I’ve been reading recently about the patriarch of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths: a guy called Abraham aka Abram. This of course means I’ve been reading the first book of The Bible, called Genesis.
I’ve been struck by how bizarre some of Abraham and his wife, Sarah’s (Sarai) behaviour actually is at various points along the way.
It’s a common discussion point of concern (sometimes even disgust), that Abraham pretends to be Sarah’s brother when they visit Egypt. This of course leads to some events that are also of concern.
Interestingly, despite my usual concerns regarding the treatment of women, I’ve never been as repulsed as you might think, by Abraham’s behaviour at that point. I actually completely understand that he feels the need to protect himself in a potentially dangerous foreign land.
Additionally, the common complaint that Abraham has lied and also demonstrated a lack of trust in God, doesn’t actually bother me that much either. Is it really always wrong to lie?
These are obviously ethical (and debatable) issues that cannot be answered in 500 words of less. I just thought I’d mention it as a point in time when I don’t feel that Abraham gets things as wrong as people often claim he does.
However, the whole Hagar thing bugs me. Really, bugs me.
In Genesis 16, as Abraham and Sarah continue to age and it seems unlikely they will be able to produce a child, Sarah offers her maidservant, Hagar to Abraham. Abraham agrees to the proposition (no surprise there). Their hope that a child will be born is fulfilled as Ishmael comes onto the scene.
Here’s what I wrote across my two days of reading this chapter:
Using a servant for sex to create an heir. It’s all so very disturbing. Then Hagar flees. It’s all so bizarre to our context.
I hardly know what to do with this one. God tells Hagar to return to Sarai and submit to her even though she mistreated Hagar. Did Sarai get reprimanded? Then a prophecy is made about Ishmael because he has been conceived. The prophecy is not good… but the whole things is Abram and Sarai’s fault! Is Abraham reprimanded?
In short, it just leaves me with too many questions.
It all seems so very unfair for two innocent people who have no control over the direction of their lives and the machinations of Abraham and Sarah in their desire for a child.
It’s reminds me of those disturbing documentaries on surrogacy and how women are being exploited in European and/or Scandinavian countries.
Hagar understandably runs but is told to return to a harmful situation.
I wish I knew the tone God spoke with when he found Hagar. I think that would make a difference for me.
Yet then God speaks a word over Ishmael that sounds like a curse.
What wrong did Ishmael do? Is it sheer favouritism because he’s not the promised child? And is that fair?
See. There are a lot of questions.
However, I do believe God is a God of justice. It’s just sometimes hard to know what that looks like.
Yours in still thinking it through,