Adam & Eve
Adam, was the first human being. Created out of dust, he was made in the image of God. Adam was given dominion over the rest of creation and was placed in the garden of Eden to care for it. God created Eve as a helper for Adam, and together they enjoyed perfect fellowship with their Creator. But Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, which brought sin and death into the world. The Bible tells the story of how God redeems his creation from sin. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22).
God created Eve, as a helper for Adam. Fashioned from one of Adam’s ribs (Genesis 2:23). Eve became the mother (that is, the female ancestor) of all human beings. Though enjoying perfect fellowship with God, Eve was deceived by the serpent and disobeyed God by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Because of their sin, Adam and Eve were driven from the paradise of Eden and began to experience great hardship. For Eve, that included pain in childbearing. Yet, as promised in Gen. 3:15, one of her offspring would defeat the serpent and bring salvation and eternal life to all who trust and obey him (Heb. 5:9).
Noah was a righteous man who faithfully walked with God despite the wickedness of his generation. When God chose to destroy the earth because of its hopeless corruption, Noah alone found favor in his eyes. God instructed Noah to build an ark that would keep him and his family safe during the coming flood. Noah also took representative pairs of each kind of animal with him into the ark, to replenish the earth after the flood.
God made a covenant with Noah, promising that he would never again destroy the earth with a flood. The NT calls Noah a “herald of righteousness” (2 Pet. 2:5).
Abraham & Sarah
Abraham was called by God to leave his native country (for a land that he would show him. When Abraham arrived in Canaan, God promised to give the land to him and his descendants, who would become the nation of Israel. The Lord promised that the whole world would be blessed through Abraham and his descendant (Gen. 12:1-3).
Abraham faced the ultimate test of faith when God commanded him to sacrifice his son Isaac (Gen 22). Because Abraham was willing to do so, God once again promised to bless him and to multiply his offspring. God spared Isaac from death by providing a substitute sacrifice, foreshadowing the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross (Gal. 3:26-29).
Sarah was Abraham’s wife and was also his half-sister. On two occasions, to save himself from possible danger, Abraham said that Sarah was his “sister,” failing to mention that she was also his wife. After many years of not being able to bear children, Sarah encouraged Abraham to start a family with her maidservant, Hagar. This plan backfired when, upon conceiving, Hagar became condescending toward Sarah. Later, God promised Abraham that he would give him a son through Sarah. Since she was 90 years old at the time, and Abraham himself was 100, Sarah’s initial response to the promise was laughter. However, one year later, Sarah gave birth to Isaac, the child of promise. She thus became an ancestor of Christ. (Key Scripture: Genesis 17:15–16).
Melchizedek is among the most mysterious figures in Scripture. King of Salem, a city identified with Jerusalem, and “priest of God Most High,” Melchizedek’s name means “king of righteousness.” Following Abraham’s defeat of Chedorlaomer and his rescue of Lot, Melchizedek provided a meal of bread and wine for Abraham and his men. He then blessed Abraham, attributing Abraham’s victory over his enemies to God Most High. In response to Melchizedek’s blessing, Abraham gave the priest-king a tenth of everything he had. David mentions Melchizedek in the messianic Psalm 110, and the writer of Hebrews presents Melchizedek as a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, who is both priest and king (Heb 6:13-20; 7:1-22).
Jacob was the son of Isaac and Rebekah. His name means “he grasps the heel” or “he cheats.” Jacob used deception to receive the blessing intended for his brother Esau. He then fled to the home of his uncle Laban. When Jacob asked permission to marry Laban’s daughter Rachel, Laban agreed but then tricked him into marrying her older sister Leah instead. However, Jacob was allowed to marry Rachel as well, and he eventually became the father of 12 sons and a daughter.
As he was returning to Canaan, Jacob wrestled with an angel of the Lord. During this struggle he was given a new name, Israel, which means “struggles with God.” Jacob’s 12 sons became the 12 tribes of Israel.
Rachel (Genesis 29:18, 20)
Rachel was the daughter of Laban, uncle of Jacob. She became Jacob’s wife. Since she was a shepherdess, it is fitting that Rachel’s name means “ewe.” Rachel was a beautiful woman, and the Bible says that Jacob loved her immediately. So deep was his love for her that after being deceived into marrying her older sister Leah, Jacob promised to work an additional seven years for Laban so that he could marry Rachel as well. There was constant strife between the sisters because Jacob favored Rachel, and because Rachel was envious of Leah’s ability to have children.
After many years of waiting, however, Rachel gave birth to Joseph and Benjamin. Ruth 4:11 says that Rachel and Leah “together built up the house of Israel.”
Joseph (Genesis 37-50)
Joseph was the son of Jacob and his favored wife Rachel. Jacob therefore showed favoritism toward Joseph, which made his brothers despise him. Out of jealousy, they sold him into slavery. Joseph was taken to Egypt, where he was purchased by a royal official. Joseph was imprisoned on false charges but was released after interpreting the dreams of Pharaoh. Because the dreams had predicted seven years of famine, Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of preparing for the famine. During the famine Joseph’s family unknowingly came to him for help, and Joseph forgave his brothers and rescued his family.
Through Joseph, God used evil to work out his good purposes, foreshadowing the time when he would bring the supreme good of eternal salvation out of the wicked actions of those who crucified Jesus.
Moses (Exodus 1-4)
Moses’ life was spared when his mother hid him in a reed basket and set him adrift on the Nile. Rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter and raised as a prince, Moses nonetheless recognized the Hebrews as his people. After killing an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave, Moses fled to Midian, where he married Zipporah. God spoke to him through a burning bush, instructing him to return to Egypt and rescue the Hebrews from slavery to the Egyptians. After performing powerful signs before Pharaoh, Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt and brought them to Mount Sinai, where he received the Law and the Ten Commandments.
He led the people of Israel for 40 years as they wandered in the wilderness. Through Moses God redeemed his people from slavery in Egypt, prefiguring Christ’s eternal redemption of his people from slavery to sin.
Aaron (Exodus 4:13-16)
Aaron was Moses’ brother and his spokesperson before Israel and Pharaoh. When Pharaoh refused to release the Hebrews, Aaron stretched out his rod to bring plagues upon the Egyptians. He helped Moses lead the Israelites out of Egypt and through the wilderness. At Sinai, however, Aaron gave in to the Israelites’ sinful demand and designed a golden calf for them to worship. On another occasion, when the Lord miraculously provided water in the wilderness, both Moses and Aaron failed to give proper honor to the Lord, and as a result they were forbidden entry into the Promised Land. As a descendant of Levi, Aaron became Israel’s first high priest, and all future priests were his descendants.
Joshua (Numbers 27:1-23; Joshua 1:1-18).
Joshua was a spiritual and military leader of Israel. He accompanied Moses part of the way up Mount Sinai and also assisted him at the tent of meeting. He was one of the 12 spies sent to explore the land of Canaan. Upon their return, most of the spies said it would be impossible to conquer the land, but Joshua and Caleb encouraged the people to trust the Lord for victory. Because of their obedience and faith, Joshua and Caleb were the only two men of their generation allowed to enter Canaan. The Lord appointed Joshua to lead Israel into the Promised Land.
He was also put in charge of dividing the land among the tribes. It was Joshua who challenged the nation of Israel so God only (Joshua 24).
Rahab (Joshua 2, 6; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:24-26).
Rahab was a Gentile prostitute who lived in Jericho. When Joshua sent two spies to gather information about the city, she hid the men from the king. She also deceived the men who came looking for the spies. She convinced them to leave the city in pursuit of the spies, who were actually hidden on her roof. She demonstrated a remarkable awareness of Israel’s history and of the Lord’s intention to give Israel the land of Canaan. In response to her kindness, Joshua spared Rahab and her household when Israel destroyed Jericho.
Rahab was David's great-grandmother and is one of four women listed in the genealogy of Jesus. She is commended in the NT for her faith and for her good works
Deborah (Judges 4-5).
When the Canaanite king Jabin, with his 900 chariots of iron, oppressed Israel, the Lord raised up a woman to save them. Deborah, a prophetess, was called to lead the nation as a judge and deliverer. Since women did not usually go into battle, Deborah called upon Barak to lead the army against Jabin, but then Barak insisted that Deborah go into battle with him. Following the victory, Deborah and Barak sang a song of praise to the Lord. The defeat of Jabin ushered in a period of 40 years of peace for the people of Israel.
Although many of the judges made poor choices during their rule, Deborah’s actions and words consistently pointed to God.