The Patriarchal Period

Abraham and Isaac

[Gen 12:1 - 25:11]

The call of Abraham

[Gen 12:1-9] Abram (later, Abraham) is born when his father Terah is 130, and Sarai (later, Sarah), his wife, is born ten years later to his stepmother. Terah takes Abram, Sarai and Lot, a nephew of Abram, 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 repeats His call to Abram, first given in Ur of the Chaldees, and directs him to move south to Canaan. God gives Abram a promise that he and his nation will be great and blessed, and that through him all the families of the earth will be blessed. Abram takes Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran and journeys to Canaan, a land that God then promises to Abram’s descendants.

A famine

[Gen 12:10-20] 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 possessions.

The parting with Lot

[Gen 13] 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 repeats his promise to Abram concerning the land, this time adding that possession of it will be forever. Abram then moves to Mamre (Hebron) where he builds an altar to God.


[Gen 14] 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 the city of 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

[Gen 15] In a vision, Abram expresses his concern to God that he has no heir through which His promises could be fulfilled. God then reassures Abram and enters a covenant with him 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 Euphrates.

The birth of Ishmael

[Gen 16] 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. Hagar 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 86 years old.

Circumcision and name changes

[Gen 17] Four years later God confirms His covenant with Abram, stating it will be an everlasting covenant, 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. Their son is to be named Isaac, and he and his seed will be recipient of God’s everlasting covenant given to Abraham. This same day all the men of Abraham’s household are circumcised.

Three visitors

[Gen 18] 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

[Gen 19] 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 Ammonites.

Abraham and Abimelech

[Gen 20] 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

[Gen 21] 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

[Gen 22] 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

[Gen 23] Sarah dies soon after, age 127, and is buried in a cave in land purchased by Abraham at Mamre (Hebron).

A wife for Isaac

[Gen 24] 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, and Rebekah’s agreement, he returns with her. Isaac accepts Rebekah and she becomes his wife.

Abraham’s last days

[Gen 25:1-18] Abraham marries Keturah and has four more sons by her. These sons are sent away with gifts rather than share in Isaac’s inheritance. Abraham dies at the age of 165 and is buried with Sarah in the cave at Mamre.
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