Sunday, May 5, 2013

Discord in Abraham's Tent Over Control of Son Ishmael and Grandson, Esau

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                       

                                                                        Abraham and Isaac
Was Abraham and his father Terah members of Habirus?  They were mercenaries or slaves.  Records of them were found in the Tel el-Amarna tables and in other documents of the 15th-14th centuries BCE.  Many scholars think that the word Habiru is identical with Ivri or Hebrews.  The references are in connection to threat of the Habiru to Canaanite cities and are one of the stages in Israelite conquest of Canaan.  They were said to come from the East.

Jews and many Arabs can trace their ancestry back to the Biblical patriarch, Abraham.  He was the son of Terah.  They lived in Ur of the Chaldees, which is in today's Iraq, and moved to live among the Canaanites and Philistine inhabitants of  Canaan.   There he pitched his tent and lived with his wife, Sarah.   He is known as the Father of Monotheism.  The people of Ur had believed in idol worship which necessitated the move.

Abraham was told by G-d that his seed would inherit the land "from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates," and made a covenant with him.  His first son was Ishmael through Sarah's young handmaid, Hagar.  Ishmael  and his mother were sent away from Abraham's tent due to discord between Hagar and Sarah, who in her old age finally also became pregnant with Isaac. Sarah may have been elderly,  however managed to nurse Isaac, but had been needled by Hagar about this.   Sarah felt that Ishmael was teasing  and picking on Isaac and the two women failed to get along. On Isaac's day of being weaned, probably at age 2, Sarah was very agitated with  Hagar and didn't want Ishmael to inherit anything with Isaac.  After all, Hagar was a slave and of another people, though Abraham had taken Hagar as a wife.  This distressed Abraham so G-d told him that Ishmael would also have a nation but to listen to Sarah.    Hagar, who had gone from slave status to wife, , chosen to be one to carry Abraham's child because of the her bareness  at that time, had become disrespectful  towards, Sarah.  Sarah was  the first and older legal wife and niece of Abraham and G-d told Abraham to listen to her.

 Ishmael and Hagar then went to live in Paran, which was a desert, a wilderness in the Negev.  It was situated NE of the traditional Mt. Sinai, south of Kadesh, extending to the shores of the Gulf of Elath and the Arabah.    Ishmael's daughter, Mahalath,  married his half-nephew, Esau, twin son of Isaac.  Ishmael did meet up with his half brother, Isaac at the funeral of Abraham where they both buried him.  Ishmael is considered the Father of the Arab peoples, making Jews and Arabs "cousins."

The prophesy about Ishmael  by an angel of G-d to Hagar was thus: He shall be a wild-ass of a man;  his hand against everyone, and everyone's hand against him;  and over all his brothers shall he dwell."  Abraham was 86 years old at the time of his birth.  (Genesis 16:11-12).

In the Jewish version of this event, Isaac is used as the sacrifice that Abraham was told to perform, while in the Muslim version, it is Ishmael.  The two versions do vary in places with the Torah being the oldest version by 2,000 years.   The Torah was written by Moses (1391-1271 BCE). Writing was a skill he learned in Egypt being he was a son of the Pharoah's daughter and raised as a prince.  He had had a thorough education.   Islam's Koran, written by Mohammad (570-632 CE), came about 2,000 later.

 In the Midrash, a section that works on finding new meanings besides the literal ones in the Scriptures in the Talmud, it says that Ishmael's offspring or descendants  were destined to persecute and murder Jews.  G-d responded that he would judge Ishmael only according to his present deeds and not according to what would happen in the future.(Rashi).  The Midrash usually refers to legends and ethics.

Abraham died at age 175 in the year 2123 from Creation (Jewish Calendar). That was 3,650 years ago being that this year is 5773 on the Jewish Calendar.  That makes his death as we would understand it in the year 1,637 BCE.   Ishmael lived for 137 years.  He had been living from Havilah to Shur, which is near Egypt-toward Assyria.  To put this into perspective, Moses (1391-1271 BCE) was Abraham's 3rd great grandson.

Esau was born to Isaac and Rebecca, his first cousin once removed,  and was the elder of  twins with his twin brother being Jacob.  Esau was hairy and Jacob was smooth skinned. Rebecca was told by G-d that two nations were in her womb; two regimes from your insides shall be separated;  the might shall pass from one regime to the other, and the elder shall serve the younger.  Esau had been born red, entirely like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau.  Jacob was born holding onto the heal of Esau, so he was named Jacob.  Esau grew up doing the hunting, a man of the field.  Jacob was a wholesome man, abiding in tents.  Isaac's favorite son was Esau,  but Rebecca loved Jacob more.

 Jacob is later given the name of Israel upon a change in status.  These twins became enemies when Jacob, the younger, became the owner of the birthright from their father which is a firstborn blessing.  The story is that Jacob actually had tricked Esau in getting this over a bowl of porridge.  Esau had come in from hunting and was so hungry that he gave up his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of food instead.  Jacob took that to mean that Esau didn't think much of the honor and responsibility in the first place.

 Of course this is a tale of sibling rivalry that goes on today between siblings, but they usually love each other anyway today.  We read all the time of sibling rivalry in Egypt and Rome where there was no love, only jealousy many times resulting in death.    Esau didn't have any love for his twin for this loss of his and wanted to kill Jacob for it.  Jacob had to move out of the compound and flee to Haran. Haran was the brother of Abraham and father of Lot. He had remained in Ur.  Terah, Abraham's father and Abraham had lived there in a Habiru (Hebrew?)  settlement.  It was a trading town and the center of a moon cult.    He returned home 20 years later and they had an affectionate reunion.   (Gen.35).  The Torah identifies Esau with the land of Edom and Jacob becomes known as Israel.

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the leaders of Judaism, are the ones to carry on Abraham's religious thoughts of monotheism.  It wasn't until Mohammad, Islam's prophet,  came into being when he decided to also follow monotheism as he came from pagans worshipping many gods.  The moon god, Allah, was the most powerful one  This is probably why the symbol on their flag is a crescent moon. Muslims face the Kabba in Mecca  when they pray which is very sacred to them. It's a large  cuboid made of near-by granite known as the Sacred House.

Ishmael, by being a child harder to discipline, was "out on the streets" so to speak and not under the tutelage of his father, Abraham, thereby growing up in paganism.  He most likely followed the beliefs of Hagar, who was an Egyptian.  Judaism had a head start on monotheism by a good 2,000 years through Isaac.

If anything, this part of Genesis is a lesson on the seriousness of raising one's children.  By circumstances and prophecy, the whole world is affected by decisions from our ancient ancestors.  I also see a great plan, and that our destiny had some controls at the helm.

Corrected/Edit: 5/26/16 -Hagar was wife, not concubine of Abraham
Resource: The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
Tanakh (Bible) ARtScroll Series, The Stone Edition, Genesis


  1. You said, Hagar, who had gone from slave status to concubine, chosen to be one to carry Abraham's child because of the bareness of Sarah at that time, had become disrespectful towards, Sarah

    But the Bible say, "And Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife". Gen 16:3

    Certainly, according to you, the Torah can not be trusted as it mentioned wife instead of concubine.

    1. Zahir, you are right about what I said, and I said it incorrectly. I goofed! I apologize and will correct it as soon as I finish this message. It is not the Torah that was wrong, it was me. The Torah said wife. I checked out another article I wrote on October 24, 2015 and did a much better job which I hope you will read. No, she became his wife, so had legal status. I guess I was thinking of her as a concubine and wrote without checking. It's a lesson for me. The rest, thank goodness, is correct. (Steps leading to the creation of Jews and their Multiple Male DNA haplotypes.

    2. Zahir, the Torah is the same thing as the Bible. The English Christian word is Bible. The Jewish word is Torah.

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