Abraham’s Family

by Dr. John Hoole






In our last lesson, we discussed the covenant God made with Abraham and his descendants.  During that lesson, we noted that Scriptures tell us Abram (later called Abraham) lived in his hometown of Ur in the Chaldees.


Abraham is the tenth generation from Noah, through his son Shem.  While UR was home, people of that day were primarily nomadic, which was an honored and highly respected lifestyle back then.

He, along with the rest of his father’s living family, migrate north to a city that is called Haran.  That is about 550 miles – similar to the distance from Seattle to Yellowstone Park.


Following the death of his father, Terah, Abraham and his wife Sarah, along with his nephew, Lot, leave Haran and arrive in Caanan.  God’s blessed Abraham just as He promised in Genesis 12 2-3.  These are included his acquisition of land, servants, cattle, silver and gold (Gen 13:14-15, 17;  15:7;  24:34-35).  He was also blessed spiritually and was a channel of blessing to others.  He enjoyed very intimate communion with God and was called the friend of God.” Three times in Scripture (James 2:23; 2 Chron. 20:7;  Isa. 41:8).


Early in last week’s lesson, we read in Genesis 12:2, how God would make Abram into a great nation (singular).  But in Genesis 17, it changes to multiple nations.  His name is here changed to Abraham (17:5).


Abram means:          “Exalted Father.”


Abraham means:         Father of a multitude.”


A natural question would be, “Why did God make that change?”  Part of the reason has to be because Abraham and Sarah tried to help God with His plan. 


Let’s back up just a few years.  For 10 years following the covenant God made with Abraham, nothing happens.  Abraham has a mid-life crisis and Sarah has gone through menopause.  She is totally past child-bearing age. So, Sarah tries to help God’s plan, and suggests Abraham have a child by her handmaid, Hagar.  Abraham agrees, and at age 86, he becomes a father.




His name was Ishmael [God listens].


This is where the Arab –Israeli problems begin. Abraham and Sarah tried to help God fulfill His promise of a child. God had specifically told them that Sarah would have a child.  And God had given them the child’s name.  He is one of seven children named before their birth in the Bible. (Ishmael, Isaac, Solomon, Josiah, Cyrus, John the Baptist and Jesus).


      Because of Abraham and Sarah trying to do God’s business, God’s response is to narrow the lineage of Abraham as to who would be the actual beneficiary of the promises made by God.  But in doing so, God adds some more information about the descendants of Ishmael.  Just following the announcement of name change from Abram to Abraham, we read:


Genesis 17:18-19 NIV


18      And Abraham said to God, "If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!"

19      Then God said, "Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.


Then two verses later, we read:


21      But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year."


      The covenant is only extended to Isaac and his lineage - not to Ishmael.  And keep in mind that the covenant includes both the blessings of God and the Promised Land.


God does, in later chapters of Genesis, begin to even further narrow the family tree, and tell us the specific limb of the tree to which His covenant with Abraham does apply.


When Abraham and Sarah were 100 and 90 years of age respectively, they have their promised son, Isaac.  Ishmael is now 14 years old.


How many children do we know Hagar had?  Only one, Ishmael. How many children do we know Sarah had? Only one, Isaac. Doesn’t seem the likely way to start a family that is promised to number as the “sands of the seas.”


Now let's go to the Descendants of Isaac. Isaac only had one wife. HAT WAS HER NAME?  Rebekah


At 60 years of age, Isaac, who we now know is the title holder to what is called the Holy Land, discovered that his wife, Rebecca, was expecting.  God performed a sonogram and told Rebecca the results:


In Genesis 25:23 (NIV), God speaks to Rebecca, Isaac’s wife.


23      The LORD said to her, "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger."




Jacob and Esau, but both names will change in time. Esau emerged from the womb first, but God had already told Rebekah that the younger would be the stronger of the two, and he would be the heir to God’s covenant.


As he grew, Esau began warring against Jacob feeling he had been swindled out of his birthright and inheritance. And it has been going on between them ever since.


      From the Bible, we know the sons of Isaac and Rebekah’s were known by names other than Jacob and Esau.  Esau’s name will change to EDOM.


Esau married the daughter of Ishmael (Genesis 28:6-9).  Through this small bit of information, you begin to see the linkage between these two families (Edomites and Ishmailites).  So, we have the EDOMITES:      through Esau.  Today we know they settled in Southern Jordan.


We have one other arm of the Abraham family tree.       After Sarah dies, Abraham marries again. He promotes one of his concubines to be his wife. Sarah was 127 years old when she died  (Gen. 23:1)  Abraham would live another 38 years.


The name of Abraham’s second wife is Keturah  (Gen. 25:1)


Genesis 25:1 NIV


1    Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah.


How many children dis Keturah birth.  Six


Genesis 25:2 NIV


2    She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah.


These become part of the many Arab tribes.


There are two more groups of people that plays a part in this array of nations, but who are not descendants of Abraham. They are, however, descendants of Abraham’s brothers – Nahor and Haran.


The first is Lot – Abraham’s nephew, and son of Haran.  In Genesis 19, we find an unfortunate story concerning Lot. He has an incestuous relationship with each of his two daughters, resulting in one son by each.


      These two newborn sons are named:  Moab and Ammon. Genesis 19:37-38 tells us that from these two sons, descended the Moabites and the Ammonites.  This would, along with Edon,  constitute most of modern-day Jordan. Both lived directly east of the Dead Sea.


The last group we need to mention are the descendants of Nahor, Abraham’s other brother. Nahor stayed in Haran after Abraham and Lot went south to Caanan, and Nahor settled in the land north and east of Palestine. It is known as Syria today.


Let’s now return to the descendants of Jacob. One night, Jacob had a dream, where he saw a ladder up to heaven, with angels going up and down.


Genesis 28:13-14 NIV says,


13      And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: "I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants.

14 Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.


So once again we find God narrowing the scope of his covenant made to Abraham, and the promises would be upon the descendants of Jacob, not Esau.




            It was changed to Israel.




            He had 12 sons, whose descendants became the Israelites.




Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph and Benjamin.

Jacob had 12 sons by 4 different mothers.


•  6 by Leah

•  2 by Zilpah

•  2 by Bilhah

•  2 by Rachel


Are his sons the same as the twelve tribes.?




What is the difference?


The tribe of LEVI was not one of the twelve tribes of Israel.  Levi had no inheritance to the land.  WHY WAS THIS SO?  The Levites were the priests.


Deuteronomy 10:8-9 NAS


8          At that time the LORD set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the LORD to serve Him and to bless in His name until this day.

9          Therefore, Levi does not have a portion or inheritance with his brothers; the LORD is his inheritance, just as the LORD your God spoke to him.)


Firstly, God does not say Levi will not have an inheritance. Rather, He say He would provide for their inheritance.  Secondly, they would receive a portion from every other tribe, not in land, but in sustenance.


      Also, Joseph also is not the name of a tribe of Israel.




Joseph’s sons. Ephraim and Manasseh.


Let’s look at the tribes of Israel with regard to End-Times prophecy.  They are mentioned in a number of places.  In several of those places, the Passages list the tribes that are involved.


We begin with the 12 sons of Jacob.


Reuben   Simeon   Judah   Levi   Zebulun   Issachar   Dan   Gad   Asher   Naphtali   Joseph   Benjamin 


The 12 Tribes are as follows:


Reuben  Simeon  Judah  Levi  Zebulun  Issachar  Dan  Gad  Asher  Naphtali  Joseph  Benjamin  Ephraim  Manasseh


In Revelation 7, we are told about a great number of Jewish Evangelists, whose ministry occurs during the 7-year Tribulation.




Revelation 7:4 NIV


4    Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.


In the verses that follow – verses 5 – 8 – we find a list of 12 tribes, and 12,000 would come from each tribe, making a total of 144,000.       Look at the tribes that are mentioned there.


Reuben  Simeon  Judah  Levi  Zebulun  Issachar  Dan  Gad  Asher  Naphtali  Joseph  Benjamin  Ephraim  Manasseh


      In this list of the tribes, Levi and Joseph are included, but Dan and Ephraim have been left out.


Let’s now look at the Millennial reign of Christ for 1,000 years.


In Matthew 19:28 NIV, Christ is speaking to his 12 apostles, and…


28      Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, [that happens in the millennium]  you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.


Ezekiel 48 also writes about this 1,000-years. In verses 1 – 29, we find each tribe mentioned, as well as the apportionment of the land they will have.


Here is the list of tribes mentioned there.


Reuben  Simeon  Judah  Levi  Zebulun  Issachar  Dan  Gad  Asher  Naphtali  Joseph  Benjamin  Ephraim  Manasseh


This list of tribes is identical to the 12 tribes of Israel.  Ephraim and Manasseh, Joseph’s sons, replace Joseph and Levi, the priests.


The tribes are once again mentioned in connection with the New Jerusalem.





Revelation 21:12 NIV


12      It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.


Revelation does not mention the names of the tribes, but Ezekiel 48 does, with reference to “the city,” which most Bible scholars take as a reference to the New Jerusalem.


Here are the tribes as mentioned there.


Reuben  Simeon  Judah  Levi  Zebulun  Issachar  Dan  Gad  Asher  Naphtali  Joseph  Benjamin  Ephraim  Manasseh


Again, this is the same as the 12 sons of Jacob. We will investigate this further as we examine future events where these tribes are a part.