Balancing the Sword - A comprehensive study guide to life's manual
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Definition of word.


The protagonist, in contrast to the antagonist, is the character who plays the primary hero or heroine.  A narrative cannot have an agonist (either protagonist or antagonist) without an agony or a conflict.  From a literary perspective, the ultimate protagonist in the Bible is God as represented through the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Those who rescued the Israelites were called “deliverers” or “saviors” in the King James Version (Jdg. 3:9; 2Ki. 13:5; Ne. 9:27; Ac. 7:35).

Most of the protagonists of the Bible were antiheroes, figures who lacked traditional heroic qualities or whose behavior ought not to be fully emulated.  In fact, God preferred to work through relatively unimpressive people as measured by society’s standards.

  • Moses was selected as the lawgiver; although, he was “not eloquent” and had a speech impediment (Ex. 4:10).
  • Gideon was selected as a judge; although, he was from a poor family in Manasseh and was the least in his father's house (Jdg. 6:15).
  • Saul was selected to be king; although, he was from “the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin” which was described as “the smallest of the tribes of Israel” (1Sa. 9:21).
  • David was selected to be king; although, he was his father’s youngest son, “a poor man, and lightly esteemed” (1Sa. 16:11; 18:23).
  • Jeremiah was called to be a prophet; although, he said, “I cannot speak: for I am a child” (Jer. 1:6).
  • Peter and Andrew were called to be apostles; although, they were ordinary fishermen (Mt. 4:18).
  • Matthew was called to be an apostle; although, he was a disdained tax collector (Mt. 9:9).
  • Paul was called to be an apostle; although, he “persecuted the church of God” (1Co. 15:9) and was weak in presence and “his speech contemptible” (2Co. 10:10).

The common biblical hero or heroine were unlikely superstars.  The Father hid His truths “from the wise and prudent” but “revealed them unto babes” (Mt. 11:25).  Why did God choose the lowly?  “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:  That no flesh should glory in his presence” (1Co. 1:27-29).

Most of the protagonists summarized in Hebrews 11:4-32 were antiheroes and antiheroines authentically described as having committed sins, yet the descriptions in Hebrews recollects only their displays of faith in God.

  • Noah was guilty of drunkenness.
  • Abraham was guilty of twice subjecting his wife to defilement by deception due to his cowardice, taking a concubine, and abandoning the care of Hagar and Ishmael.
  • Sarah was guilty of laughing in disbelief at the promise of God.
  • Isaac was guilty of subjecting his wife to defilement by deception due to his cowardice and guilty of favoritism between his children.
  • Jacob was guilty of deception, polygamy, and favoritism between his wives and children.
  • Moses was guilty of shattering the tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were written.
  • Rahab was guilty of harlotry.
  • Gideon was guilty of doubting God’s promise.
  • Barak was guilty of doubting God’s promise.
  • Samson was guilty of violating his Nazarite vow and defiling himself with women.
  • Jephthah was the son of a harlot and was guilty of foolishly vowing to give his daughter as a burnt offering.
  • David was guilty of neglecting justice, committing adultery, deception, and murder.

The historical narratives of the Bible carry greater believability because of the realism captured in Scripture.  The Scripture does not portray characters in ethical perfection as is common in fairytale idealism.  There are few biblical characters—all of whom were imperfect humans—who were presented as near perfect figures:

  • Abel,
  • Enoch,
  • Joseph,
  • Samuel,
  • Ruth,
  • Ezra,
  • Esther,
  • Daniel, etc.

Author: Allen B. Wolfe

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Balancing the Sword is a structured study guide for every chapter of the Bible.