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Biblical Timeline | Abraham

Abraham, originally called Abram. The latter means ’high father’ which is ironic as for much of his life Abram was childless The name Abraham is usually said to mean father of many nations from the two words Ab and Hamon, but these contain no letter ‘r’.J. Halévy’s ‘Revenue des Études Juives’ points to the first part coming from ‘abbir’ meaning strong leader. The middle part of the name Abraham however means ‘to cut a covenant’ which is what God and Abraham did. 

According to Bishop Ussher’s 17th century chronology Abraham lived from about 1996 BC to 1821 BC. He is mentioned by both Matthew and Luke in their genealogies of Jesus. Matthew wanting to set Jesus in history and also to prove his Jewish lineage traces the line back to Abraham, while Luke, writing from a Gentile point of view, goes on through Abraham to Adam.

Abraham was born in the city Ur of Chaldea, in what is now modern day Iraq, but left there with his family and eventually settled in what is now Israel having traveled as a nomad west along the fertile crescent because he felt this was what God wanted him to do, eventually reaching the land God had promised to him and his descendents. Jewish tradition says his father was an idol maker and Abraham destroyed the idols.

Formerly called Abram, his name was lengthened at the time of God’s covenant with him.

He is revered for his faith in one god, monotheism, at a time when polytheism was the norm, by members or the Jewish faith and by Muslims, both of whom claim him as their ancestor through his two sons Isaac and Ishmael and also by Christians who see him as a spiritual ancestor. Muslims believe that he and Ishmael built the ancient site of Mecca, their holy city. Altogether this means that some 3 billion people place importance upon this one man. Although a great man of faith he also had his failings. He did not doubt God’s plan , but unsuccessfully tried his own way to achieve it. The book of Genesis traces his story, and that of his family, in detail from chapter 11 to 25. Hi s wife Sarah was sterile and he was an old man when God made a covenant with him and promised that through him would come a great nation. He tried to do this with his maidservant, but eventually, though Hagar did have a son, it was through Sarah and her son Isaac and his son Jacob that the twelve tribes of Israel came into being. Abraham had many difficulties and at times made some wrong decisions, but ultimately was a man of great faith as is acknowledged by the writer of Hebrews in chapter 11 who says that Abraham was faithful because God was faithful to him.

In his lifetime trade was conducted using fixed weight s and measures, cuneiform writing was being engraved into clay tablets, the Babylonian kingdom was founded by Amraphael, Cheops ruled Egypt and in China the silk industry began an d the bronze age began there also. On Crete the Minoan palaces were being built. At about this period horse became domesticated for the first time and the first farmers settled in Kenya.
Halévy, J., Revenue des Études Juives’ quoted by the writer of ‘Meaning, origin and etymology of the name Abraham’, Biblical Name Vault, Abarim Publications, available from accessed 5th January 2010


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