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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