But let's leave the insalubrious political mess that vitiated relationships between people for so long and concentrate on what we find in our book. Abraham was the 8-greatgrandchild of Noah, born 390 years after the flood, 2046 years after creation (after 10 generations, lots of people could reasonably claim the same descent, but for obvious reasons it was vital to establish direct kinship via Noah all the way back to Adam, a theme threading through the bible as a whole, weaving the heroes together in a big family tree). By divine instructions, he is sent to Canaan and is "given" the land to master (his nephew Lot taking the Jordan plains, including those fabled pleasure domes of Sodom and Gomorrah - we'll visit them next time). God seems really quite favorably disposed towards Abraham and promises countless offspring, but Canaan, we got a problem: his wife Sarai is barren and cannot conceive. Nil desperandum: she offers her slave Hagar as mother-by-proxy. Abraham, not objecting (Sarai's already 75), quickly hits the sack with her and they produce a child, Ishmael, a "wild man, his hand against every man". Sarai is jealous but at least Abe's got his offspring.
When Abraham is 99 (and Sarai 90), god promises their offspring eternal rule over Canaan, under one condition: all men are to cut off the tip of their penis, any uncircumcised man automatically being cut off from his people (a somewhat odd way of branding the herd). God appears as "three men" (is this the template of the three kings?) to Abe & Sarai (now inexplicably renamed Sarah), and tells them she will have a child after all, despite advanced age. He furthermore announces his plans to destroy those wicked cities of Sodom & Gomorrah. Abe tries to convince him to save the cities, if only he could find 50 righteous men there… or 45… 40… 30… 20… 10? Abe & Sarah then travel to Gerar, where they repeat a curious trick they already pulled in Egypt, some 25 years earlier: as he is afraid other men will have lustful feelings towards Sarah (she's 90; they must be desperate for a woman), he passes her off as his sister (how's that gonna help, I wonder). Both times see the predictable result: Pharaoh (Egypt) and King Abimelech (Gerar) immediately want to bed her (she must have been quite a stunner at 90), but god intervenes both times. Equivocal, tasteless and superfluous - especially when we're told Sarah actually IS Abraham's (half-)sister, both fathered by a certain Terah. I mean, yikes.
Sarah's eventual insemination is enigmatic: god "came to Sarah and did as he had spoken" (a possible inspiration for Mary's immaculate conception?). Anywise, soon little Isaac is born, and as she now has an official son by Abe (or was it god?), she vindictively sends poor Hagar into the wilderness (luckily, god rescues her by showing her a well).
The most famous part of the story, the bit everybody knows, is where god instructs Abraham to kill his son Isaac. Abe (bafflingly) obliges, builds a huge altar and is about to solemnly slaughter his own son when god intervenes: April fool! Just kidding, trying to see if you are really afraid of me. I always had a lot of trouble with this story, as it is so utterly pointless, a disgusting abuse of power. Anyway, god is happy with this brainless git's servitude, and promises him (again) countless blessings & offspring. To ensure a maximum amount of progeny, after Sarah's death (at 127) he takes a new wife, Keturah, and has 6 more sons; for good measure, he also does the deed & sows the seed with a number of concubines. He dies at 175, probably of sexual over-exertion.