The family tree of the biblical figure Abraham is connected by several stories. Though Abraham’s forefathers were from southern Mesopotamia, in present-day Iraq, and according to Biblical tradition the LORD led Abraham on a journey to the land of Canaan, which he promised to his descendants. He is known as the patriarch of the Jewish people through Isaac, the son born to him and Sarah in their old age and Abraham is also known as the patriarch of Islam through his son Ishmael, born to Abraham and his wife’s servant Hagar.
Historical background and source criticism
Abram’s original homeland
The home of Abram’s father Terah was Ur. Ur was an important Sumerian city that is now known as Tell el-Mukayyar, Iraq. Terah took his son Abram and grandson Lot (son of Haran) to the city of Haran.
When Abram was 75 years old, the LORD told him to move to a new place he would show him. He told Abram that he would make of him a great nation, that his descendants would multiply greatly and that whoever blessed Abram would be blessed and whoever cursed him would be cursed. One of Abram’s first stopping places was the land of Canaan. There God promised the land to Abram’s descendants. However, when there was a famine, Abram moved to Egypt for a while.
Abram and Sarai
Sarai was Abram’s wife, and the account in Genesis says that she was beautiful. There are two occasions (years apart) when Abram hid the fact he was married to her because he feared that a local king would kill him and take Sarai for his own wife. The first occasion was when they went to Egypt; Abram said that Sarai was his sister and Pharaoh took her into his harem. When Pharaoh discovered Sarai was Abram’s wife, he was appalled and he sent back Sarai along with wealth to Abraham and they left Egypt.
The second occasion was years later, after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham settled in the Negev and a local king took Abraham’s “sister” Sarah as his wife – in good conscience since Abraham did not disclose her marital status. God appeared to this king in a dream and told him to give Sarah back to Abraham. Again Sarah was returned with gifts. Abraham defended his practice of calling her his sister, since indeed she was the daughter of his father, but not of his mother.
Until the birth of Isaac, the account says that Sarah had no children, and when the promise of Isaac was given, it says she laughed at the idea because she was well past her childbearing years.
Abram and Lot
Lot was Abram’s nephew, the son of his brother Haran. After God’s call to Abram, Abram and Lot left the land of Haran together with all of their substance. By the time Lot came out of Egypt with Abram, their flocks and herds were too large to graze the same land, and Abram offered Lot first choice of what land to settle in. Lot chose to go East to the plain of Jordan near Sodom, and Abram remained in the land of Canaan and moved south from Bethel to the area called Hebron.
Abram had a large estate with many people. When neighboring kings defeated some local tribes, they took Lot captive as well. Abram raised 318 soldiers from his household and defeated the kings to rescue Lot, with the others.
Abram and Ishmael
Abram and Sarai prospered materially but had no children. Abram thought to leave his estate to a trusted servant, but God promised him a son and heir. When he was 86 years old, Sarai suggested and Abraham agreed, that a practical way to have a child was through Sarah’s servant Hagar. Hagar conceived right away and in time Ishmael was born. This situation brought strife rather than happiness between Hagar and Sarah. Nevertheless, God saw Hagar’s suffering and promised that though this was not the child promised to Abraham, he would nevertheless make Ishmael’s descendants into a great nation also.
Abram to Abraham
In Genesis chapter 17 “Almighty God” changed Abram’s name to Abraham, for he would be a father of many nations. And his wife Sarai’s name was called Sarah, for she would be a mother of nations.
Abraham and Isaac
Three visitors come to Abraham and said that he would have a son. Sarah believed she was too old to have a child and laughed. Yet she did conceive (Genesis 21:1-7) and had a baby named Isaac, whose name means laughter. Later, Abraham’s loyalty to God was tested when he was asked to give up Isaac as a sacrifice. The account in Genesis 22 suggests that Abraham expected that God would give Isaac back to him somehow. A ram, caught in a thicket, was provided instead of Isaac.
Isaac and Rebekah
When Abraham was very old, and shortly after the death of Sarah, he sent his servant back to the clan of his nephew Bethuel to see whether he could find a wife for Isaac. The servant met Rebekah at a water well outside of town and when he discovered she was a relative, he asked permission to take her as a wife for Isaac. Rebekah’s father Bethuel and brother Laban agreed. So at age 40, Isaac married Rebekah, who finally gave birth to twin sons Esau and Jacob twenty years later.
Abraham and Keturah
Esau and Jacob
Though Esau was born first, God indicated that Jacob would be the one to receive the greater inheritance and would be the father of a nation. Jacob and Esau made an infamous bargain in which Esau sold his rights to extra inheritance as the firstborn son to Jacob for a bowl of pottage. Combined with some deception, Jacob ended up getting his father’s blessing as if he were the firstborn. This angered Esau so much that Jacob fled for his life to his uncle Laban. He met and later married Laban’s daughters Leah and Rachel. Jacob stayed with Laban for 20 years and worked for Laban before returning to his homeland.
Jacob became the father of the twelve tribes of Israel, and ultimately the kingdom of Israel (and later kingdom of Judah, which split off).
Death of Abraham
According to Genesis 25:7, Abraham died at the age of 175 years.
|Elam||Ashur||Arphaxad||Lud||Aram||4 sons||7 sons|
|Ishmaelites||7 sons||Bethuel||1st daughter||2nd daughter|