While the Christian New Testament is largely a book of teachings (the majority of it is epistles from Paul and other apostles), the Old Testament/Jewish Bible is brimful of stories -- war stories, stories about quests, stories with narrow escapes and underdog victories, and love between unlikely people. And what's a good story without colorful characters? The Bible has plenty of those, too. Kings, warriors, prophets, liars, sinners ... they're all in there!
You probably know which Old Testament patriarch nearly sacrificed his son, before the Lord provided a ram for the altar instead. But do you know which Old Testament figure had troubles so great that to this day we use his name as a metaphor? Or which king sent a warrior to his death to cover up his own sins? As you can see, the stories of the Old Testament weren't all about peace, harmony and obedience to God. There's plenty of deception, infidelity and sin in these historical books. Largely, however, this is to illustrate the boundlessness of God's forgiveness and love.
So whether you're a devout believer, or someone who approaches the Bible as a historical and literary document, we've got a quiz for you. We describe the Old Testament character in one sentence (in the first person, e.g. "I went to Egypt ..."), and give your four answer options from which to choose. Time to rack your brains for all that Sunday School lore! Good luck!
The fact that Eve was first to succumb to temptation, and then persuaded Adam to sin as well, has been used as an excuse for why women should be secondary to men in marriage and in society. (#Time'sUp!)
When God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush, he gave him one of the most difficult tasks in the entire Old Testament: Negotiate the liberation of the Israelites, who were a slave people in Egypt.
Every Sunday school student learns about Jonah being swallowed by a "whale." But the Hebrew word actually means "great fish." We guess the former sounds more impressive!
Noah was saved because he was a righteous man, Genesis says. For this reason, he and his family were saved from the Great Flood.
David was a shepherd who rose to become king. This wasn't, though, until after years of strife with Israel's first king.
Saul was chosen by the casting of lots, which was thought to be a way for leaders to discern God's will. He was so unwilling to be king, at first, that he was found hiding among the luggage of those who had traveled to the important meeting.
"Abram" meant "exalted ancestor," while "Abraham" means "ancestor of a multitude." It's a small but significant change, given that he is seen as the father of both the Jewish and Arab peoples.
The story of Daniel in the lions' den is a popular one in Sunday schools. It was Darius who ordered the prophet cast into the den.
Samson was a Nazirite; as such, he was required to never cut his hair. What few people know about the Nazirites is that either a man or a woman could become one, and women, too, were forbidden from cutting their hair.
The most famous story of Solomon's wisdom is that he offered to cut a baby in half to appease two women who both claimed to be his mother. According to the story, only the woman who was the real mother rejected this proposal, giving up her child instead.
Samuel was dedicated to the service of God by his mother, Hannah. He was a wise religious leader during the time Israel was shifting from rule by judges to a monarchy.
The story of David and Jonathan is a famous one of friendship in the Bible. Their friendship is all the more remarkable because Jonathan's father increasingly saw David as an enemy.
Cain was banished after killing his brother, Abel. The "land of Nod," sometimes used now as a expression for "sleep," is where he went to live afterward.
Nine other plagues preceded the death of the firstborn children, and Pharaoh was rattled by them, but then his "heart was hardened," Exodus says. Finally, he agreed to let the Israelites leave Egypt.
Genesis 18 tells this story. The Lord later asks why Sarah laughed, and she denies doing so. (When will Biblical people learn you can't lie to the Big Guy? He sees all!)
Sometimes Bible teachers make Esau out to be shortsighted, craving instant gratification. This overlooks the verse in which Esau claims to be at the point of death from hunger. ("I am about to die; what use is a birthright to me?" Gen. 25:32)
We admire King David ... yet when we want to call something huge or powerful, "Goliath" is the name we reach for. This is despite the fact that he lost the battle, fatally! Strange.
Jacob loved Rachel, but Leah had to be married off before her younger sister, according to tradition. Laban, the girls' father, covered Leah's face with a veil and let Jacob believe he was marrying Rachel.
After David seduced Bathsheba (or vice versa) and she became pregnant, he sent Uriah into the thickest part of the battle and had him stranded there. Uriah was killed, thus keeping him from discovering David's sin.
Jacob was a trickster, conning his brother out of his birthright, and later, his father-in-law, Laban, out of a share of livestock. He probably needed that angel's blessing.
Ruth, a Moabite woman, refuses to abandon her Israelite mother-in-law Naomi. She is rewarded by marriage to Boaz, which makes her the great-grandmother of King David.
A writer for Esquire once called the Psalms "King David's blues." That's about the best description we've ever heard for them.
Moses dies on Mt. Pisgah, within sight of the land that will become Israel, but is not allowed by God to enter. It is Joshua who leads the crossing of the Jordan River.
Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt for turning to look back at Sodom and Gomorrah while Lot and his family were fleeing. Why was this such a heinous sin? Why a pillar of salt? We don't know; the Bible does not elaborate.
Rahab and her family are spared, after the Israelites sack Jericho, because she helped their spies. A crimson cord in the window was the sign that her house was to be spared.
Elijah and Elisha were walking when a chariot of fire, drawn by horses of fire, separated them. Elijah was not taken up to heaven in the chariot itself, but "in a whirlwind."
This is our second question about Abraham, but a patriarch this important merits two! Abraham prepares to kill Isaac on an altar, at God's command. The Lord stops him at the last moment, showing him a ram nearby that will serve as the sacrifice instead.
To be clear, it isn't the "coat of many colors" that Joseph left behind. That one remained in Israel when he was sold into slavery, and stained with blood to convince Jacob that his son was killed by wild animals.
The book of 1 Kings tells us, "Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing hidden from the king that he could not explain to her." He was the Ken Jennings of his day!
Elijah won this conflict pretty resoundingly. Ahab died in battle, and Jezebel was thrown out a window and killed, her body mostly eaten by dogs, as Elijah had prophesied. Yikes!
Elisha asks to inherit a "double portion" of Elijah's spirit, which is granted. Still, Elijah is the prophet whose acts and words are better known.
Remarkably, God is not even mentioned in the book of Esther. Instead, it's about how the young Jewess ascends to favor with the king and defeats the scheming Haman, the enemy of the Jews.
Aaron was the brother of Moses, and the high priest of the Hebrews when they left Egypt to return to Israel. Earlier, he was Moses's spokesman when Moses, "slow of speech and tongue," went before Pharaoh.
Jeremiah is a lot like Cassandra, the prophetess of bad news in Greek mythology. Writers sometimes use the word "jeremiad" as a fancy one for "a tale of woe."
Job is a favorite book among those who read the Bible for its literary qualities. It's an epic tale of a man's faith being tested, with some of the scriptures' best poetry.