Abraham

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Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [1]

Originally called Abram, Abraham received his new name from God in confirmation of God’s promise that he would be father of a multitude of people ( Genesis 17:5-7). In fulfilment of this promise, Abraham became the physical father of the Israelite nation ( Matthew 3:9;  John 8:37). Because he accepted God’s promise by faith, he is also the spiritual father of all who accept God’s promises by faith, regardless of their nationality. As God in his grace declared Abraham righteous, so he declares righteous all who trust in him ( Genesis 15:6;  Romans 4:11).

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Fausset's Bible Dictionary [2]

Abraham ("father of a multitude".) Up to  Genesis 17:4-5, his being sealed with circumcision, the sign of the covenant, ABRAM (father of elevation). Son of Terah, brother of Nahor and Haran. Progenitor of the Hebrew, Arabs, Edomites, and kindred tribes; the ninth in descent from Shem, through Heber. Haran died before Terah, leaving Lot and two daughters, Milcah and Iscah. Nahor married his niece Milcah: Abraham Iscah, i.e. Sarai, daughter, i.e. granddaughter, of his father, not of his mother ( Genesis 20:12). Ur, his home, is the modern Mugheir, the primeval capital of Chaldaea; its inscriptions are probably of the 22nd century B.C. The alphabetical Hebrew system is Phoenician, and was probably brought by Abraham to Canaan, where it became modified. Abraham, at God's call, went forth from Ur of the Chaldees ( Genesis 11:31-12).

In Haran Terah died. The statement in  Genesis 11:26, that Terah was 70 when he begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran, must apply only to the oldest, Haran. His being oldest appears from the fact that his brothers married his daughters, and that Sarai was only ten years younger than Abraham ( Genesis 17:17); the two younger were born subsequently, Abram, the youngest, when Terah was 130, as appears from comparing  Genesis 11:31 with  Genesis 12:4;  Acts 7:3-4; "before he dwelt in Charran Ηaran , while he was in Mesopotamia," in his 60th year, at Ur he received his first call: "Depart from thy land, to a land which I will show thee" (as yet the exact land was not defined). In Haran he received a second call: "Depart from thy father's house unto THE land (Heb.,  Genesis 12:1 ( which I will show thee;" and with it a promise, temporal (that God would bless him, and make him founder of a great nation) and spiritual (that in him all families of the earth should be blessed).

The deluge, the revelation to Noah, and the Babel dispersion had failed to counteract the universal tendency to idolatrous apostasy, obliterating every trace of primitive piety. God therefore provided an antidote in separating one family and nation to be the repository of His truth against the fullness of time when it should be revealed to the whole world. From  Joshua 24:2;  Joshua 24:14-15, it appears Terah and his family served other gods beyond the Euphrates. Silly traditions as to Terah being a maker of idols, and Abraham having been east into a fiery furnace by Nimrod for disbelief in idols, were drawn from this Scripture, and from Ur ("fire"). The second call additionally required that, now when his father was dead and filial duty had been discharged, after the stay of 15 years in Haran, he should leave his father's house, i.e. his brother Nahor's family, in Haran. The call was personally to himself.

He was to be isolated not only from his nation but from his family. Lot, his nephew, accompanied him, being regarded probably as his heir, as the promise of seed and the specification of his exact destination were only by degrees unfolded to him ( Hebrews 11:8). Nicolaus of Damascus ascribed to him the conquest of Damascus on his way to Canaan. Scripture records nothing further than that his chief servant was Eliezer of Damascus; he pursued Chedorlaomer to Hobah, on the left of Damascus, subsequently ( Genesis 14:15), Abraham entered Canaan along the valley of the Jabbok, and encamped first in the rich Moreh valley, near Sichem, between mounts Ebal and Gerizim. There he received a confirmation of the promise, specifying "this land" as that which the original more general promise pointed to. Here therefore he built his first altar to God. The unfriendly attitude of the Canaanites induced him next to move to the mountain country between Bethel and Ai, where also he built an altar to Jehovah, whose worship was fast passing into oblivion in the world.

Famine led him to Egypt, the granary of the world, next. The record of his unbelieving cowardice there, and virtual lie as to Sarai (See Abimelech ) is a striking proof of the candor of Scripture. Its heroes' faults are not glossed over; each saint not only falls at times, but is represented as failing in the very grace (e.g. Abraham in faith) for which he was most noted. Probably the Hyksos (akin to the Hebrew), or shepherds' dynasty, reigned then at Memphis, which would make Abraham's visit specially acceptable there. On his return his first visit was to the altar which he had erected to Jehovah before his fall (compare  Genesis 13:4 with  Hosea 2:7;  Revelation 2:5). The greatness of his and Lot's substance prevented their continuing together. The promise of a direct heir too may have influenced Lot, as, no longer being heir, to seek a more fixed home, in the region of Sodom, than he had with Abraham, "dwelling in tents." Contrast the children of the world with the children of God ( Hebrews 11:9-10;  Hebrews 11:18-16). His third resting place was Mamre, near Hebron ("association", namely, that of Abraham, Mamre, Eshcol, and Aner; next called Kirjath Arba; then it resumed its old name, Hebron, the future capital of Judah). This position, communicating with Egypt, and opening on the pastures of Beersheba, marks the greater power of his retinue now, as compared with what it was when he encamped in the mountain fastness of Ai.

Fourteen years previously Chedorlaomer, king of Elam (the region S. of Assyria, E. of Persia, Susiana), the chief sovereign, with Amrephar of Shinar (Babylon), Arioch of Ellasar (the Chaldean Larissa, or Larsa, half way between Ur, or Mugheir, and Erech, or Warka, in Lower Babylonia), and Tidal, king of nations, attacked Bera of Sodom, Birsha of Gomorrah, Shinab of Admah, and Shemeber of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela or Zoar, because after twelve bears of subordination they "rebelled" (Genesis 14). Babylon was originally the predominant power; but a recently deciphered Assyrian record states that an Elamitie king, Kudur Nakhunta, conquered Babylon 2296 B.C. Kudur Mabuk is called in the inscriptions the "ravager of Syria," so that the Scripture account of Chedorlaomer (from Lagsmar , a goddess, in Semitic; answering to Μabuk in Hamitic) exactly tallies with the monumental inscriptions which call him Αpda Martu , "ravager," not conqueror, "of the West." Abraham, with 318 followers, and aided by the Amorite chiefs, Mamre, Eshcol, and Aner, overtook the victorious invaders near Jordan's springs, and attacked them by night from different quarters and routed them, and recovered Lot with all the men and the goods carried off.

His disinterestedness was evinced in refusing any of the goods which Arabian war usage entitled him to, lest the king of worldly Sodom should say, "I have made Abraham rich" (compare  Esther 9:15-16;  2 Kings 5:16; contrast Lot,  Genesis 13:10-11). Melchizedek, one of the only native princes who still served Jehovah, and was at once king and priest, blessed Abraham in the name of the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth, and blessed God in Abraham's name, by a beautiful reciprocation of blessing, and ministered to him bread and wine; and Abraham "gave him tithes of all." Immediately after Abraham had refused worldly rewards Jehovah in vision said, "I am ... thy exceeding great reward." The promise now was made more specific: Eliezer shall not be thine heir, but "he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels ... Tell if thou be able to number the stars; so shall thy seed be." His faith herein was called forth to accept what was above nature on the bore word of God; so "it (His Faith) was counted to him for righteousness" (Genesis 15).

Hence he passes into direct covenant relation with God, confirmed by the sign of the burning lamp (compare  Isaiah 62:1) passing between the divided pieces of a heifer, she goat, and ram, and accompanied by the revelation that his posterity are to be afflicted in a foreign land 400 years, then to come forth and conquer Canaan when the iniquity of the Amorites shall be full. The earthly inheritance was to include the whole region "from the river of Egypt unto the ... river Euphrates," a promise only in part fulfilled under David and Solomon ( 2 Samuel 8:3;  2 Kings 4:21;  2 Chronicles 9:26). Tyre and Sidon were never conquered; therefore the complete fulfillment remains for the millennial state, when "the meek shall inherit the land," and  Psalms 72:8-10 shall be realized; compare  Luke 20:37. The taking of Hagar the Egyptian, Sarai's maid, at the suggestion of Sarai, now 75 years old, was a carnal policy to realize the promise in Ishmael.

Family quarreling was the inevitable result, and Hagar fled from Sarai, who dealt hardly with her maid when that maid despised her mistress. Abraham in his 99th year was recalled to the standing of faith by Jehovah's charge, "Walk before Me and be thou perfect" (Genesis 17). God then gave circumcision as seal of the covenant of righteousness by faith, which he had while yet uncircumcised (Romans 4). His name was changed at circumcision from Abram to Abraham (father of many nations), to mark that the covenant was not to include merely his seed after the flesh, the Israelites, but the numerous Gentile nations also, who in his Seed, Christ, should be children of his faith (Galatians 3). Sarai (my princess, or "nobility," Gesenius) became Sarah (princess) no longer queen of one family, but spiritually of all nations ( Galatians 3:16). The promise now advances a stage further in explicitness, being definitely assigned to a son to be born of Sarah.

Its temporal blessings Ishmael shall share, but the spiritual and everlasting with the temporal are only to be through Sarah's son. Sarah laughed. more from joy though not without unbelief, as her subsequent laugh and God's rebuke imply ( Genesis 18:12-15). Now first, Jehovah, with two ministering angels, reveals Himself and His judicial purposes (Genesis 18) in familiar intercourse with Abraham as "the friend of God" ( John 15:15;  Psalms 25:14;  2 Chronicles 20:7;  James 2:23;  Amos 3:7), and accepts his intercession to a very great extent for the doomed cities of the plain. The passionate intercession was probably prompted by feeling for his kinsman Lot, who was in Sodom, for he intercedes only for Sodom, not also for Gomorrah, an undesigned propriety, a mark of genuineness. This epiphany of God contrasts in familiarity with the more distant and solemn manifestations of earlier and later times.

Loving confidence takes the place of instinctive fear, as in man's intercourse with God in Eden; Moses similarly ( Exodus 33:11;  Numbers 12:8); Peter, James, and John on the mount of transfiguration (Matthew 17). A mile from Hebron stands a massive oak, called "Abraham's oak." His abode was "the oaks of Mamre" (as  Genesis 18:1 ought to be translated, not "plains".) A terebinth tree was supposed in Josephus' time to mark the spot. It stood within the enclosure, "Abraham's house." Isaac's birth, beyond nature, the type of Him whose name is Wonderful ( Luke 1:35-37, and contrast Mary's joy with Sarah's half incredulous laugh and Zacharias' unbelief,  Luke 1:38;  Luke 1:45-47;  Luke 1:20), was the first grand earnest of the promise. Ishmael's expulsion, though painful to the father who clung to him ( Genesis 17:18), was needed to teach Abraham that all ties must give way to the one great end. The full spiritual meaning of it, but faintly revealed to Abraham, appears in  Galatians 4:22-31.

When Isaac was 25 years old the crowning trial whereby Abraham's. faith was perfected took place ( James 2:21-23). Still it was his faith, not his work, which was "imputed to him for righteousness"; but the faith that justified him was evinced, by his offering at God's command his son, to be not a dead but a living "faith that works by love." Paul's doctrine is identical with James's ( 1 Corinthians 13:2;  Galatians 5:6). The natural feelings of the father, the divine promise specially attached to Isaac, born out of due time and beyond nature, a promise which seemed impossible to be fulfilled if Isaac were slain, the divine command against human bloodshedding ( Genesis 9:5-6), —all might well perplex him. But it was enough for him that God had commanded; his faith obeyed, leaving confidently the solution of the perplexities to God, "accounting that God was able to raise Isaac even from the dead" ( Hebrews 11:19), "from whence he received him in a figure." The "figure" was: Isaac's death (in Abraham's intention) and rescue from it ( 2 Corinthians 1:9-10) vividly represented Christ's death and resurrection on the "third" day ( Genesis 22:4).

The ram's substitution represented Christ's vicarious death: it was then that Abraham saw Christ's day and was glad ( John 8:56). The scene was Moriah (i.e. chosen by Jehovah); others suppose Moreh, three days' journey from Beersheba. His faith was rewarded by the original promises being now confirmed by Jehovah's oath by Himself ( Hebrews 6:13;  Hebrews 6:17); and his believing reply to his son, "God will provide Himself a lamb," received its lasting commemoration in the name of that place, Jehovah Jireh, "the Lord will provide." His giving up his only and well beloved son (by Sarah) typifies the Father's not sparing the Only Begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, in order that He might spare us. Sarah died at Kirjath Arba, whither Abraham had returned from Beersheba. The only possession he got, and that, by purchase from the Hittites, was a burying place for Sarah, the cave of Machpelah, said to be under the mosque of Hebron.

His care that he and his should be utterly separated from idolatry appears in his strict charge to Eliezer as to the choice of Isaac's wife, not to take a Canaanite woman nor yet to bring his son back to Abraham's original home. Abraham being left alone at Isaac's marriage, and having his youthful vigor renewed at Isaac's generation, married Keturah. The children by her, Midian and others, he sent away, lest they should dispute the inheritance with Isaac after his death. He died at 175 years, Isaac and Ishmael joining to bury him beside Sarah. Through his descendants, the Arabs, Israelites, and descendants of Midian, "children of the East," Abraham's name is still widely known in Asia. As "father of the faithful," who left home and all at the call of God, to be a sojourner in tents, he typifies Him who at the Father's call left His own heaven to be a homeless stranger on earth, and to sacrifice Himself, the unspeakably precious Lamb, for us: "the Word tabernacled Greek  John 1:14 among us."

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [3]

ABRAHAM. —It is noteworthy that while in the Synoptic Gospels references to the patriarch Abraham are comparatively frequent, and his personality and relation to Israel form part of the historical background which they presuppose, and of the thoughts and conceptions which are their national inheritance, in the Gospel of St. John his name does not appear except in ch. 8. In the Synoptists he is the great historical ancestor of the Jews, holding a unique place in their reverence and affections; he is their father, as they are each of them his children ( Matthew 3:9 ||  Luke 3:8,  Luke 13:16;  Luke 16:24;  Luke 16:30;  Luke 19:9). To this the introductory title of St. Matthew’s Gospel testifies; it is ‘the book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham .’ And in the genealogical record that follows, his name stands at the head ( Matthew 1:2), and through equally graduated stages,—epochs marked by the name of Israel’s most famous king, and by the nation’s most bitter humiliation ( Matthew 1:17),—the ascent of the Christ is traced to the great fountain and source of all Jewish privilege and life. It is otherwise in the genealogy of St. Luke; and the difference indicates the different standpoints of Jewish and Gentile thought. Here the historian records no halting-places in his genealogy, but carries it back in an uninterrupted chain, of which the patriarch Abraham forms but one link ( Luke 3:34), to its ultimate source in God. See art. Genealogies.

Other references in the Synoptists are on the same plane of thought, and presuppose a prevalent and accepted faith, which not only knew Abraham as the forefather and founder of their national life in the far-off ages of the past, but realized that in some sort or other he was still alive; and it was believed that to be with him, to be received into his bosom ( Luke 16:22) was the highest felicity that awaited the righteous man after death. Both St. Matthew and St. Mark bear emphatic testimony to this belief, in their narrative of the incident of our Lord’s solution of the dilemma presented by the Sadducees with their tale of the seven brothers. Jesus quotes  Exodus 3:6 in proof of the fact of the patriarchs’ resurrection and continued existence ( Matthew 22:32 ||  Mark 12:26,  Luke 20:37), inasmuch as the Divine sovereignty here asserted over Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob necessarily implies the conscious life of those who are its subjects. In the Songs of Mary and Zacharias, again ( Luke 1:46-55;  Luke 1:68-79), Abraham is the forefather of the race, the recipient of the Divine promises (confirmed by an oath,  Luke 1:73) of mercy and goodwill to himself and his descendants (cf.  Galatians 3:16;  Galatians 3:18,  Hebrews 6:13,  Acts 7:17,  Romans 4:13); and his name is a pledge that the same mercy will not overlook or cease to care for his children ( Luke 1:55). And, finally, to be with Abraham and his great sons, to ‘sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven’ ( Matthew 8:11), is the desire and reward of the faithful Israelite. This reward, however, Christ teaches, is not confined to the Jews, the sons of Abraham according to the flesh, still less is it one to which they have any right by virtue of the mere fact of physical descent from him; it is one that will be enjoyed by ‘many’ faithful ones from other lands, even to the exclusion of the ‘sons of the kingdom,’ if they prove themselves, like His present opponents, faithless and unworthy ( Luke 13:28).

The expression ‘ Abraham’s bosom ’ ( Luke 16:22) or ‘bosoms’ ( Luke 16:23)* [Note: The plural form is frequently used by the Greek Fathers, e.g. Chrys. Hom. XL in Gen.: τάντες οἱ δικαιοι … εὐχῆς ἔργον ποιοῦνται εἰς τοῦς κόλτους τοῦ τατριἀρχου καταντῆσαι.] is hardly to be understood as conveying the idea of an eminent or unusual degree of happiness. It is practically equivalent to ‘Paradise.’ And the new condition of blessedness in which Lazarus finds himself is pre-eminent only in the sense that it is so striking a reversal of the relations previously existing between Dives and himself. The parable says nothing of any superior piety or faith exhibited by Lazarus, which might win for him a more exalted position than others. As far as his present and past are concerned, it but sets forth retributive justice redressing for him and Dives alike the unequal balance of earth. ‘Abraham’s bosom,’ like the Hades in which the rich man lifts up his eyes, is part of the figurative or pictorial setting of the parable, and indicates no more than a haven of repose and felicity, the home and resting-place of the righteous with Abraham, who is the typical example of righteousness. The parable is on the plane of popular belief, and of set purpose employs the imagery which would be most familiar and intelligible to the hearers.† [Note: On the phrase ‘Abraham’s bosom,’ see Trench, Parables13, p. 461 ff., and the references there given; Lightfoot, Horae Heb. et Talm. iii. p. 167 ff.; Stevens, Theology of the New Testament, p. 82; Meyer, and the commentators, in loc. Cf. also Salmond in Hastings’ DB i. 17b f.]

In conformity with the general character of St. John’s Gospel, the references to Abraham there would seem to imply a more mystical, less matter of fact and as it were prosaic manner of regarding the great patriarch. He is spoken of in the 8th chapter alone, in the course of a discussion with Jews who are said to be believers in Jesus ( John 8:31). Here also Abraham is the father of the Jews, and they are his children, his seed ( John 8:37;  John 8:39;  John 8:56); and this position they claim with pride ( John 8:33;  John 8:39;  John 8:53). It is a name and position, however, which Christ declares is belied by their conduct, in that, though nominally Abraham’s seed, they do not Abraham’s works, in particular when they conceive and plot the death of an innocent man ( John 8:39-40). To the charge itself they have no answer, except to reassert their sonship, in this instance of God Himself ( John 8:41 f.), and to repeat the offensive imputation of demoniacal possession ( John 8:42). But with almost startling abruptness, taking advantage of a phrase quietly introduced, which they interpret to imply freedom from physical death for those who accept Christ’s teaching, they interrupt with the assertion that Abraham died ‘and the prophets’ ( John 8:52), in apparent contradiction to the tenor and assumption of the language which a moment before they had employed. Probably they meant no more than that he and they, like all other men, had passed through the gate of death which terminates life on earth; and were more intent on gaining a dialectic advantage than on weighing the implications of their own words. But, in spite of them, for the few moments that are left the discourse preserves the high level of other-worldliness, to which Christ’s last words have raised it; and gives occasion for one of the most striking and emphatic assertions in which He is recorded to have passed beyond the boundaries and limitations of mere earthly experience. Abraham has seen His day ( John 8:56). And by silence He concedes and affirms the half-indignant, half-contemptuous and protesting question of the Jews; He has seen Abraham, and is greater even than their father ( John 8:53;  John 8:57). The climax is reached in  John 8:58,—in a brief sentence, which, if it did not bear so evidently the stamp of simplicity and truth, would be said to have been constructed with the most consummate skill and the finest touch of artistic feeling and insight. ‘Before Abraham came into being,’—the speaker gathers up and utilizes Jewish belief in its past and reverence for its head,—‘I am.’ Abraham ἐγένετο; Christ is . Thus was conveyed the answer to their question, ‘Art thou greater?’ ( John 8:53); and thus was reasserted with emphasis the measureless distance between Himself and the greatest of the Jews, and a fortiori , as it would appear to the company around, of the whole human race.

It is remarkable and suggestive that in the only notice of the patriarch Jacob that is contained in the Fourth Gospel, ch.  John 4:5 f.,  John 4:12, the same question is addressed by the woman of Samaria to Christ: ‘Art thou greater than our father Jacob,’—the Dispenser of the new water with its marvellous properties than the actual giver of the well? It was natural and inevitable that one of the questions that more particularly forced itself upon the attention of His contemporaries should be the relation of the Teacher, who had arisen in their midst and who claimed so great things, not only to the earlier prophets, but to the patriarchs and ancestors of the Jewish nation. See further art. Jacob.

The figure of Abraham, therefore, in the Gospels is idealized, and invested with a simple grandeur as the head and founder of the race in the indistinct ages of the past, to whom are owing its present privileges, and around whom gather its future hopes. There is, however, no indication of hero-worship, as in the case of the more or less mythical ancestors of other peoples. This conception, moreover, apart from St. John’s Gospel, is purely patriarchal. The characteristic Pauline presentation of Abraham as the father of the faithful in a moral and spiritual sense, as the type and pattern of all righteousness and obedience, as it is developed in the Epistles to the Romans and Galatians, is absent (cf. also  Hebrews 11:8 ff.,  James 2:21;  James 2:23). References to the details of his history are not indeed wanting in the remaining books of the New Testament, but they are all, as it were, with a moral and didactic purpose:  Galatians 4:22, the two covenants;  Hebrews 7:1 ff., Abraham and Melchizedek;  Romans 4:18 f. and  Hebrews 11:8;  Hebrews 11:17, faith exhibited in the abandonment of his fatherland, in the birth and offering up of Isaac;  Acts 7:2;  Acts 7:16, the same abandonment of his country and the purchase of a tomb from the sons of Emmor in Sychem; cf.  1 Peter 3:6, with a possible reference to  Genesis 18:12.

Later Hebrew literature discussed especially this aspect of his character, and the historical view was superseded by the ethical or theological. Cf., for example, Pirke Aboth v. 4, of the ten testings or trials (נסיונוח) of Abraham, and Taylor, loc.; ‘Testament of Abraham,’ ed. M. R. James, and Studies, ii. 2.

Literature.—The authorities cited above, with articles on ‘Abraham’ in Bible Dictionaries, and the Commentaries.

A. S. Geden.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [4]

The Old Testament . This man, whose name may mean "the father is exalted, " was the first of the great patriarchs of Israel. In the ancient Near East a patriarch was the leader or ancestor of a family, but Abraham exceeded this status by becoming the progenitor of one specific nation, the Hebrews, as well as of other peoples. The story of his life ( Genesis 11:27b-25:12 ) appears to comprise one of eleven Mesopotamian tablets underlying Genesis, and in typical fashion probably had a title ("Abram, Nahor and Haran, 11:27b) and a concluding colophon "these are the generations of" (KJV), that is, "family histories of" (25:12). The material was apparently compiled in the time of Isaac at Beer Lahai Roi ( Genesis 25:11 ), the finished unit probably comprising a group of smaller tablets linked in a series.

The date of Abraham's birth in Ur "of the Chaldees" (i.e., southern Ur) is not known, but can be computed roughly from archeological evidence at Bab-edh-Dhra, near Sodom. The latter was destroyed about 1900 b.c. No monuments to him have survived, but discoveries at Mari, Nuzi, and elsewhere have shown that his activities were consistent with Middle Bronze Age Mesopotamian life (ca. 2000-1500 b.c.). As such, Abraham emerged from a background of high culture, and was not the illiterate shepherd envisaged by some nineteenth-century literary critics.

Abraham is of profound religious significance because he was the historic ancestor of the twelve tribes, the "seed of Abraham, " who regularly described their God as "the God of Abraham." By virtue of being children of divine promise ( Genesis 12:2 ), the Israelites were living proof of God's existence and power in human society. This general promise was made specific by means of a covenant between God and Abraham ( Genesis 15:8-18;  17:1-14 ), which provided the offspring of the patriarch with a large tract of territory. Abraham was to father many nations ( Genesis 17:5 ), and the covenant that was to be established with him and his seed was to be perpetual in nature.

The idea of a covenant, or binding agreement between two parties, was already familiar in the early Middle Bronze Age, and by mutual agreement involved penalties if one of the participants defaulted. It was normally marked by some form of ritual ( Genesis 15:9-17 ), which emphasized the solemnity and significance of the occasion. Abraham was instructed to keep the covenant obligations, and as a material token the institution of circumcision was imposed upon him and his descendants. When performed, this procedure constituted formal indication of membership within the Israelite community.

Although coming from a background of polytheism and idolatry at Ur, Abraham had been reared in the faith of the one true God by his father Terah. But when he received the Lord's call at a mature stage of his life, he recognized that he had been chosen to implement a specific part of God's plan for human destiny. He was not to fulfill it alone, because the Lord undertook to go with him ( Genesis 12:4 ). He was required to be consistently obedient to God's will, however difficult that might be, and to trust without question the guidance he would receive against the background of the covenant framework. It should be noted that Abraham was not asked to be obedient as a condition of the covenant. Rather, his response in faith was based upon what he already knew about the God of his ancestors, and was thus a matter of free choice. The importance of strict obedience to the Lord's injunctions assumes early prominence in Old Testament theology. Put simply, without unquestioning submission to God's stipulations there could be neither fellowship with the Lord nor blessings poured out upon the covenant people.

The continuing faith Abraham had can be illustrated by reference to four specific occasions in his life. The first was God's command to leave both family and homeland and migrate to a strange country ( Genesis 12:1 ). The severing of emotional ties was bound to be costly, yet Abraham went forward without once questioning God's directives, believing instead in God's power to fulfill his promises.

The second occasion actually completed the first, consisting of Abraham's parting company with his nephew Lot ( Genesis 13:1-16 ) because of friction between their herdsmen. Although doubtless distressed at withdrawing from a relative, Abraham behaved generously in allowing Lot to choose the territory that he preferred ( Genesis 13:8-11 ), whereupon God renewed his promises of land and offspring to the childless Abraham.

The third was yet another occasion when the covenant was confirmed, this time in greater detail ( Genesis 17:1-27 ). God promised Abraham a son who would be named Isaac ( Genesis 17:16 ), and who would be the inheritor of the everlasting covenant ( Genesis 17:19,21 ). It seems that Abraham assumed that Ishmael was to function in that capacity, but when this was denied he acknowledged the Lord's will obediently, and awaited in faith the fulfillment of the promise that all the nations of the earth would be blessed in him ( Genesis 18:18 ).

Perhaps the most serious test of Abraham's obedience and faith came when God ordered him to offer up in sacrifice the very one through whom the covenant was to be perpetuated: his son Isaac ( Genesis 22:1-2 ). Dutifully and without questioning, Abraham followed the ritual procedure, and at the climactic moment God intervened on behalf of Isaac ( Genesis 22:11 ), stating that Abraham had passed the divinely imposed test of submission and faith ( Genesis 22:12 ). For such implicit obedience Abraham was to become an example of covenant fidelity. In  2 Chronicles 20:7 (cf.   James 2:23 ) Abraham is described as the "friends" of God. As late as New Testament times, he and Sarah were lauded as people who lived and died in an attitude of faith ( Hebrews 11:8-18 ).

The New Testament If God's plan for human salvation was to be implemented, the Lord had to be able to trust those whom he called and empowered for this task. Only after testing under difficult conditions did the relative trustworthiness of the servant become apparent. In Abraham's case, his unwavering faith accomplished the fulfillment of the covenant promises in terms of a great nation that would honor him through the centuries as "their father" (  John 8:39;  Romans 4:16 ). This privilege, however, was not to be restricted to the Jews, but was also shared by adherents to the world religions of Christianity and Islam.

The prophecy whereby all human families would be blessed (or "bless themselves") came to fruition in the work of Jesus Christ, the Messiah of God, who was the long-promised descendant of Abraham ( Matthew 1:1;  Galatians 3:16 ). His atoning death broke the power of sin over human beings and enabled them to be reconciled to God through penitence and faith. The saving work of Christ ushered in the new covenant prophesied by Jeremiah (31:31) and was given definitive shape in the Christian church, a body of believers committed to serve Jesus as king and lord through Acts of obedience and faith. This privileged group is blessed by the assurance of God's love and his saving power that sustain all who trust in him. But while being a recipient of blessing, the Christian church is commanded to fulfill covenant responsibilities ( Matthew 28:14 ) in a manner unknown to the covenant people of Old Testament times. It is by this means, however, that the Abrahamic blessings come into effect when both Jewish and Gentile sinners find forgiveness and spiritual rebirth in Christ through the proclamation of the gospel.

The Christian faith thus stands in an unbroken chain of spirituality that has come down through the ages. The new covenant on which the Christian church is founded is based upon an individual's relationship with God in Christ, and not upon the response of a group such as a tribe to the Lord's commands. The atoning work of Christ on Calvary, achieved by a man as fully obedient to God's commands ( Philippians 2:8 ) as Abraham ever was, has released a flood of divine grace upon an undeserving world, and has brought the blessed fruit of the Spirit ( Galatians 5:22-23 ) into the believer's life.

Paul stressed that the children of God by faith in Jesus were in fact members of Abraham's offspring, and thus heirs according to the promise ( Galatians 3:26-29 ). Thus Christians can speak confidently of Abraham as "the father of the faithful, " and praise a merciful God because it was through his fidelity in remote ages that our eternal salvation has become an actuality. Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and others are no longer shadowy images which, in an earlier age of biblical criticism, were often dismissed as legendary or even mythological. Instead, the participants in the Abrahamic covenant are seen as real persons with whom modern Christians are privileged to join in witness to God's power and his plan of salvation through Christ. While Christians can rejoice in the realization that the blessings of Abraham's covenant have become their very own, it is important for them to remember that, as Jesus taught, the true children of Abraham perform the deeds of Abraham ( John 8:39 ).

Dynamic though Abraham's covenant was, sheer physical descent from the revered patriarch did not of itself guarantee an individual's salvation, as John the Baptist pointed out ( Matthew 3:9 ). Nor did it imply that there were no unbelievers in ancient Israel ( Romans 9:6 ). Only those members whose lives manifested the obedience and trust of the patriarch would participate in covenant blessings. The man who for Paul was the exemplar of faith ( Romans 4:16-22;  Galatians 3:6-12 ) was understood by James to demonstrate that justification by faith is proved in works that issue from such a faith ( James 2:20-24 ). The emphasis, however, is upon the genuine nature of the faith rather than such deeds as may result.

R. K. Harrison

See also Israel

Bibliography . G. Bush, Notes on Genesis  ; D. Kidner, Genesis  ; K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament  ; F. B. Meyer, Abraham: The Obedience of Faith  ; C. F. Pfeiffer, The Patriarchal Age  ; A. R. Millard and D. J. Wiseman, Essays on the Patriarchal Narratives .

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [5]

ABRAHAM . Abram and Abraham are the two forms in which the name of the first patriarch was handed down in Hebrew tradition. The change of name recorded in   Genesis 17:5 (P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] ) is a harmonistic theory, which involves an impossible etymology, and cannot be regarded as historical. Of Abraham no better explanation has been suggested than that it is possibly a dialectic or orthographic variation of Abram , which in the fuller forms Abirâm and Aburamu is found as a personal name both in Heb. and Babylonian. The history of Abraham (  Genesis 11:27 to   Genesis 25:18 ) consists of a number of legendary narratives, which have been somewhat loosely strung together into a semblance of biographical continuity. These narratives (with the exception of ch. 14, which is assigned to a special source) are apportioned by critics to the three main documents of Genesis, J [Note: Jahwist.] , E [Note: Elohist.] , and P [Note: Priestly Narrative.]; and the analysis shows that the biographic arrangement is not due solely to the compiler of the Pent., but existed in the separate sources. In them we can recognize, amidst much diversity, the outlines of a fairly solid and consistent tradition, which may be assumed to have taken shape at different centres, such as the sanctuaries of Hebron and Beersheba.

1 . The account of J [Note: Jahwist.] opens with the Divine call to Abraham, in obedience to which he separates himself from his kindred and migrates to Canaan (  Genesis 12:1-8 ).

In the proper Jahwistic tradition the starting-point of the Exodus was Harran in Mesopotamia, but in  Genesis 11:28 ff. (cf.   Genesis 15:7 ) we find combined with this another view, according to which Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldees in S. Babylonia. In passing we may note the remarkable fact that both traditions alike connect the patriarch with famous centres of Babylonian moon-worship.

Arrived in Canaan, Abraham builds altars at Shechem, where he receives the first promise of the land, and Bethel, where the separation from Lot takes place; after which Abraham resumes his southern journey and takes up his abode at Hebron (ch. 13). This connexion is broken in  Genesis 12:10-20 by the episode of Abraham’s sojourn in Egypt, which probably belongs to an older stratum of Jahwistic tradition representing him as leading a nomadic life in the Negeb. To the same cycle we may assign the story of Hagar’s flight and the prophecy regarding Ishmael, in ch. 16; here, too, the home of Abraham is apparently located in the Negeb. In ch. 18 we find Abraham at Hebron, where in a theophany he receives the promise of a son to be born to Sarah, and also an intimation of the doom impending over the guilty cities of the Plain. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the deliverance of Lot, are graphically described in ch. 19, which closes with an account of the shameful origins of Moab and Ammon. Passing over some fragmentary notices in ch. 21, which have been amalgamated with the fuller narrative of E [Note: Elohist.] , we come to the last scene of J [Note: Jahwist.] ’s record, the mission of Abraham’s servant to seek a bride for Isaac, told with such dramatic power in ch. 24. It would seem that the death of Abraham, of which J [Note: Jahwist.] ’s account has nowhere been preserved, must have taken place before the servant returned. A note is appended in   Genesis 25:1 ff. as to the descent of 16 Arabian tribes from Abraham and Keturah.

2 . Of E [Note: Elohist.] ’s narrative the first traces appear in ch. 15, a composite and difficult chapter, whose kernel probably belongs rather to this document than to J [Note: Jahwist.] . In its present form it narrates the renewal to Abraham of the two great promises on which his faith rested the promise of a seed and of the land of Canaan and the confirmation of the latter by an impressive ceremony in which God entered into a covenant with the patriarch. The main body of Elohistic tradition, however. Is found in chs. 20 22. We have here a notice of Abraham’s arrival in the Negeb, followed by a sojourn in Gerar, where Sarah’s honour is compromised by the deliberate concealment of the fact that she is married (ch. 20) a variant form of the Jahwistic legend of   Genesis 12:10-20 . The expulsion of Hagar, recorded in   Genesis 21:9-21 , is an equally obvious parallel to J [Note: Jahwist.] ’s account of the flight of Hagar in ch. 16, although in E [Note: Elohist.] the incident follows, while in J [Note: Jahwist.] it precedes, the births of both Ishmael and Isaac. The latter part of ch. 21 is occupied with the narrative of Abraham’s adventures in the Negeb especially his covenant with Abimelech of Gerar which leads up to the consecration of the sanctuary of Beersheba to the worship of Jahweh. Here the narrative has been supplemented by extracts from a Jahwistic recension of the same tradition. To E [Note: Elohist.] , finally, we are indebted for the fascinating story of the sacrifice of Isaac in ch. 22, which may be fairly described as the gem of this collection.

3 . In P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] , the biography of Abraham is mostly reduced to a chronological epitome, based on the narrative of J [Note: Jahwist.] , and supplying some gaps left by the compiler in the older document. There are just two places where the meagre chronicle expands into elaborately circumstantial description. The first is the account, in ch. 17, of the institution of circumcision as the sign of the covenant between God and Abraham, round which are gathered all the promises which in the earlier documents are connected with various experiences in the patriarch’s life. The second incident is the purchase of the cave of Machpelah after the death of Sarah, recorded at great length in ch. 23: this is peculiar to P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] , and was evidently of importance to that writer as a guarantee of Israel’s perpetual tenure of the land of Canaan.

4 . Such is, in outline, the history of Abraham as transmitted through the recognized literary channels of the national tradition. We have yet to mention an episode, concerning which there is great diversity of opinion, the story of Abraham’s victory over the four kings, and his interview with Melchizedek, in ch. 14. It is maintained by some that this chapter hears internal marks of authenticity not possessed by the rest of the Abrahamic tradition, and affords a firm foothold for the belief that Abraham is a historic personage of the 3rd millennium b.c., contemporary with Hammurabi (Amraphel?) of Babylon ( c [Note: circa, about.] . 2300). Others take a diametrically opposite view, holding that it is a late Jewish romance, founded on imperfectly understood data derived from cuneiform sources. The arguments on either side cannot he given here; it must suffice to remark that, even if convincing proof of the historicity of ch. 14 could be produced, it would still he a question whether that judgment could be extended to the very different material of the undisputed Hebrew tradition. It is much more important to inquire what is the historical value of the tradition which lies immediately behind the more popular narratives in which the religious significance of Abraham’s character is expressed. That these are history in the strict sense of the word is a proposition to which no competent scholar would assent. They are legends which had circulated orally for an indefinite time, and had assumed varied forms, before they were collected and reduced to writing. The only question of practical moment is whether the legends have clustered round the name of a historic personality, the leader of an immigration of Aramæan tribes into Palestine, and at the same time the recipient of a new revelation of God which prepared the way for the unique religious history and mission of Israel. It cannot be said that this view of Abraham has as yet obtained any direct confirmation from discoveries in Assyriology or archæology, though it is perhaps true that recent developments of these sciences render the conception more intelligible than it formerly was. And there is nothing, either in the tradition itself or in our knowledge of the background against which it is set, that is inconsistent with the supposition that to the extent just indicated the figure of Abraham is historical. If it be the essence of legend, as distinct from myth, that it originates in the impression made by a commanding personality on his contemporaries, we may well believe that the story of Abraham, bearing as it does the stamp of ethical character and individuality, is a true legend, and therefore has grown up around some nucleus of historic fact.

5 . From the religious point of view, the life of Abraham has a surprising inner unity as a record of the progressive trial and strengthening of faith. It is a life of unclouded earthly prosperity, broken by no reverse of fortune; yet it is rooted in fellowship with the unseen. ‘He goes through life,’ it has been well said, ‘listening for the true tôrâ , which is not shut up in formal precepts, but revealed from time to time to the conscience; and this leaning upon God’s word is declared to be in Jahweh’s sight a proof of genuine righteousness.’ He is the Father of the faithful, and the Friend of God. And that inward attitude of spirit is reflected in a character of singular loftiness and magnanimity, an unworldly and disinterested disposition which reveals no moral struggle, but is nevertheless the fruit of habitual converse with God. The few narratives which present the patriarch in a less admirable light only throw into bolder relief those ideal features of character in virtue of which Abraham stands in the pages of Scripture as one of the noblest types of Hebrew piety.

J. Skinner.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [6]

 Genesis 11:27 Acts 7:2-4 Genesis 12 Genesis 12:1,2 Hebrews 11:8

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 ( Genesis 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. ( Genesis 12:2,3,7 ). 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 ( Genesis 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 ( Genesis 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" ( Genesis 12:8;  13:2 . Compare  Psalm 105:13,14 ). 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. (Compare 1Corinthians 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" ( Genesis 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 ( Genesis 14:18-20 ).

In a recently-discovered tablet, dated in the reign of the grandfather of Amraphel ( Genesis 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 ( Genesis 13:14 ). "The word of the Lord" (an expression occurring here for the first time) "came to him" (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 ( Genesis 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 ( Genesis 17:4,5 ), 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 ( Genesis 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" ( Genesis 19:1-28 ).

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 ( Genesis 20 ). (See  Genesis 21:12 ). (See Hagar; Ishmael .)

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 ( Hebrews 11:17-19 ). 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 ( Genesis 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 ( Genesis 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 ( Genesis 11:31 ). The result was that Rebekah, the daughter of Nahor's son Bethuel, became the wife of Isaac ( Genesis 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" ( Judges 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 ( Genesis 25:7-10 ).

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" ( James 2:23 ), "faithful Abraham" ( Galatians 3:9 ), "the father of us all" ( Romans 4:16 ).

Morrish Bible Dictionary [7]

Son of Terah and grandson of Nahor, the seventh descendant from Shem. His name was at first ABRAM, 'father of elevation;' but was altered by God into ABRAHAM, 'father of a multitude.' In this name (Abraham) the blessing of the Gentiles is secured by God. The family dwelt in Ur of the Chaldees, and were idolaters.  Joshua 24:2 . Abraham was the first to receive a definite call from God to leave not only the idolatrous nation to which his ancestors belonged, but to leave his kindred and his father's house and to go into a land that God would show him. God would bless him and make him a blessing, and bless all who blessed him and would curse all who cursed him.   Genesis 12:1-3 . He thus became the depositary of God's promise and blessing. Abraham at first only partially obeyed the call: he left Ur and went to dwell at Haran, in Mesopotamia (Charran in  Acts 7:4 ), but with his father and kindred; and did not enter Canaan until the death of his father. When in the land God promised that unto his seed He would give the land. Abraham built an altar, and called upon the name of Jehovah. A famine occurring in the land Abraham went to sojourn in Egypt, and for want of faith he called Saraihis sister and she was taken into the house of Pharaoh, but the Lord protected her, and Abraham with his wife was sent away with a rebuke. When near Bethel he could again call on the name of the Lord. He had now become so rich in cattle that disputes arose between his herdsmen and those of Lot, and Abraham asked Lot to choose where he would sojourn, if he went to the right Abraham would go to the left; and they separated. Again Jehovah declared that as far as Abraham's eye could reach in all directions the land should belong to his seed. The next recorded event is that Lot was taken prisoner and carried to the north. Abraham pursued the enemy and recovered all. He refused to take even a thread of the spoil from the king of Sodom: he would not be made rich from such a source; but he was blessed by Melchisedec, king of Salem, the priest of the most high God, who brought forth bread and wine: to whom Abraham gave tenths of all. See Melchisedec God now revealed Himself to Abraham as His shield and exceeding great reward.

When Abraham lamented to God that he had no son, God declared that he should have a son, and that his seed should be as the stars of the heaven for multitude. Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. This is the first time that faith is spoken of. Still he asked whereby should he know that his seed should possess the land, and was told to take a heifer, a she goat, and a ram, all of three years old, a turtle dove and a young pigeon. These he divided in the midst, except the birds, and laid them one against another. When the sun went down a smoking furnace and a burning lamp passed between the pieces: type of the fire that consumes the dross, and a light for the path. The same day God made a covenant with Abraham that to his seed should the land be given from the river of Egypt to the great river Euphrates : cf.  Jeremiah 34:18,19 : it had been ratified in death, a type of Christ. When Abraham had fallen into a deep sleep, he was informed that his seed should be in a strange land, and be afflicted 400 years.  Genesis 15 See Israel In Egypt

Abraham had believed that God would give him a son, but now he waits not God's time, and at Sarai's suggestion he associates with Hagar, a bondmaid, and Ishmael is born,  Genesis 16 . — a figure of the law, that is, man's attempt to possess the blessing by his own effort.

God now reveals Himself to Abraham as 'the almighty God,' a name which signifies that all resource is in God Himself. 'God talked with him,' and made a covenant with him according to that name. It is now that his name is changed from Abram, because he was to be a father of many nations. Abraham was to walk before the Almighty God and be perfect, and was to keep the covenant by having all the males circumcised (a figure of no confidence in the flesh), which he at once put into practice. Sarai's s name was altered to Sarah, for she was to be a princess and should have a son.

Abraham entertained three visitors: on two leaving him the third is spoken of as the Lord who asks, "shall I hide from Abraham the thing which I do?" According to  John 15:14,15 , this gives the key to Abraham being called "the friend of God."  2 Chronicles 20:7;  Isaiah 41:8;  James 2:23 . God opened His mind to him, and Abraham was emboldened to plead for the righteous in Sodom.

Abraham's faith again fails him and at Gerar he once more calls Sarah his sister, which might have led to sin had not God protected her, and Abraham is again rebuked.

Isaac is born, and conflict ensues between that which is a type of the flesh and the Spirit: Hagar and her son Ishmael are cast out.  Genesis 21 : cf.  Galatians 4:22-31 . God then tried the faith of Abraham by telling him to offer up his son Isaac for a burnt offering. Abraham obeyed, and, but for the intervention of the angel of the Lord, would have killed his son, believing "that God was able to raise him up even from the dead." After the death and resurrection in figure of Isaac, the unconditional promise is confirmed to Abraham that in his seed — which is Christ — should all the nations of the earth be blessed.  Genesis 22:18;  Galatians 3:14-18 . If any are Christ's, they are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to promise.  Galatians 3:29 . The promise is sure to all the seed, "not only to that which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all."  Romans 4:16 .

Abraham was by faith so much a stranger ( Hebrews 11:9 ) that, on the death of Sarah, he had to buy a piece of ground of the children of Heth, to secure a sepulchre in the land.  Genesis 23 . He was so careful that Isaac should not marry one of the daughters of the Canaanites that he sent his servant (Eliezer perhaps) to his own kindred to seek a bride for Isaac, being convinced that God would send His angel and prosper the mission, which resulted in Rebecca being the wife of Isaac.  Genesis 24 .

Abraham had another wife, Keturah, and concubines by whom he had sons; but to these he gave gifts and sent them eastward, so that Isaac and his seed might peacefully dwell in the promised land. Abraham died at the age of 175, and was buried with Sarah.

The history of Abraham in Genesis divides itself into three parts. a.   Genesis 12 - 14., his public walk and testimony as called of God. b.   Genesis 15 - 21., his private and domestic history with God, illustrating the growth of soul, etc. c.  Genesis 22 - 25. give in type a prophetical outline of events: namely, the sacrifice of Christ; the setting aside of Israel for a time; the call of the bride; and the final settlement of the nations in blessing in the end of the days.

The nation of Israel was descended from Abraham, and we know how zealously they contended for the relationship, though alas, they had not and have not the same faith. Still the land was given to them, and when God's set time comes they will surely be brought back to their 'fatherland' and after trial and discipline will be blessed therein.

Abraham being the father of Ishmael and the other sons sent into the East it is not to be wondered at that he is a personage of universal fame in that immense quarter of the world, and that there are numerous traditions concerning him. It can hardly be doubted that their relationship to Abraham will yet be found in their favour during the millennium when the promise that his seed should be 'as the sand of the sea shore' will have its fulfilment.

To the Christian the life of this patriarch is worthy of the deepest attention, in view of the varied manifestations whereby God revealed Himself to him, whether in the formation of his character under those manifestations, or in the Christian's connections with him in the way of faith, or with respect to the unconditional promises made to him as to the possession of the land of Palestine both in the past and in the future.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [8]

A'braham. (Father Of A Multitude). Abraham was the son of Terah, and founder of the great Hebrew nation. (B.C. 1996-1822). His family, a branch of the descendants of Shem, was settled in Ur of the Chaldees, beyond the Euphrates, where Abraham was born. Terah had two other sons, Nahor and Haran. Haran died before his father in Ur of the Chaldees, leaving a son, Lot; and Terah, taking with him Abram, with Sarai his wife and his grandson Lot, emigrated to Haran in Mesopotamia, where he died.

On the death of his father, Abram, then in the 75th year of his age, with Sarai and Lot, pursued his course to the land of Canaan, whither he was directed by divine command,  Genesis 12:5, when he received the general promise that he should become the founder of a great nation, and that all the families of the earth should be blessed in him. He passed through the heart of the country by the great highway to Shechem, and pitched his tent beneath the terebinth of Moreh.  Genesis 12:6. Here he received in vision from Jehovah the further revelation that this was the land which his descendants should inherit.  Genesis 12:7.

The next halting-place of the wanderer was on a mountain between Bethel and Ai,  Genesis 12:8, but the country was suffering from famine, and Abram journeyed still southward to the rich corn lands of Egypt. There, fearing that the great beauty of Sarai might tempt the powerful monarch of Egypt and expose his own life to peril, he arranged that Sarai should represent herself as his sister, which her actual relationship to him, as probably the daughter of his brother Haran, allowed her to do with some semblance of truth. But her beauty was reported to the king, and she was taken into the royal harem. The deception was discovered, and Pharaoh with some indignation dismissed Abram from the country.  Genesis 12:10-20.

He left Egypt with great possessions, and, accompanied by Lot, returned by the south of Palestine to his former encampment between Bethel and Ai. The increased wealth of the two kinsmen was the ultimate cause of their separation. Lot chose the fertile plain of the Jordan near Sodom, while Abram pitched his tent among the groves of Mamre, close to Hebron.  Genesis 13:1.

Lot with his family and possessions having been carried away captive by Chedorlaomer king of Elam, who had invaded Sodom, Abram pursued the conquerors and utterly routed them not far from Damascus. The captives and plunder were all recovered, and Abram was greeted on his return by the king of Sodom, and by Melchizedek king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who mysteriously appears upon the scene to bless the patriarch and receive from him a tenth of the spoil.  Genesis 14:1.

After this, the thrice-repeated promise that his descendants should become a mighty nation and possess the land in which he was a stranger was confirmed with all the solemnity of a religious ceremony.  Genesis 15:1. Ten years had passed since he had left his father's house, and the fulfillment of the promise was apparently more distant than at first. At the suggestion of Sarai, who despaired of having children of her own, he took as his concubine Hagar, her Egyptian main, who bore him Ishmael in the 86th year of his age.  Genesis 16:1. See Hagar; Ishmael .

But this was not the accomplishment of the promise. Thirteen years elapsed, during which Abram still dwelt in Hebron, when the covenant was renewed, and the rite of circumcision established as its sign. This most important crisis in Abram's life, when he was 99 years old, is marked by the significant change of his name to Abraham, "father of a multitude;" while his wife's from Sarai became Sarah.

The promise that Sarah should have a son was repeated in the remarkable scene described in Genesis 18. Three men stood before Abraham as he sat in his tent door in the heat of the day. The patriarch, with true Eastern hospitality, welcomed the strangers, and bade them rest and refresh themselves. The meal ended, they foretold the birth of Isaac, and went on their way to Sodom. Abraham accompanied them, and is represented as an interlocutor in a dialogue with Jehovah , in which he pleaded in vain to avert the vengeance threatened to the devoted cities of the plain.  Genesis 18:17-33.

In remarkable contrast with Abraham's firm faith with regard to the magnificent fortunes of his posterity stand the incident which occurred during his temporary residence among the Philistines in Gerar, whither he had for some cause removed after the destruction of Sodom. It was almost a repetition of what took place in Egypt a few years before. At length Isaac, the long-looked for child, was born. Sarah's jealousy aroused by the mockery of Ishmael at the "great banquet" which Abram made to celebrate the weaning of her son,  Genesis 21:9 demanded that, with his mother Hagar, he should be driven out.  Genesis 21:10.

But the severest trial of his faith was yet to come. For a long period the history is almost silent. At length he receives the strange command to take Isaac, his only son, and offer him for a Burnt Offering at an appointed place Abraham hesitated not to obey. His faith, hitherto unshaken, supported him in this final trial, "accounting that God was able to raise up his son, even from the dead, from whence also he received him in a figure."  Hebrews 11:19. The sacrifice was stayed by the angel of Jehovah , the promise of spiritual blessing made for the first time, and Abraham with his son returned to Beersheba, and for a time dwelt there.  Genesis 22:1.

But we find him after a few years in his original residence at Hebron, for there Sarah died,  Genesis 23:2, and was buried in the cave of Machpelah. The remaining years of Abraham's life are marked by but few incidents. After Isaac's marriage with Rebekah and his removal to Lahai-roi, Abraham took to wife Keturah, by whom he had six children, Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbok and Shuah, who became the ancestors of nomadic tribes inhabiting the countries south and southeast of Palestine.

Abraham lived to see the gradual accomplishment of the promise in the birth of his grandchildren Jacob and Esau, and witnessed their growth to manhood.  Genesis 25:26. At the goodly age of 175, he was "gathered to his people," and laid beside Sarah in the tomb of Machpelah by his sons Isaac and Ishmael.  Genesis 25:7-10.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [9]

Father of a multitude,  Genesis 17:4,5; the great founder of the Jewish nation. He was a son of Terah, a descendant of Shem, and born in Ur, a city of Chaldea, A.M. 2008, B. C. 1996,  Genesis 11:27,28 . Here he lived seventy years, when at the call of God he left his idolatrous kindred, and removed to Haran, in Mesopotamia,  Acts 7:2-4 , accompanied by his father, his wife Sarai, his brother Nahor, and his nephew Lot. A few years after, having buried his father, he again removed at the call of God, with his wife and nephew, and entered the land of promise as a nomad or wandering shepherd. Sojourning for a time at Shechem, he built here, as was his custom, an alter to the Lord, who appeared to him, and promised that land to his seed. Removing from place to place for convenience of water and pasturage, he was at length driven by a famine into Egypt, where he dissembled in calling his wife his sister,  Genesis 12:1 -  20 . Returning to Canaan rich in flocks and herds, he left Lot to dwell in the fertile valley of the lower Jordan, and pitched his own tents in Mamre,  Genesis 13:1-18 . A few years after, he rescued Lot and his friends from captivity, and received the blessing of Melchizedek,  Genesis 14:1-24 . Again God appeared to him, promised that his seed should be like the stars for number, and foretold their oppression in Egypt 400 years, and their return to possess the promised land,  Genesis 15:1-21 . But the promise of a son being yet unfulfilled, Sarai gave him Hagar her maid for a secondary wife, of whom Ishmael was born,  Genesis 16:1-16 . After thirteen years, God again appeared to him, and assured him that the heir of the promise should yet be born of his wife, whose name was then changed to Sarah. He established also the covenant of circumcision,  Genesis 17:1-27 . Here, too, occurred the visit of the three angels, and the memorable intercession with the Angel-Jehovah for the inhabitants of Sodom,  Genesis 18:1-33 . After this, Abraham journeyed south to Gerah, where he again called Sarah his sister. In this region Isaac was born; and soon after, Hagar and Ishmael were driven out to seek a new home,  Genesis 21:1-34 . About twenty-five years after, God put to trial the faith of Abraham, by commanding him to sacrifice Isaac, his son and the heir of the promise, upon Mount Moriah,  Genesis 22:1-24 . Twelve years after, Sarah died, and the cave of Machpelag was bought for a burial- place,  Genesis 23:1-20 . Abraham sent his steward, and obtained a wife for Isaac from his pious kindred in Mesopotamia,  Genesis 24:1-67 . He himself also married Keturah, and had six sons, each one the founder of a distinct people in Arabia. At the age of 175, full of years and honors, he died, and was buried by his sons in the same tomb with Sarah,  Genesis 25:1-34 .

The character of Abraham is one of the most remarkable in Scripture. He was a genuine oriental patriarch, a prince in the land; his property was large, his retinue very numerous, and he commanded the respect of the neighboring people: and yet he was truly a stranger and a pilgrim, the only land he possessed being the burial-place he had purchased. Distinguished by his integrity, generosity, and hospitality, he was most of all remarkable for his simple and unwavering faith, a faith that obeyed without hesitation or delay, and recoiled not from the most fearful trial ever imposed upon man, so that he is justly styled "the father of the faithful," that is, of believers. No name in history is venerated by so large a portion of the human race, Mohammedans as well as Jews and Christians. As the ancestor of Christ, in whom all the nations are blessed, and as the father of all believers, the covenant is abundantly fulfilled to him: his seed are as the stars of heaven and with them he shall inherit the heavenly Canaan.

Holman Bible Dictionary [10]

 Genesis 11:27 Genesis 17:5

Terah, his father, moved to Haran with the family ( Genesis 11:31 ) and after some years died there. God called Abram to migrate to Canaan, assuring him that he would father a vast nation. At different times he lived in Shechem, Bethel, Hebron, and Beer-sheba. His wife Sarai's beauty attracted the pharaoh when they moved to Egypt during a famine ( Genesis 12:10 ), but God intervened to save her. The trouble arose partly because Abram had claimed her as his sister rather than his wife, and in fact she was his half-sister ( Genesis 20:12 ). After returning to Palestine, Abram received further covenantal assurances from God ( Genesis 15:1 ). He decided he could produce offspring by taking Sarai's handmaid Hagar as a concubine. Though the union produced a son, Ishmael, he was not destined to become Abram's promised heir. Even after another covenantal assurance ( Genesis 17:1-21 ) in which the rite of circumcision was made a covenantal sign, Abram and Sarai still questioned God's promise of an heir.

Then Sarai, whose name had been changed to Sarah (“princess”), had her long-promised son, Isaac (“laughter”), when Abraham was 100 years old. Ishmael's presence caused trouble in the family, and he was expelled with his mother Hagar to the wilderness of Paran. Abraham's faith and obedience were tested by God in Moriah when he was commanded to sacrifice Isaac. God provided an alternative sacrifice, however, saving the boy's life. As a reward for Abraham's faithfulness, God renewed the covenant promises of great blessing and the growth of a mighty nation to father and son.

Subsequently, Sarah died and was buried in the cave of Machpelah ( Genesis 23:19 ), after which Abraham sought a bride for Isaac. A woman named Rebekah was obtained from Abraham's relatives in Mesopotamia, and Isaac married her gladly ( Genesis 24:67 ). In old age Abraham remarried and had further children, finally dying aged 175 years. Abraham recognized God as the almighty Lord of all and the Author of a covenant by which the Hebrews would become a mighty nation. God Himself was known subsequently as the God of Abraham ( Exodus 3:6 ). Through him God had revealed His plan for human salvation ( Exodus 2:24 ). The promises to Abraham became assurance for future generations ( Exodus 32:13;  Exodus 33:1 ). Abraham became known as “God's friend forever” ( 2 Chronicles 20:7 ).

John showed that descent from Abraham did not guarantee salvation ( Matthew 3:9 ). See  Romans 9:1 . Indeed, foreigners would join him in the kingdom ( Matthew 8:11 ). Compare  Luke 16:23-30 . Lost sons of Abraham, Jesus invited to salvation ( Luke 19:9 ). True children of Abraham do the works of Abraham ( John 8:39 ).

For Paul Abraham was the great example of faith ( Romans 4:1;  Galatians 3:1 ). In Hebrews Abraham provided the model for tithing ( Hebrews 7:1 ) and played a prominent role in the roll call of faith ( Hebrews 11:1 ). James used Abraham to show that justification by faith is proved in works ( James 3:21-24 ).

R. K. Harrison

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [11]

 Genesis 24:2 (c) In this passage Abraham is a type of the Father who sent His servant (the Spirit) to obtain a bride (Rebecca) for his son Isaac. The servant represents the Holy Spirit, and Isaac represents the Lord Jesus Christ Of course, Abraham represents GOD the Father. Rebecca. represents the Church. The Holy Spirit knocks at the heart's door, tells of the loveliness, the riches and the glory of the Son of GOD, and thus wins the stranger and makes him willing to leave his old haunts and companions to live for and with Jesus Christ the Son.

 Romans 4:3 (c) He is a type of the true believer from the standpoint of "faith."

  • He was called out of idolatry by GOD, and so are we.
  • He took the path of separation, and so should we.
  • He obeyed GOD, and walked in a path of obedience, as we should do.
  • He believed GOD about the "seed" (CHRIST), so do we.
  • He was made righteous through believing in Christ So are we.

GOD revealed His secrets to Abraham, the man of faith, and so He does today to those who believe His Word.

Abraham was the father of the faithful, and we too who believe GOD should have spiritual children who have faith as we have.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [12]

See Abram

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [13]

(Heb. Abraham', אִבְרָהָם , Father Of A Multitude; Sept. and N.T. Ἀβραάμ , Josephus, ῎Αβραμος ), the founder of the Hebrew nation. Up to  Genesis 17:4-5 (also in  1 Chronicles 1:27;  Nehemiah 9:7), he is uniformly called ABRAM (See Abram) (Heb. Abram', אִבְרָם , Father Of Elevation, or High Father; Sept. ῎Αβραμ ); but the extended form there, given to it is significant of the promise of a numerous posterity which was at the same time made to him. See Infra.

History. Abraham was a native of Chaldaea, and descended, through Heber, in the ninth generation, from Shem the son of Noah (see F. Lee, Dissertations, 2, 78 sq.). His father was Terah, who had two other sons, Nahor and Haran. Haran died prematurely "before his father," leaving a son, Lot, and two daughters, Milcah and Iscah. Lot attached himself to his uncle Abraham; Milcah became the wife of her uncle Nahor; and Iscah, who was also called Sarai, became the wife of Abraham ( Genesis 11:26-29; comp. Josephus, Ant. 1:6, 5). (See Iscah). Abraham was born A.M. 2009, B.C. 2164, in "Ur of the Chaldees" ( Genesis 11:28). The concise history in Genesis states nothing concerning the portion of his life prior to the age of about 70. There are indeed traditions, but they are too manifestly Built Up on the foundation of a few obscure intimations in Scripture to be entitled to any credit (see Weil's Biblical Legends). Thus it is intimated in  Joshua 24:2, that Terah and his family "served other gods" beyond the Euphrates; and on this has been found the romance that Terah was not only a worshipper, but a maker of idols; that the youthful Abraham, discovering the futility of such gods, destroyed all those his father had made, and justified the act in various conversations and arguments with Terah, which we find repeated at length. Again, "Ur of the Chaldees" was the name of the place where Abraham was born, and from which he went forth to go, he knew not whither, at the call of God. Now Ur ( ץוּר ) means Fire; and we may therefore read that he came forth from The fire of the Chaldees, on which has been built the story that Abraham was, for his disbelief in the established idols, cast by king Nimrod into a burning furnace, from which he was by special miracle delivered. And to this the premature death of Haran has suggested the addition that he, by way of punishment for his disbelief of the truths for which Abraham suffered, was marvellously destroyed by the same fire from which his brother was still more marvellously preserved. Again, the fact that Chaldaea was the region in which astronomy was reputed to have been first cultivated, suggested that Abraham brought astronomy westward, and that he even taught that science to the Egyptians (Josephus, Ant. 1, 8). It is just to Josephus to state that most of these stories are rejected by him, although the tone of some of his remarks is in agreement with them. Abraham is by way of eminence, named first, but it appears that he was not the oldest (nor probably the youngest, but rather the second) of Terah's sons, born (perhaps by a second wife) when his father was 130 years old (see N. Alexander, Hist. Eccles. 1, 287 sq.).

Terah was seventy years old when the eldest son was born ( Genesis 11:32;  Genesis 12:4;  Genesis 20:12; comp. Hales, 2, 107); and that eldest son appears to have been Haran, from the fact that his brothers married his daughters, and that his daughter Sarai was only ten years younger than his brother Abraham ( Genesis 17:17). Abraham must have been about 70 years old when the family quitted their native city of Ur, and went and abode in Charran (for he was 75 years old when he left Haran, and his stay there could not well have been longer than five years at most). The reason for this movement does not appear in the Old Testament. Josephus alleges that Terah could not bear to remain in the place where Haran had died (Ant. 1, 6, 5); while the apocryphal book of Judith, in conformity with the traditions still current among the Jews and Moslems, affirms that they were cast forth because they would no longer worship the gods of the land ( Judith 5:6-8). The real cause transpires in  Acts 7:2-4 : "The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was (at Ur of the Chaldees) in Mesopotamia, Before He Dwelt In Charran, and said unto him, Depart from Thy Land, and from thy kindred, and come hither to A Land which I will shew thee. Then departing from the land of the Chaldees, he dwelt in Charran." This first call is not recorded, but only implied in  Genesis 12:1-20; and it is distinguished by several pointed circumstances from the second, which alone is there mentioned. Accordingly Abraham departed, and his family, including his aged father, removed with him. They proceeded not at once to the land of Canaan, which, indeed, had not been yet indicated to Abraham as his destination,; but the came to Haran, and tarried at that convenient station for five current years, until Terah died, at the age of 205 years. Being free from his filial duties, Abraham, now 75 years of age, received a second and more pointed call to pursue his destination: "Depart from thy land and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto the land which I will shew thee" ( Genesis 12:1). The difference of the two calls is obvious; in the former the Land is indefinite, being designed only for a temporary residence; in the latter it is definite, intimating a permanent abode. A third condition was also annexed to the latter call, that he should separate from his father's house, and leave his brother Nahor's family behind him in Charran. He, however, took with him his nephew Lot, whom, having no children of his own, he appears to have regarded as his heir, and then went forth, "not knowing whither he went" ( Hebrews 11:8), but trusting implicitly to the Divine guidance. (See Philo, Opera, 1, 436; 2, 43; Saurin, Discours, 1, 161; Dissert. p. 92; Simeon, Works, 1, 100; Roberts, Sermons, p. 52; Hunter, Sac. Biog. p. 55 sq.). See UR; HARAN.

Abraham probably took the same route as Jacob afterward, along the valley of the Jabbok, to the land of Canaan, which he found thinly occupied by the Canaanites, in a large number of small independent communities, who cultivated the districts around their several towns, leaving ample pasture-grounds for wandering shepherds. In Mesopotamia the family had been pastoral, but dwelling in towns and houses, and sending out the flocks and herds under the care of shepherds. But the migratory life to which Abraham had now been called compelled him to take to the tent-dwelling as well as the pastoral life; and the usages which his subsequent history indicates are therefore found to present a condition of manners and habits analogous to that which still exists among the nomade pastoral or Bedouin tribes of south-western Asia. The rich pastures in that part of the country tempted Abraham to form his first encampment in the vale of Moreh, which lies between the mountains of Ebal and Gerizim. Here the stronger faith which had brought the childless man thus far from his home was rewarded by the grand promise: "I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee and make thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing; and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed" ( Genesis 12:2-3).

It was further promised that to his posterity should be given the rich heritage of that beautiful country into which he had come ( Genesis 12:7). It will be seen that this important promise consisted of two parts the one temporal, the other spiritual. The Temporal was the promise of posterity, that he should be blessed himself, and be the founder of a great nation; the Spiritual, that he should be the chosen ancestor of the Redeemer, who had been of old obscurely predicted ( Genesis 3:15), and thereby become the means of blessing all the families of the earth. The implied condition on his part was that he should publicly profess the worship of the true God in this more tolerant land; and, accordingly, "he built there an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him." He soon after, perhaps in consequence of the jealousy of the Canaanites, removed to the strong mountain-district between Bethel and Ai, where he also built an altar to that "JEHOVAH" whom the world was then hastening to forget. His farther removals tended southward, until at length a famine in Palestine compelled him to withdraw into Egypt, where corn abounded. Here his apprehension that the beauty of his wife Sarai might bring him into danger with the dusky Egyptians overcame his faith and rectitude, and he gave out that she was his sister (comp. Josephus, Ant. 1, 8, 1). As he had feared, the beauty of the fair stranger excited the admiration of the Egyptians, and at length reached the ears of the king, who forthwith exercised his regal right of calling her to his harem, and to this Abraham, appearing as only her brother, was obliged to submit (comp. Josephus, War, v, 9, 4). As, however, the king had no intention to act harshly in the exercise of his privilege, he loaded Abraham with valuable gifts, suited to his condition, being chiefly in slaves and cattle. These presents could not have been refused by him without an insult which, under all the circumstances, the king did not deserve. A grievous disease inflicted on Pharaoh and his household relieved Sarai from her danger by revealing to the king that she was a married woman; on which he sent for Abraham, and, after rebuking him for his conduct, restored his wife to him, and recommended him to withdraw from the country. The period of his stay in Egypt is not recorded, but it is from this time that his wealth and power appear to have begun ( Genesis 12:16). If the dominion of the Hyksos in Memphis is to be referred to this epoch, as seems not improbable, (See Egypt), then, since they were akin to the Hebrews, it is not impossible that Abram may have taken part in their war of conquest, and so have had another recommendation to the favor of Pharaoh. He accordingly returned to the land of Canaan, much richer than when he left it "in cattle, in silver, and in gold" ( Genesis 13:2). It was probably on his way back that his sojourn in the territories of Abimelech, king of Gerar, occurred. This period was one of growth in power and wealth, as the respect of Abimelech, and his alarm for the future, so natural in the chief of a race of conquering invaders, very clearly shows. Abram's settlement at Beersheba, on the borders of the desert, near the Amalekite plunderers, shows both that he needed room, and was able to protect himself and his flocks. It is true, the order of the narrative seems to place this event some twenty-three years later, after the destruction of Sodom; but Sarah's advanced age at that time precludes the possibility of her seizure by the Philistine king.

By a most extraordinary infatuation, Abraham allowed himself to stoop to the same mean and foolish prevarication in denying his wife which had just occasioned him so much trouble in Egypt. The result was also similar (See Abimelech), except that Abraham answered the rebuke of the Philistine by stating the fears by which he had been actuated, adding, "And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife." This mends the matter very little, since, in calling her his sister, he designed to be understood as saying she was not his wife. As he elsewhere calls Lot his "brother," this statement that Sarah was his "sister" does not interfere with the probability that she was his niece. The occurrence, however, broke up his encampment there, and expedited the return of the entire party northward. Lot also had much increased his possessions; and after their return to their previous station near Bethel, the disputes between their respective shepherds about water and pasturage soon taught them that they had better separate. The recent promise of posterity to Abraham himself, although his wife had been accounted barren, probably tended also in some degree to weaken the tie by which the uncle and nephew had hitherto been united. The subject was broached by Abraham, who generously conceded to Lot the choice of pasture-grounds. Lot chose the well-watered plain in which Sodom and ether towns were situated, and removed thither. (See Lot). Thus was accomplished the dissolution of a connection which had been formed before the promise of children was given, and the disruption of which appears to have been necessary for that complete isolation of the coming race which the Divine purpose required. Immediately afterward the patriarch was cheered and encouraged by a more distinct and formal reiteration of the promises which had been previously made to him of the occupation of the land in which he lived by a posterity numerous as the dust (see M. Weber, Proles Et Salus Abraham Promissa, Viteb. 1787). Not long after, he removed to the pleasant valley of Mamre, in the neighborhood of Hebron (then called Arba), situated in the direct line of communication with Egypt, and opening down to the wilderness and pasture-land of Beersheba, and pitched his tent under a terebinth-tree ( Genesis 13:1-18). This very position, so different from the mountain-fastness of Ai, marks the change in the numbers and powers of his clan.

It appears that fourteen years before this time the south and east of Palestine had been invaded by a king called Chedorlaomer, from beyond the Euphrates, who brought several of the small disunited states of those quarters under tribute (comp. Josephus, Ant. 1, 10, 1). Among them were the five cities of the plain of Sodom, to which Lot had withdrawn. This burden was borne impatiently by these states, and they at length withheld their tribute. This brought upon them a ravaging visitation from Chedorlaomer and four other (perhaps tributary) kings, who scoured the whole country east of the Jordan, and ended by defeating the kings of the plain, plundering their towns, and carrying the people away as slaves. Lot was among the sufferers. When this came to the ears of Abraham he immediately armed such of his slaves as were fit for war, in number 318, and being joined by the friendly Amoritish chiefs, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre, pursued the retiring invaders. They were overtaken near the springs of the Jordan; and their camp being attacked on opposite sides by night, they were thrown into disorder, and fled (see Thomson's Land and Book, 1, 320 sq.). Abraham and his men pursued them as far as the neighborhood of Damascus, and then returned with all the men and goods which had been taken away (comp. Buckingham, Mesop. 1, 274).

Although Abraham had no doubt been chiefly induced to undertake this exploit by his regard for Lot, it involved so large a benefit that, as the act of a sojourner, it must have tended greatly to enhance the character and power of the patriarch in the view of the inhabitants at large. When they had arrived as far as Salem on their return (see Thomson, 2, 211 sq.), the king of that place, Melchizedek, who was one of the few native princes, if not the only one, that retained the knowledge and worship of "the Most High God," whom Abraham served, came forth to meet them with refreshments, in acknowledgment for which, and in recognition of his character, Abraham presented him with a tenth of the spoils. By strict right, founded on the war usages which still subsist in Arabia (Burckhardt's Notes, p. 97), the recovered goods became the property of Abraham, and not of those to whom they originally belonged. This was acknowledged by the king of Sodom, who met the victors in the valley near Salem, He said, "Give me the persons, and keep the goods to thyself." But with becoming pride, and with a disinterestedness which in that country would now be most unusual in similar circumstances, he answered, "I have lifted up mine hand [i.e. I have sworn] unto Jehovah, the most high God, that I will not take from a thread even to a sandal-thong, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich" ( Genesis 14:1-24). The history of his attack on Chedorlaomer gives us a specimen of the view which would be taken of him by the external world. By the way in which it speaks of him as "Abram the Hebrew," it would seem to be an older document, a fragment of Canaanitish history preserved and sanctioned by Moses. The invasion was clearly another northern immigration or foray, for the chiefs or kings were of Shinar (Babylonia), Ellasar (Assyria?), Elam (Persia), etc.; that it was not the first is evident from the vassalage of the kings of the cities of the plain; and it extended (see  Genesis 14:5-7) far to the south, over a wide tract of country. The patriarch appears here as the head of a small confederacy of chiefs, powerful enough to venture on a long pursuit to the head of the valley of the Jordan, to attack with success a large force, and not only to rescue Lot, but to roll back for a time the stream of northern immigration. His high position is seen in the gratitude of the people, and the dignity with which he refuses the character of a hireling. That it did not elate him above measure is evident from his reverence to Melchizedek, in whom he recognised one whose call was equal and consecrated rank superior to his own. (See Melchizedek).

Soon after his return to Mamre the faith of Abraham was rewarded and encouraged, not only by a more distinct and detailed repetition of the promises formerly made to him, but by the confirmation of a solemn covenant contracted, as nearly as might be, "after the manner of men," between him and God. (See Covenant). It was now that he first understood that his promised posterity were to grow up into a nation under foreign bondage; and that, in 400 years after (or, strictly, 405 years, counting from the birth of Isaac to the exode), they should come forth from that bondage as a nation, to take possession of the land in which he sojourned ( Genesis 14:1-24). After ten years' residence in Canaan (B.C. 2078), Sarai being then 75 years old, and having long been accounted barren, chose to put her own interpretation upon the promised blessing of a progeny to Abraham, and persuaded him to take her woman-slave Hagar, an Egyptian, as a secondary, or concubine-wife, with the view that whatever child might proceed from this union should be accounted her own. (See Hagar).

The son who was born to Abraham by Hagar, and who received the name of Ishmael [ (See Ishmael) ], was accordingly brought up as the heir of his father and of the promises ( Genesis 16:1-16). Thirteen years after, when Abraham was 99 years old, he was favored with still more explicit declarations of the Divine purposes. He was reminded that the promise to him was that he should be the father of many nations; and to indicate this intention his name was now changed (see C. Iken, De mutatione nominum Abrahami et Sarce, in his Dissert. Philol. 1) from ABRAM to ABRAHAM (see Philo, Opp. 1, 588; comp. Alian. Var. Hist. 2, 32; Euseb. Proep. Ev. 11, 6; Ewald, Isr. Gesch. 1, 373; Lengerke, Ken. 1, 227). See NAME. The Divine Being then solemnly renewed the covenant to be a God to him and to the race that should spring from him; and in token of that covenant directed that he and his should receive in their flesh the sign of circumcision. (See Circumcision). Abundant blessings were promised to Ishmael; but it was then first announced, in distinct terms, that the heir of the special prom

ises was not yet born, and that the barren Sarai, then 90 years old, should twelve months thence be his mother. Then also her name was changed from Sarai to Sarah (Princess); and, to commemorate the laughter with which the prostrate patriarch received such strange tidings, it was directed that the name of Isaac (laughter) should be given to the future child. The very same day, in obedience to the Divine ordinance, Abraham himself, his son Ishmael, and his house-born and purchased slaves, were all circumcised ( Genesis 17:1-27), spring, B.C. 2064. Three months after this, as Abraham sat in his tent door during the heat of the day, he saw three travelers approaching, and hastened to meet them, and hospitably pressed upon them refreshment and rest (Dreist, De tribus viris Abrahamo appar. Rost. 1707). They assented, and under the shade of a terebinth, or rather an oak (q.v.) tree, partook of the abundant fare which the patriarch and his wife provided, while Abraham himself stood by in respectful attendance, in accordance with Oriental customs (see Shaw, Trav. 1, 207; comp. Iliad, 9, 205 sq.; 24, 621; Odyss. 8, 59;  Judges 6:19).

From the manner in which one of the strangers spoke, Abraham soon gathered that his visitants were no other than the Lord himself and two attendant angels in human form (see J. E. Kiesseling, De Divinis Abrahami Hospitibus, Lips. 1748). The promise of a son by Sarah was renewed; and when Sarah herself, who overheard this within the tent, laughed inwardly at the tidings, which, on account of her great age, she at first disbelieved, she incurred the striking rebuke, "Is any thing too hard for Jehovah?" The strangers then addressed themselves to their journey, and Abraham walked some way with them. The two angels went forward in the direction of Sodom, while the Lord made known to him that, for their enormous iniquities, Sodom and the other "cities of the plain" were about to be made signal monuments of his wrath and of his moral government. Moved by compassion and by remembrance of Lot, the patriarch ventured, reverently but perseveringly, to intercede for the doomed Sodom; and at length obtained a promise that, if but ten righteous men were found therein, the whole city should be saved for their sake. Early the next morning Abraham arose to ascertain the result of this concession; and when he looked toward Sodom, the smoke of its destruction, rising "like the smoke of a furnace," made known to him its terrible overthrow ( Genesis 19:1-28). (See Sodom).

Tradition still points out the supposed site of this appearance of the Lord to Abraham. About a mile from Hebron is a beautiful and massive oak, which still bears Abraham's name (Thomson, Land And Book, 1, 375; 2, 414). The residence of the patriarch was called "the oaks (A. V. "plain") of Mamre" ( Genesis 13:18;  Genesis 18:1); but the exact spot is doubtful, since the tradition in the time of Josephus (War, 4, 9, 7) was attached to a terebinth. (See Mamre). This latter tree no longer remains; but there is no doubt that it stood within the ancient inclosure, which is still called "Abraham's House." A fair was held beneath it in the time of Constantine; and it remained to the time of Theodosius (Robinson, 2, 443; Stanley, Palestine, p. 142). The same year Sarah gave birth to the long-promised son, and, according to previous direction, the name of Isaac was given to him. (See Isaac).

This greatly altered the position of Ishmael, who had hitherto appeared as the heir both of the temporal and the spiritual heritage; whereas he had now to share the former, and could not but know that the latter was limited to Isaac. This appears to have created much ill-feeling both on his part and that of his mother toward the child; which was in some way manifested so pointedly, on occasion of the festivities which attended the weaning, that the wrath of Sarah was awakened, and she insisted that both Hagar and her son should be sent away. This was a very hard matter to a loving father; and Abraham was so much pained that he would probably have refused compliance with Sarah's wish, had he not been apprised in a dream that it was in accordance with the Divine intentions respecting both Ishmael and Isaac. With his habitual uncompromising obedience, he then hastened them away early in the morning, with provision for the journey ( Genesis 21:1-21), B.C. 2061. (See Kitto's Daily Bible Illust. in loc.) (See Hagar).

Again for a long period (25 years, Josephus, Ant. 1, 13, 2) the history is silent; but, when Isaac was nearly grown up (B.C. cir. 2047), it pleased God to subject the faith of Abraham to a most severe trial (see H. Benzenberg, Noch mehr Recensionen, Leipz. 1791, No. 5). He was commanded to go into the mountainous country of Moriah (probably where the temple afterward stood) [see MORIAH], and there offer up in sacrifice the son of his affection, and the heir of so many hopes and promises, which his death must nullify. (See Hufnagel, Christenth. Auf klar. 1, 7, 592 sq.; J. G. Greneri, Comment. Miscel. Syntag. Oldenb. 1794; Zeitschr. fur Phil. u. kath. Theol. 20.) It is probable that human sacrifices already existed; and as, when they did exist, the offering of an only or beloved child was considered the most meritorious, it may have seemed reasonable to Abraham that he should not withhold from his own God the costly sacrifice which the heathen offered to their idols (comp. Hygin. Fab. 98; Tzetzes in Lycophr. 40, ed. Canter.; see Apollodor. Bibl. 1, 9, 1; Euseb. Praep. Ev. 1, 10, p. 40). The trial and peculiar difficulty lay in the singular position of Isaac, and in the unlikelihood that his loss could be supplied. But Abraham's faith shrunk not, assured that what God had promised he would certainly perform, and "that he was able to restore Isaac to him even from the dead" ( Hebrews 11:17-19), and he rendered a ready, however painful, obedience. Assisted by two of his servants, he prepared wood suitable for the purpose, and without delay set out upon his melancholy journey. On the third day he descried the appointed place; and, informing his attendants that he and his son would go some distance farther to worship and then return, he proceeded to the spot. To the touching question of his son respecting the victim to be offered, the patriarch replied by expressing his faith that God himself would provide the sacrifice; and probably he availed himself of this opportunity of acquainting him with the Divine command. At least, that the communication was made either then or just after, is unquestionable; for no one can suppose that a young man could, against his will, have been bound with cords and laid out as a victim on the wood of the altar. Isaac would most certainly have been slain by his father's uplifted hand, had not the angel of Jehovah interposed at the critical moment to arrest the fatal stroke. A ram which had become entangled in a thicket was seized and offered; and a name was given to the place (Jehovah-Jireh "the Lord will provide") allusive to the believing answer which Abraham had given to his son's inquiry respecting the victim. The promises before made to Abraham of numerous descendants, superior in power to their enemies, and of the blessings which his spiritual progeny, and especially the Messiah, were to extend to all mankind were again confirmed in the most solemn manner; for Jehovah swore by himself (comp.  Hebrews 6:13;  Hebrews 6:17), that such should be the rewards of his uncompromising obedience (see C. F. Bauer, De Domini Ad Abrahamum Juramento, Viteb. 1746). The father and son then rejoined their servants, and returned rejoicing to Beersheba ( Genesis 21:19).

Sarah died at the age of 127 years, being then at or near Hebron, B.C. 2027. This loss first taught Abraham the necessity of acquiring possession of a family sepulcher in the land of his sojourning (see J. S. Semler, De patriarcharum ut in Paloestina sepelirentur desiderio, Hal. 1756). His choice fell on the cave of Machpelah (q.v.), and, after a striking negotiation [ (See Bargain) ] with the owner in the gate of Hebron, he purchased it, and had it legally secured to him, with the field in which it stood and the trees that grew thereon (see Thomson's Land And Book, 2, 381 sq.). This was the only possession he ever had in the Land of Promise ( Genesis 23:1-20). The next care of Abraham was to provide a suitable wife for his son Isaac. It has always been the practice among pastoral tribes to keep up the family ties by intermarriages of blood-relations (Burckhardt, Notes, p. 154); and now Abraham had a further inducement in the desire to maintain the purity of the separated race from foreign and idolatrous connections. He therefore sent his aged and confidential steward Eliezer (q.v.), under the bond of a solemn oath to discharge his mission faithfully, to renew the intercourse between his family and that of his brother Nahor, whom he had left behind in Charran. He prospered in his important mission, and in due time returned, bringing with him Rebekah (q.v.), the daughter of Nahor's son Bethuel, who became the wife of Isaac, and was installed as chief lady of the camp, in the separate tent which Sarah had occupied ( Genesis 24:1-67). Some time after Abraham himself took a wife named Keturah, by whom he had several children. (See Keturah). These, together with Ishmael, seem to have been portioned off by their father in his lifetime, and sent into the east and southeast, that there might be no danger of their interference with Isaac, the divinely appointed heir. There was time for this; for Abraham lived to the age of 175 years, 100 of which he had spent in the land of Canaan. He died B.C. 1989, and was buried by his two eldest sons in the family sepulcher which he had purchased of the Hittites ( Genesis 25:1-10).

II. Traditions And Literature. The Orientals, as well Christians and Mohammedans, have preserved some knowledge of Abraham, and highly commend his character; indeed, a history of his life, though it would be highly fanciful, might easily be compiled from their traditions. Arabic accounts name his father Azar (Abulfeda, Hist. Anteisl. p. 21), with which some have compared the contemporary Adores, king of Damascus (Justin. 36, 2; see Josephus, Ant. 1, 7, 2; Bertheau, Israel. Gesch. p. 217). His mother's name is given as Adna (Herbelot, Bib. Orient. s.v. Abraham). The Persian magi believe him to have been the same with their founder, Zerdoust, or Zoroaster; while the Zabians, their rivals and opponents, lay claim to a similar honor (Hyde, Bel. Persar. p. 28 sq.). Some have affirmed that he reigned at Damascus (Nicol. Damasc. apud Josephus, Ant. 1, 7, 2; Justin. 36), that he dwelt long in Egypt (Artapan. et Lupolem. apud Euseb. Praepar. 9, 17, 18), that he taught the Egyptians astronomy and arithmetic (Joseph. Ant. 1, 8, 2), that he invented letters and the Hebrew language (Suidas in Abraham), or the characters of the Syrians and Chaldeans (Isidor. Hispal. Orig. 1, 3), that he was the author of several works, among others of the famous book entitled Jezira, or the Creation a work mentioned in the Talmud, and greatly valued by some rabbins; but those who have examined it without prejudice speak of it with contempt. (See Cabala). In the first ages of Christianity, the heretics called Sethians published "Abraham's Revelations" (Epiphan. Haeres. 3 9, 5). Athanasius, in his Synopsis, speaks of the "Assumption of Abraham;" and Origen (in Luc. Homil. 35) notices an apocryphal book of Abraham's, wherein two angels, one good, the other bad, dispute concerning his damnation or salvation. The Jews (Rab. Selem, in Baba Bathra, c. 1) attribute to him the Morning Prayer, the 89th Psalm, a Treatise on Idolatry, and other works. The authorities on all these points, and for still other traditions respecting Abraham, may be found collected in Fabricii Cod. Pseudepigr. V. T. 1, 344 sq.; Eisenmenger, Entd. Judenth. 1, 490; Otho, Lex. Rabb. p. 2 sq.; Beck, ad Targ. Chron. 2, 267; Stanley, Jewish Church, p. 2 sq.

We are informed (D'Herbelot, ut sup.) that, A.D. 1119, Abraham's tomb was discovered near Hebron, in which Jacob, likewise, and Isaac were interred. The bodies were found entire, and many gold and silver lamps were found in the place. The Mohammedans have so great a respect for his tomb, that they make it their fourth pilgrimage (the three others being Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem). (See Hebron). The Christians built a church over the cave of Machpelah, where Abraham was buried, which the Turks have changed into a mosque, and forbidden Christians from approaching (Quaresm. Elmid. 2, 772). The supposed oak of Mamre, where Abraham received the three angels, was likewise honored by Christians, as also by the Jews and Pagans (see above). The Koran (4, 124) entitles him "the friend of God" (see Michaelis, Orient. Bibl. 4, 167 sq.; Withof, De Abrah. Amico Dei, Duisb. 1743; Kurtz, Hist. of Old Cov. § 51-68).

III. Typical Character. The life and character of Abraham were in many respects Typical.

1. He and his family may be regarded as a type of the Church of God in after ages. They, indeed, constituted God's ancient Church. Not that many scattered patriarchal and family churches did not remain: such was that of Melchizedek; but a visible church relation was established between Abraham's family and the Most High, signified by the visible and distinguishing sacrament of circumcision, and followed by new and enlarged revelations of truth. Two purposes were to be answered by this the preservation of the true doctrine of salvation in the world, which is the great and solemn duty of every branch of the Church of God, and the manifestation of that truth to others. Both were done by Abraham. Wherever he sojourned he built his altars to the true God, and publicly celebrated his worship; and, as we learn from the Apostle Paul, he lived in tents in preference to settling in the land of Canaan, though it had been given to him for a possession, in order that he might thus proclaim his faith in the eternal inheritance of which Canaan was a type ( Galatians 3:16 -29).

2. The numerous natural posterity promised to Abraham was also a type of the spiritual seed, the true members of the Church of Christ, springing from the Messiah, of whom Isaac was the symbol. Thus the Apostle Paul expressly distinguishes between the fleshly and the spiritual seed of Abraham ( Galatians 4:22-31).

3. The faithful offering up of Isaac, with its result, was probably the transaction in which Abraham, more clearly than in any other, "saw the day of Christ, and was glad" ( John 8:56). He received Isaac from the dead, says Paul, "in a figure" ( Hebrews 11:19). This could be a figure of nothing but the resurrection of our Lord; and if so, Isaac's being laid upon the altar was a figure of his sacrificial death, scenically and most impressively represented to Abraham.

4. The transaction of the expulsion of Hagar was also a type. It was an allegory in action, by which the Apostle Paul teaches us ( Galatians 4:22-31) to understand that the son of the bondwoman represented those who are under the law; and the child of the freewoman those who by faith in Christ are supernaturally begotten into the family of God. The casting out of the bondwoman and her son represents also the expulsion of the unbelieving Jews from the Church of God, which was to be composed of true believers of all nations, all of whom, whether Jews or Gentiles, were to become fellow heirs."

IV. Covenant Relation.

1. Abraham is to be regarded, further, as standing in a Federal or Covenant relation, not only to his natural seed, but specially and eminently to all believers. "The Gospel," we are told by Paul ( Galatians 3:8), "was preached to Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed." "Abraham believed in God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness;" in other words, he was justified ( Genesis 15:6). A covenant of gratuitous justification through faith was made with him and his believing descendants; and the rite of circumcision, which was not confined to his posterity by Sarah but appointed in every branch of his family, was the sign or sacrament of this covenant of grace, and so remained till it was displaced by the sacraments appointed by Christ. Wherever that sign was, it declared the doctrine and offered the grace of this covenant-free justification by faith, and its glorious results-to all the tribes that proceeded from Abraham. This same grace is offered to us by the Gospel, who become "Abraham's seed," his spiritual children, with whom the covenant is established through the same faith, and are thus made "the heirs with him of the same promise."

2. Abraham is also exhibited to us as the Representative of true believers; and in this especially, that the true nature of faith was exhibited in him. This great principle was marked in Abraham with the following characters: an entire, unhesitating belief in the word of God; an unfaltering trust in all his promises; a steady regard to his almighty power, leading him to overlook all apparent difficulties and impossibilities in every case where God had explicitly promised; and habitual, cheerful, and entire obedience. The Apostle has described faith in  Hebrews 11:1, and that faith is seen living and acting in all its energy in Abraham. (Niemeyer, Charakt. 2, 72 sq.)

V. The intended offering up of Isaac is not to be supposed as viewed by Abraham as an act springing out of the Pagan practice of human sacrifice, although this may have somewhat lessened the shock which the command would otherwise have occasioned his natural sympathies. The immolation of human victims, particularly of that which was most precious, the favorite, the first-born child, appears to have been a common usage among many early nations, more especially the tribes by which Abraham was surrounded. It was the distinguishing rite among the worshippers of Moloch; at a later period of the Jewish history, it was practiced by a king of Moab; and it was undoubtedly derived by the Carthaginians from their Phoenician ancestors on the shores of Syria. Where it was an ordinary use, as in the worship of Moloch, it was in unison with the character of the religion and of its deity. It was the last act of a dark and sanguinary superstition, which rose by regular gradation to this complete triumph over human nature. The god who was propitiated by these offerings had been satiated with more cheap and vulgar victims; he had been glutted to the full with human suffering and with human blood. In general, it was the final mark of the subjugation of the national mind to an inhuman and domineering priesthood. But the Mosaic religion held human sacrifices in abhorrence; and the God of the Abrahamitic family, uniformly beneficent, had imposed no duties which entailed human suffering, had demanded no offerings which were repugnant to the better feelings of our nature. The command to offer Isaac as a "burnt-offering" was, for these reasons, a trial the more severe to Abraham's faith. He must, therefore, have been fully assured of the Divine command, and he left the mystery to be explained by God himself. His was a simple act of unhesitating obedience to the command of God; the last proof of perfect reliance on the certain accomplishment of the Divine promises. Isaac, so miraculously bestowed, could be as miraculously restored; Abraham, such is the comment of the Christian Apostle, "believed that God could even raise him up from the dead" ( Hebrews 11:17).

VI. The wide and deep impression made by the character of Abraham upon the ancient world is proved by the reverence which people of almost all nations and countries have paid to him, and the manner in which the events of his life have been interwoven in their mythology and their religious traditions. Jews, Magians, Sabians, Indians, and Mohammedans have claimed him as the great patriarch and founder of their several sects; and his history has been embellished with a variety of fictions. The ethnological relations of the race of Abraham have been lately treated by Ewald (Geschichte Des Volkes Israel), and by Bertheau (Geschichte Der Israelten), who maintain that Abraham was the leader of tribes who migrated from Chaldea to the south-west. (See Arabia).

VII. For further notices, see Staudlin, Gesch. Der Sittenl. Jesu, 1, 93 sq.; Eichhorn, Bibl. D. Bibl. Lit. 1, 40 sq.; Harenberg, in the Biblioth. Brem. Nov. 5, 499 sq.; Stackhouse, Hist. Of The Bible, 1, 123 sq.; Hottinger, Hist. Orient. p. 50; Ewald, Isr. Gesch. 1, 385 sq.; Gesenius, in the Hall. Encycl. 1, 155 sq. See likewise Acta Sanctorum, Oct. 9; a, De Augusti et Factis Abrahami (Goth. 1730); Hebbing, Hist. of Abraham (Lond. 1746); Gilbank, Hist. of Abr. (Lond. 1773); Holst, Leben Abr. (Cherun. 1826); Michaelis, in the Biblioth. Brem. 6, 51 sq.; Goetze, De Cultu Abr. (Lips. 1702); Sourie, D. Gott Abr. (Hannov. 1806); Hauck, De Abr. in Charris

(Lips. 1776); the Christ. Month. Spect. 5, 397; Beer, Leben Abr. (Leipz. 1859); Basil, Opera, p. 38; Ephraem. Syrus, Opera, 2, 312; Philo, Opera, 2, 1 sq.; Ambrose, Opera, 1, 278 sq.; Chrysostom, Opera (Spuria), 6, 646; Cooper, Brief Expos. p. 107; Whately, Prototypes, p. 93; Rabadan, Mahometism, p. 1; Debaeza, Comment. p. 3; J. H. Heidegger, Hist. Pat. p. 2; Abramus, Pharus V. T. p. 168; Dulpin, Nouv. Bible, p. 4; Barrington, Works, 3, 61; Riccaltoun, Works, 1, 291; Robinson, Script. Characters, p. 1; Rudze, Lect. on Genesis 1, 163; Buddicom, Life of Abr. (Lond. 1839); Evans, Script. Biog. p. 1; Williams, Characters of O.T. p. 36; A. H. L., Life of Abr. (Lond. 1861); Adamson, Abraham (Lond. 1841); Blunt, Hist. of Abr. (Lond. 1856); Geiger, Ueber Abr. (Altd. 1830); Beck, Leben Abr. (Eri. 1877, 8vo).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [14]

a´bra - ham  :

I. Name

1. Various Forms

2. Etymology

3. Association

II. Kindred

III. Career

1. Period of Wandering

2. Period of Residence at Hebron

3. Period of Residence in the Negeb

IV. Conditions of Life

1. Economic Conditions

2. Social Conditions

3. Political Conditions

4. Cultural Conditions

V. Character

1. Religious Beliefs

2. Morality

3. Personal Traits

VI. Significance in the History of Religion

1. In the Old Testament

2. In the New Testament

3. In Jewish Tradition

4. In the Koran

VII. Interpretations of the Story Other Than Historical

1. The Allegorical Interpretation

2. The Personification Theory

3. The Mythical Theory

4. The "Saga" Theory

I. Name

1. Various Forms

In the Old Testament, when applied, to the patriarch, the name appears as אברם , 'abhrām , up to  Genesis 17:5; thereafter always as אברהם , 'abhrāhām ̌ . Two other persons are named אבירם , 'ăbhı̄rām ̌ . The identity of this name with 'abhrām cannot be doubted in view of the variation between 'ăbhı̄nēr and 'abhnēr , 'ăbhı̄shālōm and 'abhshālōm , etc. Abraham also appears in the list at Karnak of places conquered by Sheshonk I: 'brm (no. 72) represents ברם ), with which Spiegelberg ( Aegypt. Randglossen zum Altes Testament , 14) proposes to connect the preceding name (so that the whole would read "the field of Abram." Outside of Palestine this name ( Abirāmu ) has come to light just where from the Biblical tradition we should expect to find it, namely, in Babylonia (e.g. in a contract of the reign of Apil-Sin, second predecessor of H̬ammurabi  ; also for the aunt (!) of Esarhaddon 680-669 bc). Ungnad has recently found it, among documents from Dilbat dating from the H̬ammurabi dynasty, in the forms A - ba - am - ra - ma , A - ba - am - ra - am , as well as A - ba - ra - ma .

2. Etymology

Until this latest discovery of the apparently full, historical form of the Babylonian equivalent, the best that could be done with the etymology was to make the first constituent "father of" (construct -i rather than suffix -i ), and the second constituent "Ram," a proper name or an abbreviation of a name. (Yet observe above its use in Assyria for a woman; compare Abishag; Abigail ). Some were inclined rather to concede that the second element was a mystery, like the second element in the majority of names beginning with 'ābh and 'aḥ , "father" and "brother." But the full cuneiform writing of the name, with the case-ending am, indicates that the noun "father" is in the accusative, governed by the verb which furnishes the second component, and that this verb therefore is probably rāmu (= Hebrew רחם , rāḥam ) "to love," etc.; so that the name would mean something like "he loves the (his) father." (So Ungnad, also Ranke in Gressmann's article "Sage und Geschichte in den Patriarchenerzahlungen," ZATW (1910), 3.) Analogy proves that this is in the Babylonian fashion of the period, and that judging from the various writings of this and similar names, its pronunciation was not far from 'abh - rām ̌ .

3. Association

While the name is thus not "Hebrew" in origin, it made itself thoroughly at home among the Hebrews, and to their ears conveyed associations quite different from its etymological signification. "Popular etymology" here as so often doubtless led the Hebrew to hear in 'abh - rām , "exalted father," a designation consonant with the patriarch's national and religious significance. In the form 'abh - rāhām his ear caught the echo of some root (perhaps r-h-m  ; compare Arabic ruhām , "multitude") still more suggestive of the patriarch's extensive progeny, the reason ("for") that accompanies the change of name  Genesis 17:5 being intended only as a verbal echo of the sense in the sound. This longer and commoner form is possibly a dialectical variation of the shorter form, a variation for which there are analogies in comparative Semitic grammar. It is, however, possible also that the two forms are different names, and that 'abh - rāhām is etymologically, and not merely by association of sound, "father of a multitude" (as above). (Another theory, based on South-Arabic orthography, in Hommel, Altisraelitische Ueberlieferung , 177.)

II. Kindred

 Genesis 11:27 , which introduces Abraham, contains the heading, "These are the generations of Terah." All the story of Abraham is contained within the section of Genesis so entitled. Through Terah Abraham's ancestry is traced back to Shem, and he is thus related to Mesopotamian and Arabian families that belonged to the "Semitic" race. He is further connected with this race geographically by his birthplace, which is given as 'ūr - kasdı̄m (see UR), and by the place of his pre-Canaanitish residence, Haran in the Aramean region. The purely Semitic ancestry of his descendants through Isaac is indicated by his marriage with his own half-sister ( Genesis 20:12 ), and still further emphasized by the choice for his daughter-in-law of Rebekah, descended from both of his brothers, Nahor and Haran ( Genesis 11:29;  Genesis 22:22 ). Both the beginning and the end of the residence in Haran are left chronologically undetermined, for the new beginning of the narrative at  Genesis 12:1 is not intended by the writer to indicate chronological sequence, though it has been so understood, e.g. by Stephen (  Acts 7:4 ). All that is definite in point of time is that an Aramean period of residence intervened between the Babylonian origin and the Palestinian career of Abraham. It is left to a comparison of the Biblical data with one another and with the data of archaeology, to fix the opening of Abraham's career in Palestine not far from the middle of the 20th century bc.

III. Career

Briefiy summed up, that career was as follows.

1. Period of Wandering

Abraham, endowed with Yahweh's promise of limitless blessing, leaves Haran with Lot his nephew and all their establishment, and enters Canaan. Successive stages of the slow journey southward are indicated by the mention of Shechem, Bethel and the Negeb (South-country). Driven by famine into Egypt, Abraham finds hospitable reception, though at the price of his wife's honor, whom the Pharaoh treats in a manner characteristic of an Egyptian monarch. (Gressmann, op. cit., quotes from Meyer, Geschichte des Alterthums , 12, 142, the passage from a magic formula in the pyramid of Unas, a Pharaoh of the Fifth Dynasty: "Then he (namely, the Pharaoh) takes away the wives from their husbands whither he will if desire seize his heart.") Retracing the path to Canaan with an augmented train, at Bethel Abraham and Lot find it necessary to part company. Lot and his dependents choose for residence the great Jordan Depression; Abraham follows the backbone of the land southward to Hebron, where he settles, not in the city, but before its gates "by the great trees" (Septuagint sing., "oak") of Mamre.

2. Period of Residence at Hebron

Affiliation between Abraham and the local chieftains is strengthened by a brief campaign, in which all unite their available forces for the rescue of Lot from an Elamite king and his confederates from Babylonia. The pursuit leads them as far as the Lebanon region. On the return they are met by Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of 'ēl ‛elyōn , and blessed by him in his priestly capacity, which Abraham recognizes by presenting him with a tithe of the spoils. Abraham's anxiety for a son to be the bearer of the divine promises conferred upon a "seed" yet unborn should have been relieved by the solemn renewal thereof in a formal covenant, with precise specifications of God's gracious purpose. But human desire cannot wait upon divine wisdom, and the Egyptian woman Hagar bears to Abraham a son, Ishmael, whose existence from its inception proves a source of moral evil within the patriarchal household. The sign of circumcision and the change of names are given in confirmation of the covenant still unrealized, together with specification of the time and the person that should begin its realization. The theophany that symbolized outwardly this climax of the Divine favor serves also for an intercessory colloquy, in which Abraham is granted the deliverance of Lot in the impending overthrow of Sodom. Lot and his family, saved thus by human fidelity and Divine clemency, exhibit in the moral traits shown in their escape and subsequent life the degeneration naturally to be expected from their corrupt environment. Moabites and Ammonites are traced in their origin to these cousins of Jacob and Esau.

3. Period of Residence in the Negeb

Removal to the South-country did not mean permanent residence in a single spot, but rather a succession of more or less temporary resting-places. The first of these was in the district of Gerar, with whose king, Abimelech, Abraham and his wife had an experience similar to the earlier one with the Pharaoh. The birth of Isaac was followed by the expulsion of Ishmael and his mother, and the sealing of peaceful relations with the neighbors by covenant at Beersheba. Even the birth of Isaac, however, did not end the discipline of Abraham's faith in the promise, for a Divine command to sacrifice the life of this son was accepted bona fide , and only the sudden interposition of a Divine prohibition prevented its obedient execution. The death of Sarah became the occasion for Abraham's acquisition of the first permanent holding of Palestine soil, the nucleus of his promised inheritance, and at the same time suggested the probable approach of his own death. This thought led to immediate provision for a future seed to inherit through Isaac, a provision realized in Isaac's marriage with Rebekah, grand-daughter of Abraham's brother Nahor and of Milcah the sister of Lot. But a numerous progeny not associated with the promise grew up in Abraham's household, children of Keturah, a woman who appears to have had the rank of wife after Sarah's death, and of other women unnamed, who were his concubines. Though this last period was passed in the Negeb, Abraham was interred at Hebron in his purchased possession, the spot with which Semitic tradition has continued to associate him to this day.

IV. Conditions of Life

The life of Abraham in its outward features may be considered under the following topics: economic, social, political and cultural conditions.

1. Economic Conditions

Abraham's manner of life may best be described by the adjective "semi-nomadic," and illustrated by the somewhat similar conditions prevailing today in those border-communities of the East that fringe the Syrian and Arabian deserts. Residence is in tents, wealth consists of flocks, herds and slaves, and there is no ownership of ground, only at most a proprietorship in well or tomb. All this in common with the nomad. But there is a relative, or rather, intermittent fixity of habitation, unlike the pure Bedouin, a limited amount of agriculture, and finally a sense of divergence from the Ishmael type - all of which tend to assimilate the seminomadic Abraham to the fixed Canaanitish population about him. As might naturally be expected, such a condition is an unstable equilibrium, which tends, in the family of Abraham as in the history of all border-tribes of the desert, to settle back one way or the other, now into the city-life of Lot, now into the desert-life of Ishmael.

2. Social Conditions

The head of a family, under these conditions, becomes at the same time the chief of a tribe, that live together under patriarchal rule though they by no means share without exception the tie of kinship. The family relations depicted in Gen conform to and are illuminated by the social features of Code of H̬ammurabi . (See K. D. Macmillan, article "Marriage among the Early Babylonians and Hebrews," Princeton Theological Review , April, 1908.) There is one legal wife, Sarah, who, because persistently childless, obtains the coveted offspring by giving her own maid to Abraham for that purpose (compare Code of H̬ammurabi , sections 144, 146). The son thus borne, Ishmael, is Abraham's legal son and heir. When Isaac is later borne by Sarah, the elder son is disinherited by divine command ( Genesis 21:10-12 ) against Abraham's wish which represented the prevailing law and custom ( Code of H̬ammurabi , sections 168f). The "maid-servants" mentioned in the inventories of Abraham's wealth ( Genesis 12:16;  Genesis 24:35 ) doubtless furnished the "concubines" mentioned in  Genesis 25:6 as having borne sons to him. Both mothers and children were slaves, but had the right to freedom, though not to inheritance, on the death of the father ( Code of H̬ammurabi , section 171). After Sarah's death another woman seems to have succeeded to the position of legal wife, though if so the sons she bore were disinherited like Ishmael ( Genesis 25:5 ). In addition to the children so begotten by Abraham the "men of his house" ( Genesis 17:27 ) consisted of two classes, the "home-born" slaves ( Genesis 14:14;  Genesis 17:12 ,  Genesis 17:23 ,  Genesis 17:27 ) and the "purchased" slaves (ibid.). The extent of the patriarchal tribe may be surmised from the number (318) of men among them capable of bearing arms, near the beginning of Abraham's career, yet after his separation from Lot, and recruited seemingly from the "home-born" class exclusively ( Genesis 14:14 ). Over this entire establishment Abraham ruled with a power more, rather than less, absolute than that exhibited in detail in the Code of H̬ammurabi  : more absolute, because Abraham was independent of any permanent superior authority, and so combined in his own person the powers of the Babylonian paterfamilias and of the Canaanite city-king. Social relations outside of the family-tribe may best be considered under the next heading.

3. Political Conditions

It is natural that the chieftain of so considerable an organism should appear an attractive ally and a formidable foe to any of the smaller political units of his environment. That Canaan was at the time composed of just such inconsiderable units, namely, city-states with petty kings, and scattered fragments of older populations, is abundantly clear from the Biblical tradition and verified from other sources. Egypt was the only great power with which Abraham came into political contact after leaving the East. In the section of Genesis which describes this contact with the Pharaoh Abraham is suitably represented as playing no political role, but as profiting by his stay in Egypt only through an incidental social relation: when this terminates he is promptly ejected. The role of conqueror of Chedorlaomer, the Elamite invader, would be quite out of keeping with Abraham's political status elsewhere, if we were compelled by the narrative in Gen 14 to suppose a pitched battle between the forces of Abraham and those of the united Babylonian armies. What that chapter requires is in fact no more than a midnight surprise, by Abraham's band (including the forces of confederate chieftains), of a rear-guard or baggage-train of the Babylonians inadequately manned and picketed ("Slaughter" is quite too strong a rendering of the original hakkōth , "smiting,"  Genesis 14:17 ) Respect shown Abraham by the kings of Salem ( Genesis 14:18 ), of Sodom ( Genesis 14:21 ) and of Gerar ( Genesis 20:14-16 ) was no more than might be expected from their relative degrees of political importance, although a moral precedence, assumed in the tradition, may well have contributed to this respect.

4. Cultural Conditions

Recent archaeological research has revolutionized our conception of the degree of culture which Abraham could have possessed and therefore presumably did possess. The high plane which literature had attained in both Babylonia and Egypt by 2000 bc is sufficient witness to the opportunities open to the man of birth and wealth in that day for the interchange of lofty thought. And, without having recourse to Abraham's youth in Babylonia, we may assert even for the scenes of Abraham's maturer life the presence of the same culture, on the basis of a variety of facts, the testimony of which converges in this point, that Canaan in the second millennium bc was at the center of the intellectual life of the East and cannot have failed to afford, to such of its inhabitants as chose to avail themselves of it, every opportunity for enjoying the fruits of others' culture and for recording the substance of their own thoughts, emotions and activities

V. Character

Abraham's inward life may be considered under the rubrics of religion, ethics and personal traits.

1. Religious Beliefs

The religion of Abraham centered in his faith in one God, who, because believed by him to be possessor of heaven and earth ( Genesis 14:22;  Genesis 24:3 ), sovereign judge of the nations ( Genesis 15:14 ) of all the earth ( Genesis 18:25 ), disposer of the forces of Nature ( Genesis 18:14;  Genesis 19:24;  Genesis 20:17 ), exalted ( Genesis 14:22 ) and eternal ( Genesis 21:33 ), was for Abraham at least the only God. So far as the Biblical tradition goes, Abraham's monotheism was not aggressive (otherwise in later Jewish tradition), and it is theoretically possible to attribute to him a merely "monarchical" or "henotheistic" type of monotheism, which would admit the coexistence with his deity, say, of the "gods which (his) fathers served" ( Joshua 24:14 ), or the identity with his deity of the supreme god of some Canaanite neighbor ( Genesis 14:18 ). Yet this distinction of types of monotheism does not really belong to the sphere of religion as such, but rather to that of speculative philosophical thought. As religion, monotheism is just monotheism, and it asserts itself in corollaries drawn by the intellect only so far as the scope of the monotheist's intellectual life applies it. For Abraham Yahweh not only was alone God; He was also his personal God in a closeness of fellowship ( Genesis 24:40;  Genesis 48:15 ) that has made him for three religions the type of the pious man ( 2 Chronicles 20:7;  Isaiah 41:8 ,  James 2:23 , note the Arabic name of Hebron El - Khalı̄l , i.e. the friend (viz of God)) To Yahweh Abraham attributed the moral attributes of Justice ( Genesis 18:25 ), righteousness ( Genesis 18:19 ), faithfulness ( Genesis 24:27 ), wisdom ( Genesis 20:6 ), goodness ( Genesis 19:19 ), mercy ( Genesis 20:6 ). These qualities were expected of men, and their contraries in men were punished by Yahweh ( Genesis 18:19;  Genesis 20:11 ). He manifested Himself in dreams ( Genesis 20:3 ), visions ( Genesis 15:1 ) and theophanies ( Genesis 18:1 ), including the voice or apparition of the Divine mal'ākh or messenger ("angel") ( Genesis 16:7;  Genesis 22:11 ) On man's part, in addition to obedience to Yahweh's moral requirements and special commands, the expression of his religious nature was expected in sacrifice. This bringing of offerings to the deity was diligently practiced by Abraham, as indicated by the mention of his erection of an altar at each successive residence. Alongside of this act of sacrifice there is sometimes mention of a "calling upon the name" of Yahweh (compare  1 Kings 18:24;  Psalm 116:13 ). This publication of his faith, doubtless in the presence of Canaanites, had its counterpart also in the public regard in which he was held as a "prophet" or spokesman for God ( Genesis 20:7 ). His mediation showed itself also in intercessory prayer ( Genesis 17:20 for Ishmael;   Genesis 18:23-32; compare  Genesis 19:29 for Lot;   Genesis 20:17 for Abimelech), which was but a phase of his general practice of prayer. The usual accompaniment of sacrifice, a professional priesthood, does not occur in Abraham's family, yet he recognizes priestly prerogative in the person of Melchizedek, priest-king of Salem (  Genesis 14:20 ). Religious sanction of course surrounds the taking of oaths ( Genesis 14:22;  Genesis 24:3 ) and the sealing of covenants ( Genesis 21:23 ). Other customs associated with religion are circumcision ( Genesis 17:10-14 ), given to Abraham as the sign of the perpetual covenant; tithing ( Genesis 14:20 ), recognized as the priest's due; and child-sacrifice ( Genesis 22:2 ,  Genesis 22:12 ), enjoined upon Abraham only to be expressly forbidden, approved for its spirit but interdicted in its practice.

2. Morality

As already indicated, the ethical attributes of God were regarded by Abraham as the ethical requirement of man. This in theory. In the sphere of applied ethics and casuistry Abraham's practice, at least, fell short of this ideal, even in the few incidents of his life preserved to us. It is clear that these lapses from virtue were offensive to the moral sense of Abraham's biographer, but we are left in the dark as to Abraham's sense of moral obliquity. (The "dust and ashes" of  Genesis 18:27 has no moral implication.) The demands of candor and honor are not satisfactorily met, certainly not in the matter of Sarah's relationship to him (  Genesis 12:11-13;  Genesis 20:2; compare  Genesis 12:11-13 ), perhaps not in the matter of Isaac's intended sacrifice ( Genesis 22:5 ,  Genesis 22:8 ). To impose our own monogamous standard of marriage upon the patriarch would be unfair, in view of the different standard of his age and land. It is to his credit that no such scandals are recorded in his life and family as blacken the record of Lot ( Genesis 19:30-38 ), Reuben ( Genesis 35:22 ) and Judah ( Genesis 38:15-18 ). Similarly, Abraham's story shows only regard for life and property, both in respecting the rights of others and in expecting the same from them - the antipodes of Ishmael's character ( Genesis 16:12 ).

3. Personal Traits

Outside, the bounds of strictly ethical requirement, Abraham's personality displayed certain characteristics that not only mark him out distinctly among the figures of history, but do him great credit as a singularly symmetrical and attractive character. Of his trust and reverence enough has been said under the head of religion. But this love that is "the fulfilling of the law," manifested in such piety toward God, showed itself toward men in exceptional generosity ( Genesis 13:9;  Genesis 14:23;  Genesis 23:9 ,  Genesis 23:13;  Genesis 24:10;  Genesis 25:6 ), fidelity ( Genesis 14:14 ,  Genesis 14:24;  Genesis 17:18;  Genesis 18:23-32;  Genesis 19:27;  Genesis 21:11;  Genesis 23:2 ), hospitality ( Genesis 18:2-8;  Genesis 21:8 ) and compassion ( Genesis 16:6 and   Genesis 21:14 when rightly understood,   Genesis 18:23-32 ). A solid self-respect ( Genesis 14:23;  Genesis 16:6;  Genesis 21:25;  Genesis 23:9 ,  Genesis 23:13 ,  Genesis 23:16;  Genesis 24:4 ) and real courage ( Genesis 14:14-16 ) were, however, marred by the cowardice that sacrificed Sarah to purchase personal safety where he had reason to regard life as insecure ( Genesis 20:11 ).

VI. Significance in the History of Religion

Abraham is a significant figure throughout the Bible, and plays an important role in extra-Biblical Jewish tradition and in the Mohammedan religion.

1. In the Old Testament

It is naturally as progenitor of the people of Israel, "the seed of Abraham," as they are often termed, that Abraham stands out most prominently in the Old Testament books. Sometimes the contrast between him as an individual and his numerous progeny serves to point a lesson ( Isaiah 51:2;  Ezekiel 33:24; perhaps  Malachi 2:10; compare  Malachi 2:15 ). "The God of Abraham" serves as a designation of Yahweh from the time of Isaac to the latest period; it is by this title that Moses identifies the God who has sent him with the ancestral deity of the children of Israel ( Exodus 3:15 ). Men remembered in those later times that this God appeared to Abraham in theophany ( Exodus 6:3 ), and, when he was still among his people who worshipped other gods ( Joshua 24:3 ) chose him ( Nehemiah 9:7 ), led him, redeemed him ( Isaiah 29:22 ) and made him the recipient of those special blessings ( Micah 7:20 ) which were pledged by covenant and oath (so every larger historical book, also the historical  Psalm 105:9 ), notably the inheritance of the land of Canaan ( Deuteronomy 6:10 ) Nor was Abraham's religious personality forgotten by his posterity: he was remembered by them as God's friend ( 2 Chronicles 20:7;  Isaiah 41:8 ), His servant, the very recollection of whom by God would offset the horror with which the sins of his descendants inspired Yahweh ( Deuteronomy 9:27 ).

2. In the New Testament

When we pass to the New Testament we are astonished at the wealth and variety of allusion to Abraham. As in the Old Testament, his position of ancestor lends him much of his significance, not only as ancestor of Israel ( Acts 13:26 ), but specifically as ancestor, now of the Levitical priesthood ( Hebrews 7:5 ), now of the Messiah ( Matthew 1:1 ), now, by the peculiarly Christian doctrine of the unity of believers in Christ, of Christian believers ( Galatians 3:16 ,  Galatians 3:29 ). All that Abraham the ancestor received through Divine election, by the covenant made with him, is inherited by his seed and passes under the collective names of the promise ( Romans 4:13 ), the blessing ( Galatians 3:14 ), mercy ( Luke 1:54 ), the oath ( Luke 1:73 ), the covenant ( Acts 3:25 ). The way in which Abraham responded to this peculiar goodness of God makes him the type of the Christian believer. Though so far in the past that he was used as a measure of antiquity ( John 8:58 ), he is declared to have "seen" Messiah's "day" ( John 8:56 ). It is his faith in the Divine promise, which, just because it was for him peculiarly unsupported by any evidence of the senses, becomes the type of the faith that leads to justification ( Romans 4:3 ), and therefore in this sense again he is the "father" of Christians, as believers ( Romans 4:11 ). For that promise to Abraham was, after all, a "preaching beforehand" of the Christian gospel, in that it embraced "all the families of the earth" ( Galatians 3:8 ). Of this exalted honor, James reminds us, Abraham proved himself worthy, not by an inoperative faith, but by "works" that evidenced his righteousness ( James 2:21; compare  John 8:39 ). The obedience that faith wrought in him is what is especially praised by the author of Hebrews ( Hebrews 11:8 ,  Hebrews 11:17 ). In accordance with this high estimate of the patriarch's piety, we read of his eternal felicity, not only in the current conceptions of the Jews (parable, Lk 16), but also in the express assertion of our Lord ( Matthew 8:11;  Luke 13:28 ). Incidental historical allusions to the events of Abraham's life are frequent in the New Testament, but do not add anything to this estimate of his religious significance.

3. In Jewish Tradition

Outside the Scriptures we have abundant evidence of the way that Abraham was regarded by his posterity in the Jewish nation. The oldest of these witnesses, Ecclesiasticus, contains none of the accretions of the later Abraham-legends. Its praise of Abraham is confined to the same three great facts that appealed to the canonical writers, namely, his glory as Israel's ancestor, his election to be recipient of the covenant, and his piety (including perhaps a tinge of "nomism") even under severe testing (Ecclesiasticus 44:19-21). The Improbable and often unworthy and even grotesque features of Abraham's career and character in the later rabbinical midrashim are of no religious significance, beyond the evidence they afford of the way Abraham's unique position and piety were cherished by the Jews.

4. In the Koran

To Mohammed Abraham is of importance in several ways. He is mentioned in no less than 188 verses of the Koran, more than any other character except Moses. He is one of the series of prophets sent by God. He is the common ancestor of the Arab and the Jew. He plays the same role of religious reformer over against his idolatrous kinsmen as Mohammed himself played. He builds the first pure temple for God's worship (at Mecca!). As in the Bible so in the Koran Abraham is the recipient of the Divine covenant for himself and for his posterity, and exhibits in his character the appropriate virtues of one so highly favored: faith, righteousness, purity of heart, gratitude, fidelity, compassion. He receives marked tokens of the Divine favor in the shape of deliverance, guidance, visions, angelic messengers (no theophanies for Mohammed!), miracles, assurance of resurrection and entrance into paradise. He is called "Imam of the peoples" (2 118)

VII. Interpretations of the Story Other than the Historical

There are writers in both ancient and modern times who have, from various standpoints, interpreted the person and career of Abraham otherwise than as what it purports to be, namely, the real experiences of a human person named Abraham. These various views may be classified according to the motive or impulse which they believe to have led to the creation of this story in the mind of its author or authors.

1. The Allegorical Interpretation

Philo's tract on Abraham bears as alternative titles, "On the Life of the Wise Man Made Perfect by Instruction, or, On the Unwritten Law." Abraham's life is not for him a history that serves to illustrate these things, but an allegory by which these things are embodied. Paul's use of the Sarah-Hagar episode in  Galatians 4:21-31 belongs to this type of exposition (compare allēgoroúmena ,  Galatians 4:24 ), of which there are also a few other instances in his epistles; yet to infer from this that Paul shared Philo's general attitude toward the patriarchal narrative would be unwarranted, since his use of this method is incidental, exceptional, and merely corroborative of points already established by sound reason. "Luther compares it to a painting which decorates a house already built" (Schaff, "Galatians," Excursus ).

2. The Personification Theory

As to Philo Abraham is the personification of a certain type of humanity, so to some modern writers he is the personification of the Hebrew nation or of a tribe belonging to the Hebrew group. This view, which is indeed very widely held with respect to the patriarchal figures in general, furnishes so many more difficulties in its specific application to Abraham than to the others, that it has been rejected in Abraham's case even by some who have adopted it for figures like Isaac, Ishmael and Jacob. Thus Meyer ( Die Israeliten und ihre Nachbarstamme , 250; compare also note on p. 251), speaking of his earlier opinion, acknowledges that, at the time when he "regarded the assertion of Stade as proved that Jacob and Isaac were tribes," even then he "still recognized Abraham as a mythical figure and originally a god." A similar differentiation of Abraham from the rest is true of most of the other adherents of the views about to be mentioned. Hence also Wellhausen says ( Prolegomena 6, 317): "Only Abraham is certainly no name of a people, like Isaac and Lot; he is rather ambiguous anyway. We dare not of course on that account hold him in this connection as an historical personage; rather than that he might be a free creation of unconscious fiction. He is probably the youngest figure in this company and appears to have been only at a relatively late date put before his son Isaac."

3. The Mythical Theory

Urged popularly by Nöldeke ( Im neuen Reich (1871), I, 508ff) and taken up by other scholars, especially in the case of Abraham, the view gained general currency among those who denied the historicity of Gen, that the patriarchs were old deities. From this relatively high estate, it was held, they had fallen to the plane of mere mortals (though with remnants of the hero or even demigod here and there visible) on which they appear in Gen. A new phase of this mythical theory has been developed in the elaboration by Winckler and others of their astral-theology of the Babylonian world, in which the worship of Abraham as the moon-god by the Semites of Palestine plays a part. Abraham's traditional origin connects him with Ur and Haran, leading centers of the moon-cult. Apart from this fact the arguments relied upon to establish this identification of Abraham with Sin may be judged by the following samples: "When further the consort of Abraham bears the name Sarah, and one of the women among his closest relations the name Milcah, this gives food for thought, since these names correspond precisely with the titles of the female deities worshipped at Haran alongside the moongod Sin. Above all, however, the number 318, that appears in   Genesis 14:14 in connection with the figure of Abraham, is convincing because this number, which surely has no historical value, can only be satisfactorily explained from the circle of ideas of the moon-religion, since in the lunar year of 354 days there are just 318 days on which the moon is visible - deducting 36 days, or three for each of the twelve months, on which the moon is invisible" (Baentsch, Monotheismus , 60f). In spite of this assurance, however, nothing could exceed the scorn with which these combinations and conjectures of Winckler, A. Jeremias and others of this school are received by those who in fact differ from them with respect to Abraham in little save the answer to the question, what deity was Abraham (see e.g. Meyer, op. cit., 252f, 256f).

4. The "Saga" Theory

Gunkel ( Genesis , Introduction), in insisting upon the resemblance of the patriarchal narrative to the "sagas" of other primitive peoples, draws attention both to the human traits of figures like Abraham, and to the very early origin of the material embodied in our present book of Genesis. First as stories orally circulated, then as stories committed to writing, and finally as a number of collections or groups of such stories formed into a cycle, the Abraham-narratives, like the Jacob-narratives and the Joseph-narratives , grew through a long and complex literary history. Gressmann (op. cit, 9-34) amends Gunkel's results, in applying to them the principles of primitive literary development laid down by Professor Wundt in his Völkerpsychologie . He holds that the kernel of the Abraham-narratives is a series of fairy-stories, of international diffusion and unknown origin, which have been given "a local habitation and a name" by attaching to them the ( ex hypothesi ) then common name of Abraham (similarly Lot, etc.) and associating them with the country nearest to the wilderness of Judea, the home of their authors, namely, about Hebron and the Dead Sea. A high antiquity (1300-1100 bc) is asserted for these stories, their astonishing accuracy in details wherever they can be tested by extra-Biblical tradition is conceded, as also the probability that, "though many riddles still remain unsolved, yet many other traditions will be cleared up by new discoveries" of archaeology.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [15]

Ab´raham (father of a multitude), the founder of the Hebrew nation. Up to  Genesis 17:4-5, he is uniformly called Abram (father of elevation, or high father); and this was his original name; but the extended form, which it always afterwards bears, was given to make it significant of the promise of a numerous posterity which was at the same time made to him.

Abraham was a native of Chaldea, and descended, through Heber, in the ninth generation, from Shem the son of Noah. His father was Terah, who had two other sons, Nahor and Haran. Haran died prematurely 'before his father,' leaving a son Lot, and two daughters, Milcah and Iscah. Lot attached himself to his uncle Abraham; Milcah became the wife of her uncle Nahor; and Iscah, who was also called Sarai, became the wife of Abraham ( Genesis 9:26-29) [SARAH].

Abraham was born A.M. 2008, B.C. 1996 (Hales, A.M. 3258, B.C. 2153), in 'Ur of the Chaldees' ( Genesis 11:28).

Although he is, by way of eminence, named first, it appears probable that he was the youngest of Terah's sons, and born by a second wife, when his father was 130 years old. Terah was seventy years old when the eldest son was born ( Genesis 11:32;  Genesis 12:4;  Genesis 20:12); and that eldest son appears to have been Haran, from the fact that his brothers married his daughters, and that his daughter Sarai was only ten years younger than his brother Abraham ( Genesis 17:17). Abraham was 60 years old when the family quitted their native city of Ur, and went and abode in Charran. The reason for this movement does not appear in the Old Testament; but it is mentioned in  Acts 7:2-4 : 'The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was (at Ur of the Chaldees) in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, and said unto him, Depart from thy land, and from thy kindred, and come hither to a land which Iswill shew thee. Then departing from the land of the Chaldees, he dwelt in Charran.' This first call is not recorded, but only implied in Genesis 12, and it is distinguished by several pointed circumstances from the second, which alone is there mentioned. Accordingly Abraham departed, and his family, including his aged father, removed with him. They proceeded not at once to the land of Canaan, but they came to Charran, and tarried at that convenient station for fifteen years, until Terah died, at the age of 205 years. Being free from his filial duties, Abraham, now 75 years of age, received a second and more pointed call to pursue his destination: 'Depart from thy land, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto the land which I will shew thee' ( Genesis 12:1). This second call required the patriarch to isolate himself, not only from his country, but from his family. He however took with him his nephew Lot, whom, having no children of his own, he appears to have regarded as his heir, and then went forth 'not knowing whither he went' ( Hebrews 11:8), but trusting implicitly to the Divine guidance.

When Abraham arrived in the land of Canaan, he found it occupied by the Canaanites in a large number of small independent communities, which cultivated the districts around their several towns. The country was however but thinly peopled; and, as in the more recent times of its depopulation, it afforded ample pasture-ground for the wandering pastors. In their eyes Abraham must have appeared one of that class. In Mesopotamia, though the family had been pastoral, they had dwelt in towns and houses, and had sent out their flocks and herds under the care of shepherds. But the migratory life to which Abraham had now been called, compelled him to take to the tent-dwelling form of pastoral life. The rich pastures in that part of the country tempted Abraham to form his first encampment in the vale of Moreh, which lies between the mountains of Ebal and Gerizim. Here the strong faith which had brought the childless man thus far from his home was rewarded by the grand promise from God:—'I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee and make thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing; and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed' ( Genesis 12:2-3). It was further promised that to his posterity should be given the rich heritage of that beautiful country into which he had come ( Genesis 12:7). The implied condition on his part was, that he should publicly profess the worship of the true God, and accordingly 'he built there an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him.' He soon after removed to the district between Bethel and Ai, where he also built an altar to that 'Jehovah' whom the world was then hastening to forget. His farther removals tended southward, until at length a famine in Palestine compelled him to withdraw into Egypt, where corn abounded. Here his apprehension that the beauty of his wife Sarai might bring him into danger with the dusky Egyptians, overcame his faith and rectitude, and he gave out that she was his sister. As he had feared, the beauty of the fair stranger excited the admiration of the Egyptians, and at length reached the ears of the king, who forthwith exercised his regal right of calling her to his harem, and to this Abraham, appearing as only her brother, could offer no resistance. As, however, the king had no intention to act harshly in the exercise of his privilege, he loaded Abraham with valuable gifts, suited to his condition, consisting chiefly of slaves and cattle. These presents could not have been refused by him without an insult which, under all the circumstances, the king did not deserve. A grievous disease inflicted on Pharaoh and his household relieved Sarai from her danger, by revealing to the king that she was a married woman; on which he sent for Abraham, and, after rebuking him for his conduct, restored his wife to him, and recommended him to withdraw from the country. He accordingly returned to the land of Canaan, much richer than when he left it 'in cattle, in silver, and in gold' ( Genesis 12:8;  Genesis 13:2).

Lot also had much increased his possessions: and soon after their return to their previous station near Bethel, the disputes between their respective shepherds about water and pasturage soon taught then: that they had better separate. The recent promise of posterity to Abraham himself, although his wife had been accounted barren, probably tended also in some degree to weaken the tie by which the uncle and nephew had hitherto been united. The subject was broached by Abraham, who generously conceded to Lot the choice of pasture-grounds. Lot chose the well-watered plain in which Sodom and other towns were situated, and removed thither [LOT], Immediately afterwards the patriarch was cheered and encouraged by a more distinct and formal reiteration of the promises which had been previously made to him, of the occupation of the land in which he lived by a posterity numerous as the dust. Not long after, he removed to the pleasant valley of Mamre, in the neighborhood of Hebron (then called Arba), and pitched his tent under a terebinth tree (Genesis 13).

It appears that fourteen years before this time the south and east of Palestine had been invaded by a king called Chedorlaomer, from beyond the Euphrates, who brought several of the small disunited states of those quarters under tribute. Among them were the five cities of the Plain of Sodom, to which Lot had withdrawn. This burden was borne impatiently by these states, and they at length withheld their tribute. This brought upon them a ravaging visitation from Chedorlaomer and four other (perhaps tributary) kings, who scoured the whole country east of the Jordan, and ended by defeating the kings of the plain, plundering their towns, and carrying the people away as slaves. Lot was among the sufferers. When this came to the ears of Abraham, he immediately armed, such of his slaves as were fit for war, in number 318, and being joined by the friendly Amoritish chiefs, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre, pursued the retiring invaders. They were overtaken near the springs of the Jordan; and their camp being attacked on opposite sides by night, they were thrown into disorder, and fled. Abraham and his men pursued them as far as the neighborhood of Damascus, and then returned with all the men and goods which had been taken away. When the victors had reached 'the king's dale' on their return, they were met by several of the native princes, among whom was Melchizedek, king of Salem, which is generally supposed to have been Jerusalem. He was one of the few native princes, if not the only one, who retained the knowledge and worship of 'the Most High God,' whom Abraham served. This circumstance created a peculiar relation between the king and the patriarch, which the former recognized by bringing forth 'bread and wine,' and probably other refreshments to Abraham, and which the latter acknowledged by presenting to Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils. By strict right, founded on the war usages which still subsist in Arabia, the recovered goods became the property of Abraham, and not of those to whom they originally belonged. This was acknowledged by the king of Sodom, who met the victors in the valley near Salem. He said, 'Give me the persons, and keep the goods to thyself.' But with becoming pride and disinterestedness Abraham answered, 'I have lifted up mine hand [i.e.I have sworn] unto Jehovah, the most high God, that I will not take from a thread even to a sandal-thong, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich' (Genesis 14).

Soon after his return to Mamre the faith of Abraham was rewarded and encouraged, not only by a more distinct and detailed repetition of the promises formerly made to him, but by the confirmation of a solemn covenant contracted, as nearly as might be, 'after the manner of men' [COVENANTS] between him and God. It was now that he first understood that his promised posterity were to grow up into a nation under foreign bondage; and that, in 400 years after (or, strictly, 405 years, counting from the birth of Isaac to the Exodus), they should come forth from that bondage as a nation, to take possession of the land in which he sojourned (Genesis 15).

After ten years' residence in Canaan (B.C. 1913), Sarai, being then 75 years old, and having long been accounted barren, chose to put her own interpretation upon the promised blessing of a progeny to Abraham, and persuaded him to take her woman slave Hagar, an Egyptian, as a secondary or concubine wife, with the view that whatever child might proceed from this union should be accounted her own [HAGAR]. The son who was born to Abraham by Hagar, and who received the name of Ishmael [ISHMAEL], was accordingly brought up as the heir of his father and of the promises (Genesis 16). Thirteen years after (B.C. 1900), when Abraham was 99 years old, he was favored with still more explicit declarations of the Divine purposes. He was reminded that the promise to him was that he should be the father of many nations; and to indicate this intention his name was now changed (as before described) from Abram to Abraham. The Divine Being then solemnly renewed the covenant to be a God to him and to the race that should spring from him; and in token of that covenant directed that he and his should receive in their flesh the sign of circumcision [CIRCUMCISION]. Abundant blessings were promised to Ishmael; but it was then first announced, in distinct terms, that the heir of the special promises was not yet born, and that the barren Sarai, then 90 years old, should twelve months thence be his mother. Then also her name was changed from Sarai to Sarah (the princess); and to commemorate the laughter with which the prostrate patriarch received such strange tidings, it was directed that the name of Isaac (laughing) should be given to the future child. The very same day, in obedience to the Divine ordinance, Abraham himself, his son Ishmael, and his house-born and purchased slaves were all circumcised (Genesis 17).

Three months after this, as Abraham sat in his tent door during the heat of the day, he saw three travelers approaching, and hastened to meet them, and hospitably pressed upon them refreshment and rest. They assented, and under the shade of a terebinth tree partook of the abundant fare which the patriarch and his wife provided. From the manner in which one of the strangers spoke, Abraham soon gathered that his visitants were no other than the Lord himself and two attendant angels in human form. The promise of a son by Sarah was renewed: and when Sarah herself, who overheard this within the tent, laughed inwardly at the tidings, which, on account of her great age, she at first disbelieved, she incurred the striking rebuke, 'Is anything too hard for Jehovah?' The strangers then addressed themselves to their journey, and Abraham walked some way with them. The two angels went forward in the direction direction of Sodom, while the Lord made known to him that, for their enormous iniquities, Sodom and the other 'cities of the plain' were about to be made signal monuments of his wrath and of his moral government. Moved by compassion and by remembrance of Lot, the patriarch ventured, reverently but perseveringly, to intercede for the doomed Sodom; and at length obtained a promise that, if but ten righteous men were found therein, the whole city should be saved for their sake. Early the next morning Abraham arose to ascertain the result of this concession: and when he looked towards Sodom, the smoke of its destruction, rising 'like the smoke of a furnace,' made known to him its terrible overthrow [SODOM]. Almost immediately after, Abraham removed into the territories of Abimelech, king of Gerar, where, by a most extraordinary infatuation and lapse of faith, he allowed himself to stoop to the same prevarication in denying his wife, which, twenty-three years before, had occasioned him so much trouble in Egypt [ABIMELECH].

The same year Sarah gave birth to the long-promised son; and, according to previous direction, the name of Isaac was given to him [ISAAC]. This greatly altered the position of Ishmael, and appears to have created much ill-feeling both on his part and that of his mother towards the child; which was in some way manifested so pointedly, on occasion of the festivities which attended the weaning, that the wrath of Sarah was awakened, and she insisted that both Hagar and her son should be sent away. This was a very hard matter to a loving father; and Abraham was greatly distressed; but being apprised in a dream that this demand was in accordance with the Divine intentions respecting both Ishmael and Isaac, he, with his habitual uncompromising obedience, hastened them away early in the morning, with provision for the journey. Their adventures belong to the article Hagar.

When Isaac was about 25 years old (B.C. 1872) it pleased God to subject the faith of Abraham to a severer trial than it had yet sustained, or than has ever fallen to the lot of any other mortal man. He was commanded to go into the mountainous country of Moriah (probably where the temple afterwards stood), and there offer up in sacrifice the son of his affection, and the heir of so many hopes and promises, which his death must nullify. But Abraham's 'faith shrunk not, assured that what God had promised he would certainly perform, and that he was able to restore Isaac to him even from the dead' ( Hebrews 11:17-19), and he rendered a ready, however painful, obedience. Assisted by two of his servants, he prepared wood suitable for the purpose, and without delay set out upon his melancholy journey. On the third day he descried the appointed place; and informing his attendants that he and his son would go some distance farther to worship, and then return, he proceeded to the spot. To the touching question of his son respecting the victim to be offered, the patriarch replied by expressing his faith that God himself would provide the sacrifice; and probably he availed himself of this opportunity of acquainting him with the Divine command. Isaac submitted patiently to be bound and laid out as a victim on the wood of the altar, and would most certainly have been slain by his father's up-lifted hand, had not the angel of Jehovah interposed at the critical moment to arrest the fatal stroke. A ram which had become entangled in a thicket was seized and offered; and a name was given to the place (Jehovah-Jireh—'the Lord will provide') alluding to the believing answer which Abraham had given to his son's inquiry respecting the victim. The promises before made to Abraham were again confirmed in the most solemn manner (comp.  Hebrews 6:13;  Hebrews 6:17). The father and son then rejoined their servants, and returned rejoicing to Beersheba ( Genesis 23:19).

Eight years after (B.C. 1860) Sarah died at the age of 120 years, being then at or near Hebron. This loss first taught Abraham the necessity of acquiring possession of a family sepulchre in the land of his sojourning. His choice fell on the cave of Machpelah [MACHPELAH], and after a striking negotiation with the owner in the gate of Hebron, he purchased it, and had it legally secured to him. This was the only possession he ever had in the Land of Promise (Genesis 23). The next care of Abraham was to provide a suitable wife for his son Isaac. It has always been the practice among pastoral tribes to keep up the family ties by intermarriages of blood-relations: and now Abraham had a further inducement in the desire to maintain the purity of the separated race from foreign and idolatrous connections. He therefore sent his aged and confidential steward Eliezer, under the bond of a solemn oath to discharge his mission faithfully, to renew the intercourse between his family and that of his brother Nahor, whom he had left behind in Charran. He prospered in his important mission [ISAAC], and in due time returned, bringing with him Rebekah, the daughter of Nahor's son Bethuel, who became the wife of Isaac, and was installed as chief lady of the camp, in the separate tent which Sarah had occupied (Genesis 24). Sometime after Abraham himself took a wife named Keturah, by whom he had several children. These, together with Ishmael, seem to have been portioned off by their father in his lifetime, and sent into the east and south-east, that there might be no danger of their interference with Isaac, the divinely appointed heir. There was time for this: for Abraham lived to the age of 175 years, 100 of which he had spent in the land of Canaan. He died in B.C. 1822 (Hales, 1978), and was buried by his two eldest sons in the family sepulchre which he had purchased of the Hittites ( Genesis 25:1-10).

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [16]

The Hebrew patriarch, ancestor of the Jews, the very type of an Eastern pastoral chief at once by his dignified character and simple faith.

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