The Hebrew patriarch, Abraham, came from the Mesopotamian city of Ur. God told Abraham to leave Ur and travel westward to the land of Canaan, promising that he would become the father of a great nation. Abraham obeyed the word of the Lord, uprooting his household and making his way towards Canaan. However, God continued to test the faith of Abraham. He commanded him to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham obeyed, but right when he was about to kill his son, an angel of the Lord stayed his hand, informing him that God was satisfied and providing a ram for the sacrifice instead.
When Isaac grew up, he married Rebecca and had two sons: Esau and Jacob. God told Rebecca that the older son would serve the younger, but Isaac loved Esau over Jacob. One day, however, Jacob found Esau famished and tricked him into selling his birthright to him for some stew. Later on, when Isaac was near death, he told Esau that he would give him the blessing for the firstborn. However, Rebecca and Jacob deceived Isaac into giving Jacob the blessing instead. Esau was enraged, and Jacob fled his father’s household.
Jacob then made his way to his uncle Laban’s house. He made a deal with Laban to work seven years in order to marry his daughter, Rachael. On the night of their marriage, however, Laban tricked Jacob into marrying the older sister, Leah, thus making Jacob have to work seven more years in order to marry Rachael. Eventually, Jacob decided to journey back to his homeland, though he was afraid Esau would still be angry with him. However, Esau and Jacob finally came to terms, and went their separate ways. From that point onward, God says that Jacob was to be known as Israel.
Of his twelve sons, Israel loved Joseph the most. Angered by this, Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery. He was taken to Egypt where he was falsely accused of a crime. While in prison, he was able to interpret the dreams of two men. When the Pharaoh heard of Joseph, he asked him to interpret his dream as well. Joseph interpreted the pharaoh’s dream that warned of a famine and told the Egyptians how to prepare. The Pharaoh promoted Joseph to second in command in the kingdom. Later on, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt in order to buy food, and Joseph revealed himself to them and forgave them. His family came to live in Egypt.
The Israelites lived peacefully in the land until a new Pharaoh arose who enslaved and persecuted them. God sent them a deliverer in the form of Moses. After a series of plagues sent from God, Pharaoh finally agreed to let them go, and they traveled back to the Promised Land. During the wanderings in the wilderness, the Israelites were given the Law from God and a religious system of sacrifices. They finally reached the Promised Land, but Moses was not allowed to enter and could only see it from afar because he did not follow God’s command when performing a particular miracle involving water from a rock. The Israelites also could not yet enter the Promised Land because they did not trust in the power of God to overthrow the Canaanites. However, their children would fight the Canaanites and, as God promised Abraham, inherit the land indeed.