ABRAHAM AND HIS LATER LIFE, COVENANTS WITH GOD, SARAH, HAGAR AND ALMOST SLAYING OF HIS SON

ABRAHAM AND HIS COVENANT WITH GOD


Patriarch Abraham

God appeared to Abraham several times during his travels. One time he appeared and told Abraham that his children will be as numerous as grains of dust on earth and stars in the sky. Another time God recognized that Abraham was committed to “keep the way of the Lord to do righteousness and justice.”

In a dream God appeared to Abraham in a smoking furnace and made a covenant with him, promising Abraham and his descendant that he would be their God and provide the land of Canaan in return for worshiping Him alone and obeying his commandments. As “a sign of the covenant between me and you,” God told Abraham that “every male among you shall cut my Covenant in your flesh”---which was interpreted as meaning that all males must be circumcised as a sign of their faith. “Abraham later circumcised his sons when they were eight and himself at the age of 99 To this day all Jewish boys are circumcised when they are eight to symbolize this covenant.

Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik told National Geographic the whole idea of a covenant was revolutionary. “What emanates from a Divine promise foretold about the future, rather than by events impelling from the past. Jewish history is pulled, as by a magnet, toward a glorious destiny,” he said.

In Genesis 15:18, God told Abraham that his descendants would be enslaved and subject to suffering for 400 years but would then inherit the land from the Nile to the Euphrates. Today many Jews and some conservative Christians regard this statement as a promise by God giving the Jewish people alone the right to the Holy Land. Muslims, who regard Abraham as a father of their religion, said the agreement between God and Abraham gives them just as much of a claim to the Holy Land as the Jews have.

Book: Abraham: A Journey in the Heart of Three Faiths by Bruce Feiler (William Morrow, 2002)

Websites and Resources: Bible and Biblical History: Bible Gateway and the New International Version (NIV) of The Bible biblegateway.com ; King James Version of the Bible gutenberg.org/ebooks ; Bible History Online bible-history.com ; Biblical Archaeology Society biblicalarchaeology.org ; Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) ccel.org ; Judaism Judaism101 jewfaq.org ; Aish.com aish.com ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; torah.org torah.org ; Chabad,org chabad.org/library/bible ; Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org/judaism ; BBC - Religion: Judaism bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/judaism ; Encyclopædia Britannica, britannica.com/topic/Judaism; Jewish History: Jewish History Timeline jewishhistory.org.il/history ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Jewish History Resource Center dinur.org ; Center for Jewish History cjh.org ; Jewish History.org jewishhistory.org ; Christianity and Christians Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Christianity.com christianity.com ; BBC - Religion: Christianity bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/ ; Christianity Today christianitytoday.com; Biblical Images: Bible in Pictures creationism.org/books ebibleteacher ebibleteacher.com ; Bible-History.com bible-history.com ; Pictures from the Bible lavistachurchofchrist.org ; Bible Blue Letter Images blueletterbible.org/images ; Biblical Images preceptaustin.org

First Covenant


Abraham visited by three angels

According to the BBC: “The ultimate test of Abraham's obedience, however, comes in Genesis 22 when he is asked to sacrifice his son by Sarah - Isaac. God had promised that Abraham's descendents would come through Isaac, so the level of faith he displays is quite astonishing. Abraham trusts God and takes his son, as directed, up a mountain. At the very last minute, God intervenes and spares Isaac's life by providing another animal (a ram) for sacrifice. The test is complete and God once more reiterates his promises to Abraham of land, descendents and a personal relationship. [Source: BBC, June 25, 2009 |::|]

“According to the Bible, Abraham is humanity's last chance to establish a relationship with God. At the beginning of the Bible in the creation narratives, Adam and Eve set in train a pattern of disobedience to God's commands which takes root. Even after the Great Flood, in which only Noah was saved, humanity once again comes perilously close to alienating themselves from their creator God. They build the tower of Babel (Genesis 11), a tower that seems like it will almost break through to the heavens and God again intervenes and scatters the people across the earth. |::|

“The covenant between God and the Jewish people is a thread running throughout the early parts of the Bible, and one of the vital pillars of Judaism. The first covenant was between God and Abraham. God asks Abraham to do certain things, in return for which he will take special care of them. The covenant between God and Jews is the basis for the idea of the Jews as the chosen people. Jewish men are circumcised as a symbol of this covenant. (You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. — Genesis 17) |::|

God promised to make Abraham the father of a great people and said that Abraham and his descendants must obey God. In return God would guide them and protect them and give them the land of Israel. But it wasn’t simply a matter of obeying rules - God didn't just want the Jews to follow a particular set of laws, but to live their lives in such a way as to show the world that God actually was the one and only all-powerful God, whom people should follow and worship.

God ordered Abraham to abandon his way of life and leave his home country to live in the land of Canaan. Abraham was 99 at the time, so this was a hard thing to ask. “The LORD said 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. — Genesis 12:1-2

This promise that Abraham would become the father of a great nation seemed impossible, since Abraham was very old, and his wife Sarah (90) had never been able to have children. But God did cause Sarah to become pregnant with Isaac. By doing this God showed that he was in control of even the processes of nature like having children. God also showed that in order to keep his promises to his chosen people he would intervene in the world and alter it. Later, God tested Abraham’s obedience by ordering him to kill his much-loved son Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham didn’t argue with God, he kept his side of the covenant and prepared to sacrifice Isaac. God stopped him from killing his son, but the story remains as a perfect example of the level of obedience that God expected.

Abraham Makes a Covenant with God

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Genesis 15:1 After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. 15:2 And Abram said, LORD God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? 15:3 And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. 15:4 And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. 15:5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. 15:6 And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness. [Source: King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org]

15:7 And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it. 15:8 And he said, LORD God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? 15:9 And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon. 15:10 And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not. 15:11 And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away.

15:12 And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him. 15:13 And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not their's, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; 15:14 And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. 15:15 And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. 15:16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. 15:17 And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.

15:18 In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: 15:19 The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, 15:20 And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, 15:21 And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.

Abraham, His Later life and Sarah


Abraham and Sarah

Sarah was Abraham's wife. Reverend John Bell, a minister of the Church of Scotland, wrote for the BBC: “The relationship that Abraham has with Sarah is very interesting, she's a bit of an odd puss, she can be quite nippy, particularly in her relationship with Abraham's concubine Hagar. She also does a great thing in giving God a name that has not been mentioned before - God's been seen as a creator and she gives God the name Laughter Maker because when her child is born she calls him Isaac which means 'he laughs'. She says 'I'll call him Isaac because God has made laughter for me.' She gives us a picture of God that nobody else gives: that in God's heart there is humour and there's laughter and that he gives that as a gift to humanity. Right at the beginning, the story of Abraham says that God does not give up on old people and God does not give up in situations that look barren. Both Abraham and Sarah have got to their final years and for them to be the progenitors is a colossal thing. [Source: BBC]

Abraham divided the last years of his life between Hebron and Beersheba. When Abraham was 99, God changed his name from Abram to Abraham and announced, “I will also give you from her [Sarah] a son.” Upon hearing this “Abraham flung himself on his face and he laughed, saying to himself, “To a hundred-year-old will a child be born, will ninety-year-old Sarah give birth?”

Later Abraham met three strangers in the desert and gave them hospitality. He washed their feet and gave them curds and milk and a calf he cooked. This is viewed as precedent for the Muslim custom of hospitality. The strangers promised Abraham that despite her great age Sara would bear him a son. When Sarah was told she laughed, “After being shriveled, shall I have pleasure, and my husband is old “...Shall I really give birth, as old as I am.”

Abraham, Hagar, Sarah and Ishmael

After many years Sarah still had not bore Abraham any children despite repeated promises by God that he would be the father of a great nation and have many descendants. Worried that she would never have a child, Sarah encouraged Abraham to have a relationship with Sarah's Egyptian slave Hagar. In the Middle East at that time it was a common custom for barren wives to encourage their husbands to procreate with slaves or concubines. According to a Mesopotamian cuneiform tablet from Nuzi in 1400 B.C.: "If [the wife] does not bear [she] shall acquire a [slave girl] as a wife for [the husband]."

Still Sarah was unhappy with Hagar. She complained to Abraham that after Hagar “saw she had conceived, I became slight in her eyes.” Abraham told her, “Look, your slave girl is in your hands. Do to her whatever you think right.” Sarah cast out the pregnant Hagar who began a trek towards Egypt, but returned to Sarah’s side after God ordered her to do so.


Presentation of Hagar to Abraham

When Abraham was 86, Hagar gave birth to a son, Ishmael, which means “God has heard.” According to Jewish and Christian scriptures, Ishmael was Abraham’s first son but was not the heir to God’s promise. The Koran, contrast doesn’t mention Hagar but calls Ishmael “an apostle (and) a prophet...He was most acceptable in the sight of his Lord.”

After Isaac was born, Hagar and Ishmael were cast out by Sarah, who wanted to make sure that the younger Isaac became Abraham’s heir. Throughout the sections in Genesis about Abraham, Sarah demonstrates that she was no pushover and that she was a partner of Abraham. One rabbi told National Geographic she was the first great feminist.

God took Sarah’s side this time on the Hagar issue but promised to make a great nation out of Ishmael. He told Abraham “through Isaac shall your seed be acclaimed. But the slave girl’s son, too I will make a nation, for he is your seed.” Arabs later embraced the reference to a “nation” to mean them and a reference to 12 sons to be 12 Arab tribes. Some trace the animosity between Jews and Muslims back to this legendary act.

Hagar and Ishmael moved to the desert, where they were protected by God. Genesis says little else about them other than that Ishmael “became a seasoned bowman.” According to Muslim, tradition, Hagar and Ishmael moved to Mecca, where they lived in a small house. Abraham came often to visit. Ishmael was buried next to the Kaaba.

In the 1970s, archaeologists working in Beersheba claimed they had found a well that could have been used by Hagar after she was banished into the desert. Later it was revealed that the well was dated only to the second century B.C.

Genesis on Hagar Giving Birth to Ishmael

Genesis 16:1 Now Sarai Abram's wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. 16:2 And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. 16:3 And Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife. [Source: King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org]

16:4 And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes. 16:5 And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee. 16:6 But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thine hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face.

16:7 And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. 16:8 And he said, Hagar, Sarai's maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai. 16:9 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. 16:10 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. 16:11 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction. 16:12 And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.

16:13 And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me? 16:14 Wherefore the well was called Beerlahairoi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered. 16:15 And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son's name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael. 16:16 And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram.



Abraham Firms Up His Covenant with God

Genesis 17:1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. 17:2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. 17:3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, 17:4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. 17:5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. 17:6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. [Source: King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org]

17:7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. 17:8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. 17:9 And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.

17:15 And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. 17:16 And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. 17:17 Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? 17:18 And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee! 17:19 And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.

17:20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. 17:21 But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year. 17:22 And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.

Circumcision, Abraham’s Way of Fulfilling His Side of the Covenant

Before he left God said: Genesis 17:10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. 17:11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. 17:12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. [Source: King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org]


Abraham and Ishmael circumcised

17:13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 17:14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.

17:23 And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him. 17:24 And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 17:25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 17:26 In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son. 17:27 And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him.

18:1 And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; 18:2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, 18:3 And said, My LORD, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: 18:4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: 18:5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said.

18:6 And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. 18:7 And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. 18:8 And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.

Sarah Gives Birth to a Son, Isaac


Abraham banishes hagar and Ishmael to the wilderness while Sarah and Isaac look on

Finally at the age of 105, Sarah gave birth to her first son Isaac (meaning “he who laughs”) in Hebron. He was circumcised when he was eight days old and became the fulfillment and heir to God’s covenant with Abraham and ensured the Covenant would be passed down through his heirs.

Genesis 18:9 And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. 18:10 And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind 18:11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. [Source: King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org]

18:12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? 18:13 And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? 18:14 Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. 18:15 Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh..18:17 And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; 18:18 Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 18:19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him...

....Later after Sarah was taken from Abraham by Abimelech: Genesis 20:14 And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and womenservants, and gave them unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife. 20:15 And Abimelech said, Behold, my land is before thee: dwell where it pleaseth thee. 20:16 And unto Sarah he said, Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of silver: behold, he is to thee a covering of the eyes, unto all that are with thee, and with all other: thus she was 20:17 So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children. 20:18 For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham's wife.

21:1 And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken. 21:2 For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. 21:3 And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac. 21:4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old, as God had commanded him.

21:5 And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him. 21:6 And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me. 21:7 And she said, Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given children suck? for I have born him a son in his old age. 21:8 And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned.

Hagar and Ishmael Cast Out to the Wilderness

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Hagar and Ishmael in the Wilderness
21:9 And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking. 21:10 Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac. 21:11 And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight because of his son. 21:12 And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. 21:13 And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed. [Source: King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org]

21:14 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba. 21:15 And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs. 21:16 And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bow shot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept.

21:17 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. 21:18 Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation. 21:19 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. 21:20 And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer. 21:21 And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt.

Abraham Nearly Sacrifices His Son

In Beersheba, Abraham had a vision in which God told him to take Isaac “to the land of Moriah and offer him up as a burnt offering on the mountains,” meaning Abraham was to sacrifice Isaac, the precious heir to God’s promise. Abraham obeyed the first part of the order and took his son to Mount Moriah (later the site of Solomon’s Temple and the present-day Dome of the Rock) in Jerusalem.

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Rembrandt's take on the Sacrifice of Isaac
On Mount Moriah, Abraham erected an altar. He tied up Isaac and placed him on a pile of wood. Just as Abraham raised his knife to kill his son, according to Genesis 22:4, God sent an angel to tell Abraham: “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad and do nothing to him. Now I know thou fearest God...Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore.” Instead of Isaac a ram was grabbed from a nearby thicket and offered to God as a sacrifice.

Christians tend to see the idea of a sacrificial son as a hint of what will happen later with Jesus; Jews tend to view the event as a parable of the suffering of the chosen people. The story of Abraham and his son also shows that human sacrifice was a real possibility in Biblical times. Jewish scholar Isaac Elchanan of New York's Yeshia University told Time, "Why did God test Abraham? So the world would know that if anyone tells you, "I am committing murder in the name of God, he's a liar."

The sacrifice has been topic of discussion among intellectuals and scholars and even pop singers. The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, “Though Abraham aroused my admiration, he at the same time appalls me.” Bob Dylan wrote: “Abe says, “Where do you want the killin’ done? God says, Out on Highway 61.'”

Genesis on Abraham Almost Slaying Isaac

Genesis 21:34 And Abraham sojourned in the Philistines' land many days. 22:1 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. 22:2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. [Source: King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org]

22:3 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. 22:4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. 22:5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.

22:6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. 22:7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? 22:8 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. 22:9 And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.

22:10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. 22:11 And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. 22:12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. 22:13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

22:14 And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen. 22:15 And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, 22:16 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: 22:17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 22:18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.

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The Sacrifice of Isaac by Caravaggio

Muslim Perspective of Abraham’s Near Sacrifice of His Son

Muslims tend to see the near sacrifice of Abraham’s son as a test of obedience. To commemorate the event all Muslims who can afford to must sacrifice a sheep, goat, camel or cow in memory of the great sacrifice and Abraham's submission to the will of God.

Muslims believe that Ishmael not Isaac was nearly sacrificed. The Koran mentions the sacrifice but doesn’t mention which son or the place it took place. According to Sura 37:102, 112, Abraham said, “Oh my son! I see in a vision that I offer thee in sacrifice. When Abraham showed his willingness to comply, God promised another son, Isaac.” Because Isaac was mentioned here, Muslim scholars a few decades after Mohammed’s death reasoned that the son who was nearly sacrificed had to be Ishmael. Many Muslims believe the aborted sacrifice took place in Mecca.

In the Koranic version of the sacrifice, Abraham tell his son of God’s plan and his son replies: “O my father! Do that which thou art commanded. Allah willing, thou shalt find me of the steadfast.” The Korean then says “they has both surrendered.” After the aborted sacrifice is over Allah tells Abraham. “Lo. I have appointed thee a leader for mankind.”

Muslims believe Abraham and Ishmael were commanded by God to build the Kaaba---the most revered object in Islami. The Koran states that “Abraham and Ismail raised the foundations of the House. The “House” is the Kaaba. Abraham and Ishmael dug it from the sands in the desert. See the Kaaba Under Muslims and Islam.

Second Covenant

The second covenant, given by God at Mount Sinai to Moses, reinforced the covenant that God had given to Abraham. This told the Jews what they would have to do as their side of the covenant. God promised to stay with the Jews and never to abandon them, because they were his chosen people. [Source: BBC, July 7, 2009 |::|]

Exodus 19: 1-8 reads: “...if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation... God told the Jewish People, that for their part, they must dedicate themselves to serving God for ever, and to making the world a better and holier place by obeying God's laws. The Jewish people agreed to do this by saying, All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” |::|

The heart of the Second Covenant is the Ten Commandments. According to the BBC: The covenant at Sinai sets out in great detail the relationship between God and the Jews. Much of Judaism can be seen as the working out of this relationship and the development of the God's rules into a complete lifestyle. The covenant is made with the Jewish People as a whole, not with each individual Jew - and the result of this is that Jewish history is full of the Jews' attempts to create a good and just society. In modern times Jews continue to be very active in the fight for social justice and equality for all people. |::|

“The covenant between God and the Jewish people is a thread running throughout the early parts of the Bible, and one of the vital pillars of Judaism. The first covenant was between God and Abraham. God asks Abraham to do certain things, in return for which he will take special care of them. The covenant between God and Jews is the basis for the idea of the Jews as the chosen people. Jewish men are circumcised as a symbol of this covenant. (You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. — Genesis 17) |::|

Abraham and Faith


Muslim view: the sacrifice of Ishmael

According to the BBC: “Both Abram and his wife, Sarai (later called Sarah) are old people and childless. They will have to leave their homeland and they don't even know who this God is! They seem to be an almost impossible set of promises for God to keep. But the amazing fact about Abram is that he does what he is asked. There are no signs or miracles; he has no scriptures or traditions on which to draw, so Abram has to place his trust in this nameless God. Consequently, Abram has gone down in history as a man of tremendous faith. As a result of his obedience, God changes his name to Abraham, meaning 'father of the people'. [Source: BBC |::|]

“Many scholars believe these stories were written to explain to people why the world is like it is and why humans are like they are. What is our place in the world? Why do we die? They address questions of life and death, rather than being simply explanations about how the world was created.|::|

This is a polytheistic age, an age when people believed in and worshipped many gods. Yet within this atmosphere, Abram answers the call of God and it is because of this that he accepts and realises the reality of there being only one true God. In the Jewish tradition called Midrash (a Hebrew word which means 'interpretation' and relates to the way readings or biblical verses are understood), there are a number of stories about Abraham smashing his father's idols when he realises that there can be only one God of heaven and earth. It doesn't matter whether the stories are true or not. They acknowledge that Abraham was the first person to recognise and worship the one God. And so, monotheism was born. |::|

“At the end of Genesis 11, we are provided with a genealogy and Abraham becomes the new hope through which God will try and create a people to live by a certain set of values. The important thing to learn here is the uniqueness of the Covenant relationship between God and Abraham. For the first time, we see the beginning of a two-way relationship: God doing something for Abraham, and Abraham doing something for God. The blessings of God are passed on from one generation to another. |::|

“The story of Abraham is about obedience to the will of God - not blind obedience, because the Bible stories tell us that Abraham frequently challenged God and asked questions. But in the end, he trusted this God who had made such extraordinary promises and in so doing formed a very special and personal relationship with God which, believers will argue, has continued through to the present day.” |::|

Abraham, Isaac and Faith

God's shocking command for Abraham to kill his son as a matter of faith raises difficult and enduring questions. James Goodman wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “The story in Genesis of Abraham's willingness to kill his son Isaac at God's command still gets a lot of attention. But it doesn't get a lot of love. In every broadside against religion, God's horrifying demand for a sacrifice and Abraham's acquiescence is introduced as evidence that God is a tyrant, Abraham a sycophant and both of them abusers of poor Isaac, whom God decides to spare only at the last moment. Trust me when I say that this is not simply the view of professional polemicists. I can't count the number of people who have told me that they first heard the story when they were young and forever afterward swore off religion and God. [Source: James Goodman, Los Angeles Times, September 6, 2013. Goodman is a professor of history and creative writing at Rutgers University <+> ]


Abraham and Isaac

“What's more, you don't have to be an atheist to dislike this story. Sample the sermons posted on the Web during Rosh Hashana (when the story is read in synagogue), or during the Islamic Festival of the Sacrifice (which comes in October, at the height of the hajj), or during Holy Week next spring, and you will find that many deeply devout people have grave reservations. I have heard clergy say they wish it were not in the Bible. But it is, and it recounts a pivotal moment in sacred history: Jews believe Abraham's obedience brought them God's special blessing. Christians believe Abraham's sacrifice prefigured God's sacrifice of his own son. Muslims believe Abraham demonstrated precisely what it means to submit to God. Not everyone is willing to discard it. So instead, some choose to analyze the story critically, exploring its history and deleterious half-life, which they see in patriarchy, child abuse, religious extremism and myriad forms of blind faith. <+>

“Others look for different meanings, arguing (to take but one widespread reinterpretation) that the story's essential moment was not the command to sacrifice but the command to stop. God was telling Abraham that he didn't want Jews to sacrifice children. Others go further, saying that God expected Abraham to protest. It was a test, but a test that Abraham failed. The proof: Abraham lived another 75 years, but God never spoke to him again. When all else fails, people literally revise the story, adding to and taking away from its famously enigmatic 19 lines. There are versions in which Abraham stalls, giving God time to come to his senses, and versions in which he never intends to harm Isaac. Rather, he just pretends to obey, thereby testing God to see if he will stop the sacrifice and remain true to his own word and law. There are versions in which Isaac's mother, Sarah, stops the sacrifice, and versions in which Isaac runs away. <+>

“Bob Dylan's Abraham thinks God is putting him on. He isn't, but Woody Allen's God is: "See," Abraham says after God chides him for taking his command seriously, "I never know when you're kidding." That kind of tinkering with the story line is as old as the story itself. Ancient writers struggled with the idea of a test in which God learned something ("Now I know that you fear me."). Why would an all-knowing God not already know? They added Satan to the story as an instigator, as in the Book of Job. God was not learning; he was demonstrating Abraham's greatness. Another writer substituted love for fear as the emotion that moved Abraham. <+>

“Many other ancients were uncomfortable with a clueless, passive Isaac. They turned him into a knowing and willing victim, sometimes the first Jewish martyr, fully prepared to die for God. First millennium rabbis wrote Sarah into the story, often to explain her death in the next chapter of Genesis. Syriac hymnists made Sarah a type of Mary, equal to Abraham in faith. Islamic exegetes made Ishmael the nearly sacrificed son.

Don't misunderstand me: There has never been a time when Abraham wasn't widely celebrated in Judaism, Christianity and Islam as a knight of obedience and faith. Yet discomfort with his response to God's command also goes way back. One 7th century poet imagined God's daughter, the Torah, rejecting Abraham as a suitor because he did not beg to spare his son. Others imagined Abraham taking God to task for promising greatness through Isaac one day and asking for him back in sacrifice the next.

Abraham's and Sarah’s Death

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Burial of Sarah
After Abraham returned from Jerusalem, he settled in Beersheba. Sarah died in Qiryat Arba, near Hebron, at the age of 127. Abraham buried her in Hebron in the cave of Machpelah, which he bought for 400 shekels from a Hittite who took advantage of his grievous state and overcharged him. Abraham never owned a piece of land in his entire life until he bought the cave. As a nomad he never needed a place to live but according to one scholar "the dead require a permanent resting place."

Afterwards Abraham took a new wife, Keturah, who gave him six more children, some with Arabic names. He also found a wife---Rebecca from Nahor near Haran in northern Mesopotamia---for Isaac. Abraham died at the age of 175. Isaac and Ishmael reunited to bury him in Machpelah next to Sarah. Later, Isaac and his wife Rebekah (Rebecca), and the their son Jacob and his wife Leah were buried there too. Ishmael is regarded as the patriarch of the Arabs. He is believed to be buried somewhere else. Many say in Mecca, next to the Kaaba.

The is little archaeological evidence to back up the claims that the tombs that exist today in Hebron that are called the Tombs of the Patriarchs are the real tombs of Abraham and his family. The tombs in Hebron have never been excavated but archaeologists believe they date many centuries after Abraham's death. The claim they are the tombs of Abraham and his family are based on tradition.

Ibrahimi Mosque was built over Machpelah cave in the 13th century and has been in continuous use since then. For a long time Muslims prevented Jews from entering. They were allowed to pray at the entrance but not go inside. After the Seven Day War in 1967, when Israel captured the West Bank and Hebron, Israeli authorities allowed Jews to enter the complex. The time and locations of the Jewish prayers was initially restricted to avoid conflicts with Muslims.

Sarah Dies and Abraham Haggles Over Her Burial Site

Genesis 22:19 So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba. 22:20 And it came to pass after these things, that it was told Abraham, saying, Behold, Milcah, she hath also born children unto thy brother Nahor; 22:21 Huz his firstborn, and Buz his brother, and Kemuel the father of Aram, 22:22 And Chesed, and Hazo, and Pildash, and Jidlaph, and Bethuel. 22:23 And Bethuel begat Rebekah: these eight Milcah did bear to Nahor, Abraham's brother. 22:24 And his concubine, whose name was Reumah, she bare also Tebah, and Gaham, and Thahash, and Maachah. [Source: King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org]


23:1 And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah. 23:2 And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her. 23:3 And Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spake unto the sons of Heth, saying, 23:4 I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a buryingplace with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.

23:5 And the children of Heth answered Abraham, saying unto him, 23:6 Hear us, my lord: thou art a mighty prince among us: in the choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead; none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulchre, but that thou mayest bury thy dead. 23:7 And Abraham stood up, and bowed himself to the people of the land, even to the children of Heth. 23:8 And he communed with them, saying, If it be your mind that I should bury my dead out of my sight; hear me, and intreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar, 23:9 That he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he hath, which is in the end of his field; for as much money as it is worth he shall give it me for a possession of a buryingplace amongst you.

23:10 And Ephron dwelt among the children of Heth: and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the audience of the children of Heth, even of all that went in at the gate of his city, saying, 23:11 Nay, my lord, hear me: the field give I thee, and the cave that is therein, I give it thee; in the presence of the sons of my people give I it thee: bury thy dead. 23:12 And Abraham bowed down himself before the people of the land. 23:13 And he spake unto Ephron in the audience of the people of the land, saying, But if thou wilt give it, I pray thee, hear me: I will give thee money for the field; take it of me, and I will bury my dead there.

23:14 And Ephron answered Abraham, saying unto him, 23:15 My lord, hearken unto me: the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver; what is that betwixt me and thee? bury therefore thy dead. 23:16 And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant. 23:17 And the field of Ephron which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the borders round about, were made sure 23:18 Unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city. 23:19 And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre: the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan. 23:20 And the field, and the cave that is therein, were made sure unto Abraham for a possession of a buryingplace by the sons of Heth.

Abraham’s Last Years and Death

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Cave of the Patriarchs
Genesis 24:1 And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things. 24:2 And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh: 24:3 And I will make thee swear by the LORD, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell: 24:4 But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac. [Source: King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org]

24:5 And the servant said unto him, Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land: must I needs bring thy son again unto the land from whence thou camest? 24:6 And Abraham said unto him, Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again. 24:7 The LORD God of heaven, which took me from my father's house, and from the land of my kindred, and which spake unto me, and that sware unto me, saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land; he shall send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence. 24:8 And if the woman will not be willing to follow thee, then thou shalt be clear from this my oath: only bring not my son thither again. 24:9 And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning that matter. 24:10 And the servant took ten camels of the camels of his master, and departed; for all the goods of his master were in his hand: and he arose, and went to Mesopotamia, unto the city of Nahor.

Later Abraham’s servant returned with a woman named Rebekah: Genesis 24:62 And Isaac came from the way of the well Lahairoi; for he dwelt in the south country. 24:63 And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming. 24:64 And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel. 24:65 For she had said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master: therefore she took a vail, and covered herself. 24:66 And the servant told Isaac all things that he had done. And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.

25:1 Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah. 25:2 And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah. 25:3 And Jokshan begat Sheba, and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, and Letushim, and Leummim. 25:4 And the sons of Midian; Ephah, and Epher, and Hanoch, and Abidah, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah. 25:5 And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac. 25:6 But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country.

25:7 And these are the days of the years of Abraham's life which he lived, an hundred threescore and fifteen years. 25:8 Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people. 25:9 And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre; 25:10 The field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth: there was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife. 25:11 And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac dwelt by the well Lahairoi.


Abraham and the DNA group Haplogroup D


Cave of the Patriarchs

The Cave of the Patriarchs (south of Jerusalem in Hebron) is a walled shrine-mosque-mausoleum complex built around the cave, where and his family are buried. Within the complex are the tombs of the Patriarchs (Abraham and his immediate descendants are regarded as the ancient patriarch of Islam, the first patriarchs of Judaism and ancestors of Jesus) and important women in their lives: 1) Abraham, 2) Sarah (Abraham’s wife), 3) Isaac (Abraham and Sara’s son), 4) Rebecca (Isaac’s wife), 5) Jacob (Isaac and Rebecca’s son), 6) Leah (Jacob’s wife). Just outside the complex is the Tomb of Joseph.

The Cave of the Patriarchs is known to Muslims as the Noble Enclosure of the Friend and is regarded as forth holiest Muslim site after Mecca, Medina and Dome on the Rock in Jerusalem. It is known to Jews as the Cave of Machpelah or the Tomb of the Patriarchs and is considered the second holiest Jewish site after the Western Wall. Before the 1960s no one but Muslims were allowed to enter the complex. For 700 years, Jews were permitted only to pray outside the structure on the seventh stone step leading to the complex.

Concealing the cave is the Ibraham Mosque whose foundations lie on a fortress-like sanctuary built around 20 A.D. during the reign of the Roman King Herod's with addition made over the centuries by Byzantine Christians and several Muslim dynasties. In the center of the Mosque are six red-and-white striped cenotaphs’symbolic tombs---that represent the real graves which are in the cave below the mosque. They and the pillars date back to the 9th century.

The cenotaphs look like small stone huts. The one that belong to Abraham and Sarah are locked behind a silver padlock and gate. Crusaders purportedly found Abraham's bones in it in A.D. 1119, but this fact can not be verified since no archeologist are allowed in the cave. There is a grate over a small aperture into the cave but all you can see is an oil lamp below.

Ibrahimi Mosque is laid out in rectangle with the tombs of Abraham and Sarah in the middle and the tombs of Isaac and Rebecca on one side and the tombs of Leah and Jacob on the other. On the Isaac and Rebecca side is a Muslim prayer area. On the Jacob and Leah side is a Jewish prayer area and a synagogue for Jewish worship. The mosque is decorated with quotations from the Koran. Two thick stone minarets dominate the structure. They are often manned by Israeli soldiers.

Jacob

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Meeting of Isaac and Rebekah
Jacob is the second son of Isaac and Rebecca, the grandson of Abraham and the founder of Israel. Chapters 17 through 22 of Genesis describe Esau and Jacob, the twin sons of Abraham's son Isaac. In Chapter 25, Esau sells his birthright to Jacob for a some stew. The stew given to Esau was made from red lentils. He most likely went along with the deal because he had just killed King Nimrod of Babel and thought he was going to be executed.

Shechem, were Jacob grazed his sheep, was occupied during his time. Tablets from Nuzi also indicate it was customary for males to sell their birthright to their brothers, as Esau did to Jacob. In one case a brother agreed to exchange his inheritance for "three sheep immediately from his brother Tupkitilla."

Jacob was something of a trickster. In Chapter 27 of Genesis he impersonated Esau by donning a goatskin so he could receive from Isaac, who was blind and dying, a blessing intended for Esau as the oldest son. Later he fled to his uncle’s house to escape Esau’s rage. One the way he had a vision of a ladder with angels going up and down it. Then God spoke to him and told him that the land he was lying on would be his forever.

Jacob is perhaps best known for his ladder. But close scrutiny of the original Hebrew indicates the ladder was more like a ramp found on a Mesopotamian ziggurat. In Chapter 32, Jacob gets into a wrestling with an angel who knocks Isaac’s hip out of joint and renames him Israel. "Israel" mean "he who struggles with God.” Later it came mean the homeland of the Jewish people and the place in which the Jewish people hope to return to.

Jacob and his sons are described as the progenitors of the 12 tribes of Israel. They were forced by famine to leave Canaan and move to Egypt, where the Israelites are enslaved, paving the way for their Exodus under Moses 400 years later. In Chapter 47-50 of Genesis, the 12 tribes of Israel enter Egypt, Jacob and Joseph die, and the Exodus is prophesied.

Joseph


Jacob and Esau Meet
Joseph was Jacob's favorite son. He was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers and reached a high political office in Egypt through his great wisdom. Chapters 37 through 50 in Genesis describe Joseph and his adventures in Egypt. In Chapter 41, he interprets the Pharaoh's dreams and becomes a powerful man. In Chapters 43-46, he is reunited with his father and brothers after they come to Egypt in search of food.

In the 17th century B.C., when Joseph rose to power in Egypt, Lower Egypt was ruled by a Semitic people called the Hykos. Jacob is perhaps best known for his of coat many colors. But close scrutiny of the original Hebrew indicates the coat was more likely an “ornamental tunic.”

In Chapter 37, Joseph is sold into slavery for 20 silver shekels. According to Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen of the University of Liverpool, this matches the going price for a slave in Mesopotamia in the 18th century B.C.

In Chapter 47, Joseph tell his people "when the harvests come, you shall give a fifth to the Pharaohs.” Egyptian record from that time show that peasants were required to pay a 20 percent tax on their crops. The style of warfare, the form of contracts and treaties and the laws of inheritance mentioned in the Bible are also consistent with historical record.

Tablets from Elba mention Ab-ra-mu (Abraham), E-sa-um (Esau) and Sa-u-lum (Saul) but they could have easily been people with the same names as the biblical figures. These texts also mention a king named Erbium who ruled around 2,300 BC and bears an uncanny resemblance to Eber from the Book of Genesis who was the great-great grandson of Noah and the great-great-great-great grandfather of Abraham. Some scholars suggest that Biblical reference in the Elba tablets are overstated because the divine name yahweh (Jehovah) is not mentioned once in them.

Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons, Schnorr von Carolsfeld Bible in Bildern, 1860

Text Sources: Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); “Old Testament Life and Literature” by Gerald A. Larue, King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org, New International Version (NIV) of The Bible, biblegateway.com Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL), translated by William Whiston, ccel.org , Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018


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