Abraham and Sarah
Abraham and Sarah Enter Canaan
As Abraham and Sarah entered Canaan, they stopped at Sichem (Shechem).
"Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the
great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time, the Canaanites were in the
At the time of writing, this "great tree of Moreh"
would have been a well known landmark. Linguists suggest the actual word
suggests an oak, or terebinth grove, as opposed to the word "plain", as
translated in the King James.
It is also interesting to note that, geographically speaking, Shechem is
near the center of the Holy Land. Abraham and Sarah descended into the
Jordan River Valley from the east, most likely from the Jabbok River.
As Abraham and Sarah entered from this way, the Wadi Ferah would
have led the group northward, up the western banks of the Jordan River
Valley, to the mountains of western Palestine, and into Shechem.
Click on a link to view that section of this page.
Abraham Enters Canaan
Abraham in the Negev
Abraham Migrates to Egypt
Abraham in Philistia
Shechem, or the great landmark alluded to near Shechem, would have
been one of the first "cities" encountered by a party entering Canaan
from that direction. It is in Shechem that God appeared to Abram for the
first time since his arrival in Canaan.
Gen. 12:7 "And the Lord appeared unto Abram."
In Shechem, God promised that He would give this land to Abram,
though at the time, Abram owned none of it. Abram responded by building
an altar to God.
Abraham and Sarah then continued southward, traveling some 35 miles
before stopping at Bethel. Scripture says they actually stopped at a
mountain, east of Bethel.
"And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of
Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Ai on the
east: and there he builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the
name of the Lord."
Shortly after, Abraham and Sarah continued their journey, "going on still toward the south".
Abram, unbeknownst to him, was leading his clan into the Negeb,
the southern portion of Judah, bordering on the Southern Wilderness.
Thus, it is natural to make the assumption that Abram was living
as a nomad at this point in time. Scripture paints a picture of a man
constantly on the move. The party followed sources of water and pasture
land, establishing altars as signs of appreciation for sustenance
These altars were, no doubt, signals of gratitude from day to day
living off a foreign land, surrounded on all sides by foreign people,
some hostile, some not.
Abram, especially early on, likely sought to avoid people as much
as possible. However, Abraham and Sarah would surely have made contact
with natives from time to time.
Their traveling party was likely too large to hide, and the
native shepherds, travelers, and others surely would have taken notice.
Abraham and Sarah established a pattern of travel that the other Patriarchs would copy over the course of time.
Genesis 12-50 basically covers two areas within Canaan.
The first area being the central mountains of western Palestine; those areas including Shechem, Ai, and Bethel.
The second area being the Negeb, including Beer-sheba, which has
produced ruins dating to the Middle Bronze Age. Abram's early migrations
in Canaan, as well as those of the later Patriarchs, can be seen as
In the hot summer months, to seek relief, the clan moved into the
mountainous regions. In the winter, to seek food, Abraham and Sarah
would move the clan to adequate food and water supplies found in the
Negeb and the bordering regions.
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Abraham and Sarah in Egypt (Gen. 12:10-20)
Genesis 12:10 relates that a famine had occurred in the land. This famine was "grievous in the land."
Consequently, Abraham and Sarah journeyed into Egypt. Abram was
unable to sustain his flocks in Canaan, thus, his trust in the Lord's
promise was tested.
Scripture does not make mention of Abraham and Sarah asking God
for guidance, but rather, they take the initiative and journey to Egypt.
Upon anticipation of danger, Abraham and Sarah devise a scheme to
hide their marriage, if need be. Abram fears the Egyptians may kill him
to steal his wife.
Sarah obviously possessed an intense beauty (12:14), which would have sparked the attention of the sensual Egyptians.
Abram reasons it is best to say she is his sister, and he will be treated well on account of her, rather than killed for her.
Surely he felt some justification in this. Abraham and Sarah were
half siblings. Indeed, the men of Egypt did find Sarai attractive, and
lusted after her.
descendants of Ham
through Mizraim, were polytheistic in their beliefs, cruel, and oftentimes immoral in their pursuit of pleasure and power.
They instantly recognized Sarai's physical beauty, and sought to
possess her. Seemingly, in no time, Pharaoh himself had taken notice of
"The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her
before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house. And he
entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he
asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels." Gen. 12:15-16
The Egyptians saw something in Sarai which led them to present her to their Pharaoh, instead of taking her for themselves.
It is also notable that she is not defiled immediately by Pharaoh. Instead, Pharaoh begins to contemplate marriage with Sarai.
The plan of Abraham and Sarah had appeared to work out just fine,
with his life being spared. Pharaoh even gave extravagant gifts to
Abraham, on account of Sarah. Yet, now Pharaoh desired to marry Sarai,
and Abram faced the threat of losing his wife.
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God intervened, however, and struck Pharaoh and his household "with great plagues".
Scripture does not relate how Pharaoh discovered Abraham and
Sarah were married, only that once he found out, he entreated Abraham
and Sarah to leave immediately.
One gets the sense, from reading Gen. 12:20, that Abraham and Sarah were given a royal escort out of the country by Pharaoh's men.
It is interesting to note that the first encounter between Egypt
and God's people, in this instance Abraham and Sarah, involved plagues, a
Pharaoh sending a party on their way out of the country with royal
orders, and that party leaving with everything they possessed intact.
Centuries later, a similar scene is depicted with Moses leading the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage.
Abram's Vision ( Genesis 15 )
God once again reaffirms His promise to Abram in the opening verses
of chapter 15. For the first time in the Bible, the word "word" appears,
referring not to words of men, but the "word of the Lord".
The word of the Lord to Abram came in the form of a remarkable
promise concerning land and off-spring. Abram is seen here in
conversation with God. He appears thankful, yet, at the same time
destitute, as he has not been given an heir yet by God.
Abram seems to say that all of this stuff is nice, but, what good
is it when my heir is a servant in my house. Abram wanted flesh and
blood to pass down the inheritance to.
God promises to Abram that a heir "shall come forth out of thine own bowels".
Abram believes God, and it is credited to him as righteousness.
God then confirms His plans for Abram in a ritualistic ceremony. Abram
was instructed to take one cow, sheep, goat, pigeon, and dove, and
prepare an altar for their sacrifice.
These animals represented the five acceptable animals later to be
sacrificed according to Jewish law. The sacrifices were placed in two
rows on the altar, with a bird in each row, and one-half of the other
animals in each row.
Historians have shown that this conformed to ceremonies performed
in this era, where the two parties would pass between the rows as a
symbol of their oath to abide by the terms of the contract.
As the day progressed, Abram had to fight off the birds that
sought to devour the meat placed on the altar. As the sun sank over the
horizon, Abram is said to have fallen into a "deep sleep".
God reveals to Abram that his descendants will become strangers
in a land not theirs, and that they will be taken captive. They were
enslaved by this land, and treated so for 400 years.
After which, God will rescue them, and redeem them to the Promised Land. As night passed, a "smoking furnace, and a burning lamp" passed between the two rows.
This was symbolic of God passing through, not Abram, as the
covenant was God's and God's alone. It was not dependent on anything
Abram could, or could not, do.
God was sealing the covenant with His guarantee to Abram because
Abram had remained faithful and obedient. Abram would father a child,
and his offspring would be as numerous as the stars. Abram would become a
father of many nations.
Abraham in Philistia
Genesis 20 opens up with Abraham and Sarah taking a trip southward into the Negev. They are said to have stopped in Gerar.
Scripture chooses not to give a reason for Abraham and Sarah
taking this trip. Gerar was the Philistine capital city at the time, and
controlled a prosperous caravan route into Egypt.
The city was near the Egyptian border, and archaeology has shown
that it was a wealthy and popular city. The Philistines, from which the
word Palestine is derived, were an interesting people who continually
appear throughout the Old Testament.
They were descendant's of Ham's son, Mizraim, and seem to have
originated from Crete. They settled along the seacoast, perhaps making
their most infamous appearance in Scripture in the form of Goliath.
Philistine ancestry is intermixed with the descendants of Japheth as
well, thus, these people were not of the same religious inclination as
Abraham and his family.
Nonetheless, he enters their capital city with little knowledge of their customs or their religious beliefs.
By this time Abraham was a wealthy chieftain, and well respected
by those that knew him. Perhaps he had business inclinations on his mind
in traveling to the capital city of a foreign people.
Whatever the cause, it did not take him long to realize that
these were also a wicked people. Abraham and Sarah would soon find
themselves in an all too familiar position.
Instead of trusting God, as Abraham and Sarah had done in the
past, he reverted back to his old story in Egypt, and claimed that Sarah
was his sister. Abimelech, which is the Philistine word for King,
similar to Pharaoh or Caesar, takes her as his wife.
Perhaps Abimelech saw an opportunity to gain an important and
influential ally in Abraham, and seized it by taking Sarah into his
harem. Sarah, at this time, was 90 years old.
Why Abraham does not trust God with his wife is not said. It
would appear this was an agreed upon story by Abraham and Sarah when in
situations around foreign people and rulers.
As Abraham and Sarah had done in Egypt with Pharaoh, they again
fooled Abimelech into thinking Sarah was Abraham's sister. Before
Abimelech had a chance to sleep with her, however, God came to him in a
dream and said:
"Behold, thou art but a dead man." (20:3)
Abimelech pleas ignorance to God, who in turn acknowledges
Abimelech's innocence in the situation. If Abimelech was unaware of
Abraham's God initially, he was not now.
God had struck Abimelech with a disease or sickness of some kind.
Whatever the disease was, it was fatal. We also learn that the wombs of
the women in Abimelech's household, both his wives and those in his
harem, had been closed up by the Lord.
God uses a significant term to describe Abraham in verse 7.
"Now, therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a
prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shall live; and if thou
restore her not, know thou that thou shall surely die, thou, and all
that are thine."
Abraham is called, by God, a prophet. Notice, God does not say
that he will predict future events, but that he will pray for Abimelech.
The word Prophet is used here for the first time in Scripture,
yet not in the context of predicting future events, but in the context
of speaking the words of God as inspired by God.
Prophecy, when taken in context with this passage, is not
primarily concerned with prediction, but with speaking the word as
inspired by God.
Abimelech gives Sarah back to Abraham, who in turn prays for his health. Abimelech, and all his household, are healed by God.
In a sign of respect to God, Abimelech pays tribute to Abraham
with the following; sheep, oxen, menservants, maidservants, 1000 pieces
of silver, and permission to dwell anywhere in the land.
Abraham's Peace Treaty
Abraham had become a very powerful chieftain. He was head of his
clan, and exerted a mighty influence in the region he dwelt. His herds
no doubt took up an incredible amount of grazing land.
Abraham and Sarah seem to have garnered a tremendous amount of
respect from the local population. He had a well trained, and battle
tested, group of warriors numbering over 300. He had alliances with
powerful leaders throughout the land of Canaan.
Abimelech, seemingly the same individual from earlier, was fully
aware of Abraham's influence and talents. Abimelech arranged a meeting
with Abraham, at which he brought the "chief captain of his host", a man named Phiehol.
Abimelech seeks to establish a peace treaty with Abraham. He
reminds Abraham of the safety he has had while living in Philistine
Abraham readily agrees to this, yet, takes the opportunity to
correct a recent wrong that had been done to him. Abraham had dug a well
in Beer-sheba, a city which rested outside the limits of Abimelech's
However, some of Abimelech's servants had raided the well, and
taken it from Abraham's servants. Abraham took this opportunity to bring
the matter before the King. Abimelech reacted in horror upon hearing of
this matter for the first time.
"And Abimelech said, I wot not who hath done this thing: neither didst thou tell me, neither yet heard I of it, but today."
The two made peace, and termed the well Beer-sheba. Beer-sheba translates as "well of the oath", or, "well of the seven".
"Well of the seven" refers to seven lambs Abraham gave Abimelech
as a witness of their covenant. After the King and his captain went on
their way, Abraham planted a grove of trees near the well. Later in his
life he would come back to live in Beersheba.
Abraham called on the name of the Lord, as was his custom, and
surely felt thankful for the piece of land that had been given him.
This could be considered the first time Abraham acquired a piece
of land which was acknowledged as his. Afterwords, Abraham returned to
his place of residence within the land of the Philistines, where he
stayed until Isaac was a grown man.
The Death of Sarah
The next event Scripture captures in the remarkable journey of Abraham and Saras is the death of Sarah. Genesis 23 opens up with Sarah dying at 127 years old.
This would make Abraham 137. She is said to have died in "Kirjath-arba: the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan".
It is interesting that the wording reads Abraham "came to mourn
for Sarah". This seems to suggest that perhaps Abraham was not present
at the time of Sarah's death. Her death happens in Scripture very
suddenly, and perhaps that is how her death was in actuality, thus the
reason for Abraham's absence was the unexpectedness of her death.
Whatever the cause, or circumstance surrounding, Scripture is silent.
The only thing certain is that Abraham did mourn the death of his
wife. Sarah is the only woman in the Bible whose age is given at the
time of her death.
Every great man has a great woman. Abraham and Sarah were the
proto-type of a Godly, faithful marriage. Though they had their share of
down falls, Abraham and Sarah established God's nation out of faith.
Her death was, indeed, a memorable and significant death. Not
only was she a woman of righteousness and Godliness, but she was also
the first individual to die in the land of Canaan.
Instead of transporting her body back to
, Abraham responded in faith to God's promise that Canaan was to be their home.
At the time of Sarah's death, her and Abraham had left Beer-sheba
and were residing in Hebron. Abraham needed a place to bury Sarah's
body, yet he owned no land.
Abraham had built altars throughout the land of Canaan, and had
dwelt in different places over the years, presumably paying rent in some
form, yet never had he purchased land as his own.
However, Abraham wanted a burial for his wife on land that belonged to them.
Because Abraham was a foreigner, in order to purchase land he had
to have not only the money, but the agreement of the community as well.
Thus, verse 7 tells how Abraham stood up and bowed himself to the "people of the land, even to the children of Heth".
Abraham must seek the approval of the community, as well as that of the owner of the land itself.
He wished to purchase the Cave of Machpelah. This cave was
located at the end of a field Scripture says belonged to a man named
Ephron the Hittite, the son of Zohar.
It was surrounded by trees on all sides, and was perhaps within
eyesight of Abraham's home in Hebron, though Scripture does not indicate
this. Ephron the Hittite was a West Semite, and according to many
scholars, a Habiru from Hittite lineage. Genesis 23:10-16 depicts
Abraham's negotiation with Ephron. It is interesting to note Ephron
offered Abraham the Cave free of charge.
Abraham, however, "bowed down himself" to Ephron and the audience and insisted that he pay.
Scripture seems to make a point of Abraham's humility before the
"children of Heth". Twice, we are told, he "bowed down himself" before
the people, to express his humility and respect for them.
Ephron offered the land for "four hundred shekels of silver".
It seems logical that Ephron would expect Abraham to counter,
yet, Abraham wastes no time to quibble over the price. He "weighed to
Ephron the silver" in front of all the people present, and took
possession of his land.
Thus, the Cave of Machpelah, "and the field of Ephron, which was
in Machpelah", and all the trees surrounding it belonged now to Abraham.
The purchase of the Cave of Machpelah signaled a change of status
for Abraham in the eyes of the local people. He now owned land.
He was no longer a foreigner; a man without land, thus, without a
home. Now he owned his own piece of land, and that was his home.
It was where his wife would be buried, and as time progressed, the other members of his family as well.
The Death of Abraham
The opening verse of Genesis 25 casually makes mention of a significant, though often forgotten, detail.
Abraham had taken another wife, a woman named Keturah, and
fathered six sons through her. Very little else is mentioned of Keturah.
Some scholars have claimed she was a concubine, though there is no scriptural evidence to suggest this.
Some have claimed she was a Canaanite woman, though this seems
highly unlikely. Others claim she was a concubine of Sarah's, which
Abraham had taken before she died.
This, too, seems unlikely. Her name has been translated as,
"covered with incense", yet this offers little clue as to her identity.
The fact is, Scripture offers no clue.
Little is known of the sons Abraham fathered through Keturah as
well. Descendants of four of the six have not been identified. The
descendants of Zimran, Ishbak, Shuah, and Medan are unknown.
The fifth son, Jokshan, is said to have two sons, Sheba and
Dedan. Though Jokshan is no longer mentioned, Sheba and Dedan are names
that appear again in the Old Testament.
However, there is another Sheba that is said to descend from
, and the two are difficult to differentiate between. Also, there are
two other men named Sheba and Dedan listed in the Old Testament, and
these descend from Cush (Gen. 10:7).
The sixth son of Abraham through Keturah, Midian, is well known. The Midianites appear frequently throughout the Old Testament.
Several passages in Genesis 37, as well as passages in Numbers
and Judges, speak of the Midianites. On separate occasions these people
sought alliance with the Ishmaelites, the , and the Amalekites.
Abraham is said to have given gifts to these sons, yet his inheritance was for Isaac.
After dispersing of these gifts he sent them away from Isaac, "eastward, unto the east country", indicative of Arabia.
History indicates that these people, along with the descendants of
, and the earlier descendants of Shem and Ham, played a significant role
in the early formation of the Arabic people as known today.
Genesis 25:8, in effect, closes out the Abraham narrative of the Old Testament.
Abraham is said to have "gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man", one-hundred and seventy-five years old.
After the remarkable life Abraham and Sarah led, they would journey into
the afterlife together. Abraham was buried at Hebron, in the Cave of
Machpelah, next to his wife Sarah. To this day Abraham's grave stands in
Palestinian controlled Hebron.
The life of Abraham and Sarah was nothing short of remarkable.
His confidence in God is unmatched. Resultingly, God enabled Abraham in
any circumstance he encountered.
He was a man of many faces; at once a sojourner, then a
businessman, next a leader, warrior, peacemaker, negotiator, prophet,
husband, father, and most of all, a servant of God.
God had promised Abraham that his seed would be as numerous as the
stars in the heaven and the sand on the seashore. Today, Abraham is
considered to be the common link between the three of the world's major
Judaism, Islam, and Christianity all trace significant roots back
to Abraham and his offspring. All three claim Abraham as the first Jew,
Muslim, and Christian.
Through the seeds of Ishmael, Isaac, and the sons of Keturah,
Abraham spawned many physical descendants. Yet, through the faith he
exhibited in his daily relationship with God, Abraham spawned countless
It has been estimated that Christianity, Islam, and Judaism posses over 3.6 billion adherents.
These, too, are counted as sons of Abraham. God's promise to
Abraham, thus, continues to be fulfilled, even centuries after his
death, and Abraham continues to be a Father of Many Nations.
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