"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Abraham, Hagar, Ishmael & Lot

Notes and Reflections on Noah's Other Son, by Brian Arthur Brown -- see introductory post for more information on this book

The next three chapters deal with Abraham, Hagar and Ishmael. Sarah is mentioned in the Abraham chapter, but the author didn't devote a single chapter to her.

Mr. Brown commended Abraham for his total submission to God. He let nothing - not even the family he so desired - get in his way of submitting to God's will.  Thus why he was willing to sacrifice his son.  The author notes that Jews and Christians know this to be Isaac as mentioned in the Bible whereas for Muslims it is Ishmael which he says is mentioned in the Quran. I didn't see a specific son mentioned in the Quran for this, but I know in more recent traditions it is thought to be the older son.

"The test was not to see if Abraham would kill for God, as some have speculated. The test was to determine if Abraham was willing to sacrifice his life's dream of a family and the precious promise made to him regarding that family.  That test comes to every human being. Are we willing to put God first, with no rival priority?"  (pg. 75)

The author asks if Abraham's children - Jews, Christians and Muslims - can learn to submit completely to God and be in good relation with one another.

The author makes mention of the good mother Hagar was and why she is so revered by Muslims. He points out the favorable things the Jewish Scriptures say about her in Genesis.

Through Ishmael he explains the alienation of the Arabs from the rest of Abraham's spiritual descendants.  He says the Quran believes him to have nearly been sacrificed by his father whereas the Bible speaks of his being sent away from his father as a teenager. What child wouldn't feel alienated?  He then says a spirit of fearfulness is what drives the lesser jihad -- terrorism.

Chapter 8 was about Lot/Lut whom the author says was made into a "bad actor," "villain" and was deliberately slandered by the ones who wrote/edited the Torah.  In the Quran Lot is "rehabilitated" and shown in a much more favorable light - a prophet and warner to the people of Sodom.

I thought this statement was interesting:

"The Bible is not intended as either a whitewash or a slander. It is the story of human corruption and God's redemption of all, including the writers.  Sometimes, the writers were unaware of corrupting their own material, as Muslims have charged, but even that is part of the human situation with which God deals. In the case of Lot, the writers would have been very much aware of the hatchet job they were doing." 

Why slander Lot in the book of Genesis?  "As the ancestor of Israel's enemies, nothing good is said about him in the Bible, while nothing bad is said about him in the Quran. The fact that he assimilated toward the Arab side of the family did nothing for his reputation among the Jews by the time these stories were being written down in the biblical account." (pg. 96)  Actually the author notes that the New Testament is more favorable towards Lot. In II Peter 2, Lot is called a "righteous man."  We do know even from the Torah that Lot was saved from the destruction God brought down upon the people who stayed behind.

The story of Lot getting drunk and his daughters committing incest with him "was intended not only to discredit Lot, but also to cast Israel's Arab neighbors in the least favorable light, a deliberate slur on traditional enemies who claimed descent from the righteous prophet Lot."    

Note: Lot's sons by his daughters were the fathers of the Moabites and Ammonites. Interestingly enough, however, Ruth - of whom a Biblical book is named - is from the Moabites and she accepted the God of her mother in law (Yahweh) when her husband died.  She married Boaz who was the great grandfather of King David and she is an ancestress of the Messiah, Jesus.

So, yeah, God is all about redemption even in yucky situations like incest.


observant observer said...

I love your notes
so if the scribes of the Jews who wrote the Old Testament had deliberately put Lot in the bad light, it's very interesting that they didn't try to hide the fact that Ruth the great grandma of David came from the descendant of Lot. The author might have overlook too much on something that is not written in the bible, and interpret it to suit his own understanding or to suit his "surprise, surprise" hidden meaning of the bible in comparison of the Kuran.

I also kind of not get it if Ismael was really feeling alienated, when the feeling of jealous and envy could also possible. He had been given years ahead of him to experience being the only son, and later on bullying his younger half brother. Wasn't it written in the bible that he got the just portion of inheritance from Abraham?

Susanne said...

Observant, this author makes points that I have never heard before. Some I find intriguing and some a bit weird or farfetched, but who knows? Maybe he is right. Or not. :) I agree that it's odd that Lot (and his descendants) would be put in an unfavorable light when we all know Jews think very highly of King David who had a Moabitess great-grandmother.

And, yeah, Ishmael was promised great things actually. Maybe the author was trying too hard to make us understand what drives a terrorist. He actually had Ishmael in a jihad chapter.

I'm just noting some of the things he says...mostly things I find a bit strange and want to discuss with anyone reading. I'm glad for your feedback - thanks much!

Amber said...

Maybe it's just me but I really don't get that Lot was 'slandered' and defamed or anything in the Bible. He was spared from Sodom and Gomorrah because of his righteousness. Did his daughters do bad? Sure. Getting your dad sloshed and sleeping with him is *never* a good idea. However I think it does actually point to the character of Lot that the daughters felt they had to get him drunk to get him to have sex with them in the first place. If Lot was a morally wiggly person then they might have felt they could convince him of what they believed - that they were the last people on earth and needed to 'go forth and multiply'.

I find the Bible is sometimes not as anti-incest as one would expect. What about Cain and his wife? Or really any of that 'first' generation. If we take the Bible literally then the only people on earth were all descended from Adam and Eve. So who were they supposed to multiply with? Brothers or sisters. Or their own parents? Meh. Of course some argue that he got his wife from the land of Nod, but then you have the problem (if you're taking the Bible literally, of course) of the existence of other people. Where'd they come from? Did God make other people? Or are they all descendant's of Adam and Eve as well? Which brings us back to the problem of incest since Cain would be closely related to all of them since they'd all be sibling-cousin combinations of some degree or another.

Or what about King David's son Amnon and daughter Tamar? He raped her, true, but she seems to have believed that if he had asked David for her in marriage that the king would have agreed. And it was the rape that enraged Absalom, not the concept of his sister and brother marrying.

/end tangent

Susanne said...

Amber, you actually bring up some good points. Thank you for redeeming Lot in this post! :-D

About incest... Abraham truly was Sarah's half brother .. and there is the patriarch of the faiths marrying her!

I've heard literalist-type people say that Adam and Eve had all the possible DNA combinations in them so back then the taboo on incest wasn't like today. Really part of why it's so bad today is because we've been conditioned that it's icky and it causes inbreeding problems with genetic mishaps. I think God finally prohibited it in the Mosaic Law so Cain and those guys weren't breaking any Law. Granted the same cannot be said about the example you gave of David's son who raped his half sister.

I know in many states it's not illegal to marry first cousins though most people don't. That's not always been the case between royals whether in the UK or elsewhere who wanted to keep the blue blood as blue as possible. :)

Thanks for bringing up some interesting topics. :)

Amber said...


It's never made sense to me (once I started thinking about these things) that the Bible gets accused of making Lot into a bad person when it does no such thing. I mean sure, the Bible makes a *lot* of people look worse that the Qur'an does, so why the focus on Lot? We didn't do that one! :)

It's not just the genetic issues but also the abuse problem. Most cases of incest are parent/child or uncle/child, aunt/child, even grandparent/child. And in that case you have the problem of even if they don't have sex until legal adulthood there's the question of actual ability to give consent since they were raised with this other person being an authority figure and it's far too easy for the younger of the pair to be manipulated by the elder. Sibling incest is also problematic for the same reasons.

Now I've read about cases where siblings or something were raised entirely separately (adoptions and the like) and later found each other, dated, sometimes even married without knowing that they were related. In that case, is it really incest? I mean sure, they really shouldn't have kids because of the genetic issues, but they're strangers. They don't view each other as family in that way.

But see then we can't blame Lot or his daughters under the Mosaic Law either!

Yeah, and look how well that turned out for the royalty! Inbreeding is *bad*, genetically. Once here or there you can get away with it, sure. But royal dynasties made a freaking art and policy out of it and the health issues...yeesh.

Susanne said...

Amber, I didn't think of the pressuring/taking advantage issue of incest. I'm glad you mentioned this as it is very important. I'd say pressuring and raping people is BAD in EVERY circumstance. Isn't this what David's son protested? His sister was raped by a half brother? Yes, your thoughts make perfect sense. I should have considered that.

Yeah, I've heard the royals need to branch out because of the inbreeding problems. I've heard the same for some tribal communities where people tend to marry first cousins generation after generation.

Interestingly enough I saw a Zoo Files segment on the local news last week and someone said they keep records of the animals in zoos so they won't have problems with inbreeding since the same animals are often taken from zoo to zoo to zoo. You don't want to have health problems amongst your zoo animals. So I say the same goes with people.

Anyway, thanks for what you added. Interesting stuff!