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Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible /
David Noel Freedman, editor-in-chief ; Allen C. Myers, associate editor ; Astrid B. Beck, managing editor.
Grand Rapids, Mich. : W.B. Eerdmans, 2000.
xxxiii, 1425 p., [16] p. of col. maps : ill., maps (some col.)
0802824005 (hardcover : alk. paper)
title subject
More Details
Grand Rapids, Mich. : W.B. Eerdmans, 2000.
0802824005 (hardcover : alk. paper)
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Includes bibliographical references.
A Look Inside
First Chapter




A symbol used to designate the Codex Alexandrinus.

AARON (Heb.)

A descendant of Levi and brother of Moses (Exod. 6:20; Num. 26:59; 1 Chr. 6:3[MT 5:22]), a co-leader with Moses and their sister Miriam leading the Israelites out of Egypt through the wilderness (Mic. 6:4; Exod. 4:10-16; 7:1-25), and Israel's first high priest and ancestor of the priestly family of Aaronite priests (Exod. 28:1-2; Num. 18:1-7).

High Priest (Exodus-Numbers and Chronicles)

Aaron and his descendants are repeatedly featured as central figures and the predominant priests of Israel's cult in Exodus-Numbers and 1-2 Chronicles. Approximately 85 percent of the total number (346) of references to Aaron in the Bible are concentrated in the pentateuchal books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. There, particularly in the socalled Priestly portions of the Pentateuch, Aaron and his sons are the exalted high priests who oversee Israel's sacrifices and cult centered in the ark and tabernacle (Exod. 27-30). The Aaronites are in charge of the Urim and Thummim, the sacred lots for determining Yahweh's will (Exod. 28:30; Lev. 8:5-9; Num. 27:21). Aaron and his sons are the only priests authorized to preside at various rituals and offerings (Lev. 6-8). The actual ordination ceremony for Aaron and his sons is narrated in Lev. 8-9. Lev. 21 lists a series of regulations designed to maintain the holiness of the Aaronite priesthood. Aaron is a descendant of the priestly tribe of Levi (Exod. 6:16-25), but Aaron and his sons represent a special clan among the Levites who alone are authorized to come near and officiate at rituals associated with the tent of meeting (Num. 3:5-10). Aaron and his sons are assigned the duty of blessing the Israelites in the form of the so-called Aaronic benediction in Num. 6:22-27. The priestly predominance of Aaron over other Levites is emphasized in the revolt of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram in Num. 16, the budding of Aaron's rod in Num. 17, and the classification of priestly responsibilities among the Aaronites and other Levites in Num. 18.

    The postexilic book of 1-2 Chronicles reflects an exalted view of the Aaronite priesthood similar to that found in the Priestly tradition of the Pentateuch. Aaron and his descendants make offerings and atonement at "the most holy place" (1 Chr. 6:49[34]). The Aaronite priests are "set apart" from other Levites for the most sacred duties of temple worship in burning incense, ministering, and blessing (1 Chr. 23-24; cf. 2 Chr. 26:16-21).

Elsewhere in the Old Testament

Allusions to Aaron or Aaronite priests are very rare or absent in other sections of the OT such as the Deuteronomistic history or the prophetic books. Even the exilic book of Ezekiel, which devotes significant attention to matters of priests and temple worship, never mentions Aaron or the Aaronites. Instead, Ezekiel designates another priestly group, the Zadokites, as the true high priests who receive assistance from the Levites (Ezek. 40:46; 44:15: 48:11). 1-2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings likewise rarely mention the Aaronite priesthood and instead focus on the Levites and the Zadokites as priests during Israel's monarchy (e.g., 1 Kgs. 2:27). Thus, the Aaronic priesthood apparently played little role in much of the preexilic and exilic literature (Deuteronomistic history, Ezekiel). However, the figure of Aaron and the Aaronite priesthood apparently emerged as the preeminent priestly group in the Second Temple or postexilic period in charge of worship and rituals in the Jerusalem temple.

Negative and Nonpriestly Portrayals

Sections of the Pentateuch that scholars often date as earlier than the exilic Priestly traditions tend to portray Aaron in a nonpriestly role as a co-leader with Moses (Exod. 4:27-31; 11:10; 12:31; 16:33-34). These earlier traditions in the Pentateuch also portray Aaron negatively in opposition or rebellion against Moses or Yahweh (Exod. 32, the idolatry of the golden calf; Num. 12, the rebellion of Aaron and Miriam against Moses; Num. 20, the unfaithfulness of Moses and Aaron in hitting the rock). The one prophetic reference to Aaron in Mic. 6:4 lists Aaron as simply a co-leader of the Israelites in the wilderness along with Moses and Miriam.

New Testament

Aaron's priesthood diminishes in importance in light of the atoning significance of Jesus' death and resurrection in the NT. Acts 7:40 recalls Aaron's idolatrous involvement with the golden calf. The book of Hebrews recognizes Aaron's legitimate role as high priest (Heb. 5:4), and yet it affirms Christ as now the greater high priest who arose "according to the order of Melchizedek" (cf. Gen. 14:17-24) rather than "according to the order of Aaron" (Heb. 7:11).

Character: A Summary

The present form of the biblical text balances Aaron's prominence as leader and priest with an awareness of the potential for disobedience among all leaders, even a high priest like Aaron (Exod. 32:1-6, 25; Lev. 10:1-3; Num. 12:1-16; 20:1-13). In the end, both the high priest Aaron and the incomparable prophet and leader Moses are condemned to die outside the Promised Land of Canaan (Num. 20:12, 22-29; Deut. 34:1-12). Aaron, like many leaders and prominent figures in the Bible, is humanly flawed, but he remained at the same time an effective agent for the blessing and saving work of God among God's people.

    Bibliography . A. Cody, A History of Old Testament Priesthood . AnBib 35 (Rome, 1969); W. Horbury, "The Aaronic Priesthood in the Epistle to the Hebrews," JSNT 19 (1983): 43-71; R. D. Nelson, Raising Up a Faithful Priest: Community and Priesthood in Biblical Theology (Louisville, 1993); L. Sabourin, Priesthood: A Comparative Study . Studies in the History of Religions 25 (Leiden, 1973).

Dennis T. Olson

AB (Heb.)

The fifth month of the Hebrew sacred calendar (July/Aug.); this postexilic name was borrowed by the Jews from the Babylonian Abu. In this month the grapes and figs are harvested and on the seventh day a great fast commemorates the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar (587/586 B.C.E.).


The "place of destruction" from the verb ' abad , "to perish" or "to fail." In its five occurrences in the OT (Ps. 88:ll[MT 12]; Job 26:6; 28:22; 31:12; Prov. 15:11), it is a synonym of "Sheol."

    In the NT Gk. Abaddon is the name of an angel that rules over the deadly swarm of locusts, which the visionary sees as plaguing humanity, and over hell itself (Rev. 9:11). The basis of this "personification" seems to trace back to Job 28:22, where Abaddon speaks, along with "death."

Jim West


One of the seven eunuchs of King Ahasuerus (Xerxes I, ca. 480 B.C.E.) who served as his chamberlains (Esth. 1:10). The name is probably of Middle Iranian origin (perhaps "gift of good fortune").

ABANA (Heb.)

A river, along with the Pharpar River to the south, that feeds the vast Ghouta oasis wherein Damascus is located. The modern name of the river is Barada; its source is in a large pool high in the Anti-Lebanon Mountains (usually identified with Mt. Amana; cf. Cant. 4:8). The river descends eastward down the mountain, flows through Damascus, and disappears into a marshy take E of the city. The Abana and the Pharpar are largely responsible for the fertility for which the region of Damascus is famous; they provide a hedge against the encroachment of the eastern desert.

    Naaman, the commander of the Aramean forces, compares the Abana (Q Amana) and the Pharpar to the Jordan River in which Elisha told him to wash seven times to cure his leprosy (2 Kgs. 5:12).

Ronald A. Simkins


A mountain range E of the Dead Sea and opposite the Judean wilderness, overlooking the Jordan Valley. The name probably reflects the ancient eastern orientation: one would go to the Abarim (i.e., "the regions beyond") on a journey eastward to Transjordan.

    Since the Israelites approached Canaan from the east, they had to pass through the Abarim. They camped in its highlands and descended from them to the plains of Moab (Num. 33:47-48). From Mt. Nebo, one of the peaks of the Abarim, Moses viewed the Promised Land (Deut. 32:49).

    Jeremiah gives the Abarim the same geographical significance as Lebanon and Bashan (22:20), suggesting that the Abarim were seen as encompassing a large geographical territory. There is some indication that at times the name Abarim referred to mountains S of Moab (Num. 33:44), although no boundaries for the Abarim are given.

David Merling

ABBA (Gk. abba )

A term used to address God. All three NT occurrences are followed by the nominative translation "(the) Father." Mark claims that Jesus addressed God as "Abba Father" in Gethsemane (14:36), but both Matthew (26:39, 42) and Luke (22:42) omit the word Abba. Paul asserted that the Spirit cries "Abba Father" in the hearts of believers (Gal. 4:6) and that believers cry "Abba Father" in the Spirit of adoption (Rom. 8:15).

    Although the formula "Abba (the) Father" treats Abba as an emphatic state form, Abba functions as a vocative in the NT. Some translations therefore punctuate this formula as "Abba! Father!"

    Since both young children and grown children addressed their fathers as "Abba," this word must be translated as "father" and not as "daddy." Abba cannot be defined as a mere babbling sound voiced by little children. Most scholars assume that Abba is Aramaic, though Hebrew cannot be excluded.

    Bibliography . J. Jeremias, The Prayers of Jesus . SBT 2/6 (Naperville, 1967), 11-65; J. Barr, "'Abba Isn't `Daddy,'" JTS N.S. 39 (1988): 28-47; M. R. D'Angelo, " Abba and 'Father'" JBL 111 (1992): 611-30.

Robert L. Mowery

ABDA (Heb.) (also OBADIAH)

    1. The father of Adoniram, one of Solomon's officials (1 Kgs. 4:6).

    2. A Levite, the son of Shammua, who settled after the Exile in Jerusalem (Neh. 11:17). At 1 Chr. 9:16 his name is given as Obadiah the son of Shemaiah.


The father of Shelemiah, one of Jehoiakim's courtiers (Jer. 36:26).

ABDI (Heb.)

    1. A Levite of the family of Merari. He was the grandfather of Ethan, a temple singer during the days of David (1 Chr. 6:44[MT 29]).

    2. The father of the Levite Kish, a contemporary of King Hezekiah (2 Chr. 29:12).

    3. An Israelite who had to divorce his foreign wife during the ministry of Ezra (Ezra 10:26; 1 Esdr. 9:27).


A Gadite who dwelled in Gilead or in Bashan. He was the father of the chief Ahi (1 Chr. 5:15).

ABDON (Heb.) ( PERSON ) (also ACHBOR)

    1. The son of Hillel the Pirathonite, one of the so-called minor judges (Judg. 12:13-15). The comment that he had 40 sons and 30 grandsons who rode on 70 donkeys is perhaps an indication of his wealth. He was buried at Pirathon in "the hill country of the Amalekites," territory allotted to the tribe of Ephraim.

    2. The son of Shashak, listed among the descendants of Benjamin (1 Chr. 8:23).

    3. The firstborn son of Jeiel; Saul's great uncle (1 Chr. 9:36). The genealogy also appears in 1 Chr. 8:29-38 with some textual variations.

    4. The son of Micah; one of the emissaries King Josiah sent to Huldah the prophetess after Hilkiah's discovery of the book of the law (2 Chr. 34:20). In the parallel passage in 2 Kgs. 22:12 this person is called Achbor (2) the son of Micaiah.

James R. Adair

ABDON (Heb.) ( PLACE )

A levitical city in the tribal territory of Asher (Josh. 21:30; 1 Chr. 6:74) assigned to the family of Gershom. It is probably Khirbet 'Abdeh, today a ruin ca. 17 km. (10 mi.) NNE of Acco. At Josh. 19:28 Ebron should perhaps be rendered Abdon.


One of the four young Israelite men taken into the court of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 1:7). His Hebrew name, Azariah, was changed to Abednego by Nebuchadnezzar's chief eunuch, Ashpenaz. The name appears to be a perversion of the Akkadian name Arad-nabû, "servant of Nabû" (Nebuchadnezzar's personal god). Changing the names of people in order to change their futures was a common practice throughout the ancient Near East.

    The adventures of the four young men in the Babylonian court are recorded in Dan. 1-3. They remain faithful to their religious traditions and dietary laws by living on vegetables and water, and therefore are given knowledge and wisdom by God. Daniel is made the ruler over the whole province of Babylon while the other three are made administrators in the kingdom (2:48-49). After refusing to worship a golden image set up by Nebuchadnezzar the men are thrown into a fiery furnace. They are saved by a messenger of God for their faithfulness, and blessed and honored by Nebuchadnezzar. (3:12-30).

    1 Macc. 2:59 lists Azariah, Hanaiah, and Mishael among those faithful to God.

Nancy L. Declaissé-Walford

ABEL (Heb.) ( PERSON )

The second son of Adam and Eve; a "keeper of sheep" (Gen. 4:2).


ABEL (Heb.) ( PLACE )

Abel of Beth-maacah, perhaps a cult center renowned for its wisdom, to which Joab was referred for counsel (2 Sam. 20:18).

    See Abel-beth-maacah.


A city cited in biblical and other ancient Near Eastern texts, best identified with modern Tell Abil al-Qamh. ("Meadow of the Wheat"; 204296). The latter is an imposing mound of 10 ha. (25 a.) on the northern border of Israel near Metulla, near major waterfall of the Jordan River tributaries, at the juncture of the Huleh Valley and the Beqa' Valley in Lebanon. The site is mentioned in the 19th/18th-century B.C. Egyptian Brussels Execration Texts (no. 47); in the list of sites of Thutmose III's first Asiatic military campaign ca. 1468 (probably no. 92; ' u-bil ); and possibly in the 14th-century Amarna Letters (no. 256; yuabilîma ).

    Several biblical references suggest that Abel-beth-maacah (also called Abel-mayim) was originally part of the holdings of the well-known Jordanian family of Ma'acah, later allotted to the tribe of Dan as "a mother in Israel,' i.e., probably a cult center (cf. 2 Sam. 20:14-22). According to 1 Kgs. 15:20 (= 2 Chr. 16:4) Abel-beth-maacah was captured by Ben-hadad I of Damascus ca. 829. Both biblical texts (2 Kgs. 15:29) and possibly Assyrian texts (a-b-il[ak-kal]) show that Abel-beth-maacah was taken by Tiglath-pileser III ca. 733/732.

    The site has never been excavated, but surface surveys by William G. Dever in 1973 produced evidence of occupation throughout nearly all of the Early, Middle, and Late Bronze Ages, with especially strong walls and a glacis of MB, as well as occupation in the Iron I-II, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and later periods. The scant archaeological evidence confirms that Abel-beth-maacah's superb stratigraphic location, abundant material resources, and strong defenses made it no doubt as important as nearby Hazor and Dan in most periods. Perched astride the historic borders of Israel, Aramea, and Phoenicia, Abel-beth-Maacah was indeed the "northern gateway" of ancient Israel.

    Bibliography . W. G. Dever, "'Abel-Beth-Ma'acah: `Northern Gateway of Ancient Israel;" in The Archaeology of Jordan and Other Studies , ed. L. T. Geraty and L. G. Herr (Berrien Springs, 1986), 207-22; J. Kaplan, "The Identification of Abel-Beth-Maachah and Janoah," IEJ 28 (1978): 157-60; H. Tadmor, "The Southern Border of Aram," IEJ 12 (1962): 119-22.

William G. Dever


A city in Ammon, to which Jephthah pursued the Ammonites (Judg. 11:33; Heb. "pasture of the vineyards"). It has been identified variously with modern Na'ur (228142), ca. 14 km. (9 mi.) from Amman; Tell el-'Umeiri (234142), 10 km. (6 mi.) S of Amman; and Tell Sahab (245142), 12 km. (7.5 mi.) SE of Amman.


The home town of Elisha (1 Kgs. 19:16). According to Judg. 7:22 Gideon chased the Midianites "toward Zererah" (Zarethan), as far as "the border of Abelmeholah"(cf. 1 Kgs. 7:46). There he crossed the Jordan (Judg. 8:4), so Abel-meholah may have been a territory or town near the Jordan. 1 Kgs. 4:12 mentions Abel-meholah as part of the territory ruled by an administrator named Baana, noting that Abelmeholah lay "below Jezreel," and listing Zarethan and Beth-shean as nearby cities.

    Scholars have offered numerous suggestions as to its location, including Tell Abû Sifri, near the junction of the Wadi el-Helway and the Wadi Malih (which may preserve the name Meholah), S of Beth-shean but some distance from the Jordan, and Tell Abû Sús (203197), ca. 15 km. (11 mi.) S of Bethshean and closer to the Jordan. Of the two, the latter is more likely.

    The term "Meholathite" (1 Sam. 18:19; 2 Sam. 21:8) apparently referred to a resident of Abel-meholah.

Paul L. Redditt


A name given to Atad, a place along the Jordan where Joseph, accompanied by Egyptian dignitaries, mourned for his deceased father Jacob (Gen. 50:11). The name is a play on Heb. ' abal ("mourn") and ' ebel ("mourning rites"). On the basis of Gen. 50:10-11 ("beyond the Jordan" the "inhabitants of the land") and v. 13 ("carried into the land"), some scholars have judged its location to be in Transjordan, N of the Dead Sea.

    See Atad.


A place of encampment for the Israelites at the end of the wilderness wanderings (Num. 33:49). It is probably the same as Shittim, located E of the Jordan, in Moab.

ABGAR (Gk. Abgaros )

Common title of kings of Edessa, the capital of Osrhoene, a small kingdom at the northern bend of the Euphrates River (modern Turkey). Eusebius ( HE 1.13) reports that the archives of Edessa contained copies of correspondence between Abgar Ukkama (Abgar V "the Black") and Jesus in which Abgar requests that Jesus come to Edessa to heal him. The story is widely regarded as apocryphal, the result of historical revisionism sometime after Abgar IX (ca. 179-214 C.E.) converted to Christianity.

Charles Guth

ABI (Heb.) (also ABIJAH)

The wife of Ahaz and mother of Hezekiah (2 Kgs. 18:2). The name is a shortened form of Abijah (5) (2 Chr. 29:1).

ABI-ALBON (Heb.) (also ABIEL)

One of David's 30 Champions (2 Sam. 23:31); called Abiel (2) the Arbathite at 1 Chr. 11:32 (cf. LXX Abiel ). He may have been an inhabitant of Betharabah.


A Levite of the family of Korah and contemporary of Phinehas the grandson of Aaron (Exod. 6:24-25). At 1 Chr. 6:23; 9:19 he is called Ebiasaph. The Asaph of 1 Chr. 26:1 may be an abbreviated form (LXX B Abia-Saphar ).


A descendant of Ithamar (and Eli; 1 Sam. 22:20-23), who eventually served as high priest during David's reign.

    Abiathar served as a priest at Nob with his father Ahimelech. When Saul massacred Abiathar's fellow priests, including his father, Abiathar fled to join David, bringing with him the ephod (1 Sam. 22:20-22; 23:6, 9). He served David and functioned as David's chief priest in the pre-Hebron and Hebron years. His exact function during their wilderness flight from Saul remains unclear.

    Following Absalom's rebellion against David (2 Sam. 15:1-12), Zadok acted as high priest and directed the relocation of the ark, while Abiathar directed the offering of various sacrifices until all the refugees had left Jerusalem (v. 24). However, David commanded both men to return to Jerusalem with the ark and serve as his "listening posts" (15:25-29; cf. 17:15-16). Throughout the remainder of David's reign, Abiathar served as one of David's counselors (1 Chr. 27:34).

    Solomon expelled Abiathar from his priestly office after Abiathar supported Adonijah as king (1 Kgs. 1-2). This represented the prophesied end of Eli's line of the priesthood. Solomon exiled Abiathar and his descendants to Anathoth and revoked his priestly privileges (1 Kgs. 1:19, 25; 2:22, 26, 35). Some have suggested that Jeremiah, who descended from a priestly family in Anathoth, may have been a descendant of Abiathar.

    In a listing of David's officials, Zadok is mentioned as the priestly counterpart of Ahimelech, the son of Abiathar (2 Sam. 8:17; cf. 1 Chr. 24:3, 6, 31), but in most instances Zadok and Abiathar serve as counterparts. Thus, several scholars suggest that the names of Ahimelech and Abiathar are here reversed (cf. Syr.). Others contend that Abiathar named his son after Ahimelech. In any case, during most of this period Zadok and Abiathar shared the priestly duties.

    Bibliography . P. McCarter, 2 Samuel . AB 9 (Garden City, 1984); E. H. Merrill, Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel (Grand Rapids, 1987).

Michael A. Grisanti

ABIB (Heb.)

The original name of the first Hebrew month, mentioned in connection with the Feast of the Unleavened Bread or the Passover (Mar./Apr.); after the Exile it was called Nisan (Neh. 2:1; Esth. 3:7). Its designation "month of the ears" (Heb. hodeš ha'abîb, "month of young ear of barley [or 'other grain']"; e.g., Exod. 13:4) may point to the new moon nearest to, or preceding, the growth of barley.

ABIDA (Heb.)

A descendant of Abraham and Keturah through Midian, their fourth son (Gen. 25:4 = 1 Chr. 1:33).


The son of Gideoni; "leader" of the tribe of Benjamin during the wilderness wanderings (Num. 2:22; 10:24). Abidan assisted Moses at the taking of the census (Num. 1:11) and made his offering on the ninth day of the dedication of the tabernacle (7:60, 65).

ABIEL (Heb.) (also ABI-ALBON)

    1. A Benjaminite, the father of Kish and Ner. Also the grandfather of King Saul and Abner, the commander of Saul's army (1 Sam. 9:1; 14:51).

    2. An Arbathite warrior (1 Chr. 11:32) and a member of David's heroes known as the "Thirty." In 2 Sam. 23:31 he is called Abi-albon.

Kenneth Atkinson

ABIEZER (Heb.) (also IEZER)

    1. A descendant of Manasseh (1 Chr. 7:18). At Num. 26:30 an abbreviated form of his name occurs (Iezer). The Abiezrites were given a district in the tribal territory of Manasseh W of the Jordan (Josh. 17:2) which included the city of Ophrah. Gideon was an Abiezrite (Judg. 6:11; cf. v. 34).

    2. One of David's Champions, the commander of the ninth division of his army (2 Sam. 23:37 = 1 Chr. 11:28; 27:12). He was from Anathoth in Benjamin.


    1. Wife of Nabal, then David (1 Sam. 25), and mother of David's second-born son, named variously Chileab (2 Sam. 3:3), Daniel (1 Chr. 3:1), or Daluiah (2 Sam. 3:3 LXX). Abigail accompanied David on his visit to King Achish at Gath (1 Sam. 27:3) and was later taken hostage during an Amalekite raid on David's fortress at Ziklag (30:5). After her rescue, she went with David to Hebron (2 Sam. 2:2), where she bore him a child (2 Sam. 3:3 = 1 Chr. 3:1). Of the five references to Abigail outside 1 Sam. 25, all but one (1 Chr. 3:1) refer to her as Nabal's widow. In each she is closely linked to another of David's wives, Ahinoam.

    Recent literary treatments of Abigail's characterization present her as a "model wife and modest woman" (Adele Berlin) and a "woman of 'good sense'" (Athalya Brenner). A different approach emphasizes Abigail's prophetic words in 1 Sam. 25:28-31 and presents her as "God's chosen prophet-intermediary," a more subversive character than normally realized (Alice Bach).

    2. Sister of David (1 Chr. 2:16) and Zeruiah (2 Sam. 17:25), and mother of Amasa (2 Sam. 17:25; 1 Chr. 2:17). She was the daughter of either Jesse (1 Chr. 2:16) or Nahash (2 Sam. 17:25) and the wife of either Ithra the Israelite (2 Sam. 17:25) or Jether the Ishmaelite (1 Chr. 2:17) or Jezreelite ( 1 Chr. 2:17 LXX). Some scholars suggest that Ithra/Jether was Nabal's real identity, and thus there was only one Abigail--David's sister, who later became his wife.

    Bibliography . A. Bach, "The Pleasure of Her Text" in The Pleasure of Her Text (Philadelphia, 1990), 25-44; A. Berlin, Poetics and Interpretation of Biblical Narratives (Sheffield, 1983); A. Brenner, The Israelite Woman: Social Role and Literary Type in Biblical Narrative (Sheffield, 1985); J. D. Levenson and B. Halpern, "The Political Import of David's Marriages," JBL 99 (1980): 507-18.

Linda S. Schearing


    1. A Levite of the family of Merari; the father of Zuriel (Num. 3:35).

    2. The wife of Abishur of the family of Judah (1 Chr. 2:29).

    3. A man from the tribe of Gad; the father of seven sons (1 Chr. 5:14).

    4. The daughter of David's brother Eliab and wife of David's son Jerimoth. Their daughter Mahalath became the wife of King Rehoboam of Judah (2 Chr. 11:18).

    5. The father of Queen Esther and uncle of Mordecai (Esth. 2:15; 9:29).

ABIHU (Heb.)

An Israelite priest of the wilderness period. The Priestly genealogy lists Abihu, Nadab, Eleazar, and Ithamar as sons of Aaron, born to him by Elisheba (Exod. 6:23; Num. 26:60; 1 Chr. 6:3[MT 5:29]; cf. Exod. 28:1). Abihu and Nadab met their demise for offering Yahweh "strange fire" (Heb. 'eš zarâ a crux; Lev. 10:1-2). The P narrative here emphasizes the responsibility of the Aaronic priests and explains the dominance of the descendants of Eleazar, Abihu's younger brother, in the Jerusalem cult (Num. 3:2, 4; 1 Chr. 24:1, 2). In contrast to P, the E strand celebrates the priestly heterogeneity that Nadab and Abihu represent with its story of their participation in the covenant ratification on Mt. Horeb (Exod. 24:1, 9).

    Bibliography . J. C. H. Laughlin, "The 'Strange Fire' of Nadab and Abihu," JBL 95 (1976): 559-65.

Stephen L. Cook


The third son of Bela, the son of Benjamin (1 Chr. 8:3). Some scholars emend the text to read Heb. abî, 'ehûd, "the father of Ehud." Others consider it a variant of Abiud (cf. LXX Abioud ).

ABIJAH (Heb.) (also ABI, ABIJAM)

    1. The second son of Samuel, who served (together with his brother, Joel) as a judge in Beersheba and was corrupted by duplicity (1 Sam. 8:2-3; 1 Chr. 6:13[MT 28]).

    2. The son of Jeroboam I, king of Israel. When he fell ill, he sent his wife in disguise to the prophet Ahijah at Shiloh; the ruse failed, and Abijah died in Tirzah in accordance with the prophecy (1 Kgs. 14:1-18; cf. LXX 3 Kgdms. 12:24g-n).

    3. King of Judah (ca. 913-911 B.C.E.), son of Rehoboam and Maacah (Micaiah, 2 Chr. 13:2), daughter of Absalom's daughter Tamar and Uriel. The MT of 2 Chronicles reads Abijah, while the MT of 1 Kings reads Abijam; LXX Abiou . Abijah went to war (probably a border conflict) with King Jeroboam I of Israel (1 Kgs. 15:7b; 2 Chr. 13:3, 13-19). Although the Deuteronomistic historian thought negatively of Abijah's religious activity (1 Kgs. 15:3-5, in peculiar Deuteronomistic phrasing), the Chronicler describes him as a pious king. Therefore, according to the Chronicler, Abijah won his war against Rehoboam (2 Chr. 13:15-19). Abijah also succeeded in his personal life: he had 14 wives, 16 daughters, and 22 sons (2 Chr. 13:21). The speech in 2 Chr. 13:4-12, which was ascribed to Abijah, contains the main theological concepts of the Chronicler.

    4. The head of the eighth division of priests (1 Chr. 24:10). According to Luke 1:5 Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, belonged to this division.

    5. The wife of Ahaz and mother of Hezekiah, king of Judah (2 Chr. 29:1). She is called Abi (LXX Abou) in 2 Kgs. 18:2.

    6. The wife of Hezron (1 Chr. 2:24 MT). Abijah does not appear in the Syriac Version, and some commentators regard it as a gloss (cf. RSV).

    7. The son of Becher from the tribe of Benjamin (1 Chr. 7:6, 8; LXX reads "Zamria").

    8. A priest who signed ("set his seal upon") the renewed covenant of the community in the time of Nehemiah (Neh. 10:817]; cf. 12:4, 17).

    9. A priest who returned from Babylonia with Zerubbabel and Joshua (Neh. 12:1-4) and was head of a priestly group (v. 7).

    The name Abijah also occurs on a seal preserved on ostracons (e.g., from Samaria and Arad).

    Bibliography . I. Kalimi, The Books of Chronicles: A Classified Bibliography (Jerusalem, 1990), 173-74, nos. 1691-1705.

Isaac Kalimi


A variation of the name of King Abijah of Judah (esp. MT 1 Kings).

ABILA (Gk. Abila )

A city located on the Wadi Quailibah, 12 Roman mi. E of Gadara (modern Umm Qeis), and ca. 4 km. (2.5 mi.) S of the Yarmuk River. Abila (231231) measures ca. 1 km. (.6 mi.) north-south and .5 km. (.3 mi.) east-west in area. It consists of two tells (Tell Abila in the north, and Umm el-'Amad in the south), a civic center in a depression in between, fertile agricultural fields all around, and a spring at the base of the south tell.

    Abila, as a Decapolis city founded probably by Alexander the Great's Hellenistic successors (according to the coin tradition; Abila had the toponym Seleucia), was captured by the Seleucid king Antiochus III, by the Hasmonean king Alexander Jannaeus, and by Pompey. Pliny ( Nat. hist . 5.74) calls it a tetrarchy/kingdom, and Ptolemy ( Geog . 5.7.22), a Decapolis city. Abila also carried the titles CoeleSyria, "independent," and "sovereign."

    Abila's archaeological history (from 3500 B.C. to A.D. 1500) reveals settlement remains from Early Bronze to Islamic times. The city follows the classical town plan of main streets at right angles. Excavated remains include basilicas, a bath-nymphaeum complex (north), a theater cavea complex (south), a church, and a forum or villa complex. A city wall of Hellenistic-Roman (and possibly Iron Age) date surrounded the Tell Abila acropolis. An extensive necropolis extends all around the site, consisting largely of Late Hellenistic and Roman and Byzantine tomb complexes.

    Bibliography . W. H. Mare, "Abila" NEAEHL 1:1-3; Mare et al., Preliminary reports in The Near East Archaeological Society Bulletin (Chicago , 1981-1996).

W. Harold Mare

ABILENE (Gk. Abilene )

A region in the eastern part of the Anti-Lebanon range. Its capital, Abila, was ca. 27 km. (17 mi.) NW of Damascus. In NT times Lysanias was the tetrarch of this district (Luke 3:1). After Lysanias' death the tetrarchy was granted to Agrippa I (37 C.E.) and later to Agrippa II (53).


One of the sons of Joktan (Gen. 10:28; 1 Chr. 1:22); progenitor of a South Arabian tribe.


    1. The king of Gerar who, believing Sarah to be Abraham's sister, took her for his own spouse (Gen. 20:2) until God revealed to him that she was Abraham's wife and death would be the result of his molesting her. Abimelech also appears in a similar story involving Rebekah and Isaac (Gen. 26:1-16), where he warns others not to molest Rebekah or they will be put to death, suggesting he learned from the first episode. In this latter tale he is called "Abimelech of the Philistines," which can only be an anachronism reflecting a story told well after the events were supposed to have taken place.

    2. The son of Gideon (Jerubbaal) and his concubine in Shechem (Judg. 8:31). His story (Judg. 9) is told to demonstrate the dangers of kingship, the divine preference for individually selected rulers, and the futility of trust in gods other than Yahweh. His name, "My father is king," may be a literary device; otherwise it would suggest that Gideon saw himself as a king and so named this son to reflect that status, or perhaps it was a throne name taken after seizing power to legitimate his own claim to the throne. The name Abi-melek was relatively common in ancient Syria-Palestine.

    Seeking the kingship which by inheritance should have belonged to his 70 half-brothers by Gideon's official wives, Abimelech, with the urging of the citizens of Shechem and the aid of personnel from the temple of Baal-berith ("Baal of the Covenant"), assassinated all but one of his brothers; Jothan, the youngest, managed to escape (a standard plot motif). The populace of Shechem declared Abimelech king in succession to his father, who had been a popular judge. He set up his capital outside Shechem, finally at Arumah (Judg. 9:31, 41), which may explain the ensuing revolt by Shechem. He reigned for three years.

    Jothan declared that the duplicity of the Shechemites and of Abimelech would be returned upon them. This was accomplished when Shechem declared Gaal son of Ebed, a newcomer to town, its king in place of Abimelech. In the resultant battle Abimelech and his ally in the city, Zebul, defeated Shechem, overrunning the lower city and then burning the inner city with a thousand of its citizens inside. The temple of El-berith, to which the populace had fled, was no protection, for all were slain and the city's ruins sown with salt to guarantee its continued destruction.

    From there Abimelech moved on Thebez and attempted the same tactic, only here a woman in the city's fortress dropped a millstone on his head. Knowing he was to die, he asked his attendant to slay him so that no one would say a woman had killed him, but this only insured that it would be remembered (2 Sam. 11:21).

    3. In the heading of Ps. 34, a ruler before whom David feigned insanity in order to escape. The story to which this line alludes appears to concern Achish king of Gath (1 Sam. 21:10-22:1), but may possibly refer to another incident where David used the same ruse with a different ruler otherwise not recorded. Less likely, it has been argued that Achish and Abimelech were two different names for the same ruler.

    4. One of David's two chief priests, the son of Abiathar (1 Chr. 18:16 MT). While some translations retain the Hebrew form of the name, most translators assume a scribal error and read Ahimelech son of Abiathar with 2 Sam. 8:17; 1 Chr. 24:6.

    Bibliography . J. P. Fokkelman, "Structural Remarks on Judges 9 and 19," in "Sha'arei Talmon," ed. M. Fishbane and E. Tov (Winona Lake, 1992), 33-45; B. Halpern, "The Rise of Abimeleck Ben-Jerubbaal," HAR 2 (1978): 79-100.

Lowell K. Handy


    1. The father of Eleazer. 1 Sam. 7:1 reports that men from Kiriath-jearim moved the ark from Beth-shemesh to the "house of Abinadab" where the newly consecrated son of Abinadab, Eleazar, took responsibility for the ark. Abinadab was also the father of Uzzah and possibly Ahio (2 Sam. 6:3, 4; 1 Chr. 13:7), if Heb. ' ahyô is a personal name and not a reference to Eleazar, "his brother." Eleazar's consecration, the 20-year possession of the ark, and the ambiguous Hebrew term bêt suggest that the "house of Abinadab" refers to a temple.

    2. Jesse's second son (1 Sam. 16:8; 1 Chr. 2:13), who served in Saul'S army against the Philistines al-Elah where David killed Goliath (1 Sam. 17:13).

    3. The fourth son of Saul (1 Chr. 8:33; 9:39), who died with his brothers Jonathan and Malchishua on Mt. Gilboa (1 Sam. 31:2; 1 Chr. 10:2). 1 Sam. 14:49 omits Abinadab in Saul's genealogy.

William D. Matherly


The father of Barak of the tribe of Naphtali (Judg. 4:6, 12; 5:1, 12).


    1. The son of Eliab, a Reubenite (Num. 16:1). Abiram, along with his brother Dathan, his cousin On, and Korah, organized an uprising in the wilderness against Moses and Aaron. They were joined by 250 leaders of the congregation of Israel (Num. 16:1-35). The conspirators, motivated by envy, accused Moses of self-exaltation and challenged his interpretation of who was holy before God.

    When Moses asked for Abiram and Dathan to appear before him, they refused, complaining that Moses had failed to bring the people into a land of fields and vineyards. Abiram, Dathan, Korah, and all of their families and possessions, except for the sons of Korah, were then swallowed alive by the earth (16:31-33). The leaders of the congregation who had joined the uprising were consumed by the Lord's fire (16:35; 26:9; Deut. 11:6; Ps. 106:17).

    2. The firstborn son of Hiel, the Bethelite (1 Kgs. 16:34). Abiram died during the reign of Ahab because his father laid the foundations for the rebuilding of Jericho in direct violation of the curse spoken by Joshua after the conquest of Jericho (Josh. 6:26). Some scholars suggest that his death was intended as a foundation sacrifice.

Alan Ray Buescher


The Shunammite virgin who attended to the aged King David (1 Kgs. 1:4, 15). That David had no sexual relations with Abishag is sometimes interpreted as an indication of the king's inability to govern. The Talmud, however, notes that David did not make Abishag his wife because he refused to exceed the legal number of wives -- 18 -- allowed to a king ( Sanh . 22a).

    Later, Abishag became a political pawn in the succession struggle between David's sons. After Solomon was declared king and David had died, Adonijah asked for Abishag's hand in marriage (1 Kgs. 2:17). Solomon interpreted Adonijah's request as an attempt to overthrow the throne and ordered his execution (1 Kgs. 2:22-25).

    In Jewish lore Abishag is seen in her later years as the Shunammite who gives hospitality to Elisha the prophet (2 Kgs. 4:8-37).

Robin Gallaher Branch

ABISHAI (Heb. 'dbtlay)

One of the three sons of Zeruiah, David's sister, who served with David when he fled Saul's court (1 Sam. 22:1-2). Abishai held the special position of commander of David's elite warriors--the šalîsîm (2 Sam. 23:18-19)--among whom he was also the most renowned. One vignette credits Abishai with saving David's life during the Philistine wars (2 Sam. 21:16-17). Within David's administration, Abishai appears as a kind of second-in-command of the army, and he is typical of David's inner circle of advisors with his combination of loyalty to, yet independence from, the king.

    Abishai is conspicuously absent from the intrigue surrounding the struggle between Solomon and Adonijah for the throne (1 Kgs. 1-2), and indeed he may have died sometime before it began. Benaiah ben Jehoiada appears here as the leader of David's warrior elite.

    Abishai and his brother Joab also provide a key foil for the text's explication of David's personality. The record implicates Abishai in Joab's revenge slaying of Abner the son of Net (2 Sam. 3:30), and it lumps him with Joab in David's condemnation of "the sons of Zeruiah" as ruthless men of blood (3:39; 16:10). While David appears to renounce violence toward his enemies (1 Sam. 26:6-12; 2 Sam. 16:9-14), Abishai and Joab appear as the proverbial violent men, whose ruthless deeds will overtake them. At the same time the writer appreciates--and clearly reveals--the irony in David's condemnation of the very men upon whose shoulders his kingdom's security clearly rests.

    Bibliography . D. G. Schley, "Joab and David: Ties of Blood and Power," in History and Interpretation , ed. M. P. Graham, W. P. Brown, and J. K. Kuan (Sheffield, 1993), 90-105.

Donald G. Schley


An alternate rendering of the name Absalom (1 Kgs. 15:2, 10).


    1. The son of the high priest Phinehas (1 Chr. 6:4[MT 5:30]) and great-grandson of Aaron (6:50135]). According to Ezra 7:5 he was an ancestor of Ezra the scribe.

    2. A Benjaminite, one of the sons of Bela, and grandson of Benjamin (1 Chr. 8:4).


A Judahite of the family of Hezron; a son of Shammai and brother of Nadab. He married Abihail and became the father of two sons (1 Chr. 2:28-29).


One of David's wives and mother of his fifth son Shephatiah (2 Sam. 3:4 = 1 Chr. 3:3).


One of the two sons of Shamaraim and his first wife Hushin (1 Chr. 8:11).

ABIUD (Gk. Abiodd )

The son of Zerubbabel, according to Matthew's genealogy of Jesus (Matt. 1:13).

ABNER (Heb.)

Saul's uncle and the commander of his army (1 Sam. 14:50). Abner apparently had at least one son, a certain Jaasiel, who led the tribe of Benjamin during David's reign (1 Chr. 27:21).

    While Saul ruled Israel, Abner may have served as Saul's personal bodyguard. David once chastised Abner for failing to protect Saul while they slept (1 Sam. 26:13-25). After Saul's death, Abner instigated the accession of Saul's son Ishbaal to the throne of Israel and spearheaded the transfer of the capital from Gibeah to Mahanaim in Transjordan (2 Sam. 2:8, 12). During Ishbaal's short reign of two years, Abner apparently still served as commander of the army, but he seems to have had much more power. When the leadership of Ishbaal was failing, Abner sought to take over by acquiring one of Saul's concubines, Rizpah (access to the royal harem indicated one's rightful claim to the throne). When confronted by Ishbaal about his machinations, Abner defected to David. Abner's motivations are uncertain, but perhaps he believed he had a greater chance to gain the throne of Israel by allying with David. He also might have expected to replace Joab as commander of David's army.

    After visiting David in Hebron to arrange David's accession to the throne of Israel, Abner was murdered by Joab to avenge the death of his brother Asahel, whom Abner had killed, purportedly in self-defense following the skirmish at Gibeon (2 Sam. 2:18-28). Joab's secondary motivation may have been the threat that Abner posed to Joab's position in David's army. Although the text does not implicate David in Abner's murder, some scholars believe that he may have ordered it since 2 Samuel tries so hard to say otherwise.

Paul S. Ash


The son of Terah, husband of Sarah, father of Ishmael and Isaac, and grandfather of Jacob. He is the common patriarch of the three "Abrahamic' religions: Jews trace their ancestry to Abraham throught his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob-Israel, Muslims trace theirs through his son Ishmael, and Christians claim descent from Abraham through faith (Gal. 3:6-7, 29).

    The biblical story of Abraham describes his divine selection as the ancestor of Israel and sets in motion the long process by which his descendants eventually become a populous nation in a land of their own. At the beginning Abraham is living with his wife Sarah and his nephew Lot in the Mesopotamian city of Haran. Yahweh commands him to leave his ancestral home and move to a new land, where his descendants will be divinely blessed and grow into a great nation (Gen. 12:1-3). This promise cannot be fulfilled within Abraham's own lifetime, but its realization is foreshadowed in the ensuing events, as Abraham and Sarah take up residence in the land promised to them, and Isaac, the son from whom the nation will descend, is born.

    The great patriarch first appears as "Abram" (` abram , Gen. 11:26), but eventually God changes his name to ' abraham (17:5). The two forms probably originated as dialectal variants--the longer form, with internal - h -, corresponds to a pattern especially common in Aramaic; the meaning in either form was "the Father is exalted" the God of Abraham being praised as divine father of kinsmen. Even so, the author of Gen. 17, in which Abram is promised a multitude of offspring, gives a thematic interpretation of the new name as "the father of a multitude (' ab-hamôn ) of nations." This chapter contains the formal articulation of the Priestly (P) version of the covenant between God and Abraham's descendants, and the change of name is an indication of the change of status that occurs when the covenant is established, signifying a new identity in relation to the name-giver (cf. 2 Kgs. 23:34). The name of Abram's wife is also changed--from Sarai to Sarah (Gen. 17:15)--and his grandson's name will be changed from Jacob to Israel (17:15; 32:28[MT 29]).

    It is difficult to say whether the traditional stories about Abraham were based on the life of a historical individual and, if so, exactly when the historical Abraham might have lived. The biblical writers regarded him as a figure of the distant past, living many generations before the establishment of Israel as a political entity, and modern scholars have attempted to identify a pre-Israelite context into which the stories might fit. Following a nonurban period at the end of the 3rd millennium B.C., there were two centuries of gradual resettlement in Mesopotamia, Syria, and Palestine (Middle Bronze I or IIA), followed by an age of increased population and cultural expansion characterized by the development of large urban centers (MB II or IIB). Since Abraham and his family are presented as nomads, even after arriving in Canaan, historians have attempted to associate the travels of Abraham and his family with the movements of peoples during the settlement period of MB I, or to understand their activities in terms of our knowledge of nomadic peoples living alongside the great cities of MB II.

    The earliest surviving reference to Abraham may be in a 10th-century Egyptian text, which refers to a place in the Negeb called "the Fortress of Abraham," listed among places conquered by the 22nd-Dynasty king Sheshonq (Shishak) in his incursion into Palestine during the reign of Renoboam (cf. 1 Kgs. 14:25-26; 2 Chr. 12:2-12). If the Abraham for whom this fortress was named is the biblical patriarch, then the Abraham tradition was well established in the Negeb by the 10th century, This would be consistent with the geographical setting of the biblical narrative, in which Abraham has strong ties to the Negeb--especially to Beersheba, where Isaac is born and raised--and to other southern locations, most notably Hebron, near which Abraham's family had its principal residence at the "oaks of Mature" (Gen. 13:18; 14:13; 18:1). These geographical associations are sometimes taken as an indication that the Abraham tradition originated in the south, but they are more likely the result of a southern orientation of the tradition that developed after the settlement of the Negeb in the 11th century and, more especially, as ter the establishment of the Davidic dynasty with its strong associations with Hebron, the traditional capital of the tribe of Judah. Indeed, there are some indications that Abraham's earliest geographical associations were not with Hebron but with the original Israelite homeland in the hill country north of Jerusalem. Whether the Abraham tradition originated in the south or the north, however, in the present form of the tradition Abrahamis is not a regional figure but a patriarch of the entire land. This is perhaps shown most clearly by the places of worship he is said to have founded, which range across the heartland of ancient Israel, north and south. He builds an altar to Yahweh at Stechem in the central Samarian hills (Gen. 12:6-7), another north of Jerusalem at a point between Bethel and Ai (v. 8), and a third at Hebron in the southern Judean hills (13:18). At Beer-sheba in the northern Negeb he plants a sacred tree (21:33).

    As the founder of these shrines, Abraham initiates the process by which the worship of Yahweh is established throughout Canaan. He also engages in a number of other foundational activities -- territorial negotiations, land purchases, even military expeditions--which determine and clarify the relationships of his family to the neighboring peoples. These are the actions of a founding patriarch, whose deeds define the social roles and ethnic consciousness of his descendants. The most important vehicle of this social and ethnic definition is the elaborate genealogy in which Abraham is introduced and which he extends by the marriages he makes and the children he begets. His family background is documented primarily in Gen. 11:10-32, a continuation of the genealogy of Noah's eldest son Shem, begun in 10:21-31. Shem was "the father of all the children of Eber" (10:21), i.e., the Hebrews, who in biblical tradition are contrasted with the Canaanites and other indigenous peoples of the Promised Land. Abraham himself was the eldest of the three sons of Terah (Gen. 11:26), during whose lifetime the family is said to have moved from Ur, in southern Mesopotamia, to Haran on the Balikh River in northwestern Mesopotamia. In the time of the biblical writers Haran was a major caravan city, from which travelers could cross the Euphrates and proceed south via the oasis of Tadmor (Palmyra) to Damascus, picking up the King's Highway and continuing, east of the Jordan, to Canaan and points farther south. This is evidently the route that Abraham's family was believed to have taken, and the family ties to Haran, and ultimately to Ur, reflect the Israelite belief that their earliest ancestral connections were with the peoples of Transeuphrates, not with the indigenous peoples of Canaan. Thus the names of Abraham's immediate ascendants (Gen. 11:22-26; 1 Chr. 1:26-27) correspond to the names of cities in the vicinity of Haran: Serug, the name of Abraham's great-grandfather, was the name of a city situated between Haran and the Euphrates; Nahor, the name of both Abraham's grandfather and one of his two brothers, was the name of a city (Nakhur) located SE of Haran on the upper Balikh; and Terah was the name of a city (Til-[sha]Turakhi) in the Balikh River basin. The name of Abraham's other brother Haran ( haran ) is similar but not identical to the name of the city of Haran ( haran ) itself.

    The names of the descendants of the three sons of Terah--Abraham, Nahor, and Haran--correspond to the names of the peoples recognized by the biblical writers as belonging to Israel's larger kinship group. Nahor's sons bear the names of the 12 tribes of the Arameans. Eight of these were located in the Syrian Desert, the Aramean homeland (Gen. 22:20-23), while the remaining four eventually expanded westward into Syria (v. 24). Haran's son Lot was the father of Moab and Ben-ammi, the eponymous ancestors of the Transjordanian Ammonites and Moabites (Gen. 19:37-38), who are therefore known in biblical tradition as "the children of Lot" (Deut. 2:9, 19; Ps. 83:8[9]). By attributing their patrimony to Abraham's nephew, the tradition accorded them a junior kinship to Israel, and by presenting the circumstances of their conception as an incestuous union between Lot and his daughters (Gen. 19:30-38), the tradition cast a shadow over their lineage, especially in contrast to the auspicious circumstances of the birth of Israel's ancestor, Isaac.

    Abraham's own descendants fall into three groups: those descended from Ishmael (Ishmaelites or Arabs), those descended from Isaac (Edomites and Israelites), and those descended from the various sons of Keturah (a collateral line of Arabs). Their relative status in Israelite tradition is reflected in the status of their mothers. Isaac was the son of Abraham's wife Sarah and the father of Jacob-Israel, whose 12 sons were the ancestors of the 12 tribes who eventually would inherit the land promised to Abraham in Canaan. As shown by the "Edomite Genesis" of Gen. 36, Esau-Edom, Isaac's other son, was the eponymous ancestor of the Edomites, whom Israelite tradition divided into three groups descended from Esau's three wives. Abraham's other sons were the sons of concubines, Hagar and Keturah, and he sent them away "to the east" (Gen. 25:6), i.e., to Arabia. Thus the 12 sons of Ishmael, the son of Hagar, bear the names of 12 peoples of northern Arabia (Gen. 25:13-15; 1 Chr. 1:29-31), who inhabited the Syrian Desert east and southeast of Gilead. These were the Hagrite or Hagarene tribes (1 Chr. 5:10, 19-20; cf. Ps. 83:6[7]; Bar. 3:23); most of their names are those of tribes mentioned in biblical or extrabiblical sources. The names of Keturah's sons (Gen. 25:2; 1 Chr. 1:32) are more difficult to explain than those of Hagar, but in general they too seem to correspond to the names of Arabian groups and places.

    Taken altogether, therefore, the genealogical traditions associated with Abraham identify Israel within three kinship groups of progressively narrowing boundaries and increasing affinity. The most general group is that of the Semites or descendants of Shem and, more particularly, the descendants of Eber or Hebrews. The next group comprises the Terachic peoples -- the descendants of the three sons of Abraham's father, Terah. These include the Arameans and the Transjordanian peoples of Ammon and Moab. The narrowest group is that of the Abrahamic peoples, descendants of Abraham himself. They include the Ishmaelites or northern Arabian tribes, the Edomites, and the Israelites themselves.

    The most striking characteristic of Abraham's portrayal in the Genesis narrative--and for which he is most admired in later tradition--is his passive obedience to the divine directives he receives. At the beginning of his story he is told to leave his homeland behind and travel "to the land that I will show you," a place about which he knows nothing. That he seems to accept this summons without question or hesitation may be a consequence of the literary economy of the narrative, but in postbiblical interpretation his passive acceptance has been seen as a paradigm of the unquestioning obedience that arises from trust in God. This is all the more true of the story of the "binding" (' aqedâ ) of Isaac, told near the end of the Abraham narrative (Gen. 22:1-19). After Isaac is born and the divine promise of progeny, which had been jeopardized by Abraham's old age and Sarah's barrenness, seems on the way to fulfillment, God tests Abraham by instructing him to take Isaac to "one of the mountains that I shall show you" and sacrifice him there as a burnt offering. Again Abraham obeys without hesitation and is at the point of putting his son to death when God intervenes and substitutes a ram for the offering. Principally on the basis of this remarkable-story, Abraham came to be regarded as a paragon of faith or trust in God for Jews and Christians--and also for Muslims, in whose tradition it is Ishmael, rather than Isaac, whose sacrifice is demanded.

P. Kyle Mccarter, Jr.


A 1st- to mid-2nd century C.E. Jewish apocalypse, probably composed in a Semitic language, but extant only in Slavonic. Although the work may not be composite, most scholars identify two major parts and several possible interpolations.

1. Chs.1-8 are a late, humorous story about the conversion of Abraham from idolatry after he reflects on the nature of idols and prays that he might know the Creator, who then appears in a theophany.

2. Chs. 9-32, the original apocalypse, are a midrash on Gen. 15:9-17. God instructs the angel Iaoel ( YHWH 'l ) to help Abraham offer sacrifices on Horeb, where Abraham encounters the fallen angel Azazel. Iaoel then takes Abraham on an otherworldly journey and shows him a vision of God, God's throne and attendants (cf. Ezek. 1, 10), the various heavens, the earth and the abyss, and a picture depicting all of human history (cf. 1 En. 1-36).

    Bibliography . R. Rubinkiewicz, "Apocalypse of Abraham," OTP 1 (Garden City, 1983): 681-705; G. Vermes, "Jewish Literature Composed in Hebrew or Aramaic" in E. Schürer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (175 B.C.-A.D. 135) , rev. ed., 3/1 (Edinburgh, 1986): 288-92.

R. Glenn Wooden


A pseudepigraphal book in which Abraham learns from the archangel Michael that the time has come for his death. Abraham, however, refuses to die, using his privileged position as the friend of God to forestall the inevitable. The story thus departs from an anticipated deathbed gathering (a testament) to become apocalyptic in nature as Abraham tours the inhabited world and journeys to the scene of the judgment. The principal theme is that God is compassionate and patient with sinners, desiring that all repent and live. At the end of the story, God sends the angel Death, who takes Abraham's soul by trickery.

    The text exists in a long (Recension A) and short (Recension B) form. The original Jewish text was probably written in a semitizing Greek in Egypt ca. 100 C.E.

    Bibliography . E. P. Sanders, "Testament of Abraham," OTP 1:871-902.

Paul S. Ash


Copyright © 2000 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. All rights reserved.

Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 2001-01-01:
With this new dictionary (EDB), Freedman (Hebrew biblical studies, Univ. of California, San Diego) repeats the success of his Anchor Bible Dictionary (ABD) on a smaller scale. Like the ABD, this one-volume dictionary includes contributions from an international, interconfessional team of nearly 600 established and up-and-coming scholars. Around 5000 articles treat the books of the Bible (including the Apocrypha, or Deuterocanonicals) and the persons, places, and many of the significant terms found in them. There are also entries for related subjects, such as noncanonical writings and terms one will encounter in the secondary literature (for example, "Elohist" and "Hebrew, Biblical"). In fact, though it is less detailed, this work covers much the same ground as the ABD. It far surpasses such comparable works as The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (LJ 2/15/97) and New Bible Dictionary (InterVarsity, 1996. 3d ed.) in the number of contributors and of articles, and it ranges more broadly across the theological spectrum. Up-to-date, comprehensive, and well written, the EDB is highly recommended. However, because Freedman only partially achieves his goal of providing "balanced discussions reflecting different viewpoints," it should join the aforementioned dictionaries rather than supplant them.ÄCraig W. Beard, Univ. of Alabama Lib., Birmingham (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Choice on 2001-04-01:
Not simply a revision of The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, ed. by A.C. Myers et al. (CH, Dec'87), but an entirely fresh production, this highly useful compilation reflects current scholarly opinion on a vast variety of biblical topics and is characterized by thoroughness and clarity. The roster of contributors includes some 600 persons and cites their position and school or church affiliation. They constitute a wonderful mix of liberal and somewhat conservative scholarship, Protestant and Roman Catholic, and range from established scholars (e.g., E.P. Sanders, Duke, who writes the entry "Jesus Christ") to ministers and PhD candidates. The 5,000 entries, arranged alphabetically by subject, range in length from one or two sentences to two or three pages. The work includes insights from "critical analysis of literary, historical, archaeological, sociological, and other methodological issues." Unsigned entries by the editors tend to be brief (e.g., on Saph, a giant who fought for the Philistines). Signed articles end with excellent current bibliographies, mostly books but sometimes including periodical articles. Entry subjects include all persons and places named in the Bible, biblical events, every biblical book (including deuterocanonical literature), even words reflecting the smallest details (e.g., "Marble"). The small font allows an enormous amount of material to be covered. Articles on controversial subjects are treated evenhandedly, citing a variety of scholarly opinion. Longer articles consistently cover all the essential points. The front and back endpapers provide transliteration and pronunciation charts for Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek and a chart, "The Archaeological Periods of Palestine." A set of 16 colored maps includes one on archaeological sites. The Oxford Companion to the Bible, ed. by B.M. Metzger and M.D. Coogan (CH, Ju1'94), has a more international group of scholars and longer articles but covers far less material. A marvelously thorough resource, of great use in both academic and public libraries. D. Bourquin; California State University, San Bernardino
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