10 November 2017Genesis 21:5-20
“So she said to Abraham, ‘Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.’” (v. 10)
Psalm: Psalm 119:33-48
We expect family difficulties in Genesis, prompted by dissatisfaction between the characters in the stories. It may seem as if the family was quite harmonious before the birth of Isaac - Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham with her blessing. But now that Isaac is weaned, a time of celebration, there is the dark side of sibling rivalry. Ishmael probably realises that he has been supplanted by Abraham's true heir and mocks his toddler brother. Sarah has no tolerance for this; perhaps this is an explanation of tensions between the Hebrews and the Ishmaelites (Arabs), and orders Abraham to expel both mother and son. The book of Genesis is not big on individual responsibility. God intervenes to encourage the distressed and angered Abraham (note how, despite the narrative not always respecting them, biblical women are often very strong characters, as they would have to be in their bi-contextual patriarchal and misogynistic settings), perhaps indicating that God is a better kind of parent and guardian.
The story concludes with Hagar's distress as the dehydrated child cries. The re-enactment of this desperate search for water and the miraculous appearance of a spring is commemorated in the annual Islamic Hajj which took place a few weeks ago.
- What would you have done if you were Sarah or Abraham?
- What opportunities do you see for Christians in the parts of Scripture that we share with our Jewish and Muslim siblings of faith?