The patriarchs are found in Genesis 12-50, which tells the story of how Yahweh chose one family to begin unfolding his plan of redemption. With each member of the family, Yahweh will teach them more about who He is and turn them into the people He wants them to be. The word patriarch literally means “ruling father.” The following are the four ruling fathers Yahweh used to begin the growth of the nation of Israel before they would go into slavery for four hundred years.

The most important theme in the story of the patriarchs is the Yahweh of blessing making a covenant with Abraham and his descendants. This covenant builds on the one with Noah in Gen. 9:1-17, but where it focused on universal benefits for all, this covenant focuses on the blessings on the family of Abraham, who will then bless the rest of the world.

A second theme is the motifs of death and burial. Death is seen as slowing the fulfillment of the promises, thus reminding the reader of the presence of the curse. Thus the concern is for descendants in order to see the fulfillment of the promises.

A third theme is that of good and evil in conflict. Where Yahweh is good in providing blessings of fertility and life there are struggles and obstacles to overcome. Evil threatens to overcome the promises in the form of deception and conflict between people. Thus the story of Genesis is the triumph of good over evil through the development of the covenantal promises.