Patriarchs (Bible)

For the movement within evangelical Christianity, see Biblical patriarchy. For uses not directly related to the Bible, see Patriarch (disambiguation).
The bosom of Abraham - medieval illustration from the Hortus deliciarum of Herrad of Landsberg (12th century)

The Patriarchs (Hebrew: אבות Avot or Abot, singular Hebrew: אב Ab or Aramaic: אבא Abba) of the Bible, when narrowly defined, are Abraham, his son Isaac, and Isaac's son Jacob, also named Israel, the ancestor of the Israelites. These three figures are referred to collectively as the patriarchs of Judaism, and the period in which they lived is known as the patriarchal age. They play significant roles in Hebrew scripture during and following their lifetimes. They are used as a significant marker by God in revelations[1] and promises,[2] and continue to play important roles in the Abrahamic faiths.

More widely, the term Patriarchs can be used to refer to the twenty male ancestor-figures between Adam and Abraham. The first ten of these are called the Antediluvian patriarchs, because they came before the Flood. Judaism and Islam hold that the patriarchs and their primary wives – Sarah (wife of Abraham), Rebekah (wife of Isaac) and Leah (one of the wives of Jacob) – (known as the Matriarchs), are entombed at Machpelah in Hebron, a site held holy by Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Only Rachel, Jacob's favorite wife, is said to be buried separately in the Tomb of Rachel, near Bethlehem, where she is believed to have died in childbirth.

Antediluvian patriarchs

See also: Methuselah

The lifetimes given for the patriarchs in the Book of Genesis are: Adam 930 years, Seth 912, Enos 905, Kenan 910, Mahalalel 895, Jared 962, Enoch 365 (did not die, but was taken away by God), Methuselah 969, Lamech 777, Noah 950.[3] The lifespans given cause problems of chronology for Bible scholars, as the following quotation shows.

"The long lives ascribed to the patriarchs cause remarkable synchronisms and duplications. Adam lived to see the birth of Lamech, the ninth member of the genealogy; Seth lived to see the translation of Enoch and died shortly before the birth of Noah. Noah outlived Abram's grandfather, Nahor, and died in Abram's sixtieth year. Shem, Noah's son, even outlived Abram. He was still alive when Esau and Jacob were born!"[4]
Abraham Terah Nahor Serug Peleg Eber Shelah Kenan Arpachshad Shem Noah Lamech (father of Noah) Methuselah Enoch Jared (biblical figure) Mahalalel Kenan Enos (biblical figure) Seth Adam

Explanation of color-codes:

Family tree

Ishmaelites7 sons[6]Bethuel1st daughter2nd daughter
1. Reuben
2. Simeon
3. Levi
4. Judah
9. Issachar
10. Zebulun
11. Dinah
7. Gad
8. Asher
5. Dan
6. Naphtali
12. Joseph
13. Benjamin

Table of Nations

Main article: Sons of Noah

According to the Bible, many of the tribes living in the Middle East, between the time of Abraham and the time of Christ, have a genealogical connection to the Patriarchs or their descendants. This list, taken from the Book of Genesis, gives the details of that genealogy.

Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah ... Salah lived thirty years, and begat Eber ... Eber lived four and thirty years, and begat Peleg ... Peleg lived thirty years, and begat Reu ... Reu lived two and thirty years, and begat Serug ... Serug lived thirty years, and begat Nahor ... Nahor lived nine and twenty years, and begat Terah ... Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran ... and Haran begat Lot

  • Nahor and Reumah, parents of Tebah, Gaham, Tahash, and Maacah
  • Haran, father of Lot
  • Lot and his older daughter, parents of Moab (Moabites)
  • Lot and his younger daughter, parents of Ben-ammi (Ammonites)

The twelve tribes of Israel include ten of the sons of Jacob (excluding Levi and Joseph) and the two sons of Joseph.

Religious significance


Islam regards Abraham (Ibrahim) as the father of the prophets in Islam because all subsequent prophets descended from him (the Israelite prophets through Ishāq and Muhammad through Ismā'īl).


The Matriarchs, also known as "the four mothers" (ארבע האמהות) married the biblical Patriarchs:

See also


  1. Exodus 3:6
  2. Leviticus 26:42
  3. Ages of the patriarchs in Genesis
  4. Von Rad, G. (trans Marks, J. H.) 1961 Genesis - a commentary Philadelphia: Westminster Press
  5. Genesis 20:12: Sarah was the half–sister of Abraham
  6. Genesis 22:21-22: Uz, Buz, Kemuel, Chesed, Hazo, Pildash, and Jidlaph

External links

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