Abraham (1994)  TV


Director:  Joseph Sargent.

Starring:  Richard Harris (Abram/Abraham), Barbara Hershey (Sarai/Sarah), Maximilian Schell (Pharaoh), Vittorio Gassman (Terah, Abrahamís father), Carolina Rosi (Hagar), Andrea Prodan (Lot), Gottfried John ( Eliezer), Kevin McNally (Nahor), Simona Ferraro (Lot's Wife), Tom Radcliffe (Serug), Jude Alderson (Mikah), Evelina Meghangi (Reumah), John McEnery (1st Councilor), Danny Mertsoy (Ishmael, age 9), Giuseppe Peluso (Ishmael, age 16)

Abraham, the founding patriarch of the Israelites, through his son Isaac.


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.

The movie begins with Lot's wife giving birth to a young girl.  She is not pleased with having a girl instead of a boy, but the barren Aunt Sarai is so elated at the newborn that Lot's wife snaps out of her doldrums and takes her baby in her arms. 

Terah and his brother have their farms in the town of Ur in Chaldea.  Terah has two sons: Abram (whose wife is Sarai) and Nahor.  He had another son, Haran, the father of Lot, but he has already died.  Uncle Abram took care of Lot. 

Terah is called by the First Councilor of the King to meet with the king to talk about the covenant that expires at sunset.  The King of Haran demands that Abram and his people pay double the taxation rate in the coming year.   Abram is very angry at this injustice. 

Abram is becoming more and more disillusioned by Ur and its gods.  He says the gods of Ur have never brought him any good fortune; they just don't work for him.  Abram is so angry that when his brother Nahor shows him the collection of idols he sells, Abram starts on a rampage, busting many of them.  Abram goes out into the desert and nearly drowns in a flash flood.  Then God speaks to him saying "Go away from your father's house . . . for I will make of you a great nation."  

Abram tells his family about his "new" God and his father and brother think he's crazy. Abram soon sets out with his family, along with Lot and family and a small band of people, walking to find a better piece of land to work.

It's a long, arduous journey.  Along the way Abram buys a man's freedom from the Egyptians chasing the man. The man, Eliezer, is a run-away from his master in Damascus. He becomes a close adviser to Abram.  Abram and company think they have found a place to live just to find that it has been already settled by Amorites.  Abram meets Mambre the Amorite and, after discussing the matter with him, decides to push on.  They go on to the land of the River Nile, Egypt. 

Abram learns that the Pharaoh has a lust for beautiful women and, if they are married, he simply kills the husband and takes the wife.  Abram is worried that Pharaoh's agents will take the pretty Sarai. 

The border guard denies them entry into Egypt.  But as they are leaving the border, one of the officers spots Sarai and decides he can collect a nice reward for bringing her to Pharaoh.  Pharaoh's second hand man asks Abram what he is to Sarai and he says "her brother."  The Pharaoh tells Abram that he and his people can stay in Egypt and pay taxes to the throne.  Abram leaves the palace but plans on getting Sarai out. 

Pharaoh likes Sarai even though she refuses to have sex with him.  He likes her so much that he gives her her own slave, Hagar. 

Pharaoh suddenly becomes ill from an unknown ailment.  It appears to be some sort of plague because it is spreading fast.  But Pharaoh's doctor suggests that it is the result of a curse put on the Egyptians by a foreign god, perhaps that of the desert people of Sarai.  They bring iAbram in to see the Pharaoh and the is shocked to learn that Abram is not Sarai's brother, but her husband.  Pharaoh does not want to challenge the God of Abram; he simply tells Abram and his people to get out of Egypt. 

Abram's people settle in an area next to the Amorites.  But soon the valley is too small for both Abram and his followers and Lot and his followers.  Lot wants to move near a stream they call the River Jordan.  Abram agrees to let Lot go with his best wishes. 

Lot's new land is near the city of Sodom.  The four kings attack Sodom.  They grab Lot and his people and start taking them north as slaves.  When Abram learns of Lot's plight, he and his men attack the enemy's camp and free the slaves.  But, surprise, Lot is not among them. So Lot has to go into the city where they are being held captive to free them.  He is successful in freeing Lot and earns the praise of Bera, King of Sodom. 

Abram meets Melchizedek, King and Lord's high priest of Salem.  This man is of much the same religious opinion as Abram.  Abram has finally met a man who understands him. 

Sarai asks her servant Hagar to have a child with her husband and Hagar agrees.  As the birth nears, Sarai and Hagar exchange jealous words and Hagar leaves the group.  But God speaks to her and tells her the child's name will be Ishmael and that "twelve princes shall he beget"  Hagar returns to the group.  Abram's name is changed to Abraham and Sarai's name to Sarah.  A year later and Ishmael is getting circumcised as a sign of the covenant between God and Abram's people.

God tells Abraham and Sarah that He will give Abraham a son by Sarah to be named Isaac.  He also says he will give Abraham the land of Canaan. 

An outcry in the land has been heard against the wicked goings-on in Sodom and Gomorrah.  God visits Sodom in human form.  Lot and his family befriend God, who is seen as just another stranger in town.  God tells Lot and his family to leave Sodom and don't look back.  As Lot leaves God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah.  Lot's wife can't resist the temptation and looks back at the exploding Sodom.  She turns into a pillar of salt. 

About one year later and Isaac is born.  God tells Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away.  This is very hard for Abraham to do but he obeys and sends Ishmael away. 

Six years later.  Abraham has been neglecting his village duties to be with his son Isaac.  God tests Abraham's allegiance.  He tells him to go to the top of a mountain and offer Isaac as a burnt sacrifice. Just as Abraham is about to stab Isaac, God relents. 

When Abraham died, his two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, laid him to rest next to his wife Sarah in the cave he had bought in Hebron.   


O.k. movie.  It does its job of telling the story of Abraham and his sons well enough.  No really new insights into the characters or the events, but one sees the Biblical story come to life (even if Abraham was a religious creation and not a real person).

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


Abraham is seen as the founding patriarch of the Israelites through his son Isaac.  (But he was not an historical person.)  In the Islamic tradition, Abraham is a prophet and the ancestor of Mohammed through his other son Ishmael. 

Therah (from Ur of the Chaldees) had three sons: Abram, Nachor, and Haran.

Abram married the beautiful Sarai.

Leaving Ur of the Chaldees, Therah took Abram and Sarai, and Lot, the son of Aran, who had died, to Harran.  When Thare died Abram, Sarai and Lot went into the Land of Chanaan.  Abram went to Sichem and Bethel, where he built altars to the Lord.

A famine broke out in Chanaan, so Abram went south to Egypt.  In Egypt he was afraid that he would be killed on account of his beautiful wife.  So, he had  Sarai say she was his sister. Despite Abram's efforts, the Pharaoh heard of Sarai's beauty.  Not knowing she was the wife of Abram, the Pharaoh took her into his harem.  Later, however,  finding out that she was Abram's wife, he sent her away.  He scolded Abram for the pretense and dismissed him from Egypt.

Abram and Lot went back to Bethel.  Lot then settled around the Jordan, whilst Abram settled in Chanaan,, in the vale of Mambre in Hebron.

Kings of Sodom and Gomorrha revolted and the King of Elam made war on them.  The King of Elam was victorious.  He went to Dan with Lot as a prisoner.  With 318 men, Abram attacked and defeated the King of Elam. 

Abram felt he had a promise from God that he would possess the land of Chanaan. But Abram had his doubts.  He was getting old and still the promise was not fulfilled. 

Sarai, who was no longer of child-bearing age, told her husband to take her hand-maid, Agar. Agar becomes pregnant and as her stomach grows so does her hatred of Sarai. Sarai responds by hounding the younger woman, and Agar flees to the desert.  Then Agar hears a message from an angel that she should return to Abram for her son would one day be a great man.  She returns and gives birth of Ishmael (ancestor of Mohammed according to Islam). But, according to the Jewish tradition, Ishmael was not the promised child.

Thirteen years later, Abram hears from God that Sarai will bear him a son who will give birth to a great nation. Now Abram becomes Abraham and Sarai becomes Sara. 

Abraham learns from God about the coming destruction of the sinful Sodom and Gomorrha.  When the towns are destroyed, Lot escapes.

Abraham moves south to Gerara.  He again claims that his wife is his sister.  There is a repeat of what happened with the Pharaoh, but this time with the king of Gerara, Abimelech.

Sarah does bear a son, lsaac. Sarah is jealous of Agar and has her and her son Ishmael cast out.

After a dispute over a well Abraham and the king of Gerara make a covenant .

Abraham believes that in a test of his faith, God has ordered him to sacrifice his only son Isaac. But, just as Abraham is to deliver the death blow, an angel stops him. 

It is said that Sarah died at the age of 127.

Abraham's son Isaac marries Rebecca, who is  from the city of Nachor, Mesopotamia. Abraham then marries Cetura and has six children with her.

It is said that Abraham died at age 170.  He was buried by his wife in the cave of Machpelah.

Rebecca has twins: Esau (a crop farmer) and Jacob (who becomes a livestock farmer). 



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