My guess would be that most teachers don’t draw parallels between Abraham and Mary, but I couldn’t help noticing some so I decided it was worth posting.  Some of the similarities are inferred while others can be plucked right out of the text.  The main driver for noticing the similarities was that in each case there is the anticipation of a son.  In Abraham’s case the promise of an heir is from God and is personal but will have wide-reaching implications; in Mary’s case the promise of a son is a surprise to her in a personal sense, though the birth of a savior is anticipated by the majority of the Jewish people of the day.  Let’s explore some other similarities to their stories.

In both cases, the promise of the child came in seemingly impossible circumstances:  Mary was a virgin; Abram was about 90 years old and his wife Sarai was about 80 years old, and barren.

Abram is told by God in Gen. 15:1 “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.” (some translations read “your very great reward) .  Mary is told by Gabriel in Luke 1:30 “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.”

In 15:2, Abram asks God a question: “O Lord GOD, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”  Similarly, in Luke 1:34 Mary also asks a question: “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

God kindly answers these questions for Abram and Mary without any sort of rebuke (contrast with Zecharias, John the Baptist’s father who was struck mute for several months for merely questioning!).  In each case God offers a form of proof that the promise will be fulfilled.  In Abram’s case God shows him the abundance of stars in the night sky as a picture of how many descendants he will have; in Mary’s case God explains that her relative Elizabeth, who was known to be barren, was now with child to punctuate the fact that nothing is impossible with God.

In Gen. 18:14, God asks Abram rhetorically, “Is anything too difficult for the LORD?”  In Luke 1:37 the angel Gabriel states “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Both Abram and Mary believed the promise of the coming son (Gen. 15:6, Luke 1:37)

Elizabeth tells Mary in Luke 1:42 “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”  Compare this with what Melchizedek told Abram: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High.” Another sentence similar in structure.

Not necessarily a parallel, but interesting to note is that both stories have a barren woman – Sarai in Genesis, and Elizabeth in Luke (who became pregnant with John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus.)

Both children are named by God, not their natural parents.  (Gen. 17:19 and Luke 1:31)

Also note the importance of the promise to come through the son:  Through Isaac the promise of a great deal of land to belong to their descendants as an “everlasting possession” (Gen. 17:8); Through Jesus a kingdom that has no end (Luke 1:33)

The bible is an amazing book for so many reasons, and the parallels in these passages mentioned above are just another example of the supernatural nature of the book.


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