Leaders in the Bible Quiz


By: Torrance Grey

7 Min Quiz

Image: Kemter / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Leadership in the Bible: What does this mean? Jesus said, "The last shall be first." He also said, "Render unto God what is God's and unto Caesar what is Caesar's," indicating a separation between religious faith and civil authority. Yet the Bible is undeniably filled with leaders. They include prophets, priests, teachers and even kings. In this quiz, we'll examine their legacy. 

Among the first were the patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. Their ability to lead stemmed directly from a solid relationship with God. Granted, in the book of Genesis, very early in Jewish history, they were only leading their families, but from that family line would grow an entire nation. Later, the first kings of Israel derived their right to rule from God. Sometimes we see that man's choice of a leader is not God's. This was the case with King Saul, chosen by the drawing of lots, who was soon supplanted by David, whom God raised from a lowly shepherd to be Israel's greatest ruler. 

That's a common motif in the Bible, the outsider-turner-insider. Peter was a simple fisherman, one who had difficulty with his temper and impulse control. But Jesus said Peter would be the "rock" on which Christ would build his church, and this came to pass. And Jesus, of course, was the ultimate outsider in his day, executed for his beliefs and teachings. Today, however, he is at the center of the world's largest religion, by the number of people who identify as Christians.

Are you ready to test your knowledge of the Bible's colorful, sometimes ambiguous, leader figures? Try our quiz to find out!

What remarkable act was Abraham prepared to do to prove his fidelity to the Lord?

When we say "sacrifice," we don't mean "give up his companionship." Abraham was literally ready to kill his son as a sacrifice to God before God provided him with a ram instead. Sacrifice, human and otherwise, was a custom of the ancient world. Nowadays, people make more theoretical sacrifices as part of their faith: giving things up for Lent, for example.


Where did the patriarch Isaac meet his wife?

Isaac's servant had asked God for a sign that Isaac's intended bride would offer him water for himself and for his livestock. The servant evidently had great faith that God heard his prayer because when Rebecca did those things, he reported back that he had found Isaac's wife. Indeed, Rebecca married Isaac and bore his sons.


What was the source of Samson's amazing strength?

Samson was a Nazirite, part of a sect that never cut their hair as an outward sign of devotion to God. The link between hair and super-strength seems to have been unique to Samson, though. And when Delilah cut it off, well, we all know how that story ended.


Which leader's name means "drawn from the water"?

It helps if you remember Moses' "origin story." When the pharaoh of Egypt ordered all newborn Hebrew males to be killed, Moses' mother hid him in a basket in the river, and the Pharaoh's daughter rescued him from those waters. She adopted Moses, making him important and powerful in his young adulthood, though not as powerful as he would be to the Hebrews, whom he led out of slavery.


Whose name was changed to "Israel," which would someday be the name of a nation?

Jacob was the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham. After wrestling with an angel and refusing to give up ("winning" might be too strong a word), Jacob received his new name from God and sealed his destiny as the father of the nation of Israel.


Why did Isaac give away his blessing so easily to the wrong son?

In his old age, Isaac was blind. The smooth-skinned Jacob came to him with animal hides on his arms, to resemble the more hairy Esau, and fooled Isaac. He gave Jacob his blessing, a move that had the power to shape destiny.


Which of these leaders had a coat of many colors?

Joseph is one of the Bible's greatest leaders, rising from the status of a slave in Egypt to one of the pharaoh's advisers. His ability to interpret dreams saved Egypt from famine, and when his brothers came to Egypt seeking food, he forgave them for selling him into slavery and dealt kindly with them. That's living large!


Which of these disciples of Jesus was originally named "Simon" or "Simeon"?

It was traditional among the Jews of that day to give a son the name of an early patriarch, a tradition which has not entirely died out. Simeon was one of Jacob's sons and thus the father of one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. "Peter" is a name meaning "rock," hence Jesus saying, "Upon this rock I will build my church."


Where did Nebuchadnezzar fall in the lineage of Israelite kings?

The only way in which Nebuchadnezzar II could be considered an Israelite king is that he conquered Israel and took its people into captivity. He was a powerful, long-ruling king of Babylon, and his people undoubtedly considered him great. In the Bible, however, he is a villain who is twice humbled and made to acknowledge the power of the Hebrews' God.


Which of these prophets opposed King Ahab and Queen Jezebel?

Elijah is one of the greatest Old Testament prophets, as indicated by the remarkable account of his ascending to heaven while still alive. His opposition to Ahab and Jezebel was rooted in Jezebel's worship of Baal and Ahab's tolerance of it. (Ahab was a Hebrew prince; Jezebel was a pagan who married him as part of a political alliance).


Who was responsible for the "Massacre of the Innocents"?

Herod the Great is (as his name indicates) considered by historians an important ruler of Judea, who initiated major building projects and kept the peace with Rome. But in the Gospels, he is the enemy, initiating a slaughter of all newborn males because of a prophecy that one of them (Jesus) would supplant him. Most historians believe the widespread massacre of infants is a myth.


What kind of leadership did Israel have before it had a monarchy?

The judges of Israel were civil leaders, who did not have the absolute power of kings. In time, the Israelites wanted a monarchy like other Middle Eastern nations of the time had. This desire may have been, in a sense, a need to "keep up with the Joneses."


Which of the apostles is considered the "first pope"?

Peter is a colorful character and an inspiring one to Christians. Early in the Bible, he is rash and temperamental, but in Acts, he becomes the leader and spokesman of the apostles. Ultimately, Catholics came to consider him the first pope. Peter is believed to have been crucified upside down, having chosen the inverted position because he didn't feel worthy to die in the exact same way as his Lord.


The name "Saul" is shared by which two men in the Bible?

Saul was a king of Israel, the father of Jonathan, and the eventual avowed enemy of David, the shepherd turned warrior, turned king. The other Saul was a Jew who persecuted the early Christians before being called as an apostle by Christ in the book of Acts.


True or false? Like Israel's monarchs, the judges were all male.

The book of Judges tells us Deborah, a prophetess, would "sit under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, where the Israelites would go up to her for judgment." No shrinking violet, she declared war on King Jabin of Canaan, who was oppressing the Israelites. Another woman, Jael, is key to this story; she kills Jabin's general, Sisera, with a stake through his temple.


What relation was Miriam, the prophetess of the Exodus, to Moses?

Miriam is revered as a key figure in the exodus. She is said to have taught the Hebrew women the Torah, just as her brother Aaron taught the men. She also sings a paean (a song of thanksgiving or victory) to God after the Israelites cross the Red Sea and the Egyptians drowned. "I will sing unto the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously/The horse and rider He has thrown into the sea."


How many sons did the patriarch Jacob have?

Jacob had 12 sons who became the fathers of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. The "including Benjamin" answer was a fake-out, based on the lore that never seems to die about a "lost Thirteenth Tribe of Israel." While groundless, this mythology did give us the show "Battlestar Galactica," so we can't be too mad!


Which biblical leader had a father named Terah?

Terah was Abraham's father. He is a descendant of Shem, one of the sons of Noah who survived the great flood. To become a father of nations, Abraham had to leave the land of his father, known as Ur, and go to Canaan, the land God promised to His people.


Which of these figures is least likely to be considered one of the Bible's leaders?

Job had money, land, livestock and offspring (at least, until God and Satan took those things away as a test). He was not an insubstantial person. But he isn't very accurately called a "leader." He's more a pawn in an experiment that God and Satan run, to see if he'll still trust in God after all his success and possessions are taken away.


Which of these was NOT one of the original Twelve Apostles?

Don't confuse Matthias with Matthew, who *was* one of the original disciples of Jesus. Matthias was chosen by the drawing of lots after Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. He replaced Judas Iscariot, who for obvious reasons would not have been welcome among the believers, even had he lived much longer after his betrayal.


Who was the first king of Israel?

Some people might argue that David was the first "true king" of Israel, anointed by God. Saul, on the other hand, was chosen by the drawing of lots. He was so reluctant to rule that when his name was chosen, he was found "hiding among the baggage."


Why is Caiaphas important in the gospels?

In the story of his trial and execution, Jesus passes through several hands: the Sanhedrin, King Herod and Pontius Pilate. It was at his first stop, before the Sanhedrin, that Caiaphas interrogated Jesus and found him guilty of blasphemy and sedition. Blasphemy against the Torah would have been significant to Caiaphas and the other priests, but sedition (claiming to be the Messiah, who would restore Davidic rule) was the charge which merited execution under Roman law.


How many books of the New Testament bear Peter's name?

This great early figure of Christianity has two epistles (or letters) named for him, but biblical scholars dispute that Simon Peter wrote the second one. However, to believers, the authorship is not as important as the lessons those letters imparted.


Two prophets appear to speak with Jesus at the Transfiguration. Who are they?

The Transfiguration is an event in the gospels in which Jesus, with Peter, James and John, ascends a mountain. There, Jesus begins to shine with an internal light, and Moses and Elijah appear to speak with him. A voice from the sky calls Jesus "Son." The Transfiguration is celebrated with a religious feast or holiday in many Christian denominations.


Which patriarch had to steal his birthright and his father's blessing?

Jacob was the second-born of twins, but the circumstances of his birth foreshadowed his destiny. He came out of the womb clutching Esau's heel, indicating that he would seek to trip up his brother and take his place. This he did, tricking Esau out of his rights as firstborn and their father's blessing.


Eli was a prophet at which important temple?

Eli is important because he raised Samuel, a boy who was dedicated to the temple by his mother, Hannah. When the young Samuel came to Eli's bedroom several times in the night, saying, "Why have you called me?" Eli realized it was God calling the boy and told him how to respond and hear God's instructions.


Did Jacob have daughters?

The book of Genesis refers to Jacob's daughter Dinah; she is the only daughter we can be sure of, but there might be more. How did Jacob get so many children? He had two wives, both of whom gave their handmaids to him to bear children. So he had, essentially, four baby mamas. Yikes!


Which of these kings did Daniel serve?

Daniel was taken to Babylon, the capital, during what is known as the "Babylonian Diaspora." He became a trusted advisor to Nebuchadnezzar and later to Darius the Mede (who also ruled Babylonia, but was named for the region of his birth).


Which of these is an alternate name for John the Baptist?

Because "Baptist" now refers to a Christian denomination, some people prefer the term "Baptizer" to follow John's name. "Forerunner" is the title often used in Eastern Christianity. John was the cousin of Jesus, by Elizabeth, and was a traveling preacher often referred to as a "lone voice crying out in the wilderness."


Who was the first high priest of the Israelites?

Aaron was Moses's brother, and we first learn about his intellectual gifts when Moses asks Aaron to speak for him to the pharaoh since Moses was not an "eloquent" man. Aaron goes on to be the first of the kohanim or priest class in Judaism.


Samuel, for whom two books of scripture are named, played what role in Israel's history?

Samuel is primarily identified as a prophet, though his role is at times similar to that of the earlier judges, or that of a priest. He was an adviser to King Saul, so crucial that Saul had Samuel's ghost raised from the dead to counsel him late in his reign.


Gregory Peck, Max von Sydow and Richard Gere have all portrayed which biblical leader?

King David fascinates writers, from film and television to musical theater and opera. Gregory Peck's portrayal might be the most well-known; "David and Bathsheba" tells the story of one of the Bible's most famous cases of adultery.


A "messiah" is a kind of leader. What did this concept mean to the Israelites of the Bible?

"Messiah" was a broader term to the Jews of biblical days than it is to Christians, meaning a liberator figure, or a king or prophet anointed by God. By the days of Roman rule, in the Gospels, it had come to mean a political leader who would restore the Davidic monarchy and Jewish independence. Christians, though, have defined it strictly as "Jesus Christ, the Savior."


Who had sons named Shem, Ham and Japtheth?

Nothing says "leader" like gathering your family and every animal species on the planet and getting them out of the way of a world-ending catastrophe. To do this, though, Noah couldn't just load up the minivan; he had to build a giant wooden boat that has since been referred to as Noah's Ark.


Several important figures in Genesis share a single tomb. Which one does not?

Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and his first wife, Leah, are all buried in what is now known as the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. Rachel died unexpectedly, during childbirth, and is believed to be buried outside Bethlehem. Both burial places are popular sites for religious pilgrimages.


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