Abraham The son of Terah and founder of the Hebrew Nation was a man by the name of Abraham (originally Abram). His family descended from Shem and settled in Ur of the Chaldees (Genesis 11:28), Abraham’s home town. Terah was apparently an idolater (Joshua 24:2), but had three sons, Abraham, Nahor, and Haran, one of which would go on to be called by God to create a chosen people. Abraham was married to his half-sister, Sarah (originally Sarai). After the death of his brother Nahor, Abraham and his family, including his nephew Lot and father Terah, left Ur to go to the land of Canaan (Genesis 11:27-31). In Acts, Stephen says that God appeared to Abraham in Ur, before he lived in Haran, and appeared again once he got there possibly to renew his call (Acts 7:2-4).
After living a while in Haran, he was seventy-five by this time, Abraham left for Canaan. Less than a year later, he arrived there when a vision from the Lord assured him that this was the land his descendants would inherit (Genesis 12:4,7). He wandered the land for a few more years, travelling “as far as the great tree of Moreh at Shechem” (Genesis 12:6). During a famine, Abraham went to Egypt. The Pharaoh welcomed him, but, fearful for his life, Abraham represented Sarah as his sister, not his wife.
The Pharaoh learned the truth, and the Lord inflicted serious diseases on him and his household for taking her. That persuaded him to let Abraham and his family go (Genesis 12:15-17,20). Back in Canaan, he and Lot separated because their herdsmen were arguing. Lot chose the fertile plain by the Jordan to graze at, while Abraham pitched his tent among the oak groves of Mamre, in the hill country near Hebron (Genesis 13:10,18). Abraham lived in the hill country for at lest fifteen years. He strengthened his position with the local Amorites by uniting with them in the rescue of Lot when Sodom and Gomorrah had been taken (Genesis 14:12).
On his way back, he was blesssed by Melchizedek, priest-king of Salem, to whom he gave a tenth of everything (Genesis 14:20). God now renewed his promise of a son to Abraham, a pivotal step in creating a new God-chosen people. When no son came, however, his wife suggested he take her maid Hagar as his concubine (Genesis 16:2). When Abraham was eighty-six, Hagar gave birth to Ishmael. Thirteen years later, God told Abraham that the yet-to-come son of Sarah, not Hagar, would be his heir.
The Lord appointed the rite of circumcision for the first time as the sign of the covenant made between Him and Abraham (Genesis 17). When two visitors, presumably angels, visited Lot in Sodom, God protected him and his still faithful, at least semi-moral (not to be fully participating in Sodom’s sin, but choosing to live there regardless) family. The angels blinded the people who wanted the visitors and told Lot to escape, while God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). Meanwhile, Abraham moved to the south country (Genesis 20:1) where he lived in a number of places, including with the Philistines. He had an experience similar to the one with Sarah in Egypt with Abimelech, King of Gerar.
When Abraham was one hundred years old, Isaac was born (Genesis 21:1-21). A treaty between Abimelech and Abraham at Beersheba followed Hagar and Ishmael’s being sent away. However, Abraham’s faith in God’s promise met one last severe test when God commanded him to sacrifice his one and only son, a significant test that can relate to the Lord and his own son. Judging by his actions, Abraham would have done it. He was saved by doing it, however, because it had only been a test (Genesis 22:2,6-7,12).
After Sarah died, when Abraham was one hundred forty years old, he got Isaac a wife from his own people in Haran. Then Abraham married Keturah, by whom he had six more children, but Isaac remained his sole heir. At the age of one hundred seventy five Abraham died. He was buried beside Sarah in the Cave of Machpelah, which he had bought from Ephon (Genesis 23;25:7-10). That cave would go on to be not only the family burial site, but a symbol of the covenant between Abraham and God-it was in Canaan, as will be the future generations of Hebrews.
It would remain to be inspiration to his descendants to keep on doing God’s work. Abraham was an exceptionally significant figure throughout the Old Testament. He became the ancestor of the people of Israel and the founder of Judaism. He provided the ancestry for God’s Kingdom, the crowd from which Jesus would eventually be raised. He also followed God to Canaan without question. He had faith in everything God said and did, including to the point of sacrificing his own son.
I would like to be able to say I would, or anyone would, have had that kind of trust in the Lord. Abraham was a very unique man, however. Personally, it is very inspiring to see what God does and provides for him, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Samson, and all the other Old Testament figures that helped to further God’s Kingdom. It makes me wonder what kind of things He does for me without me even knowing it. I also like to see the effect it had on his and his children’s lives. Abraham is a prominent character in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament there is also a wealth of references to him.
Paul calls him not only the father of the Jews, but of all who believe (Romans 4:11), hence the song “Father Abraham.” He is thus the archetype of the Christian believer, repeatedly held up as an example of faith at its best.