Was Abraham a Jew or a Gentile?


By BibleAsk Team

Abraham – A Jew or a Gentile?

The question of whether Abraham was a Jew or a Gentile involves exploring the historical and biblical context surrounding this significant figure. The term “Jew” is generally associated with the descendants of Judah, one of the twelve sons of Jacob (Israel).

The patriarch predates the establishment of the Israelite tribes, and the term “Jew” specifically refers to individuals from the tribe of Judah or those associated with the Kingdom of Judah. Therefore, it is more accurate to refer to the patriarch as a forefather of the Israelites and a significant figure in the biblical narrative rather than as a Jew.

The Patriarch’s story is primarily found in the book of Genesis in the Old Testament, and examining key passages can shed light on his identity and relationship with God. Let’s explore relevant references to the patriarch’s background and identity.

1. Genealogy:

The Bible references to Abraham’s genealogy are found in Genesis 11:26-32. Abraham, originally named Abram, is introduced as the son of Terah. Terah was born in Ur of the Chaldeans, and the family later settled in Haran.

Genesis 11:26-27 (NKJV): “Now Terah lived seventy years, and begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran. This is the genealogy of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran.”

2. God’s Call:

The pivotal moment in the patriarch’s life is God’s call to him in Genesis 12. At this point, he is not identified as a Jew but as a gentile, but God promises to make him a great nation.

Genesis 12:1-3 (NKJV): “Now the Lord had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing.'”

3. God’s Covenant:

God establishes a covenant with the patriarch in Genesis 15, promising him descendants and land. This covenant is foundational to the biblical narrative and the identity of the Israelites.

Genesis 15:5-6 (NKJV): “Then He brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”

4. Name Change:

God changes the patriarch’s name to Abram in Genesis 17, signifying the covenant and the promise of numerous descendants.

Genesis 17:5 (NKJV): “No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.”

5. Circumcision:

God institutes circumcision as a sign of the covenant with the patriarch and his descendants.

Genesis 17:10-11 (NKJV): “This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.”

6. The Promised Son Isaac:

The fulfillment of God’s promise to the patriarch regarding a son is highlighted in Genesis 21 with the birth of Isaac.

Genesis 21:1-3 (NKJV): “And the Lord visited Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had spoken. For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. And Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him—whom Sarah bore to him—Isaac.”

7. The Sacrifice of Isaac:

In a test of faith, God instructs the patriarch to sacrifice his son Isaac in Genesis 22. This event underscores his obedience and trust in God.

Genesis 22:2 (NKJV): “Then He said, ‘Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.'” After the patriarch shows his willingness to sacrifice his son, God instructs him not to slay the son. The patrirach passes God’s test of faith.

8. Recognition in the New Testament:

The New Testament acknowledges the patriarch as a significant figure in the faith. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus refers to him as a forefather.

Matthew 3:9 (NKJV): “and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.”


Abraham’s identity is rooted in his role as a forefather, patriarch, and recipient of God’s covenant promises. While the term “Jew” specifically applies to descendants of Judah, the patriarch is a central figure in the broader narrative of the Israelites. His faith, obedience, and the covenant with God lay the foundation for the development of the Israelite nation, and his significance extends beyond the identity markers of later tribal distinctions.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

We'd love your feedback, so leave a comment!

If you feel an answer is not 100% Bible based, then leave a comment, and we'll be sure to review it.
Our aim is to share the Word and be true to it.