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An angel prevents the sacrifice of Isaac.
(Abraham and Isaac, by Rembrandt)
Born Early second millenium BCE, in most theological traditions; at
Ur Kaśdim or Haran
Died died at age 175
Resting place Machpelah,[1] Canaan
Known for Founding patriarch, of disputed historicity, in the Jewish, Islamic and Christian religions
Spouse(s) Sarah
Children Ishmael
Parents Terah

Abraham (Hebrew: אַבְרָהָם, Modern Avraham Tiberian ʾAḇrāhām, Arabic: إبراهيم‎, Ibrāhīm, ʾAbrəham) is the founding patriarch of the Israelites, Ishmaelites, Edomites, and the Midianites and kindred peoples, according to the book of Genesis.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are sometimes referred to as the "Abrahamic religions" because of the progenitor role that Abraham plays in their holy books. In both the Jewish tradition and the Quran, he is referred to as "our Father".[2] Jews, Christians, and Muslims consider him father of the people of Israel. For Jews and Christians this is through his son Isaac,[3] by his wife Sarah; for Muslims, he is a prophet of Islam and the ancestor of Muhammad through his other son Ishmael, born to him by Sarah's handmaiden, Hagar.

The Bible relates that Abraham was originally named Abram and was the tenth generation from Noah and the twentieth from Adam.[4] His father's name was Terah, and he had two brothers, Nahor and Haran. His wife was Sarah, and he was the uncle of Lot. Abraham was sent by God from his home in Ur Kaśdim and Haran to Canaan, the land promised to his descendants by Yahweh.

The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."[5]

God's promise to Abraham that through his offspring all the nations of the world would come to be blessed[6] is interpreted in the Christian tradition as a reference particularly to Christ. In Canaan, Abraham entered into a covenant: in exchange for recognition of Yahweh as his God, Abraham would be blessed with innumerable progeny and the land would belong to his descendants.[7]

In the absence of extra-biblical evidence for his existence, some scholars have long questioned the historicity of his narratives.[8][9]



Abraham's name first appears as Abram (Hebrew: אַבְרָם‎, Standard  Avram, Tiberian ʾAḇrām), meaning either "exalted father" or "my father is exalted" (compare Abiram) or "the father is exalted". Later in Genesis God renamed him Abraham, a name which the text glosses as av hamon (goyim) "father of many (nations)";[10] however, the name does not have any literal meaning in Hebrew.[11] Many interpretations based on modern textual and linguistic analysis have been offered, including an analysis of a first element abr- "chief", which yields a meaningless second element, however. Johann Friedrich Karl Keil suggests there was once a word raham (רָהָם) in Hebrew, meaning "multitude", on analogy with the word ruhâm which has this meaning in Arabic, but this is purely speculative.[12] David Rohl suggests the name comes from Akkadian "the father loves."[13]

Genesis narrative

The story of his life is found in Genesis, from chapter 11:26 to 25:10.

Abraham's Departure, by József Molnár

Birth and call

Terah, the tenth in descent from Noah, fathered Abram, Nahor and Haran, and Haran fathered Lot. Haran died in his birthplace, Ur of the Chaldees (Ur Kaśdim),[14] and Abram married Sarai, who was barren. Terah, with his surviving sons and their families, then departed for Canaan, but settled in Haran, where Terah died at the age of 205.[15]

When Abram was seventy-five God spoke to him, telling him to leave the land of his birth, his father's house, and his kindred and go "to the land that I will show you", where Abram would become a great nation and the vehicle for the blessing of all mankind. So Abram left Haran with Sarai, Lot, and all their followers and flocks and traveled to Canaan, where, at Shechem, God gave the land to him and his descendants. There Abram built an altar and continued to travel towards the south.[16]

Pharaoh and Abimelech

On two separate occasions, Abram/Abraham travels west, where he asks his wife to say that she is his sister, because he fears he would otherwise be killed because of her beauty. On each occasion, the ruler in question, first Pharaoh and later Abimelech, is attracted to Sarai/Sarah and attempts to marry her. On both occasions God and the ruler send Abraham away with great wealth.[17][18]


Following the period spent in Egypt, Abram, Sarai, and his nephew Lot returned to the Bethel-Ai area in Canaan. There they dwelt for some time, their herds increasing, until strife arose between the herdsmen. Abram thereupon proposed to Lot that they should separate, allowing Lot the first choice. Lot took the fertile land lying east of the Jordan River and near to Sodom and Gomorrah, while Abram lived in Canaan, moving south to the oaks of Mamre in Hebron, where he built an altar.[19]

After this, an invading force from Mesopotamia, led by Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, attacked and subdued the Cities of the Plain, forcing them to pay tribute. After twelve years, these cities rebelled. The following year Chedorlaomer and his allies returned, defeating the rebels and taking many captive, including Lot. Abraham assembled his men and chased after the invaders, defeating them north of Damascus, Syria. Upon his return he is met by the king of Salem (Jerusalem), Melchizedek, who blesses him. The king of Sodom offers Abraham the rescued goods as reward, but Abraham refuses, so that the king of Sodom cannot say "I have made Abram rich".[20]

God again promises Abram a multitude of descendants during an episode in which Abram sacrifices to God, who also reveals to Abram the future enslavement of the Israelites in Egypt, as well as their escape.[21] During this period, Sarai, being barren, offers her handmaiden, Hagar, to Abram. Hagar soon conceives, and as a result begins to see herself as superior to Sarai. Sarai complains to Abram, who gives Sarai carte blanche. After Sarai treats Hagar harshly, Hagar flees. When in the desert, God appears to Hagar, telling her to return, but promising that her son shall also be the father of a "multitude". Her son is called Ishmael.[22]

"Three Angels visiting Abraham", by an unknown Italian artist of the XVIII Century (Sacro Monte di Ghiffa)

When Abram is ninety-nine, God again appears to him and affirms his promise. A covenant is entered into: Sarai will give birth to a son who will be called Isaac, and Abram's house must thenceforth be circumcised. It is promised that Ishmael will father twelve princes, who will become a great nation. Abram's name is changed to Abraham and Sarai's to Sarah.[23]

Soon after, the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah bring three angels, or God and two angels, down to investigate. Abraham pleads with God to spare the city if first fifty, then forty-five, then forty, then thirty, then twenty, and finally ten righteous men are found in the city. In each case God agrees that the city would be spared. The angels enter the city, where they meet Lot, who offers them hospitality. Soon a crowd gathers around Lot's house, demanding the two angels that they may "know" them: traditionally interpreted as a desire to have sex with them. Lot pleads with the men and offers his daughters instead, but the men of the city press forward until the angels smite them with blindness. In the morning Lot is told to flee and not to look back as the cities are destroyed. However, his wife disobeys and is turned into a pillar of salt.[24]

After this, Abraham and Sarah live in Philistine Gerar, where king Abimelech, having been told that Sarah is Abraham's sister, not his wife, takes her. After warnings from God and returning her, Abimelech enters into a treaty with Abraham.[25][26]


A recurring feature of the story of Abraham are the covenants between him and God, which are reiterated and reaffirmed several times. When Abram is told to leave Ur Kaśdim, God promises "I will make of thee a great nation".[27] After parting from Lot, God reappears and promises "All the land that you can see" to Abraham and that his seed would be "like the dust of the earth" in number.[28] Following the battle of the Vale of Siddim, God appears and reaffirms the promise, while prophesying that "your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years." Abram makes a sacrifice and enters into a covenant, with God declaring: "To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites."[29]

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, God again appeared to him to reaffirm the covenant and changed his name to Abraham. Abraham is instructed, for his part, to circumcise all males of his house.[23]

Binding of Isaac

Some time after the birth of Isaac, Abraham was commanded by God to offer his son up as a sacrifice in the land of Moriah. The patriarch traveled three days until he came to the mount that God taught him. He commanded the servant to remain while he and Isaac proceeded alone to the mountain, Isaac carrying the wood upon which he would be sacrificed. Along the way, Isaac repeatedly asked Abraham where the animal for the burnt offering was. Abraham then replied that God would provide one. Just as Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, he was prevented by an angel, and given on that spot a ram which he sacrificed in place of his son. As a reward for his obedience he received another promise of numerous descendants and abundant prosperity. After this event, Abraham did not return to Hebron, Sarah's encampment, but instead went to Beersheba, Keturah's encampment, and it is to Beersheba that Abraham's servant brought Rebecca, Isaac's patrilineal parallel cousin who became his wife.[30]

Later years

Sarah died at the age of 127, and Abraham buried her in the Cave of the Patriarchs (also called the Cave of Machpelah), near Hebron. Abraham had purchased the cave, along with the adjoining field, from Ephron the Hittite. Abraham, being reminded by this occurrence, probably, of his own great age, and the consequent uncertainty of his life, became solicitous to secure an alliance between Isaac and a female branch of his own family.

Eliezer his steward was therefore sent into Mesopotamia, to find from Abraham's kindred a wife for his son Isaac. Eliezer went on his commission with prudence, and returned with Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel, granddaughter of Nahor, and, consequently, Abraham's grandniece and Isaac's first-cousin once removed. Rebekah married Isaac when Isaac was forty years of age.[31]

Abraham lived a long time after these events. After the death of Sarah, he took another wife, or concubine, named Keturah, who bore Abraham six sons: Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.[32]

Abraham died at the age of 175 years. Jewish legend says that he was meant to live to 180 years, but God purposely took his life because he felt that Abraham did not need to go through the pain of seeing Esau's wicked deeds. He was buried by his sons Isaac (aged about 75 years) and Ishmael (aged about 89 years), in the Cave of the Patriarchs.[33]

Sons of Abraham by wife in order of birth
Hagar Ishmael (1)
Sarah Isaac (2)
Keturah Zimran Jokshan Medan Midian Ishbak Shuah


Abraham is held as a founding father in the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic religions. Genesis states that the nation of Israel descended from him through his second son, Isaac. Many Arab nations are said to have descended from him through his first son, Ishmael, and Muslims believe that the prophet Muhammad is his direct descendant. An extra-biblical book known as the book of Jubilees also places the location and identity of the Ishmaelites as the Arab peoples. However, all Biblical accounts do not agree on this. Some references, such as the book of Jashar, indicate that the Ishmaelites settled in Tarshish.

In Christianity

Abraham Sacrificing Isaac, by Laurent de La Hire, 1650 (Musée des Beaux-Arts d'Orléans)
17th century Russian icon of Abraham (Andrei Rublev Museum, Moscow)

In the New Testament Abraham is mentioned prominently as a man of faith (see e.g. Hebrews 11), and the apostle Paul uses him as an example of salvation by faith, as the progenitor of the Christ (or Messiah) (see Galatians 3:16).

Authors of the New Testament report that Jesus cited Abraham to support belief in the resurrection of the dead. "But concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. You are therefore greatly mistaken." (Mark 12:26-27) The New Testament also sees Abraham as an obedient man of God, and Abraham's interrupted attempt to offer up Isaac is seen as the supreme act of perfect faith in God. "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, 'In Isaac your seed shall be called', concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense." (Hebrews 11:17-19) The imagery of a father sacrificing his son is seen as a type of God the Father offering his Son on Golgatha.

The traditional view in Christianity is that the chief promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12 is that through Abraham's seed all the people of earth would be blessed. Notwithstanding this, John the Baptist specifically taught that merely being of Abraham's seed was no guarantee of salvation.[34] The promise in Genesis is considered to have been fulfilled through Abraham's seed, Jesus. It is also a consequence of this promise that Christianity is open to people of all races and not limited to Jews.

Liturgical commemoration

The Roman Catholic Church calls Abraham "our father in Faith", in the Eucharistic prayer of the Roman Canon, recited during the Mass (see Abraham in the Catholic liturgy). He is also commemorated in the calendars of saints of several denominations: on August 20 by the Maronite Church, August 28 in the Coptic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East (with the full office for the latter), and on October 9 by the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. He is also regarded as the patron saint of those in the hospitality industry.[35]

The Eastern Orthodox Church commemorates him as the "Righteous Forefather Abraham", with two feast days in its liturgical calendar. The first time is on October 9 (for those churches which follow the traditional Julian Calendar, October 9 falls on October 22 of the modern Gregorian Calendar), where he is commemorated together with his nephew "Righteous Lot". The other is on the "Sunday of the Forefathers" (two Sundays before Christmas), when he is commemorated together with other ancestors of Jesus. Abraham is also mentioned in the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great, just before the Anaphora. Abraham and Sarah are invoked in the prayers said by the priest over a newly married couple at the Sacred Mystery of Crowning (i.e., the Sacrament of Marriage).

In Islam

Fresco with image of Ibrahim about to sacrifice his son, in Shiraz

Abraham, known as Ibrahim in Arabic, is very important in Islam, both in his own right as a prophet and as the father of Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael, his firstborn son, is considered the father of some of the Arabs—specifically Father of the Arabised Arabs, peoples who became Arab—and Isaac is considered the Father of the Hebrews. Abraham is mentioned in many passages in 25 of the 114 suras (chapters) of the Qur'an, more than any other individual with the exception of Moses, according to the Encyclopedia of Islam.[36]

Abraham, commonly termed Khalil Ullah, "Friend of God" by Muslims, is revered as one of the Prophets in Islam, and the person who gave Muslims their name of Muslims ("those who submit to God"). He is considered a Hanif, that is, a discoverer of monotheism.[37]

Abraham's footprint is displayed outside the Kaaba, which is on a stone, protected and guarded by Saudi Arabian Mutawa (Religious Police). The annual Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam, follows Abraham's, Hagar's, and Ishmael's journey to the sacred place of the Kaaba. Islamic tradition narrates that Abraham's subsequent visits to the Northern Arabian region, after leaving Ishmael and Hagar (in the area that would later become the Islamic holy city of Mecca), were not only to visit Ishmael but also to construct the first house of worship for God (that is, the monotheistic concept and model of God), the Kaaba—as per God's command.[38]

The ceremony of Eid ul-Adha, most important festival in Islam, focuses on Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his promised son on God's command, as a test of Abraham's faith. God spared his son's life and substituted a fit sheep from heavens for his son. On Eid ul-Adha, Muslims sacrifice a domestic animal—a sheep, goat—as a symbol of Abraham's sacrifice, and divide the meat among the family members, friends, relatives, and most importantly, the poor.

The Qur’an does not specify whether it was Ishmael or Isaac whom Abraham was ordered to sacrifice, yet Muslims believe it was Ishmael.[39][40][41][42]

Arab connection

A line in the Book of Jubilees (20:13) mentions that the descendants of Abraham's son by Hagar, Ishmael, as well as his descendants by Keturah, became the "Arabians" or "Arabs". The 1st century Jewish historian Josephus similarly described the descendants of Ishmael (i.e. the Ishmaelites) as an "Arabian" people.[43] He also calls Ishmael the "founder" (κτίστης) of the "Arabians".[44] Some Biblical scholars also believe that the area outlined in Genesis as the final destination of Ishmael and his descendants ("from Havilah to Shur") refers to the Arabian peninsula. This has led to a commonplace view that modern Semitic-speaking Arabs are descended from Abraham via Ishmael, in addition to various other tribes who intermixed with the Ishmaelites, such as Joktan, Sheba, Dedan, etc. Both Judeo-Christian and Islamic traditions speak of earlier inhabitants of Arabia.

Classical Arab historians traced the true Arabs (i.e., the original Arabs from Yemen) to Qahtan and the Arabicised Arabs (people from the region of Mecca who assimilated into the Arabs) to Adnan, said to be an ancestor of Muhammad, and have further equated Ishmael with A'raq Al-Thara, said to be an ancestor of Adnan. Umm Salama, one of Muhammad's wives, wrote that this was done using the following hermeneutical reasoning: Thara means moist earth, Abraham was not consumed by fire, fire does not consume moist earth, thus A'raq al-Thara must be Ishmael son of Abraham.[45]

Dating and critical perspectives

Abraham and the biblical chronology

The standard Masoretic Hebrew text of the Bible places Abraham's birth 1,948 years after the Creation, or 1948 AM (Anno Mundi, "Year of the World"). The two other major textual traditions have different dates, the Greek Septuagint putting it at 3312 AM and the Samaritan version of Genesis at 2247 AM. All three agree that he died at the age of 175.[46] There have been over two hundred attempts to match the biblical chronology to dates in history, two of the more influential being the traditional Jewish dates (Abraham lived 1812 BCE to 1637 BCE), and those of the 17th century Archbishop James Ussher (1976 BCE to 1801 BCE); but the most that can be said with some degree of certainty is that the standard Hebrew text of Genesis places Abraham in the earlier part of the second millennium.[47]

History of dating attempts

When cuneiform was first deciphered, Theophilus Pinches translated some Babylonian tablets which were part of the Spartoli collection in the British Museum. In particular, he believed he had found in the Chedorlaomer Text the names of three of the kings of the Eastern coalition fighting against the five kings from the Vale of Siddim in Gen. 14:1. This is the only part of Genesis which seems to set Abraham in a context of wider political history, and the idea of many 19th and early 20th century exegetes and Assyriologists was that it seemed to offer an opening to date Abraham, if the kings in question could only be identified.

In 1887, Schrader was the first to propose that Amraphel could be an alternate spelling for Hammurabi.[48] The terminal -bi on the end of Hammurabi's name was seen to parallel Amraphel since the cuneiform symbol for -bi can also be pronounced -pi. Tablets were known in which the initial symbol for Hammurabi, pronounced as kh to yield Khammurabi, had been dropped, such that Ammurapi was a viable pronunciation. Supposing him to have been deified in his lifetime or afterwards yielded Ammurabi-il, which was suitably close to the Bible's Amraphel. Jean-Vincent Scheil subsequently found a tablet in the Imperial Ottoman Museum in Istanbul from Hammurabi to a king Kuder-Lagomer of Elam, which he identified with the same name in Pinches' tablet.

By the early 1900s, many scholars had become largely convinced that the kings of Gen. 14:1 had been identified,[49][50] resulting in the following correspondences:[51]

Name from Gen. 14:1 Name from Archaeology
Amraphel king of Shinar Hammurabi (="Ammurapi") king of Babylonia
Arioch king of Ellasar Eri-aku king of Larsa (i.e. Assyria)
Chedorlaomer king of Elam (= Chodollogomor in the LXX) Kudur-Lagamar king of Elam
Tidal, king of nations (i.e. goyim, lit. 'nations') Tudhulu, son of Gazza

However, these dating attempts are today little more than a historical curiosity. On the one hand, as the scholarly consensus on Near Eastern ancient history moved towards the short chronology, placing Hammurabi in the late 18th century, not the 19th, many confessional and evangelical theologians were disinclined to state that the dates of the Bible might be in error and began synchronizing Abram with the empire of Sargon I, and the work of Schrader, Pinches and Scheil fell out of favour with them. Meanwhile, modern research into Mesopotamia and Syria in the second millennium BCE undercut attempts to tie Abraham in with a definite century, and to treat him as a strictly historical figure. While linguistically not implausible, the identification of Hammurabi with Amraphel is now regarded as untenable.[52]

Michael Astour in The Anchor Bible Dictionary (s.v. "Amraphel", "Arioch" and "Chedorlaomer"), explains the story of Genesis 14 as a product of anti-Babylonian propaganda during the 6th century Babylonian captivity of the Jews:

"After Böhl's widely accepted, but wrong, identification of mTu-ud-hul-a with one of the Hittite kings named Tudhaliyas, Tadmor found the correct solution by equating him with the Assyrian king Sennacherib (see Tidal). Astour (1966) identified the remaining two kings of the Chedorlaomer texts with Tukulti-Ninurta I of Assyria (see Arioch) and with the Chaldean Merodach-baladan (see Amraphel). The common denominator between these four rulers is that each of them, independently, occupied Babylon, oppressed it to a greater or lesser degree, and took away its sacred divine images, including the statue of its chief god Marduk; furthermore, all of them came to a tragic end ... All attempts to reconstruct the link between the Chedorlaomer texts and Genesis 14 remain speculative. However, the available evidence seems consistent with the following hypothesis: A Jew in Babylon, versed in Akkadian language and cuneiform script, found in an early version of the Chedorlaomer texts certain things consistent with his anti-Babylonian feelings." (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, s.v. "Chedorlaomer")

The Chedorlaomer tablets are now thought to be from the 6th or 7th century BCE, a millenium after the time of Hammurabi, but at roughly the time when the main elements of Genesis are thought to have been set down. Another prominent scholar considers a relationship between the tablet and Genesis speculative, but identifies Tudhula as a veiled reference to Sennacherib of Assyria, and Chedorlaomer, i.e. Kudur-Nahhunte, as "a recollection of a 12th century BCE king of Elam who briefly ruled Babylon." [53]

The last serious attempt to place a historical Abraham in the second millenium resulted from discovery of the name Abi-ramu on Babylonian contracts of about 2000 BCE, but this line of argument lost its force when it was shown that the name was also common in the first millenium.[9], leaving the patriarchal narratives in a relative biblical chronology but without an anchor in the known history of the Near East.

Archaeology and historicity

On the basis of archaeological and other evidence, most modern scholars suggest that the stories in the Pentateuch, including the accounts about Abraham and Moses, were first written under King Josiah (7th century BCE) or King Hezekiah (8th century BCE) in order to construct a historical framework for both the monotheistic belief in the tribal god Yahweh and the political ambitions of kingdom of Judah, and that this provides the best explanation of the many anachronisms in the patriarchal accounts.[54]

There are various theories about their composition, with the main ones being:

  • Revisions of Wellhausen's documentary hypothesis, of which Richard Elliot Friedman's is one of the better known;[55]
  • Fragmentary models such as that of R. N. Whybray, who sees the Torah as the product of a single author working from a multitude of small fragments rather than from large coherent source texts;[56]
  • Supplementary models such as that advanced by John Van Seters, who sees in Genesis the gradual accretion of material over many centuries and from many hands.[57]

The 19th century dating of the final form of Genesis and the Pentateuch to the post-exile Persian period of c. 500-450 BC continues to be widely accepted irrespective of the model adopted, including by prominent biblical minimalists such as Philip Davies.[58]

While it is impossible to disprove the existence of Abraham, influential scholars have found the evidence adduced to support a historical reading seriously lacking:

[F]or not only has "archaeology" not proven a single event of the patriarchal tradition to be historical, it has not shown any of the traditions to be likely ... it must be concluded that any such historicity as is commonly spoken of in both scholarly and popular works about the patriarchs of Genesis is hardly possible and totally improbable. (p. 328)[9]

"Biblical archeology", the discipline most closely associated with strong historical claims, has itself come under fire. William Dever notes that "[Albright's] central theses have all been overturned, partly by further advances in Biblical criticism, but mostly by the continuing archaeological research of younger Americans and Israelis to whom he himself gave encouragement and momentum ... The irony is that, in the long run, it will have been the newer 'secular' archaeology that contributed the most to Biblical studies, not 'Biblical archaeology'."[59][60]

While believers widely admit there is no archaeological evidence to prove the existence of Abraham, assertions of the patriarch's historicity and speculation on the period that would best fit the account in Genesis remain alive in religious circles.

See also


  1. ^ Genesis 25:9
  2. ^ Avraham Avinu in Hebrew, or abeena Ibraheem in Arabic (per 22:78
  3. ^ Exodus 6:3, Exodus 32:13
  4. ^ Genesis 5:4-29 Genesis 7:13 Genesis 11:10-26
  5. ^ Genesis 12:1-3
  6. ^ Genesis 12:3
  7. ^ Genesis 17:2-9
  8. ^ Gunkel, Hermann (1997) [1901]. Biddle, Mark E. tr. ed. Genesis. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press. ISBN 0-86554-517-0. "If, however, we consider figures like Abraham, Issac, and Jacob to be actual persons with no original mythic foundations, that does not at all mean that they are historical figures ... For even if, as may well be assumed, there was once a man call 'Abraham,' everyone who knows the history of legends is sure that the legend is in no position at the distance of so many centuries to preserve a picture of the personal piety of Abraham. The 'religion of Abraham' is, in reality, the religion of the legend narrators which they attribute to Abraham. (p.lxviii)" 
  9. ^ a b c Thompson, Thomas (2002). The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives: The Quest for the Historical Abraham. Valley Forge, Pa: Trinity Press International. ISBN 1-56338-389-6. 
  10. ^ Genesis 17:5
  11. ^ "". Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  12. ^ K.F. Keil (1869), Biblical commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 1, p. 224
  13. ^ David Rohl, The Lost Testament (2002), ISBN 0712669930
  14. ^ It is generally assumed that Abraham was born in Ur of the Chaldees, but there is no consensus on the location of this place.
  15. ^ Genesis 11:27-11:31
  16. ^ Genesis 12:1-9
  17. ^ Genesis 12:9-20
  18. ^ Genesis 20
  19. ^ Genesis 13
  20. ^ Genesis 14
  21. ^ Genesis 15
  22. ^ Genesis 16
  23. ^ a b Genesis 17
  24. ^ Genesis 18-19
  25. ^ Genesis 20
  26. ^ Genesis 21:22-34
  27. ^ Genesis 12:1-7
  28. ^ Genesis 13:14-17
  29. ^ Genesis 15
  30. ^ Genesis 22
  31. ^ Genesis 23-24
  32. ^ Genesis 25:1-6
  33. ^ Genesis 25:9 and Genesis 23:19
  34. ^ Matthew 3:1-9
  35. ^ *Holweck, F. G., A Biographical Dictionary of the Saints. St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co. 1924.
  36. ^ Ibrahim, Encyclopedia of Islam
  37. ^ Ibrahim Canan; Jessica Ozalp (2007). The Message of Abraham. Tughra Books. 
  38. ^ "USC-MSA Compendium of Muslim Texts". Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^ Antiquities of the Jews, book 1, 12:4
  44. ^ Antiquities of the Jews, book 1, 12:2
  45. ^ The Life of the Prophet Muhammad (Al-Sira al-Nabawiyya), Volume I, translated by Professor Trevor Le Gassick, reviewed by Dr. Ahmed Fareed, Garnet Publishing Limited, 8 Southern Court, South Street Reading RG1 4QS, UK; The Center for Muslim Contribution to Civilization, 1998, pp. 50-52;
  46. ^ "G.F. Hasel, "Chronogenealogies in the Biblical History of Beginnings"". Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  47. ^ ""Biblical Chronology", Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)". 1908-11-01. Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  48. ^ Orr, James, general editor (1915). "Hammurabi". International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 
  49. ^ "Amraphel". The Catholic Encyclopedia. 1917. 
  50. ^ Pinches, Theophilus (1908). The Old Testament In the Light of The Historical Records and Legends of Assyria and Babylonia (third ed.). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. 
  51. ^ MacKenzie, Donald (1915). "The Golden Age of Babylonia". Myths of Babylonia and Assyria. p. 247. "The identification of Hammurabi with Amraphel is now generally accepted" 
  52. ^ Browning, W.R.F. (2010). "Amraphel". A Dictionary of the Bible (second ed.). Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 0-19-954399-2. "The identification, once popular, that this Amraphel was the famous Hammurabi of Babylon (1728–1686 BCE) is not tenable ... Most scholars doubt whether Gen. 14 describes historical events." 
  53. ^ Hindel, Ronald (1994). "Finding Historical Memories in the Patriarchal Narratives". Biblical Archaeology Review 21 (4): 52-59, 70-72. 
  54. ^ Silberman, Neil Asher; Finkelstein, Israel (2001). The Bible unearthed: archaeology's new vision of ancient Israel and the origin of its sacred texts. New York: Free Press. ISBN 0-684-86912-8. 
  55. ^ Friedman, Richard (2003). The Bible with sources revealed: a new view into the Five Books of Moses. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco. ISBN 0-06-053069-3. 
  56. ^ Whybray, Roger Norman (1987). The making of the Pentateuch: a methodological study. Sheffield: JSOT Press. ISBN 1-85075-063-7. 
  57. ^ Van Seters, John (1975). Abraham in history and tradition. New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-01792-8. 
  58. ^ "Minimalism, "Ancient Israel," and Anti-Semitism". 2007-11-06. Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  59. ^ William Dever, "What Remains of the House that Albright Built?" The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. 56, No. 1 (Mar., 1993)
  60. ^ YouTube edit from the The Bible Unearthed television documentary discusses modern archaeological approaches to Abraham and Moses.

Further reading

Boadt, Lawrence (1984). Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction. New York: Paulist Press. ISBN 0-8091-2631-1. 
Ginzberg, Louis (2003). Harriet Szold tr. ed. Legends of the Jews, Volume 1. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society. ISBN 0-8276-0709-1. 
Gunkel, Hermann (1997) [1901]. Biddle, Mark E. tr. ed. Genesis. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press. ISBN 0-86554-517-0. 
Levenson, Jon D. (2004). "The Conversion of Abraham to Judaism, Christianity and Islam". in Hindy Najman, Judith Newman (eds). The Idea of Biblical Interpretation: Essays in Honor of James L. Kugel. Leiden: Koningklijke Brill. ISBN 90-04-13630-4. 
Rosenberg, David M. (2006). Abraham: the first historical biography. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-07094-9. 
Silberman, Neil Asher; Finkelstein, Israel (2001). The Bible unearthed: archaeology's new vision of ancient Israel and the origin of its sacred texts. New York: Free Press. ISBN 0-684-86912-8. 
Thompson, Thomas (2002). The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives: The Quest for the Historical Abraham. Valley Forge, Pa: Trinity Press International. ISBN 1-56338-389-6. 
Van Seters, John (1975). Abraham in history and tradition. New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-01792-8. 
Vermes, Geza (1973). Scripture and tradition in Judaism. Haggadic studies. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 90-04-07096-6. 
Whybray, Roger Norman (1987). The making of the Pentateuch: a methodological study. Sheffield: JSOT Press. ISBN 1-85075-063-7. 

External links

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

Preceded by
Abraham Succeeded by

Redirecting to Abraham


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also abram



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Etymology 1

From Hebrew אַבְרָם (ʾaḇrām), high father), from אָב (ʾaḇ), father) + רָם (rām), high, lofty).

Proper noun




  1. (Biblical) A prophet in the Old Testament; Semitic patriarch, father of the Jewish patriarch Isaac (by his wife Sarah) and the Arabic patriarch Ishmael (by his concubine Hagar). His name was later changed to Abraham.
  2. A male given name.
  3. A patronymic surname.
  • 1611King James Version of the Bible, Genesis 12:5
    And Abram took 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 they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.

Etymology 2

From Old English Eadburh's (a woman's name) hām.

Proper noun




  1. A village near Manchester.
  2. A habitational surname.


Proper noun


  1. Abram (Biblical character)


  • 1602La Santa Biblia (antigua versión de Casiodoro de Reina), rev., Génesis 12:5
    Y tomó Abram á Sarai su mujer, y á Lot hijo de su hermano, y toda su hacienda que habían ganado, y las almas que habían adquirido en Harán, y salieron parair á tierra de Canaán; y á tierra de Canaán llegaron.

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to Abraham article)

From BibleWiki

Meaning: Father of a multitude

Son of Terah, named (Gen 11:27) before his older brothers Nahor and Haran, because he was the heir of the promises. Till the age of seventy, Abram sojourned among his kindred in his native country of Chaldea. He then, with his father and his family and household, quitted the city of Ur, in which he had hitherto dwelt, and went some 300 miles north to Haran, where he abode fifteen years. The cause of his migration was a call from God (Acts 7:2). There is no mention of this first call in the Old Testament; it is implied, however, in Genesis Chapter 12. While they tarried at Haran, Terah died at the age of 205 years. Abram now received a second and more definite call, accompanied by a promise from God (Gen 12:1); whereupon he took his departure, taking his nephew Lot with him, "not knowing whither he went" (Heb 11:8). He trusted implicitly to the guidance of Him who had called him.

Abram now, with a large household of probably a thousand souls, entered on a migratory life, and dwelt in tents. Passing along the valley of the Jabbok, in the land of Canaan, he formed his first encampment at Sichem (Gen 12:6), in the vale or oak-grove of Moreh, between Ebal on the north and Gerizim on the south. Here he received the great promise, "I will make of thee a great nation," etc. (Gen 12:2). This promise comprehended not only temporal but also spiritual blessings. It implied that he was the chosen ancestor of the great Deliverer whose coming had been long ago predicted (Gen 3:15). Soon after this, for some reason not mentioned, he removed his tent to the mountain district between Bethel, then called Luz, and Ai, towns about two miles apart, where he built an altar to "Jehovah." He again moved into the southern tract of Palestine, called by the Hebrews the Negeb; and was at length, on account of a famine, compelled to go down into Egypt. This took place in the time of the Hyksos, a Semitic race which now held the Egyptians in bondage. Here occurred that case of deception on the part of Abram which exposed him to the rebuke of Pharaoh (Gen 12:18). Sarai was restored to him; and Pharaoh loaded him with presents, recommending him to withdraw from the country. He returned to Canaan richer than when he left it, "in cattle, in silver, and in gold" (Gen 12:8; Gen 13:2. Comp. Ps 10513). The whole party then moved northward, and returned to their previous station near Bethel. Here disputes arose between Lot's shepherds and those of Abram about water and pasturage. Abram generously gave Lot his choice of the pasture-ground. (Comp. 1Cor 6:7) He chose the well-watered plain in which Sodom was situated, and removed thither; and thus the uncle and nephew were separated. Immediately after this Abram was cheered by a repetition of the promises already made to him, and then removed to the plain or "oak-grove" of Mamre, which is in Hebron. He finally settled here, pitching his tent under a famous oak or terebinth tree, called "the oak of Mamre" (Gen 13:18). This was his third resting-place in the land.

Some fourteen years before this, while Abram was still in Chaldea, Palestine had been invaded by Chedorlaomer, King of Elam, who brought under tribute to him the five cities in the plain to which Lot had removed. This tribute was felt by the inhabitants of these cities to be a heavy burden, and after twelve years they revolted. This brought upon them the vengeance of Chedorlaomer, who had in league with him four other kings. He ravaged the whole country, plundering the towns, and carrying the inhabitants away as slaves. Among those thus treated was Lot. Hearing of the disaster that had fallen on his nephew, Abram immediately gathered from his own household a band of 318 armed men, and being joined by the Amoritish chiefs Mamre, Aner, and Eshcol, he pursued after Chedorlaomer, and overtook him near the springs of the Jordan. They attacked and routed his army, and pursued it over the range of Anti-Libanus as far as to Hobah, near Damascus, and then returned, bringing back all the spoils that had been carried away. Returning by way of Salem, i.e., Jerusalem, the king of that place, Melchizedek, came forth to meet them with refreshments. To him Abram presented a tenth of the spoils, in recognition of his character as a priest of the most high God (Gen 14:18).

In a recently-discovered tablet, dated in the reign of the grandfather of Amraphel (Gen 14:1), one of the witnesses is called "the Amorite, the son of Abiramu," or Abram.

Having returned to his home at Mamre, the promises already made to him by God were repeated and enlarged Gen 13:14). "The word of the Lord" (an expression occurring here for the first time) "came to him" (Gen 15:1). He now understood better the future that lay before the nation that was to spring from him. Sarai, now seventy-five years old, in her impatience, persuaded Abram to take Hagar, her Egyptian maid, as a concubine, intending that whatever child might be born should be reckoned as her own. Ishmael was accordingly thus brought up, and was regarded as the heir of these promises (Gen. 16). When Ishmael was thirteen years old, God again revealed yet more explicitly and fully his gracious purpose; and in token of the sure fulfilment of that purpose the patriarch's name was now changed from Abram to Abraham (Gen 17:4), and the rite of circumcision was instituted as a sign of the covenant. It was then announced that the heir to these covenant promises would be the son of Sarai, though she was now ninety years old; and it was directed that his name should be Isaac. At the same time, in commemoration of the promises, Sarai's name was changed to Sarah. On that memorable day of God's thus revealing his design, Abraham and his son Ishmael and all the males of his house were circumcised (Gen. 17).

Three months after this, as Abraham sat in his tent door, he saw three men approaching. They accepted his proffered hospitality, and, seated under an oak-tree, partook of the fare which Abraham and Sarah provided. One of the three visitants was none other than the Lord, and the other two were angels in the guise of men. The Lord renewed on this occasion his promise of a son by Sarah, who was rebuked for her unbelief. Abraham accompanied the three as they proceeded on their journey. The two angels went on toward Sodom; while the Lord tarried behind and talked with Abraham, making known to him the destruction that was about to fall on that guilty city. The patriarch interceded earnestly in behalf of the doomed city. But as not even ten righteous persons were found in it, for whose sake the city would have been spared, the threatened destruction fell upon it; and early next morning Abraham saw the smoke of the fire that consumed it as the "smoke of a furnace" (Gen 19:1).

After fifteen years' residence at Mamre, Abraham moved southward, and pitched his tent among the Philistines, near to Gerar. Here occurred that sad instance of prevarication on his part in his relation to Abimelech the King (Gen. 20]). Soon after this event, the patriarch left the vicinity of Gerar, and moved down the fertile valley about 25 miles to Beer-sheba. It was probably here that Isaac was born, Abraham being now an hundred years old. A feeling of jealousy now arose between Sarah and Hagar, whose son, Ishmael, was no longer to be regarded as Abraham's heir. Sarah insisted that both Hagar and her son should be sent away. This was done, although it was a hard trial to Abraham (Gen 21:12).

At this point there is a blank in the patriarch's history of perhaps twenty-five years. These years of peace and happiness were spent at Beer-sheba. The next time we see him his faith is put to a severe test by the command that suddenly came to him to go and offer up Isaac, the heir of all the promises, as a sacrifice on one of the mountains of Moriah. His faith stood the test (Heb 11:17). He proceeded in a spirit of unhesitating obedience to carry out the command; and when about to slay his son, whom he had laid on the altar, his uplifted hand was arrested by the angel of Jehovah, and a ram, which was entangled in a thicket near at hand, was seized and offered in his stead. From this circumstance that place was called Jehovah-jireh, i.e., "The Lord will provide." The promises made to Abraham were again confirmed (and this was the last recorded word of God to the patriarch); and he descended the mount with his son, and returned to his home at Beer-sheba (Gen 22:19), where he resided for some years, and then moved northward to Hebron.

Some years after this Sarah died at Hebron, being 127 years old. Abraham acquired now the needful possession of a burying-place, the cave of Machpelah, by purchase from the owner of it, Ephron the Hittite (Gen. 23); and there he buried Sarah. His next care was to provide a wife for Isaac, and for this purpose he sent his steward, Eliezer, to Haran (or Charran, Acts 7:2), where his brother Nahor and his family resided (Gen 11:31). The result was that Rebekah, the daughter of Nahor's son Bethuel, became the wife of Isaac (Gen. 24). Abraham then himself took to wife Keturah, who became the mother of six sons, whose descendants were afterwards known as the "children of the east" (Jdg 6:3), and later as "Saracens." At length all his wanderings came to an end. At the age of 175 years, 100 years after he had first entered the land of Canaan, he died, and was buried in the old family burying-place at Machpelah (Gen 25:7).

The history of Abraham made a wide and deep impression on the ancient world, and references to it are interwoven in the religious traditions of almost all Eastern nations. He is called "the friend of God" (Jam 2:23), "faithful Abraham" (Gal 3:9), "the father of us all" (Rom 4:16).

This article needs to be merged with ABRAHAM (Jewish Encyclopedia).
This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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Facts about AbrahamRDF feed
Child of Terah  +
Married to Sarah  +
Parent of Ishmael  +, and Isaac  +

Simple English

Abram may refer to:

  • Abraham, Biblical patriarch
  • Abram (given name)

Place names

  • Abram, Greater Manchester, a village in North West England
  • Abram, Bihor, west Romania


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