The Time of the Patriarchs
In the Beginning
“In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.” This is recorded for us in the book of Genesis. And at the start of Genesis, everything is described as very good. There is harmony between God and man, as well as between man and (wo)man. Unfortunately, this did not remain the status quo as mankind sinned causing a great division between God and man, with sin, suffering, and death coming into the world. The next 5 chapters of Genesis describe how mankind spread throughout the world, and became more wicked and evil as they went. This caused the division between God and man to worsen until the world became so full of evil that God needed to intervene and wipe the slate clean with a flood that destroyed everyone except faithful Noah and his family. Genesis goes on to tell us of Noah’s descendants and how mankind started to spread throughout the world again. This leads us up to the time of the Patriarchs.
The Patriarchs were men of great faith who became the fathers of Gods chosen people. At this time there were no holy scriptures, nor Jewish laws, and no priests of God (with the exception of Melchizedek, King of Salem). God therefore communicated with the Patriarchs directly (via angel messengers).
The first Patriarch we are introduced to is a faithful man called Abraham (although originally, he was called Abram). Abraham was chosen by God to be the father of Gods chosen people. He was commanded by God to leave his family and his home and go to a new land that God would show him. Abraham demonstrated incredible faith by obeying this command and going to the land of Canaan, and is rewarded for his faith with some promises from God. The promises included a son and heir, vast numbers of descendants, multiple blessings, and that his descendants would inherit the land in which he was a wanderer. The first of these was fulfilled when Abraham miraculously had a son at the age of 100. This child was called Isaac and he also received the same promises from God as Abraham, that he would be the father of nations and that all would be blessed through him. Genesis also records for us many more things that Abraham and Isaac did during their lives.
Abraham had a son called Isaac who in turn had two sons, Esau and Jacob. There was a lot of competition between Esau and Jacob, particularly over who would receive a special blessing from their father. Jacob tricked Isaac into giving this blessing to him which only made the division between Jacob and Esau worse and Jacob leaves home to find a wife. After working for a man called Laban for 20 years, Jacob finds himself a wealthy man with two wives, and in time he has twelve sons. He is then reunited with his brother and the animosity between them ends. Throughout his early life Jacob spent a lot of time trying to force Gods plan for him along through his own means, but in the end, he learns that he should not wrestle with God, but allow God to work out His plan in Jacobs life on his own. Once he has learned this, Jacob is also blessed by God and his name is changed to Israel. He became the father of the nation promised by God to Abraham (his grandfather), and the twelve tribes of Israel are the descendants his twelve sons.
One of the most well-known stories from the time of the patriarchs is that of Joseph, from which the musical “Joseph and his Technicoloured Dreamcoat” was based. Joseph was one of Jacobs twelve sons who was sold by his brothers into slavery in Egypt. God was with Joseph whilst in Egypt and became a man of significant importance who was in charge of preparing Egypt for a large famine that was about to strike the area. When the famine happened, Egypt was the only place in the area with any food due to Josephs preparations, and so Jacob and the remainder of Josephs brothers were forced to move to Egypt where they were reunited with Joseph.
And so the time of the patriarchs ends with Gods newly chosen people entering Egypt, the place where a family would grow into a nation before become slaves.