Sometime in the first couple centuries of the 2nd millennium BCE, a prince or chieftain in a region called Ur of the Chaldees left his homeland and struck out south for the rich valleys of what is now called Palestine. His decision to move south changed the world. His name was Abram but we call him Abraham because God changed his name along the way. (Abram means “high father” but Abraham means “father of multitudes.”)
|75||Relocates to Canaan|
|86||Ishmael is born|
|99||Circumcision instituted in his household|
|100||Isaac is born|
|140-1||Isaac is married to Rebekah|
|160||Jacob & Esau born to Isaac|
|175||Dies and is buried at Hebron|
According to Genesis, Abraham relocated to Palestine because God called him there. Generally speaking, the southern migration routes seem to have been popular in that region during the period, and Abraham was probably not the first. It appears some of the Hattusa or “Hittites”, an ancient people who lived in what is now central Turkey, may have migrated to Palestine before him after their early kingdom crumbled. (Genesis 23:3)
During his time in Palestine, Abraham amassed a sizeable group of people that eventually had an armed force of 318 warriors (Gen 14:14), which means that his group was a medium sized troop that may have numbered as many as a thousand people. This was a pretty significant group of people in this period.
They appear to have been heavily influenced by the Egyptians, who would have held a relatively loose but known rule over the region at the time. This would have been the period of the Twelfth Dynasty in Egypt, one of the most stable dynasties of Egyptian history.
After some wandering, Abraham seems to have settled in the hills around Shechem and Kiriath-Arba (Hebron), two fertile valleys about thirty miles apart, separated by the Judean highlands. Between is the town of Luz (Bethel), which was apparently a waypoint for the flocks. Both Shechem and Hebron sat on easily defended hills and were at the time somewhat important regional cities. Abraham stayed pretty much in these two areas for most of the 100 years he lived in Palestine.
The key points of Abraham’s story (Genesis 12-25) are the covenants that God refines throughout Abraham’s life. The core of the covenant begins with a promise to make Abraham the father of nations, but it is progressively refined to the gift of a son to Abraham and his barren, 90 year old wife. You can read everything that happens, but after a series of false starts, they do indeed have a son and name him Isaac, which is Hebrew for “laughing at ourselves.”
Then after Isaac was much older, God asked Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. Without flinching, Abraham plans to go through with it, but at the last minute an angel stops him and provides a substitute ram.