Western Civilization I, Week 1 – Important Events from Abraham to Moses

Write a brief overview of important events in Hebrew history from Abraham to Moses.

The Abrahamic religions are very prominent in the world today, and as the name says, they start from Abraham. In this essay we are going to be looking at Hebrew history starting from the patriarch Abraham down to the prophet Moses.

Abraham was from the city of Ur in Mesopotamia, today called Iraq. He received what he believed to be a call from God, telling him to leave his home and travel west to Canaan. There he received a divine promise: God promised him that his descendants would become a great nation and that they would inherit Canaan. Abraham soon became convinced God wanted him to sacrifice his son, but at the last minute, God intervened and told him to sacrifice a lamb instead. When Isaac was eligible for marriage, Abraham traveled back to Ur. Since the Canaanites did not worship true God in Abraham’s eyes, he found Isaac a wife in Ur.

After his father died, Isaac became a shepherd, living with his wife Rebekah. He had two sons: Esau and Jacob. Jacob, the younger son, resented not being the older son and having the privileges of being the older son, so he tricked Esau into selling his birthright. Soon Isaac was on his deathbed, and he prepared to give his blessing to his eldest son. Rebekah favored Jacob, and she urged him to deceive his father and receive his blessing. Jacob did so, and when Esau found out, he announced that he intended to kill Jacob. Fearing for his life, Rebekah sent Jacob away. Jacob had a dream when he was sleeping out in the open, having fled from home. He dreamt that he was sleeping out in the open and a ladder descended from heaven onto earth. Jacob took this as God renewing the divine promise he had made to Abraham.

Eventually Jacob made a deal with his uncle Laban. Jacob would work for Laban for seven years, and in return Laban would let Jacob marry his daughter Rachel. After seven years, Jacob got to marry Rachel, but when he lifted the veil, his bride was actually Leah, the oldest. Laban explained that he cannot marry his younger daughter without marrying his eldest first. So Jacob worked another seven years and afterward married Rachel. He eventually decided to go back to his homeland. However, he still had to worry about Esau’s wrath. This proves not to be a problem, as he and Esau made peace and went their separate ways.

Rachel died soon after she had Benjamin, and Jacob was left with 12 sons. Joseph, one of Rachel’s sons, was Jacob’s favorite. He spoiled him, and loved him above the rest of his sons. Jealous, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. Joseph eventually found himself in Egypt, sold to the captain of the pharaoh’s guard. He was a trusted servant, but not trusted enough, as a false accusation of misconduct sends him to jail. Imprisoned with the baker and the butler, Joseph interpreted their strange dreams. Upon hearing of this the pharaoh, who had also been having strange dreams, sent for Joseph, who predicted famine. Egypt made preparations for the famine, and when it came, the Egyptian people were ready.

Many Hebrews, including Joseph’s brothers, traveled to Egypt, trying to escape the famine. Joseph revealed himself to them, and while he and the pharaoh who favored Joseph lived, Joseph’s brothers and the other Hebrews lived well in Egypt. But once they died, the Hebrews were in trouble. The Egyptians did not like foreigners, and they feared that the Hebrews would multiply and overtake Egypt. The new pharaoh enslaved the Hebrews and ordered his men to kill all their baby boys.

However, one baby boy survived. His mother put him in the river in a basket, and he was found and adopted by the pharaoh’s daughter. As Moses grew up, he became interested in the Hebrew slaves, and often went to visit them. But because he lived in the pharaoh’s palace, the Hebrews did not trust him. One day, Moses witnessed an Egyptian overseer beating a Hebrew. This infuriated him, and he killed the overseer. This was a huge offense, and Moses was forced to flee Egypt or be executed. He became a shepherd for a while, one day coming across a flaming bush. Although the bush was on fire, it was not actually being burned, and Moses felt a Divine presence. This gave him courage to fulfill his mission. He went back to Egypt to free the Hebrews. He and his brother Aaron demanded the pharaoh release the slaves, but instead, the pharaoh only increased their workload. Annoyed by this, the Hebrew slaves blamed Moses and Aaron for their increased labor.

Soon, the pestilences came to Egypt, and the pharaoh relented and released the slaves after the final plague. The plagues are believed to have come because the pharaoh initially refused to free the slaves, and the Jewish holiday Passover is named for the plague that killed the firstborns of each household, but passed over the Hebrew households. However, after the plagues passed, the pharaoh changed his mind and decided to chase after the Hebrews. Moses parted the Red Sea for the Hebrews, closing it behind them before the pharaoh’s men could reach the other side. The Hebrews traveled around in the desert for some time, searching for someplace to go. While they were in the desert, Moses went up Mt. Sinai to receive the ten commandments, but when he returned, the people were worshipping a golden calf. This was a betrayal to the God who made the covenant with them. In anger, Moses throws down the tablets with the law written on them. He writes them again and puts them in the Ark of the Covenant.

At this point the issue for the Hebrews was finding somewhere to live. They planned to invade Canaan, but the city was too well fortified. So they decided to wait 40 years before attempting to conquer Canaan. However they were still living in the desert, and there were many complaints, the main one being thirst. So Moses was instructed by God to strike a rock and a spring would appear. Moses struck the rock twice, which was seen as a lack of faith in God. For this, Moses was punished: he would not be permitted to enter Canaan, the Promised Land. So Moses appointed Joshua as the new Hebrew leader, and Moses’ death marked the end of the first period of Hebrew history.

In this essay I covered the important events of Hebrew history from Abraham, after whom the Abrahamic religions, three major religions of today, are named after, down to the prophet Moses, who lead the Hebrews up to the door of the Promised Land.


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