Story of the Bible: The Patriarchs

The great drama of Scripture continues with the Patriarchs, the first members of the family who were to become a nation. God called Abraham to leave his home in Ur and go to 'a land that I am going to show you' (Genesis 12.1). He set out without knowing where he was going, but confident that God would guide him. His son Isaac and grandson Jacob would continue the journey after him. Under Moses, their captivity in Egypt would come to an end and they would enter the Promised Land as a nation.

The stories about the Patriarchs in Genesis portray them as very human, fallible people. They sin and go astray, they argue with God and act very foolishly, but at the same time they have an intense and intimate relationship with him. Again and again, God reinforces his promises to them. After Jacob has dreamed of a ladder up to heaven with angels going up and down on it, God says to him: 'I will give you the land which I gave to Abraham and to Isaac, and I will also give it to your descendants after you' (Genesis 35.12). 

As well as these men, there are women in the story too. Sarah, Abraham's wife, has a character all of her own. She, Rebekah and Rachel are not just afterthoughts in the story, but an integral part of it – and there are many other women who figure as well. God does not just work through great men – a common enough idea at the time, and since then too – but through great women as well.

When we read about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, their complicated family lives and their various trials and tribulations, we can learn a lot that speaks into our own human situations today. But we're also seeing how the knowledge of God was growing and deepening in the lives of one particular family who were chosen to reveal him to the world. God's promises to the Patriarchs would guide the people of Israel throughout their history.

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