There is no doubt that Judaism and Christianity are described and defined in the Bible as monotheistic Abrahamic faiths. And according to Islamic literature, Islam is also considered to be such.
This column will refer to statements made by John L. Exposito who is Professor of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University. Inasmuch as the Bible was written approximately 500 years before the birth of Islam, we’ll simply take Professor Exposito at his word.
Professor Exposito states: “Jews and Christians trace themselves back to Abraham and his wife Sarah; Muslims, to Abraham and his servant Hagar.”
In the early chapters of the Book of Genesis, God revealed Himself to Abram (Abraham). He instructed Abram to leave his native land east of the Euphrates River and travel to a new land where he would become a blessing to all people groups on earth.
“Now the LORD had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country…to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you…and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’” Genesis 12:1-3
Abram took God at His word and at the age of 75 years he and his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot journeyed westward as instructed; first to Haran, and then southward to the land of Canaan.
“Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’” Genesis 12:7a
But after dwelling in the land of Canaan for 10 years, Abram and Sarai had no children, i.e. descendants. Abram would have been 85 years old at that time and Sarai would be 75 years old; well beyond childbearing years. That was concerning. Sarai in fact stated that “…the LORD has restrained me from bearing children…”
Sarai proposed a solution by offering her young handmaid named Hagar to Abram as a surrogate wife to bear him a son.
“So he went in to Hagar, and she conceived…” Genesis 16:4a
Hagar’s pregnancy caused bitter contention between herself and Abram’s wife Sarai, and Hagar departed to the wilderness. The Angel of the LORD approached her and spoke to her thusly:
“Behold, you are with child, and you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has heard your affliction. He shall be a wild man; his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him…” Genesis 16:11-12
But when Abraham was 99 years old and Sarah was 89 years old, God visited Abraham again and told him he would have a son by Sarah the same time the following year.
“And I will bless her and also give you a son by her…and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.” Genesis 17:16
Abraham’s response was an outburst of laughter. He thought it preposterous that a man of 100 years and a woman of 90 years could have a child. Then Abraham said to God:
“…Oh, that Ishmael might live before You.” Genesis 17:18
God’s response was very clear and straightforward.
“No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael…He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But My covenant I will establish with Isaac…” Genesis 17:19-21a
And so it was, Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah at the exact time promised by God.
Interestingly, when Isaac was about 2 years old and Ishmael was in his mid teens, Abraham made a great feast on the same day that Isaac was weaned.
“And Sarah saw the son of Hagar…whom she had borne to Abraham, scoffing.” Genesis 21:9
“Therefore she said to Abraham, ‘Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, namely with Isaac.’” Genesis 21:10
Recall the Angel of the LORD had told Hagar that her son Ishmael would beget twelve princes.
And so it was that Ishmael did have twelve sons who were the beginning of the Arab nations.
More next week.
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