The Story of the Patriarchs (ca. 1850 BC)

Found in: Genesis 12-50


In 1850 BC, people worshipped creatures and the forces of nature as gods. One day the old childless man Abram was called by God to become the father of his chosen people. God renamed him Abraham ("father of many nations"), and showed him Canaan, a land promised to him and his descendants, telling him that all nations would be blessed through him. Abraham trusted God, which made him righteous in God's eyes. 


When God promised him and his wife Sarah a son, they figured they would help God since Sarah was old, so they had Sarah's young slave girl Hagar conceive the child in Sarah's place. And so Abraham and Hagar had Ishmael, but God told them he had promised an heir to Abraham with Sarah, and miraculously Isaac was born. Ironically, when Isaac was older, God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice Isaac! Abraham was about to kill him, but an angel of God stopped him, for his faith had been proven (and it initiated an ending of child sacrifice). 


Isaac would grow up and marry Rebecca, who gave birth to twins Esau and Jacob. Isaac favored Esau, the hunter, while Rebecca favored Jacob, who was a trickster. Even though he was born second, it was Jacob that God chose to continue the line of Abraham. Jacob tricked his father by disguising himself as his older brother to steal the firstborn blessing, and later even wrestled a blessing from God's angel! God gave him the name "Israel". He would then marry Leah and Rachel and have twelve sons, the progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel. 


Of the 12 sons, the second youngest, Joseph, was Jacob's favorite. This made his older brothers jealous, and they left him one day to die in the desert. Some travelers found him and took him to Egypt, where he used his ability to interpret dreams to help interpret a dream of the Pharoah's that no one else could interpret for him. The dream predicted an oncoming famine, so Pharoah put Joseph in charge of storing food and water. Joseph was able to protect Egypt from famine, so Pharaoh made him his right hand man. People from distant lands came to Egypt for food and water, including Joseph's brothers! When they saw him alive and in charge, they offered to become his slaves, but Joseph told them not to worry. God allowed this to happen so they could be reunited and able to grow. And so, with the first descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in Egypt, the book of Genesis closes with the moral of the story that from evil God draws a greater good.




That God would choose to save humanity through one nation was his  prerogative as Creator.

Both God's might and mercy are on display in the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the story God spares Abraham's nephew, Lot, and his family, and assures Abraham that he would not have destroyed the city if there were even a few good  people left in it. 

When Abraham's slave-girl Hagar is driven away by Sarah and Abraham, God promises that Abraham and Hagar's son Ishmael would also become a great nation. The nation of Islam claims its heritage from Ishmael, though the Koran revises the story to have Ishmael, not Jacob (Israel), be the  heir to Abraham. 

Jacob gets a taste of his own trickery when his uncle Laban tricks him into working an extra seven years for his daughter Rachel's hand in marriage after already working seven years for his daughter Leah's hand (thinking it was for Rachel's hand to begin with).

Review questions:

What made Abraham (and anyone, for that matter) righteous in God's eyes?

What is the biblical connection between Israel and Islam?

People prayed to many gods 
but there was only One.
Abram heard and went where he was told,
Count the stars and count the sands, 
descendants you will have, 
and a promised land you will behold.

Old man, what’s she laughing at?
I’ll see that it comes to that, now.

Now I know the slave girl had a son, 
believe me, he’ll be blessed.
But Sarah’s boy will be the one 
and I’m giving you a test.

Old man, give him up to me.
You said yes, so set him free now.

Look at you,“helping” me with Ishmael.
I asked for Isaac and you did well.

Isaac, you’re the one I chose to follow in the line.
You and Becky had twin boys. 
Guess which one is mine?

Esau hunts and Jacob tricks. Uh oh!
I’ll take that trickster just for kicks now.

Look at you fighting me. You’re “Israel”.
Wrestle my angel and you did well.

Twelve sons next but there was one: 
the second to the last.
Ten left Joseph there to die, 
but, brothers, not so fast.
Rescued, became pharaoh’s man. Uh oh! 
Good from bad, my master plan.

Look at you leaving me inside the well.
Look at my face, does it ring a bell?

Well, does it? It’s all good. 
Look at you.