The Lessons of 7 Morally Bankrupt Biblical Characters

The Bible is not a fairy tale, and it does not shy away from showing us the dark side of human nature.

The Bible runs the gamut of human experience, recounting tales of faith, love, courage, and redemption. Yet throughout, readers encounter numerous characters whose actions starkly contrast the moral standards Christians work daily to uphold. These characters demonstrate the consequences of straying from righteousness, and the transformative power of divine redemption.

The Lessons of 7 Morally Bankrupt Biblical Characters explores why poor moral behavior is so instructive to Christian teaching. It also emphasizes their role in the broader biblical narrative.

The Not So Magnificent 7

Judas Betrays Jesus
Judas Iscariot betrays Jesus with a kiss. Wood engraving, published in 1886.

1. Judas Iscariot (Matthew 26:14–16)

Judas is infamous for betraying Jesus with thirty pieces of silver, actions that played a role in fulfilling the prophecy of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection from the dead. His story is a warning about how greed and treachery can ruin even close friendships. Despite some elements of redemption, (Judas’ remorse led him to return the silver) he ultimately made the decision to hang himself instead of seeking forgiveness for his betrayal.

2. Pharaoh (Exodus Chapters 5-14)

Pharaoh, the Egyptian ruler during the Israelites’ enslavement, embodies the corrupting influence of absolute power. Despite witnessing ten devastating plagues as a display of God’s wrath, he repeatedly denies Moses’ pleas to release the Israelites. Pharaoh’s hardened heart in Exodus 9:12 symbolizes stubbornness against divine truth. His story serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of pride and arrogance, emphasizing the importance of humility in the face of God’s power.

3. Jezebel (1 Kings 16:31, 1 Kings 18:4, 1 Kings 21:1-16)

Queen Jezebel embodies manipulation, idolatry, and the devastating consequences of unchecked wickedness. She led her husband, King Ahab, into worshiping Baal and ordered the slaughter of God’s prophets. Her story serves as a stark reminder that even the most powerful individuals can be brought down by their hubris, arrogance, and refusal to heed warnings from others.

4. King Saul (1 Samuel 13, 1 Samuel 15)

King Saul’s moral bankruptcy is evident in his disobedience, arrogance, and paranoia, all elements that led to his tragic downfall. His story is a reminder that people can succumb to dark impulses and commit great evil. However, the story of King Saul also highlights God’s mercy and forgiveness – he offers redemption to those who make grave mistakes. Following Saul’s death, David, his eventual successor, displayed mercy to Saul’s family, which shows that Saul was still loved by God and his descendants could find redemption.

5. Cain (Genesis 4:1-16)

Cain committed the Bible’s first recorded murder by killing his brother Abel out of jealousy. Negative emotions can have devastating consequences, so it is crucial to deal with them in a healthy way before they consume us. Cain’s inability to handle his feelings in a healthy manner resulted in his tragic actions. His story serves as a cautionary tale for anyone struggling with unchecked emotional responses, but also a reminder that it is possible to overcome them and live a life of peace and harmony.

6. Delilah (Judges 16:4-21)

Delilah’s betrayal of Samson is a warning against the dangers of deceit and treachery, but also reminds us that we can overcome our weaknesses and lead a life of integrity. By revealing Samson’s strength to the Philistines for silver, Delilah’s actions demonstrate the temptation caused by greed and power. It’s crucial to be aware of our weaknesses and resist betraying those who trust us.

7. Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10)

Ananias and Sapphira were a couple in the early Christian church that experienced sudden deaths, after lying about the sale of their property and keeping back part of the price. Their demise was a result of their unwillingness to confess their sins to God, making it a lesson for anyone struggling with sin. Ananias and Sapphira’s story warns against hypocrisy and deception within the community of believers, while also demonstrating the importance of confession and repentance.

Why Have Morally Bankrupt Characters in the Bible?

The Bible is not a fairy tale, and it does not shy away from showing us the dark side of human nature. By reading about the morally bankrupt characters in the Bible, we can gain a better understanding of our own capacity for sin and our need for God’s grace.

Morally bankrupt characters in the Bible serve a number of purposes. They can:

  • Highlight the contrast between good and evil. When we see the evil actions of morally bankrupt characters, it can help us to appreciate the goodness of virtuous individuals.
  • Provide warnings about the dangers of sin. The Bible teaches that sin has consequences, and the stories of morally bankrupt characters can help us to see the destructive power of sin.
  • Show us the power of God’s grace. Even though corrupt characters often make terrible choices, the Bible teaches that God’s grace is available to all who repent and turn to him.
  • In addition to these specific purposes, individuals displaying a lack of morality also serve a more general purpose: to help us better understand the human condition. By reading about and identifying the most morally reprehensible characters, we can gain a better understanding of our own capacity for sin and our need for God’s grace.


    The characters above serve as mirrors reflecting human frailties and the potential for moral downfall. Their stories are timeless reminders of the destructive power of qualities such as stubbornness, greed, manipulation, disobedience, envy, deceit, and hypocrisy.

    However, the Bible also offers redemption and transformation for those who seek it. As we navigate our moral compass, let’s always strive for integrity, humility, and truthfulness. It’s never too late to choose the path of righteousness.

    Subscribe to Faith HUB