Why Are Some Characters of the Bible Called Heroes?

They did things that went outside of the norm for the people they lived around, and they chose to do as God said in order to fulfill His plans. Their courage was a big part of their character and so this ticks another box for hero status.

Published May 27, 2022
Why Are Some Characters of the Bible Called Heroes?

We know a lot about heroes in our home. With three children who love superheroes and adore watching shows or movies or reading stories about the good guy and the bad guy, it is something my husband and I are quite familiar with.

But before we ask why Bible characters are called heroes, let’s look at how a hero is defined today. 

How Is Hero Defined?

Merriam Webster defines the word hero as: 

  • A mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability. 
  • An illustrious warrior. 
  • A person admired for achievements and noble qualities. 
  • One who shows great courage; The central figure in an event, period, or movement. 
  • An object of extreme admiration and devotion.

With that in mind, we can now jump in and ask why biblical characters are given the same title as superman, batman, etc.

Hebrews 11 in the New Testament, talks openly about a selection of Old Testament characters and is often dubbed the passage of Scripture on the “heroes of the faith.”

It is here we find details listed on characters, such as Abel, Noah, Abraham, Enoch, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and even Rahab. There are many more characters named in the same chapter, but not all of their stories are expounded by the writer.

Each one of these people listed all held a massive role in the Old Testament stories of their time. We often tell these stories to our kids in Sunday schools, or kids’ church so many know them if only in part. 

1. Noah was the man who built a boat at the request of God, even though he never lived near water, saw rain, or knew what a flood was. But God spoke, and without a second thought, Noah responded positively to God and did as he was asked.

2. Moses was hidden for three months after birth by his mother to save his life and was eventually adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter.

God used Moses for the purpose of freeing His people from the hand of the Egyptians after 400 years of slavery, and Moses would see the people brought close to the Promised Land after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. 

3. Rahab was a sex worker, a woman who very few would have chosen to be in the line of Jesus. However, this woman saved two spies and was, as a result, saved by God along with her family and subsequently married into the lineage that would one day birth Jesus, the Messiah. 

It is a surprise that we are writing Rahab’s name here. That is not because she doesn’t deserve to be named, but it was rare for women to be held in such high esteem in a patriarchal society, let alone be called a hero and spoken about positively in a male-dominated society. But her name is in its rightful place. 

But what is it about these people that gives them this hero status? Let’s glean from our dictionary definition here. 

What Makes Them Biblical Heroes?

We see from our definition that these characters, even though I have only outlined a few, held great courage in their day. 

They did things that went outside of the norm for the people they lived around, and they chose to do as God said in order to fulfill His plans. Their courage was a big part of their character and so this ticks another box for hero status.

They were also people who achieved amazing things and were noble in their qualities showing us a second reason why they were heroes. They took a decision that meant they stood on the front lines and saw God’s hand moving and at work. 

Moses saw a nation live in the wilderness for 40 years, being fed and clothed by God, no one went hungry, and no shoes were ever worn out. Abraham got to see God provide a son for him — a promise to him and his 90-year-old wife, who had been barren up until then. 

Enoch was taken by God so that he did not have to see death because he pleased God. All incredible and marvelous things that go outside of the natural order of our earth. I am sure each of us would love to see these things happen first-hand and not just read about them, I know I would.

These people listed were also central figures in their day as they all chose a path that followed God and in turn, their names were added to the stories of the people of the day. This is our third reason for hero status. 

The Israelites and the nations surrounding spoke often in oral tradition. Everyone knew the stories and as one caravan passed through a village heading to another, they took with them the stories of the people. 

The stories of Joseph, Moses, and David would have been told abroad for their extraordinary events. Then as one generation passed their stories on to another, they were known even more than in their own generation.

I believe Hebrews 11 answers that question loudly for us. Before the mention of any name or circumstance, we read the words: “by faith.” 

In each instance, the men and women named responded to God’s call by faith. None of them performed or witnessed any of these incredible sights by standing on the sidelines second-guessing. 

But rather, each one listened to God, made a calculated choice to have faith, and make the jump believing God would support them. Then they got to watch as He moved in and through them. 

Hebrews 11:13 goes one step further and says about our heroes: “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.” 

When you sit down and really ponder what some of these people did in their time, the ramifications for their people were massive, and furthermore, even today, we still see the effects of their actions in their lives and we can see the goodness of God shining through them and their actions. 

Yet each one did not see the fullness of what God had in store. Scripture reads that they welcomed them from a distance. 

What Does This Mean?

As a result of their actions, we now know, 3000 or more years later, that when God asks something of us, even the crazy, unconventional, or odd things, He does not leave us unequipped to fend for ourselves. 

Rather, if we have the faith to believe in Him and His word and take the jump to do what He is asking of us, then we will see extraordinary things happen. In response to this, we may one day be classified as a hero in someone else’s story as God is revealed to them through us. 

What an incredible thought, friend, by following the prompt of God as these men and women did, we could be the lighthouse that someone else needs to see Jesus clearly. That is something I am willing to sign up for, even if it requires blind faith.

For further reading:

Why Is it Important to Study the Various Characters in the Bible?

How Many Bible Characters Would Be Canceled Today?

How to Live Out Faith Found in Hebrews 11

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Avesun

SWN authorMichelle Treacy is a Christian writer, a wife to Gerald, and a busy mother of three, Emily, Ava Rose, and Matthew. Finding time to write is not always easy. However, Michelle’s desire to write about Jesus, and passion to teach is what motivates her. Michelle writes on Instagram Michelle_Treacy_ and for CrimsonSeasCA. Also, on WordPress at Thoughts From My Bible. If you meet her in person, you will likely find her with two things in hand, a good Christian book, and a cup of tea!

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