Thoughts for Tuesday 16th June 2020

Psalm 126; Genesis 25:7-11; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5


Tuesday 16 June - Rev.  Jerry Eve

 The story we have at Genesis 25, which is titled ‘The Death and Burial of Abraham,’ is one of my favourite Old Testament passages. Salafist interpretations of the Muslim faith (like fundamentalism within Christianity) is frightening; the rise of Islamophobia in the West is to be condemned; and this is a great place to start.

 I don’t know Hebrew, but the translation we now have of Genesis 21:9 in the majority of our English language translations, I think, is far better. For, where the KJV has, ‘And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham [Ishmael], mocking,’ the NRSV, for example, has, ‘But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac.’ There is, of course, a world of difference between mocking and playing.

 Much of Genesis is the stuff of modern-day soap operas. That Abraham would listen to Sarah where Hagar and Ishmael were concerned, and turn them out of his house and their home, seems unconscionable. It would be natural for Ishmael to then be told stories by his mother against his father. There’s actually a prediction before Ishmael is born that, ‘he will be against everyone, and everyone will be against him’ (Genesis 16:12).

 And yet, when Abraham dies, Isaac presumably sends word to Ishmael letting him know what has happened, and inviting him to come to Canaan so that the two of them together can then bury the father they share between them.

 Traditionally, Ishmael (who’s regarded as a direct ancestor of Muhammad) is buried beside the Kaaba in Mecca. The father (like Isaac’s son, Jacob) of twelve tribes, the geographical location of their settlement is thought to have been the Arabian peninsula. But while Isaac is mentioned in the New Testament in Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts, Romans, Galatians, Hebrews and James, Ishmael isn’t mentioned at all. And, as the oldest, while we would expect Ishmael to be mentioned first in references to them in the Old Testament, this isn’t the case at all. It’s always, ‘Isaac and Ishmael.’ (see here at verse 9 and also at 1 Chronicles 1:28)

 But if as children these two brothers could play together, and as adults could attend to their father’s burial together, what a great model for Jewish-Muslim-Christian relations this story is. It’s one that reminds me of a poem written by the late Dr (and Busby Church elder) John Watson:

 The Beauty of Israel is Slain

 There is a green hill far away where stands an armoured car;

And from its olive-groves is heard the dreadful pulse of war.


By cool Siloam’s shady rill the tank crews oil their guns

While mothers mourn the slaughtered youth, their daughters and their sons.


A thousand ages in they sight have hardly changed a thing

Though David wields the power now; Goliath has the sling.


Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons away,

But racial strife keeps surging on, for ever and a day.


O God our help in ages past, restore our faith in you.

Make war a nightmare of the past for Arab and for Jew.




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