Jacob, Isaac and Abraham are believed to be the founding fathers of the Jewish religion. The three are often called the patriarchs of Judaism. They are considered to be the spiritual and physical founders of Judaism.
However, though they cannot be called Jews, as during that period the religion was not called so. The history of the founding fathers of Judaism is compiled in Talmud, Torah, Midrash and in few other sources. However, this history and theactuality of Troy and Babylonia have been questioned by the modern scholars, until archaeologist found evidence.
Abrahim also called Abram, the son of an idol trader Terach born in 1948 in the town of Ur, Babylonia questioned his father’s faith as a child. One day when Terach was out, Abram destroyed all the statues except one with a hammer which was the largest and positioned the hammer in its hand. On being asked how did this happen, he answered that the idols had a fight. His father refused to believe this saying that the idols were lifeless and powerless. To this Abram asked why were they worshipped then?
Abrahim believed in a single true creator whose work was the complete universe. He started preaching his belief and eventually the God made an offer to him that if he left his family and lead a nomadic life, God would bless him with a great nation. Abram accepted it for the Jews and underwent 10 tests to demonstrate his faith and worthiness for the b’rit. He traveled throughout Israel and led a nomadic life. In Hebrew, Abram is mentioned as Ivri either because his descendant was Eber or because he hailed from the opposite side of River Euphrates.
Abram had two sons. Ishmael, who is believed to be the forefather of the Arabs, was borne by his second wife Hagar, and Isaac, who is known as an ancestor to the Jewish people, was born from his first wife, Sarai, when she was ninety and Abram was hundred years of age.
Isaac was exposed to the 10th and most tough test of Abram’s b’rit. Child sacrifice or Akeidah was prevalent in those days. Isaac was to be offered as a sacrifice. Isaac demonstrated extraordinary faith and was ready to be sacrificed. An angel of God appeared at the last minute and stopped the sacrifice and indicated that Abram failed the test as he agreed to offer his son. Hence onwards Judaism opposes human sacrifice. Isaac then married Rebecca and was blessed with fraternal twin sons, Jacob and Esau.
Jacob and Esau were at war from the time they were in Rebecca's womb. Isaac's favorite was Esau as he was good at hunting while spiritual-minded Jacob was his mother’s favorite. Esau due to less regard of the spiritual legacy sold his spiritual leadership birthright to Jacob. Also Isaac was tricked into by his wife to give the blessings meant for Esua to Jacob. Esua’s anger made Jacob escaped to his uncle’s place where he fell in love with Racheal. He married Leah, Rachel and their maidservants Zilphah and Bilhah and fathered twelve sons and a daughter. Many years later Jacob returned back to his mother country and reconciled with Esau.
Jacob fathered Reuben, Levi, Simeon, Judah, Dan, Zebulun, Gad, Issachar, Joseph, Asher, Naphtali and Benjamin who are considered ancestors of several tribes of Israel, with Joseph being the father of the Ephraim and Manasseh tribes. Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous older brothers who had a vision of being led by him. However, Joseph came to Egypt and with his talent of interpreting visions managed to earn a place for himself in Pharaoh’s court paving the path for settling in Egypt.
Many centuries passed. The Israeli descendants in Egypt became slaves and were tortured by the Pharaohs. God led his followers to Mount Sinai and revealed both the oral and written form of Torah to them. He also revealed himself to the people and offered a covenant to which every Jewish soul born would be bound to.
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Judaism 101: The Patriarchs and the Origins of Judaism