Who Was Abraham?
FEW men have had greater impact on the world’s religions. Revered by Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike, Abrahama has been described as “a giant in Scripture” and as “a towering example of faith.” The Bible calls him “the father of all those having faith.”—Romans 4:11.
Why is Abraham so highly regarded? For one thing, Abraham has the distinction of being the only person whom the Bible directly refers to as God’s friend—and three times at that!—2 Chronicles 20:7, footnote; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23.
In other ways, however, Abraham was an ordinary person like us. He faced many of the same struggles that we do—and he met them successfully. Would you like to know how he did so? Consider what the Bible reveals about this remarkable man.
Born in the year 2018 B.C.E., Abraham grew up in Ur. (Genesis 11:27-31) Ur was a large and prosperous city. It was also steeped in idol worship. Abraham’s father, Terah, may have been among those who worshipped various idols. (Joshua 24:2) Yet, Abraham chose to direct his worship solely to Jehovahb rather than to the lifeless idols of other gods.
What moved Abraham to make that decision? Well, his life overlapped that of Noah’s son Shem by 150 years. If he associated with that much-older man, how might he have been affected? Abraham could have learned firsthand from Shem what it was like to survive the global Flood. He may also have learned the importance of worshipping Jehovah, the God who had preserved Shem and his family through that Deluge.
Whether it was through Shem or by some other means, Abraham responded favorably to what he learned about the true God. When Jehovah, “the examiner of hearts,” observed Abraham, he saw something good in the man—and he helped to make the good grow.—Proverbs 17:3; 2 Chronicles 16:9.
Abraham lived a full and exciting life, one that was often challenging but never meaningless. Consider just a few of the things he experienced.
▪ While Abraham was living in Ur, God directed him to leave the land of his birth and head out to a land that He would show him. Although Abraham and Sarah did not know all the details—where they were going or why God was asking them to leave—they obeyed. Abraham and Sarah eventually came to dwell in tents in the land of Canaan, living as sojourners for the rest of their lives.—Acts 7:2, 3; Hebrews 11:8, 9, 13.
▪ While Abraham and Sarah were still childless, Jehovah promised to make a great nation out of Abraham. Jehovah added that all the families of the earth would be blessed by means of Abraham. (Genesis 11:30; 12:1-3) Jehovah later affirmed that promise. He told Abraham that his offspring would become numerous, like the stars of heaven.—Genesis 15:5, 6.
▪ When Abraham was 99 years old and Sarah was nearing 90, Jehovah promised that they would have a son. That seemed impossible from a human standpoint, but Abraham and Sarah soon learned that nothing is “too extraordinary for Jehovah.” (Genesis 18:14) One year later, at the age of 100, Abraham became father to a son, whom he named Isaac. (Genesis 17:21; 21:1-5) God specifically promised that through Isaac, great blessings would come to mankind.
▪ A number of years later, Jehovah made a very unusual request of Abraham: He asked Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac, although the young man was unmarried and had no children.c Though the prospect of losing his son must have pained him, Abraham prepared to obey and offer Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham firmly believed that God had the power to resurrect Isaac, if necessary, in order to make His promises come true. (Hebrews 11:19) At the crucial moment when Abraham was about to offer up his son, God intervened, sparing Isaac’s life. He commended Abraham for his outstanding obedience. Jehovah then repeated his earlier promises to Abraham.—Genesis 22:1-18.
▪ After 175 years of life, Abraham fell asleep in death. He “died in a good old age,” says the Bible, adding that he was “old and satisfied.” (Genesis 25:7, 8) Abraham thus experienced the fulfillment of another promise made by God—namely, that he would enjoy a long life before dying in peace.—Genesis 15:15.
Abraham is far more than a religious or historical figure from the distant past. To this day, his story lives, providing a rich example for all of us to imitate. (Hebrews 11:8-10, 17-19) Let us consider four of the good qualities that Abraham displayed. We will begin with what is perhaps his best-known quality—faith.
a Originally, Abraham was known as Abram and his wife was known as Sarai. Later, God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, meaning “Father of a Multitude,” and he changed Sarai’s name to Sarah, meaning “Princess.” (Genesis 17:5, 15) For simplicity, in this series of articles, we will refer to them as Abraham and Sarah.
b Jehovah is the name of God as revealed in the Bible.
c See the article “Our Readers Ask . . . Why Did God Ask Abraham to Sacrifice His Son?” on page 23 of this issue.
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A Pivotal Character in Bible History
In its first ten chapters, the Bible book of Genesis recounts the life histories of several men of faith, including Abel, Enoch, and Noah. Yet, it devotes most of the next 15 chapters to the life of one man—Abraham.
Moreover, the Bible first mentions some of its most important concepts in connection with Abraham. For example, in Abraham’s life story we find . . .
▪ the first mention of putting faith in God.—Genesis 15:6.
▪ the first occurrence of the word prophet.—Genesis 20:7.
▪ the first reference to a parent’s love.—Genesis 22:2.