Apr 12, 2013

Abraham or Abram

He was according to the Book of Genesis (11:27-25:10), the progenitor of the Hebrews and probably lived in the period between 2000 and 1500 BC. Abraham is regarded by Muslims, who call him Ibrahim, as an ancestor of the Arabs through his son Ishmael. He was once considered a contemporary of Hammurabi, king of Babylonia. Because the biblical account of his life is based on traditions preserved by oral transmission rather than by historical records, no biography in the present sense can be written.

Originally called Abram, Abraham was the son of Terah, a descendant of Shem, and was born in the city of Ur of the Chaldees, where he married his half sister Sarai, or Sarah. They left Ur with his nephew Lot and Lot's family under a divine inspiration and went to Haran. Receiving a promise that God would make him a “great nation,” Abram moved on to Canaan, where he lived as a nomad. Famine led him to Egypt, but he was driven out for misrepresenting Sarai as his sister. Again in Canaan, after quarrels between Abram and Lot and their herdsmen, they separated, Lot remaining near Sodom and Abram continuing his nomadic life. He later rescued Lot from the captivity of King Chedorlaomer of Elam and was blessed by the priest Melchizedek, king of Salem. Then God promised Abram a son by his wife Sarai, repeated his earlier promises, and confirmed these by a covenant.

When this covenant was later renewed, the rite of circumcision was established, Abram's name became Abraham, and Sarai's became Sarah. God subsequently repeated his promise of a son by Sarah by means of visiting angels.

When God informed Abraham that he intended to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of the wickedness of their inhabitants, Abraham pleaded with God to spare the cities. Eventually it was agreed that God would spare the cities if he could find only ten righteous men. The ten men could not be found, and God destroyed both cities.

According to the Bible, Ishmael was Abraham's first son, born when Abraham was 86 years old. Ishamel's mother was Hagar, an Egyptian slave in Abraham's household. Isaac, born to Abraham by Sarah in his 100th year, was the first of his legitimate descendants. God demanded that Abraham sacrifice Isaac as a test of faith, but because of Abraham's unquestioning compliance, God permitted him to spare Isaac and rewarded Abraham with a formal renewal of his promise. According to Islamic tradition, Hagar was the true wife of Ibrahim and Ishmael the favored son and intended sacrificial victim. After Sarah died, Abraham married Keturah and had six sons by her. He died at the biblical age of 175 and was buried beside Sarah in the Cave of Machpelah, in what is now Hebron, West Bank.

Christians, Muslims, and Jews accept Abraham as an epitome of the man of unswerving faith, a view reflected in the New Testament. (Adapted from Encarta Encyclopedia)