Category: Men of the Bible (A th H)


Who was Ehud?

Who was Ehud? Ehud served as the second judge of Israel following Othniel. After Othniel’s death, the people of Israel sinned and fell to the king of Moab, serving him for 18 years (Judges 3:13–14). When the Israelites cried out for help, God sent Ehud to serve as judge.

Facts about Ehud include that he was the son of Gera and belonged to the tribe of Benjamin. He was also noted as a left-handed man (Judges 3:15). This detail would become important to the success of his mission.

Beginning in Judges 3:16, we read that Ehud made himself a small sword (about 16 inches long) and strapped it to his right thigh under his clothes—had Ehud been right-handed, he would have carried the sword on his left side. Next, he visited the Moabites’ King Eglon under pretense of paying a tribute. When Ehud was checked for weapons, his small sword was apparently missed as it was in an unexpected location.

Following the presentation of his tribute, Ehud said that he had a secret message for the king. Everyone left the room except Ehud and King Eglon. Ehud then pulled out his sword and stuck it into the king’s stomach. The king was obese, and the sword disappeared inside his belly. Ehud left the sword and escaped through a porch opening.

When Eglon’s servants later found the king dead, Ehud had already escaped and rallied the people of Israel. Going to the town of Seraiah, located in Ephraim, Ehud sounded a horn or shofar. The Israelites cut off the Moabites at the Jordan River. Judges 3:29 records that about 10,000 Moabites were killed in the battle. Once free from Eglon’s rule, the Israelites enjoyed 80 years of peace, the longest peaceful period recorded during the time of the judges (Judges 3:30).

While this account is one of the more graphic scenes in Scripture, it is also very insightful. The original readers would have seen the power of God in this story for a variety of reasons. First, a lone man walked into the king’s palace, assassinated the king, and walked out without being captured. This was a highly unexpected event that involved great risk. Second, one battle changed the next 80 years of Israel’s history. Ehud’s story involves more than removing a wicked leader; it includes a change in national history for an entire generation. Third, Ehud’s success is a story of freedom. Just as God had redeemed Israel from Pharaoh and the land of Egypt when they cried out for help, God redeemed Israel from their bondage under King Eglon when they turned to Him.

What can we learn by asking the question, “Who was Ehud?” Ehud’s actions offer a valuable look at how God can change the course of a nation in a single day when He responds to the cries of His people. Further, we see God being faithful to His promise to help Israel when they repented of their sins and turned to Him—a lesson relevant still today.

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Aram was the Hebrew designation for the nation of Syria, so the Arameans mentioned in the Bible are Syrians. In fact, some translations such as the ESV and KJV, when translating the Hebrew word for “Aramean,” substitute the word Syrian instead (see 2 Kings 7:6). The Arameans lived on an elevated tableland, and the topography is reflected in the fact that the word Aram comes from a root meaning “heights.” Aram Naharaim in Genesis 24:10 means “highland of the two rivers.”

The borders of Aram encompassed a broad region immediately to the northeast of Israel, extending to the Euphrates River and including Mesopotamia. Among the major cities inhabited by ancient Arameans were Damascus (Genesis 14:15) and Hamath (Numbers 13:21). Much later, Syrian Antioch was built and is mentioned in the New Testament (Acts 11:19; 13:1). The various kingdoms comprising ancient Aram gradually unified under Damascus, which grew to be the most dominant of the Aramean kingdoms.

When Abraham sought a wife for his son Isaac, he sent a servant to the land of Aram to find Rebekah (Genesis 24:10; 25:20). Laban, Jacob’s father-in-law, is called an Aramean in Genesis 31:10. Jacob himself is called “a wandering Aramean” in Deuteronomy 26:5, since both his mother and his grandfather were from Mesopotamia and therefore considered Arameans by the Hebrews.

During the reign of King David, the Arameans of Damascus came to the help of another group of Syrians. David defeated them, and the Arameans were forced to pay tribute (2 Samuel 8:5–6). Later, the Arameans joined forces with the Ammonites in war against Israel (2 Samuel 10). The Israelites defeated Aram again and kept them in subjugation. This arrangement lasted through the reign of King Solomon (1 Kings 4:21).

After the time of Solomon, the Arameans were a perennial thorn in Israel’s side. They fought Israel during King Ahab’s time, and Israel won (1 Kings 20). In another battle, however, they killed Ahab (2 Chronicles 18:34). They raided Israel (2 Kings 6:8) and later laid siege to the capital, Samaria (verse 24). Elisha predicted the atrocities that the Arameans would commit (2 Kings 8:12). The Arameans fought King Joram of Israel and wounded him (2 Kings 8:28). And they fought King Joash of Judah and wounded him (2 Chronicles 24:23–25). The eventual fall of Jerusalem at the hands of Babylon was aided by the Arameans (2 Kings 24:2).

In a wonderful demonstration of God’s grace and power, Elisha healed Naaman the Syrian of leprosy (2 Kings 5). Naaman, the commander of the army of the king of Aram, was an enemy of Israel, but he humbled himself enough to seek the Lord’s help. Naaman discovered that God is merciful to all those who call upon Him—even Arameans—and that discovery drastically changed Naaman’s worldview: “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel” (2 Kings 5:15).

  Abimelech (also spelled Abimelek), one of Gideon’s sons, served as a judge of Israel following the judgeship of Gideon. He is first mentioned in Judges 8:30–31 where we read, “[Gideon] had seventy sons of his own, for he had many wives. His concubine, who lived in Shechem, also bore him a son, whom he named Abimelek.” Gideon was of the tribe of Manasseh and had led Israel to victory despite humanly impossible odds (Judges 7). After this victory, he became wealthy and had several wives, including a concubine in Shechem who became the mother of Abimelech.

Abimelech sought to rule over Shechem by eliminating all his opposition—namely, by killing all of the other sons of Gideon (Judges 9:1–2). All were killed except Gideon’s youngest son, Jotham (verse 5). Abimelech then became king of Shechem (verse 6).

After leading Shechem for three years, a conspiracy arose against Abimelech. Civil war broke out, leading to a battle at a town called Thebez (Judges 9:50). Abimelech cornered the leaders of the city in a tower and came near with the intention of burning the tower with fire.

The text then notes, “A woman [in the tower] dropped an upper millstone on [Abimelech’s] head and cracked his skull. Hurriedly he called to his armor-bearer, ‘Draw your sword and kill me, so that they can’t say, “A woman killed him.”’ So his servant ran him through, and he died. When the Israelites saw that Abimelek was dead, they went home” (Judges 9:53–55).

An “upper millstone” was a large rock approximately 18 inches in diameter, and this is what landed on Abimelech’s head. Though he survived the crushing blow, Abimelech knew he would not live long. He commanded his young armor-bearer to finish him off for the sake of his reputation (a practice seen in other places in the Old Testament). The young man did as commanded, and the battle ended in the defeat of Abimelech’s forces.

Abimelech offers a negative example of how a leader is to influence others. He led by force, murdered his opposition, and led in such a manner that even his subjects sought to overtake him. In contrast to the positive leadership of his father, Abimelech focused on his own personal gain, hurting many in the process.

Interestingly, a reference to Abimelech’s death would be made many years later during the reign of David. When Uriah was put on the front line of battle so he would die, Joab sent David a message that said, “Who killed Abimelek son of Jerub-Besheth? Didn’t a woman drop an upper millstone on him from the wall, so that he died in Thebez?” (2 Samuel 11:21). This reference held both a practical and spiritual message for David. Practically speaking, the reference noted that Abimelech served as an example of not getting too close to a wall during a battle. Spiritually, the reference pointed out the flaw of leading for one’s own gain rather than out of service to God.

There are actually several men named Abimelech in the Bible. Some translations, such as the NIV, spell the name Abimelek. Either way, the name means “father of the king.”

Some of the Philistines kings are called “Abimelech.” For example, the king of Gerar who took Sarah into his harem is called “Abimelech” in Genesis 20:2. The same name is applied to the king of Gerar during Isaac’s sojourn there (Genesis 26:1). The king of Gath before whom David played the madman is also called “Abimelech” in the title of Psalm 34; however, 1 Samuel 21:11 identifies the king of Gath as Achish. This has led many scholars to believe that, among the Philistines at least, Abimelech was a title given the king, rather than a personal name—much as the Egyptians always called their king “Pharaoh.”

Another possible Abimelech in the Bible was a son of the high priest Abiathar, mentioned in 1 Chronicles 18:16. The NAS, KJV, and NET Bibles put the name as Abimelech. But the NIV, ESV, and HCS Bibles have Ahimelech (or Ahimelek). This Abimelech/Ahimelech was a priest who served in the time of King David.

But probably the most well-known Abimelech in the Bible is the headstrong and murderous son of Gideon in the book of Judges. Please see our article on this particular Abimelech for more information.

  Gamaliel was a first-century Jewish rabbi and a leader in the Jewish Sanhedrin. Gamaliel is mentioned a couple of times in Scripture as a famous and well-respected teacher. Indirectly, Gamaliel had a profound effect on the early church.

Gamaliel was a Pharisee and a grandson of the famous Rabbi Hillel. Like his grandfather, Gamaliel was known for taking a rather lenient view of the Old Testament law in contrast to his contemporary, Rabbi Shammai, who held to a more stringent understanding of Jewish traditions.

The first biblical reference to Rabbi Gamaliel is found in Acts 5. The scene is a meeting of the Sanhedrin, where John and Peter are standing trial. After having warned the apostles to cease preaching in the name of Jesus, the Jewish council becomes infuriated when Simon Peter defiantly replies, “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 5:29). Peter had no intention of ceasing to proclaim the gospel, regardless of the possible repercussions. Peter’s defiance enrages the council, who begin to seek the death of the apostles. Into the fray steps Gamaliel. The rabbi, “who was honored by all the people” (Acts 5:34), first orders the apostles to be removed from the room. Gamaliel then encourages the council to be cautious in dealing with Jesus’ followers: “In the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God” (Acts 5:38–39). The Sanhedrin is persuaded by Gamaliel’s words (verse 40). That the council acquiesced to his advice speaks to the influence that Gamaliel possessed.

Later rabbis lauded Gamaliel for his knowledge, but he may be better known for his most famous pupil—another Pharisee named Saul of Tarsus (Acts 22:3), who later became the apostle Paul. It was under the tutelage of Rabbi Gamaliel that Paul developed an expert knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures. Paul’s educational and professional credentials allowed him to preach in the synagogues wherever he traveled (see Acts 17:2), and his grasp of Old Testament history and law aided his presentation of Jesus Christ as the One who had fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5:17).

Gamaliel is also mentioned by the historian Josephus, who wrote of the nobility of Gamaliel’s son, Simon (Vita, 38). Josephus’ description of Gamaliel’s family is consistent with the picture we see of him in the book of Acts. The Talmud also mentions Gamaliel, but there is still much that we do not know about him. As with many figures from ancient history, our knowledge of Gamaliel is limited. From the sources that we do possess, it is clear that Gamaliel and his family were revered as men of wisdom and prudential judgment. In God’s sovereign plan, this Jewish rabbi preserved the lives of the apostles in the early church and helped equip the greatest Christian missionary.

Ahab was one in a line of increasingly evil kings in Israel’s history, starting with the reign of Jeroboam. King Ahab “did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him” (1 Kings 16:30). Among the events chronicled in Ahab’s life that led to his downfall was his marriage to an evil woman named Jezebel who had a particular hatred for God’s people (1 Kings 18:4). Because of his marriage to a pagan woman, Ahab devoted himself to the worship of the false gods Baal and Asherah in Israel (1 Kings 16:31–33).

The evil of King Ahab was countered by the prophet Elijah who warned Ahab of coming judgment if he did not obey the Lord. Ahab blamed Elijah for bringing trouble on Israel (1 Kings 18:17), but it was Ahab’s promotion of idolatry that was the true cause of the three-and-a-half-year famine (verse 18). In a dramatic confrontation between Elijah and Ahab’s false prophets, God proved to Israel that He, not Baal, was the true God (1 Kings 18:16–39). All of Ahab’s men of Baal were killed that day (verse 40).

King Ahab also disobeyed the Lord’s direct command to destroy Ben-Hadad, the king of Aram. God set it up so that Ahab would lead Israel to victory, but Ahab made a treaty with the king he was supposed to kill (1 Kings 20). “Therefore,” God told Ahab through an unnamed prophet, “it is your life for his life, your people for his people” (verse 42).

The event that sealed Ahab’s doom was his murder of an innocent man (1 Kings 21). Ahab coveted a vineyard belonging to a man named Naboth. The king offered to buy the vineyard, but Naboth refused, because the Law forbade him to sell it (1 Kings 21:2–3; cf. Leviticus 25:23). While Ahab sulked about it in his palace, his wife arranged Naboth’s murder. Once the vineyard’s owner was out of the way, King Ahab took the vineyard for himself. Elijah came to Ahab and told him the Lord would deal with him by cutting off all his descendants. Also, Ahab himself would suffer an ignoble fate: “In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours!” (1 Kings 21:19). Upon hearing this, Ahab “tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly” (verse 27). In response to Ahab’s repentance, God mercifully postponed the destruction of Ahab’s dynasty until after Ahab was dead (verse 29).

The prophesied judgment against Ahab came true exactly as Elijah predicted. God used Ahab’s own false prophets to entice him into going to the battle at Ramoth-Gilead, where he was hit by a “random” arrow and slowly bled to death in his chariot. Later, “they washed the chariot at a pool in Samaria (where the prostitutes bathed), and the dogs licked up his blood, as the word of the Lord had declared” (1 Kings 22:38). After Ahab’s death, Jehu killed Jezebel (2 Kings 9) and all of Ahab’s descendants (2 Kings 10).

King Ahab was justly judged by God because he disobeyed the Lord’s direct commands, he abused his responsibility as Israel’s king, and he led God’s people right into idolatry. In the end, “there was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols” (1 Kings 21:25–26).

Asa was a descendant of David and the third king of the southern kingdom of Judah. He ruled for forty-one years (1 Kings 15:10) and “did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God” (2 Chronicles 14:2). The biblical account of Asa’s reign is detailed in 1 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 14–16.

Asa became king of Judah in the twentieth year of Jeroboam of Israel’s reign (Jeroboam was the first king of the northern kingdom of Israel after the kingdom divided). Asa’s father, Abijah, had done much evil in God’s sight and only ruled for three years. Asa’s grandfather, Rehoboam, had also done evil in God’s sight. But King Asa instituted reform; he removed the male shrine prostitutes, cut down Asherah poles, and even deposed his grandmother from her position as queen mother because of her involvement with Asherah worship (1 Kings 15:12–13; 2 Chronicles 14:3, 16). Asa also commanded his people to follow the Lord (2 Chronicles 14:4). First Kings 15:14 says, “Although he did not remove the high places, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life” (see also 2 Chronicles 15:17).

Judah was at peace with surrounding nations for ten years during Asa’s reign (2 Chronicles 14:1). Second Chronicles 15 describes a time when Azariah, a prophet, told Asa that, if he sought the Lord, God would be with him. This encouraged Asa to remove idols and to repair the altar at the Lord’s temple. He assembled the people together to sacrifice to the Lord: “They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul. All who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, were to be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman. They took an oath to the Lord with loud acclamation, with shouting and with trumpets and horns. All Judah rejoiced about the oath because they had sworn it wholeheartedly. They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them. So the Lord gave them rest on every side” (2 Chronicles 15:12–15).

Asa built up the fortified cities, and Judah enjoyed a time of prosperity (2 Chronicles 14:6–7). When Zerah the Cushite marched out to make war against Judah, Asa called on God for aid. “The Lord struck down the Cushites before Asa and Judah. The Cushites fled, and Asa and his army pursued them as far as Gerar. Such a great number of Cushites fell that they could not recover; they were crushed before the Lord and his forces. The men of Judah carried off a large amount of plunder” (2 Chronicles 14:12–13).

Unfortunately, in the thirty-fifth year of Asa’s reign, he made some mistakes. When King Baasha of Israel fortified Ramah so as to isolate the territory of Judah, Asa made a treaty with Ben-Hadad, king of Aram. The treaty was effective in stopping Israel, and the Judahites took supplies from Ramah and built up Geba and Mizpah, but the treaty with Aram was not pleasing to God (see 1 Kings 15:16–22; 2 Chronicles 16:1–10). Hanani, the seer, visited Asa and reminded him of the way God had conquered the Cushites. He chastised Asa for relying on Ben-Hadad instead of God. Rather than repent of his sin, however, Asa became angry; at the same time he began to oppress some of his people (2 Chronicles 16:10). For the remainder of Asa’s reign, his kingdom was at war.

In the thirty-ninth year of Asa’s reign, he got a severe foot disease, but he looked only to the physicians for help and not God (2 Chronicles 16:12). In the forty-first year of his reign, Asa died and was buried with great honor.

Despite a less-than-ideal end to his reign, Asa is considered a godly and good king. His son, Jehoshaphat, succeeded him and ruled for twenty-five years. Jehoshaphat was also a godly ruler, following in his father’s footsteps and seeking the Lord, yet he also made foolish alliances with those who did not follow the Lord (2 Chronicles 19:1–3; 20:31–33, 20:35–21:1). The life of King Asa is an example to all of us of how easy it is to drift away from the Lord. Asa began his reign with a strong commitment to God, but as years went by his dedication faltered, bringing unnecessary trouble.

Ish-bosheth was a son of King Saul. His story is discussed in 2 Samuel chapters 2 through 4. David was king in the city of Hebron and over the tribe of Judah. Ish-bosheth was made king over the rest of Israel: “Abner son of Ner, the commander of Saul’s army, had taken Ish-Bosheth son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim. He made him king over Gilead, Ashuri and Jezreel, and also over Ephraim, Benjamin and all Israel. Ish-Bosheth son of Saul was forty years old when he became king over Israel, and he reigned two years. The tribe of Judah, however, remained loyal to David” (2 Samuel 2:8–10).

Following a battle at Gibeon between Judah and Israel, Abner chose to join David. Abner was a military leader to Ish-bosheth, who accused Abner of sleeping with his concubine. In his anger over the false charge, Abner vowed to turn the rest of Israel over to David (2 Samuel 3:7–11).

During this time, “Rekab and Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, set out for the house of Ish-Bosheth, and they arrived there in the heat of the day while he was taking his noonday rest. They went into the inner part of the house as if to get some wheat, and they stabbed him in the stomach” (2 Samuel 4:5–6). The assassins brought the head of Ish-bosheth to David, expecting to receive a reward. Yet David was displeased at their merciless action and had these men killed, their feet and hands cut off, and their bodies hanged beside a pool in Hebron. In contrast, the head of Ish-bosheth was buried in Hebron (2 Samuel 4:12). These events took place after David had ruled at Hebron for about seven and a half years.

The end of Ish-bosheth’s life, though violent, opened the door for David’s rule to expand from Judah to all of Israel. The prophecy of long ago finally came true: David was the king of all Israel (2 Samuel 5:2). “When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years. In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years” (2 Samuel 5:3–5).

Despite the many violent acts that took place between the people of David’s kingdom and the kingdom of Ish-bosheth, God was at work, preparing the way for His promise to be fulfilled. David ultimately reigned over Israel from Jerusalem. He served as an ancestor to Jesus Christ, the One who will ultimately reign forever.

King David had many wives, according to the Bible, although only eight of them are named. Of the eight, five are mentioned only once. The other three wives figure prominently in the story of King David.

David’s first wife was Michal, the daughter of King Saul. Her story begins in 1 Samuel 18—19. Saul gave Michal to David to marry after David defeated a hundred Philistines. But Saul, always fearful of young David’s popularity with the people, planned to kill his new son-in-law. However, Michal, who loved David, warned him of the plot and helped him escape. Following this, Saul gave Michal to another man. After David became king, Michal was restored as his wife (2 Samuel 3). She later despised David when she saw him dancing before the Lord (2 Samuel 6:14–22). Michal had no children, perhaps in punishment for mocking the servant of the Lord (verse 23).

The story of David’s second wife of note, Abigail, is told in 1 Samuel 25. She was originally the wife of Nabal, an evil man who disrespected David. In his anger, David planned to attack and kill Nabal and all his household. Abigail, a wise and prudent woman, met David as he and his men were approaching. She bowed down to him and convinced him not to seek revenge and cause bloodshed. David recognized that her good judgment was a gift to him from God. Abigail returned to Nabal and told him how close he had come to death. Nabal’s “heart failed him and he became like stone” (verse 37). Ten days later, God struck Nabal and he died, and Abigail then became David’s wife.

The sad story of David’s wife Bathsheba is well known (2 Samuel 11:1–17). She was originally the wife of Uriah the Hittite, a trusted soldier in David’s army. While Uriah was away at war, David saw Bathsheba bathing in her courtyard one night; she was beautiful, and David lusted after her. Even knowing she was another man’s wife, David summoned her to his palace and slept with her. When she found that she was pregnant, she informed David, and the king, rather than repent, added to his sin. David ordered that Uriah be placed on the front lines of the battlefield where he was abandoned by his fellow soldiers and killed by the enemy. Then David married Bathsheba, but their child died shortly after birth. David chronicled his sin and repentance over these evil acts in Psalm 51. David and Bathsheba had four more children (1 Chronicles 3:5). Their son Solomon ruled after his father’s death.

The other five named wives of David were Ahinoam, Maacah, Haggith, Abital, and Eglah (2 Samuel 3:2–5; 1 Chronicles 3:1–3). According to 2 Samuel 5:13, David married more wives in Jerusalem, but how many is unknown.

In the book of Acts, we find a Levite from Cyprus named Joses (Acts 4:36), whom the apostles called Barnabas. That nickname, translated “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36-37) or “Son of Exhortation” was probably given to him because of his inclination to serve others (Acts 4:36-37, 9:27) and his willingness to do whatever church leaders needed (Acts 11:25-31). He is referred to as a “good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.” Through his ministry, “a great number of people were brought to the Lord” (Acts 11:24). Paul uses Barnabas as an example of one with a proper perspective on money and property. When he sold his land, he brought the proceeds to the apostles and laid it at their feet (Acts 4:36-37).

As the early church began to grow, in spite of Herod’s persecution, Barnabas was called by the Holy Spirit to go with Paul on a missionary journey. Barnabas’ cousin, John Mark, served him and Paul as their assistant (Acts 13:5). During that first missions trip, for an unspecified reason, John Mark left them and did not complete the journey (Acts 13:13). However, Barnabas continued with Paul and was with him when Paul’s ministry was redirected to reaching the Gentiles with the gospel (Acts 13:42-52). The only negative mention of Barnabas in Scripture is in reference to an incident in which Peter’s hypocrisy influenced other Jews (including Barnabas) to shun some Gentiles at dinner (Galatians 2:13).

After that first trip, Paul and Barnabas began planning their next journey. Barnabas wanted to take his cousin, but Paul refused, and a rift grew between them to the point that they parted company (Acts 15:36-41). Barnabas, true to his nickname, took John Mark and spent time discipling him. That ministry was so effective that, years later, Paul specifically asked for John Mark to come to him, as Mark had matured to the point of becoming helpful to Paul in his ministry (2 Timothy 4:11).

Like Barnabas, as Christians we are called to be encouragers, particularly of those who are weak in the faith or struggling. Acts 11:23 depicts Barnabas as a man who was delighted to see others exhibiting the grace of God in their lives, exhorting and encouraging them to remain faithful. In the same way, we should look for opportunities to praise those who bring glory and honor to God through lives that reflect their faith. In addition, Barnabas is an example of a generous spirit when it comes to giving sacrificially to the work of the Lord.