Answer: “Patriarch” in the Bible is translated from the Greek word “patriarchēs” and means progenitor. We find it used in four places in the New Testament. (Acts 2:29; Acts 7:8,9; Heb. 7:4) It is used to described the progenitors or fathers of the nation of Israel.
It is used to describe Abraham, the father of the Hebrew people. “Now observe how great this man [Melchizadek] was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest spoils.” (Heb. 7:4) This incident took place after Abraham had defeated the kings that had raided Sodom and rescued his nephew Lot whom the kings had taken prisoner. (Gen. 14:4-20) Even though Abraham was great and God had made a covenant with him, Melchizadek, “king of Salem, priest of the Most High God” received tithes from Abraham and blessed Abraham showing Melchizadek was even greater. (Gen. 14:20; Heb. 7:7) This incident pictures how God’s promises to and covenant with Abraham will be fulfilled by the individual Melchizadek who pictured, our risen Lord Jesus. (Heb. 7:4,9,10)
Patriarch is also used to describe the 12 sons of Jacob many of whom conspired and sold their brother Joseph into slavery. “Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs. (9) The patriarchs became jealous of Joseph and sold him into Egypt. Yet God was with him.” These 12 sons became the fathers of the 12 tribes of Israel and hence, fathers of the Jewish nation.
Finally, Peter said, “Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.” (Acts 2:29) Being one of their greatest kings, David was considered one of the fathers of the Jewish nation. Isaiah writes that our Lord will sit on the throne of David and rule over Israel and all mankind in his kingdom. (Isa. 9:6,7) The angel Gabriel told Mary that her son Jesus: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; (33) and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” (Luke 1:32,33 NASB)
For more information, see our related booklets and videos listed below:
The Abrahamic Promise, Covenant and Oath
Looking Back to Sodom
Israel in History and Prophecy
God’s Promised Blessings to All Nations