When you are in the midst of a trial you wonder if anyone in the Bible had experienced anything like it. Or, maybe you’re just curious to know more about a person you read about in the Bible. It might be a good time to do a Bible character study.
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The Bible is written about real people who had families, jobs, struggles and challenges like we do. Sometimes, when we’re reading the Bible we are focused on the big things, which is not a bad thing, but we fail to make connections between the people in the Bible and our lives today.
A Bible character study forces us to slow down and pay attention to one person in a book filled with people and life lessons. As we focus on the character, we learn more about the challenges they had to deal with and get a better appreciation for why they made some of the choices they did.
1. Choose the character you will study. Decide who you want to study. My advice would be that the first time you’re doing this, choose a minor character that may not have a lot of information written about them. This will allow you to get used to the process of doing a Bible character study without feeling overwhelmed.
Another way of deciding on a character would be to go online and get a list of all the Bible characters. The two lists will get you started.
Choose a name from the list and get started!
2. Use a concordance. A Bible Concordance will contain lists of the names of Bible characters. Please note that the concordance may have multiple references of the name you’re doing your research on. Therefore, it’s important to use the description beside each name to determine which verses reference the Bible character you’re studying. Use your concordance to create a list of verses that mention your character.
Some characters will have very little written about them while others may have whole books about them. Depending on the character, you may only use some of the references.
3. Make a list of the passages to review. Depending on the volume of information available, you may not want to study all the verses which mention your character. Choose the ones you believe will give the most and best information.
4. Start your Bible character study. As you read each passage, really think about what you’re reading. Make notes. Some Bibles may have cross-references so those should be on the list of things that you want to check out.
It may be necessary to read the entire passage or chapter as sometimes your character will not be referenced by name. They can be mentioned using their title or a pronoun.
For example: if you were doing a character study on Ahasuerus (aka Xerxes), Esther 1 only has 8 references of him by name. Yet, the entire chapter is about him. Sometimes he’s referred to as “the king” or using the pronouns “he” or “him”. This occurs throughout the entire book of Esther.
As you study your Bible character, ask questions such as:
If you’ve missed the rest of the series, check out the posts here:
5. Write a biography. After doing your study, you may want to organize your data in a way that makes it easy to pick out the main points.
You may include things like:
Here are two ideas for organizing your information:
Chronologically: create a timeline for the events in the person’s life and list them in the order they occurred. The Bible events are not always written in the order they occur and you may need some help to do this.
For that purpose, use commentaries and texts on Bible history. But remember, not every event will have a date assigned and commentators and Bible historians may give you their best guess.
Role-based: some characters play various roles in the Bible. For example, David. He was a king, father, husband, son, soldier, friend, and fugitive. Maybe you want to note what you learned about him in each of his various roles.
6. Use Bible reference books. After you have gotten all the information you can from the Bible, it’s time to check outside references such as a Bible encyclopedia, atlas or commentaries. Use these sources to learn more about the customs of the time and place your character lived. What were some of the cultural practices? What were the historical conditions?
The answers to these questions will help you to understand why the character made certain choices. Or, maybe why they didn’t make a particular decision.
7. Check contemporary history. Is your Bible character mentioned in history? What did it say about him? How did God use him?
As you do your research, remember that even if this person does not appear in historical records they were a real person. Just think of it this way: how many persons do you know who would actually make it into the historical record of the time they lived in? Would your name appear in historical records? Does that make you any less real?
8. Choose a key verse. This verse should be one that sums up the Bible character’s life. If you can’t find a verse which does that, then choose one related to his most outstanding characteristic.
9. Make an application. What lessons can you learn from this person’s life? Either you will learn what to do or what not to do but there will be a lesson in that Bible character’s life. Everything written in the Bible is for teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16) so we will learn something from our study of Bible characters.
Studying the characters in the Bible gives us an up-close look at the people the Holy Spirit thought to include for our admonition. Because God wanted us to learn more about them, we need to make an effort to study their lives.
Have you ever done a Bible character study? What steps did you follow? I’d love to hear which character from the Bible is your favorite.