Trisha Shetty (Editor)

Patriarchs (Bible)

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Patriarchs (Bible)

The Patriarchs (Hebrew: אבות ‎‎ Avot or Abot, singular Hebrew: אב ‎‎ Ab or Aramaic: אבא Abba) of the Bible, when narrowly defined, are Abraham, his son Isaac, and Isaac's son Jacob, also named Israel, the ancestor of the Israelites. These three figures are referred to collectively as the patriarchs of Judaism, and the period in which they lived is known as the patriarchal age. They play significant roles in Hebrew scripture during and following their lifetimes. They are used as a significant marker by God in revelations and promises, and continue to play important roles in the Abrahamic faiths.


More widely, the term Patriarchs can be used to refer to the twenty male ancestor-figures between Adam and Abraham. The first ten of these are called the Antediluvian patriarchs, because they came before the Flood. Judaism and Islam hold that the patriarchs, along with their primary wives, known as the matriarchs – Sarah (wife of Abraham), Rebekah (wife of Isaac) and Leah (one of the wives of Jacob) – are entombed at Cave of Machpelah in Hebron, a site held holy by Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Only Rachel, Jacob's favorite wife, is said to be buried separately at what is known as Rachel's Tomb, near Bethlehem, at the site where she is believed to have died in childbirth.

Antediluvian patriarchs

The lifetimes given for the patriarchs in the Book of Genesis are: Adam 930 years, Seth 912, Enos 905, Kenan 910, Mahalalel 895, Jared 962, Enoch 365 (did not die, but was taken away by God), Methuselah 969, Lamech 777, Noah 950. The lifespans given cause problems of chronology for Bible scholars, as the following quotation shows.

"The long lives ascribed to the patriarchs cause remarkable synchronisms and duplications. Adam lived to see the birth of Lamech, the ninth member of the genealogy; Seth lived to see the translation of Enoch and died shortly before the birth of Noah. Noah outlived Abram's grandfather, Nahor, and died in Abram's sixtieth year. Shem, Noah's son, even outlived Abram. He was still alive when Esau and Jacob were born!"

Explanation of color-codes:

  • Lifespans recorded in the Septuagint: Black (▄▄) and gray (▄▄)
  • Lifespans recorded in the Syriac Peshitta: Gold (▄▄) and yellow (▄▄)
  • Lifespans recorded in the Masoretic text: Crimson (▄▄) and vermilion (▄▄)
  • Table of Nations

    According to the Bible, many of the tribes living in the Middle East, between the time of Abraham and the time of Christ, have a genealogical connection to the Patriarchs or their descendants. This list, taken from the Book of Genesis, gives the details of that genealogy.

  • Noah, father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth
  • Shem [was] an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood ...
  • Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah ... Salah lived thirty years, and begat Eber ... Eber lived four and thirty years, and begat Peleg ... Peleg lived thirty years, and begat Reu ... Reu lived two and thirty years, and begat Serug ... Serug lived thirty years, and begat Nahor ... Nahor lived nine and twenty years, and begat Terah ... Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran ... and Haran begat Lot

  • Terah (descendant of Shem), father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran
  • Abram and Hagar, parents of Ishmael (Ishmaelites)
  • Abram and Keturah, parents of Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian (Midianites), Ishbak, Shuah
  • Nahor and Milcah, parents of Uz, Buz, Kemuel,Kesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel
  • Kemuel, father of Aram (Arameans)
  • Bethuel, father of Laban and Rebeccah
  • Laban, father of Leah and Rachel
  • Nahor and Reumah, parents of Tebah, Gaham, Tahash, and Maacah
  • Haran, father of Lot
  • Lot and his older daughter, parents of Moab (Moabites)
  • Lot and his younger daughter, parents of Ben-ammi (Ammonites)
  • Abraham and Sarah, parents of Isaac
  • Isaac and Rebekah, parents of Jacob, Esau (Edomites)
  • Esau and Adah, parents of Eliphaz
  • Eliphaz and Timna, parents of Amalek (Amalekites)
  • Jacob and Leah, parents of Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Dina
  • Jacob and Rachel, parents of Joseph, Benjamin
  • Jacob and Bilhah, parents of Dan, Naphtali
  • Jacob and Zilpah, parents of Gad, Asher
  • Joseph and Asenath, parents of Manasseh, Ephraim
  • The twelve tribes of Israel include ten of the sons of Jacob (excluding Levi and Joseph) and the two sons of Joseph.

    Religious significance

    Many major world religions trace their origin back to the patriarch Abraham.


    Israel was the name given to the grandson of Abraham. All Jews consider themselves to be descendants of Abraham through his son Isaac.


    Abraham believed God, so in general all people with faith in God are considered sons of Abraham.


    Islam regards Abraham (Ibrahim) as the father of the prophets in Islam because all subsequent prophets descended from him (the Israelite prophets through Ishāq and Muhammad through Ismā'īl).


    The Matriarchs, also known as "the four mothers" (ארבע האמהות) married the biblical Patriarchs:

  • Sarah, the wife of Abraham
  • Rebekah, the wife of Isaac
  • Leah and Rachel, the wives of Jacob
  • References

    Patriarchs (Bible) Wikipedia