There are some Bible story characters who only have one or two verses devoted to them, yet those few words speak volumes. Others are stories that go on for a few chapters but seem to never be taught in many churches. There are certainly many obscure Bible stories and characters than I list here, but I hope you will use this list to launch you into a study of some stories you may have never heard taught about in church.
Here is a list of 10 obscure Bible characters and stories in the order they appear in the Scriptures.
Jethro – Exodus 18
Moses’ father-in-law Jethro came to visit him. He eagerly listened to how God had delivered the Israelites out of the land of Egypt. The next day Jethro went with Moses to work and saw that Moses needed to delegate some of the tasks he was doing. Other good men could help make decisions when there was a conflict between people. Letting them do some of the work would free up Moses to do other tasks that he was uniquely qualified to do.
Jethro and Moses divided the responsibilities of decision making into various groups. Some men ruled over a thousand. Some over a hundred. Still others over groups of fifty and ten. These men were trained in how to do their work. Then when a matter was too difficult to decide, they would bring it to Moses.
This is the best example of systematic delegation that we see in the Bible.
Korah – Numbers 16
Korah took 250 influential men to confront Moses and Aaron. They felt that Moses was taking too much authority as the spokesperson for God. Korah complained that Moses did not deserve the authority that he had taken upon himself. Therefore, Korah and his band were calling for Moses and Aaron to step down as the leaders of Israel.
Through a series of pleading with the people and leaders, Moses found that the men would not be swayed. He told them to appear the next day to see whom God would accept as leaders in Israel—Moses or Korah and his followers. God quickly dispatched the rebels by breaking open the earth and swallowing them up. Others were consumed by fire.
The Bible does not say how many people were swallowed up by the ground, but we are led to believe it was many. Then there were 250 men who came to offer incense who were destroyed by fire. After that there was a plague which killed 14,700 men who continued to complain about the events of the day.
Og – Deuteronomy 3:11
Though his name appears more than 20 times in the Bible, we know little about King Og. Besides being king of Bashan we know most about him from Deuteronomy 3:11. This one verse gives us all the concrete information we have about Og, king of Bashan. Based on how often his name is mentioned and some of the references to him, the battle with Og was apparently a legendary one, though the legend lacks many details for us today.
Deuteronomy 3:11 “For only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of giants; behold his bedstead was a bedstead of iron; is it not in Rabbath of the children of Ammon? nine cubits was the length thereof, and four cubits the breadth of it, after the cubit of a man.”
From this verse we know that he was a giant. Remember that 10 of the spies who checked out the promised land for Moses said that there were giants in the land? The Bible does not tell us how tall Og was, but his bed was 9 cubits long and 4 cubits wide. If you use a standard 18-inch cubit, that means his bed was 13 feet 6 inches long! He was a tall man. Goliath was only 9 and ½ feet tall.
Ehud and Eglon – Judges 3:14-30
Eglon was the king of Moab who had dominated Israel for 18 years. God raised up Ehud, a left-handed man, to be the deliverer of Israel.
Ehud carried a “message” to Eglon. This message was in the form of a 1-foot 6-inch knife. The servants of Eglon allowed Ehud to enter the king’s chamber to deliver his private message. From the wording in the Bible it indicates that Ehud was probably searched to make sure he did not have a weapon, but because he was left-handed he was able to conceal his dagger in a place the servants didn’t search.
Eglon was a fat man. He rose to meet Ehud. When he stood, Ehud revealed the dagger and then thrust it into the king’s belly. The Bible says that Eglon’s great girth swallowed up the knife so that Ehud was not able to remove it.
Ehud escaped through an exterior door. The servants outside the king’s chamber thought that the king might have needed a longer private moment and therefore did not disturb him. By the time they opened the door to check on the king, he was dead and Ehud had escaped to meet the army of Israel. They then descended on the city and killed the army of the Moabites.
Shamgar – Judges 3:31
A single verse tells us the story of Shamgar. This follows the above narrative about Ehud. Israel had 80 years of peace from their persecutors once Eglon was killed. But the Philistines moved in and Shamgar was used by God to deliver Israel once again.
The verse says that he slew 600 Philistines with an ox goad. An ox goad is a cattle prod. It was not intended to harm the animals, therefore was probably not very sharp. But it was long enough that Shamgar was able to use it as an effective weapon. I would imagine like a fighting staff used in martial arts today.
Josiah – 2 Kings 21-23
Josiah was only 8 years old when he became king of Judah. He reigned for 31 years. Besides becoming king as a young boy, he is most known for efforts to rebuild the Temple. In the process of the rebuilding the Temple, the book of the Law was found. Though Josiah loved God the fact was that the people of Israel had walked away from God so long ago that they no longer knew what the Bible said.
Men brought the book to Josiah and read it in his presence. The young king was so emotionally overwhelmed by what was contained in the book that he tore his clothes. He understood that God’s wrath was kindled against Israel because of their rejection. God saw Josiah’s repentant heart on behalf of his people. God withheld judgment.
Through the years Josiah was able to restore the Temple. He also reinstated regular worship and the Jewish festivals which had not been celebrated for many years.
Josiah was killed in a battle with the armies of Egypt. He was the last king before the Jewish people were taken in exile.
God’s commentary on Josiah as a young boy from 2 Kings 22:2: “And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.”
His story is also found in 2 Chronicles 33-35.
Jabez – 1 Chronicles 4:10
Maybe you have heard about the prayer of Jabez. It is in 1 Chronicles 4:10 and is only 33 words long. But did you know that this man’s name was only mentioned 3 times in the Bible? All three times are here in two verses. There is one other mention of the name Jabez in the Bible, but it refers to a place instead of the person.
The prayer of Jabez from 1 Chronicles 4:10: “Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!”
Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz – Isaiah 8
He was the son of Isaiah and his name means “hurry to spoil” or “he has made haste to the plunder.” This is the longest personal name in the English Bible. The commentary in Isaiah about this boy is found in Isaiah 8:4, “For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.”
Rhoda – Acts 12:13-17
One of my favorite obscure New Testament stories has to be about Rhoda. When I was in high school we teased that she must have been a ditzy teenager.
Peter was thrown into prison for preaching. This time Herod was on a killing spree. He had already killed James (the brother of John) and was probably going to kill Peter. But the church came together and prayed.
God sent an angel to Peter in prison. He was chained between two soldiers. The angel whacked Peter on the side, told him to get up, put on his clothes and tie his shoes well. Then the angel led the unbound Peter right out the front door of the prison. When they got into the city the angel left Peter standing alone dumbfounded. He finally figured out what was going on and found the house of John Mark’s mother where he expected to find friends praying for him.
Peter knocked on the door and Rhoda, teenage girl, went to answer it. When she heard it was Peter (whom they had been praying for to be released from prison), she got so excited and left him standing outside to tell everyone that their prayers had been answered. She didn’t think to unlock the door and let him in. See? Ditzy teenager.
Because she did not let him in, and maybe because they didn’t really believe their prayers would be answered, the people told Rhoda that it was probably the ghost of Peter. He continued to knock until others came and let him into the house. He excitedly told the story of how the angel had released him from prison.
Peter then left from Jerusalem to Caesarea to stay a while. Shortly thereafter God killed Herod for accepting praise as if he were God.
Onesimus – Philemon
Paul wrote the book of Philemon to a man of the same name. The nature of the book is one of forgiveness. Paul is arguing to Philemon that he should forgive his runaway slave named Onesimus. Paul said that he had met Onesimus while Paul was in prison and that the slave had become a Christian like his master Philemon.
Paul said that the slave was useful to him, but that Onesimus needed to return to his rightful owner—Philemon. He asked Philemon to forgive the man for his wrongdoing. We don’t know if that was simply having run away, or if there was a greater crime committed.
Though unknown for sure, it is suspected that this Onesimus is the man who became Bishop of Ephesus after Timothy. It is also suggested that the Bishop of Ephesus is the man who helped to compile the various writings of Paul that we have today. Though these last two points are more speculation of circumstantial evidence as opposed to concrete proof.
Do you have any obscure Bible story that you like to tell? I am interested in reading your comments about them.
Take a look at this other article about another Bible story:
Resource – The Holy Bible, King James Version