By Virginia S. Saunders
THIS WEEK’S DECAPITATION of a woman in Oklahoma by an Islamic jihadist has highlighted once again the eternal enmity among Moslems, Jews and Christians. It did not start with Mohammed. It has its roots based on the menage a trois among Abraham, Sarai and Hagar, some 1800 centuries before Jesus Christ. This period was called Patriarch Years, when Abram and his tribe of shepherds led a nomadic life in Mesopotamia at the edge of the desert, cultivating lands in the Syro-Palestine area.
Abram’s wife, Sarai, was barren, a major embarrassment for women of that time who looked to the Creator as the giver of seeds. She was way past child bearing age, in her seventies. When will she ever get pregnant? After all, God told Abram in a dream that he will be the father of many nations.
Unable to wait any longer, Sarai told Abram to sleep with her handmaid, Hagar. And he did, successfully impregnating her but creating in Sarai a resentment and distaste for her Egyptian slave. Abram was 86 years old when he fathered the child. When Hagar’s child was born, they named him Ishmael.
Sarai became pregnant only after Abram was visited by three men who prophesied Sarai would have a child “this time next year”. In Genesis 17:15, God changed the name of Sarai to Sarah (princess), and Abram to Abraham (Father of Multitudes). Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 when their baby Isaac was born.
But Sarah was a seething volcano inside. Depending on which Old Testament version one is reading, Genesis 21:8 said that when Isaac was two years old, Sarah saw Ishmael mocking Isaac. Unable to contain her contempt, Sarah pushed Abraham to “cast out the bond woman!”. In compliance not typical of strong men of that time, Abraham acquiesced to his wife, and told Hagar and Ishmael, now 13, to leave the camp.
Here, the Christian, Jewish, and Moslem versions on which child was the sacrificial child of the Old Testament immediately diverge. The Moslem version says that Ishmael and Hagar left “long before Isaac was born”, and that the sacrifice of the child was made before Isaac was born, placing Ishmael as the chosen contender for the sacrificial child.
Moslems believe that the Old Testament was corrupted by both Jews and Christians by substituting Ishmael with Isaac, based on how old Ishmael was when Abraham cast out Hagar. One verse said Ishmael was 12, another said 13, and some readers conjectured 16. Ishmael and Abraham, now 99 years old, were circumcised together. Genesis 17:25 said Ishmael was 13. He could not have left the tribe before the circumcision.
While Hagar and Ishmael wandered in the desert after being cast away, the allegory said that God showed compassion to Hagar and told her that she too will become “father of many nations”. Moslems said that Hagar and Ishmael settled in Makkah, called Paran in the Bible, which is now Mecca in Saudi Arabia. One Islamic ritual in Makkah is Zamzam, which commemorate Hagar running seven times between two hills, Safa and Marwa, looking for water. They also believe that Abraham and Ishmael built the venerated Ka’abah in Makkah. There is also Maqam Ibrahaim, the Station of Abraham, which Moslems believe marks the spot where Abraham prayed and sacrificed Ishmael.
Moslems believe that after Sarah died, Abraham married Hagar, renamed Keturah. Since Abraham was from Chaldea, Moslems believe that he was more Arab than Jew, and was therefore the more likely root of the Moslem tribe who were begat from Kedar, the son of Ishmael. Moslems also believe that Mohammed, who received his visions and prophecies 500 years after Jesus died, came from the stock of Kedar.
All of the debates on Ishmael as the sacrificial child appear to be a parsing of what is considered an “allegory” by Christians. Muhammad H. Haykal, in his biography “The Life of Muhammad“, wrote that “the Qu’ran did not mention the name of the sacrificial son, and hence Moslem historians disagree in this regard.“ A respected Islamic historian, Al-Tabari, said this:
“The earliest sages of our Prophet’s nation disagree about which of Abraham’s two sons it was that he was commanded to sacrifice. Some say it was Isaac, while others say it was Ishmael. Both views are supported by statements related on the authority of the Messenger of God. If both groups of statements were equally sound, then – since they both came from the Prophet Mohammad, only the Quran could serve as proof that the account naming Isaac is clearly the more truthful of the two.”
Not mentioned in some research materials I have read on this subject is the Bible description of Ishmael. It said in Genesis 16:12, “He shall be a wild ass of a man, his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hands against him. In opposition to all kin shall he encamp.” Ishmael was the ancestor of 12 tribes, and from Isaac would come the 12 tribes of the Jewish nation.
Christians do not have a bone to pick with Moslems or Jews when it comes to Abraham, Hagar, and Ishmael. Christian version of this family feud is more philosophical than genealogical. Was it Ishmael or Isaac? It matters not. What matters to Christians is the symbolism of Hagar and Sarah. Paul in Galatians 4:21-31 defined Hagar and Sarah as allegorical references to LAW and GRACE. Hagar is Law, and Sarah is Grace. Abraham died 400 years before the Ten Commandments were given to Moses, and yet Christians, Moslems and Jews hark back to the Patriarch Years of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar on the Levitical and Deuteronomic sources of the law which dominated life in Jewish, Gentile, and Moslem communities.
The Christian version refers to the New Covenant of Grace established by Jesus Christ which has superseded the Old Covenant of laws established by Moses. These laws include not only the Ten Commandments written in stone, but all the 613 traditional and ceremonial laws written in Leviticus and Deuteronomy which are observed to the letter by the Hebrews of Abraham and Moses’ time. Thus, when referencing Sarah’s statement “Cast out the bond woman“, Christians are really saying, “Cast out the law!” The law has been superceded by Grace.
In my book ENTER THE HOLY SPIRIT, EXIT ME, I wrote about the pillar of the New Covenant as embodied in Hebrews 8:7-13. In this, the Bible said that “If the first covenant had been faultless, no place would have been sought for a second one.”
But as written in Jeremiah 31:31-34, God found fault with the Old Covenant, and promised to conclude a New Covenant “unlike the covenant I made with their fathers the day I took them by the hand to lead them forth from the land of Egypt; for they did not stand by my covenant and I ignored them, says the Lord.”
The Scripture added a very important tenet in the Christian faith: God said, “I will put my laws in their minds and I will write them upon their hearts. I will forgive their evil doing and remember their sins no more.” This forgiveness of sins was dependent on the covenant God cut with Jesus Christ whose purpose in coming to the world was to absorb all the punishment and judgment for humanity’s sins, past , present, and future, in order for them to be redeemed and gain the righteousness, right standing, with God.
Jesus said “I did not come to abolish the law, I have come to fulfill it“. And by His death, He did. But the departure by Christians from the Abrahamic and Mosaic laws were misunderstood and considered an affront by those who followed Mohammed, who subscribed to the Old Testament laws, especially in matters of food, veils for women, animal sacrifices, no graven images, and worshipping only the Creator. Christians were thus considered infidels = unfaithful to the law.
The three religions which came out of the Middle East followed one Creator but had different interpretations of the law. Christians also claim their inheritance to the patriarch through Romans 9:7 in which Paul said that “it is through Isaac that descendants will bear Abraham’s name as his heirs.”
How do Christians know that they are on the right track? It is through Acts 2:1-12 which describes the arrival of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost Sunday. Jesus said that He will not leave us orphans, and told his disciples to wait for the arrival of the Promised One, the Holy Spirit, before they go out to the world to proclaim the Good News of Salvation. When the Holy Spirit came and revived the spiritual fervor among the frightened apostles and disciples, they went about proclaiming the word of Jesus.
The Holy Spirit is the source of wisdom and truth. Christians know that they are speaking the truth and understanding the truth, because to them was revealed the presence of the Holy Spirit, a gift from Jesus Christ. As the bringer of light and truth, the Holy Spirit indwells believers of Christ. For that, may God be praised!
By Virginia S. Saunders
September 27, 2014
First posted in http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2014/09/27/ishmael-and-isaac-the-eternal-family-feud/