traveled to Judea, Samaria, Idumaea, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Libya to share the good news of Jesus. Judas fulfilled the Great Commission during his time and likely suffered martyrdom in AD65. According to tradition, Judas died by an axe, and his body was later brought to Rome.
We don’t have a lot of information regarding Judas, and not everyone sees eye to eye on the information we do have. What we do know is that Jesus chose him to be one of his disciples, he faithfully followed the teachings of Jesus, and he played a significant role in starting one of the greatest movements in history.Judas (not Iscariot) faithfully followed the teachings of Jesus, and he played a small part in starting one of the greatest movements in history. Click To Tweet
Dorcas: A Second Chance At Life
Some of the most notable accounts in the bible of someone being raised from the dead have Jesus at the center. But a lesser known account involved the apostle Peter and Dorcas. She was one of two females raised from the dead in scripture. The first female was Jairus’ daughter, who was raised from the dead by Jesus.
Dorcas, also known as Tabitha, is unique because she’s one of the few resurrections we read about after Jesus was resurrected. There are many parallels between the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter and Dorcas. In both accounts, there was a loved one who pleaded for a miracle to be performed. Jarius ran up to Jesus begging for him to bring his daughter back to life. Two fellow disciples heard of Peter’s arrival and ran to Peter asking for him to resurrect Dorcas.
Much like Jesus had, Peter arrived on the scene to find women weeping and mourning. He prayed over the woman and said, “Tabitha, arise.” He lifted her out of bed and she was alive.
It would be enough of a testimony of God’s power for Dorcas to have been raised from the dead. But what’s more noteworthy even than her resurrection is the impact she had on the people around her. The bible describes her as a woman who was always doing good and helping the poor. This is why the people in her town were so distraught over her unexpected death. The bible highlights her resurrection, because of the changes it spurred on among others in her town.
And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. (Acts 9:42)
Even before this unexpected miracle in her life, Dorcas was living out her faith. She cared for others the way all Christians ought to. The miracle in her life spilled into a blessing in the lives of others. The people in Joppa came to a saving faith in Jesus as God worked through her.
This is the way God designed our communities to work. We were never meant to do good only for the sake of our own lives. Our faith should spill over into the lives of others in all the best ways.
You may be able to relate more with the stories in this list than even some of the more familiar characters in the bible. But that’s just the thing. Your story isn’t too small or unimportant, God will use you in ways you may have never imagined. What all of these people have in common is their faithfulness to Jesus and their desire to walk in his ways. This is what we are all called to do. He will do the rest.Our faith should spill over into the lives of others in all the best ways. Click To Tweet
MORE RESOURCES TO CHECK OUT
If you enjoyed this article about lesser known bible characters, check out these resources.
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- New International Encyclopedia of Bible Characters, edited by Paul D. Gardner
- Bible Characters Study Sheet