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Abraham

Religious Figure / Biblical Figure

Born: 3rd century B.C.
Died: 3rd century B.C.
Birthplace: Ur, Babylonia
Best known as: Patriarch of Judaism, Christianity and Islam

Name at birth: Abram

Three world religions honor Abraham as their ancient patriarch and a model of faith in one God. In Judaism the 12 tribes of Israel trace their lineage to Abraham through his son Isaac and grandson Jacob. In Christian scriptures he is a spiritual ancestor, "justified by faith." In Islam's Koran he and another son, Ishmael, build the sacred site at Mecca, which remains the holiest destination for the world's Muslims, by decree of Allah through Muhammad. The biblical book Genesis describes Abram's birth in Ur (near modern Nasiriyah, Iraq), his marriage to Sarai, and God's promise to make of him "a great nation." God sends them on a long, dramatic, Middle Eastern journey, eventually renaming them Abraham and Sarah and periodically giving Abraham guidance and commands. The hardest of these is to offer Isaac as a human sacrifice; an angel stops Abraham at the last minute.

Extra credit: In Genesis, Abraham is 86 when Ishmael is born to the young servant Hagar, given to him as a second wife by the childless Sarah. Abraham is 100 and Sarah over 90 when they miraculously give birth to Isaac; Hagar and Ishmael are then sent away. After Sarah's death, Abraham has six children by a third wife, Keturah. At age 175, he dies and is buried in Macpelah, near modern Hebron, West Bank... There is no historical evidence of Abraham's life, other than that in religious scriptures and commentaries.

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