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Who was Abraham?

Updated on June 19, 2013

Abraham in its Aramaic form means " Father of nations"

Sacrifice of Isaac, by Rembrandt 1635
Sacrifice of Isaac, by Rembrandt 1635
Abraham as a child smashing the idols
Abraham as a child smashing the idols

It is amazing that Abraham is so well known by name yet his significance remains relatively unknown. From dimly remembered lessons at school, Abraham falls somewhere in a list that includes, Moses, Adam, Joshua , David and Jacob and has vague associations with psalms ,prophesies, and deserts. Yet Abraham should stand front and center in any list of patriarchs. He did not have a promising start, but by the end of a very long life Abraham had secured his place in scripture.

Abraham is regarded by many as the founding figure of the three dominant monotheistic religions of the world today. His story can be found principally in the book of Genesis, which is common to the Jewish Torah and Christian Old Testament, although it is revisited in other places. The Muslim Koran also has regular references to the revered figure of Abraham, Through Hagar, his wife's servant, Abraham gained a son, Ishmael, who considered the father of the Arab people. At a very advanced age, his wife Sarai (Sarah) gave birth to another son, Yitzhak (Isaac), the ancestor of the Jewish people. Yitzhak apparently means "Laughter", which may have been joy or complete surprise for a couple who were a hundred years old and ninety years old, respectively.


The exacts dates for the life of Abraham is uncertain, but he was probably born sometime around the year 1996 B.C.E. or Before Common Era. His birthplace was the city of Ur in modern-day Iraq. This may help to explain why he is referred to as a Hebrew (or Ivri), which may come from a root word meaning "to cross over", applying ot the other side of the River Euphrates and thus to his birthplace. The details of Abraham's early life are more the subject of traditions than certainty. The thriving city of Ur was the site of much trade and many temples. It is told that Abraham's father cashed in on these two features, making a living as a producer and seller of idols.

It is traditionally believed that Abraham developed the idea that there was only one God and that polytheism was in error. He became increasingly uncomfortable with his father's trade and devotion to the gods. The story goes that, in his father's absence, Abraham smashed all of the idols in the shop except the largest. He placed the hammer that had inflicted damage in the hands of that idol. When his furious father demanded to know the culprit, Abraham is supposed to have blamed the largest idol as the victor in a fight between the gods. Abraham's father, seeking to pin the blame on the real culprit, denied that the idols had any capacity for action, thereby blaming Abraham, but also undermining the notion that they were worthy of worship.

The Ziggurat in Ur
The Ziggurat in Ur


As a consequence of the ten tests of faith God imposed on Abraham, he became a nomadic figure, wandering the Middle East. The tests were intended to establish the sincerity of Abraham's devotion, but it was not a one-way street. In accepting the tests of faith, Abraham entered into a contractual relationship with the deity. A covenant was formed that extended to all the Israelites. The notion of God's people - the chosen, the elect - had its origin in that initial relationship between God and Abraham

Abraham is at the heart of all three major monotheistic religions. In his offspring and in the concept of faith in one living God, Abraham represents the father of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. His role and legacy are not without controversy, with his birthright still being hotly disputed by different believers, but his significance makes him a figure we should all be more aware of.


  • Ur, Abraham;s birthplace was located in ancient Sumer, in an area that is now part of modern-day Iraq. It was once a coastal settlement although it is now inland. It is most famous for the ziggurat ( a type of temple) erected to the moon goddess, Nanna
  • It is told that God promised Abraham descendants as numerous as the stars in the night sky. When you consider that Islam, Christianity and Judaism have a combined three billion adherents, it would seem,that the promise has been kept.


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  • jolinabetts profile image

    Sunshine Diaz 5 years ago from Wichita, Kansas

    Hi Bob Thanks for reading!

    Hi Kashmir56! hey keep the hubs coming, i'm waiting for new hubs!

  • Civil War Bob profile image

    Civil War Bob 5 years ago from Glenside, Pennsylvania

    Good hub, Jolina, voted up, interesting.

  • kashmir56 profile image

    Thomas Silvia 5 years ago from Massachusetts

    Thanks for this well written and informative hub,it was a very enjoyable read, well done !

    Vote up and more !!!