the Story of Abraham

A look at the progenitor or forefather of the tribes and faith groups believing in and following the Only One True God of Israel.

In the story of Abraham (Bereshith 11:27–25:11), the narrative has become more continuous. Abraham dominates almost every episode.

We may learn first of the generations of Terah who fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran. After the flood Noah’s sons who went out of the Ark married and got children and made clan-groupings after their begettings, by their nations. From these the nations were divided on earth after the Deluge. (Bereshith 10:32)

Harran beehive houses (2).JPG
Beehive houses in Harran, near the modern village of Altınbaşak, Turkey, 44 kilometers southeast of Şanlıurfa. The location is in the Harran district of Şanlıurfa Province.

When Nahor, the son of Serug, had lived twenty-nine years, he begot Terah, from whom Avram (i.e. “the Father is exalted”), Nahor, and Haran came forth. Avram took as wife Sarai, who was barren and did not have children. Terah took Avram his son and Lot, Haran’s son, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Avram’s wife, and he took them out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to go to the land of Canaan. But when they came to the Mesopotamian city of Harran, along the Balīkh River, 24 miles (38 km) Southeast of Urfa, they settled there. Harran was a major commercial, cultural, and religious centre first inhabited in the Early Bronze Age III (3rd millennium BCE) period. This region was populated by semi nomadic West Semitic (or Amorite) tribes unrelated to the indigenous peoples of Mesopotamia, and with their own language (apparently cognate with Hebrew and Aramaic), and political organisation; evidence for their way of life has been detected in the archives of Mari, dating from the era of Mammurabi (18th century BCE).

“Terah took Avram his son and Lot son of Haran, his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, wife of Avram his son, they set out together from Ur of the Chaldeans, to go to the land of Canaan. But when they had come as far as Harran, they settled there.”
(Genesis 11:31 SB)

Ur-Nassiriyah.jpg
The ruins of Ur, with the Ziggurat of Ur visible in the background

After the death of his father, the Elohim asked the progenitor of the three (or four if you consider Jeshuaists another group) great monotheistic, or “Abrahamicfaiths, to “go forth” from the land of his ancestors and into the land of Canaan, where God provided him with divinely blessings, making of him a goy gadol, a great nation (Bereshith 12:1-3).

“And the days of Terah were five years and two hundred years, then Terah died, in Harran. YHWH said to Avram: Go-you-forth from your land, from your kindred, from your father’s house, to the land that I will let you see. I will make a great nation of you and will give-you-blessing and will make your name great. Be a blessing! I will bless those who bless you, he who curses you, I will damn. All the clans of the soil will find blessing through you!”
(Genesis 11:32–12:3 SB)

Abraham must be seen at as, quite literally, the Ur-Jew; he hailed from the city of Ur in what is today Tall al-Muqayyar or Tell el-Muqayyar in Iraq [situated about 140 miles (225 km) southeast of the site of Babylon and about 10 miles (16 km) west of the present bed of the Euphrates River].

At first, he wondered how there could come a great nation out of him, when his wife was without child. In answer to Abraham’s demurral that he would die childless, God responded that he would have a son and heir.

“And Avram said further: Here, to me you have not given seed, here, the Son of My House must be my heir. But here, YHWH’S word (came) to him, saying: This one shall not be heir to you, rather, the one that goes out from your own body, he shall be heir to you. He brought him outside and said: Pray look toward the heavens and count the stars, can you count them? And he said to him: So shall your seed be. Now he trusted in YHWH, and he deemed it as righteous-merit on his part.”
(Genesis 15:3–6 SB)

Hagar was presented to Abraham to be his second wife so that he would have children. When Abraham was 86 years old Hagar gave birth to Ishmael. At the age of 99 he experienced a further revelation predicting that Sarai would bear him a son, although Ishmael would also benefit from God’s blessing.

“Now Sarai, Avram’s wife, had not borne him (children). She had an Egyptian maid—her name was Hagar. Sarai said to Avram: Now here, YHWH has obstructed me from bearing; pray come in to my maid, perhaps I may be built-up-with-sons through her! Avram hearkened to Sarai’s voice: Sarai, Avram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian-woman, her maid, at the end of ten years of Avram’s being settled in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Avram as a wife for him. He came in to Hagar, and she became pregnant. But when she saw that she was pregnant, her mistress became of light-worth in her eyes. Sarai said to Avram: The wrong done me is upon you! I myself gave my maid into your bosom, but now that she sees that she is pregnant, I have become of light-worth in her eyes. May YHWH see-justice-done between me and you!
Avram said to Sarai: Here, your maid is in your hand, deal with her however seems good in your eyes. Sarai afflicted her, so that she had to flee from her. But YHWH’S messenger found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. He said: Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence do you come, whither are you going? She said: I am fleeing from Sarai my mistress. YHWH’S messenger said to her: Return to your mistress and let yourself be afflicted under her hand! And YHWH’S messenger said to her: I will make your seed many, yes, many, it will be too many to count! And YHWH’S messenger said to her: Here, you are pregnant, you will bear a son; call his name: Yishmael/God Hearkens, for God has hearkened to your being afflicted. He shall be a wild-ass of a man, his hand against all, hand of all against him, yet in the presence of all his brothers shall he dwell. Now she called the name of YHWH, the one who was speaking to her: You God of Seeing! For she said: Have I actually gone on seeing here after his seeing me? Therefore the well was called: Well of the Living-One Who-Sees-Me. Here, it is between Kadesh and Bered.
Hagar bore Avram a son, and Avram called the name of the son whom Hagar bore: Yishmael. Avram was eighty years and six years old when Hagar bore Yishmael to Avram.”
(Genesis 16:1–16 SB)

In affirmation of his covenant with God, Abraham circumcised himself, his son Ishmael and all the males of his household to create a Brit Milah.

“This is my covenant which you are to keep, between me and you and your seed after you: every male among you shall be circumcised.
You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, so that it may serve as a sign of the covenant between me and you.”
(Genesis 17:10–11 SB)

“But a foreskinned male, who does not have the foreskin of his flesh circumcised, that person shall be cut off from his kinspeople— he has violated my covenant! God said to Avraham: As for Sarai your wife—you shall not call her name Sarai, for Sara/Princess is her name! I will bless her, and I will give you a son from her, I will bless her so that she becomes nations, kings of peoples shall come from her! But Avraham fell on his face and laughed, he said in his heart: To a hundred-year-old man shall there be (children) born ? Or shall ninety-year-old Sara give birth? Avraham said to God: If only Yishmael might live in your presence! God said: Nevertheless, Sara your wife is to bear you a son, you shall call his name: Yitzhak/He Laughs. I will establish my covenant with him as a covenant for the ages, for his seed after him. And as for Yishmael, I hearken to you: Here, I will make him blessed, I will make him bear fruit, I will make him many, exceedingly, exceedingly— he will beget twelve (tribal) leaders, and I will make a great nation of him. But my covenant I will establish with Yitzhak, whom Sara will bear to you at this set-time, another year hence. When he had finished speaking with Avraham, God went up, from beside Avraham.”
(Genesis 17:14–22 SB)

“ Avraham took Yishmael his son and all those born in his house and all those bought with his money, all the males among Avraham’s household people, and circumcised the flesh of their foreskins on that same day, as God had spoken to him.
Avraham was ninety-nine years old when he had the flesh of his foreskin circumcised,
and Yishmael his son was thirteen years old when he had the flesh of his foreskin circumcised.
On that same day were circumcised Avraham and Yishmael his son,
and all his household people, whether house-born or money-bought from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.”
(Genesis 17:23–27 SB)

Eventually, when Abraham was 100 years old, Sarai gave birth to a son called Yitzhak (in modern spelling Jithsak), better known as Isaac. When the boy was growing up Sarah wanted him to be the sole heir and therefore urged Abraham to banish Hagar and Ishmael. The Elohim confirmed to that demand and promised once again that Ishmael would also become a great nation. Abraham consented and sent them off to the desert where they were saved by a messenger of God and got into what later became called the “Capital of the Negev“.

“ Now YHWH took account of Sara as he had said, YHWH dealt with Sara as he had spoken.
Sara became pregnant and bore Avraham a son in his old age, at the set-time of which God had spoken to him.
And Avraham called the name of his son, who was born to him, whom Sara bore to him: Yitzhak/He Laughs.
And Avraham circumcised Yitzhak his son at eight days old, as God had commanded him.
Avraham was a hundred years old when Yitzhak his son was born to him.
Now Sara said: God has made laughter for me, all who hear of it will laugh for me.
And she said: Who would have declared to Avraham: Sara will nurse sons? Well, I have borne him a son in his old age!
The child grew and was weaned, and Avraham made a great drinking-feast on the day that Yitzhak was weaned.”
(Genesis 21:1–8 SB)

“ Once Sara saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian-woman, whom she had borne to Avraham, laughing. . . .
She said to Avraham: Drive out this slave-woman and her son, for the son of this slave-woman shall not share-inheritance with my son, with Yitzhak!
The matter was exceedingly bad in Avraham’s eyes because of his son.
But God said to Avraham: Do not let it be bad in your eyes concerning the lad and concerning your slave-woman; in all that Sara says to you, hearken to her voice, for it is through Yitzhak that seed will be called by your (name).
But also the son of the slave-woman—a nation will I make of him, for he too is your seed.
Avraham started-early in the morning, he took some bread and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar—placing them upon her shoulder— together with the child and sent her away. She went off and roamed in the wilderness of Be’er-Sheva.
Now when the water in the skin was at an end, she threw the child under one of the bushes,
and went and sat by herself, at-a-distance, as far away as a bowshot, for she said to herself: Let me not see the child die! So she sat at-a-distance, and lifted up her voice and wept.
But God heard the voice of the lad, God’s messenger called to Hagar from heaven and said to her: What ails you, Hagar? Do not be afraid, for God has heard the voice of the lad there where he is.
Arise, lift up the lad and grasp him with your hand, for a great nation will I make of him!
God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; she went, filled the skin with water, and gave the lad to drink.
And God was with the lad as he grew up, he settled in the wilderness, and became an archer, a bowman.
He settled in the wilderness of Paran, and his mother took him a wife from the land of Egypt.”
(Genesis 21:9–21 SB)

The Adonai His brit, or covenant with the man of faith Abraham, lies at the heart of God’s relationship with the Jehudiem or Jewish people, and the one concerning Ishmael of a great group of Muslims. It was sealed by Abraham and continues to be sealed to this day, with the ritual of circumcision. Though this great promise cannot be fulfilled within Abraham’s own lifetime, its realization is foreshadowed in the ensuing events, as Abraham and Sarah took up residence in the land promised to them, and Jitshak (or Isaac), the son from whom the nation would descend, was born.

Abraham his faith was tested by God. The Elohim demanding Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a burnt-offering on Moriyya or the Mount Moriah.

“ Now after these events it was that God tested Avraham and said to him: Avraham! He said: Here I am.
He said: Pray take your son, your only-one, whom you love, Yitzhak, and go-you-forth to the land of Moriyya/Seeing, and offer him up there as an offering-up upon one of the mountains that I will tell you of.”
(Genesis 22:1–2 SB)

It may look strange, the protected one from God being demanded to give his beloved son, in a way, later in history the Father in heaven also would give up His only beloved son as an offering. As such Abraham’s submission to God’s Will could be seen as a prefiguration of the death of Jeshua (Jesus Christ). In full trust and obedience to the divine command Abraham took Isaac with him to Moriah and on the top built there an altar, the boy wondering where the lamb was to offer. When Abraham stretched out his hand to kill his son, a malach (messenger or angel) of God prevented the sacrifice. This incident of the “Binding of Isaac” became an important element in Jewish theology and as a symbol of absolute bitachon (or trust) and willingness to sacrifice. Also for Jeshuaists that act is considered one of the examples we should take at heart, being a true act of deeply rooted faith.

Seeing Abraham in a wide variety of situations, we have a sense of his personality and of the human dimension of the events that God has mysteriously set into motion. Whereas God’s relationship to human beings in the primeval history is marked mostly (but not exclusively) by judgment, expulsion, and exile, in the story of Abraham the dominant notes are the contrasting ones of brachot or blessing and promise, especially the promise of the land. But the narrative does not spare us the knowledge that while the blessings and promises are as yet unrealized, Abraham’s family have their moments of anguish and even ugliness. God, portrayed for the most part less anthropomorphically than in the primeval history, overcomes the obstacles to His promises and blessings, so that Abraham finally acquires both the son from whom the promised nation shall descend and a foothold in the promised land. The Elohim accomplishes this partly through palpable miracles and partly through His silent guidance of the course of human events.

As the story of Abraham unfolds, its human protagonist, despite some arguably serious lapses, gradually assumes the role of the ideal religious person — obedient to God’s commands (even at the cost of the most painful sacrifice), faithful even when the promise seems impossible, gracious, generous, and hospitable, yet committed to justice and compassion even to the point of firmly (if deferentially) questioning God’s counsel.

Approaching his own death, Abraham sent his servant back to his family in Mesopotamia, in order to procure a wife for Isaac from his own kindred. The servant returned to Isaac with Abraham’s great-niece Rivkah or Rebekah.

“But her brother and her mother said: Let the girl stay with us a few days, perhaps ten; after that she may go.
He said to them: Do not delay me, for YHWH has granted success to my journey; send me off, that I may go back to my lord.
They said: Let us call the girl and ask [for an answer from] her own mouth.
They called Rivka and said to her: Will you go with this man? She said: I will go.
So they sent off Rivka their sister with her nurse, and Avraham’s servant with his men,
and they gave Rivka farewell-blessing and said to her: Our sister, may you become thousandfold myriads! May your seed possess the gate of those who hate him!
Rivka and her maids arose, they mounted the camels and went after the man. And the servant took Rivka and went off.

Now Yitzhak had come from where you come to the Well of the Living-One Seeing-Me, for he had settled in the Negev.
And Yitzhak went out to stroll in the field around the turning of sunset. He lifted up his eyes and saw: here, camels coming!
And Rivka lifted up her eyes and saw Yitzhak;
she got down from the camel and said to the servant: Who is the man over there that is walking in the field to meet us? The servant said: That is my lord. So she took a veil and covered herself.
And the servant recounted to Yitzhak all the things that he had done.
Yitzhak brought her into the tent of Sara his mother; he took Rivka and she became his wife, and he loved her. Thus was Yitzhak comforted after his mother.”
(Genesis 24:55–67 SB)

Abraham, who long lived in Hebron (present day a Palestinian city in the southern West Bank), died at the age of 175 and was buried by Isaac in the cave of Machpelah (“cave of the double tombs” or “cave of the double caves”).  The cave and adjoining field were purchased by Abraham as a burial plot. In Islamic tradition, Hebron is among the four holiest cities (Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem, and Hebron) and has been regarded by some Muslims as the site of a stopping point along Muhammad’s miʿrāj, or miraculous night journey to Jerusalem.

“Yitzhak and Yishmael his sons buried him, in the cave of Makhpela, in the field of Efron son of Tzohar the Hittite, that faces Mamre,
the field that Avraham had acquired from the Sons of Het. There were buried Avraham and Sara his wife.

Now it was after Avraham’s death, that God blessed Yitzhak his son. And Yitzhak settled by the Well of the Living-One Seeing-Me.”
(Genesis 25:9–11 SB)

Abraham’s call is the origin and mainspring of Israel’s election and religion. Those who pursue righteousness can now look at the example who went away from false worshipping and trusted the Only One True God. When God called him he was but one, showing his faith in That One God by willing to do the Will of That God Whose glory appeared to him when he was in Mesopotamia.

He put all his trust also in the promise of God that He was going to give him inheritance, a possession and to his offspring after him, first them being sojourners in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and afflict them four hundred years. We should have the same trust as Abraham, believing that God will judge the nations that many serve, shall welcome those who shall come out and shall worship Him as  the Most High, to be partakers of Abraham’s seed, so that they shall be able to enter that promised Land, God’s Kingdom here on earth.

“ YHWH said to Avram: Go-you-forth from your land, from your kindred, from your father’s house, to the land that I will let you see.
I will make a great nation of you and will give-you-blessing and will make your name great. Be a blessing!
I will bless those blessing you, while those cursing you, I will damn. All the clans of the soil will find blessing through you!”
(Genesis 12:1–3 SB)

“Then Joshua said to all the people: “Thus says ADONAI, God of Israel: ‘From ancient times your fathers—Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor—lived beyond the River and worshipped other gods.”
(Joshua 24:2 TLV)

“Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you. For when I called him, he was but one, then I blessed him and multiplied him.”
For ADONAI will comfort Zion. He will comfort all her waste places. He will make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of ADONAI. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and a sound of melody.”
(Isaiah 51:2–3 TLV)

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Preceding

Reading to grow and to become wise concerning the most important thing in life 2 Prophetic and poetic writers

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Additional reading

  1. Background of Faith
  2. Which man is mentioned most often in the Bible? Jesus, Moses, Abraham or David?
  3. Men who believed and had faith in a Higher Power they could not see
  4. Creator and Blogger God 9 A Blog of a Book 3 Blog about Prophecy
  5. Today’s thought “The Land promised and fear of man” (April 18)
  6. Today’s thought “A blessing and a curse” (April 25)
  7. Today’s thought “… with all your heart” (May 09)
  8. Today’s thought “Being made prosperous and numerous on conditions” (May 13)
  9. Disobedient man and God’s promises
  10. Belief of the things that God has promised
  11. Divine Plan and an Imperfect creation
  12. Another way looking at a language #3 Abraham
  13. Together tasting a great promise
  14. With God All Things Are Possible
  15. The Abrahamic Covenant and Seed of AbrahamJesus begotten Son of God #6 Anointed Son of God, Adam and Abraham
  16. New Covenant Terms Applicable to the Ancients
  17. Memorizing wonderfully 66: Galatians 3:8-9 Justified receiving blessing of Abraham’s faith
  18. Memorizing wonderfully 67: Galatians 3:29 Heirs according to promise.
  19. Faith, storms and actions to be taken
  20. Seeing the world through the lens of his own experience
  21. A “seed” for the blessing of all mankind would come through the family of Abraham
  22. Apple of Gods eye
  23. Aim High: Examples of Godly Characters to follow
  24. God receives us on the basis of our faith
  25. Sukkoth, Gog, Magog, Armageddon, a covenant and Jerusalem
  26. No religion mentioned in the Torah for non-Jews
  27. Patriarch Abraham, Muslims, Christians and the son of God
  28. Prophecy concerning Babylon and Israel
  29. Invitation to all who believe

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