Abraham

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Abraham is the great patriarch recognized by the three great religions of the Middle East as a founding father, and the prophet of monotheism. Through his son Isaac he founded the Hebrew people, and their monotheistic religion Judaism; through his Jewish descendant Mary, 'the mother of God', and her son Jesus of Nazareth he can be seen as the prophet of the monotheistic religion of the Christians; and through his son Ishmael he founded the Arabs: their descendant Muhammad founded the religion of Islam. Muslims call him Ibrahim; in Hebrew he is Avram or Avraham. His name, as transliterated into English, was originally Abram; when he was 99 years old, according to the Bible, "the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, 'As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee" (Genesis, 17 1-5, Authorized Version). According to OED, "The etymology of both names of the patriarch, before and after the conclusion of his covenant with God in Genesis 17, is uncertain. It is possible that they are regional variants of a Hebrew personal name which is usually taken to mean 'the father is exalted'. In Genesis 17:5 as well as in later Jewish exegesis (e.g. in the Babylonian Talmud, Berakoth 13a), the new name of the patriarch is explained (by a mistaken etymology) as 'father of many nations' (Hebrew אַב-הֲמוֹן גּוֹיִם (av hamon goyim), lit. 'father of a multitude of nations')."

For an account of Abraham's life see Life of Abraham, Abraham and Isaac, and Lot.

Jews, Christians and Muslims all refer to themselves from time to time as 'children of Abraham'. The three great monotheistic religions which arose in the Middle East are therefore sometimes known as the Abrahamic faiths.

In English-speaking countries, 'Abraham's bosom' is a euphemism for heaven, and therefore death (after which good souls may hope to go to Heaven). Cf. an old American rhyme;

Mary-Anne has gone to rest
Safe at last on Abraham's breast -
Which may be nuts for Mary-Anne
But it's certainly tough on Abraham.

Also, in English history, an Abram man or Abraham man was a beggar, particularly one who pretended to be mad, and often carried a fraudulent certificate claiming he had been discharged from a hospital 'on licence'. Both these uses may derive from the Gospel of Luke, chapt 16 v 22, where a beggar dies, "and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom" (Authorized Version).