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Character Studies
Abram/Abraham
Genesis 12:1-25:8

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

1. In the Old Testament:

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

2. In the New Testament:

When we pass to the New Testament we are astonished at the wealth and variety of allusion
to Abraham. As in the Old Testament, his position of ancestor lends him much of his
significance, not only as ancestor of Israel (Ac 13:26), but specifically as ancestor, now of
the Levitical priesthood (Heb 7:5), now of the Messiah (Mt 1:1), now, by the peculiarly
Christian doctrine of the unity of believers in Christ, of Christian believers (Ga 3:16,29). All
that Abraham the ancestor received through Divine election, by the covenant made with
him, is inherited by his seed and passes under the collective names of the promise (Ro 4:
13), the blessing (Ga 3:14), mercy (Lu 1:54), the oath (Lu 1:73), the covenant (Ac 3:25). The
way in which Abraham responded to this peculiar goodness of God makes him the type of
the Christian believer. Though so far in the past that he was used as a measure of antiquity
(Joh 8:58), he is declared to have "seen" Messiah's "day" (Joh 8:56). It is his faith in the
Divine promise, which, just because it was for him peculiarly unsupported by any evidence
of the senses, becomes the type of the faith that leads to justification (Ro 4:3), and therefore
in this sense again he is the "father" of Christians, as believers (Ro 4:11). For that promise
to Abraham was, after all, a "preaching beforehand" of the Christian gospel, in that it
embraced "all the families of the earth" (Ga 3:8). Of this exalted honor, James reminds us,
Abraham proved himself worthy, not by an inoperative faith, but by "works" that evidenced
his righteousness (Jas 2:21; compare Joh 8:39). The obedience that faith wrought in him is
what is especially praised by the author of Hebrews (Heb 11:8,17). In accordance with this
high estimate of the patriarch's piety, we read of his eternal felicity, not only in the current
conceptions of the Jews (parable, Lu 16:1-31), but also in the express assertion of our Lord
(Mt 8:11; Lu 13:28). Incidental historical allusions to the events of Abraham's life are
frequent in the New Testament, but do not add anything to this estimate of his religious
significance.
3. In Jewish Tradition:

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

4. In the Koran:

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

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

  • Abram & Sarai
  • Genesis 12:1-16:16

  • The Call –
  • Genesis 12:1-5
  • Hebrews 11:8-16

  • The Promises –
  • Genesis 12:2-3, 7; 15:1-21
  • Galatians 3:6-29

  • Called upon the name of God – Genesis 12:8; 13:4; 21:33
  • Calling upon the name of God is more than prayer, it is metonomy, or a synecdote,
    which places a part for the whole – the serving of God, particularly engaging in
    acceptable worship (thus, a life of service and obedience)

  • Sojourn in Egypt – Genesis 12:10-13:2
  • The fatal flaw – fear, cowardice, & lying
  • Sarai was Abram’s half-sister & wife – Genesis 20:12

  • The conflict between Abram & Lot – Genesis 13:3-18
  • Note the courtesy of Abram]

  • The rescue of Lot – Genesis 14:1-24

  • Melchizedek – Genesis 14:18-20
  • Hebrews 5-7
  • An illusion to the change of law

  • Abram, Hagar & Ishmael – Genesis 16:1-16
  • Galatians 4
  • An allegory of the two covenants

  • Abraham & Sarah
  • Genesis 17:1-23:2

  • Their names changed – Genesis 17:1-8, 15

  • The covenant of circumcision – Genesis 17:9-27
  • Ishmael is 13 when he is circumcised

  • Entertaining angels unaware – Genesis 18:1-33
  • Hebrews 13:2

  • Abraham & Abimelech – Genesis 20:1-18
  • A repeat of the same error

  • Isaac born – Genesis 21:1-8

  • Sarah, Hagar & Ishmael – Genesis 21:9-21

  • Covenant with Abimelech – Genesis 21:22-30

  • Abraham tested of God (offering Isaac) – Genesis 22:1-19
  • Hebrews 11:17-19
  • Isaac is called the only-begotten son of Abraham. This is from the LXX (Septuagint).
    Only-begotten at the time of the translation of the LXX (Classic Greek Period) meant
    only-born of the mother. Only-begotten at the time of the translation of the New
    Testament (Koine Greek Period) meant the only-begotten of the father. Thus, both
    Isaac and Jesus are referred to as only-begotten, but it meant something entirely
    different.

  • Death of Sarah – Genesis 23:1-20

  • Obtains a wife for Isaac – Genesis 24:1-67

  • Abraham & Keturah -- Genesis 25:1-8