The Bible is filled with heroes and heroines—some widely celebrated, while others remain hidden in the shadows. While figures like Moses, David, and Mary have been extensively discussed, there are unsung heroes whose stories, though lesser-known, are equally compelling and inspiring. Here are some of these overshadowed biblical figures worth learning about.
Barnabas: The Encourager
A prominent figure in the New Testament, Barnabas was known for his gift of encouragement. Originally named Joseph, the apostles called him Barnabas (meaning “son of encouragement”). He played a pivotal role in introducing Paul (formerly Saul) to the apostles after Paul’s conversion.
Deborah: Prophetess and Judge
Found in the Book of Judges, Deborah was a prophetess and the only female judge mentioned in the Bible. Under her leadership, the Israelites triumphed over the Canaanite army.
Jethro: Wise Counselor
Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, was a Midianite priest who provided Moses with vital advice on governing the Israelites, which led to the establishment of a structured system of leadership.
Phoebe: Early Church Leader
Phoebe, mentioned in Romans 16:1-2, was a deaconess in the church at Cenchreae. Paul commends her for her service, indicating her significant role in the early church.
Ehud: Left-handed Judge
Ehud, another judge from the Book of Judges, was unique because he was left-handed. He delivered the Israelites from Moabite oppression by skillfully assassinating the Moabite king Eglon.
Huldah: Prophetess of Judah
When King Josiah found the Book of the Law, he turned to Huldah, a prophetess, for understanding. She prophesied the impending disaster on Judah but also conveyed God’s mercy towards Josiah.
Jabez: The One Who Prayed
Though mentioned briefly in 1 Chronicles 4:10, Jabez stands out for his heartfelt prayer to God, asking for blessings and protection from harm, which God granted.
Anna: The Faithful Widow
Found in Luke 2:36-38, Anna was an elderly prophetess who spent decades in the temple fasting and praying. She recognized Jesus as the Messiah when he was presented at the temple as an infant.
Jochebed: Mother of Courage
Jochebed, Moses’ mother, demonstrated profound faith and courage by saving her infant son from Pharaoh’s decree to drown Hebrew baby boys. Her action set the course for the Israelites’ deliverance.
Nehemiah: The Rebuilder
Nehemiah, a cupbearer to the Persian king, was instrumental in rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls. His leadership and dedication amidst opposition were exemplary.
Shiphrah and Puah: The Fearless Midwives
These Hebrew midwives, mentioned in Exodus 1, defied Pharaoh’s orders to kill Hebrew baby boys. Their bravery saved countless lives, including Moses.
Bezalel: Gifted Artisan
God chose Bezalel to craft the Ark of the Covenant and other Tabernacle items. He was divinely equipped with craftsmanship skills, as described in Exodus 31.
Abigail: Woman of Foresight
Abigail, detailed in 1 Samuel 25, prevented bloodshed by intervening between her husband Nabal and David. Recognized for her wisdom, she later became David’s wife.
Obadiah: Protector of Prophets
In 1 Kings 18, Obadiah, who served wicked King Ahab, secretly saved a hundred prophets by hiding them from the vengeful Queen Jezebel.
Priscilla: Teacher of the Gospel
Mentioned alongside her husband Aquila in Acts 18, Priscilla was pivotal in instructing and guiding early church leaders, including Apollos.
Mordecai: Defender of the Jews
Though Esther receives more attention, Mordecai’s role in saving the Jewish people from extermination under Persian rule is crucial. He displayed integrity, wisdom, and unwavering faith.
Benaiah: David’s Mighty Man
Benaiah, described in 2 Samuel 23, was one of David’s mighty men, known for his valiant acts, including defeating a lion and an Egyptian warrior.
Dorcas (Tabitha): Woman of Good Works
In Acts 9, Dorcas, also called Tabitha, was a disciple known for her charitable deeds. Peter raised her from the dead, which led to many conversions.
Micaiah: Prophet of Truth
Micaiah, depicted in 1 Kings 22, was a prophet who boldly delivered God’s message despite facing intimidation from King Ahab and other prophets.
Onesimus: The Runaway Slave
Onesimus, a runaway slave, is central to the Book of Philemon. He became a Christian under Paul’s guidance, prompting Paul’s appeal to Philemon for Onesimus’ acceptance as a brother in Christ.
Eunice and Lois: Legacy of Faith
Eunice, Timothy’s mother, and Lois, his grandmother, mentioned in 2 Timothy 1:5, are commended for their sincere faith, which they instilled in Timothy.
Zacchaeus: The Repentant Tax Collector
Zacchaeus, a wealthy tax collector, transformed after meeting Jesus. His story in Luke 19 demonstrates the power of repentance and redemption.
The Four Lepers: Unlikely Messengers
In 2 Kings 7, four lepers unintentionally relay a message of hope to the besieged city of Samaria by discovering the deserted Aramean camp.
Epaphroditus: Paul’s Fellow Worker
Mentioned in Philippians 2:25, Epaphroditus risked his life to assist Paul, reflecting selflessness and dedication.
Agabus: New Testament Prophet
Agabus, described in Acts 21, prophesied Paul’s arrest, showcasing the continuity of prophetic gifts in the early church.
Nathanael: Israelite without Deceit
Jesus commended Nathanael in John 1:47 for his sincerity and guilelessness, qualities that often go unrecognized.
Barzillai: Supporter of David
In 2 Samuel 17, Barzillai, an elderly man, provided essential supplies to David during his flight from Absalom.
Simeon: Man of Patience
Found in Luke 2, Simeon, guided by the Holy Spirit, recognized Jesus as the Messiah. He exemplifies patience, as he waited his entire life for this moment.
Bereans: Model of Open-mindedness
In Acts 17, the Bereans are noted for their eagerness to examine Scriptures daily to verify Paul’s teachings, representing diligence in understanding the Word.
Cornelius: God-fearing Gentile
In Acts 10, Cornelius, a Roman centurion, received a vision that led to his conversion, signifying God’s acceptance of Gentiles into the faith.
Lydia: First European Convert
Lydia, a seller of purple, mentioned in Acts 16, was the first recorded European convert, showcasing the spread of Christianity beyond Jewish communities.
Silas: Paul’s Faithful Companion
Silas, a leader in the early church, accompanied Paul on missionary journeys, enduring persecutions and hardships alongside him.
Jael: Unexpected Heroine
In Judges 4, Jael killed the Canaanite general Sisera, leading to Israel’s victory over the Canaanite forces.
Eliezer: Abraham’s Trustworthy Servant
Eliezer, described in Genesis 24, displayed loyalty and faithfulness in seeking a wife for Isaac, ensuring God’s covenant continuation.
Joseph of Arimathea: Honorable Council Member
Joseph, mentioned in all four Gospels, boldly requested Jesus’ body after the crucifixion, providing a proper burial.
Ruth: Emblem of Loyalty
Though more recognized than others on this list, Ruth’s unwavering loyalty to her mother-in-law Naomi and her decision to adopt the Israelite faith is a testament to love and commitment.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: Men of Conviction
These three young men, known for their refusal to bow to King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue in Daniel 3, exemplify unyielding faith amidst trials.
Tychicus: Bearer of Letters
Tychicus, mentioned in Ephesians 6:21, diligently carried letters for Paul, ensuring communication among early churches.
Believers at Antioch: First Called Christians
In Acts 11, believers in Antioch were the first to be called Christians, marking a significant milestone in the faith’s history.
The Widow of Zarephath: Provider in Famine
Mentioned in 1 Kings 17, this widow, though facing starvation, trusted Elijah and provided for him, witnessing a miracle in return.
Ahimaaz: The Loyal Messenger
During Absalom’s rebellion in 2 Samuel 18, Ahimaaz risked his life to deliver news to King David, exemplifying loyalty and courage.
The Shunammite Woman: Great Hospitality
In 2 Kings 4, this woman’s hospitality to the prophet Elisha led to miracles in her life, demonstrating the rewards of kindness.