Why did Abraham and his entire household fight in the Bible's first war? How old was the patriarch when Isaac was born? When was he severely tested by having to sacrifice his own son? How many children did he ultimately produce?
Abraham (Abram) is born
Abram (his birth name before being renamed Abraham) is the third son born to a man named Terah living in Ur of the Chaldees. At the time of his birth his older brother Haran is 60 years old (Genesis 11:26) with second brother Nahor at an unknown younger age. Terah is 130 years old at the time of Abraham's birth. The family into which he is born was known to worship pagan deities (Joshua 24:2).
Modern archeology dates the city of Ur, located in ancient Mesopotamia near the Euphrates River, to around 3,800 B.C. It was resettled, after the great flood took place in 2313, by Noah's son Shem and his descendants.
Leaving Ur of the Caldees
Terah, at the age of 200, decides to move his entire family out of Ur after the death of Haran (Genesis 11:28). Those leaving include Abraham, now 70, his wife Sarah (Sarai), Abraham's brother Nahor and his wife, as well as Lot (Haran's son) and his wife (Genesis 11:29 - 31). The family migrates northwest to a city named Haran located in a region of ancient Syria named Padanaram.
Called by God
Terah, at the ripe old age of 205, dies in the city of Haran (Genesis 11:32). God then calls Abraham, now age 75, and commands he leave the city for the land of Canaan.
And the Lord said to Abram, "Get out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house into a land that I will show you." (Genesis 12:1, HBFV).
Abraham, Sarah, Lot, as well as their slaves, leave Haran for the Promised Land. Nahor and his family, however, although they stay in the city (Genesis 12:4 - 5), will play a major role in the lives of the patriarch's descendants. Abraham's future son Isaac will end up marrying Rebekah, the daughter of Nahor's son Bethuel (22:20 - 23, 24:15). Bethuel's son Laban (28:5) will employ Isaac's son Jacob for many years and provide him two of his own daughters, Rachel and Leah, as wives.
1885 - 1880
Famine and fleeing
Abraham's travel to Canaan takes him first to Shechem (Genesis 12:5 - 7). After arriving in the city, God appears to him and promises his descendants the land of Canaan. The travelers continue their journey south, staying for an unknown time near Bethel before continuing their journey (verses 8 - 9).
A severe famine, the first one mentioned in the Biblical record, then strikes Canaan. This grievous event forces the weary sojourners to Egypt in search of relief.
Abraham, ever since leaving Haran, has feared his wife's beauty would get him killed. He therefore arranged for her to deceive those they met by stating he was her brother.
When God told me to leave my father’s house and wander in many different places, I told Sarah, "You must do a special favor for me. Everywhere we go tell people I am your brother" (Genesis 20:13, NCV).
Sarah, when the group enters Egypt, continues the practice of lying about her relationship with the patriarch. The ruse works for a short time until Pharaoh discovers the deception and casts the travelers out of the country (Genesis 12:11 - 20)!
The group, after being tossed out of Egypt, heads north to Bethel and settles in the area. Abraham's herdsmen, however, soon begin to have arguments with Lot's herdsmen over grazing rights. The disagreements end when Lot moves his family and livestock near the city of Sodom (Genesis 13:1 - 13). Abraham, after separating from Lot, moves his family to near Hebron (verse 18).
c. 1880 - 1875
The first war
King Chedorlaomer of Elam, in the Bible's first series of wars, leads a coalition of three other monarchs in a campaign that seeks to conquer and pillage. Battling while they travel south down the King's Highway, they end up at the southern end of the Dead Sea where they fight the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 14). Chedorlaomer's forces soundly defeat the Sodom-led army, taking Lot and his family as prisoners.
Abraham gathers up his 318 male servants, along with several allies, and pursues Chedorlaomer as he travels north. He soon catches up with him at Dan and defeats him, saving the life of Lot. Upon his return he is greeted by Melchizedek, a physical manifestation of Jesus Christ, to whom he gives a tithe (Genesis 14:13 - 24).
Promise of a son
God promises Abraham (Abram), at age 85, that he will produce a son in his old age. The Eternal also makes a covenant with him and reveals his descendants will be afflicted for many years before being released with great wealth (Genesis 15).
A man-made solution
Abraham agrees to Sarah's proposal of him having a child through her Egyptian servant Hagar (Genesis 16:1 - 4). Hagar, however, after becoming pregnant, begins to disparage and despise Sarah. This earns her a harsh response from her mistress that forces her to flee while still pregnant. The Lord steps in and, through an angel, commands her to go back (verses 4 - 14).
Hagar gives birth, when the patriarch is 86 years old (Genesis 16:16), to a son named Ishmael.
Name changes, Sodom is destroyed
At the age of 99 Abram is contacted by the Lord (Genesis 17). The Eternal makes a unilateral covenant with him, promising to bless him exceedingly through a child he will produce with Sarai. His named is changed to Abraham while Sarai's is changed to Sarah to reflect the blessings they will receive.
Abraham, as a sign of the covenant, circumcises himself, Ishmael (now 13) and his entire household (Genesis 17:7 - 14).
God, a short time later, decides to visit Abraham in the form of a physical manifestation of Jesus Christ accompanied by two angels (Genesis 18). The Lord reiterates his promise of a son and reveals he has come to investigate Sodom and Gomorrah’s alleged sins. Abraham then negotiates with the Eternal not to destroy Sodom if only ten righteous are found (verses 20 - 32).
Ten righteous are not found in Sodom, however, and it along with several other sinful cities of the plain is cauterized from the earth through heavenly fire. Although Lot and his family are saved from this destruction, his wife is turned to salt for disobeying the Eternal’s instructions (Genesis 19).
Abraham journeys to Gerar and, once again, has Sarah lie about their relationship. The patriarch, although once again caught in a deception, is saved by God's intervention and allowed to live in the area.
Birth of Isaac
Abraham's wife Sarah gives birth to Isaac when he is 100 years old (Genesis 21:5).
Hagar's son Ishmael, now 14, begins to mock the newborn. Sarah's solution, which God approves of, is to cast out permanently Hagar and her son. The pair is miraculously saved from dehydration and death while they travel through the wilderness of Beersheba (Genesis 21:14 - 19).
Abraham makes a covenant with Abimelech, the leader of the Philistines, then lives for a time in Beersheba (Genesis 21:22 - 34).
A severe test
God tests Abraham, now 115 years old, by commanding he sacrifice his fifteen-year-old son Isaac. After the patriarch passes this severe test, the Lord affirms that he will surely bless him.
And in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice (Genesis 22:18, HBFV).
Sarah, at age 127, dies in Hebron. Abraham buries his wife of more than 67 years in a cave upon land purchased from its Hittite owner (Genesis 23). In the future, this burial location will be considered one of the holiest sites of Judaism and Islam.
A wife for Isaac
Abraham, now 140, sends his most trusted servant to find a wife for his forty-year-old son Isaac. The servant, told to search for a wife among relatives living in Nahor (Haran), is led by God to Rebekah whom he brings back to Canaan. Isaac and Rebekah marry soon after they meet (Genesis 24).
1820 - 1785 B.C.
Remarriage and death
Abraham, at an unknown time after Sarah's death, decides to marry again. He takes as his wife Keturah, who produces sons named Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah (Genesis 25). The patriach, during his life, ultimately produces eight sons through three women.
Abraham, the father of the faithful, lives to see Isaac turn 75 and grandson Jacob grow to the age of 15. He is buried by Isaac and Ishmael, upon his death at age 175, next to his beloved wife Sarah.