Heads of races, tribes, clans, and families. Abraham (Heb 7:4), Jacob's sons (Ac 7:8-9), David (Ac 2:29). The" patriarchal system" before Moses developed itself out of family relations, before the foundation of nations and regular governments. The "patriarchal dispensation" is the covenant between God and the godly seed, Seth, Noah, Abraham, and their descendants; the freedom of intercourse with God is simple and childlike, as contrasted with the sterner aspect of the Mosaic dispensation. It is the innocence of childhood, contrasted with the developed manhood of our Christian dispensation. The distinction between the seed of the woman and that of the serpent appears in God's revealing Himself to the chosen as He did not to the world; hence their history is typical (Ga 4:21-31; Heb 7:1-7; Mt 24:37-39; Lu 17:28-32; Ro 9:10-13).
Yet God is revealed as God not merely of a tribe, but of all the earth (Ge 18:25). All nations were to be blessed in Abraham. The Gentile Pharaoh and Abimelech have revelations. God is called "almighty" (Ge 17:1; 28:3; 35:11). Melchizedek, of Canaanite Salem, is His king priest, and He punishes Canaanite Sodom and Gomorrah. Authority is grounded on paternal right, its natural ground and source, even as God is the common Father of both patriarch and children. The birthright is the privilege of the firstborn, but requiring the father's confirmation. Marriage is sacred (Ge 34:7,13,31; 38:24). Intermarriage with idolaters is treason to God and the chosen seed (Ge 26:34-35; 27:46; 28:1,6-9). The patriarchs severally typify Him in whom all their several graces meet, without blemish.
PATRIARCHS. This name is given to the ancient fathers, chiefly those who lived before Moses, as Adam, Lamech, Noah, Shem, &c, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the sons of Jacob, and heads of the tribes. The Hebrews call them princes of the tribes, or heads of the fathers. The name patriarch is derived from the Greek patriarcha, "head of a family."