Resource Pages

Preparation for an Essay

These notes are mainly for the Web-based Courses, but can also be adapted for my Lecture-based Courses.
There are also other Pages which describe the standards I use when grading Essays and Reading Reports, and a Page to show how I would prepare for and answer a question which asked me to "write an account of the events described in II Chronicles, chapters 34-36"


How I would prepare for an Essay on the Life of Abraham

  1. I would locate the passage(s) in the Bible which give the information about the subject of the Essay - in the case of Abraham, this is Genesis, chapters 11-25.
  2. I would read the passage, and make some preliminary notes of the main events in the person's life, in sequence:


Text Main Events Secondary Events Minor Events
Gen.11 v.26-32 Family and Birth of Abram
marriage of Abram
journey from Ur to Haran
death of Terah
Nahor's family
Gen. 12 God calls Abram and blesses him
Abram goes to Canaan
Abram and Sarai in Egypt Abram travels through Canaan and builds altars
Gen. 13   Abram and Lot split up,
Lot goes to Sodom
God blesses Abram again
Gen. 14   Abram rescues Lot, and meets Melchizedek Revolt and Battle of the kings
Gen. 15 God promises Abram a son, and makes a covenant with him    
Gen. 16 Sarai, Hagar, and Abram
birth of Ishmael
Hagar runs away, but God tells her to go back  
Gen. 17 God changes Abram's name to Abraham, and Sarai's to Sarah
God's promise of the land to Abraham
the covenant of circumcision
God promises to look after Ishmael  
Gen. 18 Three "men" appear to Abraham
God promises a son to Abram and Sarah
Sarah laughs, so her child shall be called "Laughter" Abram intercedes for Sodom
Gen. 19     destruction of Sodom
Lot and his daughters escape
Gen. 20     Abraham and Sarah deceive Abimelch
Gen. 21 Sarah and Abraham's son Isaac is born Sarah tells Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away Hagar finds a well of water
Ishmael grows up and marries
Abraham and Abimelech make a treaty at Beersheba
Gen. 22 God tests Abraham
the "sacrifice of Isaac"
God repeats His blessing
  Nahor and Milcah's family
Gen. 23 death of Sarah
Abraham buys the cave of Machpelah for a burying place
Gen. 24 Abraham sends his servant to Mesopotamia to find a wife for Isaac
the servant finds Rebekah, daughter of Nahor, and she comes to Canaan to marry Isaac
Gen. 25 Abraham makes Isaac his heir
Abraham dies and is buried by Isaac and Ishmael in the cave of Machpelah
  Abram marries Keturah
Abram gives his other sons gifts and sends them back East

There may be some "grey areas" where one is not sure just how much importance to give to an event. This is normal. The main events will be those that represent turning points in a person's life. These should be fairly easy to decide, and will form the skeleton for the essay. The less important events can be mentioned in passing and will help to fill in the picture of the person's character and life.
Next, I would plan the skeleton of the essay, in the form of paragraph notes :

Introduction Roughly when and where did Abraham live. What sort of person was he. Abraham initially called Abram; Abram's life before God's call
Paragraph 2 God's call, and Abram's journey to Canaan
Paragraph 3 Abram and Lot split up; Abram rescues Lot; Abram meets Melchizedek
Paragraph 4 God promises Abram a son; Abram, Sarai, Hagar, and Ishmael
Paragraph 5 God changes Abram's name to Abraham, and gives the covenant of circumcision
Paragraph 6 the visit of the three "men"; Abraham intercedes for Sodom, but Sodom is destroyed
Paragraph 7 the birth of Isaac; Ishmael is sent away
Paragraph 8 the "sacrifice" of Isaac
Paragraph 9 the death and burial of Sarah
Paragraph 10 a wife for Isaac
Paragraph 11 the death and burial of Abraham
Concluding Paragraph the importance of Abraham as a person in the Old Testament

Then I would write the story of the person's life as if I were telling it to someone who had not heard it before. I would try to keep to the past tense of verbs rather than the present (he did, they saw, etc. rather than he does, they see). My introductory paragraph might look like this :

"Abraham, who was originally called Abram, lived roughly two thousand years before the birth of Christ, and was called by God to become the father of the Jewish people. He was a descendant of Noah's son Shem, and was born in Ur of the Chaldees, in Mesopotamia. His father was Terah, and his brothers were Nahor and Haran. Abraham and his brothers found wives in Ur, although Haran died there, leaving his son Lot to be brought up by Terah and Abraham. Nahor's wife had several children, but Abram's wife Sarai was barren. After some time, Terah left Nahor in Ur, and traveled to the town of Haran with Abraham, Sarai, and Lot. They lived in Haran until the death of Terah, and after that, when Abraham was seventy-five years old, God called him to leave Haran and travel to Canaan."

Now write the other paragraphs in a similar style, and you will have the Essay ready to send in.

If the Essay asks for a "First Person account" you should write it as if you were Abraham, eg

" I was originally called Abram, and I was born in Ur, to the East of here. I had two brothers, Haran and Nahor, and we all married girls from Ur. My brother Haran died, so I and my father Terah looked after Haran's son Lot. Then, one day, . . "

NOTE - People in Old Testament times did not reckon dates as we do, and they did not know how many years it would be until the birth of Christ, so it is best not to write "I was born in 2,000 BC . . ", but, for example, "I was born several generations after the great Flood . ."
For Essays on the lives of people who lived later, one can date to other events or to which Kings were in power at the time. eg. (Isaiah) :

"I was born when Uzziah, or Amaziah as he was also called, was king in Jerusalem. I was born in the southern Kingdom of Judah, but for those in the northern kingdom of Israel it was a very troubled time, and eventually the Assyrian king Pul came and took the people of Israel into captivity. That meant there were just us Judahites and some Benjaminites left of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. . . "

Similarly, in a First-Person Essay, it is best not to write

"Then I died, and was buried in Hebron. And I'm a very important person in the Old Testament",

but something such as

"Now I'm getting old. When I die, I'd like to be buried beside Sarah at Hebron. I hope you will remember what I've tried to teach you about God"


How to write an account or essay

  1. Read the passage and make notes of the events in the sequence in which they occur in the passage
  2. Decide which are the main events (which are the most important), and which are secondary (less important)
  3. Re-tell the story in your own words, as if you were telling it to someone who had not heard it before, using a paragraph for each of the main events
  4. If the account is of something which happened in the past, use the past tense (he did, they saw, etc) rather than the present (he does, they see).
    Be careful not to switch between past and present tenses, eg. "he went to them and he says . . ."
  5. Try to write a connected account, not a "list" of events or topics.
    Don't write something like : "He came to Capernaum. He healed someone. He taught in the synagogue. He had supper. He went away."
    or "Healing of a blind man, teaching the crowds, the parable of the sower"

Go here to see what I look for when grading Essays.
Go here for a scale of proficiency in writing.
Go here to read about "Edited Standard Written English" (ESWE)

Copyright © 1999 Shirley J. Rollinson, all Rights Reserved

Dr. Rollinson

Station 19, ENMU
Portales, NM 88130

Last Updated : June 27, 2017

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