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Bible Dictionaries

Holman Bible Dictionary

God of the Fathers

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A technical phrase used as a general designation of the God of the patriarchs. Some references to the formula within the biblical narratives speak of the “God of my [your, thy, his, their] father” (Genesis 31:5 , Genesis 31:29 ; Genesis 43:23 ; Genesis 49:25 ; Genesis 50:17 ), without mention of a particular father. Other references include the name of a particular patriarch, as “the God of Abraham” (Genesis 31:53 ; Genesis 26:24 ; Genesis 28:13 ; Genesis 32:9 ), “the God of Isaac” (Genesis 28:13 ; Genesis 32:9 ; Genesis 46:1 ), or “the God of Nahor” (Genesis 31:53 ). Given the polytheistic environment of the time, originally the formula could refer to tribal or clan gods (Joshua 24:2 , Joshua 24:14-15 ). Each of the patriarchs apparently had a special name for God: “Fear of Isaac” (Genesis 31:42 ), “Mighty One of Jacob” (Genesis 49:24 ).

The “burning bush” story (Exodus 3:1 ) identified the “God of the Fathers” with Yahweh. Faced with the prospect of telling the people that “The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you,” Moses was worried that they would ask him, “What is his name?” (Exodus 3:13 ). God commanded Him to answer: “Yahweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me to you” (Exodus 3:15 ). Exodus 6:2-3 reveals that the “God of the fathers” was not known by the name of Yahweh, but as “El Shaddai” (God Almighty).

The biblical witness consistently uses the formula to emphasize continuity between the God who is revealed to Moses and the God who guided the patriarchs, even by a different name. Likewise, in the Old Testament, “God of thy fathers” or “God of our fathers” functions to link the author's generation to the God of earlier generations, especially with reference to the promises to the patriarchs (Deuteronomy 1:11 , Deuteronomy 1:21 ; Deuteronomy 4:1 ; Deuteronomy 6:3 ; Deuteronomy 12:1 ; Deuteronomy 26:7 ; Deuteronomy 27:3 ). In contrast, abandonment of this historic connection is also emphasized (1 Chronicles 12:17 ; 2 Chronicles 20:33 ; 2 Chronicles 24:24 ; 2 Chronicles 29:5 ; 2 Chronicles 30:7 ; 2 Chronicles 36:15 ; Ezra 7:27 ). In the New Testament the formula is transformed to mark the continuity between historic Israel and Christianity. The God revealed in Jesus Christ is the same as the God revealed to the patriarchs (Matthew 22:32 ; Mark 12:26 ; Acts 3:13 ; Acts 5:30 ; Acts 7:32 ; Acts 22:14 ). See Names of God ; Patriarchs; Yahweh.

Dixon Sutherland


Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'God of the Fathers'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd/g/god-of-the-fathers.html. 1991.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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