The early history of the Hebrews

Abraham was from Ur, but even though there was rampant idolatry in the city, Abraham worshipped the one true God. Abraham had great faith in God, so much that he was even willing to sacrifice his son Isaac if God wanted him to. God was pleased with Abraham’s faith and he said that Abraham’s descendants would be like the sand of the sea.

Isaac had two sons: Esau and Jacob. They were twins, but Esau was a little older than Jacob. Because of this, Esau would receive the birthright and the blessing from his father. Jacob once found Esau very hungry and offered to trade some red pottage to him for his birthright. Esau accepted, not seeming to care for his birthright at all. Later, Isaac, being old and blind and not knowing when he is going to die was ready to give the blessing to Esau. Jacob, with the urging and help of his mother Rebekah, tricked his father into thinking that he was Esau; receiving the blessing. Esau got really angry with this and threatened to kill Jacob his brother. Through Rebekah’s intervention, Isaac sent Jacob north to some of his relatives. He married two of his uncle Laban’s daughters, acquired many possessions, and returned back to Canaan were his father Isaac was. He reunited with Esau, and settled in Canaan.

Jacob has 12 sons, but he favoured Joseph, his wife Rachel’s son, more than the others. Joseph’s brothers were upset with this, and they sold him into slavery. Joseph ended up in Egypt and was bought by Potiphar, the captain of the Pharaoh’s guard. He was blamed wrongly for things he didn’t do, ending up in prison. There, Joseph, with God’s help, interpreted the dreams of two officials who had fallen into Pharaoh’s disfavour. The interpretation of the dreams were that one of them would be hanged, while the other one would be restored to his office. The dreams came true! Two years later, Pharaoh had a dream, and the official who was restored to his office remembered Joseph and recommended him to Pharaoh. Pharaoh sent for Joseph, who interpreted his dreams which meant that there would be a period of 7 years of prosperity, and then 7 years of famine. Because of his wisdom, Pharaoh made Joseph second over Egypt. He lost no time preparing for the famine. At the time of the famine, many came to buy food, including his brothers. Joseph tested them to see if their hearts were changed, and seeing that it actually had happened, he revealed his identity to them. After this the Hebrews came to live in Egypt, and stayed there for about 400 years.

Many years after Joseph’s death, there arose a Pharaoh that did not know Joseph. He was worried about the growing number of Hebrews, and  enslaved them, killing many of the baby boys. One baby, Moses, was not killed with the rest of them because his mother hid him in a basket on the Nile river. Pharaoh’s daughter saw him in the river, adopted him, and raised in Pharaoh’s house.

When Moses grew up, he sympathized with his people, the Hebrews. On one occasion, he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew. Moses killed the Egyptian, but news came to Pharaoh. Moses fled into the desert and stayed there for some time. Later, God called Moses to go and help liberate the Hebrews, and he and his brother Aaron went to Egypt and demanded that Pharaoh let the people go. Pharaoh stubbornly refused, and God sent ten plagues on the Egyptians. After the tenth plague, Pharaoh gave in. The Hebrews left Egypt to go to Canaan, the promised land. This event is called the Exodus. Pharaoh changed his mind and chased after them, but drowned in the red sea with his army. They did not trust God at the border of Canaan, the promised land, so as a result they wandered around in the desert for forty years. Moses died near the border of the promised land, and did not go in. However, the people went in under Joshua, conquered Canaan, and settled there.

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