Skip to main content

Biblical Examples of Complications and Conflicts


Every plot needs complications and conflicts. They are what make a story live and breathe. They are what set it apart from other forms of literature.

There are five main types of conflicts.

Because the stories contained in it are well known and are public domain, let us use a few examples from the Bible.

Man Against Man

An obvious example of man against man conflict in a Bible story is the tale of David vs. Goliath. We have rising action as the threat of the foreign army grows steadily stronger. We have a climax when the two meet in battle, followed by the resolution of the ensuing victory for the Israelites.

Man Against a Group

There are several examles in the Bible of one man against a group, but let's pick Elijah. He faced the prophets of Ba'al on the top of Mount Carmel. He challenged them to cause a spontaneous fire. The conflict grows in intensity as they try more and more things to prove their god is able to do this feat. When they've exhausted all their resources and spent all their strength, it is now Elijah's turn.

Before he attempts to produce a fire, he further complicates the matter by having some servants pour water on his altar, making it more impossible than ever for a fire to appear.

The climax: his prayer. At his request fire fell and dried up the water, consumed the altar, and put an exclamation point on this demonstration of his God's power.

Man Against Nature

The fisherman of the New Testament were classic examples of this. They were in touch with nature if anyone was. They had to know navigation. They had to make sure their boats were always watertight. They had to capture fish to make a living. They had to know what kinds of fish were fit to eat and what kinds were not. Theirs was a constant struggle for survival.

Each mini-story of their lives would probably make a good tale. One can imagine an interview with Andrew or one of the others.

"What did you do today?"

"Mended and cleaned the nets, swabbed the deck, checked for leaks and added new pitch, chased away a seagull, gave away two fish to a hungry urchin..."

Scroll to Continue

Man Against Himself

There are also many examples of this, but let's pick just one.

There was a parable told by Jesus of two sons. One was asked to go and work. He agreed, but then did not go out and work. The second was asked to work. He refused, but afterward he changed his mind and went out to do some work.

The parable was used to illustrate a point, but let's take a look at the conflict in this story.

One son doesn't want to work, but he says the right answer when he's asked. The problem is he doesn't have the inner strength to compel himself to keep his promise.

The second one says what he thinks right off the cuff. He doesn't want to work and he makes it known in no uncertain terms. But afterward, his conscience wrestles him into going out and doing some work, even though he has initially refused.

Man Against God

The fifth and last type of conflict is one of man against God.

Jonah is a good and well known story of this type of conflict. God wants to show mercy to a town that is lost in its unhealthy ways of life. He asks a prophet named Jonah to travel to this town and tell the people to change their living or else. The prophet refuses and boards a ship going in the opposite direction.

God stirs up a storm to cause the sailors to fear for their safety. It takes no ordinary storm to cause a seasoned sailor to lose his cool. They do a game of chance called "throwing lots" to see who it points to. It points to Jonah, so they ask him if he has done something to cause this upheaval. He 'fesses up and tells them he has run away from God.

They try to save their ship, but the storm just grows worse. They finally give in to Jonah's suggestion to throw him overboard. When he falls into the water a large water creature swallows him. What is called a great fish may have been a whale, or it may have been one of several creatures that is now extinct. Whatever it was, it was used to preserve Jonah's life, albeit in an unpleasant manner. After three days and a repentant prayer from Jonah it spits him onto the sand, and again he is asked to go and preach to the wayward people.

Jonah obeys this time. (Funny Jonah gets a second chance from the Lord, but is unwilling to give the people of the town a second chance, as we later see.) He preaches to the town, and they realize they are in error. They show they are sorry by declaring a fast and promising to amend their ways.

Jonah is miffed. He sits outside the town waiting for its destruction, which never comes. God causes a plant to grow up over his head to shade him from the sun. He likes the plant and what it does for him. But then a worm attacks the plant and it withers, providing no more shade. When Jonah is extremely angry about the plant, God reminds him that he seems to have more compassion for a plant, which he neither planted nor tended, than for the people of a town who "don't know their right hand from their left."

Another example of a struggle of man against God could be Jacob's night of wrestling with the angel of the Lord. Jacob wouldn't let go till he received a blessing, which is a good example for us today: perseverance.


Barbara Radisavljevic from Templeton, CA on February 21, 2012:

Interesting group of examples.

Related Articles