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Fausset's Bible Dictionary
Heads of races, tribes, clans, and families. Abraham (Hebrews 7:4), Jacob's sons (Acts 7:8-9), David (Acts 2:29). The" patriarchal system" before Moses developed itself out of family relations, before the foundation of nations and regular governments. The "patriarchal dispensation" is the covenant between God and the godly seed, Seth, Noah, Abraham, and their descendants; the freedom of intercourse with God is simple and childlike, as contrasted with the sterner aspect of the Mosaic dispensation. It is the innocence of childhood, contrasted with the developed manhood of our Christian dispensation. The distinction between the seed of the woman and that of the serpent appears in God's revealing Himself to the chosen as He did not to the world; hence their history is typical (Galatians 4:21-31; Hebrews 7:1-7; Matthew 24:37-39; Luke 17:28-32; Romans 9:10-13).
Yet God is revealed as God not merely of a tribe, but of all the earth (Genesis 18:25). All nations were to be blessed in Abraham. The Gentile Pharaoh and Abimelech have revelations. God is called "almighty" (Genesis 17:1; Genesis 28:3; Genesis 35:11). Melchizedek, of Canaanite Salem, is His king priest, and He punishes Canaanite Sodom and Gomorrah. Authority is grounded on paternal right, its natural ground and source, even as God is the common Father of both patriarch and children. The birthright is the privilege of the firstborn, but requiring the father's confirmation. Marriage is sacred (Genesis 34:7; Genesis 34:13; Genesis 34:31; Genesis 38:24). Intermarriage with idolaters is treason to God and the chosen seed (Genesis 26:34-35; Genesis 27:46; Genesis 28:1; Genesis 28:6-9). The patriarchs severally typify Him in whom all their several graces meet, without blemish.
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Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Patriarchs'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/fbd/p/patriarchs.html. 1949.