When did Abraham die?
Abraham on the run
Abraham is said to have lived almost 2000 years before our era, i.e. around 4000 years ago. He comes from the Babylonian Ur, a rich city in a fertile valley in what is now Iraq. But Ur is occupied by enemy troops, which is why Abraham's family flees north to the city of Harran.
Now God steps on the scene, appears to Abraham and orders him to leave his home. Thus begins Abraham's journey to the promised land of Canaan, which God has promised him. It is to become the land of the Israelites.
In the Old Testament, Canaan refers to the entire country west of the Jordan. Today this area includes both parts of Israel and Palestine.
It is a narrow transit country between the Mediterranean in the west and the Syrian desert in the east. At that time the great power of Egypt was in the south and Mesopotamia in the north.
God's covenant with Abraham
God appeared to Abraham several times and made great promises: His descendants should be as numerous as the grains of dust on the earth and the stars in the firmament. God makes a covenant with Abraham. This should be faithful to his new God, as well as his descendants.
As a sign of the covenant between Abraham and God, as evidence of faith in the one God, Abraham should have his offspring circumcised. In return, God will ensure that Abraham's clan will not perish, but will even one day become a whole people.
The sons of Abraham
But at some point Abraham and Sarah are very old and still childless. So old that the now 70-year-old wife of Abraham no longer believes God's promise. Because she cannot bear a child to her husband, she sends her slave Hagar to him so that Abraham and Hagar may beget children.
From the connection with Hagar Abraham had a son, Ishmael, the ancestor of the Muslims. One day men appear at Abraham and Sarah's house and the couple entertain them. Abraham suddenly realizes that it is God himself who enters under his roof. The men predict that they will soon father a son.
In fact, Sarah, who is now 90, becomes pregnant and gives birth to Isaac. God soon puts Abraham's faith to the test, he wants him to give him the ultimate proof of loyalty: Abraham should offer his son to him as a sacrifice and kill him.
Abraham no longer understands the world, but he obeys. At the last moment, God prevents him from killing his son on the sacrificial altar - delighted that Abraham loves God more than his own child.
The grandchildren as patriarchs
Abraham becomes the progenitor of Israel. The patriarchs of Judaism descend from him. His son Isaac fathered Jacob. God appears to Jacob and fights a tough wrestling match with him.
But Jacob does not give up and God then gives him a new name: He calls him Israel, which means "he who wrestled with God".
Jacob begat twelve sons, the founders of the tribes of Israel. Among them is Joseph, who is sold as a slave by his brothers in Egypt. But Joseph made a career in Egypt and became the Pharaoh's advisor. When his brothers' clans suffer from famine, they come to Joseph in Egypt.
Joseph forgives them and the Israelites settle in Egypt. But a few generations later they are subjugated and enslaved by the Egyptians. One of them, Moses, will renew the covenant with God and eventually lead the Israelites out of Egypt into freedom.
Abraham as the starting point of the book religions
At the beginning of the history of the Jewish people is Abraham, the forefather of the Jews. As a prominent figure in the Old Testament, Abraham is also one of the old fathers of Christianity. In Islam, Abraham is considered a great prophet who recognized that there is only one God. His son Ishmael becomes the ancestor of the Muslims.
Abraham is the starting point of the three book religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The term "Abrahamic religions" for the three faiths is derived from his name.
The biblical accounts of Abraham and his descendants are certainly not scientific accounts. But they contain historical facts about the origin of the nomadic tribes from which a people emerged nearly 4,000 years ago: the people of Israel.
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