These guys (and gals – they are well represented) can be bad, immoral, quarelsom, seductive, and (maybe) all around evil. Potifar’s wife attempted to seduce Joseph, Delilah brought big Samson to his death, Menasseh King of Judah is single handedly responsible for its destruction, Datan and Aviram would have turned Moses in. These and others are among the evil individuals of Tanakh, those whom we love to hate. But how bad were they? What motivated them? Is there such a things as a purely evil person? Through these characters and others we will explore some well known stories, as well as some obscure ones, from various corners of the Tanakh. We will explore both the biblical text and the rabbinic understanding of these characters. And since bad people are fun, (as long as they don’t move in next door) there won’t be a dull moment!
What makes someone a biblical villain? I hope that you will keep this question with you as you study some of the biblical characters that have not received favorable press. Some might seem quite familiar, but I hope that as we study these characters you will reconsider them: Are they indeed worthy of the title? […]
His Daughters (and Lot) (Genesis 19:30-38) Background reading: Gen 19:1-29 Some points to think about: What kind of a person is Lot (especially if a person’s true colors might come out in a crisis?) How does he think about his family? What is the role of the wife? As we get to our story, what have […]
Esau – or Jacob?! If you grew up on midrash-infused stories than you know that Esau is BAD. But if you read the text, you may be less certain about Esau’s poor reputation. We will take a look at this character that we love to hate, and at his twin brother as well. Just how […]
Potifar’s Wife (Genesis 39:1-20) Part 1: Text Genesis 39:1-13 Background: Joseph, 17 years old, finds himself taken to Egypt (see Gen 37 and decide for yourself what role his brothers played in the event) and sold as a slave. Questions: What is the source of Joseph’s success? Who comes to realize that this is the […]
Datan and Aviram Datan and Aviram (Dathan and Abiram) always appear as a pair, we have no knowledge about them as individuals. In Part I we will study the story in which they appear, in Part II we will look at other biblical material that responds to their story, and in Part III we will […]
Delilah (Judges 16) She is one of several women in the story of Samson, but she is the only one with a name. She was a Philistine woman and he was an Israelite who loved her at a time when the Israelites living by the border (the tribe of Dan) felt squeezed by the Philistines on […]
The Ba’alat Ov of Ein Dor Part I – Text: I Sam 28:3-25 Background: Saul is forced into war against the Philistines in the region of the Gilboa Mountains. He and his army seem to be stationed at the lower level of the mountains facing the Jezre’el Valley. The Philistines are stationed in Shunem (current […]
Jezebel Part I – Background Sources Jezebel’s background: I Kings 16:29-32 1) What is her family background? In this case her father’s occupation is important both for her upbringing and for suggesting why this marriage took place. Sidon is on the Lebanese coast, half way between Tyre and Beirut. The inhabitants were Phoenicians, a sea […]
King of Judah for 55 years, son of the rightous king Hezekiah, grandfather of the rightous king Josiah, Manasseh seems to have reintroduced every possible pagan worship into Jerusalem. ‘Never was there such an evil king!’ says the book of Kings. ‘He repented!’ tells us Chronicles. So what is the real story? And why are there 2 stories?