The story today is about the way in which Abram and Sarai took into their own hands God’s promise that their descendents would be countless. Sarai suggested to Abram that he take her servent/slave Hagar and have intercourse with her and try to create a son which then Sarai could claim as her own. However, after Abram got Hagar pregnant, Harar started to lord it over Sarai that she, Hagar, was going to be the one who would fulfill God’s promise for Abram not Sarai. Sarai was very distressed with this and went to Abram and said “What should I do?” Abram in a very man type of response said, “She is your servent, take care of her the way you want.” So Sarai made life miserable for Hagar and Hagar ran away. She went into the desert and there God’s angel came to her and said, “You have to go back to Sarai and Abram.” and as an incentive, the angel said that Hagar’s descendents would be innumerable. (This is somewhat of an empty promise because it would be easy to say this because most people have chidren and although a family may die out, it could be continued just as likely. However, it is unlikely that such a family would be around for centuries as is Judaism, Islam, and Christianity which all claim Abram as the father of their peoples.)The angel also told Hagar that her son would be a wild jackass of a man. Just think of how thatwould make a young woman feel. Maybe she thought that he would avenge Sarai’s treatment of her. So Hagar went back and had a son who was named Ishmael. Ishmael had 12 sons and they are thought to be the people that we think of as Arabians today. It is also thought by Muslims that Ibraham (Abram) took Ishmael to Mecca and established the holy place for all Islam there.
Genesis is a peptalk to the Jewish people who were in captivity in Egypt and the writers wanted to show the people that they needed to remain faithful to God because of God’s promises to Abraham. This would counter the pressure that the people faced to worship the gods of the Pharohs in Egypt. This then becomes a way to instill hope among the people that they would get away from Egypt and get back to the promised land which was promised to Abraham and in which Abraham lived most of his life.
We also discussed the scholarship about the source of the stories about Abram. A scholar by the name of Blankinsopp from the University of Notre Dame suggests that Abraham is not clearly and unambiguously attested to in the Bible earlier than the Babylonian exile and that in the Persion period, a model for those who would return from Babylon to Judah. This is interesting because the original story of Abram’s origin had him coming from Ur which is not far from Babylon to Canaan which is where the people in captivity in Babylon wanted to return. It is also thought by a number of people that this narrative originated in the 5th or 6th centure BCE. Many scholars thought that the Abraham story served a theological purpose following the destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple, and the Davidic kingship despite the loss of these things. It described Jahweh’s dealings with the ancesters provided a historical foundation on which the hope for the future could be built. Here is a link to this info. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham It is also likely that a lot of the Abraham story was made up which in Bill’s view doesn’t make it not true.
Paul in Galations 4:22-23 states that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave women, and one by a free women. The son of the slave was born according to the flesh but the son of the free woman was born through promise. Then he says that this can be interpreted allegorically namely that Hagar corresponds to present Jerusalem which is in slavery with her children whild the Jerusalem above is free, and the chidren of this tradition are free and have the promise of God for their future.
It is interesting to discuss how men and women interact in their relationships. A lot can be learned about these relationships by reading this chapter. There is jealousy and lording it over another and it illustrates how these feelings get in the way of a relationship with God. It also suggests the difficulty of having multiple wives because of the natural jealousies that can be generated. It also suggests the reasons for trusting and depending on God for our future.
When did monogamy become part of our teachings? was it the Ten Commandments? An article in the Jewish Encyclopedia suggests that monogamy was a desired relationship all the way from the time of Adam and Eve as well as Noah and his wife. But polygamy was never outlawed until probably the 14th century AD or so. Much of the wisdom literature in the Old Testament extols the benefits of monogamy.
There is an interesting discussion of Ishmael in Wikipedia and here is te link to it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishmael Here is a reference to Ishmael in the Jewish Encyclopedia: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8251-ishmael Here is a link from the Jewish Encyclopedia which also contains the Arabian or Muslim references to Ibraham, Ishmael and Hagar: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7021-hagar