Story 2 of 12: THE PATRIARCHS
Around 1850 BC, society naively worshipped creatures and forces of nature as gods, until the old childless man Abram was called by the one true God to become the forefather of his chosen people. God renamed him to Abraham ("father of many nations"), and told him to go to Canaan, a land promised to him, telling him that all nations would be blessed through him. Abraham trusted God, which made him righteous in God's eyes.
When God promised him and his wife Sarah a son, they figured they would "help" God out since Sarah was old, by letting Sarah's young slave girl Hagar conceive the child in Sarah's place. When Abraham and Hagar conceived Ishmael, God emphasized that he had promised Abraham and Sarah an heir, and so Isaac was born. Ironically, when Isaac was older, God tested Abraham's faith by asking him to sacrifice the boy! Abraham was about to kill his son, but an angel of God stopped him. His faith had been proven.
Isaac later married Rebecca, and they gave birth to Esau and Jacob. Isaac preferred Esau, the hunter, while Rebecca preferred Jacob, the trickster! God actually went with Jacob to continue the heritage of Abraham, when Jacob tricked his father by disguising himself as his older brother to steal his blessing! God even gave Jacob the name "Israel" after Jacob wrestled God's angel for his blessing! Israel's later heirs would be 12 sons that he would have with his wives Leah and Rachel.
Of his 12 sons, young Joseph was the favored one, which made his older brothers jealous. One day they left him in the desert to die, but some travelers found him and took him to Egypt. There he used his ability to interpret dreams to interpret a dream of the Pharoah's that no one else was able to. The dream foretold of a famine that would sweep across the land. The Pharoah believed Joseph and put him in charge of storing food and water to get them through the famine. His success in doing so not only made Joseph the Pharoah's right hand man, but it also made people from distant lands come to Egypt for food and water, including his brothers who had forsaken him long ago! When they arrived and found out Joseph was alive and in charge, they offered to become his slaves! But Joseph told them not to worry about it: "See how God allowed you to try to kill me as part of his design so that I could end up in Egypt, where I would be put in charge of gathering the food that would save others, including you and our father." And so, with the first descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (a.k.a. Israel) in Egypt, the book of Genesis closes with the great moral that was already hinted at in the story of the Fall: from evil God draws a greater good.
Both God's might and mercy are portrayed in the destruction of the sinful cities Sodom and Gomorrah. God spares Abraham's nephew, Lot, and his family, and assures Abraham that he would not have destroyed the city if the was anyone good left.
When Abraham's slave-girl Hagar is driven away by Sarah and Abraham, God promises that Abraham and Hagar's son Ishmael would also become a great nation. The nation of Islam claims its heritage from Ishmael, with the Koran describing Ishmael, not Jacob (a.k.a. Israel) as the true heir to Abraham.
Jacob gets a taste of his own trickery when his uncle Laban tricks him into laboring for 7 years to earn his daughter Rachel's hand in marriage after already having labored 7 years for his first daughter Leah!
What made Abraham (and anyone, for that matter) righteous in God's eyes?
What is the biblical connection between Israel and Islam?