This is a brief overview of important events in hebrew history from Abraham to Moses:
Abraham, originally named Abram, lived in Ur of the Chaldees with his family. Abram left with his wife Sarai and met his relative Lot in Sodom. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah were very wicked and the God was going to destroy it. But Abraham interceded for Sodom asking if God would spare the cities if fifty righteous men were found in them. Abraham counted downwards in the number of righteous men that could be found in the cities so that God would spare Sodom and Gomorrah. But none were found and God rained down fire and brimstone upon the cities.
God said that Abraham’s wife, Sarah (her name was changed by God, just as Abraham’s was), would give birth to a son. Abraham and Sarah laughed at God’s words because they didn’t believe them, for Sarah was ninety years old. Sarah said that her handmaiden should give them a son. But God did what he promised and Sarah had a son, Isaac. Her handmaiden Hagar previously had birthed a son, Ishmael, to Abraham. But God made Isaac the promised son instead of Ishmael.
When Isaac was still only a boy, God commanded Abraham to offer Isaac his son as a burnt offering. Abraham obeyed and took his son up a mountain and built an altar to sacrifice on. Abraham bound his son upon the altar and would have sacrificed his son had God not intervened and sent an angel to tell Abraham that a ram, which was caught by its horns in a bush, should be offered instead of Isaac. Abraham had passed God’s test and God blessed him so that he would multiply and his seed would be as the stars of heaven and the sand on the sea shore.
Abraham then sent out a servant to find a wife for Isaac. The servant traveled to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor. The servant found a woman who was named Rebekah drawing water at a well. He asked for some water from her pitcher and she gave him some and gave to his camels also. He asked to stay at her father’s house and she took him there. Eventually, Rebekah consented to go back with the servant to Abraham. And Rebekah became Isaac’s wife.
Esau and Jacob were twins born to Isaac and Rebekah. Esau grew up to be a man of the field, but Jacob was a man of the tents. Rebekah’s favorite son was Jacob and she encouraged him to try and steal the birthright of Esau. While Esau was out hunting, Jacob put on goat skins over his arms and neck and brought meat to his father and asked for the blessing. Isaac’s eyes had grown dim so he felt Jacob’s arms and was convinced it was Esau. Isaac blessed Jacob, thinking it was Esau. Esau returned from hunting and asked his father for the blessing, but Isaac had already blessed Jacob. Esau was very angry at his brother and was going to kill him. But Rebekah counseled him to go to Laban, Rebekah’s brother and tarry there until Esau’s wrath turn away. Before Jacob left, his father blessed him again and told him to be fruitful and multiply.
Jacob went then to Laban and abode there. It was there that Jacob met Rachel and he loved her. Jacob served Laban for seven years so that he could marry Rachel, Laban’s daughter. After seven years, Laban had given Leah, his older daughter to Jacob saying that it wasn’t right for his younger daughter to be married before his older one. Laban told him that if he wanted Rachel, he would have to work another seven years for him. Jacob did and married Rachel.
Jacob’s wives bore him twelve sons, the second-to-youngest being Joseph. Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son, and he clothed him in a garment of many colors. Joseph had two dreams, both symbolizing him being higher in rank than his brothers and them bowing down to him. He told this to them and they grew angry and devised a plan to sell him into slavery. One day when Joseph went to where his brothers were tending sheep, they caught him and stripped him and threw him into a pit. They sold him to some merchants traveling to Egypt. Then they took his robe and dipped it in blood and brought it to there father. Jacob wept and thought Joseph had been eaten by wild animals.
Joseph was sold to Potiphar who was the captain of the guard of the pharaoh of Egypt. He was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and thrown into prison. There he met a butler and baker of the pharaoh who were also in jail. They told him strange dreams they had been having and Joseph interpreted the dreams being given that power by God. The butler is released and reinstated his position as the pharaoh’s butler. The pharaoh began then to have strange dreams and asked his magicians to interpret them. None of them could. The butler told the pharaoh about Joseph who interpreted his and the baker’s dreams and the pharaoh asked for Joseph. Joseph was brought to the pharaoh and when told the dreams he interpreted them to mean that a famine was going to come and counseled him to set a man in charge of laying up a fifth of the food produced in Egypt to storehouses. The pharaoh chose Joseph to be that man, seeing his wisdom. The famine comes and soon many people from all over the region come to buy food from Egypt. Joseph’s family comes and he recognizes them and reveals himself to them.
Eventually, Joseph’s family came and lived in Egypt and grew prosperous. Later Jacob died and blessed each of his sons in particular, who were to become the twelve tribes of Israel.
A new pharaoh rose to the throne, believing that the Israelites were becoming to numerous. He decided to put them into slavery and kill every new baby boy. An Israelite woman rebelled secretly and wove a basket to safely carry her newborn boy to safety. Her daughter Miriam she instructed to keep watch of him as he floated down the Nile. As the Bible recounts, the basket reached where the pharaoh’s daughter bathed with her servants. The princess saw the basket and looked inside to find a baby boy. She raised him as her own, calling him Moses.
When Moses had grown into a young adult, one day, as he was watching the Israelites work, he noticed a slavedriver beating a helpless man. This angered Moses to the point where he rose up against the driver and slew him. Afraid of the pharaoh’s anger, Moses fled to the desert where he discovered a burning bush. The presence of God was in the bush, commanding Moses to negotiate with the pharaoh concerning the freedom of the Israelites. Ten plagues fell upon the Egyptians, for ten times the pharaoh denied Moses’ request. The tenth plague was that all firstborn children of every house were to be killed if the blood a sacrifice wasn’t smeared on the doorposts.
Pharaoh, whose son was killed, consented to the release of the Israelites. The Israelites were guided by God with a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. Then the pharaoh of Egypt changed his mind and pursued them. The Red Sea was before the Israelites. God parted it in order for them to pass through. The pharaoh with his army showed up in hot pursuit. Just as the last of the escapees emerged on the other side, God loosed the sea, it swallowing up the Egyptians.
Then a series of events including the Ten Commandments, the golden calf, the mana from heaven came to pass. It’s quite a riveting story, at the same time being true. But one theme recurs over and over: God provides all the peoples’ needs and the Israelites still complained and murmured unrelentingly.