Abraham, the First Patriarch of Judaism, and His Importance in the Bible


Abraham, the First Patriarch of Judaism, and His Importance in the Bible

The First Hebrew Patriarch


Islam, Christianity, and Judaism all hold Abraham (originally Abram) in high regard as the first Hebrew patriarch. He is first introduced in Genesis 11:27 as the son of Terah.  For reasons not explained, Terah left his homeland and took his family to journey to the land of Canaan. However, he never made it to Canaan and, instead, settled in a land called Harran.

It must have been God’s will for Abraham to settle in Canaan as, after Terah passed away God instructed Abram to continue the journey:

“Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you…” Genesis 12:1.

Abram was a God-fearing man and so obeyed without question.  Abram’s name was later changed by God to Abraham which means “the Father of All Nations”.

Ur was situated in Mesopotamia in what is today known as Iraq.  Canaan is situated in an area encompassing modern day Israel.


Abraham and his flock of sheep


Important People and Events in Abraham’s Life


Sarai (later known as Sarah)

Sarai was the wife of Abram. She was introduced twice in Genesis as a sister of Abram as they both had the same father but different mothers. 

Sarai is introduced as “barren” – Genesis 11:30 “Now Sarai was barren; she had no children”.

Her name was later changed by God to Sarah.



The Hebrew Bible states that Lot was the son of Haran, Abram’s brother from Ur of the Chaldeans, which made him the nephew of Abram and Sarai.

Lot, Sarai and “the people they had acquired in Haran” all travelled with Abram to Canaan.


Abram’s Calling


Abram, Nahor, and Haran were all born to Terah, who was Noah’s tenth great-grandson. Lot, Abram’s nephew, was raised by Haran; the family all resided in Ur of the Chaldeans.

When Haran passed away, Lot was taken care of by Sarai and Abram.

In God’s first call to Abram, they had a long conversation about what God wanted him to do.

In the Book of Genesis 12:1-3, Abram had been instructed by God to leave his homeland and kin and travel to a location that he would show him, with the promise that God would make of him a great nation, bless him, exalt his name, exalt those who bless him, and curse those who may curse him.

After leaving Ur and Harran, Abram, Sarai, and Lot proceeded to a region called Canaan. Terah unfortunately passed away in the city of Haran at the age of 205, before he could reach Canaan.

Abram, who was 75 years old at the time, went to Shechem in Canaan with Sarai and Lot with all the wealth and people they had accumulated while in Harran. Then, to the east of Bethel, he set up his tent, built his altar there, and spoke to God.


Abram’s Trip To Egypt with Sarai and Lot – An Increase in Wealth and People


Due to severe famine in Canaan, Abram journeyed to Egypt with his wife and nephew to get some food and water for them and their livestock.

Abram told Sarai to pose as his sister because he feared that he might be killed so that the pharaoh could marry Sarai.

Sarai did as her husband had told her to do. She claimed he was her brother when brought before the pharaoh. As Sarai was a beautiful woman, the pharaoh fell in love with her the moment he set eyes on her.

During this time, Sarai most likely acquired Hagar, her Egyptian servant. Nevertheless, God sent plagues on to the pharaoh to discourage him from taking Sarai as his wife.  When the pharaoh came to understand that Sarai was Abram’s wife, he ordered them to leave Egypt with everything that was given to them.


Parting of Abram and Lot


When they were exiled from Egypt, Abram, Sarai, and Lot settled in Negev for some years before they decided to come back to Bethel and Ai. As both Abram and Lot possessed significant amounts of livestock, problems arose between their herdsmen.

Because of this, Abram resolved the issue by letting Lot choose a separate location, either on the left or right of the land, according to Abram’s advice, so that there won’t be any disputes between his and Lot’s men.

So, Lot made the decision to travel east to the Jordanian Plain, where the cities of the plain were in the direction of Sodom and the land was well-watered all the way to Zoar.

Abram, on the other hand, traveled to Hebron in the south and made his home at Mamre, where he set up another altar to speak to and serve God.


Abram Saved Lot from Captivity


From the time Lot parted with Abram, his entire household settled on the outskirts of Sodom. Unfortunately, a rebellion took place in the Jordanian cities of Sodom and Gomorrah against Elam.

Elamite forces invaded Lot’s entire household. Since Lot and his family lived on the outskirts of Sodom, they became an easy target.

A companion of Lot escaped and informed Abram and his Amorite allies about Lot’s captivity.

Upon hearing the news, Abram immediately gathered an army of 318 skilled men. He and his men pursued the enemies all the way to Damascus.

When Chedorlaomer’s warriors were beaten in a surprise night attack, Abram sprang into action. He killed Chedorlaomer, the Elamite king at Hobah. After defeating the pagans, Abram saved Lot and his nephew’s family as well as recovered their belongings.



God’s Covenant with Abram


Written in the Old Testament, the Covenant of the Pieces or Covenant Between The Parts is a significant occasion in Jewish history.

At this time, God showed himself to Abram and established a covenant with him at the location now known as Mount Betarim. God told Abram that his lineage would one day inherit the Land of Israel. The promise of the land and offspring as many as the stars was reiterated by the voice of the Lord when he appeared to Abram in a vision.

God revealed the future slavery of Israel in Egypt during the ceremony where he signed a covenant with Abram. The territory that would be claimed by Abram’s descendants was the country of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaims, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites, according to God’s description to Abram.  


Hagar the Handmaid, and Ishmael


Hagar was probably one of the servants that Sarai acquired in the encounter with the Egyptian pharaoh. She became the handmaiden of Sarai.

Because her mistress Sarai was unable to give Abram a son, she was offered by Sarai to Abram as a surrogate mother. Unfortunately, after becoming pregnant with Abram, she was sent away by Sarai. So, she left while bearing Abram’s child.

An angel intervened and asked Hagar to return and submit to Sarai when she was at the fountain on her trip to Shur. She would have a son whom she would name Ishmael, the angel added. Her son would be “a wild ass of a man”.

As a result, Hagar referred to God as “El-roi”, which is Hebrew for “the God sees me”. Hagar gave birth to a son and he was named Ishmael, as the angel had instructed her.  


God Changed Abram’s name to “Abraham”


The name change happened when Abram was 99 years old.

God appeared to him and made a covenant with him. He then told Abram that he would be called “Abraham” in Genesis 16:5-6, as he would become “the father of many nations” (Genesis 17:5).

As an exchange for the covenant, God told Abraham that all males must be circumcised on the 8th day after their birth. This practice would continue from generation to generation as God said those who failed to follow this would be cut off, as they would break the covenant.  


God Changed Sarai’s Name to “Sarah”


During his conversation with Abraham in Genesis 17:15–16, God changed his wife’s name from Sarai to “Sarah” and a son would be given to her, he added. She would thereafter become “the mother of nations”. This was because kings would descend from her.


Abraham looking at the stars

Abraham Contemplates the Stars by Ephraim Moses Lilien (1874–1925). This image is in the public domain. Cropped from original.


The Three Men – Messengers of God


God promised Abraham he would have a son through Sarah. But he laughed secretly because he couldn’t believe what he had heard. He had his son Ishmael circumcised, along with the rest of his family after talking to God.

While Abraham was relaxing at the entrance of his tent beside the terebinths (a strong, hardy tree) of Mamre, he noticed three men in God’s presence. To greet them, he ran towards them and knelt.

Abraham showed hospitality. The three men agreed when Abraham proposed to wash their feet and bring them some bread. He treated them with great kindness and hospitality as part of the law.

One of them spoke to Abraham and told him that his wife, Sarah, was going to have a child. Sarah heard the news and grinned to herself as she shook her head in amazement. However, the visitor could tell that the host’s wife was shocked by what he had said.

Because Sarah was worried about what the visitor might say, she lied and claimed that she didn’t laugh at the idea of being pregnant at her age. But the guest reiterated she did laugh.


God Spared Lot Through Abraham’s Plea


Abraham spoke to God to spare righteous people from his anger.

The two of the three of Abraham’s visitors (later revealed as angels) arrived in Sodom according to God’s instruction. Lot saw them and invited him to stay in his house so that they could wash their feet and have a good dinner.

The two men said that they would just stay in the city square, but Lot insisted.  So, they went with Lot and stayed in his house. As they were making themselves comfortable during dinner, the people of Sodom were angered by their presence and demanded Lot to take the two visitors out.

Lot was so worried for his visitors’ lives. So, he offered his daughters to the Sodomites in return for not attacking the angels.  However, the people rejected Lot’s offer and pushed him aside. When they were at the door, the two men came out and blinded the people. They took Lot back into the house and told him to run away with his family and relatives.

They stated that Sodom and its inhabitants were terrible sinners and that God had sent them to annihilate them. The angels urged Lot to leave the city with his family and his relatives as he struggled to comprehend what was taking place.

However, Lot could only take his wife and two daughters with him as his future sons-in-law didn’t want to believe him.

The angels had commanded Lots’ family to never look back on Sodom. However, Lot’s wife disobeyed and looked at the city and was immediately turned into a pillar of salt.

As a result, Lot fled to Zoar with just his two daughters after God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.


Abimelech – Another Increase in Wealth and People for Abraham


Abimelech was the king when Abraham settled between Kadesh and Shur, which was also called the “Land of Philistines”. 

While in Gerar, Abraham again declared that Sarah was his sister. Upon hearing this, King Abimelech took Sarah. But then God appeared in his dream and told him that if he took Sarah, it would cause him death because she was married to Abraham, and that he had to return Sarah if he wanted to live.

God also told him that Abraham was a prophet and said that Abraham would pray for him. Thus, Abimelech never touched Sarah and returned her to Abraham with sheep and cattle, male and female slaves, and a thousand shekels (an ancient unit of weight or value) of silver.

Abraham then prayed for Abimelech’s wife and female slaves because God had cursed them with infertility because they took Sarah.


Abraham and Isaac

Abraham and Isaac by Ferdinand Olivier (1785–1841), circa 1817. This image is in the public domain. Cropped from original.


The Birth of Abraham and Sarah’s First Son Isaac, and God’s Protection on Hagar and Ishmael


The birth of Isaac, Abraham and Sarah’s first son, was one of the most significant events in their lives. Abraham was 100 years old then, while Sarah was already 90.

On the first anniversary of the covenant of circumcision, Sarah got pregnant and gave birth to Isaac.

When Isaac was just 8 days old, Abraham had him circumcised; he was so happy to have a son with Sarah. At the large feast Jacob hosted for Isaac, Sarah learned that Ishmael was mocking the ceremony.

Thus, Sarah went to Abraham and told him to send Hagar and Ishmael away as she wouldn’t want Isaac to share any inheritances with him.

Abraham prayed and talked to God about the situation. Then, God told him to do what Sarah had asked of him.

“Do not be so distressed about the boy and your manservant.  Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.  I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring” – Genesis 21:12-13.

The next morning, Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away with water and bread. While Hagar and Ishmael were walking in the wilderness, they consumed the water Abraham gave them. Hagar cried as Ishmael was very thirsty and almost dying.

Thankfully, God heard Hagar’s cries and instructed her to open her eyes because a well was waiting for her and her child. Therefore, because God was with them, the two lived.


Abraham Passes God’s Test


To test Abraham, God instructed him to offer his son as a sacrifice in the land of Moriah. He got up early the next day and traveled with Isaac and his men to the land which God told him to go to.

When they reached the place, Abraham instructed his men to wait for him because he and Isaac would go up to the mountain.

He brought Isaac to the mountain, bound him, and placed him on the altar. When Abraham was going to attack his son with the knife, an angel from heaven spoke to him.

The angel instructed him not to touch Isaac. Because this kind of sacrifice was the hardest to perform, Abraham was able to demonstrate his faith and obedience to God. He put his trust in God, and as a result, he received more descendants.

Meanwhile, Abraham noticed a ram that had been horned into a bush. After killing it, he offered it to God.  Thus, he gave that place the name “Jehovah Jireh”, which means “God will provide”.




All throughout Abraham’s life, his confidence in God was evident. He never questioned any of God’s commands. He followed without hesitation.

Abraham embraced God’s revelations, and God provided for him and his family everywhere they traveled. Furthermore, Abraham always looked to God for direction.

Hence, God was like his father, brother, and best friend. God saved him many times from sinning and from dying.

We should all look up to Abraham and his great faith in God.


What are your thoughts on this topic?  We’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

Please visit www.wisdombegun.com/genesis for more thought-provoking discussions on the Book of Genesis plus free downloads and presentations about the Genesis story - ideal for use at Bible Study groups or Sunday school lessons..

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Image attribution for featured image:

Abram Called To Be a Blessing, as in Genesis 12:1-8. Illustration from a Bible card published 1906 by the Providence Lithograph Company. This image is in the public domain. Cropped from original.


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