|Ishmael and Isaac Miracles:|
|Written by production|
|Friday, 06 July 2007|
Ishmael and Isaac Miracles:
Isaac was actually the second son of Abraham. Abraham was given a promise in the middle years of his life that he would have a son - and many descendents. But the years went by. No son yet. His wife Sarah became very frustrated over it all. Though people were still living to very old ages by todays standards (Abraham died at 175) Sarah at 75 plus considered herself past the age of child bearing. She knew that Abraham had been promised a son, but it seemed to her that it wasn't going to happen.
She had a hand maid from Egypt named Hagar. She decided to adopt her own plan to obtain children, and Abraham, perhaps weak in faith too at that moment, went along with it. He lay with Hagar as Sarah told him to. She became pregnant with the child that would become Ishmael, father of the Arabs. But from the beginning of her pregnancy Hagar then acted proudly towards her mistress Sarah, who couldn't get pregnant as she had. Sarah soon grew to hate her for this. She complained to Abraham, who finally answered 'She's your hand maid. Do what you need to do.' So Sarah became very harsh with her, such that Hagar ran away pregnant to escape Sarah.
But God sent an angel to Hagar in the desert as she fled. The angel came to her by a spring of water on the way to Shur. The angel comforted her, telling her to return to Sarah and submit to her. The angel told her the name of her baby was Ishmael, and that Ishmael would found a great and numerous nation. The angel said he would be a wild donkey of a man, that his hand would be against everyone and every man's hand against him. And that he would live to the East of his brothers. (He did not yet have brothers, but....as it turns out, he would.)
Hagar returned and gave birth to her child. There is nothing to indicate that Abraham was anything but quite pleased with Ishmael. But not too much is spoken in the Bible of Ishmael's early life.
Account found in Genesis 18: Years later, when Abraham was 99, another divine occurrence is recorded. Abraham was camped at a place called Mamre, beneath terebinth trees, with Sarah, his servants and the flocks. Looking up one day, he saw three strangers approaching in the distance.
Abraham hurried to greet them. He imposed upon them to please turn aside to his camp so that he could refresh them, feed them, and wash their tired feet. They allowed it. Abraham had Sarah prepare three measures of fine meal into cakes of bread for them, and he himself 'ran' off to get a servant started with the butchering of a calf to cook and serve to them. Abraham took hospitality seriously.
But this day it was especially good that he did. These three visitors were the Lord and two angels, looking much as men, though we find in a short while, at Sodom, that the angels are especially beautiful of countenance. As they are eating and Sarah is working inside the tent and Abraham is waiting on them, the Lord speaks, telling Abraham that at this time next year Sarah, who is around 90 and has passed her natural child bearing years, will bear a son. Overhearing from inside the tent where she is cooking, Sarah laughs to herself at the thought, because she is old and Abraham is even older. The Lord rebukes her, asking if anything is too hard for the Lord. Sarah becomes afraid and denies that she laughed. But the Lord say "No. But you did laugh."
When they leave, the Lord lets Abraham know that the angels go to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah if it is so wicked as reported. Abraham pleads that any righteous people living there might be spared (his nephew Lot lives there). And this the Lord grants.
Oddly enough, the next thing that happens in the narrative to Sarah is that she becomes a captive because of her beauty. We can almost assume she is pregnant by now, though maybe it was just before she became pregnant. Abraham again has Sarah pretend she is only his sister and not his wife on account of her great beauty - but imagine that, because she is 90 years old now! Just how beautiful was this Sarah? - however, it again has bad results. Abimelech, King of Gerar, the land through which they wander, sees Sarah and takes her for his wife. But while this new beauty named Sarah is in the purification period that she must go through prior to being able to be the kings concubine, bad things happen in Abimelech's kingdom. Though he is unaware that Sarah is married because both Sarah and Abraham were deceitful about it, God begins to punish Abimelech's kingdom. The wombs of all the women in his kingdom become unfruitful. None get pregnant.
*****Just as a thought, I've sometimes wondered how long it would take for a kingdom to begin to be aware that women were no longer bearing children in their land. You wouldn't know in one week's time. You wouldn't even know in a month's time, unless very close track was kept of which women were pregnant. It says in the scriptures that God had 'closed up all the wombs' of the females. Perhaps they quit having their normal monthly cycle. That would be noticed much more quickly, and Sarah was released before she gave birth. We know that much. And apparently before she began to show that she was pregnant, as Abimelech's servants would have informed him of something like a pregnant bride-to-be.*****
But more importantly, God gave Abimelech a dream in which He told this king that he was a dead man for taking another man's wife. Abimelech protested strongly to God that he had not known, and had not touched her yet anyway, so his life should be spared. God allowed this was true, and informed Abimelech that He had restrained Abimelech from touching Sarah for this reason.
Abimelech called his servants together and told them all of what he had learned, and they were all very afraid. Abraham was called to them, and given sheep and oxen and male and female servants as a tresspass gift. Abimelech asked Abraham how he could do such a thing as be deceitful about a thing like this, and Abraham again uses the defense that he was afraid if he was known to be the husband he would be killed so the king could take Sarah, but if he was the brother, he would be treated well for the sake of pleasing Sarah, when she was taken away to be the king's wife. Sarah was given back to Abraham untouched, and even 1000 pieces of silver were awarded to Sarah publically to vindicate her in front of his kingdom and her people. But because this was the exact numerical penalty for when an innocent woman was wronged, it also rebuked her, for everyone there knew that it was Abimelech who had been duped, perhaps more than Sarah was mistreated. Sarah may not have been fully 'innocent', therefore.
God forgave, and reopened the wombs of the women of Gerar. Isn't it interesting how the 'people of the promise' are never allowed to be harmed for long, even when they are not so innocent, and how great doom falls upon those who try?
Soon enough God's promised time arrived, and a pregnant Sarah delivered a son - he was named Isaac. Isaac brought great joy and laughter to Sarah. In her time it was a great disgrace and thought to be a mark of God's disfavor to remain barren. And because she was so extremely beautiful, we can bet that other women were glad to take note of the fact that she was barren. For about 75 years she had been of marriageable age. She was about 90. So for many of those years since then she had probably lived in disgrace, at least in her own mind. Now - and at a practically unheard of age - she was a mother. She nursed a baby. She had given her husband a child - a son! What joy surpassed Sarah's? (No woman in the Bible is identified as being older at the time she gave birth, though some could have been. And no woman in known secular history - to my knowledge - ever gave birth at 90 years old. Sarah just might hold the world record!)
There was likely great joy in Abraham's camp - but perhaps not in Hagar's heart. What would this mean to her? What did this mean to Ishmael. Her heart must have been filled with worry. During Sarah's pregnancy she might have comforted herself with the knowledge that this child could be a daughter. But no longer. This was a legitimate heir from a favored wife.
Soon enough, Hagar had her answer. A few years later, at Isaacs weaning party, young Ishmael scoffed at Isaac - perhaps at the attention being paid to him, the scriptures don't say - and that was the incident Sarah used, or the incident that sparked the parting. An angered Sarah told Abraham to send Ishmael and his mother away.
Abraham agonized. We can suppose he loved Ishmael no less than Isaac. But in a dream, God told him to send them away as Sarah demanded. He said Isaac was the son through whom Abraham's seed would be counted. But that for Abraham's sake, He would make Ishmael into a great nation also.
Unexplainedly giving her only bread and a skin of water for her travels, Abraham sent Hagar away with her son. The desert was harsh, and the journey solitary. After some days, the time came when Hagar could travel no more. Her son was even weaker - nearly dying it seemed. So Hagar placed Ishmael under a bush so she would not have to watch him die, then she went a short space away and waited for her own death, hopeless.
As she wailed in sorrow to God, a voice came from heaven, from the Angel of God (thought by some to mean Jesus). It told her not to worry, that God had heard, and that the boy would be a great nation. Her eyes were opened to notice that an oasis was near by. She rose, brought the boy to it, and they lived. The rest is Arab history. Hagar obtained an Egyptian wife for Ishmael one day when he had become grown, and his 12 sons may be supposed to be of 3/4 Egyptian blood (assuming Hagar as full Egyptian and Ishmael's wife as full Egyptian), and 1/4 Semetic descent (from Noah's son Shem), through Abraham, as described in Luke 3: v. 34 - 38. The Egyptians were descendents of Mizraim, who descended from Ham, Noah's son, on the male side of his lineage.
But just as Jesus's family tree had people from different cultures that married into it, it is also possible that one of Ishmael's ancestors on the maternal side were of Japhetic or Semetic stock. If there is a record anywhere of the matrilineal descent of all the ancestors of Ishmael, I am not aware of it. Nor do I know of one for Isaac either.
A short and incomplete - therefore not too accurate - generalization of Arab history would be to say that the north and central Arabian peoples are largely descedents of the sons of Ishmael, and those 12 sons were these: Nebajoth (possible ancestor of the Nabateans of Petra fame), Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedmah. Some Arab historians say that from these brothers came the following Arab tribes (apparently some brothers combined to form a tribe, as only 6 are mentioned): the Aneza tribe, the Howietat tribe, the Sinai tribe, the Bani tribe, the Ruwalla tribe, and the Feedan tribe.
Some scholars believe that when foreign nations referred to these desert tribes, there was some confusion, some 'lumping together' of these tribes of the sons of Ishmael with Midian, the sons of Keturah. Ishmaelites and Midianites apparently occupied some of the same land in certain centuries.
(Midian was one of Keturah's sons. Keturah was Abraham's third wife, if you count Sarah as the first and Hagar as the second. But really, Hagar was never a 'wife' I don't think. It is in Genesis 16:3 that she is called a wife, so maybe she is a wife in full. But in other places, such as Genesis 16:6, it seems that she is still considered Sarah's hand maid. God Himself refers to her as Abraham's 'maidservant' in Genesis 21:12, in the NIV translation. And I don't know about any marriage ceremony between Abraham and Hagar.)
So Ishmael was a son of Adam just as much as Isaac, a son of Noah just as much as Isaac. And he was a son of Abraham just as much as Isaac, genetically, though Abraham and Hagar may never have been married. And this is true of Keturah's descendents also. Keturah's children were Abraham's direct progeny, and Keturah is described as Abraham's actual wife. (Genesis 25:1) It is for God to treat each creation as He wills it, but inherantly, we are all humans with an equal stake in our maker, so long as we acknowledge and respect that maker to His satisfaction.
As for Ishmael being a 'wild donkey of a man', here is God, looking far into the future and getting it perfectly right, of course. The Arabs have been a fighting wild group of tribesmen, fierce and proud. And their influence has been great indeed. Around 1000 AD they were the center of knowledge and culture for the world, it is often said, and they traded far and wide, in goods and gold and men. (And Arabs are a numerous people today, with a high and healthy birth rate in many places, and they are a potent political force in the world. God placed them on top of a lot of oil!!)
Isn't it apparent that when man substituted his own plan because it seemed like God was too long in keeping His promise, then the results became a stumbling block to God's plan. The Arabs and the Israelites have so often been at odds - so often been enemies. But they both have Abraham for their father. And God for their creator. Yet there is always enmity. I wonder what would have happened if Sarah had waited about 14 more years until it was time - God's time? I understand her impatience. The woman was getting towards 80 and she wanted a child!! But trying to rescue God from His bad timing issues is always a blunder. If He says he'll bring it to pass, He always does. But unlike us, He knows what time is the right time. He's never missed so far.
If every human from Adam onward had followed God's plan I suppose that every soul would have still been placed in a body, but there would probably be no cultural baggage between us cousins. We'd probably all be getting along famously down here. Wouldn't that be quite a thing to walk the continents of the earth and never fear for the treatment you'd receive as you went from place to place? If only ...... , but we do have a mediator, a great King to come. And in His times things will be much closer to right. Much closer.
|Last Updated ( Sunday, 28 April 2013 )|
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