Prophet Abraham's Journey and Origin

According to the Hebrew Biblical narrative, Prophet Abraham the Hebrew (Genesis 14:13 “And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew”) and his family originated in Ur (modern Iraq), and journeyed to Haran (probably North Syria) and then Shechem in Canaan (modern-day Israel).

The term Hebrew comes from the verb ‘to go over a boundary’— like the Euphrates or Jordan river— or ‘an immigrant.’ The first thing God told Prophet Abraham in the Biblical account was: “Leave your country, your kindred, and your father’s household, and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.…” (Bible, Genesis 12:1-2)

So Prophet Abraham was what we can call the first ‘Islamic Hebrew’ or the first ‘Muslim Hebrew,’as the Qur’an indicates: “He (Abraham) was not Yahuudiyyaan, “a Jew”, nor a Nasraaniyyaan, ‘a Christian,’ but rather a Haniifaan, ‘a Muslimaan,‘… (Qur'an, 3:67) i.e. ‘a monotheistic Hebrew believer submitting (islam) to the one imageless God’ who created all space and time and who made Prophet Abraham the Hebrew’s descendants through Prophets Isaac and Jacob (Israel) into a great multitude of monotheists called the Children of Israel  B’nai Israel in Hebrew and Banu Israel in Arabic.

In addition, Prophet Isaiah said: “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he [Abraham] was only one when I called him, that I might bless him and multiply him." (Bible, Isaiah 51:1-2)

The family remained based in Canaan until Jacob and his branch of the family went to Egypt to avoid a famine. After 2-3 prosperous generations in Egypt the Hebrews were oppressed and then enslaved for several decades at the beginning of the 19th dynasty. They were miraculously freed by God through Moses, who led them back to Canaan, where the Israelites proceeded to settle down in the various areas where Prophet Abraham had erected seven sacred pillars to the one and only God.

Sumerian records of “Habiru” (or ‘Apiru) people, characterized as Aramean nomad boundary crossers, first appear in the 20th or 19th century BCE. Egyptian inscriptions indicate that these Habirus conquered and settled in the delta of Egypt in the 13th century BCE. Perhaps some of these Abrahamic era Habirus were part of the later Hebrews and left Egypt with them. If so, it appears the term is used in the wider sense, also covering Kenites, and Midianites. However, this identification is uncertain. By the time of reliable historical records, “Hebrew” was a synonym for “Israelite” or later “Jew”.

The Qur’an states: “You have an excellent example to follow in Abraham.” (Qur'an, 60:4) and “Follow the way of Abraham as people of pure (monotheistic) faith.” (Qur'an, 3:95)

What makes Prophet Abraham-the-Hebrew an excellent example of pure faith according to three different religion’s Sacred Scriptures? It is that all three scriptures proclaim Prophet Abraham to be the one “whom God chose to be His friend”: the Arabic Qur’an 4:125, the Hebrew Bible Isaiah 41:8; and the Greek New Testament Book of James [the brother of Jesus] 2:23.

Prophet Abraham-the-Hebrew, “whom God chose to be His friend,” —as far as we know— is also the only prophet to have two sons who were also prophets. And these two sons of Abraham, Prophet Ishmael and Prophet Isaac, are the only two Prophets who each had a descendant many many centuries later, who proclaimed a sacred scripture each of which has become the basis for one of the two largest religions in the whole world.

Prophet Abraham was the first of those we know to receive a Sacred Scripture (Qur'an 87:18-19). All of the others were among his descendants. Is being ‘the first’ what makes Abraham so special that his name appears 69 times in the Qur’an, second only to Moses (136 times)? No.

Prophet Abraham is famous for the numerous ways God tested him, especially the two terrible tests: banishing Hagar and his first born son Ishmael (Qur’an 2:124, & Genesis 16:1-16) and calling on Prophet Abraham to make his son a sacrificial offering to God. (Qur’an 37:100-113 & Genesis 22:1-24)

Most Muslim commentators say the son, unnamed in the Qur’an, was Prophet Ishmael (Arabic Isma’il). Some Muslims assert it was Prophet Isaac. Perhaps both participated in the test at different times, so that each son could produce descendants who in time would become a blessing for other nations of the earth. (Genesis 22:16-18 & Qur’an 4:163)

The great French medieval commentator Rashi notes that earlier rabbinic commentary states that one of the two young men who accompanied Abraham and Isaac was Ishmael. The Artscroll [Orthodox Jewish] commentary states that Ishmael had come back to visit his father. Thus, both sons may have shared the test.

Prophet Isaiah said: “But you, Israel, My servant —Jacob— whom I have chosen, are the offspring of Abraham, My friend…” (Bible, Isaiah 41:8)

So the biological offspring of Prophet Abraham-the-Hebrew (i.e., the Banu Israel) became the first ongoing monotheistic community when God rescued them from Egyptian oppression and made an enduring covenant with them at Mount Sinai. Prophet Abraham-the-Hebrew was not born a Jew, but his descendants from his grandson Jacob/Israel became the Banu Israel—the Jewish People.

For more than 1200 years after Prophet Moses, the Banu Israel was the only ongoing to this day monotheistic community in the world. Unlike the other monotheistic communities that rose and fell during those many centuries, most but not all, of Banu Israel remained loyal to the covenant which God had made with their ancestors at Mount Sinai (i.e., Mount Tur – Qur'an 28:43-46).

It was only a few centuries after Prophet Abraham-the-Hebrew that the Hebrew nation acquired its better-known name, the Children (Descendants) of Israel (in Hebrew B’nai Israel; in Arabic Banu Israel). The name of Abraham-the-Hebrew’s grandson, Prophet Jacob, was changed by God to Israel.

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