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Abraham

The Nations of Abraham: Explaining Israel’s Position in the Persian Empire

God promises Abram that his descendants will be a great nation in Genesis 12, while in Genesis 17, Abraham and Sarah are to become the forebears of a multitude of nations. A postcolonial analysis highlights how each image reflects a different way that Judeans grappled with their place and future in a world ruled by the vast and powerful Persian Empire.

Prof.

Mark G. Brett

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Abraham Sends His Servant to Find a Wife for Isaac, then Disappears

Abraham tells his servant to go to his hometown to find a wife for Isaac. When the servant returns, he never reports back to him or introduces Rebecca to him. Why does Abraham disappear from the narrative? And, as Rebecca is his great-niece, why not send the servant to her father’s home directly?

Prof. Rabbi

David Frankel

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Was Abraham Really a Man of Faith?

Abraham does not comply with the very first command that YHWH gives him, and throughout his life, he doubts and questions YHWH. Does Abraham ultimately become the man of faith he is reputed to be?

Prof.

Diana Edelman

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Abraham’s Migration and Name Change: A Story for the Babylonian Exiles

Abram’s journey from Ur of the Chaldeans to Canaan, and God’s changing his name to Abraham, “father of a multitude of nations,” presage the struggles and aspirations of his descendants’ return migration from Babylon to Judah. At stake is Isaiah’s vision about the place of Israel among the nations.

Prof.

Hyun Chul Paul Kim

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Abraham and Isaac in Gerar Foreshadows Judea under Persian Rule

Abraham and Isaac’s sojourn in Gerar and Beersheba, and their covenants with the local ruler Abimelech, reflect the historical circumstances of Judea during the Persian period. They are living in the Promised Land, struggling with the local people, but they come to terms with the friendly and God-fearing ruler.

Dr.

Stephen Germany

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Abraham Negotiates to Buy the Cave of the Machpelah in the Promised Land

Is the Machpelah a cave or a field? Why does Ephron say no to the sale at first? What does Abraham mean by “burying my dead from before my face”? Why does Abraham need to purchase a burial plot?

Prof.

Diana Edelman

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Lot’s Absence in Abraham’s Plea for Sodom and Gomorrah

When YHWH tells Abraham that Sodom and Gomorrah are to be destroyed, Abraham pleads for their lives without mentioning Lot. Why? The answer is in the sources describing Lot's accompanying of Abram to Canaan and their eventual separation.

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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Abraham’s Chiastic Journey

Abraham’s story is structured chiastically, with the parallel narratives contrasting with each other. The one exception highlights the missing genealogy of Abraham to emphasize that he is the father of all who wish to join the covenant.

Dr. Rabbi

Yoel Bin-Nun

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Sarah, Afraid of Abraham, Denies Laughing

When Sarah overhears that she and Abraham will have a baby, she laughs and when confronted, denies it for fear of Abraham’s reaction. After all, Abraham has consistently put her in jeopardy, neglected her, and was content with Ishmael, Hagar’s son, as his heir.

Prof.

Tammi J. Schneider

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Isaac before He Was Abraham’s Son

Abraham and Isaac each dig a well in Beersheba and make a treaty with King Abimelech. Which story came first?

Prof. Rabbi

David Frankel

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Abraham Visits Ishmael and His Wives: Between Jewish and Islamic Tradition

Abraham banishes Ishmael as a lad, and the break between them seems final. To reconcile father and son, Jewish and Islamic traditions tell a story about Abraham going to visit Ishmael and meet his wives. Despite being similar, the two stories are used for different purposes.

Prof. Rabbi

Reuven Firestone

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Abraham’s Spiritual Journey – A Chiasm that Climaxes with the Akedah

Why does the binding of Isaac story use the unique term ע.ק.ד (ʿ.q.d)? 

Prof.

Gary Rendsburg

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Reconciling Hagar and Sarah: Feminist Midrash and National Conflict

Hagar and Sarah are the matriarchs of the Arabs and the Jews in Jewish and Muslim interpretation. In the Bible, the feud between the two women is never mended, but Jewish and Muslim feminist readers have used midrash-style poetry to rewrite the ending of their story, in hope of reconciling the contemporary conflict between their putative descendants.

Noam Zion

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Ishmael, King of the Arabs

Throughout the Bible, Ishmaelite is a collective term for nomads living in the wilderness, east of Canaan. Why is their eponymous ancestor Ishmael, Abraham’s exiled son, presented as living in the wilderness region near Egypt, west of Canaan? The answer can be found in the political realities of Persian period Yehud.

Prof.

Yairah Amit

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“Take Your Only Son Isaac” – What Happened to Ishmael?

In the introductory verses of the Akedah (Binding of Isaac), God refers to Isaac as Abraham’s only son, ignoring the existence of Ishmael. Ishmael’s absence has bothered even the earliest readers of the text, but a documentary approach obviates the problem. The key is understanding the relationship between Abraham and Hagar.

Dr.

Philip Yoo

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Grace Leake

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Abraham and Lot’s Bedouin-Style Hospitality

Bedouin culture goes back 4,500 years. Owing to the unchangeability of desert conditions, this culture remained largely unchanged and is recognizable in the Bible. The stories of Abraham and Lot hosting angels illustrate one of the most renowned and cherished social values in Bedouin society, namely the practice of hospitality.

Dr.

Clinton Bailey

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Ur Kasdim: Where Is Abraham’s Birthplace?

Ur-Kasdim is generally identified with the great Sumerian city of Ur in southern Iraq. And yet, a look at the geography in Genesis 11 points to a different location much farther north.

Prof.

Gary Rendsburg

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Abraham Passes the Test of the Akedah But Fails as a Father

The story of the Akedah appears to present Abraham’s actions in a uniformly positive light. However, Isaac’s absence at the end of the story, and Sarah’s death immediately afterwards, suggested to some traditional and modern commentators a criticism of Abraham.

Prof.

Aaron Koller

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Rachel Weeps in Ramah: Of All the Patriarchs, God Listens Only to Her

Rachel weeps over her exiled descendants and God hears her plea (Jeremiah 31:14–16). Expanding on this passage, the rabbis in Midrash Eichah Rabbah envision Jeremiah awakening the patriarchs and Moses to plead with God to have mercy on Israel. Upon their failure to move God, the matriarch Rachel intervenes successfully.

Prof.

Hagith Sivan

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Why the Sages Add Titles to Biblical Personalities

A rose by any other name

Dr.

Malka Z. Simkovich

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The Maimonidean Akedah

Dr.

Chaim Trachtman

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The Portrayal of Abraham in The Testament of Abraham

Dr.

Malka Z. Simkovich

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The Rabbinic Chronology of Lech Lecha

An analysis of the Rabbinic interpretation that the covenant of the pieces predates the Lech Lecha command.

Prof. Rabbi

David R. Blumenthal

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Our Stepmother, Keturah

After Sarah dies, Abraham marries Keturah. Who is she?

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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Rabbi

David D. Steinberg

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The Sacrifice of Isaac in Context: Recovering a Lost Ending of the Akedah

The earliest version of the birth and sacrifice of Isaac account questioned the identity of the boy’s father and concluded with Abraham sacrificing him to God.

Dr. Rabbi

Tzemah Yoreh

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Abraham, Smasher of Idols, and the Question of the Torah’s Historicity

Does Abraham really need to be historical in order to claim an important role in Jewish religious consciousness? Should the Torah be seen as a historical account reported by God, or simply as the story of God?

Dr. Rabbi

Amit Kula

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Akedah: How Jews and Christians Explained Abraham’s Faith

God promised Abraham that Isaac would be his heir, yet God asked Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. What did Abraham believe that allowed him to reconcile this divine contradiction?

Dr.

Devorah Schoenfeld

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Why the Midrash Has Abraham Thrown into Nimrod’s Furnace

The historical association of Abraham and Nimrod with Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism

Dr. Rabbi

Yishai Kiel

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Circumcision: Is the Foreskin a Defect?

Circumcision seemingly maims the body, yet ancient Jewish and rabbinic interpretation present it as actually perfecting the body.

Dr.

David Bernat

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Aging Gracefully

Dr.

Erica Brown

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Conclusion: Fathers and Fables

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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Abraham's Premature Obituary

Project TABS Editors

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How Did Abraham Discover God? The Experiential Approach

The midrashic Parable of the Illuminated Palace concerns Abraham and the existence of God. In Part 1, we looked at Maimonides rationalistic, Aristotelian approach. Alternative interpretations focus on the idea of an experiential, living relationship with God.

Dr. Rabbi

Seth (Avi) Kadish

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What Caused the War Between the Kings? Philo’s Dual Interpretation

In his account of Abraham’s life, the first-century thinker Philo of Alexandria skillfully interprets the bewildering details in the story of the war between the four and five kings. Understanding the tale on a literal and allegorical level, he offers intriguing suggestions about what motivates both powerful rulers and forces within the soul.

Dr.

Ellen Birnbaum

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Akeda and Rosh Hashanah: Invoking the Original Oath God Was Forced to Make

Prof. Rabbi

David R. Blumenthal

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Who Assumed Melchizedek’s Priesthood?

Why Melchizedek, a minor biblical character, became so significant in Jewish and Christian interpretation.

Prof. Rabbi

Joshua Garroway

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How Did Abraham Discover God? The Rationalistic Approach

The midrashic Parable of the Illuminated Palace centers on Abraham and the existence of God. Maimonides’ interpretation of the parable envisions an Aristotelian Abraham for whom God is a scientific fact.

Dr. Rabbi

Seth (Avi) Kadish

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What Kind of Hero Is Abraham?

The lack of details surrounding God’s first call to Abram—לך לך, “go forth”—or about Abram’s trip to Canaan contrasts starkly with other biblical figures, highlighting that Abraham is not a typical hero.

Prof.

Everett Fox

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Testing Abraham: Justice in Sodom Before Loyalty in the Akedah

Prof. Rabbi

Reuven Kimelman

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Abraham as the Great (Un)Circumciser

A Surprising Midrashic Portrait of Abraham

Dr.

Malka Z. Simkovich

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Mitigating the Akedah

Taking the edge off God’s command to Abraham that he sacrifice his son, and Abraham’s compliance.

Prof.

Isaac Kalimi

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Heretics, Mystics and Abraham’s Mother

Rabbi

David D. Steinberg

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A Parasha Pregnant with the Past, Present and Future of Israel’s Protagonists

Three distinct themes in Parashat Vayetzei are intertwined: Jacob’s encounter with God at Bethel, the birth of Jacob’s sons, and Jacob’s departure from Haran. 

Prof.

Zvi Ben-Dor Benite

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The Expulsion of Ishmael: Who Is Being Tried?

The literary similarities between the expulsion of Ishmael account and that of the Akedah implies that a trial is taking place.

Prof.

Rachel Adelman

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