The Patriarchal Period
Abraham and Isaac
[Gen 12:1 - 25:11]
The call of Abraham
Abram (Abraham) was born when his father, Terah, was 130, and Sarai (later, Sarah), his wife, was born ten years later to
his stepmother. Terah takes Abram, Sarai and Lot and moves north from Ur of the Chaldees to Haran in Padanaram.
A few years after settling in Haran, and following Terah’s death, God gives Abram a sevenfold promise and directs him to
move south to Canaan, a land God promises to Abram’s descendants.
A famine forces Abram to travel to Egypt where, for his own safety, he pretends Sarai is his sister (she is, in fact, his half-
sister [Gen 20:12]). His fears seem justified when Sarai is taken into the king’s house. Because of Sarai, Abram receives
many gifts of livestock and slaves, but the deception is realised when God plagues the king and his household. Abram and
his family have to leave, but he now has the king’s protection and is able to return safely to the area of Bethel rich in
The parting with Lot
Abram and Lot’s herds have become so great that there is now insufficient pasture for them both, causing quarrels
between Abram’s and Lot’s herdsmen. They agree to separate, with Lot being given the choice of whether to stay in the
land or move away. Lot chooses to leave and moves near Sodom.
God renews his covenant with Abram, who then moves to Mamre (Hebron) where he builds an altar to God.
Fourteen years previously there had been battles between two sets of kings of whom five had formed an alliance under
Chedorlaomer. After twelve years’ servitude they rebelled; then in the thirteenth year war broke out between them. In the
fourteenth year, Sodom and Gomorrah are defeated and the people and their goods, including Lot and his family, are
taken. When Abram learns of this he takes 318 armed and trained servants from his household and pursues the captors to
Dan. Abram defeats Chedorlaomer and returns with all the people and their possessions, including Lot and his family. On
his return, Abram is met by Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of the God most high, who brings bread and wine,
blesses Abram and receives a tithe from him.
The Abrahamic covenant
God makes an unconditional covenant with Abram by putting him into a deep sleep while the covenant ritual is performed
by God alone. This covenant promises Abram’s seed will inherit the land of Canaan from the Sichor [river of Egypt] to the
The birth of Ishmael
Sarai, lacking faith in the promised seed in herself, gives her Egyptian handmaiden Hagar to Abram for a concubine. Once
Hagar knows she has conceived, she begins to despise Sarai and enmity grows between them. With Abram’s approval,
Sarai deals harshly with Hagar and she consequently flees from them. She is intercepted by the angel of the Lord who tells
her to return to her mistress and foretells her descendant’s destiny. Hagar bears Abram a son and calls him Ishmael, as
instructed by the angel of the Lord. Abram is now eighty-six years old.
Circumcision and name changes
Four years later God confirms His covenant with Abram, introduces circumcision as the sign of the covenant and changes
Abram’s and Sarai’s names to Abraham and Sarah. Abraham expresses his concern that Sarah is too old to have children,
but is told by God that she would indeed bear him a son in a year’s time. This same day all the men of Abraham’s
household are circumcised.
Soon after, the Lord and two angels visit Abraham and Sarah and the promise of a child by Sarah is renewed. Hearing this
from within Abraham’s tent, Sarah laughs to herself because of her age, but she is rebuked and the promise affirmed.
The two angels leave for Sodom and the Lord mentions the fate due Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham barters with the Lord
concerning it, eventually getting agreement that Sodom and Gomorrah will not be destroyed even if only ten righteous
men are found there.
Sodom and Gomorrah
The two angels arrive at the gate of Sodom and are met by Lot, who insists they accept his hospitality for the night. Before
they retire, men and boys from all parts of the city surround Lot’s house demanding the visitors be handed over for their
sexual gratification. Lot refuses, even going so far as to offer his two virgin daughters in an attempt to dissuade them.
They press Lot at the door, but all are struck with blindness by the angels. The angels explain to Lot what is about to
happen. They ask him to warn his sons-in-law of Sodom’s fate, and to take them from the city with him. But they don’t
take him seriously and Lot’s warnings to leave are ignored.
The next morning the angels insist that Lot, his wife and two daughters leave the city as they cannot complete their
mission all the time the family remain there. They head for Zoar, but, despite being warned not to do so, Lot’s wife looks
back at Sodom and becomes a pillar of salt.
Lot fears to stay in Zoar, so goes to live on a nearby mountain in a cave. Later, he is made drunk by his two daughters,
who commit incest with him and bear sons, Moab and Benammi. These two sons become the fathers of the Moabites and
Abraham and Abimelech
Abraham journeys south to Gerar where, in fear of what he thinks is a godless people, he again says that Sarah is his
sister. Abimelech, king of Gerar, takes Sarah into his house, but is warned by God in a dream that he is not to touch her.
The next morning, Abimelech tells all his servants about the dream, then rebukes Abraham for the deceit, yet presents him
with much silver, livestock and servants, and returns Sarah to him.
The birth of Isaac and a covenant with Abimelech
When Abraham is a hundred years old, Sarah gives birth to Isaac. After Isaac is weaned, Ishmael begins to mock him.
Sarah protests to Abraham, wanting Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away, saying that she does not want Ishmael to
be heir with Isaac. Abraham is deeply worried about this, but God gives His approval, assuring Abraham that Ishmael
would survive to be the father of a great nation. The next morning, Abraham gives provisions to Hagar and Ishmael and
sends them into the desert where, through God’s intervention, they are later rescued from dying of thirst. Ishmael grows
to become an archer and lives in the wilderness of Paran where he marries an Egyptian woman.
About the time Hagar and Ishmael are sent away, there is an incident between King Abimelech and Abraham concerning a
well, but the two make a covenant enabling Abraham to sojourn freely in Philistine.
Abraham is tested
Some years later, Abraham’s faith is tested with a command from God to offer Isaac as a sacrifice at Moriah. Abraham
readily obeys, fully trusting in God, who had promised him a son. However, Isaac’s death is prevented at the last moment,
and Abraham is told by the angel of the Lord that the Lord has sworn, saying that through his seed all the nations of the
earth will be blessed because of his obedience.
The death of Sarah
Sarah dies soon after, age 127, and is buried in a cave in land purchased by Abraham at Mamre (Hebron).
A wife for Isaac
Abraham sends his chief servant to his relations in Haran to find a wife for Isaac. By divine intervention he finds Rebekah,
Abraham’s brother Nahor’s granddaughter. With her family’s approval he returns with her. Isaac accepts Rebekah and she
becomes his wife.
Abraham’s last days
Abraham marries Keturah and has four more sons by her. These sons are sent away with gifts rather than share in Isaac’s
Abraham dies at the age of 165 and is buried with Sarah in the cave at Mamre.