This expression occurs in the parable of the Rich Man (Dives) and Lazarus (Luke 16.19–31); after his death, Lazarus is carried by angels to Abraham's bosom (NRSV: “to be with Abraham”). One view is that the imagery is drawn from a child lying in the parent's lap (cf. John 1.18). It is more likely that Lazarus is thought of as sitting next to Abraham at the heavenly feast. It will be recalled that in John 13.23 the beloved disciple is described as “lying close to the breast of Jesus” (NRSV: “reclining next to Jesus”) at the meal. Future bliss was sometimes depicted as a banquet (Isa. 25.6), and this imagery lies behind such sayings as Matthew 8.11, where gentiles “eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”
Abraham was regarded as the father of the faithful, and the idea that the souls of God's people are after death welcomed by Israel's ancestors is referred to in 4 Maccabees, where brothers about to be martyred declare, “If we so die, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob will welcome us” (13.17).
Taomas Francis Glasson