BIOGRAPHIES
All biblical references are from the Contemporary English Version unless otherwise noted

 

This page summarizes the biographies of prominent Bible characters of the Old Testament, according to the information written in the Bible. The biographical information is in this order:
Abram/Abraham (Forefather to the Jews)
Ishmael (Abram's first son)
Isaac (Abram's second son)
Jacob (Isaac's son and the start of the Israelite nation)
Esau (Jacob's twin brother)
Joseph (Jacob's son)

ABRAM / ABRAHAM'S BIOGRAPHY

Abram was blessed by God (Jehovah / Yahweh) to become the forefather to the nation of Israel. This makes him a prominent figure in Bible history, therefore it is fitting to give an account of his life according to the Bible book of Genesis.

Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran fathered Lot and Milcah. Haran died at some point. Abram took his half-sister Sarai as wife (Genesis 20:12), and Nahor took his neice, Milcah, as wife (This was centuries before Yahweh forbid such marriages, mentioned at Leviticus 18:6-20). Sarai was barren and thus bore no children to Abram. Terah dies at age 205.
-- Genesis 11

Next, God tells Abram to settle his family in a place He will show him, telling him that He will bless Abram and make a great nation from him. Abram was 75 years old at the time, and he took his family along with his nephew, Lot, and all their household and belongings and settled in Canaan. God confirms to Abram that this is the land He is giving him. They moved to another place within the region and started calling on the name of Yahweh. Later a famine overtook the land, so they all moved to Egypt. As they neared Egypt, Abram grew afraid because Sarai, his wife, was so beautiful that he thought the men would kill him. Therefore, he instructed her to tell everyone that they were siblings. The ruse worked so well that the princes of the land took her to wed Pharaoh, due to her beauty, and Pharaoh treated Abram well on her account. He gave Abram livestock, and servants. God plagued Pharaoh's house because he'd taken someone's wife. When Pharaoh realized what happened he demanded an explanation from Abram, who gave it. As a result, Pharaoh had his servants escort Abram and Sarai away.
-- Genesis 12

They left Egypt. At this point he left as a wealthy man: Much livestock, silver and gold, etc. He also had Lot and Lot's household and belongings traveling with him, so that there became too many and too much for all of them to continue traveling together. Quarrels were popping up, it was crowded, etc. so Lot chose to go live in Sodom, and Abram chose to live in Canaan. God repeats his promise to Abram to give the land of Canaan to Abram's future descendants.
-- Genesis 13

About this time, the regional kings were having their skirmishes. The kings of Sodom and Gomorrah were involved in a battle against other kings and were defeated. Lot and his family became captives of war because of this. A man escaped and told Abram about Lot's capture. Abram collected 318 of his trained slaves and they fought their way to rescue Lot, his household, and his belongings. This impressed the king of Sodom, as well as a few other kings, so they all came to Abram with bread, wine and much praise.
-- Genesis 14

Next, Yahweh came to Abram in a vision telling him He'll be Abram's shield and that Abram's reward will be very great. However, Abram was childless, so he tells God that he fears his nephew, Lot, will have to be his heir. Yahweh tells Abram that he will have a son of his own to be an heir, and not to fret about Lot. He tells Abram that his seed will be as numerous as the stars. After God directs Abram to make an animal sacrifice to Him, he also tells Abram that his seed will become an alien resident living in a land that is not theirs, and they will be enslaved and afflicted for 400 years, and then they will be released with many goods and belongings. These events were fulfilled many years later, when the nation of Israel was enslaved in Egypt, and Yahweh freed them from bondage (Exodus 1:7-14, 2:23-25, 3:6-10, 3:20-22, 12:31-35, 14:30). Yahweh again repeats his promise to Abram to multiply his seed.
-- Genesis 15

Sarai sees that she still hasn't given a son to Abram, despite Yah's promises, so she gives her maidservant, Hagar, to Abram in order to have a son for him through her. However, once Hagar finds she's pregnant, she starts treating Sarai very badly, so that Sarai drives her away. Yahweh sends his angel to speak to Hagar, to tell her to return and humble herself. The angel also gives her the message that her unborn son will also become a large nation, and she is to name him Ishmael. Hagar returned, and bore Ishmael to Abram, who was 86 years old at the time.
-- Genesis 16

Thirteen years later God spoke to Abram again. He changed Abram's name to Abraham, and changed Sarai's name to Sarah. God repeats that he will make Abraham's descendants numerous. He also decreed that Abraham and all the males of his household must get circumcised, that all newborn males must be circumcised at 8 days old. Yahweh adds that Sarah will bear a son, and his name will be Isaac, who will be the start of the special nation that Yahweh had been promising him. Abraham is worried that his other son, Ishmael, will not be blessed. Yahweh reassures him that Ishmael will indeed become a mighty nation. However, the special nation of God will be sprung from Isaac. After Yahweh finished speaking with him, Abraham went to circumcise himself and all the males of his household.
-- Genesis 17

Next, Yahweh sent angels to Abraham, who welcomed them and fed them a good meal. The angels tell him that a year from that time Sarah would have the promised son, Isaac. Sarah laughed about this, because she was so old. Later the angels got up and departed for Sodom, for the sin was great there. God explained that there was going to be an inspection of Sodom to see if there was anything worth saving there. This greatly distressed Abraham, so he questioned Yahweh about it. Yahweh agreed that if there could be found at least ten righteous men in that city, then he wouldn't destroy it.
-- Genesis 18

God decides to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, though He sends angels to spare Lot and his family. The evil men of the city believe the angels are ordinary men and demand that Lot give the men over to them for illicit purposes. When Lot refuses, the citizen mob his home, though the angels strike them with blindness so that they cannot hurt Lot and his family. The angels then instructed the family to run for their lives, as God was about to destroy the evil city. They were given special instructions to not look back at the destruction as they fled. The family continues fleeeing until they reached the small town of Zoar. As they reach the town in the morning dawn, Lot's wife looks back at the fire and sulphur raining down on Sodom, and becomes a pillar of salt. Meanwhile, Abraham sees the smoke from the city in the distance.
-- Genesis 19

Later, Abraham moved his family into the land of Gerar. Again, he tried to repeat the ruse of saying Sarah was his sister. As a result, the king of Gerar, Abimelech, took Sarah to be his wife. So, Yahweh came to the king in a dream to tell him that he will be a dead man for taking another's wife. Abimelech explains his honest mistake to Yahweh, who already knew it was an innocent mistake, which is why He was giving the king a chance to rectify the matter. The next morning Abimelech told his servants about this and they were all afraid. Next the king demanded an explanation from Abraham, who explains the truth: That Sarah is really his half sister as well as his wife, so that he didn't lie completely. Consequently, the king returned Sarah to Abraham and gave him livestock and servants and as well. Then Abimelech offered Abraham to stay where he wanted in his kingdom and gave him money as a covering for Sarah.
-- Genesis 20

Afterwards, God turned his attention to Sarah so that she became pregnant and gave birth to Isaac. At about the time of Isaac's being weaned, Sarah noticed Ishmael poking fun at Isaac (looking at the chronology here, Ishmael would be about 16 years old by now, give or take). Sarah was enraged, and demanded that Abraham get rid of Ishmael and Hagar. This distressed Abraham because he loved his older son too, but Yahweh told him to listen to Sarah this time. Yahweh reminded him that, because Ishmael is still Abraham's son too, Ishmael will also become a nation. So, Abraham dismissed Hagar and Ishmael. Later, he makes a pact with Abimelech that they wouldn't deal falsely with one another. After that, there was a dispute concerning a well that the king's men overtook. The dispute was resolved amicably.
-- Genesis 21

Some time later Yahweh puts Abraham's faith to the test. He tells Abraham to take Isaac and sacrifice him to Yahweh. Abraham doesn't understand why, but goes to do it anyway. Isaac is unaware of what is happening. Just before Abraham actually kills Isaac for the sacrifice, Yahweh sends his angel to stop Abraham. It is then that Abraham is told that his faith was being tested and he had passed the test. After that ordeal is finished, Abraham returned and went to Beer-Sheba. Here he got a report of his family: Nahor and Milcah had sons born to them named Uz, Buz, Kemuel, Chesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel. Bethuel became father to Rebekah.
-- Genesis 22

Sarah died at the age of 120 years old. Abraham was deeply grieved and he asked the local people if he could bury his wife in their land. They had much respect for him, so they let him choose where he wanted to bury her. Abraham tried to pay for the land, but the owner insisted on giving it free.
-- Genesis 23

Abraham sent one of his servants to find a suitable wife for Isaac in the land of his relatives. The servant returns with Rebekah, after having been detained a while by Laban, Rebekah's brother. She and Isaac marry, and Isaac grows to love her. She also gives him comfort for the loss of his mother.
-- Genesis 24

Abraham takes a new wife, Keturah. She bears him six sons: Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah. Later in life, he wills all his belongings away and dies at the age of 175. Ishmael and Isaac bury him next to Sarah.
-- Genesis 25

 

ISHMAEL

Ishmael was the firstborn son of Abram, (who was later renamed Abraham) . In the book of Genesis, Abram was promised by God that he and his offspring, or seed, would become a mighty nation. (Genesis 15:1-6) Abram's wife, at the time named Sarai, had bore him no children, so she gave her Egyptian maidservant, Hagar, to Abram to have a child for him through her. (Genesis 16:1-4) Of course, this was not what God had intended to happen, and this is shown by the fact that God had Sarai (later renamed Sarah) have a child of her own with Abram that was considered the heir for God's promise. (Genesis 17: 15-21)

When Hagar became aware that she was pregnant, she began to despise Sarai, Abram's wife. The Bible doesn't give the details on what exactly happened, but it was bad enough that Sarai drove Hagar away over it. Sarai first complained to Abram about the situation, so that Abram told Sarai to do what she saw fit about it. Sarai humiliated Hagar so much that Hagar finally departed.
-- Genesis 16:4-6

Later, Yahweh sent his angel to advise Hagar to humble herself and return to Abram and Sarai. This angel also gave Hagar the message that her unborn son would become a multitude and that she was to name him Ishmael.
-- Genesis 16:7-12

Later, Hagar bore the child and named him Ishmael. At this time, Abram was 86 years old.
--Genesis 16:15-16

Later, God commissioned that all the males in Abram's household be circumcised immediately (Abram, his son, and the male servants, and the sons born to any of the servants). Abram was 99 years old when he was circumcised, and Ishmael was 13 years old at this time.
-- Genesis 17: 9-26

Some time later, after the promised seed, Isaac, was born, Sarai (now renamed Sarah, Genesis 17:15) and Abram (now renamed Abraham, Genesis 17:5) prepared a feast in celebration of Isaac's weaning. Sarah kept noticing Ishmael poking fun during the feast, and became upset. So, she demanded that Abraham make Hagar and Ishmael go away from them for good. Abraham didn't like the idea, because Ishmael was his son, but God told him to listen to Sarah's demands. God also reiterated his promise that Isaac would become the promised seed, and that Ishmael would also be fruitful because he was also Abraham's son.
-- Genesis 21:8-13

The next morning, Abraham prepared bread and a container of water for Hagar, and sent her and Ishmael away. Hagar and Ishmael wandered in the wilderness until the water supply was gone. She put Ishmael under a shady bush, and then put herself a distance away because she didn't want to see Ishmael dying from lack of water, and she wept.
-- Genesis 21: 14-16

If you notice the chronology, Ishmael was about 16 years old at this time, give or take. This is shown by the previous Scriptures, as stated above: Ishmael was 13 when he was circumcised, and it took a least a couple of years to wean his little brother, Isaac. Therefore, he was in his mid-to-late teens at this time.

Apparently, at this time, Ishmael was either praying, crying, or something, because Yahweh heard his voice and as a result sent an angel to speak to his mother, Hagar.
-- Genesis 21:17

The angel bears the message that God has heard Ishmael's voice, and not to be afraid. The promise to make Ishmael into a multitude is repeated, and then God showed her a well in which they could quench their thirst.
-- Genesis 21: 17-19

Yahweh continued to be with Ishmael. He grew up in the wilderness and became an archer. He became a dweller in the wilderness of Paran, and Hagar chose an Egyptian wife for him.
-- Genesis 21: 20-21

Later, when Abraham died, Ishmael and his brother, Isaac, buried him next to Sarah.
-- Genesis 25:9-10

Now Genesis gives us the history of Ishmael: His sons were named Nebaioth (his firstborn), Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah, a total of 12 sons. These were the twelve chieftains promised from Yahweh.
-- Genesis 25:13-16,
-- Genesis 17:20

Ishmael lived to be 137 years old. His offspring took up dwelling from a place in front of Egypt as far as Assyria.
-- Genesis 25: 17-18

Apparently, Ishmael also had daughters, because Esau, the son of Isaac, took one of Ishmael's daughters as his wife.
-- Genesis 28: 9

 

ISAAC

Isaac was the second born son of Abraham, the promised seed of Abraham.
-- Genesis 15: 1-5

The Bible doesn't give an age, but sometime before Isaac became a man, Yahweh decided to test Abraham's faith. He tells Abraham to go to Mount Moriah and offer Isaac up as a burnt sacrifice to Him.
-- Genesis 22:1-2

Abraham did exactly as Yahweh said: Early in the morning he took Isaac and two attendants, split some wood and traveled to Mount Moriah. After three days of traveling Abraham saw the place from a distance. He instructed his attendants to stay put while he and Isaac went up to the mountain.
-- Genesis 22: 3-5

Abraham took the split wood, his son, the things to make fire, and a knife and continued to the place God designated for them. On the way, Isaac, in his ignorance, asked Abraham where the slaughtering sheep was. Abraham simply replied that God would provide.
-- Genesis 22:6-8

They reached their destination and built the altar. Then Abraham bound up his son and put him on the altar and pulled out the slaughtering knife. At this point, Yahweh sent his angel to stop Abraham from going through with it. The angel explained it was a test of faith, which Abraham passed.
-- Genesis 22:9-12

God provided a sheep for Abraham to make a sacrifice in place of Isaac. Abraham then named that place "Jehovah-jireh"/ "Yahweh-yireh" (depending on the Bible version you use), which started the phrase "God will provide."
-- Genesis 22:13-14
Darby Translation, New Living Translation

Some time later, after Sarah died (Genesis 23:1-2), Abraham sent one of his servants to find a suitable wife for Isaac from among the land of his relatives, because Abraham didn't want Isaac to choose a wife from the daughters of Canaan.
-- Genesis 24: 1-9

The servant took a caravan of camels and came to the city of Nahor. He prayed to Yahweh to show him the right woman for Isaac through a sign. Yahweh listens to him and provides the sign, and thus the servant meets Rebekah. He gives her some jewelry and inquires about her identity. Rebekah reveals she is the daughter of Bethuel, the son of Nahor and his wife Milcah. (Since she was Nahor's granddaughter, this made her Isaac's first cousin once removed).
-- Genesis 24: 10-24

Nahor, Haran and Abraham were brothers (Genesis 11:26) and Milcah was the daughter of Haran (Genesis 11:29-30). That means Nahor married his niece, and together they bore Rebekah.

Rebekah invites the servant to spend the night at her property and then ran to her household to tell them of these things. Her brother, Laban, went out to meet the servant to inquire of his identity. He welcomed the servant warmly.
-- Genesis 24: 28-32

The servant refused to eat until he stated his business: To bring home a wife for his master's son, Isaac.
-- Genesis 24:33-49

Rebekah's father, Bethuel, and brother, Laban, agreed to let her wed Isaac. The servant immediately gave gratitude to God.
-- Genesis 24:50-52

After being detained at their household for a while, the servant finally brings Rebekah home to Isaac, and Isaac falls in love with her. She gives him comfort from the death of his mother, Sarah.
-- Genesis 24: 53-67

Isaac was 40 years old when he married Rebekah. She was barren, so Isaac prayed to God for her, and God allowed her to become pregnant with twins.
-- Genesis 25: 19-22

The pregnancy proved to be a bit difficult for her, so she went to Yahweh about it. He informed her that the twins were two separate nations, and one's seed will be stronger, and the older son's seed will serve the younger son's seed.
-- Genesis 25: 22-23

She gave birth to fraternal twins. (we know this because, according to the descriptions, the boys did not look alike). The first one to be born had red hair all over his body, and he was named Esau. The second boy came out holding the heel of the first, and the second was named Jacob. At this point, Isaac was 60 years old.
-- Genesis 25: 24-26

As the boys grew, Esau became known as a good hunter, while Jacob was a tent dweller. Isaac had an affinity for Esau because he was a good food provider for the family, whereas Rebekah had an affinity for Jacob.
-- Genesis 25: 27-28

Sometime later there arose a famine, so Isaac desired to move his family to a better area. Yahweh told him to move to a specific place and that He would multiply Isaac's seed, so Isaac moved his family to Gerar as was indicated.
-- Genesis 26: 1-6

If you remember in Genesis 20:2, Gerar was the place Abraham moved with Sarah, and claimed she was his sister. This was the same place where King Abimelech took her to be his wife, not knowing the situation. Well, Isaac tried the same ruse, because Rebekah was so beautiful. Isaac told everyone she was his sister, but after they had lived there a while, lo and behold King Abimelech catches Isaac and Rebekah having a "good time" with one another. The kings demands an explanation, in which Isaac admits his fear that others would kill him to take his wife. The king then issues a decree that anyone touching Isaac or his wife would be put to death.
-- Genesis 26: 7-11

Yahweh began blessing Isaac so that he had much land, produce,and livestock. The Philistines living there began to envy him. Out of their jealousy they started causing problems, so King Abimelech asked Isaac to move his household out of the area. Isaac moved to the torrent valley of Gerar and settled there. After a while, his servants and the other local shepherds started quarreling over the wells there, so they moved again. Unfortunately, there was another quarrel over a well, and so move again, and there were no more quarrels.
-- Genesis 26:12-22

After these things, God appeared to Isaac and repeated his promise to multiply his seed. Meanwhile, King Abimelech noticed how much Yahweh was blessing Isaac and proceeded to make a peace pact with Isaac.
-- Genesis 26: 23-31

As Isaac grew old and his eyes grew dim, he summoned Esau to make a meal from his hunting, after which he could bless him before he died. Rebekah overheard this conversation, and instructed Jacob to disguise himself as Esau in order to get the blessing while Esau was out hunting.
-- Genesis 27:1-17

The ruse worked, and Jacob received Esau's blessing.
-- Genesis 27: 18-29

Later, Isaac sends Jacob to live in the land Laban, Rebekah's brother, to find a wife for himself.
-- Genesis 28:1-5

Isaac lived to be 180 years old and then he died. Esau and Jacob buried him.
-- Genesis 35: 28-29

JACOB

Jacob was the twin brother of Esau, the son of Isaac.
-- Genesis 25:19-26

Jacob became a blameless man who dwelled in tents.
-- Genesis 25: 27

Jacob acquired Esau's birthright
-- Genesis 25:29-34

Jacob also managed to trick their father into giving him a blessing meant for Esau, which made Esau so angry he wanted to kill Jacob. Thus, their mother, Rebekah, arranged for Jacob to leave the land and live with her brother, Laban.
-- Genesis 27:1-46
-- Genesis 28:1-5

It was quite a distance to his destination, so Jacob had to bed down outdoors for the night. He used a rock for a pillow and fell asleep. This night he dreamed of a ladder that reached into heaven, with angels ascending and descending on it. Then God's voice came, promising the land Jacob was in would be given to him and his descendants. Because of this, Jacob re-named the place Bethel (but it was the land of Luz). Then he made vows to God and continued on his way.
-- Genesis 28: 10-22

Jacob found himself in the land of Haran next to a well, where he met people who knew Laban. Laban's daughter, Rachel, showed up with a drove of sheep to the well. He introduced himself to her, and she went running to tell her father. When Laban heard, he ran to meet Jacob, and Jacob stayed with them for a month. Since Laban was the brother of Jacob's mother Rebekah, making Laban the uncle, that would make Rachel, the uncle's daughter, Jacob's cousin.
-- Genesis 29: 1-14

Jacob worked for Laban, and so Laban offered him wages of whatever Jacob chose. Meanwhile, Jacob had fallen in love with Rachel, and so chose to work for Laban for seven years if he could marry her. Laban agreed, but then proceeded to trick him into marrying his other daughter, Leah. Jacob was outraged and demanded to have Rachel instead. Laban said he could also marry Rachel, but that he still had to keep Leah. So, Jacob ended up with two wives. Laban also gave over two maidservants that served the two sisters.
-- Genesis 29: 15-29

Jacob expressed more love for Rachel than for Leah, and God saw this. As a result, God compensated Leah by allowing her to bear sons for Jacob, while Rachel remained barren. Leah bore one son after another.
-- Genesis 29:30-35

Rachel became jealous over this, so she gave her own maidservant to Jacob to have sons for him through her. Meanwhile, Leah saw that she stopped bearing children, so she too gave her own maidservant in order to have more sons for Jacob through her. Eventually, Leah did bear two more sons for him herself. Finally, God permitted Rachel to bear a son for Jacob.
Altogether, the sons of Jacob were:
By Leah: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun
By Rachel: Joseph, Benjamin
By Zilpah: Gad, Asher
By Bilhah: Dan, Naphtali
Also, Leah bore him a daughter named Dinah.
-- Genesis 30:1-24

After this, Jacob decided to take his families, household and belongings and move to his country. He and Laban struck a bargain regarding the sheep, and Jacob left with his flock and helped Laban watch over his flock. Jacob learned how to cause his flock to flourish thus his became more numerous and stronger than Laban's flock.
-- Genesis 30:25-43

When Laban noticed this, he was not so happy with Jacob anymore, so God told Jacob to move with his family, and Jacob obeyed.
-- Genesis 31: 1-13

Jacob had not told Laban that he was leaving. When Laban discovered that Jacob departed, he went after him and started to catch up with him several days later. God then came to Laban in a dream and told him to be careful in his dealings with Jacob.
-- Genesis 31: 17-24

Laban caught up with Jacob and spoke with him. Laban also accused Jacob of stealing his idols from the house when he left. Jacob didn't know that Rachel had done so when they left (Gen. 31:19) and so told Laban to search through their belongings. Rachel managed to be able to conceal the stolen items from her father anyway.
-- Genesis 31:25-35

After this, Jacob and Laban had a quarrel because of this situation. However, after much discussion, they made a pact and parted ways.
-- Genesis 31:36-54

Part of the pact was that Jacob was not to take other wives.
-- Genesis 31:50

As Jacob traveled, he met his brother. This was more than twenty years after he and Esau had their quarrel. (because Jacob had lived with Laban for twenty years, Gen. 31:38), Although Jacob was anxious about the reunion, they hugged and kissed and welcoming each other happily.
-- Genesis 32 & 33:1-7

On his way to meet Esau, Jacob traveled part of the way by himself. It was at this point that a man started grappling with Jacob, and they wrestled until morning. When the man couldn't prevail over Jacob, he touched Jacob's thigh socket and put it out of joint. After that , the man wanted to go, but Jacob demanded a blessing first. So, the man told Jacob that he was to be re-named Israel, and then Jacob realized he was speaking with an angel.
-- Genesis 32:22-32

After Jacob and Esau parted, Jacob settled in a place called Succoth. Later he went on to make his home in the city of Shechem in the land of Canaan. He bought a tract of land there and set up an altar to the God of Israel.
-- Genesis 32: 17-20

It was here that Jacob's daughter, Dinah, was defiled by a Canaanite man named Shechem. Shechem then decided he wanted Dinah as wife, but her brothers, Simeon and Levi, tricked him and all the men of the city and proceeded to kill them all for what happened to their sister. They plundered the city and took all the wives and children. Jacob was upset at the magnitude of their vengeance.
-- Genesis 34:1-30

After that, Yahweh came to Jacob and told him to return to Bethel and worship only Him. Thus, Jacob instructed his entire household to discard all their idols and false gods and prepare to move to Bethel, and they complied.
-- Genesis 35:1-7

Next Yahweh came to Jacob and repeated that his name is no longer to be Jacob, and changes it to Israel. Then He repeats that He is giving the land to Israel's descendants, and they will become a large nation.
-- Genesis 35: 9-13

Sometime later, Jacob/Israel moved his family again, and while they were en route, Rachel proceeded to give birth to a second son, but it was difficult. She died shortly after he was born. She named him Benoni on her dying breath, but Israel renamed the baby Benjamin.
--- Genesis 35: 16-20

After Rachel died, Jacob moved his family and household to beyond the tower of Eder, where his son, Reuben, lay down with Bilhah. Sometime after all this Isaac died, so Jacob and Esau buried him.
-- Genesis 35:21-29

Jacob continued to dwell in Canaan.
-- Genesis 37:1

When his son, Joseph, was seventeen years old, his other sons conspired to sell Joseph into slavery, and then told Jacob that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. Jacob mourned for many days, for Joseph was his favorite son. All the sons and daughters of Jacob tried to comfort him but to no avail.
-- Genesis 37: 2-36

As time went on, Joseph became an important man in Egypt. Through dream signs from Yahweh, he came up with a plan to save the country from an upcoming famine. When the famine grew severe, Jacob sent some of his sons to Egypt to buy food. The sons had to get the food from Joseph, though they didn't know that at the time. Joseph had been given a new name and had aged, so they didn't recognize him. Joseph decided to not reveal his identity at this time in order to test his brothers' motives. He demanded that the next time they come, they bring Benjamin - who was Joseph's only full blooded brother. Joseph had never seen him before and wanted to meet him (Apparently, Joseph was sold off before Rachel became pregnant with Benjamin). Jacob was afraid to let Benjamin go to Egypt because he didn't want to lose the only child that he had left from Rachel.
-- Genesis 39-42

Eventually, the brothers had to return to Egypt for more food. Since the big important food man in Egypt required that Benjamin come along on this trip, Jacob was forced to let Benjamin go with the others. When the brothers arrived in Egypt and went before Joseph, he tested his brothers to see if they were still selfish and wicked. The brothers pass the test, and Joseph sees that have changed for the better. Then he couldn't hide his emotions any longer, so he revealed his true identity. He then arranged for Jacob and the rest of the family and household to move to Egypt to be near him. On hearing the news, Jacob is ecstatic.
-- Genesis 43-45

God promises Jacob/Israel that he will bless him to become a prosperous nation in Egypt, and so the entire family moved. The Pharaoh of Egypt welcomed them into the land and let them live in the land of Goshen.
-- Genesis 46-47:10

Later, Jacob in his old age proceeds to bless Joseph's sons, and after that Jacob blesses his own sons. He also lets Reuben know that he knew Reuben laid with his concubine in the past. (Genesis 49:3-4) Then he tells his sons where he wants to be buried at his death: In the cave in the field of Ephron the Hitite. This is where his Grandparents, Abraham and Sarah, were buried, where his parents Isaac and Rebekah were buried, and his first wife Leah was buried. At that, Jacob died.
-- Genesis 48:13-22, Genesis 49: 1-33

Joseph was grieved at his father's passing. He commanded his servants to embalm Israel, which took the customary forty days. The Egyptians mourned him for seventy days. Then Joseph asked Pharaoh's permission to bury his father according to his father's dying wishes, and permission was granted. Joseph, his household, his brothers and his father's household all went together in one group to finish the burial.
-- Genesis 50:1-14

ESAU / EDOM

Esau was one of the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah. He was the first born of the twins. The twins were to become the forefathers of two separate nations.
-- Genesis 25: 21-26

Esau grew to be a good hunter.
-- Genesis 25:27

When the twins were grown, the other twin, Jacob, was making lentil stew. Esau arrive, tired and hungry, and asked Jacob to give him some of it. This is why Esau is also referred to as Edom. Jacob agreed on the condition that Esau would give the firstborn birthright to him. Esau agreed. Because Esau sold his birthright for a mere bowl of stew, this showed disrespect for his birthright.
-- Genesis 25:29-34

At the age of forty, Esau took wives from the Hittite nation: Judith, daughter of Beeri, and Basemath daughter of Elon. Isaac and Rebekah were not happy with those women.
-- Genesis 26:34-35

When his father, Isaac, was advanced in age, he summoned Esau to him in order to give him a blessing. Rebekah heard about it and helped Jacob trick Isaac into giving him the blessing instead. The trick worked.
-- Genesis 27:1-29

As soon as Esau found out about this trick he was furious, and demanded that his father bless him as well, since Jacob had taken his blessing.
-- Genesis 27:30-38

Due to this trickery, Esau harbored animosity towards Jacob and planned to kill him once their father died. When Rebekah found out about that, she told Jacob and advised him to go live with her brother, Laban. Meanwhile, she told Isaac that she wanted Jacob sent away so that he could find a good wife for himself.
-- Genesis 27:41-46

Many some years later, after Jacob had acquired wives, children, servants and livestock etc. he was on the move with all that he had. Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to Esau, in the field of Edom (Apparently, Edom was the place named for Esau). Jacob wanted to make peace with him.
-- Genesis 32:1-5

Esau sent back the massage that he would come out to meet Jacob. Jacob was anxious about his brother's motives, so he divided his camp into two separate places and prayed that Yahweh would keep them all safe.
-- Genesis 32: 6-12

Jacob went out to meet Esau. He brought along many gifts for Esau: 220 goats, 220 sheep, 30 camels, 40 cows, 10 bulls, and 30 asses. He sent the livestock with servants ahead to Esau.
-- Genesis 32: 13-21

As Jacob traveled, he finally saw Esau in the distance with his 400 men. Esau was so happy to see Jacob again that he ran to meet him, and they embraced and cried and had a great reunion.
-- Genesis 33:1-16

Later, when Isaac died, Jacob and Esau buried him.
-- Genesis 35:29

Esau took many wives: Adah the daughter of Elon, Oholibamah the daughter of Anah, and Basemath the daughter of Ishmael. (Ishmael was Esau's uncle, therefore she was his cousin).
-- Genesis 36:1-3

If you notice, here the Scripture says Basemath was the daughter of Ishmael, yet in Genesis 26:34 it says Basemath was the daughter of Elon. The Bible doesn't explain this. It could be due to the practice of the times to refer to the grandfather as a father. Therefore, if Ishmael were a grandfather she'd still be called his daughter.

Adah bore Eliphaz, Basemath bore Reuel, and Oholibamah bore Jeush, Jalam and Korah. All these sons, as well as some daughters, were born in Canaan. Some time after that, Esau took all his family and belongings and moved away from Jacob's area. This was because he and Jacob's families had grown too large for the area to accommodate them both. Esau took up dwelling in the mountainous region of Seir. Esau is Edom.
-- Genesis 36: 9

Eliphaz had several sons: Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam, and Kenaz through his wife. Amalek through his concubine named Timna. Reuel's sons were: Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah . More family genealogy is discussed at this point.
-- Genesis 36: 10-43

Notice that several times in this chapter Esau is pointed out as being Edom and the father of the nation of Edom (The Edomites).
-- Genesis 36: 8,9,19,31,43

The Edomites were the brother nation to the Israelites. The region of the Mountain of Seir was given to the Edomites by God.
-- Deuteronomy 2: 4-5,22, 23:7
-- Joshua 24: 4

JOSEPH

Joseph was one of the sons of Jacob/Israel. He was the firstborn son of Rachel.
-- Genesis 30:22-24

Jacob/Israel loved Joseph more than all his other sons. (Genesis 37: 3). When Joseph was a boy of seventeen, all his brothers became hateful of him because their father loved him most of all. Israel even made a special garment for him.
-- Genesis 37:2-4

Later Joseph had a prophetic dream: Each of his brothers had sheaves of wheat. Their sheaves proceeded to bow to Joseph's sheaf. Later he had another prophetic dream: The sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing to Joseph in it.
-- Genesis 37: 5-9

When Jacob/Israel got to hear of the dreams, he didn't fully understand, yet he kept quiet and sat back to observe. The brothers, however, became jealous and began to hate Joseph even more than ever.
-- Genesis 37:10-11

Later, Jacob/Israel sent Joseph out to see how his brothers were faring as they were tending the sheep. When they saw Joseph coming in the distance, they began to plot against him. They wanted to kill him, though Reuben spoke against that idea. Instead, he talked them into throwing him into a pit. He was intending to come back later to get him out of it.
--- Genesis 37: 18-22

When Joseph came near, the brothers took his garment that Jacob had made and threw him into an empty wellt. Then they sat to eat, and spied a caravan of Ishmaelites on their way to Egypt. Judah decided they should sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites. Some passing Midianite merchants helped bring Joseph out of the well, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty silver pieces. The Ishmaelites brought him to Egypt.
-- Genesis 37: 23-28

Apparently, Reuben wasn't there when the brothers sold him because later, when Reuben returned to the water pit to retrieve Joseph, he saw that Joseph was already gone. Reuben was quite upset by this and went to inquire of the other brothers on what happened. That's when they hatched the plan to take Joseph's special garment, dip it in goat's blood, and take it to their father. Of course, he thought Joseph had been killed by a wild animal and grieved for many days. All his children tried to comfort him, but it was no use.
-- Genesis 37: 29-36

Joseph was eventually sold to Potiphar, an Egyptian court official to Pharaoh. Yahweh blessed Joseph and made him successful in Potiphar's household, so that he became the manager of the house. He grew to be a handsome man.
-- Genesis 39: 1-6

Because he was so handsome, Potiphar's wife began to lust after him and made several attempts to seduce him. Joseph continuously refused, knowing it would be a sin against Yahweh.
-- Genesis 39: 7-9

Eventually, she grabbed hold of him in her attempt to seduce him, so he ran out of there, leaving his garment in her hand. At this she grew wrathful, so she claimed that he'd tried to rape her.
-- Genesis 39: 10-19

Potiphar believed his wife and imprisoned Joseph for it. However, Yahweh blessed him in prison, granting him favor in the eyes of the chief officer. He elevated Joseph to manager of the prisoners and he did a fine job.
-- Genesis 39: 20-23

Some time later, Pharaoh imprisoned his cup bearer and his baker. As they were in prison with Joseph, they both had dreams: In the cup bearer's dream there was a vine with three twigs with blossoms that ripened into grapes. He squeezed the grapes into Pharaoh's cup and gave it to Pharaoh. Joseph gave the meaning of the dream: The three twigs means three days. In three days Pharaoh would reinstate the cup bearer into his household. Joseph asked him to remind the Pharaoh of him when he goes back.
-- Genesis 40:1-13

The baker's dream was this: There were three baskets of white bread on the baker's head. The top basket had all sorts of edibles for the Pharaoh and there were birds eating the product from out of that basket. Joseph gave the meaning: The three baskets means three days. In three days Pharaoh will behead the baker and hang his head so that the birds will eat the flesh off it.

Three days later, both dream meanings came to be true.
-- Genesis 40:16-22

When the cup bearer was reinstated, he forgot about Joseph.
-- Genesis 40:23

Two years later, Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile river where there were seven beautiful, fat, healthy cows. Across the river were seven, ugly, scrawny cows. The ugly, scrawny cows proceeded to eat the fat, healthy cows. Pharaoh woke from this dream. However, when he went back to sleep he had another dream: Seven fat, healthy ears of grain grew on one stalk. Then there were seven scorched, thin ears of grain coming up. The thin, scorched grains swallowed up the fat healthy grains. These two dreams upset him. So, he sent for his magic men and priests to interpret the dreams for him, but they couldn't.
-- Genesis 41:1-8

This is when the cup bearer remembered Joseph and his ability to interpret dreams correctly. He informed Pharaoh and Joseph was immediately sent for. Pharaoh told Joseph the dreams he had, and Joseph gave the interpretations: The seven healthy cows and healthy grain heads are the same meaning. The seven ugly cows and ugly grain heads also mean the same thing . The healthy ones meant seven years of great fertility and produce for the land, and food will grow in abundance. The seven ugly ones mean that afterwards will be a seven year period of drought and famine.
-- Genesis 41: 9-32

Joseph advised Pharaoh to select a sensible man to take care of this problem in this way: During the seven years of plenty, set aside 1/5 of the land for produce to store away, so that when the famine comes there will be plenty of food for the people. Pharaoh listened to him and selected Joseph to oversee that project. Pharaoh placed Joseph as second in command over Egypt and gave him Asenath as wife. Joseph was thirty years old.
-- Genesis 41:33-46

During the seven years of plenty, Joseph continuously collected food for storage . He kept piling up so much that eventually they stopped keeping record of it.
-- Genesis 41: 47-49

During this time Joseph's wife bore him two sons: The firstborn was Manassah, the second was Ephraim.
-- Genesis 41: 50-52

Eventually the years of famine came. As families began to starve they'd go to Egypt for food, and all would be directed to Joseph. The famine had a strong grip on the people of Egypt and surrounding lands.
-- Genesis 41: 53-57

About this time, Jacob had to send his other sons to Egypt to get food. They had to go to Joseph to obtain it, as he was the man who had power in the land. Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they didn't recognize him. They didn't recognize him because of the passing years, and because the Egyptians had changed Joseph's name to Zaphenath-paneah. They bowed low to him.
-- Genesis 42: 1-7

Joseph remembered the dreams he had when he was still living at his father's home. Joseph did not reveal himself to them yet. Instead, he dealt harshly with them, accusing them of spying. He was testing their motives. Of course, the sons of Jacob denied that they were spies and tried to convince him that they were merely hungry people seeking food.
-- Genesis 42: 7-13

Joseph stated that none of them could leave except for one, who was to go home and return with the youngest brother. He then put them in custody for three days. After the three days he told them all could go except for one, as a security. He claimed that he wanted to do this as proof that they were not spying. At this, the brothers conferred amongst themselves and decided this was God's way of punishing them for what they did to their young brother Joseph so many years ago. Reuben gave them an "I told you so" (remember, he was the one who didn't want them to hurt the boy). They still didn't realize who Joseph really was yet, and so didn't think he could understand their own language as they spoke these things. (Joseph had an interpreter present as part of his ruse).
-- Genesis 42:14-23

Joseph kept up the pretense, but was overcome with emotion so he had to turn his face away for a moment to choke back the tears. Then he turned back to them and took Simeon into custody and let the others go with food. He also commanded his servants to return their money to them by hiding it in their food bags and to give them provisions for the journey back home. On the way home, one of the brothers opened a bag to get some food, and found the money pouch right on top inside. This made all the brothers afraid, as they didn't want any more accusations against them.
-- Genesis 42:24-28

When they arrived home to their father they relayed to him all that had happened. And as they emptied their sacks, they saw that each of them had their money returned to them in their sacks. They grew very much afraid because of all this. Meanwhile, Jacob was quite upset, because he didn't want to risk losing Benjamin after having lost Joseph all those years ago.
-- Genesis 42: 29-38

However, the famine was severe, and they had to return to Egypt to get more food eventually. Jacob sent them, but Judah reminded him that they absolutely had to bring Benjamin with them next time. This really agitated Jacob, so Judah spoke up and said he would ensure that Benjamin returned safely. So, Jacob decided they could go, but had to bring gifts as well, in hopes of appeasing the man in Egypt who was in charge of the food.
-- Genesis 43: 1-14

Again, they were directed to Joseph when they arrived in Egypt. As soon as Joseph saw his youngest brother he immediately commanded his servants to take the brothers to his own home, slaughter livestock, and make a great feast because the brothers were to eat with him that noon. Since the brothers didn't speak Egyptian they probably didn't understand what was going on. They were afraid about being taken to Joseph's house, thinking they were in trouble regarding the money that was returned to them the previous time they went to Egypt.
-- Genesis 43: 15-18

So, the brothers attempt to initiate "damage control" by speaking with a house servant, insisting that all they wanted was to humbly buy some food. They also insisted that they didn't know why the money was in their bags on the way home. The servant informed them to not be afraid, that he had received the money from their previous visit. Then, he brought out their brother, Simeon to them. (It's likely that, when Joseph secretly returned the money to his brothers, that he gave over his own money to pay for the food)
-- Genesis 43: 19-23

The servant made sure the brothers' feet were washed and fed their donkeys. Meanwhile, the brothers prepared the gifts they brought, for they heard that Joseph was coming to dine with them at noon. When Joseph arrived, they gave him their gifts, and Joseph inquired of their father's well-being.
-- Genesis 43: 24-28

Joseph formally met Benjamin, and then set about in a hurry to prepare things because his emotions were starting to well up within him. He went into another room to weep, got it out of his system, and then returned to the brothers. He then commanded for the meal to begin. He kept feeding them and feeding them, favoring Benjamin.
-- Genesis 43: 29-34

After all this, he commanded his men to fill the food bags as much as possible, return the monies to the bags again, but this time, to also put Joseph's special silver cup into Benjamin's bag. He wanted to make a final test of this brothers' attitudes. The servant did just so, and the next morning, the brothers all left with their filled bags.
-- Genesis 44: 1-3

Joseph waited a little while, and then commanded his men to catch up to them and accuse them of stealing. Of course, the brothers were ignorant of the ruse, and so made the oath that if any of them were found guilty, that brother would be put to death. Naturally, there was that cup in Benjamin's bag.
-- Genesis 44: 4-12

The brothers were all mortified, and were taken back to Joseph's house. Judah tried to make entreaty and to get them out of this trouble. So, instead of death, Joseph said that Benjamin would have to become his slave. Judah humbly approached Joseph and explained their story as best as he could, and explained that if he didn't return with Benjamin, their father would surely die of grief, so would he allow Judah to take Benjamin's place as slave instead.
-- Genesis 44: 13-34

At this point, Joseph sees how his brothers had changed for the better, and emotion was overcoming him again. Joseph sent all the servants out of the room and began crying loudly, right in front of the brothers. It is then that Joseph reveals his true identity, and the other brothers are simply stunned! After the initial shock, Joseph explains to them how he came to be such a powerful man in Egypt with God's help. He then tells them to bring their father and to move into Egypt, into the land of Goshen.
-- Genesis 45:1-10

There was yet five years of famine to go through, but Joseph promised to provide for them. Pharaoh got to hear of all this and welcomed them all into the land of Egypt. Pharaoh ordered that provisions were to be given to them. Jacob/Israel was overjoyed to hear that his long lost son was indeed alive, and rejoiced.
-- Genesis 45: 11-28

After they moved into Egypt, Joseph reported it to Pharaoh, who inquired of them and Joseph introduced them. The famine continued.
-- Genesis 47: 1-13

The famine became so severe the people were running out of money to buy food and had to start trading their livestock for food.
-- Genesis 47: 14-17

When their livestock was depleted, people started selling their land for food. So, it ended up that Joseph acquired much for Pharaoh.
-- Genesis 47: 18-20

Meanwhile, Israel prospered in the land of Goshen.
-- Genesis 47: 27-28

After 17 years of living in Egypt, Jacob was on his deathbed. He blessed Joseph's sons, and his own sons.
-- Genesis 48

After Jacob's death, Joseph and his brothers buried Jacob according to Jacob's wishes.
-- Genesis 50: 1-14

After this, the brothers were afraid of Joseph, thinking that perhaps he was waiting for their father to die before exacting revenge on them for what they did when he was seventeen. So, they attempted to appease Joseph over these matters, but Joseph let them know he was not harboring ill will against them.
-- Genesis 50: 15-21

Joseph lived on for 110 years, he was embalmed and put in a coffin in Egypt.
-- Genesis 50: 26

 

 


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