- Genesis 16:1-16
- Genesis 21:1-21
- Genesis 25:7-18
Early Thoughts: Abraham as a model of faithfulness? Maybe. Abraham as a model of "traditional family values"? Probably not.
Abram and Sarai had been promised a son, a son who would the first of descendants who would be more numerous than the stars in the sky. But years passed and still no son. So they come up with a solution of their own. And Abram gets Hagar, the slave-girl belonging to Sarai, pregnant -- apparently with the idea that since Hagar belonged to Sarai, Hagar's child would also belong to Sarai. Strike ONE against "traditional" family values.
Then Sarai gets jealous (although the text tells us that Hagar gets uppity, the knife obviously cuts both ways) and drives Hagar, pregnant with Abram's child out into the wilderness -- with the blessing of the child's father. But God intervenes. This child is a child of Abram and will share in the promise--although God also promises/foretells that his relationship with the family and neighbours will be rather difficult.
So the child Ishmael is born. And in due course Sarai (now Sarah) becomes pregnant with the promised son of Abram (now Abraham) and Isaac is born. Half-brother of Ishmael, son of Hagar and Abram is now (depending on how one pieces together the timeline, which is not always clear in Genesis) 12 or 13. And in later Jewish tradition a boy has his Bar Mitzvah and becomes a man under Torah at age 13. So just as Ishmael reaches maturity Sarah once again gets jealous. And Abraham (with God's blessing and God's promise that Ishmael WILL share in the promise--where Sarah is trying to eliminate the sharing of the inheritance) agrees to drive Hagar and her son away again. I believe this would be strike 3 in the family values count (with strike 4 due in the next chapter with the story of the binding of Isaac)?
But God is still not bound by Sarah's jealousy or by Abraham's meekness. So God intervenes again to ensure the life of Hagar and Ishmael. And the child grows up and his descendants become a nation. Then we see Ishmael again at the death of his father. You sort of get this picture of the brothers reluctantly/uncomfortably being in each other's presence. But years ago they played together...
Tradition holds that the descendants of Ishmael become the Arabs. And the descendants of Isaac become the Jews.
I think we need to talk about Ishmael more. I think we need to remind ourselves that there is a different side to the story, that God is acting in many ways and along many paths. Not just the one we choose to follow. Even if we are part of a truly dysfunctional family.
PS: just wait till next week when we look at another episode of dysfunction in Abraham's family--Jacob and Esau.