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Lineage of Abraham[edit]

The Family of Terah[edit]

<-----Qur'an 6:74.----->

<-----al-Bukhari 4:569.----->

Yet, the question remains how one is to reconcile the statement in the P strand ofB'resheith that the father of Abraham was Terah.<-----The identification of Terah as the father of Abraham is also found in Joshua 24:2. While not part of theTorah, Joshuais part of the Hebrew scriptures and this particular verse appears to be from the eigth century BCE E strand.-----><-----Smith, R.H.; The Book of Joshua. In Laymon, C.M. (ed.): The interpreter's One: Volume Commentary on the Bible. Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1971.----->

At least four possibilities exist.

  1. One option would be simply to disregard the P strand information. However, this course of action fails to result in any harmony between and any synthesis of the Judaeo-Christian and Islamic information.
  2. A second course of action is to assume that Terah and Azar are simply different names for the same individual.<-----Hughes, T.P.; Dictionary of Islam. Chicago, Kazi Publications, 1994.-----> According to al-Tabari, 'Azar' is merely an agnomen of Terah; and Terah was the actual name of Abraham's father, while 'Azar' was a name later given to Terah by Nimrod. According to ibn Kathir, the name of Abraham's father is 'Tarakh', an Arabic rendering of the Hebrew 'Terach'.<-----ibn Kathir; al-Bidaya wa'n Nahaya, Volume 1, pp. 139.-----> However, when confronted with discrepant names between the Judaeo-Christian and Islamic traditions, it would' appear to be irresponsible to assume automatically that we have two different names for the same person, especially when there does not appear to be any linguistic similarity.
  3. A third option is to consider Terah as a grandfather or some more remote ancestor than the actual biological father, as the use of the word "son" in the Torah is often used simply to mean a descendant, however many generations removed. This option does no violence to the information conveyed in the P strand of B'resheith, and is consistent with the fourth option.
  4. A fourth option is suggested by the work of several Biblical scholars,<-----Wright, G.E.:Biblical Archaeology. Philadelphia, Westminister Press, 1960.-----><-----Marks, J.H.:The book of Genesis. In Laymon CM (ed.): The Interpreter's One: Volume Commentary on the Bible. Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1971.-----><-----Robinson, T.H.:History of the Hebrew and Jewish people. In Eiselen, F.C.;

Lewis, E.; Downey, D.G. (eds.): The Abingdon Bible Commentary. New York, Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1929.-----> i.e., to assume that the name Terah refers to the clan of people to which Abraham belonged. This option has the advantage of not rejecting the information in P, of being consistent with the third option, and of accommodating the findings of Biblical archaeology.

The inherent difficulty with utilizing this fourth option is deciding whether references to Terah in the Torah are merely references to Abraham's eponymous clan leader or to Abraham's actual father. In the course of constructing a biographical sketch of Abraham, the deciding factor as to whether a Biblical reference to Terah is to an eponymous clan leader or to Abraham's actual father will be the specificity of the passage in question. Where specific and detailed information is recorded in the Torah about Terah as the father of Abraham, it will be assumed that this information applies to Azar.

The Account in the Torah[edit]

[B'resheith 11:26–27]
When Terah had lived seventy years, he begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran. • Now these are the chronicles of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begot Lot.

In one unreferenced section, al-Tabari inserts the name of Qaynan between that of Arpachshad and that of Shelah, specifically noting that the name of Qaynan was not listed in the Torah. In explaining the absence of this name from the Torah, al-Tabari states that Qaynan's name was deliberately excluded from the Torah, because Qaynan was a magician and sorcerer, who had had the temerity to claim that he himself was a god. As such, the compilers of the Torah believed that Qaynan was not worthy of being mentioned in a holy book.

The Account in Jubilees[edit]

This same assertion is also found in the non-canonical, third or second centuryBCE Jewish writings known as Jubilees, where Qaynan is referred to as Kainam.

[Jubilees 8:1-6]
In the twenty-ninth jubilee, in the first week, in the beginning thereof Arpachshad took to himself a wife and her name was Rasu'eja, the daughter of Susan, the daughter of Elam, and she bare him a son in the third year in this week, and he called his name Kainam. And the son grew,and his father taught him writing, and he went to seek for himself a place where he might seize for himself a city.And he found a writing which former (generations) had carved on the rock, and he read what was thereon, and he transcribed it and sinned owing to it; for it contained the teaching of the Watchers in accordance with which they used to observe the omens of the sun and moon and stars in all the signs of heaven. And he wrote it down and said nothing regarding it; for he was afraid to speak to Noah about it lest he should be angry with him on account of it. And in the thirtieth jubilee, in the second week, in the first year thereof, he took to himself a wife, and her name was Melka, the daughter of Madai, the son of Japheth, and in the fourth year he begat a son, and called his name Shelah...
[Jubilees 11:13-14]

And in this thirty-ninth jubilee, in the second week in the first year, [1870 A.M.] Terah took to himself a wife, and her name was 'Edna, the daughter of 'Abram, the daughter of his father's sister. And in the seventh year of this week [1876A.M.] she bare him a son, and he called his name Abram, by the name of the father of his mother—for he had died before his daughter had conceived a son.

The Talmud, in tractate Bava Basra 91a, records that the mother of Abraham was Amathlai, daughter of Karnebo.

The Account in the Midrash[edit]

The Midrash notes that anyone whose name is repeated has a share in Olam Haba (World to Come). But Terah was an idolater; this indicates that he ultimately repented and earned a share in Olam Haba.

The Account in the Qur'an[edit]

[Surat Al-'An`ām:74]
And, when Abraham said to his father Azar, "Do you take idols as deities? Indeed, I see you and your people to be in manifest error."

Regarding the personal lineage of Abraham, the only geographical information provided by theQur'an is that Abraham was the son of Azar, a relationship reiterated in oneSahih Hadith.

The Account in the Sahih Hadith[edit]

[Book 55: Prophets; Hadith 569 (Vol. IV); Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī]
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "On the Day of Resurrection Abraham will meet his father Azar whose face will be dark and covered with dust. (The Prophet Abraham will say to him): 'Didn't I tell you not to disobey me?' His father will reply: 'Today I will not disobey you.' 'Abraham will say: 'O Lord! You promised me not to disgrace me on the Day of Resurrection; and what will be more disgraceful to me than cursing and dishonoring my father?' Then Allah will say (to him):' 'I have forbidden Paradise for the disbelievers." Then he will be addressed, 'O Abraham! Look! What is underneath your feet?' He will look and there he will see a Dhabh (an animal,) blood-stained, which will be caught by the legs and thrown in the (Hell) Fire."

Comparing the Qur'an and P strand[edit]

Two issues immediately emerge in comparing the lineage information found in theQur'an and in the P strand of B'resheith. First, the Qur'an andPdisagree about the name of the father of Abraham. Second, the P account gives a much more complete genealogy, than does the Qur'an.

This imposes a few problems with the Abrahamic genealogy contained in the P strand ofB'resheith. Normally, a genealogy as complete as that given for Abraham inPwould establish some measure of confidence in the historical accuracy of the genealogy. Typically, the more detail provided, the more confident one is of the account given. However, there are a number of reasons to question the accuracy of P's reported genealogy for Abraham. In what follows, two issues are dealt with in reverse order; these reasons are presented below.

  • First consideration: The P strand, of B'resheith cannot be dated earlier than the fifth or sixth centuries BCE, well in excess of 1,500 years after Abraham. Such a gap in years should give some pause before accepting the P strand genealogy as being historically accurate in all of its details.
  • Second consideration: The source material embodied within the Torah can be shown to be contradictory with regard to other genealogies and personal identifications. For example, the Torah variously lists the father-in-law of Moshe as being Jethro, Reuel, and Hobab, the son of Reuel.<-----Eight century BCE E strand ofShemos 3:1; Tenth century BCE J strand of Shemos 2:18; Tenth centuryBCE J strand of Bamidbar 10:29.-----> In addition, as we will see later when discussing the tribal lineage of Abraham, the Torah and other Jewish scripture occasionally list Abraham and his offspring as being Aramaeans,<-----Seventh centuryBCE book of Devarim 26:5-10; Sixth or fifth centur BCE Pstrand of B'resheith 28:5.-----> which, according to the P strand of B'resheith, would make them descendants of Aram, the brother of Arpachshad, not of Arpachshad himself,<-----Sixth or fifth century BCEPstrand of B'resheith 10:22.-----> a finding contrary to the P strand genealogy of Abraham.<----- Sixth or fifth centuryBCE P strand ofB'resheith10:26.-----> Further, the J strand ofB'resheith, predating theP strand by about five centuries, suggests that the Aramaeans are the descendants of Aram, the son of Kemuel, the son of Nahor, the son of Terah, the father of Abraham, which contradicts the P strand genealogy of Aram, and which contradicts the possibility of Abraham being an Aramaean.<-----Tenth century BCE J strand ofB'resheith 22:20-23; Sixth or fifth century BCE P strand ofB'resheith 10:22-23.----->In short, the genealogical information in B'resheithcan be accepted only with a certain degree of caution.
  • Third consideration: Many of the names reported in the immediate ancestry of Abraham are the names of ancient towns in the vicinity of Harran in Paddan-aram (Haran in southeastern Turkey), the area from which Abraham migrated to Palestine, according toB'resheith,<-----Sixth or fifth century BCE P strand ofB'resheith 11:31, 24:4; Tenth century BCE J strand ofB'resheith 24:10.-----> For example, Haran, the brother of Abraham can be associated with the city of Harran (Turkey). Nahor, the brother of Abraham, can be associated with a city of the same name. Terah can be associated with the city of Til-Turakhi, Serug with Sarugi, and Peleg with Phaliga. This would suggest that many of the names in the Pstrand genealogy between Shem and Abraham should be read as clan names associated with some eponymous ancestor. If the ancestors listed between Shem and Abraham were merely eponymous ancestors of Abraham for whom clans were named, this suggests that numerous generations of ancestors may have been omitted while reporting Abraham's genealogy.
  • Fourth consideration: There appears to be a remarkable similarity between the descendants of Seth listed in the P strand of B'resheith and the descendants of Cain listed in the J strand of B'resheith.<-----Sixth or fifth centuryBCEP strand of B'resheith 5:6-26; Tenth centuryBCE J strand ofB'resheith 4:17-19.-----> This similarity is illustrated in the following chart, and suggests that the later P strand genealogy of the descendants of Seth may be nothing more than a corrupted version of the Jstrand descendants of Cain.
Table 2: Descendants of Cain and Seth
J strand P strand
קין Cain שת Seth
חנוך Enoch אנוש Enosh
עירד Irad קינן Kenan
מחויאל Mehujael מהללאל Mahalalel
מתושאל Methushael ירד Jared
למך Lamech חנוך Enoch
מתושלח Methuselah
למך Lamech

With only a slight rearranging of the names listed in Table 2, one comes up with the following matches, in which the first name listed is from J strand and the second name listed is from P strand: Enoch = Enoch; Irad = Jared; Mehujael = Mahalalel; Methushael = Methuselah; and Lamech = Lamech. The names are also provided in Hebrew for comparison; as noted by at least one Biblical scholar, it seems fairly obvious that the two lines of descent are really one and the same, though attributed to two different sons of Adam.<-----Robinson, T.H. (1929):Genesis. In Eiselen F.C., Lewis E., Downey D.G.:The Abingdon Bible Commentary. New York, Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1929a.----->

Given the above considerations, the following conclusions can be drawn:

  1. The genealogy given between Adam and Noah may be highly unreliable.
  2. The genealogy given between Shem and Abraham is likely to be a listing of only the eponymous ancestors between Shem and Abraham, suggesting that numerous generations may have been skipped over in constructing the P strand genealogy.

The Family of Sarah[edit]

The J strand of B'resheith states that Haran died before his father Terah, in the land of his birth, in Ur Kasdim. Abram and Nahor took wives; the name of Abram's wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor's wife was Milcah.

[B'resheit 11:29-30]
"And took, Abram and Nahor, wives; the wife's name of Abram was Sarai, and the wife's name of Nahor was Milcah, the daughter of Haran–the father of Milcah, the father of Iscah. Become [of] Sarai, was barren, had no child."

All sources, either from Judaic or Islamic texts, agree that Sarah was the first wife of Abraham. However, there is considerable disagreement as to Sarah's lineage and as to how she was related to Abraham. No firm conclusions can be drawn regarding the mother of Sarah.B'resheith states that there is only one generation separating Sarah and Abraham; it is only a 10-year difference in age between Abraham and Sarah, with Sarah being the younger of the two.<-----Sixth or fifth century BCE P strand of B'resheith 17:17.----->

Sarah believed in Abraham's prophetic mission and in the message that Abraham preached.

The following summarizes the different versions that have been presented in the past.

The Accounts in the Torah[edit]

The Torah states that Sarah was Abraham's paternal half-sister,<-----Eight centuryBCE E strand of B'resheith 20:11-12.-----> While this statement occurs only once in the Torah, it is reiterated in Jubilees,<-----Third or second centuryBCE book of Jubilees 12:9-10.-----> and is the version that has traditionally been accepted by the Jewish and Christian communities. Nonetheless, this version raises certain moral and ethical considerations that are repugnant to Muslims and to many Jews, as well as Christians. Granted that the Mosaic Law prohibiting such a marriage had not yet been revealed to Moshe<-----The Mosaic Law prohibiting marriage between paternal half-siblings can be found in sixth or fifth century BCEP strand of Vayikra18:9, 20:17.----->, as Moshe lived many generations after Abraham. Nonetheless, one is still left asking whether a prophet of GODmarried his paternal half-sister. In asking this question, one bears in mind that there was no necessity for such a marriage, such as would have existed with the immediate children of Adam and Eve.<-----Third or second centuryBCE book ofJubilees 4:9-15-----><-----al-Tabari, M.H.:Ta'rikh al-Rusul Wa'l-Muluk. In Rosenthal, F. (transl.): The History of al-Tabari: Volume 1. General Introduction and From the Creation to the Flood. Albany, State University of New York Press, 1989.----->

The Account given by al-Tabari[edit]

The Islamic scholar, al-Tabari, on the other hand, suggests different potential lineages for Sarah:

  • View #1:Sarah as daughter of Bethuel, the son of Nahor, the son of Serug, the son of Reu,….[1]
The problem with this proposed genealogy is immediately apparent when one consults "Table 1" above. This proposal is invalid due that it appears al-Tabari confused Nahor ben Serug (Nahor I) with Nahor ben Terah (Nahor II) [refer to Table 1].
  • View #2:Sarah as being the daughter of Hanal, the daughter of Nahor.[1]
Consulting [see Table 1] above, the question immediately arises whether Hanal is the daughter of Nahor ben of Terah (Nahor II), or of Nahor ben Serug (Nahor I). In the former case, two generations separate Sarah and Abraham, while in the latter case, there is only one generation separating Sarah and Abraham. In that regard, it is noted that states that there was only a 10-year age difference between Abraham and Sarah. If one accepts al-Tabari's report of Sarah being the daughter of Hanal, the daughter of Nahor, and if one accepts theB'resheith Pstrand data from concerning the relative 10-year difference of Abraham and Sarah, with Sarah being the younger of the two, it would appear more likely that the Nahor in question was the son of Serug (i.e., Nahor I).
  • View #3:Sarah was the daughter of 'Haran the Elder'.
This view introduces a new person, Haran I, whom is the brother of Terah (the paternal uncle of Abraham, Haran II, and Nahor II. In addition, it specifically identifies Haran I as being the father of both Sarah and Milcah, the latter being the wife of Abraham's brother, Nahor II.
There are two considerations concerning this passage from B'resheith that tend to support al-Tabari's position.
  1. the third person pronoun "she", which begins the third sentence of the above passage, is ambiguous. It could conceivably refer either to Milcah or to Sarah. While Milcah was the last named wife before the use of this pronoun, the fourth sentence is totally specific to Sarah, creating a somewhat jarring change of topics if the "she" in the third sentence refers to Milcah and not to Sarah. Further, if the pronoun refers to Milcah, the third sentence becomes internally redundant (i.e., "Milcah was the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah and Iscah"). This internal redundancy is totally avoided if the pronoun refers to Sarah (i.e., "Sarah was the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah and Iscah"). Josephus ben Matthias, the first century CE Jewish historian, apparently read the third-person pronoun "she" as referring to Sarah, thus making Sarah the daughter of Haran. As Josephus read the passage, Haran was the father of Lot (nephew of Abraham), Sarah (wife of Abraham), and Milcah (wife of Nahor II).[a]<-----Josephus, T.F. (1995), Jewish Antiquities, New York: Crown Publishers  Invalid |last-author-amp=no (help)-----> However, Josephus failed to distinguish between two potential individuals named Haran: either Haran I, the paternal uncle of Abraham; or Haran II, the brother of Abraham.<-----Josephus, T.F. (1999), Jewish Antiquities, Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications  Invalid |last-author-amp=no (help)----->
  1. Second, the Haran in the above passage from J strand is specifically identified as the father of Milcah and Iscah. These children are nowhere mentioned in the P strand information" about the offspring of Haran II, the brother of Abraham. Likewise, theJpassage quoted above nowhere mentions Lot, who was identified in the P strand information" as being the son of Haran II, the brother of Abraham. It would appear doubtful that the J strand information would systematically ignore the child of Haran II, the brother of Abraham, mentioned in the P strand information, while thePstrand information would ignore the children of Haran II, the brother of Abraham, mentioned in theJ strand information. As such, it becomes probable that there were two individuals named Haran ben Terah (Haran II) and Haran I, the brother of Terah.

Abrahamic Covenant[edit]

Basmala.svg "In the Name of GOD, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful...

[Al-Baqarah (Qur'an) 2:124] —And recall that Ibrâhîm was tried (put to the test) by his LORD with/through certain kalimât (words, commands, decrees, purposes), and he fulfilled them.

HE SAID: "I am appointing you an imâm (leader) for the people."
He pleaded: "And also my descendants?"
HE SAID: "My covenant does not include those who transgress."
[B'reshit (Genesis) 12:1–3] —YHVH said to Abram ("exalted father"):
"Go for yourself from your land, from your relatives, and from your father's house to the land I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you, and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curse you I will curse; and all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you."

[B'reshit (Genesis) 12:14–17] —YHVH said to Abram after Lot had parted from him:

"Now raise your eyes and look out from where you are: northward, southward, eastward, and westward. For all the land that you see, to you will I give it, and to your descendants forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth so that if one can count the dust of the earth, then your offspring, too, can be counted. Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth! For to you will I give it."

[B'reshit (Genesis) 17:1–17] —When Abram was ninety-nine years old, YHVH appeared to Abram and said to him:

"I am 'EL SHADDAI'; walk before ME, this is MY covenant with you: You shall be a father of a multitude of nations; your name shall no longer be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations; I will make you most exceedingly fruitful, and make nations of you; and kings shall descend from you. I will ratify MY covenant between ME and you and between your offspring after you; and I will give to you and your offspring after you the land of your sojourns.

Abram's calling[edit]

God appeared to Abram and told him to depart. After settling in Haran, where his father Terah died, God then told Abram to leave his country and his father’s house for a land that He would show him, promising to make of him a great nation, bless him, make his name great, bless those who blessed him, and curse those who cursed him. (Genesis 12:1–3) Following God’s command, at age 75, Abram took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and the wealth and persons that they had acquired, and traveled to Shechem in Canaan.

The Covenant between Abraham and God[edit]

God appeared and said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." So Abram left as he was told. He was seventy-five years old at the time. Later on through his travels God spoke to him again, saying that he was confirming their covenant. That it will be kept with Abraham and his descendants. In exchange for land for his family to flourish, every male among them shall be circumcised as a sign of the covenant.

Abram and Sarai[edit]

There was a severe famine in the land of Canaan, so that Abram and Lot and their households, travelled south to Egypt. En route, Abram told his wife Sarai, to say that she was his sister, so that the Egyptians would not kill him. (Genesis 12:10–13) When they entered Egypt, the princes of Pharaoh praised Sarai's beauty to the Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace, and Abram was given provisions: "oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels." However, God afflicted the Pharaoh and his household with great plagues, (Genesis 12:14–17) and after discovering that Sarai was really Abram's wife, the Pharaoh wanted nothing to do with them. He demanded that he and his household leave immediately, along with all their goods. (Genesis 12:18–20)

Abram and Lot separate[edit]

When they came back to the Bethel and Hai area, Abram's and Lot's sizeable numbers of livestock occupied the same pastures ("and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land.") This became a problem for the herdsmen who were assigned to each family’s cattle. The conflicts between herdsmen had become so troublesome that Abram graciously suggested that Lot choose a separate area, either on the left hand or on the right hand, that there be no conflict amongst "brethren". But Lot chose to go east to the plain of Jordan where the land was well watered everywhere as far as Zoar, and he dwelled in the cities of the plain toward Sodom. Abram went south to Hebron and settled in the plain of Mamre, where he built another altar to worship God. (Genesis 13:1–18)

Abram and Chedorlaomer[edit]

Intro: Battle of the Vale of Siddim[edit]

During the rebellion of the Jordan River cities against Elam, (Genesis 14:1–9) Abram’s nephew, Lot, was taken prisoner along with his entire household by the invading Elamite forces. The Elamite army came to collect booty from the spoils of war, after having just defeated the King of Sodom’s armies. (Genesis 14:8–12) Lot and his family, at the time, were settled on the outskirts of the Kingdom of Sodom which made them a visible target. (Genesis 13:12)

One person that escaped capture came and told Abram what happened. Once Abram received this news, he immediately assembled 318 trained servants. Abram’s elite force headed north in pursuit of the Elamite army, who were already worn down from the Battle of Siddim. When they caught up with them at Dan, Abram devised a battle strategy plan by splitting his group into more than one unit, and launched a night raid. Not only were they able to free the captives, Abram’s unit chased and slaughtered the Elamite King Chedorlaomer at Hobah, just north of Damascus. They freed Lot, his household, possessions, and recovered all of the goods from Sodom that were taken. (Genesis 14:13–16)

Upon Abram’s return, Sodom's King (whom we do not know since the previous king Bera of Sodom perished in Gen14:10) came out to meet with him in the Valley of Shaveh, the "king's dale". Also, Melchizedek king of Salem (Jerusalem), a priest of God Most High, brought out bread and wine and blessed Abram and God. Abram then gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything. The king of Sodom then offered to let Abram keep all the possessions if he would merely return his people. Though he released the captives, Abram refused any reward from the King of Sodom, other than the share his allies were entitled to. (Genesis 14:17–24)

Battle of Siddim
Abram Makes the Enemies Flee Who Hold His Nephew (1613 etching by Antonio Tempesta at the National Gallery of Art)
Date Early 2nd millenium BCE
Location Vale of Siddim (Salt Sea)
Result Cities of the Jordan plain freed from Elamite control; King of Elam killed; Lot and captives rescued

Five Kings of the Cities of the Plain

Non aligned army

  • Abram's 318 elite force

Four Kings of Mesopotamia

Commanders and leaders

King Bera

King Chedorlaomer

Abram's 318 elite[2] Elamite Empire
Casualties and losses
No casualty figures;
all captives restored
Slaughter of Chedorlaomer and other kings

The Battle of Siddim, or Battle of the Vale of Siddim refers to an event in the Hebrew Bible book of Genesis 14:1-12 that occurred in the days of Abram and Lot. The Vale of Siddim was the battleground for the cities of the Jordan Plain revolting against the Elamite empire and its Mesopotamian allies.


In the days of Lot, before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, The Elamite empire occupied the Land of Canaan which included all of the Jordan River Plain and many surrounding tribes and cities. The occupation was under the rule of King Chedorlaomer for twelve years. In the thirteenth year, five kings of the cities of the Jordan plain revolted against Elamite rule. According to Jewish tradition, the revolt started with refusing to pay tribute to the Elamite empire. This triggered Chedorlaomer to assemble forces from the four main directions of Mesopotamia. Chedorlaomer's campaign to the Jordan plains began with sacking and looting every city along the way.(Genesis 14:1–7)

Four kings of Mesopotamia[edit]

In response to the uprising of several kings that Chedorlaomer ruled over, he ensured victory by calling together three other nations, to align with the Kingdom of Elam. These four aligned kings were:

  1. King Chedorlaomer, ruler of the Persian empire of Elam, to the East and commander of the alliance.
  2. King Amraphel, ruler of Shinar from the southern regions of Babylon.
  3. King Arioch, ruler of Ellasar, from Assur to the North.
  4. King Tidal, leader of the Hittites from the West.[3]

Five kings of the Jordan plain[edit]

The five kings from the Jordan River Plain rebelled against Elam rule, during Chedorlaomer's thirteenth year of reign over them. Their rebellion caused a domino effect that pushed Chedorlaomer to campaign against at least seven other nearby tribes and cities. The five kings of the plain were:

  1. Bera king of Sodom
  2. Birsha king of Gomorrah
  3. Shinab king of Admah
  4. Shemeber king of Zeboyim
  5. the king of Bela (renamed Zoar when Sodom destroyed)


The Mesopotamian forces overwhelmed the kings of the Jordan plain driving some them into asphalt or tar pits that littered the vale. Those who escaped, fled to the mountains including the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah. The cities of Sodom of Gomorrah were then spoiled of their goods and provisions as well as the taking of captives. Among the captives was Abram's nephew, Lot. (Genesis 14:10–12)

When word reached Abram, he immediately mounted a rescue operation, arming 318 of his trained servants who went in pursuit of the Mesopotamian armies that were returning to their homelands. They caught up with them in the city of Dan, flanking the enemy on multiple sides, during a night raid. The attack ran its course as far as Hobah, north of Damascus where he defeated Chedorlaomer and his forces. Abram recovered all the goods, even the captives who included Lot. (Genesis 14:13–17)

Scholarly analysis[edit]

Identifying the kings[edit]

Amraphel has been thought by some scholars such as the writers of the catholic Encyclopedia and the Jewish Encyclopedia to be an alternate version of the name of the famed Hammurabi. The name is also associated with Ibal Pi-El II of Esnunna.[4][5]

Arioch has been thought to have been a king of Larsa (Ellasar being an alternate version of this). It has also been suggested that it is URU KI, meaning "this place here".

Following the discovery of documents written in the Elamite language and Babylonian language, it was thought that Chedorlaomer is a transliteration of the Elamite compound Kudur-Lagamar, meaning servant of Lagamaru - a reference to Lagamaru, an Elamite deity whose existence was mentioned by Assurbanipal. However, no mention of an individual named Kudur Lagamar has yet been found; inscriptions that were thought to contain this name are now known to have different names (the confusion arose due to similar lettering).[6][7] David Rohl identifies Chedorlaomer with an Elamite king named Kutir-Lagamar.

Tidal[8][9][10] has been considered to be a corruption or transliteration of Tudhaliya - either referring to the first king of the Hittite New Kingdom (Tudhaliya I) or the proto-Hittite king named Tudhaliya. With the former, the title king of Nations would refer to the allies of the Hittite kingdom such as the Ammurru and Mittani; with the latter the term "goyiim" has the sense of "them, those people". al ("their power") gives the sense of a people or tribe rather than a kingdom. Hence td goyim ("those people have created a state and stretched their power").

Geopolitical context[edit]

It was common practise for vassals/allies to accompany a powerful king during their conquests. For example, in a letter from about 1770 BC[5] reporting a speech aimed at persuading the nomadic tribes to acknowledge the authority of Zimri-Lim of Mari:

There is no king who can be mighty alone. Ten or fifteen kings follow Hammurabi the man of Babylon; as many follow Rim-Sin the man of Larsa, Ibal-pi-El the man of Eshnunna, and Amut-pi-El the man of Quatna and twenty kings follow Yarim-Lim the man of Yamhad.

The alliance of four states would have ruled over cities/countries that were spread over a wide area: from Elam at the extreme eastern end of the Fertile Crescent to Anatolia at the western edge of this region. Because of this, there is a limited range of time periods that match the Geopolitical context of Genesis 14. In this account, Chedorlaomer is described as the king to whom the cities of the plain pay tribute. Thus, Elam must be a dominant force in the region and the other three kings would therefore be vassals of Elam and/or trading partners.[5]

There were periods when Elam was allied with Mari through trade.[11] Mari also had connections to Syria and Anatolia, who, in turn, had political, cultural, linguistic and military connections to Canaan.[12] The earliest recorded empire was that of Sargon, which lasted until his grandson, Naram Sin.[5]

According to Kenneth Kitchen,[13] a better agreement with the conditions in the time of Chedorlaomer is provided by Ur Nammu. Mari had had links to the rest of Mesopotamia by Gulf trade as early as the Jemdet Nasr period but an expansion of political connections to Assyria did not occur until the time of Isbi-Erra.[5] The Amorites or MARTU were also linked to the Hittites of Anatolia by trade.[5]

Trade between the Harappan culture of India and the Jemdet Nasr flourished between c 2000-1700BC. As Isin declined, the fortunes of Larsa - located between Eshnunna and Elam - rose until Larsa was defeated by Hammurabi. Between 1880 and 1820 BC there was Assyrian trade with Anatolia, in particular in annakum or tin.[11][14][15] The main trade route between Ashur and Kanesh running between the Tigris and Euphrates passed through Haran. The empire of Shamshi-Adad I and Rim-Sin I included most of northern Mesopotamia. Thus, Kitchen concludes that this is the period in which the narrative of Genesis 14 falls into a close match with the events of the time of Shamsi Adad and Chedorlaomer[5]

The relevant rulers in the region at this time were:

  • The last king of Isin, Damiq-ilishu, ruled 1816-1794 BC.[5]
  • Rim Sin I of Larsa ruled 1822-1763[5]
  • The last king of Uruk, Nabiilishu, ruled 1802[5]
  • In Babylon, Hammurabi ruled 1792-1750[5]
  • In Eshnunna Ibal Pi-El II ruled c 1762[5]
  • In Elam there was a king Kuduzulush[5]
  • In Ashur, Shamsi Adad I ruled c 1813-1781[5]
  • In Mari, Yasmah-Adad ruled 1796-1780 followed by Zimri-Lin 1779-1757.[5]

Dating of events[edit]

When cuneiform was first deciphered in the 19th century Theophilus Pinches translated some Babylonian tablets which were part of the Spartoli collection in the British Museum and believed he had found in the Chedorlaomer Text the names of three of the "Kings of the East" named in Genesis 14. As this is the only part of Genesis which seems to set Abraham in wider political history, it seemed to many 19th and early 20th century exegetes and Assyriologists to offer an opening to date Abraham, if the kings in question could only be identified.

In 1887, Schrader was the first to propose that Amraphel could be an alternate spelling for Hammurabi.[16] The terminal -bi on the end of Hammurabi's name was seen to parallel Amraphel since the cuneiform symbol for -bi can also be pronounced -pi. Tablets were known in which the initial symbol for Hammurabi, pronounced as kh to yield Khammurabi, had been dropped, so that Ammurapi was a viable pronunciation. If Hammurabi were deified in his lifetime or soon after (adding -il to his name to signify his divinity), this would produce something close to the Bible's Amraphel. A little later Jean-Vincent Scheil found a tablet in the Imperial Ottoman Museum in Istanbul from Hammurabi to a king named Kuder-Lagomer of Elam, which he identified with the same name in Pinches' tablet. Thus by the early 1900s many scholars had become convinced that the kings of Gen. 14:1 had been identified,[17][18] resulting in the following correspondences:[19]

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

Today these dating attempts are little more than a historical curiosity. On the one hand, as the scholarly consensus on Near Eastern ancient history moved towards placing Hammurabi in the late 18th century (or even later), and not the 19th, confessional and evangelical theologians found they had to choose between accepting these identifications or accepting the biblical chronology; most were disinclined to state that the Bible might be in error and so began synchronizing Abram with the empire of Sargon I, and the work of Schrader, Pinches and Scheil fell out of favour. Meanwhile, further research into Mesopotamia and Syria in the second millennium BCE undercut attempts to tie Abraham in with a definite century and to treat him as a strictly historical figure, and while linguistically not implausible, the identification of Hammurabi with Amraphel is now regarded as untenable.[20]

There is rarely ever consensus on any matters involving Bible interpretation; one modern interpretation of Genesis 14 is summed up by Michael Astour in The Anchor Bible Dictionary (s.v. "Amraphel", "Arioch" and "Chedorlaomer"), who explains the story as a product of anti-Babylonian propaganda during the 6th century Babylonian captivity of the Jews:

After Böhl's widely accepted, but wrong, identification of mTu-ud-hul-a with one of the Hittite kings named Tudhaliyas, Tadmor found the correct solution by equating him with the Assyrian king Sennacherib (see Tidal). Astour (1966) identified the remaining two kings of the Chedorlaomer texts with Tukulti-Ninurta I of Assyria (see Arioch) and with the Chaldean Merodach-baladan (see Amraphel). The common denominator between these four rulers is that each of them, independently, occupied Babylon, oppressed it to a greater or lesser degree, and took away its sacred divine images, including the statue of its chief god Marduk; furthermore, all of them came to a tragic end ... All attempts to reconstruct the link between the Chedorlaomer texts and Genesis 14 remain speculative. However, the available evidence seems consistent with the following hypothesis: A Jew in Babylon, versed in Akkadian language and cuneiform script, found in an early version of the Chedorlaomer texts certain things consistent with his anti-Babylonian feelings.[21]

The Chedorlaomer tablets are now thought to be from the 6th or 7th century BCE, a millennium after the time of Hammurabi, but at roughly the time when the main elements of Genesis are thought to have been set down. Another prominent scholar considers a relationship between the tablet and Genesis speculative, but identifies Tudhula as a veiled reference to Sennacherib of Assyria, and Chedorlaomer, i.e. Kudur-Nahhunte, as "a recollection of a 12th century BCE king of Elam who briefly ruled Babylon."[22]

The last serious attempt to place a historical Abraham in the second millennium resulted from discovery of the name Abi-ramu on Babylonian contracts of about 2000 BCE, but this line of argument lost its force when it was shown that the name was also common in the first millennium,[23] leaving the patriarchal narratives in a relative biblical chronology but without an anchor in the known history of the Near East.

A few evangelical scholars continue to argue against the consensus: Kitchen asserts that the only known historical period in which a king of Elam, whilst allied with Larsa, was able to enlist a Hittite king and a King of Eshunna as partners and allies in a war against Canaanite cities is in the time of Old Babylon c 1822-1764 BC. This is when Babylon is under Hammurabi and Rim Sin I controls Mari, which is linked through trade to the Hittites and other allies along the length of the Euphrates. This trade is mentioned in the Mari letters, a source which documents a geo-political relationship back to when the ships of Dilmun, Makkan and Meluhha docked at the quays of Agade in the time of Sargon. In the period of Old Babylon, c 1822-1764 BC, Rim Sin I brought together kings of Syro-Anatolia whose kingdoms were located on the Euphrates in a coalition focused on Mari whose king was Shamsi Adad. Kitchen uses the geo-political context, the price of slaves and the nature of the covenants entered into by Abraham to date the events he encounters. He sees the covenants, between Abraham and the other characters encountered at various points in Abraham's journeys, as datable textual artifacts having the form of legal documents which can be compared to the form of legal documents from different periods.[13] Of particular interest is the relationship between Abraham and his wife, Sarah. When Sarah proves to be barren, she offers her handmaiden, Hagar, to Abraham to provide an heir. This arrangement, along with other aspects of the covenants of Abraham, lead Kitchen to a relatively narrow date range which he believes aligns with the time of Hammurabi.[13]


  1. ^ a b al-Tabari 1987.
  2. ^ Genesis 14:14
  3. ^ Freedman, Meyers & Beck. Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible (ISBN 0802824005, ISBN 978-0-8028-2400-4), 2000, p.232
  4. ^ Amraphael
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Micael Roaf "Cambridge Atlas of Archaeology - king lists p 111 and pp 108-123
  6. ^ 'Chedorlaomer' at
  7. ^ Kudur-Lagamar from History of Egypt by G. Maspero
  8. ^ Akkadian tD ("have stretched themselves")
  9. ^ (Akkadian verbal stem intensive, reflexive expressing the bringing about of a state)
  10. ^ tD
  11. ^ a b Khalifa, Shaika Haya Ali Al; Rice, Michael (1986). Bahrain through the Ages. KPI. ISBN 0-7103-0112-X. 
  12. ^ The Mari letters
  13. ^ a b c Kitchen, Kenneth A. "The Patriarchal Age: Myth or History?" in Shanks, Hershel (ed.) Biblical Archaeology Review 21:02 (March/April 1995)
  14. ^ Nayeem, Dr. Muhammed Abdul (1990). Prehistory and Protohistory of the Arabian Peninsula. Hyderabad. 
  15. ^ Roaf, Michael (1990). Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East. Equinox. ISBN 0-8160-2218-6. 
  16. ^ Orr, James, general editor (1915). "Hammurabi". International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 
  17. ^ "Amraphel". The Catholic Encyclopedia. 1917. 
  18. ^ Pinches, Theophilus (1908). The Old Testament In the Light of The Historical Records and Legends of Assyria and Babylonia (third ed.). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. 
  19. ^ MacKenzie, Donald (1915). "The Golden Age of Babylonia". Myths of Babylonia and Assyria. p. 247. The identification of Hammurabi with Amraphel is now generally accepted 
  20. ^ Browning, W.R.F. (2010). "Amraphel". A Dictionary of the Bible (second ed.). Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 0-19-954399-2. The identification, once popular, that this Amraphel was the famous Hammurabi of Babylon (1728–1686 BCE) is not tenable ... Most scholars doubt whether Gen. 14 describes historical events. 
  21. ^ The Anchor Bible Dictionary, s.v. "Chedorlaomer"
  22. ^ Hindel, Ronald (1994). "Finding Historical Memories in the Patriarchal Narratives". Biblical Archaeology Review. 21 (4): 52–59, 70–72. 
  23. ^ Thompson, Thomas (2002). The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives: The Quest for the Historical Abraham. Valley Forge, Pa: Trinity Press International. ISBN 1-56338-389-6. 

Abrahamic covenant[edit]

The Vision of the Lord Directing Abram to Count the Stars (woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld from the 1860 Bible in Pictures)

The word of God came to Abram in a vision and repeated the promise of the land and descendants as numerous as the stars. Abram and God made a covenant ceremony, and God told of the future bondage of Israel in Egypt. God described to Abram the land that his offspring would claim: "the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.” (Genesis 15)

Abram and Hagar[edit]

See also: Hagar
Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, imagined here in a Bible illustration from 1897.

Abram and Sarai were trying to make sense of how he would become a progenitor of nations since it had already been 10 years of living in Canaan, and still no child had been born from Abram's seed. Sarai then offered her Egyptian handmaid, Hagar, for Abram to consort with so that she may have a child by her, as a wife. Abram consented and had sexual intercourse with Hagar. The result of these actions created a fiery relationship between Hagar and Sarai. (Genesis 16:1–6)

After a harsh encounter with Sarai, Hagar fled toward Shur. En route, an angel of the Lord appeared to Hagar at the well of a spring. He instructed her to return to Sarai for she will bear a son who “shall be a wild ass of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.” She was told to call her son: Ishmael. Hagar then referred to God as “El-roi”, meaning that she had gone on seeing after God saw her. From that day, the well was called Beer-lahai-roi. She then did as she was instructed by returning to Abram in order to have her child. Abram was eighty-six years of age when Ishmael was born. (Genesis 16:7–16)

Expulsion of Ishmael and His Mother.png
Expulsion of Ishmael and His Mother
Born c. 2000 BCE
Died Desert of Paran
Children Ishmael

Hagar ([pronunciation?]; Hebrew: הָגָר, Modern Hagar, Tiberian Hāḡār, "stranger"; Greek: Άγαρ Agar; Latin: Agar; Arabic: هاجر;‎‎ Hājar), according to the Abrahamic faiths, was the second wife of Abraham, (Genesis 16:3) and the mother of his first son, Ishmael. Her story is recorded in the Book of Genesis, mentioned in Hadith, and alluded to in the Qur'an. Hagar's son, Ishmael, is the patriarch of the Ishmaelites.

Hagar and Abraham[edit]

Hagar was an Egyptian handmaiden of Sarai, the first wife of Abraham, who served her mistress less than ten years since coming out of Egypt. Hagar was offered, by her mistress, to Abram to be as a second wife.[Gen.16:3] Sarai presented this offering to her husband because she had been barren for so long and sought a way to fulfill God's promise, especially since they were getting older. (Genesis 16:1-3)

When Hagar realized that she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Sarai sensed her slave's attitude which caused her to suffer greatly. Sarai then consulted her husband about the matter who gave her permission to do with Hagar as she saw fit. Sarai dealt with her harshly, which resulted in Hagar fleeing from Abram’s settlement. (Genesis 16:4-6)

Hagar fled into the desert on her way to Shur. En route, an angel of Yahweh appeared to Hagar at the well of a spring. He instructed her to return to Sarai her mistress, so that she may bear a child who "shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen." [Gen.16:12] Then she was told to call her son Ishmael. Afterward, Hagar referred to God as "El Roi".[1] She then did as she was instructed by returning to Abram in order to have her child. When Abram was eighty-six years of age, Hagar gave birth to his firstborn son named Ishmael. (Genesis 16:7-16)

Navez Agar et Ismaël.jpg
A depiction of Hagar and Ishmael in the desert by François-Joseph Navez
Prophet, Patriarch, Father of the Arabs, Constructor of the Kaaba, Apostle to Arabia
Born Canaan
Died Arabia
Venerated in Islam
Influences Abraham
Influenced All of his descendants

Ishmael (Hebrew: יִשְׁמָעֵאל, Modern Yishma'el, Tiberian Yišmāʻēl ISO 259-3 Yišmaˁel; Greek: Ισμαήλ Ismaēl; Latin: Ismael; Arabic: إسماعيل‎‎ ʾIsmāʿīl) is a figure in the Hebrew Bible and the Qur'an, and was Abraham's first son according to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Ishmael was born of Abraham's marriage to Sarah's handmaiden Hagar (Genesis 16:3). According to the Genesis account, he died at the age of 137 (Genesis 25:17).[2]


Cognates of Hebrew Yishma'el existed in various ancient Semitic cultures,[3] including early Babylonian and Minæan.[2] It is translated literally as "God has hearkened", suggesting that "a child so named was regarded as the fulfillment of a divine promise".[3]

Genesis narrative[edit]

The dismissal of Hagar, by Pieter Pietersz Lastman

This is the account of Ishmael from Genesis Chapters 16, 17, 21, 25


In Genesis 16, the birth of Ishmael was planned by the Patriarch Abraham’s first wife, who at that time was known as Sarai. She and her husband Abram (Abraham), sought a way to have children in order to fulfill the Abrahamic covenant that was established in Genesis 15. Since Sarai had yet to bear Abram a child, her idea was to offer her Egyptian handmaiden Hagar to Abram, so that they could have a child by her. Abram consented to a marital arrangement taking Hagar as his second wife when he was in his late 85th year of age. Customs of that time dictated that, although Hagar was the birth mother, any child conceived would belong to Sarai and Abram (Sarah and Abraham).[4]

Genesis 16:7-16 describes the naming of Ishmael, and Yahweh's promise to Hagar concerning Ishmael and his descendants. This occurred at the well of Beer-lahai-roi, located in the desert region between Abram’s settlement and Shur. Hagar fled here after Sarai dealt harshly with her for showing contempt for her mistress following her having become pregnant. Here, Hagar encountered an angel of Yahweh who instructed her to return and be submissive to Sarai so that she could have her child there. The blessing that this child's father was promised was that Abram's descendants would be as numerous as the dust of the earth. The promise would be extended to this child, who would be named Ishmael. The angel continued that "he shall be a wild ass of a man: his hand shall be against every man, and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the face of all his brethren." When Ishmael was born, Abram was 86 years old.

Inheritance rights and the first circumcision[edit]

When he was 13 years old, Ishmael was circumcised at the same time as all other males in Abraham’s house becoming a part of the covenant in a mass circumcision. This occurred because his father Abram was inaugurated as Abraham at the age of 99 and then initiated into the covenant by having himself and his entire household circumcised. (Genesis 17)

At the time of the covenant, God informed Abraham that his wife Sarah would give birth to a son, which he was instructed to name Isaac. God told Abraham that He would establish his covenant through Isaac, and when Abraham inquired as to Ishmael’s role, God answers that Ishmael has been blessed and that He “will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.” (Genesis 17)

A year later, Ishmael's half-brother Isaac was born by Abraham to his first wife Sarah.

On the day of feasting during which Abraham celebrated the weaning of Isaac, Ishmael was, “mocking” or "playing with" Isaac (the Hebrew word is ambiguous[5])[2] and Sarah asked Abraham to expel Ishmael and his mother, saying: "Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac."[4][6] This proposition was grievous to Abraham due to his great love for his son Ishmael. Abraham only agreed when God told him that it was through Isaac that Abraham's offspring would "be reckoned", and that He would "make Ishmael into a nation" too, since he was a descendant of Abraham. (Genesis 21:11-13)

'Hagar and Ishmael in the Desert, by Grigoriy Ugrumov (c. 1785)

At the age of 14, Ishmael became a free man along with his mother. Under Mesopotamian law, their freedom enjoined them from laying claim to any inheritance that Abraham and Sarah had. The Lord’s covenant also made clear Ishmael was not to inherit Abraham’s house and that Isaac would be the instrument of the covenant. Ishmael's father gave him and his mother a supply of bread and water and sent them away. Hagar strayed in the wilderness of Beer-sheba where the two soon ran out of water and Hagar, not wanting to witness the death of her son, set the boy some distance away from herself, and wept. "And God heard the voice of the lad" and sent his angel to tell Hagar, "Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation." And God "opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water", from which she drew to save Ishmael's life and her own. "And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer." (Genesis 21:14-21)


After roaming the wilderness for some time, Ishmael and his mother settled in the Desert of Paran, where he became an expert in archery. Eventually, his mother found him a wife from the land of Egypt.[7] They had 12 sons who became 12 tribal chiefs throughout the regions from Havilah to Shur (from Assyria to the border of Egypt).[8] His children are listed as follows:[9]

  1. Nebaioth
  2. Kedar, father of the Qedarites, (A northern Arab tribe that controlled the region between the Persian Gulf and the Sinai Peninsula). According to tradition, ancestor of Muhammad and the Quraysh tribe.[10]
  3. Adbeel, established a tribe in northwest Arabia.
  4. Mibsam
  5. Mishma
  6. Dumah, associated with Adummatu described as "a fortress of Arabia" in Saudi Arabia.
  7. Massa, father of a nomadic tribe that inhabited the Arabian desert toward Babylonia.
  8. Hadad
  9. Tema
  10. Jetur
  11. Naphish
  12. Kedemah


  1. Mahalath or Basemath, the third wife of Esau.[11]

Ishmael also appeared with Isaac at the burial of Abraham.[12] Ishmael died at the age of 137.[13]

Deuterocanonical references[edit]

The book of Jubilees places the location and identity of the Ishmaelites as the Arab peoples residing in Arab territories. This is the current view for the majority of the Christian, Islamic and Jewish faiths, although according to Biblical accounts the Arab people traditionally have had long-standing alliances with the descendants of the Assyrians and the Medes. Modern Arab populations represent many nations rather than one nation as specified biblically.

World views[edit]

Historians and academics in the fields of linguistics and source criticism believe that the stories of Ishmael belong to the three strata of J, or Yahwist source, the P, or Priestly source, and the E, or Elohist source (See Documentary hypothesis).[2] For example, The narration in Genesis 16 is of J type and the narration in Genesis 21:8-21 is of E type.[14]

Islamic traditions consider Ishmael to be the ancestor of Arab people,[3] excluding Arabs who are descendants of Ya'rub. Arabs who are from Ishmael-descendant tribes are occasionally referred to as "Arabized-Arabs" to highlight their ancestry. The Prophet Muhammad was of these Arabs. However, many modern Arabs also believe their tribes and houses to be of Isaac's blood line, in particular in Southern Palestine.[citation needed]

Jewish traditions are split between those, like Josephus, who consider Ishmael the ancestor of the Arabs,[15] and those, like Maimonides, who believe that the northern Arabs are descended from the sons of Keturah, whom Abraham married after Sarah's death.[16]


Judaism has generally viewed Ishmael as wicked though repentant (Whereas Christianity omits any reference to repentance which is sourced in the Talmudic explanation of the Bible [17]).[3] Judaism maintains that Isaac rather than Ishmael was the true heir of Abraham.[4]

In some Rabbinic traditions Ishmael is said to have had two wives; one of them named Aisha. This name corresponds to the Muslim tradition for the name of Muhammad's wife.[3] This is understood as a metaphoric representation of the Muslim world (first Arabs and then Turks) with Ishmael.[18]

The name of an important 2nd Century CE sage—Ishmael ben Elisha, known as "Rabbi Ishmael" (רבי ישמעאל), one of the Tannaim—indicates that the Bibilical Ishmael enjoyed a positive image among Jews of the time.[citation needed]

Rabbinical commentators in the Midrash Genesis Rabbah also say that Ishmael's mother Hagar was the Pharaoh's daughter, thereby making Ishmael the grandson of the Pharaoh. This could be why Genesis 17:20 refers to Ishmael as the father of 12 mighty princes. According to Genesis 21:21, Hagar married Ishmael to an Egyptian woman, and if Rabbinical commentators are correct about Hagar being the daughter of the Pharaoh, his marriage to a woman selected by the Pharaoh's daughter could explain how and why his sons became princes.

However, according to other Jewish commentators, Ishmael's mother Hagar is identified with Keturah, the woman Abraham married after the death of Sarah, stating that Abraham sought her out after Sarah's death. It is suggested that Keturah was Hagar's personal name, and that "Hagar" was a descriptive label meaning "stranger".[19][20][21] This interpretation is discussed in the Midrash[22] and is supported by Rashi, Gur Aryeh, Keli Yakar, and Obadiah of Bertinoro. Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Itzhaki) argues that "Keturah" was a name given to Hagar because her deeds were as beautiful as incense (hence: ketores), and/or that she remained chaste from the time she was separated from Abraham—keturah [ קְטוּרָה Q'turah ] derives from the Aramaic word for restrained.

It is also said that Sarah was motivated by Ishmael's sexually frivolous ways because of the reference to his "making merry" (Gen. 21:9), a translation of the Hebrew word "Mitzachek". This was developed into a reference to idolatry, sexual immorality or even murder; some rabbinic sources claim that Sarah worried that Ishmael would negatively influence Isaac, or that he would demand Isaac's inheritance on the grounds of being the firstborn. Others take a more positive view, emphasizing Hagar's piety, noting that she was "the one who had sat by the well and besought him who is the life of the worlds, saying 'look upon my misery'".[23]


Ishmael (Arabic: إسماعيل‎‎ Ismā'īl) is recognized as an important prophet and patriarch of Islam. Muslims believe that Ishmael was the firstborn of Abraham, born to him from his second wife Hagar. Ishmael is recognized by Muslims as the ancestor of several prominent Arab tribes and being the forefather of Muhammad.[24] Muslims also believe that Muhammad was the descendant of Ishmael that would establish a great nation, as promised by God in the Old Testament.[25]

Ishmael in the Qur'an[edit]

Ishmael is mentioned over ten times in the Qur'an, often alongside other patriarchs and prophets of ancient times. In XIX: 54, the Qur'an says: "And make mention in the Scripture of Ishmael. He was a keeper of his promise, and he was a messenger, a prophet. He enjoined upon his people worship and almsgiving, and was most acceptable in the sight of his Lord." Later on, in XXXVIII: 48, Ishmael is mentioned together with Elisha and Dhul-Kifl as one of "the patiently enduring and righteous, whom God caused to enter into his mercy." It is also said of Lot, Elisha, Jonah and Ishmael, that God gave each one "preference above the worlds" (VI: 86). These reference to Ishmael are, in each case, part of a larger context in which other holy prophets are mentioned. In other chapters of the Qur'an, however, which date from the Medina period, Ishmael is mentioned closely with his father Abraham: Ishmael stands alongside Abraham in their attempt to set up the Kaaba in Mecca as a place of monotheistic pilgrimage (II: 127-129) and Abraham thanks God for granting him Ishmael and Isaac in his old age (XIV: 35-41). Ishmael is further mentioned alongside the patriarchs who had been given revelations (II: 136) and Jacob's sons promise to follow the faith of their forefathers, "Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac", when testifying their faith (II: 133). In the narrative of the near-sacrifice of Abraham's son (XXXVII: 100-107), the son is not named and, although the general interpretation is that it was Ishmael, Tabari[26] maintained that it was Isaac. Most modern commentators, however, regard the son's identification as least important in a narrative which is given for its moral lesson.[27]

Ishmael in Muslim literature[edit]

The commentaries on the Qur'an and the numerous collections of Stories of the Prophets flesh out the Islamic perspective of Ishmael and detail his integral part in setting up the Kaaba. According to Muslim tradition, Ishmael was buried in Al-Hijr, inside the Sacred Mosque.[28]

In Islamic belief, Abraham had prayed to God for a son and God heard his prayer. Muslim exegesis states that Sarah asked Abraham to marry her Egyptian handmaiden Hagar because she herself was barren.[24] Hagar soon bore Ishmael, who was the first son of Abraham. After Sarah gave birth to her own son, Isaac, tension arose between the two women. According to exegesis, God told Abraham to listen to Sarah, who said that both Hagar and Ishmael should be taken out of their household and into the desert.[24] In Islamic tradition, Abraham took Hagar and Ishmael to the desert himself, where he left them and returned to his household. In the desert, the young Ishmael cried with thirst.[24] His mother searched for water, which resulted in her running seven times between the Safa and Marwah hills, before God helped them by making spring water gush forth from the Zamzam well, so both mother and son could rejuvenate themselves. To commemorate the bravery of Hagar and Ishmael, Muslims run between the Safa and Marwah hills during Hajj.[24]

On one of his visits to Mecca, Abraham is said to have asked his son to help him build the requested Kaaba.[29] Islamic traditions hold that the Kaaba was first built by Adam and that Abraham and Ishmael rebuilt the Kaaba on the old foundations.[30] As Ishmael grew up in Arabia, he is said to have become fluent in Arabic. In the genealogical trees that the early scholars drew,[31] Ishmael was considered the ancestor of the Northern Arabs and Muhammad was linked to him through the lineage of the patriarch Adnan.


In some Christian biblical interpretations, Ishmael is used to symbolize the older—now rejected—Judaic tradition; Isaac symbolizes the new tradition of Christianity.[3]

According to the Genesis account, Ishmael and his mother were expelled at the instigation of Sarah, in order to make sure that Isaac would be Abraham's heir. In the book of Galatians (4:21–31), Paul uses the incident "to symbolize the relationship between Judaism, the older but now rejected tradition, and Christianity".[3] In Galatians 4:28–31,[32] Hagar is associated with the Sinai covenant, while Sarah is associated with the covenant of grace into which her son Isaac enters.[33]


  1. ^ 13 So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, "Truly here I have seen him who looks after me."Genesis 16:13
  2. ^ a b c d Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Fredrick E. Greenspahn, Encyclopedia of Religion, Ishmael, p.4551-4552
  4. ^ a b c "Hagar". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007.
  5. ^ "Hagar", Jewish Encyclopedia
  6. ^ Genesis 25:2-6
  7. ^ Genesis 21:17-21
  8. ^ "Ishmael", Jewish Encyclopedia
  9. ^ Genesis 25:12-18
  10. ^ Schaff, Philip, ed. (1880). A Dictionary of the Bible: Including Biography, Natural History, Geography, Topography, Archæology, and Literature. Philadelphia: American Sunday-School Union. p. 494 [p. 502 on-line]. Retrieved April 23, 2011.  Unknown parameter |separator= ignored (help)
  11. ^ "Mahalath", Jewish Encyclopedia
  12. ^ Genesis 25:9
  13. ^ Genesis 25:17
  14. ^ S. Nikaido(2001), p.1
  15. ^ Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book I, Ch. 12; 2, 4
  16. ^ "Maimonides' 'True Religion': For Jews or All Humanity?", Menachem Kellner, in Meorot 7:1 (2008) p.5, n.21
  17. ^
  18. ^ Shalom Paul in The Oxford Dictionary of Jewish Religion, p.358
  19. ^ "The Return of Hagar", commentary on Parshat Chayei Sarah, Chabad Lubavitch.
  20. ^ "Who Was Ketura?", Bar-Ilan University's Parashat Hashavua Study Center, 2003.
  21. ^ "Parshat Chayei Sarah", Torah Insights, Orthodox Union, 2002.
  22. ^ Bereshit Rabbah 61:4.
  23. ^ Jeffrey, David L., A Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1992, p. 326 ISBN 0-8028-3634-8
  24. ^ a b c d e A-Z of Prophets in Islam and Judaism, Wheeler, Ishmael
  25. ^ Zeep, Ira G. (2000). A Muslim primer: beginner's guide to Islam, Volume 2. University of Arkansas Press. p. 5. ISBN 978-1-55728-595-9. 
  26. ^ "Isaac", Encyclopedia of Islam, volume 4
  27. ^ Glasse, C., "Ishmael", Concise Encyclopedia of Islam
  28. ^ Encyclopedia of Islam Volume 4, Ismail
  29. ^ Quran 2:127)
  30. ^ Azraqi, Akhbar Makkah, vol. 1, pp. 58-66
  31. ^ Chronicles, Tabari, Vol I: From Creation to Flood
  32. ^ Galatians 4:28–31
  33. ^ Encyclopedia of Christianity(Ed. John Bowden), Isaac

Hagar freed[edit]

When Isaac was born to Sarah (Sarai), the relationship between Hagar and her mistress had come to a climax. At a celebration after Isaac was weaned, Sarah found the teenage Ishmael mocking her son. She was so upset by it that she demanded from her husband, who was now referred to as Abraham, to send Hagar and her son away. She declared that Ishmael would not share in Isaac's inheritance. Abraham was greatly distressed by his wife's words and sought the advice of God. Yahweh told Abraham not to be distressed but to do as his wife commanded because not only would Isaac carry the Abrahamic line, but a nation would come from the line of Ishmael as well. (Genesis 21:9-13)

Early the next morning, Abraham brought Hagar and Ishmael out together. He released Hagar and her son from being slaves of their household. Hagar would now be a free woman, and Ishmael a free man as a teenager. Under Mesopotamian law, their freedom absolved them from laying claim to any inheritance that Abraham and Sarah had. Abraham gave Hagar bread and water for a journey into the wilderness of Beersheba. She and her son wandered aimlessly until the bottle of water was completely consumed. In a moment of despair, she burst in tears. Her son then called to God and upon hearing him, an angel of Yahweh confirmed to Hagar that her son would become a great nation. A well of water then appeared so that it saved their lives. Hagar found her son a wife from her native home in the land of Egypt and they settled in the Desert of Paran. (Genesis 21:14-21)

Rabbinical commentary[edit]

Rabbinical commentators asserted that Hagar was Pharaoh's daughter. The midrash Genesis Rabbah states it was when Sarah was in Pharaoh's harem that he gave her his daughter Hagar as slave, saying: "It is better that my daughter should be a slave in the house of such a woman than mistress in another house". Sarah treated Hagar well, and induced women who came to visit her to visit Hagar also. However Hagar, when pregnant by Abraham, began to act superciliously toward Sarah, provoking the latter to treat her harshly, to impose heavy work upon her, and even to strike her (ib. 16:9).[1]

Some Jewish commentators identify Hagar with Keturah, the woman Abraham married after the death of Sarah, stating that Abraham sought her out after Sarah's death. It is suggested that Keturah was Hagar's personal name, and that "Hagar" was a descriptive label meaning "stranger".[2][3][4] This interpretation is discussed in the Midrash[5] and is supported by Rashi, Gur Aryeh, Keli Yakar, and Obadiah of Bertinoro. Rashi argues that "Keturah" was a name given to Hagar because her deeds were as beautiful as incense (hence: ketores), and/or that she remained chaste from the time she was separated from Abraham—keturah [ קְטוּרָה Q'turah ] derives from Aramaic word for restrained. The contrary view (that Keturah was someone other than Hagar) is advocated by Rashbam, Abraham ibn Ezra, Radak, and Ramban. They were listed as two different people in the genealogies of 1 Chronicles.[6]

Islamic traditions[edit]

Gheorge Tattarescu's imagining of the angel appearing to Hagar

Hājar (Arabic: هاجر), is the Arabic name used to identify the wife of the Islamic prophet Ibrāhīm (Abraham) and the mother of the prophet Ismā'īl (Ishmael). Although not mentioned by name in the Qur'an, she is referenced and alluded to via the story of her husband. She is a revered woman in the Islamic faith.

According to Muslim belief, she was the Egyptian handmaiden of Abraham's first wife Sara (Sarah). She eventually settled in the Desert of Paran with her son Ishmael. Hagar is honoured as an especially important matriarch of monotheism, as it was through Ishmael that the prophet Muhammad would come.

Neither Sarah nor Hagar are mentioned by name in the Qur'an, but the story is traditionally understood to be referred to in a line from Abraham's prayer in Sura Ibrahim (14:37): "I have settled some of my family in a barren valley near your Sacred House."[7] While Hagar is not named, the reader lives Hagar's predicament indirectly through the eyes of Abraham.[8] She is also frequently mentioned in the books of hadiths.

According to Qisas Al-Anbiya, a collection of tales about the prophets, Hagar was the daughter of the King of Maghreb, a descendant of the prophet Salih. Her father was killed by Pharaoh Dhu l-'arsh and she was captured and taken as slave. Later, because of her royal blood, she was made mistress of the female slaves and given access to all of Pharaoh's wealth. Upon conversion to Abraham's faith, the Pharaoh gave Hagar to Sarah who gave her to Abraham. In this account, the name "Hagar" (called Hajar in Arabic) comes from Ha ajruka, Arabic for "here is your recompense".[8]

According to another tradition, Hagar was the daughter of the Egyptian king, who gifted her to Abraham as a wife, thinking Sarah was his sister.[9] According to Ibn Abbas, Ishmael's birth to Hagar caused strife between her and Sarah, who was still barren. Abraham brought Hagar and their son to a land called Paran-aram or (Faran in Arabic, in latter days held to be the land surrounding Mecca).[10] The objective of this journey was to "resettle" rather than "expel" Hagar.[8] Abraham left Hagar and Ishmael under a tree and provided them with water.[10] Hagar, learning that God had ordered Abraham to leave her in the desert of Paran, respected his decision.[9] Muslims believe that God ordered Abraham to leave Hagar in order to test his obedience to God's commands.[11]

Hagar soon ran out of water, and Ishmael began to die. Hagar panicked and ran between two nearby hills, Al-Safa and Al-Marwah repeatedly in search for water. After her seventh run, Ishmael hit the ground with his heel and caused a miraculous well to spring out of the ground. This is called Zamzam Well and is located a few metres from the Kaaba in Mecca.[10]

The incident[12] of her running between the Al-Safa and Al-Marwah hills is remembered by Muslims when they perform their pilgrimage (Hajj) at Mecca. Part of the pilgrimage is to run seven times between the hills, in commemoration of Hagar's courage and to symbolize the celebration of motherhood in Islam as well as the leadership of women. To complete the task, some Muslims also drink from the Zamzam Well and take some of the water back home from pilgrimage in memory of Hagar.[13]

Gheorge Tattarescu's imagining of the angel appearing to Hagar

Hājar (Arabic: هاجر), the Arabic name for the Biblical Hagar, was the wife of the patriarch and Islamic prophet Ibrāhīm (Abraham) and the mother of the prophet Ismā'īl (Ishmael) is a revered woman in the Islamic faith. According to Muslim belief, she was the Egyptian handmaiden of Abraham's first wife Sara (Sarah). Although not mentioned by name in the Qur'an, she is referenced and alluded to via the story of her husband. She eventually settled in the Desert of Paran with her son Ishmael. Hagar is honoured as an especially important matriarch of monotheism, as it was through Ishmael that the prophet Muhammad would come.

Islamic scholars and sources state the following using the Arabic name Haajar for Hagar; "After Haajar gave birth to Ismaa’eel, Saarah began to feel jealous, so she asked Ibraaheem to send them away from her. Allaah revealed to Ibraaheem that he should take Haajar and the infant Ismaa’eel and take them to Makkah. So he took them and left Haajar and her child Ismaa’eel in an bleak, isolated place in which there was no water, then he left them and went back to Palestine. Haajar said to him, 'For whom are you leaving us in this forsaken valley?' But Ibraaheem went and left her, and she said, 'Has Allaah commanded you to do this?” He said, 'Yes.' She said, 'Then Allaah will not cause us to be lost.'

Ibraaheem submitted to the command of his Lord and patiently bore the separation from his wife and child. Then he turned towards where they were at the Sacred House and prayed for them in the following words (interpretation of the meaning):

'O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in an uncultivable valley by Your Sacred House (the Ka‘bah at Makkah) in order, O our Lord, that they may perform As-Salaah (Iqaamat-as-Salaah). So fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (O Allaah) provide them with fruits so that they may give thanks'[Qur'an, Ibraaheem 14:37][14]

Islamic sources state that Abraham would go between Palestine and Mecca (in Arabia) and later Abraham and his eldest son Ishmael constructed the Kaaba in Mecca. "Then Ibraaheem stayed in Palestine for a while, then he returned to Makkah for an important reason. Allaah had commanded him to build in Makkah the first House to be built for the worship of Allaah. So Ibraaheem undertook this task of construction, and his son Ismaa’eel was lifting up the stones to him. When the walls grew higher, Ibraaheem stood on a rock, and this is the Station of Ibraaheem (Maqaam Ibraaheem) which is to be found in the vicinity of the Ka’bah. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

'And (remember) when Ibraaheem (Abraham) and (his son) Ismee‘eel (Ishmael) were raising the foundations of the House (the Ka‘bah at Makkah), (saying), ‘Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us. Verily, You are the All-Hearer, the All-Knower’'

[Qur'an, al-Baqarah 2:127]

Allaah commanded Ibraaheem and Ismaa’eel to cleanse the House of idols and other impurities so that it would be pure for those who would circumambulate it and stand and bow and prostrate (in prayer). When Ibraaheem built the House, Allaah commanded him to call mankind to perform the Hajj, as He says (interpretation of the meaning):

'And proclaim to mankind the Hajj (pilgrimage). They will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, they will come from every deep and distant (wide) mountain highway (to perform Hajj)'

[Qur'an, al-Hajj 22:27][14]

Hagar in the desert[edit]

Because of the scarcity of water in the desert, it was not long before both mother and son suffered immense thirst. Thus, Hagar ran between the Al-Safa and Al-Marwah hills in search of water for her son. After the seventh run between the two hills, an angel[15] appeared before her. He helped her and told her that God had heard Ishmael's crying and would provide them with water. At that point, God caused a spring to burst forth from the ground, where Ishmael's heel lay, and thereafter Mecca became known for its excellence and abundance of water. The well was subsequently named Zamzam, and become a holy source of water.

Legacy of Hagar[edit]

Hagar is honoured by Muslims as a wise, brave and pious woman as well as the believing mother of the Adnan Arab people. The incident[12] of her running between the Al-Safa and Al-Marwah hills is remembered by Muslims when they perform their pilgrimage (Hajj) at Mecca. Part of the pilgrimage is to run seven times between the hills, in commemoration of Hagar's courage and to symbolize the celebration of motherhood in Islam as well as the leadership of women. To complete the task, some Muslims also drink from the Zamzam Well and take some of the water back home from pilgrimage.


  1. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia, Hagar
  2. ^ Cite error: The named reference The_Return_of_Hagar was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  3. ^ Cite error: The named reference Who_Was_Ketura.3F was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  4. ^ Cite error: The named reference Parshat_Chayei_Sarah was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  5. ^ Cite error: The named reference Bereshit_Rabbah_61:4 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  6. ^ 1 Chronicles 1:29–33
  7. ^ Barbara Freyer Stowasser, Women in the Qur'an, Traditions, and Interpretation, New York: Oxford University Press, 1996, p.47.
  8. ^ a b c Fatani, Afnan H. (2006). "Hajar". In Leaman, Oliver. The Qur'an: an encyclopedia. London: Routeledge. pp. 234–236. 
  9. ^ a b 'Aishah 'Abd al-Rahman, Anthony Calderbank (1999). "Islam and the New Woman/ ﺍﻹﺳﻼﻡ ﻭﺍﻟﻤﺮﺃﺓ ﺍﻟﺠﺪﻳﺪﺓ". Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics (19): 200. 
  10. ^ a b c Firestone, Reuven (1992). "Abraham's Journey to Mecca in Islamic Exegesis: A Form-Critical Study of a Tradition". Studia Islamica (76): 15–18. 
  11. ^ Schussman, Aviva (1998). "The Legitimacy and Nature of Mawid al-Nabī: (Analysis of a Fatwā)". Islamic Law and Society. 5 (2): 218. 
  12. ^ a b Muhammad, Martin Lings, Chapter 1. The House of God, Suhail Academy Publishing
  13. ^ Delaney, Carol (August 1990). "The "hajj": Sacred and Secular". American Ethnologist. 17 (3): 515. 
  14. ^ a b
  15. ^ Genesis 21:17-19: "And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is.
    Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.
    And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink."


Christian commentary on Hagar begins with Paul the Apostle's Epistle to the Galatians, which asserts that the story of Hagar is a complex allegory:

For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.

Paul has been interpreted by some to mean that Mount Sinai was also called "Agar", and that it was named after Hagar.[1] He links the laws of the Torah, given on Mount Sinai, to the bondage of the Israelite people, implying that it was signified by Hagar's condition as a bondswoman, while the "free" heavenly Jerusalem is signified by Sarah and her child.

Saint Augustine developed this view, by saying that Hagar symbolised the earthly "city", or sinful condition of humanity: "In the earthly city (symbolised by Hagar) ... we find two things, its own obvious presence and the symbolic presence of the heavenly city. New citizens are begotten to the earthly city by nature vitiated by sin but to the heavenly city by grace freeing nature from sin." (City of God 15:2)[2] This view was developed by medieval theologians such as Thomas Aquinas and John Wycliffe. The latter compared the children of Sarah to the redeemed, and those of Hagar to the unredeemed, who are "carnal by nature and mere exiles".[2]

Paul's view was also used to link Hagar to Judaism, on the basis that the bondswoman Hagar represented bondage to the "old law", which the Christian dispensation had supplanted. In this respect Jews were seen – spiritually speaking – as descendants of Hagar, not Sarah.[3] The equation of Jews with descendants of Hagar was also used to justify the subordination of Jews in medieval Christian kingdoms, and even their expulsion, on the model of the subjection and expulsion of Hagar.[3]

Contemporary politics[edit]


The story of Hagar's expulsion to the desert has acquired some political connotations in modern Israel, being taken up as a symbol of the Palestinian Nakba, being depicted as such by some Israeli writers and artists.[citation needed]

It was also the subject of a famous debate on the floor of the Knesset between two female parliamentarians – Shulamit Aloni, founder of Meretz (Civil Rights Movement) and Geula Cohen of Tehiya (National Awakening Party) – who argued about the right interpretation which the Bible in general and Hagar's story in particular should be given in curriculum of Israeli schools.[citation needed]

Since the 1970s, the custom has arisen of giving the name "Hagar" to newborn female babies. The giving of this name is often taken as a controversial political act, marking the parents as being left-leaning and supporters of reconciliation with the Palestinians and Arab World, and is frowned upon by many, including nationalists and the religious. The connotations of the name were represented by the founding of the Israeli journal Hagar: Studies in Culture, Polity and Identities in 2000.[4]


Several black American feminists have written about Hagar, comparing her story to those of slaves in American history. Wilma Bailey, in an article entitled "Hagar: A Model for an Anabaptist Feminist", refers to her as a "maidservant" and "slave". She sees Hagar as a model of "power, skills, strength and drive". In the article "A Mistress, A Maid, and No Mercy", Renita Weems argues that the relationship between Sarah and Hagar exhibits "ethnic prejudice exacerbated by economic and social exploitation".[5] According to Susanne Scholz,

Enslaved, raped, but seen by God, Hagar has been a cherished biblical character in African-American communities. Womanist theologian Delores S. Williams explains:

The African-American community has taken Hagar's story unto itself. Hagar has ‘spoken’ to generation after generation of black women because her story has been validated as true by suffering black people. She and Ishmael together, as family, model many black American families in which a lone woman/mother struggles to hold the family together in spite of the poverty to which ruling class economics consign it. Hagar, like many black women, goes into the wide world to make a living for herself and her child, with only God by her side.

The story of Hagar demonstrates that survival is possible even under harshest conditions.[6]

Assisted reproduction[edit]

Hagar bearing a child for an infertile woman is an example of what is now called surrogacy or contractual gestation. Critics of this and other assisted reproductive technologies have used Hagar in their analysis. As early as 1988, Anna Goldman-Amirav in Reproductive and Genetic Engineering wrote of Hagar within "the Biblical 'battle of the wombs' [which] lay the foundation for the view of women, fertility, and sexuality in the patriarchal society".[7] Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale, as mentioned in a previous section, takes this feminist analysis into a futuristic dystopia.


  1. ^ Charles Forster, The Historical Geography of Arabia, Duncan and Malcolm, 1844, p.182
  2. ^ a b Jeffrey, David L., A Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1992, p. 326 ISBN 0-8028-3634-8
  3. ^ a b Deeana Copeland Klepper, "Jewish Expulsion and Jewish Exile in Scholastic Thought", International Medieval Congress, Leeds, UK, July 2002
  4. ^ Oren Yiftachel, Launching Hagar: Marginality, Beer-Sheva, Critique, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva.
  5. ^ Bailey, Wilma Ann Black and Jewish women consider Hagar, Encounter, Winter 2002
  6. ^ Susanne Scholz, "Gender, Class, and Androcentric Compliance in the Rapes of Enslaved Women in the Hebrew Bible", Lectio Difficilior (European Electronic Journal for Feminist Exegisis), 1/2004 (see especially section "The Story of Hagar (Genesis 16:1–16; 21:9–21)".
  7. ^ Goldman-Amirav, Anna (1988). "Behold, the Lord Hath Restrained Me from Bearing", Reproductive and Genetic Engineering: Journal of International Feminist Analysis Volume 1 Number 3.[dead link]

Abraham's three visitors[edit]

Abraham and the Three Angels (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot)

Not long afterward, during the heat of the day, Abraham had been sitting at the entrance of his tent by the terebinths of Mamre. He looked up and saw three men in the presence of God. Then he ran and bowed to the ground to welcome them. Abraham then offered to wash their feet and fetch them a morsel of bread of which they assented. Abraham rushed to Sarah’s tent to order cakes made from choice flour, then he ordered a servant-boy to prepare a choice calf. When all was prepared, he set curds, milk and the calf before them waiting on them, under a tree, as they ate. (Genesis 18:1–8)

One of the visitors told Abraham that upon his return next year, Sarah would have a son. While at the tent entrance, Sarah overheard what was said and she laughed to herself about the prospect of having a child at their ages. The visitor inquired to Abraham why Sarah laughed at bearing a child for her age as nothing is too hard for God. Frightened, Sarah denied laughing.

Abraham's plea[edit]

Abraham Sees Sodom in Flames (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot)

After eating, Abraham and the three visitors got up. They walked over to the peak that overlooked the Cities of the Plain to discuss the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah for their detestable sins that were so great, it moved God to action. Because Abraham’s nephew was living in Sodom, God revealed plans to confirm and judge these cities. At this point, the two other visitors leave for Sodom. Then Abraham turned to the Lord and pleaded incrementally with Him (from fifty persons to less) that 'if there were at least ten righteous men found in the city, would not God spare the city?' For the sake of ten righteous people, God declared that he would not destroy the city. (Genesis 18:17–33)

When the two visitors got to Sodom to conduct their report, they planned on staying in the city square. However, Abraham’s nephew, Lot, met with them and strongly insisted that these two “men” stay at his house for the night. A rally of men stood outside of Lot’s home and demanded that they bring out his guests so that they may “know” them. However, Lot objected and offered his virgin daughters to the rally of men instead. They rejected that notion and sought to break Lot’s doors down to get to his male guests,[1] thus confirming the “outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah” and sealing their doom. (Genesis 19:12–13)

Early the next morning, Abraham awoke and went to the elevation that looked over the River Jordan plain, at the very spot where he stood before God, the day prior. From his vantage point, he saw what became of the cities of the plain as “dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.” (Genesis 19:27–29) This meant that there was not even ten righteous people in any of those cities. (Genesis 18:32)

Abraham and Abimelech[edit]

Abraham settled between Kadesh and Shur in the land of the Philistines. While he was living in Gerar, Abraham openly claimed that Sarah was his sister. Upon discovering this news, King Abimelech had her brought to him. Later, God came to Abimelech in a dream and declared that taking her would result in death because she was a married woman. Abimelech had not laid hands on her, so he inquired if he would also slay a righteous nation, especially since Abraham had claimed that he and Sarah were siblings. In response, God told Abimelech that he did indeed have a blameless heart and that is why he continued to exist. However, should he not return the wife of Abraham back to him, God would surely destroy Abimelech and his entire household. Abimelech was informed that Abraham was a prophet who would pray for him.(Genesis 20:1–7)

Early next morning, Abimelech informed his servants of his dream and approached Abraham inquiring as to why he had brought such great guilt upon his kingdom. Abraham stated that he thought there was no fear of God in that place, and that they might kill him for his wife. Then Abraham defended what he had said as not being a lie at all: "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." (Genesis 20:12) Abimelech returned Sarah to Abraham, and gave him gifts of sheep, oxen, and servants; and invited him to settle wherever he pleased in Abimelech’s lands. Further, Abimelech gave Abraham a thousand pieces of silver to serve as Sarah's vindication before all. Abraham then prayed for Abimelech and his household, since the LORD had stricken the women with infertility because of the taking of Sarah. (Genesis 20:8–18)

After living for some time in the land of the Philistines, Abimelech and Phicol, the chief of his troops, approached Abraham because of a dispute that resulted in a violent confrontation at a well. Abraham then reproached Abimelech due to his Philistine servant's aggressive attacks and the seizing of Abraham’s well. Abimelech claimed ignorance of the incident. Then Abraham offered a pact by providing sheep and oxen to Abimelech. Further, to attest that Abraham was the one who dug the well, he also gave Abimelech seven ewes for proof. Because of this sworn oath, they called the place of this well: Beersheba. After Abimelech and Phicol headed back to Philistia, Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba and called upon "the name of the LORD, the everlasting God." (Genesis 21:22–34)

Birth of Isaac[edit]

Abraham and Ishmael[edit]

Abraham was fond of his son Ishmael who had grown up to be fourteen years old when his son Isaac was born. However, with Sarah, things were never the same with Ishmael's mother Hagar, back in her life. Now that Sarah had finally borne her own child, she could no longer stand the sight of either Hagar or Ishmael. When the teenager was jesting around, Sarah told Abraham to send the two of them away. She declared that Ishmael would not share in Isaac's inheritance. Abraham was greatly distressed by his wife's words and sought the advice of his God. The Lord told Abraham not to be distressed but to do as his wife commanded. God reassured Abraham that "in Isaac shall seed be called to thee." (Genesis 21:12) He also said that Ishmael would make a nation, "because he is thy seed", too. (Genesis 21:9–13)

Early the next morning, Abraham brought Hagar and Ishmael out together. He gave her bread and water and sent them away. The two wandered the wilderness of Beersheba until her bottle of water was completely consumed. In a moment of despair, she burst in tears. The boy then called to God and upon hearing him, an angel of God confirmed to Hagar that he would become a great nation. A well of water then appeared so that it saved their lives. As the boy grew, he became a skilled archer living in the wilderness of Paran. Eventually his mother found a wife for Ishmael from her native country, the land of Egypt. (Genesis 21:14–21)

Abraham Sacrificing Isaac, by Laurent de La Hire, 1650 (Musée des Beaux-Arts d'Orléans)

Abraham and Isaac[edit]

Main article: Binding of Isaac

At some point in Isaac's youth, Abraham was commanded by God to offer his son up as a sacrifice in the land of Moriah. The patriarch traveled three days until he came to the mount that God told him of. He commanded the servants to remain while he and Isaac proceeded alone into the mount. Isaac carrying the wood upon which he would be sacrificed. Along the way, Isaac asked his father where the animal for the burnt offering was, to which Abraham replied "God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering". Just as Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, he was interrupted by "The angel of the LORD", and he saw behind him a ram "caught in a thicket by his horns", which he sacrificed instead of his son. For his obedience he received another promise of numerous descendants and abundant prosperity. After this event, Abraham went to Beersheba. (Genesis 22:1–19)

Later years[edit]

Sarah, the only woman in the Hebrew scriptures whose age is stated,[2] was 127 years old when she died. Abraham buried her in the Cave of the Patriarchs (also called the Cave of Machpelah), near Hebron which he had purchased, along with the adjoining field, from Ephron the Hittite and laid her to rest in the cave. (Genesis 23:1–20)

After the death of Sarah, Abraham took another wife, a concubine named Keturah, who bare him six sons: Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. (Genesis 25:1–6)

Abraham lived 175 years, and "died in a good old age". The Bible says he was buried by his sons Isaac and Ishmael in the cave of Machpelah. (Genesis 25:7–10)

Narrative in the Qur'an[edit]

This is a summary of all the references to Abraham in the Qur'an

There are numerous references to Abraham in the Qur'an, including, twice, to the Scrolls of Abraham (87: 18–19; 53: 36–37); in the latter passage, it is mentioned that Abraham "fulfilled his commandments" (53: 37), a reference to all the trials that Abraham had succeeded in. In a whole series of chapters, the Qur'an relates how Abraham preached to his community as a youth and how he specifically told his father, named Azar in 6:74, to leave idol-worship and come to the worship of God (37: 83–98; 26: 69–89).[3] Some passages of the Qur'an, meanwhile, deal with the story of how God sent angels to Abraham with the announcement of the punishment to be imposed upon Lot's people in Sodom and Gomorrah (51: 24–34; 25: 51–60).[4] Other verses mention the near-sacrifice of Abraham's son (37: 100–111), whose name is not given but is presumed to be Ishmael as the following verses mention the birth of Isaac.[5] The Qur'an also repeatedly establishes Abraham's role as patriarch and mentions numerous important descendants who came through his lineage, including Isaac (25: 53), Jacob (29: 49)[6] and Ishmael (2: 132–133). In the later chapters of the Qur'an, Abraham's role becomes yet more prominent. The Qur'an mentions that Abraham and Ishmael were the reformers who set up the Kaaba in Mecca as a center of pilgrimage for monotheism (2: 124–141; 3: 65–68, 95–97).[7] The Qur'an consistently refers to Islam as the "religion of Abraham" (millat Ibrahim) (2: 135) and Abraham is given a title as Hanif (The Pure; 3: 67). The Qur'an also mentions Abraham as one whom God took as a friend (Khalil; 4: 125), hence Abraham's title in Islam, Khalil-Allah (Friend of God). The term is considered by some to be a derivation of the Patriarch's Hebrew title, Kal El (קל-אל), which means "voice of God".[8][9] Other instances in the Qur'an which are described in a concise manner are the rescue of Abraham from the fire into which he was thrown by his people (37: 97; 21: 68–70); his pleading for his father (28: 47); his quarrel with an unrighteous and powerful king (2: 58) and the miracle of the dead birds (2: 260).

All these events and more have been discussed with more details in Muslim tradition, and especially in the Stories of the Prophets and works of universal Islamic theology.[10] Certain episodes from the life of Abraham have been more heavily detailed in Islamic text, such as the arguments between Abraham and the evil king Nimrod, the near-sacrifice of his son, and the story of Hagar and Ishmael, which Muslims commemorate when performing pilgrimage in Mecca. In some cases, some believe these legends in Islamic text may have influenced later Jewish tradition.[11]

Abraham in religious traditions[edit]

In Islamic and Jewish traditions, Abraham is referred to as "our Father" (Hebrew: Avraham Avinu, Arabic: abeena Ibraheem[12]).

In Jewish and Christian tradition, Abraham is the father of the Israelites through his son Isaac, whose mother was Sarah. His oldest son is Ishmael, whose mother is Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian handmaiden.

In Islamic tradition, Abraham is considered a prophet of Islam, the ancestor of Muhammad, through his son Ishmael, whose mother is Hagar (هاجر).

Tomb of Abraham on the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron


Abraham’s life can be read in the weekly Torah reading portions, predominantly in the Parashot: Lech-Lecha ( לֶךְ-לְךָ ), Vayeira ( וַיֵּרָא ), Chayei Sarah ( חַיֵּי שָׂרָה ), and Toledot ( תּוֹלְדֹת )

Rabbinic Judaism faced a seeming contradiction with Abraham, in that he lived before the laws of the Torah had been revealed to Moses. Therefore, Abraham would not have been knowledgeable of all of the Torah's commandments, besides the instruction of practicing circumcision. The rabbis (traditional teachers and interpreters of the Torah), however, interpreted the narratives of the Torah in Genesis to say that Abraham had in fact known and practiced the Law in its entirety, although there are different interpretations as to how exactly Abraham practiced different aspects of the law.

Abram’s birthplace disputed[edit]

See also: Noach (parsha)

11th and 12th century Rabbis Rashi and Abraham ibn Ezra agree that Abram’s native homeland was Ur Kaśdim, better known as Ur of the Chaldees, a Mesopotamian location settled by the descendants of Ham.[13] Some modern Jewish studies identify this location to be the same as the Sumerian city-state of Ur.[14][15] However, this Persian Gulf city in Iraq is only a candidate among others to be the actual Ur Kaśdim, as well as the most popularly debated one since 1927.[16] The city of Urfa (classical Urha <Ur of Haran) in Turkey, not too far from Haran also claims to the birthplace of the Patriarch. Urfa is famous for its monuments, pools and shrines associated with Patriarch Abraham.

Rabbi Nahmanides, known as the Ramban, was a medieval Jewish scholar of the 13th century who disagreed with Rashi and Ibn Ezra concerning Abram’s birthplace. The Ramban states that because Ur Kaśdim was settled by Ham’s descendants, this could not be Abram’s birthplace as he was a descendant of Shem. However, everyone does agree that Abram’s family under the headship of his father, Terach, had all lived in Ur Kaśdim before being called to move to Canaan.[13]

The three Rabbis also agree that Terach’s native homeland was Charan, the biblical place known as Haran in Genesis 11:31,32, where the House of Terach was located.[Gen.12:1][13] Since this settlement was established by Shem’s descendants, only Ramban assumed that Charan had to be Abram’s birthplace. He further concluded that Terach and his three sons eventually moved from Charan to Ur Kaśdim, and then later by God’s command, they headed to Canaan. Of course, they stopped back at Terach’s hometown of Charan, where the father stayed there rather than going to Canaan after all.[13]

Notes: Christianity[edit]

The Abraham stained glass window at St. Matthew's German Evangelical Lutheran Church in Charleston, South Carolina

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

The New Testament also sees Abraham as an obedient man of God, and Abraham's interrupted attempt to offer up Isaac is seen as the supreme act of perfect faith in God. "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, 'In Isaac your seed shall be called', concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense." (Hebrews 11:17–19) The imagery of a father sacrificing his son is seen as a type of God the Father offering his Son on Golgotha.

The traditional view in Christianity is that the chief promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12 is that through Abraham's seed all the people of earth would be blessed. Notwithstanding this, John the Baptist specifically taught that merely being of Abraham's seed was no guarantee of salvation.[17] The promise in Genesis is considered to have been fulfilled through Abraham's seed, Jesus. It is also a consequence of this promise that Christianity is open to people of all races and not limited to Jews.[citation needed]

The Roman Catholic Church calls Abraham "our father in Faith", in the Eucharistic prayer of the Roman Canon, recited during the Mass (see Abraham in the Catholic liturgy). He is also commemorated in the calendars of saints of several denominations: on 20 August by the Maronite Church, 28 August in the Coptic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East (with the full office for the latter), and on 9 October by the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. He is also regarded as the patron saint of those in the hospitality industry.[18]

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

Notes: Islam[edit]

Abraham ("Ibrahim") is an important figure in the Quran, mentioned in 25 chapters, briefly or in detail.[19] Muslims regard him as a prophet and patriarch, the archetype of the perfect Muslim, and the revered reformer of the Kaaba in Mecca.[20]

Islamic traditions consider Abraham the father of Islam (which is also called millat Ibrahim, the "religion of Abraham"), and that his purpose and mission throughout his life was to proclaim the Oneness of God. When Ibrahim (Abraham) was asked for sacrifice and took Ismael to the place when he was about to use the knife, God placed a sheep under his hand. From that day onward, every Eid (Eid Al Adha) once a year Muslims around the world slaughter a sheep to follow the path of Ibrahim that is called Qurbani sacrifice.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (Genesis 19:1–9)
  2. ^ The ages of some other women can be deduced or approximated. Eve was created the same day as Adam, so when Seth was born when Adam had lived 130 years, Eve had lived as long also, short a number of hours.
  3. ^ Other verses dealing with Abraham's early preaching include 19: 41–50, 43: 26–28, 21: 51–73, 29: 16–27 and 6: 74–84
  4. ^ Other verses dealing with the announcement include 11: 69–76 and 29: 31f.
  5. ^ Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, C. Glasse, Ishmael
  6. ^ Other verses mentioning Jacob as a "gift" to Abraham include 21: 72, 29: 27, 6: 84, 11: 71, 38: 45–47
  7. ^ Other verses dealing with the raising of the holy house include 4: 125, 22: 26–29, 22: 78
  8. ^ Weinstein, Simcha (2006). Up, Up, and Oy Vey! (1st ed.). Leviathan Press. ISBN 978-1-881927-32-7
  9. ^ World Jewish Digest (Aug, 2006; posted online 25 July 2006): "Superman's Other Secret Identity", by Jeff Fleischer
  10. ^ Stories of the Prophets, Ibn Kathir, Ibrahim; Tales of the Prophets, Kisa'i, Ibrahim
  11. ^ J. Eisenberg, EI, Ibrahim
  12. ^ Qu'ran 22:78
  13. ^ a b c d Singer, Binyamin. "Ramban: Bereishis & Shemos", Vol. 1: Ramban: Classic Themes in Nachmanides' Chumash Commentary, 2005 (ISBN 1568713428, ISBN 978-1-56871-342-7), p. 89-91
  14. ^ Keene, Michael. This is Judaism, 1996, p. 8
  15. ^ Scharfstein, Sol. Jewish History and You, 2002, p. 10
  16. ^ Dundes, Alan. The Flood Myth, 1988, p. 89
  17. ^ Matthew 3:1–9
  18. ^ *Holweck, F. G., A Biographical Dictionary of the Saints. St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co. 1924.
  19. ^ Encyclopedia of Islam, Ibrahim
  20. ^ Cite error: The named reference Mecca.2C_Martin_Lings.2C_c._2004 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).


Isaac (/[unsupported input]ˈzək/;[1] Hebrew: יִצְחָק, Modern Yitsẖak, Tiberian Yiṣḥāq, ISO 259-3 Yiçḥaq, "he will laugh"; Yiddish: יצחק‎, Yitskhok; Ancient Greek: Ἰσαάκ, Isaak; Latin: Isaac; Arabic: إسحاق‎‎ or Arabic: إسحٰق‎‎[note A] ʼIsḥāq) as described in the Hebrew Bible, was the only son Abraham had with his wife Sarah, and was the father of Jacob and Esau. Isaac was one of the three patriarchs of the Israelites. According to the Book of Genesis, Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born, and Sarah was beyond childbearing years.

Isaac was the only biblical patriarch whose name was not changed, and the only one who did not leave Canaan. Compared to those of Abraham and Jacob, Isaac's story relates fewer incidents of his life. He died when he was 180 years old, making him the longest-lived patriarch.


The anglicized name Isaac is a transliteration of the Hebrew term Yiṣḥāq which literally means "He laughs/will laugh."[2] Ugaritic texts dating from the 13th century BCE refer to the benevolent smile of the Canaanite deity El.[3] Genesis, however, ascribes the laughter to Isaac's parents, Abraham and Sarah, rather than El. According to the biblical narrative, Abraham fell on his face and laughed when Elohim imparted the news of their son's eventual birth. He laughed because Sarah was past the age of childbearing; both she and Abraham were advanced in age. Later, when Sarah overheard three messengers of the Lord renew the promise, she laughed inwardly for the same reason. Sarah denied laughing when Elohim questioned Abraham about it.[4][5][6]

Birth of Isaac[edit]

An angel prevents the sacrifice of Isaac. Abraham and Isaac, Rembrandt, 1634

It was prophesied to the patriarch Abraham that he would have a son and that his name should be called Isaac. When Abraham became one hundred years old, this son was born to him by his first wife Sarah.[7] Though this was Abraham's second son[8] it was Sarah’s first and only child.

On the eighth day from his birth, Isaac was circumcised, as was necessary for all males of Abraham's household, in order to be in compliance with Yahweh's covenant.[9]

After Isaac had been weaned, Sarah saw Ishmael mocking, and urged her husband to banish Hagar and Ishmael so that Isaac would be Abraham's only heir. Abraham was hesitant, but at God's order he listened to his wife's request.[10]

Binding of Isaac[edit]

Main article: Binding of Isaac

At some point in Isaac's youth, his father Abraham brought him to mount Moriah. At Yahweh's command to Abraham, he was to build a sacrificial altar and sacrifice his son Isaac upon it. After binding his son to the altar and drawing his knife to kill him, in the very last moment an angel of Yahweh prevented Abraham from proceeding. Rather, he was directed to sacrifice a nearby ram instead. This event served as a test of Abraham's faith to Yahweh, not as an actual human sacrifice.[11]

The birth of Esau and Jacob, as painted by Benjamin West

Family life[edit]

When Isaac was 40, Abraham sent Eliezer, his steward, into Mesopotamia to find a wife for Isaac, from his nephew Bethuel's family. Eliezer chose Rebekah for Isaac. After many years of marriage to Isaac, Rebekah had still not given birth to a child and was believed to be barren. Isaac prayed for her and she conceived. Rebekah gave birth to twin boys, Esau and Jacob. Isaac was 60 years old when his two sons were born. Isaac favored Esau, and Rebekah favored Jacob.[12]


Around the age of 75, Isaac moved to Beer-lahai-roi after his father died.[13] When the land experienced famine, he removed to the Philistine land of Gerar where his father once lived. This land was still under the control of King Abimelech as it was in the days of Abraham. Like his father, Isaac also deceived Abimelech about his wife and also got into the well business. He had gone back to all of the wells that his father dug and saw that they were all stopped up with earth. The Philistines did this after Abraham died. So, Isaac unearthed them and began to dig for more wells all the way to Beersheba, where he made a pact with Abimelech, just like in the day of his father.[14]

Isaac blessing his son,as painted by Giotto di Bondone


Isaac grew old and became blind. He called his son Esau and directed him to procure some venison for him, in order to receive Isaac's blessing. While Esau was hunting, Jacob, after listening to his mother's advice, deceived his blind father by misrepresenting himself as Esau and thereby obtained his father's blessing, such that Jacob became Isaac's primary heir and Esau was left in an inferior position. Isaac sent Jacob into Mesopotamia to take a wife of his own family. After 20 years working for Laban, Jacob returned home, and reconciled with his twin brother Esau, then he and Esau buried their father when Isaac died at the age of 180.[15][16]

Other references[edit]

New Testament[edit]

In the New Testament, there are references to Isaac having been "offered up" by his father, and to his blessing his sons.[17] Paul contrasted Isaac, symbolizing Christian liberty, with the rejected older son Ishmael, symbolizing slavery;[3][18] Hagar is associated with the Sinai covenant, while Sarah is associated with the covenant of grace, into which her son Isaac enters.The Epistle of James chapter 2, verses 21-24[19] states that the sacrifice of Isaac shows that justification (in the Johannine sense) requires both faith and works.[20]

In the early Christian church, Abraham's willingness to follow God's command to sacrifice Isaac was used as an example of faith[21] and of obedience.[22][23] The Epistle to the Hebrews chapter 11, verse 19[24] views the release of Isaac from sacrifice as analogous to the resurrection of Jesus, the idea of the sacrifice of Isaac being a prefigure of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.


Like many of the biblical Hebrew patriarchs and prophets, the Qur'an mentions Isaac as a righteous man of God. Isaac (and Jacob) are mentioned as being bestowed upon Abraham as gifts of God, who then worshipped God only and were righteous leaders in the way of God:

And We bestowed on him Isaac and, as an additional gift, (a grandson), Jacob, and We made righteous men of every one (of them).
And We made them leaders, guiding (men) by Our Command, and We sent them inspiration to do good deeds, to establish regular prayers, and to practise regular charity; and they constantly served Us (and Us only).

— Qur'an, sura 21 (Al-Anbiya), ayah 72-73[25]

Testament of Isaac[edit]

Main article: Testament of Isaac

The Testament of Isaac is a pseudonymous text which was most likely composed in Greek in Egypt after 100 CE. It is also dependent on the Testament of Abraham. In this testament, God sends the archangel Michael to Isaac in order to inform him of his impending death. Isaac accepts God's decree but Jacob resists. Isaac in his bed-chamber tells Jacob of the inevitability of death. Isaac has a tour of heaven and hell shortly before his death in which God's compassion to repentant sinners is emphasized. In this testament, Isaac also talks with the crowds on the subjects of priesthood, asceticism, and the moral life.[26]

World views[edit]

Isaac embraces his father Abraham after the Binding of Isaac, early 1900s Bible illustration

The early Christian church viewed Abraham's willingness to follow God's command to sacrifice Isaac as an example of faith and obedience. For Christians, Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son is a "type and shadow" of God's willingness to sacrifice his only son, Jesus.

Islam considers Isaac as a prophet of Islam, and describes him as the father of the Israelites and a righteous servant of God.

Documentary hypothesis[edit]

The name Isaac occurs 32 times in the Hebrew Bible.[2] Variations of the formula "Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" occur 23 times in the Hebrew Bible.[26] According to the documentary hypothesis, use of names of God indicates authorship, and form critics variously assign passages like Genesis chapter 26, verses 6-11[27] to the Yahwist source, and Genesis chapter 20 verses 1-7, chapter 21, verse 1 to chapter 22, verse 14 and chapter 22, verse 19[28] to the Elohist source; this source-critical approach has admitted problems, in that the name "Yahweh" appears in Elohist material.[29] According to the compilation hypothesis, the formulaic use of the word toledoth (generations) indicates that Genesis chapter 11, verse 27 to chapter 25, verse 19[30] is Isaac's record through Abraham's death (with Ishmael's record appended), and Genesis chapter 25, verse 19 to chapter 37, verse 2[31] is Jacob's record through Isaac's death (with Esau's records appended).[32]

Jewish views[edit]

Isaac Blessing Jacob, painting by Govert Flinck (Rijksmuseum Amsterdam)

In rabbinical tradition the age of Isaac at the time of binding is taken to be 37 which contrasts with common portrayals of Isaac as a child.[33] The rabbis also thought that the reason for the death of Sarah was the news of the intended sacrifice of Isaac.[33] The sacrifice of Isaac is cited in appeals for the mercy of God in later Jewish traditions.[23] The post-biblical Jewish interpretations often elaborate the role of Isaac beyond the biblical description and largely focus on Abraham's intended sacrifice of Isaac, called the aqedah ("binding").[3] According to a version of these interpretations, Isaac died in the sacrifice and was revived.[3] According to many accounts of Aggadah, unlike the Bible, it is Satan who is testing Isaac and not God.[34] Isaac's willingness to follow God's command at the cost of his death has been a model for many Jews who preferred martyrdom to violation of the Jewish law.[33]

According to the Jewish tradition Isaac instituted the afternoon prayer. This tradition is based on Genesis chapter 24, verse 63[35] ("Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide").[33]

Isaac was the only patriarch who stayed in Canaan during his whole life and though once he tried to leave, God told him not to do so.[36] Rabbinic tradition gave the explanation that Isaac was almost sacrificed and anything dedicated as a sacrifice may not leave the Land of Israel.[33] Isaac was the oldest of the biblical patriarchs at the time of his death, and the only patriarch whose name was not changed.[3][17]

Rabbinic literature also linked Isaac's blindness in old age, as stated in the Bible, to the sacrificial binding: Isaac's eyes went blind because the tears of angels present at the time of his sacrifice fell on Isaac's eyes.[34]

Islamic views[edit]

Isaac (Arabic: إسحاق‎‎‎[note A] ʾIsḥāq) is revered by Muslims to be a prophet and the patriarch of Islam. Isaac, along with Ishmael, is highly important for Muslims for continuing to preach the message of monotheism after his father Abraham. Among Isaac's children was the follow-up Israelite patriarch Jacob, who too is venerated an Islamic prophet.

Isaac is mentioned fifteen times by name in the Qur'an, often with his father and his son, Jacob.[37] The Qur'an states that Abraham received "good tidings of Isaac, a prophet, of the righteous", and that God blessed them both (XXXVII: 12). In a fuller description, when angels came to Abraham to tell him of the future punishment to be imposed on Sodom and Gomorrah, his wife, Sarah, "laughed, and We gave her good tidings of Isaac, and after Isaac of (a grandson) Jacob" (XI: 71-74); and it is further explained that this event will take place despite Abraham and Sarah's old age. Several verses speak of Isaac as a "gift" to Abraham (VI: 84; XIX: 49-50), and XXIX: 26-27 adds that God made "prophethood and the Book to be among his offspring", which has been interpreted to refer to Abraham's two prophetic sons, his prophetic grandson Jacob, and his prophetic great-grandson Joseph. In the Qur'an, it later narrates that Abraham also praised God for giving him Ishmael and Isaac in his old age (XIV: 39-41).

Elsewhere in the Qur'an, Isaac is mentioned in lists: Joseph follows the religion of his forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (XII: 38) and speaks of God's favor to them (XII: 6); Jacob's sons all testify their faith and promise to worship the God that their forefathers, "Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac", worshiped (II: 127); and the Qur'an commands Muslims to believe in the revelations that were given to "Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the Patriarchs" (II: 136; III: 84). In the Qur'an's narrative of Abraham's near-sacrifice of his son (XXXVII: 102), the name of the son is not mentioned and debate has continued over the son's identity, though many feel that the identity is the least important element in a story which is given to show the courage that one develops through faith.[38]

Prophet, Messenger, Seer, Patriarch
Resting place Cave of the Patriarchs, Hebron
Other names Bible: Isaac
Known for Being the second patriarch of Canaan; prophesying and continuing the legacy left off by Abraham
Title Father of the Hebrews
Predecessor Abraham
Successor Jacob
Children Jacob, Esau
Parent(s) Abraham and Sarah
Relatives Grandfather of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, Half-brother of Ishmael

Isaac (Arabic: إسحاق‎‎ or إسحٰق‎[note A] ʾIsḥāq) is recognized as a patriarch, prophet and messenger of God by all Muslims.[39] As in Judaism, Islam maintains that Isaac was the son of the prophet Abraham, from his wife Sarah. Muslims regard Isaac as highly important because they believe that it was Isaac and his older half-brother Ishmael who continued their father's legacy and preached the message of God after the death of Abraham.[40]

Isaac in the Qur'an[edit]

Isaac is mentioned fifteen times by name in the Qur'an, often with his father and his son, Jacob.[37] The Qur'an states that Abraham received "good tidings of Isaac, a prophet, of the righteous", and that God blessed them both (XXXVII: 12). In a fuller description, when angels came to Abraham to tell him of the future punishment to be imposed on Sodom and Gomorrah, his wife, Sarah, "laughed, and We gave her good tidings of Isaac, and after Isaac of (a grandson) Jacob" (XI: 71-74); and it is further explained that this event will take place despite Abraham and Sarah's old age. Several verses speak of Isaac as a "gift" to Abraham (VI: 84; XIX: 49-50), and XXIX: 26-27 adds that God made "prophethood and the Book to be among his offspring", which has been interpreted to refer to Abraham's two prophetic sons, his prophetic grandson Jacob, and his prophetic great-grandson Joseph. In the Qur'an, it later narrates that Abraham also praised God for giving him Ishmael and Isaac in his old age (XIV: 39-41).

Elsewhere in the Qur'an, Isaac is mentioned in lists: Joseph follows the religion of his forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (XII: 38) and speaks of God's favor to them (XII: 6); Jacob's sons all testify their faith and promise to worship the God that their forefathers, "Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac", worshiped (II: 127); and the Qur'an commands Muslims to believe in the revelations that were given to "Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the Patriarchs" (II: 136; III: 84). In the Qur'an's narrative of Abraham's near-sacrifice of his son (XXXVII: 102), the name of the son is not mentioned and debate has continued over the son's identity, though many feel that the identity is the least important element in a story which is given to show the courage that one develops through faith.[38]

Burial site[edit]

His grave and that of his wife Rebekah is considered to be in the Cave of the Patriarchs, known in Islam as the Ibrahim-i-Mosque (literally translated as the Mosque of Abraham). Alongside Isaac's grave are the graves of some of the other Qur'anic/Biblical patriarchs and their wives: Abraham and Sarah and Jacob and Leah.

See also[edit]




  1. ^ Wells, John C. (1990). Longman pronunciation dictionary. Harlow, England: Longman. p. 378. ISBN 0-582-05383-8.  entry "Isaac"
  2. ^ a b Strong's Concordance, Strong, James, ed., Isaac, Isaac's, 3327 יִצְחָק 3446, 2464.
  3. ^ a b c d e Encyclopedia of Religion, Isaac.
  4. ^ Genesis 17:15–19 18:10–15
  5. ^ Singer, Isidore; Broydé, Isaac (1901–1906). "Isaac". In Singer, Isidore; Adler, Cyrus; et al. [[Jewish Encyclopedia]]. New York: Funk & Wagnalls. Retrieved October 13, 2011.  URL–wikilink conflict (help)
  6. ^ Hirsch, Emil G.; Bacher, Wilhelm; Lauterbach, Jacob Zallel; Jacobs, Joseph; Montgomery, Mary W. (1901–1906). "Sarah (Sarai)". In Singer, Isidore; Adler, Cyrus; et al. [[Jewish Encyclopedia]]. New York: Funk & Wagnalls. Retrieved October 13, 2011.  URL–wikilink conflict (help)
  7. ^ Genesis 18:10–12
  8. ^ Genesis 16:15
  9. ^ Genesis 21:1–5
  10. ^ Genesis 21:8–12
  11. ^ Genesis 22
  12. ^ Genesis 25:20–28
  13. ^ Genesis 25:11
  14. ^ Genesis 26
  15. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia, Isaac.
  16. ^ Genesis 35:28–29
  17. ^ a b Easton, M. G., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed., Isaac.
  18. ^ Galatians 4:21–31
  19. ^ James 2:21–24
  20. ^ Encyclopedia of Christianity, Bowden, John, ed., Isaac.
  21. ^ Hebrews 11:17
  22. ^ James 2:21
  23. ^ a b Encyclopædia Britannica, Isaac.
  24. ^ Hebrews 11:19
  25. ^ Quran 21:72
  26. ^ a b Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, Isaac, p. 647.
  27. ^ Genesis 26:6–11
  28. ^ Genesis. 20:1–7, 21:1–22:14, 22:19
  29. ^ Collins, John J. (2007). A Short Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Fortress Press. p. 49. ISBN 978-0-8006-6207-3. 
  30. ^ Genesis 11:27–25:19
  31. ^ Genesis 25:19–37:2
  32. ^ Morris, Henry M. (1976). The Genesis Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House. pp. 26–30. ISBN 0-8010-6004-4. 
  33. ^ a b c d e The New Encyclopedia of Judaism, Isaac.
  34. ^ a b Brock, Sebastian P., Brill's New Pauly, Isaac.
  35. ^ Genesis 24:63
  36. ^ Genesis 26:2
  37. ^ a b Encyclopedia of Islam, W. Montgomery Watt, Isaac
  38. ^ a b Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, C. Glasse, Isaac
  39. ^ Lives of the Prophets, L. Azzam, Isaac and Jacob
  40. ^ Stories of the Prophets, Kisa'i, Isaac

Western scholarly views[edit]

Some scholars have described Isaac as "a legendary figure" while others view him "as a figure representing tribal history, though as a historical individual" or "as a seminomadic leader."[1]

The stories of Isaac, like other patriarchal stories of Genesis, are generally believed in liberal Western scholarship to have "their origin in folk memories and oral traditions of the early Hebrew pastoralist experience."[2] Conservative Western scholarship believes the stories of Isaac, and other patriarchal stories in Genesis, to be factual. The Cambridge Companion to the Bible makes the following comment on the biblical stories of the patriarchs:

Yet for all that these stories maintain a distance between their world and that of their time of literary growth and composition, they reflect the political realities of the later periods. Many of the narratives deal with the relationship between the ancestors and peoples who were part of Israel’s political world at the time the stories began to be written down (eighth century B.C.E.). Lot is the ancestor of the Transjordanian peoples of Ammon and Moab, and Ishmael personifies the nomadic peoples known to have inhabited north Arabia, although located in the Old Testament in the Negev. Esau personifies Edom (36:1), and Laban represents the Aramean states to Israel’s north. A persistent theme is that of difference between the ancestors and the indigenous Canaanites… In fact, the theme of the differences between Judah and Israel, as personified by the ancestors, and the neighboring peoples of the time of the monarchy is pressed effectively into theological service to articulate the choosing by God of Judah and Israel to bring blessing to all peoples.”[3]

According to Martin Noth, a scholar of the Hebrew Bible, the narratives of Isaac date back to an older cultural stage than that of the West-Jordanian Jacob.[1] At that era, the Israelite tribes were not yet sedentary. In the course of looking for grazing areas, they had come in contact in southern Palestine with the inhabitants of the settled countryside.[1] The biblical historian, A. Jopsen, believes in the connection between the Isaac traditions and the north, and in support of this theory adduces Amos 7:9 ("the high places of Isaac").[1]

Albrecht Alt and Martin Noth hold that, "The figure of Isaac was enhanced when the theme of promise, previously bound to the cults of the 'God the Fathers' was incorporated into the Israelite creed during the southern-Palestinian stage of the growth of the Pentateuch tradition."[1] According to Martin Noth, at the Southern Palestinian stage of the growth of the Pentateuch tradition, Isaac became established as one of the biblical patriarchs, but his traditions were receded in the favor of Abraham.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Eerdmans Encyclopedia of Christianity, Isaac, p. 744.
  2. ^ Columbia Encyclopedia, Isaac.
  3. ^ The Cambridge Companion to the Bible, p. 59.


  • Browning, W.R.F (1996). A dictionary of the Bible. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-211691-6. 
  • Paul Lagasse, Lora Goldman, Archie Hobson, Susan R. Norton, ed. (2000). The Columbia Encyclopedia (6th ed.). Gale Group. ISBN 978-1-59339-236-9. 
  • P.J. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs (ed.). Encyclopaedia of Islam Online. Brill Academic Publishers. ISSN 1573-3912. 
  • Erwin Fahlbusch, William Geoffrey Bromiley, ed. (2001). Encyclopedia of Christianity (1st ed.). Eerdmans Publishing Company, and Brill. ISBN 0-8028-2414-5. 
  • John Bowden, ed. (2005). Encyclopedia of Christianity (1st ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-522393-4. 
  • The New Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Incorporated; Rev Ed edition. 2005. ISBN 978-1-59339-236-9. 
  • Jane Dammen McAuliffe, ed. (2005). Encyclopedia of the Qur'an. Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 978-90-04-12356-4. 
  • Geoffrey Wigoder, ed. (2002). The New Encyclopedia of Judaism (2nd ed.). New York University Press. ISBN 978-0-8147-9388-6. 
  • Lindsay Jones, ed. (2005). Encyclopedia of Religion (2nd ed.). MacMillan Reference Books. ISBN 978-0-02-865733-2. 
  • David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, Astrid B. Beck, ed. (2000). Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (1st ed.). Wm. B. Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-2400-4. 

Further reading[edit]

Alexander, David; Pat Alexander (1973). Eerdmans' Handbook to the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. ISBN 0-8028-3436-1. 
Boadt, Lawrence (1984). Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction. New York: Paulist Press. ISBN 0-8091-2631-1. 
Ginzberg, Louis (2003). Harriet Szold tr, ed. Legends of the Jews, Volume 1. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society. ISBN 0-8276-0709-1. 
Gunkel, Hermann (1997) [1901]. Biddle, Mark E. tr, ed. Genesis. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press. ISBN 0-86554-517-0. 
Harrison, R. K. (1969). An Introduction to the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. ISBN 0-87784-881-5. 
Kidner, Derek (1967). Genesis. Downers Grover, IL: Inter-Varsity Press. 
Kitchen, K.A. (1966). Ancient Orient and Old Testament. Chicago: Inter-Varsity Press. 
Levenson, Jon D. (2004). "The Conversion of Abraham to Judaism, Christianity and Islam". In Hindy Najman, Judith Newman (eds). The Idea of Biblical Interpretation: Essays in Honor of James L. Kugel. Leiden: Koningklijke Brill. ISBN 90-04-13630-4. 
Rosenberg, David M. (2006). Abraham: the first historical biography. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-07094-9. 
Schultz, Samuel J. (1990). The Old Testament Speaks (4th ed.). San Francisco: Harper. ISBN 0-06-250767-2. 
Silberman, Neil Asher; Finkelstein, Israel (2001). The Bible unearthed: archaeology's new vision of ancient Israel and the origin of its sacred texts. New York: Free Press. ISBN 0-684-86912-8. 
Thompson, J.A. (1986). Handbook to Life in Bible Times. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press. ISBN 0-87784-949-8. 
Thompson, Thomas (2002). The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives: The Quest for the Historical Abraham. Valley Forge, Pa: Trinity Press International. ISBN 1-56338-389-6. 
Van Seters, John (1975). Abraham in history and tradition. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-01792-8. 
Vermes, Geza (1973). Scripture and tradition in Judaism. Haggadic studies. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 90-04-07096-6. 
Whybray, Roger Norman (1987). The making of the Pentateuch: a methodological study. Sheffield: JSOT Press. ISBN 1-85075-063-7. 

MISC Notes[edit]


In the narrative indicates that abraham means “the father of a multitude" (Hebrew: ʼaḇ-hămôn goyim),[1] but although "ab-" means "father", "-hamon" is not the second element, and "-Raham" is not a word in Hebrew. Johann Friedrich Karl Keil suggested that there was once a word raham (רָהָם) in Hebrew that meant "multitude", on analogy with the Arabic ruhâm which does have this meaning, but no trace of "raham" has been found;[2] another possibility is that the first element should be abr-, which means "chief", but this yields a meaningless second element, "-aham". David Rohl suggests the name comes from the Akkadian "the father loves.[3]"

Historicity and origins[edit]

It is generally recognised by scholars that there is nothing in the Genesis stories that can be related to the history of Canaan of the early 2nd millennium: none of the kings mentioned is known, Abimelech could not have been a Philistine (they did not arrive until centuries later), Ur would not become known as "Ur of the Chaldeans" until the early 1st millennium, and Laban could not have been an Aramean, as the Arameans did not become an identifiable political entity until the 12th century.[4] Joseph Blenkinsopp, Emeritus Professor of Biblical Studies at the University of Notre Dame, notes that the past four or five decades have seen a growing consensus that the Genesis narrative of Abraham originated from literary circles of the 6th and 5th centuries BCE as a mirror of the situation facing the Jewish community under the Babylonian and early Persian empires.[5] Blenkinsopp describes two conclusions about Abraham that are widely held in biblical scholarship: the first is that, except in the triad "Abraham, Isaac and Jacob," he is not clearly and unambiguously attested in the Bible earlier than the Babylonian exile ; the second is that he became, in the Persian period, a model for those who would return from Babylon to Judah.[6] Beyond this the Abraham story (and those of Isaac and Jacob/Israel) served a theological purpose following the destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple and the Davidic kingship: despite the loss of these things, Yahweh's dealings with the ancestors provided a historical foundation on which hope for the future could be built.[7] There is basic agreement that his connection with Haran, Shechem and Bethel is secondary and originated when he became identified as the father of Jacob and ancestor of the northern tribes; his association with Mamre and Hebron, on the other hand (in the south, in the territory of Jerusalem and Judah), suggest that this region was the original home of his religion.[8]

Joseph Blenkinsopp writes that a common view among modern scholars is that the Genesis story of Abraham was not transmitted by oral traditions, but originated from literary circles of the 6th and 5th centuries BCE,[5] where it served to assure the Israelites in exile that despite the destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple and the Davidic kingship, Yahweh's dealings with their ancestors provided a historical foundation on which hope for the future could be built.[7] Abraham's association with Mamre and Hebron, in the south, in the territory of Jerusalem and Judah, suggests that this region was the original home of his cult.[8] Some oral traditions, however, may still hold an earlier history.[5]

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  1. ^ Freedman, Meyers & Beck. Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible (ISBN 0802824005, ISBN 978-0-8028-2400-4), 2000, p.9
  2. ^ K.F. Keil. Biblical commentary on the Old Testament., Vol. 1, 1869, p. 224
  3. ^ David Rohl. The Lost Testament (ISBN 0712669930), 2002
  4. ^ Paula McNutt, Reconstructing the Society of Ancient Israel", p.41
  5. ^ a b c Joseph Blenkinsopp, "Judaism, the first phase" p.39
  6. ^ Joseph Blenkinsopp, "Judaism, the first phase" p.38
  7. ^ a b Albertz, R, "Israel in exile: the history and literature of the sixth century B.C.E." (Society of Biblical Literature, 2003) p.246
  8. ^ a b "Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible", K. van der Toorn, Bob Becking, Pieter Willem van der Horst (eds) (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing), pp.3–4