Abraham (Abram, Ab-Raham, "Father of the Multitude," in Aramaic and in Hebrew; Sidna Ibrahim, Ibrahim Al-Khalil, Abraham "Close Friend of God," in Arabic)

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ABRAHAM (Abram, Ab-Raham, "father of the multitude," in Aramaic and in Hebrew; Sidna Ibrahim, Ibrahim al-Khalil, Abraham "close friend of God," in Arabic)

According to Biblical tradition Abraham is considered the first of the Jewish patriarchs to have revealed, in the nineteenth century b.c.e., the existence of One God. Therefore, according to the Bible, Abraham, son of Terah (Terakh), is descended from Shem, eldest son of Noah and of the line of Eber (Heber). A Chaldean (Mesopotamian) shepherd, Abraham left the city of Ur (Haran) under the prompting of God, leading his tribe to Canaan. According to a divine messenger, a "Promised Land" awaited him there, "between the river of Egypt and the great Euphrates," where his tribe, chosen by God, would become a great nation. Abraham settled in Canaan for a time, but, because of the hostility of the Canaanites and difficulties feeding his tribe, he decided to go to Egypt. There, with the consent of his wife, Sarah, who was sterile, he had a son, Ishmael (Hebrew)/Ismaʿil (Arabic), with Hagar, his Egyptian servant.

Later, at the head of his tribe, he left Egypt to return to the land of Canaan where he settled in the forest of Mambreh, near the city of Hebron. There, his wife Sarah, who, meanwhile, miraculously had given him a son, Isaac (Itzhak, Hebrew; Ishaq, Arabic), asked him to renounce Ishmael. At that moment, God, testing his loyalty, commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah. Before Abraham's determination to obey the divine would lead him to accomplish this, God sent a sign to prevent the execution. Abraham decided then to sacrifice a lamb to the glory of God. After their death, Abraham and Sarah were buried in Hebron, and this city became a Jewish holy place, then a Christian and Muslim one. Traditionally described as the ancestor of the Arabs and the Jews, because he is the father of both Ishmael and Isaac, Abraham is a major personage in the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religions. The Qurʾan depicts him as one of the prophets, builder of the Kaʿba, and Muslims commemorate his willingness to sacrifice his son Ismaʿil (instead of Isaac of the Biblical story) on the occasion of the festival of Id al-Adha. According to some historians, the words Abarama, Abirami ("love the father, loved by the father"), inscribed on the Ebla Tablets that predate the Biblical story, designate Abraham; while for others, many elements recounted in Genesis are difficult to place in the period when they were supposed to have occurred (around 1850 b.c.e.).


SEE ALSO Arabs; Bible; Canaan; Hebron; Isaac; Ishmael; Jew; Kaʿba; Patriarchs.