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Abraham of the Old Testament

Abraham began life as Abram, the son of Terah. Terah was an idol worshipper. He was Noah’s eighth great-grandson through the line of Shem. He married his niece, Sarai, who later became known as Sarah.

Abraham received the Melchizedek Priesthood from Melchizedek himself, although it isn’t clear when it was received.

Abraham Isaac Sacrifice MormonAbraham was living in Ur when he received a call from the Lord to leave for Haran with his wife, Lot, and Lot’s wife. The Bible says Terah also came, but Mormon scripture says Terah joined them later and returned to his former practice of idol worship. Abraham was later called to leave Haran and he then went to Canaan with his wife and Lot. His father remained behind to continue idol worship.

Abraham was told He would make a great nation of him and that all nations would be blessed by him. In Sichem, the Lord told Abraham the land would be given to him. He built an alter to the Lord.

Because of a famine, Abraham and Sarah went to Egypt. There, Abraham asked his wife to say she was his sister. By Jewish law, a man could adopt his wife to improve her legal and social standing. In addition, family relationships were flexible. For instance, Lot is listed in the Bible as both Abraham’s nephew and brother. Abraham and Sarah’s father were brothers, so he could correctly call her his sister. Mormons teach that God instructed Abraham to do this in order to protect him. Pharaohs often killed men in order to marry their wives, and Sarah was very beautiful. The Lord sent plagues upon Pharaoh, who, learning that Sarah was actually Abraham’s wife, sent them away.

Why did Abraham call Sarah his sister?

He and those with him then went to Beth-el. Both he and Lot had a great deal of cattle and the herdsman of the two men did not get along. Abraham and Lot decided to live on separate lands. Abraham gave Lot the first choice, despite his right to choose. Lot chose what seemed to be the best land. When he left, the Lord told Abraham that his seed would be too large to count and that the Lord would give him the land all around him. Abraham moved his tent to Hebron and again built an alter.

Lot was living in Sodom when that city fell. He was taken captive. Abraham learned of the capture and armed some of his staff and they and others rescued Lot and the others who were with him. The king of Sodom asked Abraham to return the people, but to keep the goods. Abraham refused, saying he would pay only for the food that had been eaten.

Melchizedek, the king of Salem, blessed Abraham on his return and Abraham paid tithes to him.

Abraham received a vision in which he was promised a natural heir and that his seed would be greater than he could count. He asked how this was possible since he had no children. The Lord instructed Abraham to bring three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old she goat, a three-year old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon. The animals, but not the birds, were divided and when fowl came at the carcasses, Abraham chased them away. He then fell into a deep sleep and learned in a vision that his seed would be strangers in a land that wasn’t theirs, and that they would serve them and be afflicted by them for four hundred years. The Lord prophesied that at the end of that time, they would leave with great substance. He was told He would judge that nation

Because Sarah was unable to have children, she told Abraham to go unto Hagar, her handmaiden, in order to produce the promised heirs. However, she was upset when Hagar conceived and hated her. Abraham told her to do whatever she wanted with Hagar. She dealt harshly with her handmaiden and Hagar fled.

An angel found Hagar and instructed her to return home and to submit to Sarah. She was promised her seed would multiply and told her to name her son Ishmael. She was promised that he would be a wild man, but would live in the presence of his brethren.

At age ninety-nine, an angel again told Abraham he would be the father of many nations. This is when his name changed from Abram to Abraham and Sarai’s to Sarah. He was also promised that God would establish His covenant with Abraham and his seed. God commanded Abraham to instigate the law of circumcision as a sign of the covenant.

Learn more about the Abrahamic covenant.

God then told Abraham that Sarah would have a child, to which Abraham laughed, since she was ninety years old. He was instructed to name the child Isaac and learned that the covenant would be through Isaac, not Ishmael. When Abraham expressed a longing for Ishmael to live a righteous life, God reminded Abraham that Ishmael would be given great blessings, would beget twelve princes, and would become a great nation.

Abraham had all the males in his home and employ circumcised. He learned from the Lord that Sodom and Gomorrah were to be destroyed due to the wickedness of the people. Since Lot lived there, Abraham asked the Lord to spare Sodom if there were fifty righteous people, which the Lord agreed to do. Abraham continued to lower the number until he extracted a promise to save it for just ten righteous people—but there weren’t ten righteous people in the Sodom.

Abraham watched the smoke rise from the burning city. Lot was warned by God to leave and was saved.

Abraham moved to Gerar and again portrayed his wife as his sister to the king. However, when the king took Sarah, God warned him in a dream that she was Abraham’s wife and instructed him to return Sarah to her husband. He promised that Abraham, as a prophet, would pray for the king.

When Isaac was born, Ishmael mocked Sarah and she wanted him and his mother sent away. Abraham didn’t want to do this, but the Lord told him to do what Sarah asked. He gave them bread and water and sent them away.

In the most memorable stories of Abraham’s life, the Lord commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Abraham was prepared to obey and took his son, two other men, and some wood to the place chosen by God. Abraham and Isaac left the two men and went to build the alter. Isaac wondered where the sacrificial offering was and Abraham told him God would provide it. He tied Isaac to the alter and raised his knife, but an angel stopped him from killing his son. A ram was found tangled in the bushes and it became the offering instead. This occurred as a type of the atonement, when God would allow His own son to be sacrificed for the sins of the world—but no one would step in to stop it. God blessed him for being willing to withhold nothing—not even his son—for God.

Abraham’s wife, Sarah, died when she was 127 years old. Abraham purchased the field of Ephron and buried her in a cave. He later married Keturah. Isaac inherited everything Abraham had. The children of his concubines received gifts and were sent away. When he died he was buried with Sarah. Isaac and Ishmael would also be buried with them.

He is noted as a missionary who gathered souls.


Adapted from Every Person in the OT by Lynn F. Price; Horizon Publishers and the Bible Dictionary.


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