Abraham: Father of Many Nations (and Religions)

We have seen that the early stories of Genesis are joined by similar stories in other ancient societies of that region.  We now proceed with Abraham.  Although we have one story of Abraham to my knowledge, that told in the Jewish writings of the Pentateuch, that one account is claimed by three great religions, each of which claims Abraham as their father: Jews, Christians and Muslims.

We often think of his first son, Ishmael, and his second, Isaac.  Genesis also tells us that Abraham had six boys with his wife, Keturah.  And several times Genesis tells us that God promised to make of Abraham great nations.  Genesis 15:1-17:27; 21:1-21.  At Sarah’s insistence after Isaac was born, Abraham reluctantly sends Hagar and Ishmael away.  God does not abandon them, however, but promises Hagar to make of Ishmael a great nation.  Genesis 21:16-21.

Our first art on the subject of Abraham is another panel of the Gates of Paradise by Ghiberti.

The Story of Abraham – LORENZO GHIBERTI (1425-52)
Gilded bronze, Baptistry, Florence

See http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/g/ghiberti/paradiso/5abraham.html for the source of the photograph of the panel and a description.  It is interesting that Ghiberti interprets the life of Abraham as a Christian, using it to foreshadow the sacrifice of Jesus, even the trinity and the eucharist.  I am unaware of how Muslims interpret the story,and I am unaware of any Muslim art interpreting it.  No Muslim art is likely to exist since I understand that Islamic tradition prohibits artistic representation of a person as risking idolatry.

Call to leave Ur and Go to Canaan

Genesis 12:1-9

Abraham’s Journey to Canaan LASTMAN

See http://cgfa.acropolisinc.com/l/p-lastman1.htm for the source of the photograph of the above painting.

I noted previously the Flemish or Dutch painters’  characteristic style of placing Bible subjects in their own contemporary locations and times.  That is again evident in this painting.  One still gets the message that when Abraham left his homeland for Canaan it was an act of great faith.

For all the faith of Abram, later named Abraham, it is interesting that he was willing to give Sarah, his wife, to the powerful leaders of lands through which he passed for his own and his property’s protection.  Genesis 12:10-20; 20:1-17.  In the latter passage, King Abimilek is punished for taking Sarah on Abraham’s representation that she was his sister; he took her into his harem.  God tells Abimilek in a dream that she is Abraham’s wife.  He returns her to Abraham and gives to Abraham many sheep and much money to get them out of his country so he can be relieved of the threat of punishment.  My mother would say that demonstrates that God uses ordinary people with faults, meaning, therefore, God can use us, too.

Links to my site:



Graphic Arts








Home Page



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s