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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 the 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.
The lifetimes given for the patriarchs in the Masoretic Text of 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 have surprising chronological implications, 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:
|Family of Patriarchs (Bible)|
|Ishmaelites||7 sons||Bethuel||1st daughter||2nd daughter|
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
The twelve tribes of Israel include ten of the sons of Jacob (excluding Levi and Joseph) and the two sons of Joseph.
Many major world religions trace their origin back to the patriarch Abraham.
Abraham believed God, so in general all people with faith in God are considered sons of Abraham.
The Matriarchs, also known as "the four mothers" (ארבע האמהות), who were married to the biblical patriarchs: