Wednesday 01 July 2009

Bible Book:

"And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, 'What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.'" (v.17)

Genesis 21:5, 8-20 Wednesday 1 July 2009


About one year on from yesterday's reading, God's promise has been delivered andAbraham has become a father again, just as he is the right age toreceive his telegram from the Queen! And this time, it was hisbeloved Sarah who bore him a son - Isaac - the child of theCovenant.

This passage, however, concerns the fate of his other son, Ishmael,born to the slave-girl Hagar. Perhaps Sarah (even though she nowhas her heart's desire) still harbours some jealousy concerningHagar, and this comes to the fore when the young Ishmael is playingwith his brother.

(Careful readers will notice problems in the text concerning theage of Ishmael [if the age of Abraham is correct then Ishmaelshould be around 14 when Isaac is born], and how the characters inthis story relate to the story in chapter 16. Suchproblems have most likely come from taking the stories fromdifferent sources and putting them together in the book we now knowas Genesis. While this may be a problem for some, it is reassuringto know that the traditional stories have been faithfullypreserved, and not cunningly edited as if to prove a point. Ourinterest must be in the story as we have it.)

This story is of a boy who is not destined to carry the Covenantblessing (as his brother is), but who God cares for nevertheless.God promises that a nation will come from Ishmael also, and tellsAbraham that he is not to worry about the fate of his firstborn.That is in God's hands.

Abraham rises early to provide for Ishmael and Hagar as he sendsthem out into the wilderness as a single-parent family. ButAbraham's provision does not last long and, for a while, God'swords seem like empty promises. As Ishmael grows weaker, Hagarcannot bear to watch him die, nor can she bear to leave him - soshe sits a distance away, dehydrated and depressed. But God is trueto the promise after all, and an angel guides her to a well. Andall is well. And the family of Abraham grows in a newdirection.

To Ponder

Ishmael is not an Israelite, and yet the story isclear that God was with him (and also Abraham). Ishmael ispopularly considered to be the father of the Arab people, givinghim links with the people of Islam. How can this passage help usreflect about the relationship between Judaism, Islam andChristianity, and our attitudes towards people of other faiths?

Hagar was left to look after her son on her ownthrough no fault of her own. How welcoming is the Church andsociety to single-parent families?

Previous Page Tuesday 30 June 2009
Next Page Thursday 02 July 2009