Patriarchs (Bible)

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The bosom of Abraham - medieval illustration from the Hortus deliciarum of Herrad of Landsberg (12th century)

The Patriarchs (Hebrew: אבותAvot or Abot, singular Hebrew: אבAb 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 revelations1 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 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 and Rachel (the wives of Jacob) – (known as the Matriarchs), are entombed at Machpelah, a site held holy by Jews, Muslims, and Christians.

Antediluvian Patriarchs

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!"


Abraham Terah Nahor Serug Rehu Peleg Eber Shelah Kenan Arpachshad Shem Noah Lamech (father of Noah) Methuselah Enoch Jared Mahalalel Kenan Enos (biblical figure) Seth Adam Explanation of color-codes:

Family tree

Other Children
other people
First Wife
Second Wife
Leah and Rachel
Twelve Sons and at least One Daughter

Table of Nations

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.

  • 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


Abraham (Ibrahim in Islam) is considered the father of the Prophets in Islam because all subsequent prophets were his descendants (the Israelite prophets through Isaac and Muhammed through Ismā'īl).


The Matriarchs are the wives of the biblical Patriarchs. They are Sarah, the wife of Abraham, Rebekah, the wife of Isaac and Leah and Rachel, the wives of Jacob.

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

External links