Daily Archives: March 3, 2012

Founding father

Abraham’s stories are the first in the Bible which are presented as belonging specifically to the journey of faith of the people of Israel. Muslims and Christians also claim him as their founding father.
His story is essentially very simple, although one can see the swirls and eddies of different versions of it in the texts we now have. Yahweh promised him that if he left Tehran and settled in the land promised to him, more-or-less in modern Israel/Palestine, he would be made the father of a great nation. He was a nomad already, and he set off. He adored his wife, but she had no children. Instead, she gave her slave Hagar to Abraham, and with her he became the father of Ishmael. You don’t think that relationship is likely to work out, do you?
Sarah was past the menopause when mysterious strangers arrive in the wilderness and tell Abraham that Sarah will have a child. Sequestered like a good wife, Sarah hears them, and laughs. Nine months later her only child, her son Isaac (Laughter) is born.
Sarah cannot keep Hagar properly in her place, and Ishmael stands to inherit alongside Isaac. It is in fact when she sees the children playing as equals that Sarah snaps, and demands that Hagar is driven into the desert to care for her son with just a jar of water. When, water exhausted, Hagar sits down far enough away from her son that she does not have to watch his death, an angel comes to her, and shows her an oasis. She and Ishmael are saved. Muslims trace their descent from Ishmael, and I rather wish Christians could, too. There is no doubt the Biblical writers see just how far beyond the pale Sarah’s jealousy is.
The next story is, to me anyhow, just about the nastiest in the Bible. But I think it deserves a blog of its own.