More Thoughts on “Let’s Blame Abraham and Sarah”

If you didn’t read my “Let’s Blame Abraham and Sarah” post last Sunday, feel free to skip this post.

Let me express my thanks to writer Judith Bron for her peppery and yet well thought out and thought-provoking response to last week’s post about ultimately blaming Abraham and Sarah for the rise of the Arab people and consequently of Islam. We had a good discussion through email, and–although I don’t agree with all of her points–I  admit I may have been wrong about the premise I based my post on.

When I said that Ishmael was the father of the Arab people, just as Isaac was the father of the Jews, I was referring to something I’d learned at church. Whether in a sermon or a Bible study, I couldn’t say.

From the research I’ve done since first hearing from Judith, I’ve read that Ishmael wasn’t the father of Arabs even though Muslims want to link THEIR lineage to him. What I’d been taught is considered a popular myth. But it was hard to believe people at church could be completely wrong that way.

The fact is that Ishmael’s mother, Hagar, was an Egyptian. And the Bible refers to the Arabs as early as 2 Chronicles, which was after the time of Isaac and Ishmael. But it doesn’t say who the Arabs descended from or where they originated.

Over the centuries, people from various African nations have come to view themselves as Arabs, even though they were not “genetically Arabic.” In fact, the genetics of “Arab” are so diverse that “Arab” and “Arabic” have become cultural rather than racial designations.

I suppose what got me started on this whole idea–I’m currently reading my way through Genesis–comes from Genesis 21:

But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” (NIV)

And that made sending Ishmael and Hagar away seem pretty selfish and hard-hearted. Abraham wasn’t the least happy about Sarah’s push to do that, but God told him to do what Sarah had said and not to worry about it. And Abraham did provide some support for Ishmael and Hagar. He would not only be fine, he’d become the father of twelve tribes. But possibly not of the Arabs.

But then I asked a knowledgeable Bible teacher at church about it. He insists that Ishmael really is the father of the Arab people. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take notes, but it has something to do with Edom and the Edomites. There wasn’t time for me to get straight how all of that tied together, so I admit I’m confused now.

Uh, more confused.

With due respect to Judith, perhaps only God knows the wholly correct answer with all of the supporting details. And I’m thankful that no amount of human confusion or ignorance about this question affects Judith’s faith or my own.

Thanks again, Judith. Without your challenge, I might never have come even this close to the truth.

What about you? Were you taught the same thing I was about Ishmael being the ancestor of Arabs? Do you have further information on the subject? Or is there something you’ve been taught that you now have reason to question? Please share in a comment.


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Best regards,

4 thoughts on “More Thoughts on “Let’s Blame Abraham and Sarah”

  1. I really do understand this issue and it is very complicated. The thing is this: there is no pure genetic strain we can dub ”Jew” or ”Arab. It’s way too convoluted for any direct genetic link between Abraham and the current populations who call themselves Hebrews or Arabic.

    The thing is this – it will take more time than I really have to give. The epitome of the idea is this: The nature of the Jewish religion wasn’t one of exclusion. Whereas there were 12 tribes (plus the priestly tribe of Levi) foreigners were allowed and encouraged to become part of this nation. In Exodus 12:38 we read that a vast mixed multitude left Egypt with the Isrealites. Not just Jews. There is even a book in the bible by the name of Ruth. She was a Moabitess. God thought it good to have her as a forebear of Jesus himself. Even Jesus was not a pure Hebrew. Imagine!

    If we look at the conquests and slavery the Jews suffered through the centuries, surely there were plenty of foreigners who took Jewish woman as wives An example of this is Esther who became a queen in the Persian empire. History is filled with so much intermingling that it would be impossible to tease out a pure, unblemished DNA known as Hebrew. There are many biblical examples of Jews having intimate relations with foreigners: Samson, Solomon, Bathsheba, whose first husband was Uriah the Hitite, to name a few.

    This same thing goes for Arabs. So I don’t see the term ”Arab” as indicating some pure genetic oasis where everyone is a genetic link. No. They (Arbs) too made conquests (think Spain) and were conquered. This must have led to many instances where genes were passed around.

    SO it’s not a homogeneous genetic thing we are looking for that to describes a Jew or Muslim, but rather a religious one. Just as God told Abraham of a great nation coming forth through his son by Sarah he also ordained a great nation to come forth by the son of Hagar. And these nations were to be opposed to each other. FOr me it’s the Jews and Arabs. The popular sentiment agrees because there is no real genetic profile that describes Jews, etc.

    Hope this synopsis was not too complicated or sketchy to follow.


  2. This had to be one of the more thought-provoking posts for me. I have really enjoyed cooking and thinking about these things. Sometimes in mid-souflé something will hit me from one of your posts and faster than you can say ”Texas Stroganoff” I get a clear view of things.
    The good thing is that I normally wouldn’t have thought about this stuff but reading your posts sort of stimulate some prefrontal curiosity and I am driven in a new and interesting direction. Thanks.


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