The Bible is not a book to be idly read in-passing, and the men and women of the Scriptures are more than mere life portraits.
They continue to live and function long after their deaths in this world.
The ancient Jewish custom of speaking of Biblical characters in the present tense is an expression of a genuine experience.
These are not ordinary historical figures but archetypes; as such, their lives are carried on and continue not only in literature and philosophy but in the lives of their descendants throughout the generations.
In a sense, they continue to live and also to evolve throughout Jewish history, in its psychic experience, and as part of the collective personality of the Jewish nation.
Over the generations, thousands of commentaries have been written, and thousands of legends have arisen and become an integral part of the story of each Biblical personality.
Dimensions and aspects only hinted at in the Biblical accounts have been developed, and each character has gained in depth and substance through the great creative expositions in the Talmud, in the Kabbalah, in oral tradition, and in folk tales.
No Biblical story is complete without these additional strata of content, which add new forms and lines to each portrait, solving some problems, adding new material and producing new outlines which in turn must be filled in and completed.
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From the Introduction to Biblical Images by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz