“Now the LORD said unto Abram: ‘Get thee out of thy country, and from the kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto the land that I will show thee. And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing.” (Genesis 12: 1-2) And so, Abram son of Terah, a descendant of Noah, left Ur, Chaldea with his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot for the land of Canaan.
When finally, after many years of journeying, Abram reached Canaan with his kin, he was spoken to by God who proclaimed him a father of nations. Hence, his name became Abraham, meaning “a father of many nations.”
However, Abraham questioned God as to how he was to be the father of many nations when he had no offspring. God responded by sending three angels to him and Sarai. These angels blessed Sarai, hence known as Sarah. They also prophesied that she would bear a son.
True to their word, Isaac was born a year later, when Sarah was ninety years old. But, as a test of faith to Abraham, God ordered him to sacrifice Isaac. As Abraham proceeded to do so, an angel prevented him and gave him a ram instead. Isaac grew up, married Rebekah, and had two sons who were destined to be leaders of separate nations.
Jacob was born holding the heel of Esau. He grew up constantly at odds with his brother, whom he had been fighting in Rebekah’s womb. When it was finally time for Isaac to bless his firstborn Esau, Jacob tricked his father so he could be blessed instead. This was entirely possible as Isaac was nearly blind and Esau was away at that particular time. After that, Esau became even angrier toward Jacob.
One day Jacob was walking, when he encountered an angel with whom he wrestled. The angel then blessed Jacob and gave him the name of Israel, the name of the nation that Jacob’s children, the twelve tribes of Israel, would found.
Joseph was the eleventh son of Jacob, and his favorite. Joseph’s brothers were constantly jealous of him, especially after Jacob gave him a coat of many colors. One day when Jacob was away, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery to some Egyptian merchants. Once in Egypt, Joseph was able to gain his liberty by reading the Pharaoh’s dreams. Joseph was able to warn the Pharaoh about a severe upcoming plague by interpreting one of Pharaoh’s dreams. Following Joseph’s advice, the Egyptians stored grain in order to survive the famine that was in Pharaoh’s dream. During the famine, when Joseph’s family came to Egypt seeking food, they reunited with Joseph and begged his forgiveness, which he granted willingly.
The twelve tribes of Israel continued to grow with the help of the Egyptian Pharaoh and Joseph. But when the Pharaoh died, his successor became afraid of the Israelites becoming too powerful. Therefore he enslaved them. It was not until God sent his prophet Moses to free them that they regained their liberty.
Moses, a Hebrew, was brought up in the Egyptian court with Egyptian beliefs. But when he saw the cruelty with which the Israelite slaves were treated, he killed an Egyptian slave overseer and fled to the desert.
For many years he lived as a shepherd working for a man named Jethro in the desert. One day Moses went up the mountain where he saw a burning bush that did not get consumed. Drawn by curiosity he approached until he was stopped by a powerful voice declaring, “Remove thy sandals off thy feet for thou art treading on holy ground.” Moses then questioned him, “Who are you?” And the voice replied, “I AM THAT I AM.” Moses then received a message from God telling him to go back to Egypt and free his people.
When Moses arrived in Egypt, the Pharaoh refused to release the Israelites. A battle of gods ensued: the Egyptian magicians versus God, through Moses. Finally the Pharaoh, out of fear, let the Israelites go after having Egypt suffer seven terrible plagues and the death of his son.
Moses then led his people across the Red Sea, parting it miraculously, and to Mt. Sinai. There, Moses ascended the mountain and returned with God’s words on tablets, to find that his people were worshipping a false god, through a golden calf. Utterly disappointed Moses destroyed the tablets and returned with the Ten Commandments. However in order to repent and make up for their grave mistake, God caused the Israelites to wander in the wilderness for forty years. Finally they reached the Jordan River where Moses died and Joshua continued to lead the Israelites on.