Introduction to Biblical Figures

Introducation to Biblical Figures

January 13, 2013 Back

Due to Judaism’s prominence as the first monotheist religion and its being the greatest influence on Christianity and Islam, many biblical figures are well known.  Some of those figures include Moses, Abraham, Aaron, Isaiah and others.  However, there are also other figures that are lesser known such as Joel, Nechemiah, Boaz, Malachi and Chananiah.  Biblical figures are important to Jews and Judaism for several reasons.

Jewish Tradition

Judaism puts considerable emphasis on tradition and continuing practices because previous generations did so.  The vast majority of minor and major biblical figures were prophets and part of the tradition linking the public revelation to Sinai to the post-biblical figures and Rabbis over the course of history until today.  It is for this reason that biblical figures are important in regard to Jewish Law – many traditions come from past experiences and are ultimately linked to those the experiences of numerous biblical figures and rabbis of the past who were the inheritors of the traditions originating at Sinai.

Genealogy and Halacha

Biblical figures were also the founders of important genealogical lines, some of which have specific rules in Jewish Law known as Halacha.  For example, any male descendant of Levi will serve in the Temple either as a priest or will serve as a teacher of Torah.  Those same descendants are also entitled to certain tithes mandated by Jewish Law.  Another is example is the tribe of Judah, which is the tribe from which the legitimate Kings of Israel came in the past and will come in the future.

Beyond Jewish Law and laws that apply to specific lineages, biblical figures are considered to be the actual ancestors that Jews can trace their families back to, even though this is nearly impossible in the present era because of the lengthy exile and the holocaust which destroyed the vast majority of Jewish historical and genealogical documents.

History

The Tanakh is considered by most Jews to be historical fact or minimally grounded in historical facts.  Consequently, biblical figures are not just religious figures who are the legendary bearers of tradition who may not have actually existed.  Rather, they are individuals who actually existed and whose biographies are entirely accurate.

Lessons from Lives

Many Jews try to learn from past events and other’s lives in order to learn how one should conduct his or her life.  The lives of Biblical figures are one way to learn how conduct one’s life.  Biographies of great leaders such as King David, Abraham, Jacob and Joseph contain excellent lessons as to how one should deal with adversity in life.  In addition, many strive to be like specific biblical figures or minimally develop attributes specific individuals possessed, such as the wisdom and sense of justice possessed by Solomon or the zealousness to serve G-d as exhibited by Elijah and other prophets.

Preparation for the Future

Numerous biblical figures, both male and female, were prophets.  Many of these prophets had much to say about the future, both immediate and distant.  Some of these visions were positive while others were negative and at times bone-chilling.  As a result, biblical figures such as Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Isaiah (Yechezkel, Yirhmiyahu and Yeshayahu) are considered important because of those messages they communicated to the Jewish community long ago.

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