When Did Abraham Live?

Abraham is one of the most significant people in the Bible. In the Old Testament, his legacy is that he was the first Hebrew patriarch, the father of the nation of Israel. In the New Testament, in addition to being the forefather of the Jewish people, his legacy is that he was a man of extraordinary faith. One of the first questions people ask about Abraham is when he lived.

According to the book of Genesis, Abraham lived in ancient Mesopotamia over 4,000 years ago during the time now known as the period of the Patriarchs. He lived over 500 years before Moses, 1,000 years before David, and 2,000 years before Jesus of Nazareth. Abraham lived for 175 years.

Where is the story of Abraham in Genesis? Did he live before or after Noah, Isaac, and Jacob? What does it mean that Abraham lived during the time of the patriarchs? What major events occurred in Abraham’s lifetime? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.

Also, Isaac plays a vital role in Abraham’s story. Many readers want to know how old Abraham was when Isaac was born. Please see the article to learn more.

What are the traditional dates of Abraham’s birth and death? See below

The Life and Times of Abraham

Abraham is the main character of Genesis 11:10-25:11. His wife Sarah and sons Isaac and Jacob are also prominent in the section. Abraham’s narrative occurs after the Towel of Babel story (Gen. 11:1-9) and before Ishmael’s (25:12-18) and Isaac’s narratives (25:19-26:35).

In Genesis, Abraham’s story occurs within the narrative framework of “the generations of Terah,” who was his father (Gen. 11:27). It starts with God’s promise to him of land, nation, and blessing (Gen. 12:1-3).

Adam to Lamech (Gen. 5)Before 3,000 B.C.
Noah (Gen. 6-9)2500-3000 B.C.
Abram is born2166 B.C.
Abram migrates to Canaan2091 B.C.
Abraham dies1991 B.C.
Isaac is born2066 B.C.
Jacob is born2005 B.C.
Isaac dies1886 B.C.
Jacob dies1859 B.C.
Joseph is born1914 B.C.
Joseph dies1804 B.C.

The table above shows traditional estimates of when people lived and died. However, dating lives and events before Abraham can be challenging, and scholars have differing views about how to do it.

One important related issue is how and when to date the flood of Noah. Another critical factor is whether or not the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11 contain gaps.

God makes a promise to Abraham

God promised Abraham land: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (Gen 12:1). He also promised him a nation: “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2).

Lastly, he promised him blessing: “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3).

Abraham’s narrative in Genesis includes stories about God’s faithfulness to his promise (e.g., Gen. 21:1-8). It also contains stories about when there were threats to the promises and how God overcame them (e.g., Gen. 20:1-18).

Major Events in Abraham’s Lifetime

Abraham goes to Canaan
Ishmael is born to Abraham and Hagar
God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah
Isaac is born to Abraham and Sarah
Abraham sends Hagar and Ishmael away
Abraham attempts to sacrifice Isaac
Sarah dies
Isaac marries Rebecca
Esau and Jacob are born
Abraham dies

Understanding Abraham’s lifespan helps to learn his story in the Bible. To do this, it’s wise for readers to know Abraham’s age when he died. See the full article for details.

Abraham live
What does it mean that Abraham was a patriarch? See below

Abraham Was the First Patriarch

Many Old Testament scholars refer to Abraham’s era as the time of The Patriarchs (Gen. 12-50). It starts with Abraham and ends with Joseph’s death. It occurs after the time of The Beginnings, which includes the creation account, Adam and Eve, the flood of Noah, and the Tower of Babel (Gen. 1-11). It comes before the time of Egypt and the Exodus (Exod. 1-20).

AbrahamSon of Terah
IsaacSon of Abraham
JacobSon of Abraham
ReubenSon of Jacob
SimeonSon of Jacob
LeviSon of Jacob
JudahSon of Jacob
DanSon of Jacob
NaphtaliSon of Jacob
GadSon of Jacob
AsherSon of Jacob
IssacharSon of Jacob
ZebulunSon of Jacob
JosephSon of Jacob
BenjaminSon of Jacob

The term “patriarch” comes from the Greek word pater (πατήρ), meaning “father.” Regarding biblical history, a patriarch is one of the founding fathers of the nation of Israel. Yet, the New Testament occasionally refers to any leader in ancient Israel as a patriarch like David (e.g., Acts 2:29).

Abraham is the chief patriarch because he is the first one. God told him, not his father, Terah, or his grandfather, Nahor, that a nation would come from his line.

Also, Abraham’s sons play a key role in his narrative. Learn how many sons Abraham had for more insight into his marriage and family.

New Testament Descriptions of Patriarchs

The New Testament refers to Abraham and his first and second-generation descendants as patriarchs. In Greek, the term comes from the word for “father” (see above). Some translations render the word “fathers” (NASB); others say “ancestors” (NLT). But most say “patriarchs.”

Acts 7:9“And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him.” (ESV)
Hebrews 7:4“See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils!” (ESV)
Romans 9:5“To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” (ESV)
Book of Genesis
Where do Hagar and Ishmael appear in Abraham’s story? See below

Abraham’s Story in Genesis

The Genealogy of Abraham11:10⁠–⁠32
The Call of Abraham12:1⁠–⁠9 
Abraham and Sarai in Egypt12:10⁠–⁠20
Abraham and Lot13:1⁠–⁠18
War of the Four Kings vs. the Five Kings14:1⁠–⁠16
Melchizedek Blesses Abraham14:17⁠–⁠24
The Covenant Between the Parts15:1⁠–⁠21
Hagar and Ishmael16:1⁠–⁠16
The Covenant of Circumcision17:1⁠–⁠27
The Three Visitors18:1⁠–⁠15

Readers of Genesis who are familiar with Abraham’s story know about his wife, Sarah. Yet she wasn’t his only wife. Learn the answer to the question of how many wives Abraham had for more.

Sodom and Gomorrah18:16⁠–⁠19:38
Abraham, Sarah, and Abimelech20:1⁠–⁠18
Isaac’s Birth Its Effects on Hagar and Ishmael 21:1⁠–⁠34
The Binding of Isaac22:1⁠–⁠19
The Genealogy of Rebekah22:20⁠–⁠24
The Death and Burial of Sarah23:1⁠–⁠20
Isaac and Rebekah24:1⁠–⁠67
Abraham and Keturah25:1⁠–⁠6
The Death and Burial of Abraham25:7⁠–⁠11

[1] Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary
[2] ESV Study Bible

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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