Moses' brother and Israel's first high priest. In the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, Aaron was Moses' spokesman and assistant during the Israelites' Exodus from Egypt. Aaron was three years older than Moses and was 83 when they first confronted the pharaoh (Ex 7:7). Their sister, Miriam (Nm 26:59), must have been the eldest child, old enough to carry messages when the infant Moses was found by the pharaoh's daughter (Ex 2:1-9). Aaron's mother was Jochebed and his father was Amram, a descendant of the Kohath family of Levi's tribe (Ex 6:18-20).






Where: Egypt, wilderness of Sinai

Occupations: Priest; Moses' second in command

Relatives: Brother: Moses. Sister: Miriam. Sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar


"Then the Lord became angry with Moses. "All right,' he said. 'What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he speaks well. And look! He is on his way to meet you now. He will be delighted to see you....Aaron will be your spokesman to the people. He will be your mouthpiece, and you will stand in the place of God for him, telling him what to say'" (Exodus 4:14,16).

Aaron's story is told in Exodus through Deuteronomy 10:6. He is also mentioned in Hebrews 7:11.

Aaron and his wife, Elisheba, had four sons (Ex 6:23), who were to follow him in the priesthood (Lv 1:5). Two of them, Nadab and Abihu, violated God's instructions by performing a sacrilegious act while burning incense and were burned to death as a result (Lv 10:1-5). The priesthood was then passed on through the other two sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, who also sometimes failed to carry out God's instructions precisely (10:6-20).


Because it marked the beginning of the priesthood in Israel, the consecration of Aaron to his office was both instructive and solemn. Nothing was left to human ingenuity; all was precisely commanded by God. There were three ceremonies: washing, clothing, and anointing. When the Tabernacle was finished, Aaron and his sons were set apart to the priesthood by washing (to signify purification), clothing with official garments (for beauty and glory), and anointing with oil (to picture the need of empowering by the Spirit; cf. Ex 28; 40:12-15; Lv 8). Aaron thus became the first high priest, serving nearly 40 years. The character of his office was hereditary; this is attested to by his sons' wearing his garments when they succeeded to the office of high priest (Ex 29:29-30; Nm 20:25-28). Although all priests were anointed with oil, the anointing of Aaron and his successors was distinct from that of the ordinary priests (Ex 29:7; 40:12-15; Lv 8:12). Because the priesthood was inherited, all subsequent priests had to trace their ancestry back to Aaron (Ezr 7:1-5; Lk 1:5). Also, a sharp distinction was always drawn between the family of Aaron and the rest of the Levites (cf. Nm 3:5). Thus, the high priest was designated as the anointed priest in a special sense (Lv 4:3-4; 6:20-22; 21:10).

Because of Aaron's priestly role, the NT looks upon him as prefiguring the Messiah of Israel. Jesus Christ was appointed High Priest (Heb 3:1-2) in the same way God chose Aaron (Heb 5:1-5), but he was described as a greater high priest than Aaron ''(Heb 7:11-28).

Aaron's prominence in the events of the Exodus arose partly from the fact that he was Moses' brother. When Moses tried to avoid becoming Israel's leader on the grounds of having a speech impediment, Aaron's ability as a speaker was recognized and used by God (Ex 4:10-16).

Events of Aaron's Life

The Hebrew people were slaves in Egypt at the beginning of Aaron's life. Raised as an Egyptian by one of the pharaoh's daughters, Moses had fled into the Midian Desert after killing a cruel Egyptian taskmaster (Ex 1-2). When God sent Moses back as a liberator (chs 3-4), he also sent Aaron out to meet Moses in the desert (4:27). Moses was a stranger to his people after so many years of exile, so Aaron made contact with Israel's elders for him (4:29-31). When Moses and Aaron went to see the pharaoh, God told the Egyptian monarch through the two of them to let the Israelites go (Ex 5:1). When the pharaoh made life even more miserable for the Hebrew slaves, God began to show his power to the Egyptian ruler through a series of miracles (chs 5-12). God performed the first three miracles through Aaron, using a rod (probably a shepherd's staff). The pharaoh had his palace sorcerers do similar tricks. After God brought a plague of gnats (KJV "lice") over all Egypt, the Egyptian magicians admitted defeat and said, "This is the finger of God!" (Ex 8:19, NLT). Then God brought on more plagues through Moses, culminating in the deaths of all the Egyptians' firstborn sons. Aaron was with Moses (12:1-28) when God revealed how he would "pass over" the properly marked homes of the Israelites, sparing their children on the night the Egyptian children died. That event was the origin of the Passover feast still observed by Jews today (13:1-16).

After God led the Israelites to safety and destroyed the pursuing Egyptians, Aaron participated with Moses in governing the people on their long wilderness journey to the Promised Land (Ex 16:1-6). Later, battling against Amalek's army, Aaron helped hold up Moses' weary arms in prayer to maintain God's blessing (17:8-16). Although always subordinate to Moses, Aaron seems to have been recognized as an important leader (18:12). God summoned him to be with Moses when God gave the law on Mt Sinai (19:24). Aaron was among the representatives of the people who ratified God's statutes in the Book of the Covenant (24:1-8). Aaron went with those leaders partway up the holy mountain and saw the vision of the God of Israel (24:9-10). With Hur, he was left in charge when Moses was with God on the mountaintop (vv 13-14).

Moses was gone for over a month, and in a moment of weakness, Aaron gave in to the people's request for an idol to worship. He melted down their gold ornaments to make a golden image of a calf (Ex 32:1-4). (The Israelites had probably been influenced in Egypt by the cult of Apis, a fertility god in the form of a bull.) At first, Aaron seemed to think he might be doing something acceptable to God (v 5), but things got out of hand and a drunken sex orgy took place around the idol (v 6). God was angry enough to destroy the people, but Moses interceded, reminding God of his promise to multiply Abraham's descendants (Ex 32:7-14). Moses furiously confronted Aaron about the immorality and idolatry, which Aaron blamed on the people without admitting any guilt of his own (vv 21-24). Although the idolators were punished by death (Ex 32:25-28) and the whole camp by a plague (v 35), Aaron was evidently not punished. In a retelling of the events, Moses said that Aaron was in great danger but was spared because he had prayed for him (Dt 9:20).

In their second year of nomadic wilderness life, Aaron helped Moses carry out a census (Nm 1:1-3, 17-18). Eventually, Aaron may have become jealous of Moses' position of leadership, for Miriam and Aaron began to slander their brother, even though the elderly Moses was by then more humble than any man on earth (Nm 12:1-4). God's anger toward the two was averted by Moses' prayer, although Miriam did suffer for her sin (12:5-15). Aaron again seems to have escaped punishment entirely. With Moses, Aaron opposed a rebellion at Kadesh (14:1-5). He stood with Moses against a later revolt (ch 16). After a final incident at Meribah, where the Israelites almost revolted again, God accused Moses and Aaron of having failed to take him at his word and denied them entry into the Promised Land (20:1-12). Aaron died at the age of 123 on Mt Hor, after Moses had removed his elaborate priestly garments and put them on Aaron's son Eleazar (Nm 20:23-29; 33:38-39).

See also Levi.


One of the seven eunuchs commanded by King Ahasuerus to bring Queen Vashti to his drunken party (Est 1:10).


  1. Adoniram's father. Adoniram was superintendent of public works under King Solomon (1Ki 4:6).
  2. Shammua's son, who was a Levite leader in Jerusalem after the Exile (Neh 11:17). The same father and son are elsewhere identified as Shemaiah and Obadiah (1Chr 9:16).


Shelemiah's father. Shelemiah was an officer sent by King Jehoiakim of Judah to arrest Jeremiah and Baruch after the king had read and burned their prophetic scroll (Jer 36:26).


  1. Member of the Merari clan of Levites. Abdi's grandson Ethan was a musician in David's time (1Chr 6:44; 15:17).
  2. Levite whose son Kish served in Hezekiah's time (2Chr 29:12). This Abdi has sometimes been confused with Abdi #1.
  3. Member of the Elam clan in Ezra's time. This Abdi is listed as one of the Israelites who married a foreign woman after the Exile (Ezr 10:26).


Guni's son and father of Ahi (1Chr 5:15). Ahi was a clan leader in Gad's tribe during the reigns of King Jotham of Judah and King Jeroboam II of Israel (1Chr 5:15-17).


  1. Hillel's son who judged Israel for eight years (Jgs 12:13-15). Abdon was a very wealthy man, as indicated by reference to the 70 donkeys he owned.
  2. Shashak's son from Benjamin's tribe who lived in Jerusalem (1Chr 8:23,28).
  3. Jeiel's oldest son from Benjamin's tribe who lived in Gibeon. This Abdon is mentioned in Saul's genealogy (1Chr 8:30; 9:36).
  4. Micah's son (2Chr 34:20), also called Acbor, son of Micaiah. See Acbor #2.


One of Daniel's three friends who was sentenced to death by Nebuchadnezzar but was protected in the fiery furnace by an angel (Dn 1:7; 3:12-30). See Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; Daniel.


Second male child of Adam and Eve (Gn 4:2). The name is probably related to Sumerian and Akkadian words meaning "son" and was thus used as a generic term for the human race.

Abel's older brother, Cain, was engaged in agriculture, but Abel himself was a shepherd. When both brothers brought offerings, God accepted Abel's animal sacrifice but rejected Cain's vegetable offering. As a result, Cain became jealous of Abel and killed him.

The narrative indicates that Abel's character was more worthy of God's blessing; hence his offering was accepted and Cain's was not (Gn 4:7). There is no scriptural evidence that cereal or vegetable offerings were less effective as either sin offerings or fellowship meals than offerings involving the shedding of blood, since in later Mosaic law both were prescribed. In the NT Abel is regarded as the first martyr (Mt 23:35; Lk 11:51; Heb 11:4).


Alternate name of Abiel in 2 Samuel 23:31. See Abiel #2.


Kohathite Levite, a descendant of Korah, Elkanah's son and the father of Assir (1Chr 6:23, 37; 9:19; Exodus 6:24). Alternate form of Ebiasaph.


One of two high priests during the reign of King David. The other high priest was Zadok, who evidently was appointed by David after his conquest of Jerusalem.

Only Abiathar escaped when the priestly families at Nob were massacred at the instigation of King Saul. The priests of Nob had given food and Goliath's sword to David during his escape from the wrath of Saul, thus earning Saul's hatred (1Sam 21-22). When Abiathar joined David he brought the ephod, which David then used in determining the will of God (1Sam 23:6 ,9-11; 30:7-8). Abiathar was one of the first persons from Saul's administration to support David. His support was formidable because he represented the priesthood of the old tribal league of the line of Eli.

During the last days of David's kingship, his sons struggled for the throne. The two major rivals were Adonijah and Solomon. Abiathar the high priest supported Adonijah's claim to the throne, probably because Adonijah was David's oldest living heir and because David's general Joab, one of the strongest men in the kingdom, supported Adonijah (1Ki 1:5-7). Zadok supported Solomon, who actually succeeded David on the throne. Having fallen out of favor with the new king, Abiathar was banished to his estate in Anathoth (1Ki 2:26-27), a village about four miles (6.4 kilometers) northeast of Jerusalem.

The relationship of Abiathar to Ahimelech is confusing. Ahimelech could have been the name of both Abiathar's father (1Sam 22:20; 23:6) and son (2Sam 8:17; 1Chr 18:16; 24:6). If each of the references was to the same Ahimelech, then the names were reversed in the later passages. In the NT, Abiathar is mentioned as the high priest when David came to Nob needing food and weapons (Mk 2:26). The OT account says that Ahimelech was the priest at that time (1Sam 21:1-2). The apparent discrepancy may have resulted from a copyist's error or from the fact that Abiathar as high priest was more prominent than Ahimelech.


One of Midian's sons. Midian was Abraham's son by his concubine Keturah (Gn 25:2,4; 1Chr 1:33).


Gideoni's son and leader of Benjamin's tribe when the Israelites were wandering in the Sinai wilderness after their escape from Egypt (Nm 1:11; 2:22). As leader, he presented his tribe's offering at the consecration of the Tabernacle (Nm 7:60-65).


  1. Father of Kish and Ner and grandfather of King Saul, according to 1 Samuel 9:1 and 14:51. Other genealogies in 1 Chronicles list Ner, instead of Abiel, as Kish's father and Saul's grandfather (1Chr 8:33; 9:39). This confusion is due either to a copyist's error or to the possibility that Saul had two relatives named Ner, a great-grandfather and an uncle.
  2. Warrior among David's mighty men who were known as "the thirty" (1Chr 11:32), also called Abi-albon the Arbathite (2Sam 23:31).


  1. Descendant of Manasseh (Jos 17:1-2). Although Abiezer's father is not named, Abiezer is listed with the descendants of his mother's brother, Gilead (1Chr 7:18). In Numbers 26:30, Abiezer's name is shortened to Iezer (KJV "Jeezer"), and the family is called Iezerites (KJV "Jeezerites"). Abiezer's family, to which Gideon belonged, was the first clan to respond to Gideon's call to fight the Midianites (Jgs 6:34). Abiezer's descendants were referred to as Abiezrites (Jgs 6:11,24,34; 8:32).
  2. Member of Benjamin's tribe from Anathoth and warrior among David's mighty men, known as "the thirty" (2Sam 23:27; 1Chr 11:28). This Abiezer was commander of the ninth division of the army in the rotation system established by David (1Chr 27:12).


  1. Nabal's wife, who later became the wife of David (1Sam 25:2-42). Nabal was a wealthy sheep owner whose holdings had been protected by David's men. When David requested provisions in return for that protection, Nabal refused. Enraged, David set out with 400 armed men to destroy Nabal and his house. Abigail had been informed of her husband's behavior and met David with many provisions, taking the blame for her foolish husband. David thanked God for using Abigail to restrain his anger.

    When Nabal woke from a drunken stupor the next morning and learned what had happened, he had a stroke from which he died 10 days later. Abigail then married David and shared his adventurous life among the Philistines (1Sam 27:3). She was captured by the Amalekites and rescued by David (1Sam 30:1-19). Abigail went with David to Hebron when he became king of Judah (2Sam 2:2), and she bore his second son, Chileab (2Sam 3:3), also called Daniel (1Chr 3:1).

  2. David's sister, who married Jether and gave birth to Amasa (1Chr 2:16-17). There appears to be confusion as to the ancestry of this Abigail. In 1 Chronicles 2:13-17 she is listed as a daughter of Jesse. However, in 2 Samuel 17:25, her father is identified as Nahash. The discrepancy could be due to scribal error, or Nahash may be another name for Jesse, or the widow of Nahash could have married Jesse.


Name used for both men and women in the OT.

  1. Zuriel's father and a leader of the Merari family of Levites in Israel's wilderness community (Nm 3:35).
  2. Abishur's wife, and mother of Ahban and Molid (1Chr 2:29).
  3. Huri's son, a descendant of Gad, living in Gilead and Bashan (1Chr 5:14).
  4. Woman named in 2 Chronicles 11:18 whose relationship to King Rehoboam is not clear from the Hebrew text. In some translations, Abihail seems to be the second wife of Rehoboam. However, only one wife is mentioned at first, so Abihail was probably the mother of Rehoboam's first wife, Mahalath. This Abihail was thus a daughter of Eliab, David's eldest brother. She married her cousin Jerimoth, one of David's sons.
  5. Esther's father, and uncle of Mordecai (Est 2:15; 9:29).


Second son of Aaron and Elisheba (Ex 6:23; Nm 26:60; 1Chr 6:3). Abihu and his brother Nadab joined Moses, Aaron, and the 70 elders of Israel in worshiping the glory of God on Mt Sinai (Ex 24:1-11). The four sons of Aaron were made priests along with their father (Ex 28:1), but later Abihu and Nadab were burned to death for offering "the wrong kind of fire" before the Lord (Lv 10:1, NLT; see also Nm 3:2-4; 26:61; 1Chr 24:1-2).


One of Bela's nine sons (1Chr 8:3). Abihud should not be confused with the Abiud of Matthew's genealogy of Christ in the NT.


  1. Samuel's second son who, with his older brother, Joel, was a corrupt judge in Beersheba. Because of the corruption, Israel's leaders demanded to be ruled instead by a king (1Sam 8:2; 1Chr 6:28).
  2. Son of Jeroboam I of the northern kingdom of Israel. The boy's illness impelled his family to seek guidance from the prophet Ahijah at Shiloh (1 Kgs; 14:1-2);
  3. Alternate name for Abijam, king of Judah, in 2 Chronicles 12:16-14:1 and Matthew 1:7. See Abijam.
  4. Ahaz's wife, and mother of King Hezekiah (2Ki 18:2, short form "Abi"; 2Chr 29:1). This Abijah was Zechariah's daughter.
  5. Becher's son from Benjamin's tribe (1Chr 7:8).
  6. Levite who headed the eighth of 24 priestly divisions established in David's time (1Chr 24:10; Lk 1:5).
  7. Head of a priestly family who signed Ezra's covenant of faithfulness to God with Nehemiah and others after the Exile (Neh 10:7).
  8. Head of a priestly family who returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel after the Exile (Neh 12:4). Perhaps of the same family as #7.


Rehoboam's son and successor as king of Judah, 913-910 BC (1Chr 3:10; alternately called "Abijah" in 2Chr 11:18-22; 12:16; 13:1-22; 14:1). A major focus of Abijam's reign was his war with King Jeroboam I of Israel (2Chr 13:1-3). Before a decisive battle, Abijam stood on Mt Zemaraim and shouted condemnation of Jeroboam's political divisiveness and religious idolatry (2Chr 13:4-12). Abijam and his army then prayed for God's help in their precarious military position. Against two-to-one odds, they fought their way out of an ambush and won a stunning victory over Jeroboam (2Chr 13:13-19). Abijam's reign in the southern kingdom of Judah was summed up rather unfavorably in 1Ki 15:1-8: "He committed the same sins as his father before him, and he was not faithful to the Lord his God, as the heart of his ancestor David had been" (v 3, NLT). But God had promised to keep David's descendants on the throne in Jerusalem (1Ki 11:36), so Abijam's son Asa succeeded him. Being of David's line, Abijam was an ancestor of Jesus, the Christ (Mt 1:7, "Abijah").


One of the many sons or descendants of Joktan, and thus a descendant of Shem (Gn 10:28; 1Chr 1:22).


Royal title for Philistine rulers, similar to the designation "pharaoh" among the Egyptians and "agag" among the Amalekites.

  1. King of Gerar in Abraham's time. At Gerar, a city a few miles south of Gaza, Abraham presented his wife as his sister out of fear for his life (Gn 20:1-18), as he had once done in Egypt (Gn 12:10-20). Because of this, Sarah was taken into Abimelech's harem. But Abimelech was warned by God in a dream not to come near her on pain of death because she was a married woman, so she was restored to her husband. The same Abimelech and Abraham later entered into a treaty to clarify water rights in the Negev Desert at Beersheba (Gn 21:22-34).
  2. King of Gerar in Isaac's time. Isaac, too, passed off his wife, Rebekah, as his sister at Gerar. Abimelech, perhaps remembering the near judgment on his predecessor, acted decisively to protect Rebekah's integrity. He proclaimed a death penalty on any who touched her or her husband (Gn 26:1-11). Abimelech asked Isaac to leave Philistine territory because of overcrowding and continuing dispute over water (Gn 26:12-22). Eventually, at Beersheba, Isaac and Abimelech ended their hostility by renewing the treaty made by Abraham and the earlier Abimelech (Gn 26:26-33).
  3. Gideon's son by a concubine in Shechem (Jgs 8:31). After his father's death, Abimelech conspired with his mother's family to assassinate his 70 half brothers. Only one of them, Jotham, escaped (Jgs 9:1-5). In Abimelech's third year of rule, he cruelly suppressed a rebellion (Jgs 9:22-49). Eventually his skull was crushed by a millstone thrown down by a woman on a tower. Abimelech ordered his armor bearer to kill him with a sword so that no one could say he had been killed by a woman (Jgs 9:53-57).
  4. Achish, king of the Philistine city of Gath (Ps 34:title; 1Sam 21:10-15).
  5. Abiathar's son, a priest associated with Zadok in David's time (1Chr 18:16).


  1. Resident of Kiriath-jearim to whose home the Ark of God was brought on its return by the Philistines (1Sam 6:21-7:2).
  2. Jesse's second son, and brother of David (1Sam 16:8; 17:13; 1Chr 2:13). This Abinadab served in Saul's army for part of the Philistine war.
  3. One of Saul's sons (1Chr 8:33; 10:2).
  4. KJV form of Ben-abinadab, one of King Solomon's administrative officers in 1Ki 4:11. See Ben-abinadab.


Barak's father. Barak was the companion of Deborah, an Israelite judge, in the war against the Canaanites (Jgs 4:6, 12; 5:1, 12).


  1. One of Eliab's two sons. Abiram and his brother Dathan joined in an uprising against Moses and Aaron. At Moses' word, the ground split open beneath the two rebellious brothers and everything associated with them was swallowed up in a massive earthquake (Nm 16:1-33).
  2. Hiel's oldest son, who died prematurely when his father presumptuously rebuilt Jericho (1Ki 16:34). Joshua's prophetic curse was thereby fulfilled (Jos 6:26).


Beautiful young woman from Shunem who was appointed to care for David during his last days (1Ki 1:1-4). After David's death, Adonijah asked permission from his half brother King Solomon to marry Abishag. In the ancient Near East, to claim the concubine of a deceased king was to claim the throne. Enraged, Solomon ordered Adonijah to be killed (1Ki 2:13-25).


David's nephew, son of Zeruiah (by an unnamed father) and brother of Joab and Asahel (1Chr 2:16). Abishai volunteered to accompany David to Saul's camp one night and would have killed the sleeping Saul if David had not restrained him (1Sam 26:6-12). He also helped Joab kill Abner, Saul's general, in revenge for the death of another brother (2Sam 3:30). Later Abishai won a victory over the Edomites (1Chr 18:12-13) and was second in command in a decisive battle against the Ammonites (1Chr 19:10-15). Often vengeful and cruel, Abishai wanted to behead the spiteful Shimei during Absalom's rebellion, but again David intervened (2Sam 16:5-12; 19:21-23). When King David fled beyond the Jordan, Abishai was given command of one of David's three divisions that crushed the rebellion (2Sam 18:1-15).

In a later battle with the Philistines, Abishai saved David's life by killing the giant Ishbi-benob (2Sam 21:15-17). He ranked among David's bravest warriors (2Sam 23:18-19; 1Chr 11:20-21).


  1. Aaron's great-grandson, son of Phinehas and ancestor of Ezra (1Chr 6:4-5,50; Ezr 7:5). Abishua's name also appears in the apocryphal genealogy of Ezra (1Esd 8:2; 2Esd 1:2).
  2. Bela's son, and grandson of Benjamin (1Chr 8:4).


Shammai's son and the father of Ahban and Molid from Judah's tribe. Abishur's wife was Abihail (1Chr 2:28-29).


Mother of King David's fifth son, Shephatiah (2Sam 3:4; 1Chr 3:3).


Son of Shaharaim and Hushim from Benjamin's tribe (1Chr 8:11).


Individual listed in Matthew's genealogy of Christ in the NT as Eliakim's father (Mt 1:13).


Ner's son and Saul's cousin. Abner was commander of Saul's army (1Sam 14:50; 17:55). Highly respected by Saul, he even ate at the king's table together with David and Jonathan (1Sam 20:25).

Five years after Saul's death, Abner made Ishbosheth, Saul's son, king over Israel (2Sam 2:8-9). War between Ishbosheth and David, who then was king over Judah, lasted for two years. Abner was in command of Ish-bosheth's army, Joab of David's, in a series of skirmishes. David's position was generally stronger, but Abner became a powerful figure among Saul's followers.

Although only the king had a right to sexual relationships with the previous king's concubines, Abner slept with Saul's concubine Rizpah, perhaps planning to take over the kingdom himself at the first opportunity. When Ishbosheth rebuked him, Abner became so angry that he broke with Ishbosheth and came to terms with David. David showed him great respect, and in return, Abner promised to bring the whole of Israel over to David. Joab, however, feared Abner's influence with the king and killed him, claiming revenge for the death of his brother at Abner's hand in battle. Abner was honored with a public funeral and mourning, an honor given only to a ruler or great leader. King David wept aloud at the tomb, and even the people wept with him (2Sam 3:7-34). David condemned Joab for murdering Abner.

See also David.


One of the Bible's most significant personalities, whom God called from the city of Ur to become patriarch of God's own people.






Where: Born in Ur of the Chaldeans; spent most of his life in the land of Canaan

Occupation: Wealthy livestock owner

Relatives: Brothers: Nahor and Haran. Father: Terah. Wife: Sarah. Nephew: Lot. Sons: Ishmael and Isaac

Contemporaries: Abimelech, Melchizedek


"And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith" (Genesis 15:6).

Abraham's story is told in Genesis 11-25. He is also mentioned in Exodus 2:24; Matthew 1:1,2: Luke 3:34; Acts 7:2-8; Romans 4; Galatians 3; Hebrews 2; 6-7; 11.


The Times of Abraham and Sarah

C. 2166 BC

Abraham (originally named Abram) is born in Ur (Genesis 11:26).

C. 2157 BC

Sarah (originally named Sarai) is born.

C. 2120 BC?

Abraham moves with his father Terah, wife Sarah, and nephew Lot to Haran (Genesis 11:31).

C. 2091 BC

God calls Abraham move to Canaan (Genesis 12:1-6).

C. 2083 BC

God makes a covenant with Abraham, promising him the land of Canaan and many descendants (Genesis 15:1-21).

C. 2081 BC

Childless, Sarah gives her servant Hagar to Abraham to produce an heir. The following year, Ishmael is born to Hagar (Genesis 16).

C. 2067 BC

Sodom, where Lot lives, is destroyed by God, despite Abraham's appeals (Genesis 18-19).

C. 2066 BC

Isaac is miraculously born to Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 21:2-3).

C. 2064 BC?

Hagar and Ishmael are sent away by a jealous Sarah, but God protects them (Genesis 21:9-20).

C. 2054 BC?

At God's command, Abraham nearly sacrifices Isaac (Genesis 22).

C. 2030 BC

Sarah dies (Genesis 23:1-2).

C. 1991 BC

Abraham dies (Genesis 25:7-8).

Abraham's name was originally Abram, meaning "[the] father is exalted." When he was given that name by his parents, they were probably participants in the moon cult of Ur, so the father deity suggested in his old name could have been the moon god or another pagan deity. God changed Abram's name to Abraham (Gn 17:5), partly, no doubt, to indicate a clear-cut separation from pagan roots. The new name, interpreted by the biblical text as meaning "father of a multitude," was also a statement of God's promise to Abraham that he would have many descendants, as well as a significant test of his faith in God—since he was 99 years old at the time and his childless wife was 90 (Gn 11:30; 17:1-4, 17).

Abraham's Life


Referred to as the "friend of God" (2Chr 20:7; Jas 2:23, NLT), Abraham played an important role in Hebrew history. Through Abraham's life, God revealed a program of "election" and "covenant," which culminated, in the work of Jesus Christ. God said to Abraham, "All the families of the earth will be blessed through you" (Gn 12:3, NLT). Centuries later, the apostle Paul explained that the full import of God's promise was seen in the preaching of the gospel to all nations and the response of faith in Christ, which signifies believers from all families of the earth as sons of Abraham (Gal 3:6-9).

The story of Abram begins in Genesis 11, where his family relationships are recorded (Gn 11:26-32). Terah, Abram's father, was named after the moon deity worshiped at Ur. Terah had three sons, Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran, the father of Lot, died before the family

left Ur. Terah took Lot, Abram, and Abram's wife, Sarai, from Ur to go to Canaan but settled at the city of Haran (v 31). It is stated in Acts 7:2-4 that Abraham heard the call of God to leave for a new land while he was still in Ur.

A note of major importance to the course of Abram's life is found in Genesis 11:30: "Sarai was unable to become pregnant and had no children" (NLT). The problem of Sarai's barrenness provided the basis for great crises of faith, promise, and fulfillment in the lives of Abram and Sarai.

After Terah's death, God told Abram, "Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father's family, and go to the land that I will show you." This command was the basis of a "covenant" in which God promised to make Abram the founder of a new nation in that new land (Gn 12:1-3, NLT). Abram, trusting God's promise, left Haran at the age of 74. Entering Canaan, he went first to Shechem, an important Canaanite royal city between Mt Gerizim and Mt Ebal. Near the oak of Moreh, a Canaanite shrine, God appeared to him (12:7). Abram built an altar at Shechem, then moved to the vicinity of Bethel and again built an altar to the Lord (12:8).

The expression "to call on the name of the Lord" (RSV) means more than just to pray. Rather, Abram made a proclamation, declaring the reality of God to the Canaanites in their centers of false worship. Later Abram moved to Hebron by the oaks of Mamre, where again he built an altar to worship God. Another blessing given in a vision (15:1) led Abram to exclaim that he was still childless and that Eliezer of Damascus was his heir (15:2). Discovery of the Nuzi documents has helped to clarify that otherwise obscure statement. According to Hurrian custom, a childless couple of station and substance would adopt an heir. Often a slave, the heir would be responsible for the burial and mourning of his adoptive parents. If a son should be born after the adoption of a slave-heir, the natural son would of course supplant him. Thus God's response to Abram's question is directly to the point: "No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir" (Gn 15:4, NLT). God then made a covenant with Abram insuring an heir, a nation, and the land.

Abram was 86 years old when Ishmael was born. When Abram was 99, the Lord appeared to the aged patriarch and again reaffirmed his covenant promise of a son and blessing (Gn 17). Circumcision was added as the seal of covenantal relationship (17:9-14), and at that point the names Abram and Sarai were changed to Abraham and Sarah (17:5, 15). Abraham's response to the promise of another son was to laugh: "Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. 'How could I become a father at the age of 100?' he thought. 'And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?'" (Gn 17:17, NLT).


This figure of speech probably derived from the Roman custom of reclining on one's left side at meals with the guest of honor at the bosom of his host (cf. Jn 13:23-25). It was used by Jesus in the story of Lazarus as a description of paradise (Lk 16:22-23). In rabbinical writings, as well as 4 Maccabees 13:17, righteous people were thought to be welcomed at death by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus, probably aware of this, was also alluding to the "messianic banquet," an image he used a number of times. Thus, in the world to come, the godly poor like Lazarus would not only be welcomed by Abraham but would occupy the place of honor next to him at the banquet.

Genesis 18 and 19 recount the total destruction of two cities of the Jordan plain, Sodom and Gomorrah. Chapter 18 begins with three individuals seeking comfort in the heat of the day. Abraham offered refreshment and a meal to his guests. They turned out to be no ordinary travelers, however, but the Angel of the Lord along with two other angels (18:1-2; 19:1). There is reason to believe that the Angel of the Lord was God himself (18:17, 33). Another announcement of a promised son made Sarah laugh in unbelief and then deny having laughed (18:12-15).

Genesis 21 to 23 form the climax of the story of Abraham. At long last, when Abraham was 100 years old and his wife 90, "the LORD kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised" (Gn 21:1, NLT). The joy of the aged couple on the birth of their long-promised son could not be contained. Both Abraham and Sarah had laughed in unbelief in the days of promise; now they laughed in joy as God had "the last laugh." The baby, born at the time God promised, was named Isaac ("he laughs!"). Sarah said, "God has brought me laughter! All who hear about this will laugh with me" (Gn 21:6, NLT).

The laughter over Isaac's birth subsided entirely in the test of Abraham's faith described in chapter 22, God's command to sacrifice Isaac. Only when one has experienced vicariously with Abraham the long 25 years of God's promise

of a son can one imagine the trauma of such a supreme test. Just as the knife was about to fall, and only then, did the angel of God break the silence of heaven with the call, "Abraham!" (22:11). The name of promise, "father of a multitude," took on its most significant meaning when Abraham's son was spared and the test was explained: "I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son" (Gn 22:12, NLT).

Those words were coupled with a promise implicit in the discovery of a ram caught in the thicket. The Lord provided an alternative sacrifice, a substitute. The place was named "the Lord will provide." Christian believers generally see the whole episode as looking ahead to God's provision of his only Son, Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.

See also Sarah #1.


Original name of Abraham (Gn 11:26). See Abraham.


Son of King David and his wife Maacah (2Sam 3:3). The name is also spelled Abishalom (1Ki 15:2,10). Absalom was a handsome young prince who was noted for his long, full hair (2Sam 14:25-26). He had a beautiful sister, Tamar, who was raped by their half brother Amnon. After dishonoring Tamar, Amnon refused to marry her (2Sam 13:1-20).

Absalom took his dejected sister into his own house, expecting his father, David, to punish Amnon for his incestuous act. After two years of suppressed rage and hatred, Absalom plotted his own revenge. He gave a feast for King David and his princes at his country estate. Although David did not attend, Amnon did and was murdered by Absalom's servants after Absalom got him drunk. Then, afraid of King David's anger, Absalom fled across the Jordan River to King Talmai of Geshur, his mother's father (2Sam 13:21-39).

After three years in exile, Absalom was called back to Jerusalem through the efforts of David's general, Joab, and a wise woman from Tekoa. After two years he was back in full favor with the king (2Sam 14), and in that position he began to maneuver himself to gain the throne. He put on an impressive public relations campaign, in the process undermining confidence in his father, the king (2Sam 15:1-6).

Eventually, Absalom plotted a rebellion against David, gathering supporters in Hebron from all over Israel. After Ahithophel, one of David's wisest counselors, joined Absalom, the prince announced his own kingship. By the time news of Absalom's conspiracy reached him, David was unable to do anything but flee from Jerusalem (2Sam 15; Ps 3).

Absalom arrived in Jerusalem without a struggle, and Ahithophel asked permission to attack David immediately with 12,000 troops. But Hushai, David's secret agent in Absalom's court, advised Absalom instead to take the time to mobilize the entire nation against David. He also used flattery, suggesting that Absalom himself should lead the attack. Absalom preferred Hushai's advice, and Ahithophel out of desperation committed suicide. Meanwhile, Hushai sent word of Absalom's plans to David by two priests, Zadok and Abiathar. With this information, David crossed the Jordan and camped at Mahanaim (2Sam 16-17).

Absalom led his forces across the Jordan to do battle in the forest of Ephraim. David's loyal forces were under the able generalship of Joab, Abishai, and Ittai the Gittite, who routed Absalom's forces. Absalom himself fled on a mule, but his long hair got caught in the branches of an oak tree, and he was left dangling helplessly. Joab, leading his men in pursuit, came upon Absalom and killed him. Joab's men threw the body in a pit and piled stones on it (2Sam 18:1-18). Absalom's death stunned David, who had given explicit orders to keep Absalom from harm. David moaned: "0 my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son" (2Sam 18:33, NLT). In his excessive grief, David took no notice that a serious rebellion had been crushed until Joab reminded him that David's followers had risked their lives for him (2Sam 19:1-8). See David.


  1. Father of the Edomite king Baal-hanan before the establishment of Israel's monarchy (Gn 36:38-39; 1Chr 1:49).
  2. Micaiah's son, courtier of King Josiah of the southern kingdom of Judah. Josiah sent Acbor in a delegation to ask Huldah the prophetess about the newly found Book of the Law (2Ki 22:12-14). Acbor was also referred to as Abdon, son of Micah (2Chr 34:20). He was the father of Elnathan (Jer 26:22; 36:12).


Early Christian convert in Corinth. Achaicus, Stephanas, and Fortunatus were visiting Paul in Ephesus when he wrote 1 Corinthians (1 Cor 16:17). It was probably Achaicus and his companions who brought Paul a letter from the Corinthian church (1 Cor 7:1) and returned with Paul's reply.


Member of Judah's tribe who kept some of the spoils from the Israelite victory at Jericho in violation of Joshua's order and God's command (Jos 6:1-7:1). A subsequent Israelite defeat at Ai, a weaker city than Jericho, revealed God's anger to Joshua. With God's help, Joshua determined which of the Israelites had been guilty of disobedience. Achan confessed that he had buried a robe and some gold and silver from Jericho in his tent (Jos 7:20-22). The recovered loot was taken to the valley of Achor (meaning "trouble," "calamity"), where Achan and his family were stoned. In the Hebrew text, 1 Chronicles 2:7 gives Achan's name as Achar ("disaster") because he "brought disaster on Israel by taking plunder that had been set apart for the Lord" (NLT).


King of the Philistine city of Gath. Although David had killed Goliath, Gath's champion (1Sam 17), David later fled from Saul to Achish's court. Realizing his mistake, David pretended to be crazy in order to preserve his life. His feigned madness caused Achish to throw him out (1Sam 21:10-15), but later when David came back to Gath with a band of 600 guerrilla fighters, Achish gave him the city of Ziklag as a base of operations (1Sam 27:1-7). Achish thought David's men were raiding the Israelites, not realizing they were actually wiping out Philistine towns (1Sam 27:8-12).


Caleb's daughter (1Chr 2:49). Othniel, Caleb's nephew, accepted his uncle's challenge to capture Kiriath-sepher in order to marry Acsah. She persuaded Othniel to ask her father, Caleb, for a field, and she herself asked Caleb for two springs of water, a necessity for life in the desert (Jos 15:16-19; Jgs 1:12-15).


  1. One of Lamech's two wives, and mother of two sons, Jabal and Jubal (Gn 4:19-21,23).
  2. Esau's first wife, daughter of Elon the Hittite and mother of Eliphaz (Gn 36:2-16).


  1. Josiah's maternal grandfather. Josiah's mother, Jedidah, was Adaiah's daughter (2Ki 22:l).
  2. Ethan's son, a Levite of the Gershon clan and an ancestor of Asaph the psalmist (1Chr 6:41). He is sometimes identified with the Iddo of 1 Chronicles 6:21. See Iddo #2.
  3. Shimei's son, a minor member of Benjamin's tribe (1Chr 8:21).
  4. Jeroham's son, a priest who returned to Jerusalem after the Exile (1Chr 9:12; Neh 11:12).
  5. Maaseiah's father. Maaseiah was a captain under Jehoiada the priest (2Chr 23:1).
  6. Bani's son, who obeyed Ezra's exhortation to divorce his pagan wife after the Exile (Ezr 10:29).
  7. Son of a different Bani, who also obeyed that exhortation (Ezr 10:39).
  8. Joiarib's son, descended from Perez, and an ancestor of Maaseiah (Neh 11:5).


Fifth of Haman's ten sons, all of whom were killed with their father when his plot to destroy the Jews was foiled (Est 9:8).


First man and father of the human race. Adam's role in biblical history is important not only in OT considerations but also in understanding the meaning of salvation and the person and work of Jesus Christ.