Studying the qualities of Abraham in the Bible is an eye-opening experience. We know him as the man with stellar faith but Abraham was so much more than that. He was a real man with strengths and weaknesses. He experienced many failure but so many joys as well. Let’s explore this Bible Character with fresh eyes.
Who is Abraham in the Bible?
Next to Jesus, I think Abraham is the next most important Bible character in Christianity. His obedience and trust in God led him through a wild faith adventure.
It is while he was on this journey that God made a covenant with him. To cut a long story short, this covenant led to birth to the Jewish nation which gave birth to Christianity.
Although we don’t talk about it much, Abraham is also associated with the birth of the Islamic faith. But that’s another story for another time.
Throughout this post, we will get to know this giant of faith who was just as human as you and me.
Short story of Abraham in the Bible
Abraham was born in Ur in Mesopotamia. This nation did not worship God. At some point, Abraham’s father left Ur and went to live in Harran. It was while there that God told Abraham to leave his family.
So, Abraham packed up his wife, Sarai, all his livestock and belongings and left. God said he would show him where to settle. Abraham became a nomad.
While living his nomadic life, God promised that he would become a biological father to a son and that eventually, he would become the father of many nations.
Two and half decades passed before that promise came to life. Over those 20 plus years, Abraham made mistakes like lying to two kings about his wife, telling them she was his sister.
He also allowed Sarai to get him to father a son through her slave girl Hagar. God named him Ishmael.
Finally, when he was 100 years old and Sarah was 90, their son Isaac was born. Waiting stretched Abraham’s faith but it grew it by leaps and bounds.
So much did he grow to trust God that when God told him to sacrifice his son Isaac on an altar, he decided to do it. God stepped in and stopped him in the knick of time and provided a ram for the altar instead.
Sarah died when Isaac was about 40 years old. Abraham went on to marry again and had more children.
What are the characteristics of Abraham in the Bible?
I’m convinced that the older I get, the more I can relate to the Bible characters. I started writing about 5 qualities of Abraham in the Bible.
But then as I studied his life and experience, I realized that Abraham was so much more than I realized.
I will look at Abraham’s strengths, weaknesses, and his leadership qualities.
What were Abraham’s strengths?
Abraham had a bunch of really good qualities. He had alot going for him. Here is a short list of his positive characteristics.
- Abraham was extremely wealthy
- Abraham was obedient
- Abraham had enduring faith
- Abraham believed God’s promises
- Abraham had an open line of communication with God
What were Abraham’s weaknesses?
Abraham was a real person like you and me. He was a mixed bag of great and not so great qualities. Here are a couple of things that could be considered weaknesses.
- Abraham was fearful, cowardly and a liar
- Abraham struggled with his faith
Leadership qualities of Abraham in the Bible
- Abraham was a warrior and military strategist
- Abraham had compassion
- Abraham was good at negotiating and compromising
6 Qualities of Abraham in the Bible that are strengths
These qualities of Abraham I am about to talk about are based on the list above. Let’s dive in!
Abraham was extremely wealthy
I know we almost never pay attention to this but it’s important.
Abraham is most known for his faith. As Christians we give alot of attention to this because we are people of faith. We use his story as encouragement for our own faith journey. And this is indeed what the Bible is for.
But Abraham was more than just a man of faith. He was a real person, living in a real world, with a real family to take care of, and real hopes and dreams to become a dad and the very real burden of leaving a decent legacy.
So, Abraham worked hard, obeyed God, and he was blessed with earthly, material possessions.
Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold. Genesis 13:2
When his wife, Sarah, died, Abraham was able to buy land for 400 shekels of silver. Today, that is approximately 60 thousand dollars.
Many classroom teachers don’t make that in one year. But Abraham spent that much on land without it having any impact on his pocket. That land became the family plot for generations to come.
He was an authentic man of faith with money. Abraham’s wealth was one benefit of his faith walk and relationship with God.
God never intended for faith and money to become enemies. We should embrace this fact about Abraham and many of the other patriarchs in Scripture.
Abraham was obedient to God
When God called Abraham to leave his father’s house, it seemed quite random. If you read his story carefully you will see that his family had already been on a journey.
His father had left their original home and settled elsewhere. Then God told Abraham to leave that home again.
Abraham didn’t seem to question God. He just obeyed. We see his unquestioning obedience a few other times in Scripture.
Leaving his father’s house on God’s instruction was the first time he showed obedience. There were many other times when God told him to leave where he was living to go to some other place. Abraham went wherever God told him to go.
From Canaan to Egypt to the Negev to Hebron. Wherever.
Another example of his obedience was when God tells him to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham doesn’t ask God why. He just gathered the wood, a couple of servants and his boy and set off to do the deed. I wonder if he had told Sarah?
Yet another time was when his home life got tense with Sarah over Ishmael and Isaac. Sarah wanted Ishmael and Hagar to leave. When he asked God what to do about it, the instruction was to send Ishmael and his mother away.
This seemed wicked, unfair and just plain cruel. Abraham didn’t really want to do it. But he sent his son packing without asking God for an alternative.
Where did Abraham get this level of obedience?
The answer is my next point.
Abraham had enduring faith
When God told him to pack up his wife and belongings, Abraham did not get a map from God. There was no board meeting or strategy meeting that outlined for him the step-by-step journey he was supposed to take. There was no declared goal for exactly where he would end up. The word was:
Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. Genesis 12:1
I’m a goal setting, goal-oriented, planning kind of girl.
An instruction like this wouldn’t go well with me. I need to know where I’m going, which route we will take, how long the journey will take and expected arrival time. And I’m talking about in this age of GPS and Waze and Siri and Google maps.
Abraham had none of these luxuries. Yet, he just upped and left. Going no place in particular isn’t exactly the life a responsible man would want to live.
But Abraham had the kind of faith to let him get up and go. And not just to get up and go but to keep going. For over 20 odd years, Abraham lived a nomadic life.
Each time God told him to uproot his settlement, he would do it. All the while waiting for his wife to get pregnant like God said she would.
His faith sustained him through threat of life, famine when he owned nowhere, and trouble in his household between Sarah and Hagar.
It’s one thing to have faith. But it’s another to have enduring, sustaining faith.
Abraham believed God’s promises
Two and a half decades is a very long time to wait for a promise to be fulfilled. That just about how long Abraham waited for Isaac to be born.
All those years, Abraham waited. The waiting wasn’t without it’s challenges. (I’ll get to that later).
I’m certain Abraham got tired of waiting. Abraham was rotten rich. He knew that without a son, he would have to leave his legacy to a servant. God assured him that this would not happen.
God showed up time and again to remind him of the covenant promise. And each time, Abraham’s faith was refreshed and renewed.
Abraham had an open line of communication with God
I suppose if I was waiting on God to deliver on something he promised and it didn’t seem to be coming, I’d want to have regular conversations with God as well.
But here is something to observe about Abraham’s story:
Even when there is no record of Abraham speaking, there is record of God talking to him.
God told him to leave home. Abraham left without a word.
After he and Lot parted ways, God showed up to remind him of the covenant promise. In response, Abraham built an altar and worshipped God.
After Abraham rescued Lot from being a hostage, God came to him again and reassured him that he was safe.
A conversation followed in which asked God when he was going to become a father. God again reminded of the covenant promise.
This led to God telling him to build an altar and Abraham spent hours worshipping and listening to God.
Abraham talked to God regularly, especially about the things which bothered him.
God came to him again when it was time for his name to be changed, just before Sarah got pregnant. Abraham and God had a long conversation where they talked about circumcision and what would happen to Ishmael and the birth of Isaac.
There are so many more instances of Abraham and God talking.
No wonder he was called a friend of God (James 2:23).
Abraham lived such a life that God popped in and out for conversation. Imagine that!
2 Qualities of Abraham in the Bible that are weaknesses
Abraham was fearful, cowardly and a liar
Abraham was a bit of a wimp. This same man who gathered an army of over 300 men to fight in order to rescue Lot told lies to save His own skin and refused to stand up to his own wife.
When the saga between Sarah and Hagar unfolded, Abraham said nothing. He watched Sarah abuse Hagar and did nothing about it.
In those days the truth is that the woman of the house was in charge of the female slaves. But that is no excuse for ignoring abuse. Abraham did not stand up to Sarah at all. But then he was the typical man who just wanted his wife to be happy.
Then there were the lies. This happened not just once. Abraham told the same lie twice.
Here’s the thing to know:
In those days, kings had what was called a harem. This is a group of women living in the king’s court. It consisted of his wives, concubines, and female servants.
The size of a kings harem made a political and social statement. Think about Solomon who had 1000 women in his harem.
So when you read that Sarah was taken by the kings, it was so that she would join other women in their harem.
The truth is, Abraham was not all wrong. Sarah was his sister. They shared the same father but not the same mother.
The problem was that withholding that piece of information (that Sarah was also his wife, made the kings think she was available for marriage. Which she was not.
On two recorded occasions he told this lie. As he traveled from place to place, he passed through various regions. He became known for his wealth and influence.
But Abraham was afraid that he would be killed for Sarah. She was in her 80s. Closer to 90 years old. But she was extremely attractive. She did not look her age.
God was very likely preserving her body so that the promise of pregnancy would come true.
But why did Abraham lie? Why was he so cowardly?
Abraham struggled with his faith
Having enduring, sustaining faith doesn’t mean perfection in faith.
Abraham’s faith was sustaining but he had struggles and moments of weakness.
Learning to trust God is a journey. For Abraham, he found it hard to trust God to preserve his and Sarah’s life.
In the same way he struggled to hold on to God’s promise for a biological son. He gave in to Sarah to have a baby with Hagar.
For us, Abraham was a hero of faith. But he was more like a hero of imperfect faith. Yet, he was still dearly loved by God. (I will get to that point soon).
Here’s what I want you to pay attention to:
We probably shouldn’t judge Abraham for his struggles in faith. You see, faith is like a muscle in the body.
The more you use it, the stronger it gets. However, that strength comes from applying increasing amounts of pressure or weight.
If you look at Abraham’s life, there were stages to God building his faith. God asked him to do increasingly difficult things.
And God was with him every step. Eventually, Abraham’s faith was so strong that he would kill his son because God told him to do so.
3 Leadership qualities of Abraham in the Bible
Abraham in the Bible had many outstanding leadership qualities. I will only discuss a few.
But, as you think about him as a leader, remember He was a Godly leader. This makes every difference as we consider his leadership qualities.
Abraham was a warrior and military strategist
Yes, I know. You’ve probably never really paid attention to this part of his story. Abraham is most popularly known for his faith but less known for being a warrior and an excellent one at that.
Read through Genesis 14. Remember Lot, Abraham’s nephew?
Well, Lot got caught in the middle of a feud among a few kings. He and his family were captured from their homes.
When Abraham heard about this, he immediately jumped into action. He gathered an army of over 300 men from his household and launched a surprise night attack. He was able to save Lot and his entire family and possessions.
Abraham was quite the warrior.
Abraham had compassion
When three men showed up at Abraham’s settlement, they came to pay him a visit but more than that, they came on divine business.
These were angels. Could also be the holy trinity appearing in human form. They had come to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.
Those were really wicked cities. It seemed they were so depraved that anything that crossed their imagination was put into action.
God was ready to wipe them off the face of the earth. But Abraham.
Abraham was bargaining with God for the cities. Abraham felt compassion for the good people who would be destroyed right along with the wicked. So he bargained for the whole city to be saved in order to preserve a few.
Of course, we know how that story ended. But Abraham’s willingness to advocate grew out of a heart of compassion. Godly leaders are able to speak up for those who are not in a position to speak for themselves.
Abraham was good at negotiating and compromising
Abraham was a peaceful man. To preserve his peace he was always willing to negotiate and compromise where possible.
When his shepherds and the shepherds of his nephew, Lot, began to have words over land space for their flocks to graze, this was threatening peace between the two households.
What did Abraham do?
He suggested that they put some space between them. Then he asked Lot to choose where he wanted his new space to be located. Lot made his choice (to get the best flat grassy land near Sodom) and then Abraham made his choice to settle in Canaan.
Abraham decided to separate from Lot instead of having their shepherds quarrel.
In another instance, Abraham found himself negotiating with two kings while returning from war where he rescued Lot.
There were two different outcomes to the conversations which tells us that Abraham was wise and could hold his own with anyone, regardless of who they were.
Life lessons from the story of Abraham
What lessons can we learn from Abraham in the Bible? Too many to include in this post but let’s see how many we can pack in.
God doesn’t always need your help to fulfill his word
This lesson is from both Sarah and Abraham.
They had waited for God’s word to come to pass that it seemed like it was never going to happen. It appeared that they were all out of time. Sarah was headed for menopause and still, no baby.
Sarah decided to help God by giving Hagar to Abraham.
That wasn’t a very good idea.
Sarah’s decision to give God a helping hand created a mess that has lasted for generations. Ever wonder why Christians and Muslims are still at war in some parts of the world?
It’s because of Sarah, Hagar and Abraham. That one decision changed the course of history.
Don’t try to help God fulfill his promises. Say no to people who want you to do that, even if it’s your family.
Abraham should have told Sarah he wasn’t going to do what she asked. But I suppose he was just as desperate for a son.
God brought Sarah’s body out of menopause so she could get pregnant with Isaac.
He never needed either of them to help him. He’s God Almighty all by himself. Let’s not create a mess where God wants to make a miracle.
Obey God, no matter how silly and difficult.
When God called Abraham and told him to leave home, there was a promise attached to it.
The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. Genesis 12:1
To get up and move away from your family in those days could not have seemed like it made sense. Especially when there was no economic or agricultural or life-threatening reason to do so. And on top of that, you have no particular destination in mind.
When things make absolutely no sense to us, we have to remember that God has the big picture all spread out in front of him.
When he told Abraham to leave home for land, I imagine that he was not thinking about being given the gift of more than 12,000 square miles of land.
This was the size of the land of Canaan when Joshua and the Israelites went to conquer it after 40 years in the desert.
One reason Abraham lived a nomadic life was because God gave him permission grounded in His promise.
The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” (Genesis 13:14-17)
There are blessings attached to your obedience. If Abraham had decided to stay with his father’s family, there is so much he would have missed out on.
Abraham received the blessing of a deeper relationship with God, of land, of more livestock than he could manage, of children, of God’s protection even when he was sinful and scared and foolish.
Don’t hesitate to obey God. No matter how silly, no matter how it doesn’t make sense. God rewards those who follow his voice.
What does the story of Abraham teach us about God?
God keeps his promises
Sarah and Abraham waited about 25 years for God’s promise of a son to materialize. That’s a lifetime for some people.
But no matter how long it takes, God fulfills his promises. That’s just who He is. He cannot lie. And He never goes back on his word.
What He has said, whatever he has spoken will come to pass.
God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? Numbers 23:19
God told Abraham his son was coming, and his son Isaac did come.
God promised that Abraham’s offspring would be uncountable. Well, 400 years later 2.5 million Israelites were released from Egypt.
God had said Abraham’s offspring would occupy Canaan. Well, the story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho began the fulfillment of that promise.
Eventually, with God leading their battles, the Israelites were able to conquer all the places God told Abraham they would have.
God will watch over and protect his promise
Jeremiah 1:12 says Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.”
When God makes a promise, He ensures that nothing threatens His plans. He stands guard over the people and situations so that nothing goes off track.
So when Sarah ends up in the harem of two kings, God intervened. Once he closed the womb of all the women in that kings house and the other time God himself spoke to the king in a dream.
A promised child was supposed to come through Sarah. God could not have her being defiled by other men. The risk was too great.
God protected his promise by watching over His word.
Are you waiting for a promise of God to come true? No matter what you see happening, God is still in charge. He’s watching over his word to you.
God is faithful even when we are faithless
One of my favorite songs is He’s been faithful by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. TaRanda Green does a beautiful job of interpreting that message in music.
If Abraham were living, I have no doubt that he would love that song too. Abraham benefited from God’s mercy and love even when he made mistakes.
In both instances when he lied about the identity of Sarah and their relationship, something amazing happened.
In one case, the lies made Abraham receive many gifts.
He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels. Genesis 12:16
God allowed Abraham’s wealth to grow although he was telling lies.
Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold. Genesis 13:2
When the other king realized what sin they were going to commit in complete ignorance, they sent Abraham and Sarah away. But they didn’t let him go empty-handed.
Then Abimelek brought sheep and cattle and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham, and he returned Sarah his wife to him. And Abimelek said, “My land is before you; live wherever you like.” To Sarah he said, “I am giving your brother a thousand shekels of silver. This is to cover the offense against you before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated.” Genesis 20:14-16
And once again, Abraham’s wealth got a major boost although he told a big fat lie. Both he and Sarah were in agreement about it by the way.
But God remained faithful. He didn’t allow any harm to come to them. Abraham should have been killed when he was found out. But God not only allowed him to be preserved but he also allowed him to walk away with plenty of goodies.
Of course, I’m not saying God approved the lie. Not at all. The point is that God is so merciful that when we sin because of our weaknesses, He is faithful to protect and forgive and bless.
God will always be who He is despite who we are. And that’s so comforting.
God is patient and forgiving with our faith journey
As I said before, developing a certain level of faith takes a journey. It’s a journey that involves making mistakes and creating messes.
Abraham did all of that. He lied two times, that we know about. He gave in to Sarah to have another baby with another woman instead of consulting God.
Abraham was an imperfect man of faith, learning through his life’s experiences about God.
And guess what?
God was patient with him. Throughout the journey God remained with him. Gave him constant reminders of the promise. Showing to remind him of his presence. Intervening to protect his life and saving Sarah from being violated by strange men.
Giving him direction on what to do about Ishmael when Sarah became unhappy with him in their home.
God was there for it all. God was in it all with Abraham. He never left Abraham to stumble all over himself without a way of escape. Abraham was never helpless.
God was patient with him. Forgiving his every foolish mistake and restoring him each time.
Our God has not changed. The same things He did for Abraham is available to us today. If we but reach out to God with our faith, He will show up every time, no matter what spiritual state we find ourselves in.
What is the significance of Abraham in the Bible?
When someone accepts Jesus, one of the Bible characters they meet in reading the book of Genesis is Abraham. He is the central figure in many discussions about freedom in Christ.
But for the new believer, it can be a little challenging to place Abraham in Christianity while he’s also important in the Jewish faith.
So the question is, why is Abraham important in the Bible?
When God called Abraham to follow him, God had something specific in mind. Although it took a few years of faith-building exercises, God eventually revealed the covenant to Abraham.
Prior to that, God made promises about a biological son to be born to Abraham and about land that his generational offspring would own.
When God finally made the covenant, it was the beginning of the formation of the Jewish nation.
The Jewish nation is known as the Israelites in the Old Testament. They had a special responsibility of telling the nations about the God of heaven. But they failed. That’s why Jesus had to come himself to set things right.
This is why John 3:16 is the most popular and powerful text in all Scripture. And I assure you that you don’t understand it as much as you think you do.
Jesus came to ensure that the faith that Abraham demonstrated, the faith his descendants should have taught to others, the faith in the God of heaven, would become known to the entire world.
As Christians, our faith story began with Abraham, through the Jews, through Jesus to us.
10 Interesting facts about Abraham in the Bible
- Where was Abraham born?
Abraham was born in Ur of the Chaldeans in ancient Mesopotamia. This is located in the region of modern Baghdad.
- Who is the mother of Abraham?
According to Jewish tradition the name of Abraham’s mother was Amathlai.
- Who is the father of Abraham?
The name of Abraham’s father was Terah.
- Who is Abraham’s brother in the Bible?
The Bible mentions that Abraham had two brothers: Haran and Nahor.
- What was Abraham most known for?
Abraham was most known for his faith.
- Who was Abraham’s wife?
Abraham’s wife was Sarai who was also his half sister. God changed her name to Sarah when she was nearly 90 years old.
- Who is the son of Abraham?
The two most popular sons of Abraham were Ishmael and Isaac.
- How many sons did Abraham have altogether?
We could not be certain how many children in all Abraham had but the Bible mentions 6 other sons in addition to Ishmael and Isaac making it a total of 8 sons. If he had daughters they were not mentioned.
- How old was Abraham when he died?
When Abraham died, he was 175 years old.
- Was Abraham a Jew or Gentile?
The short answer is, neither. The term Jew didn’t exist until hundreds of years after Abraham’s existence. The word is short for Judah who was one of the 12 sons of Jacob. He became the leader of his tribe. Later, the tribe of Judah became known as Jews, possibly called so by the Babylonians who captured them.
Final words on the qualities of Abraham in the Bible
Abraham was very much human like us. He had his fair share of struggles with understanding God and learning to trust Him. But Abraham prevailed because he got back up each time and kept going on.
And what’s more encouraging is that God was there with him, through it all. God kept his promises to Abraham. And He will do the same for you. Because God has not changed since the time Abraham was alive till now. He’s the very same.