In one of the most haunting and overlooked passages in the Hebrew Bible, Genesis 25: 9, Abraham’s two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, come together and stand side by side to bury their father, despite Genesis 16: 12, “Ishmael will live apart from his relatives.” The brothers are rivals since before birth, estranged since childhood, leaders of opposing nations. They reunite to bury Abraham’s body. The Sacred Texts do not say that they hug; that they share a meal; that they sit down to forgive and forget.
God promises Abraham that he will have many generations through Isaac and Jacob. God promises the same to Hagar. Hagar is, effectively, a female ‘patriarch.’ This balance is stunning because the split – when the story comes along, the divide among the religions is still thousands of years in the future. Yet, the text understands that all of these people are related to one another. On and off, there will be violence; also, peace.
Though Abraham expels Hagar and Ishmael into the desert, he never leaves Abraham’s realm of love and paternity. How does God treat the Bible’s first homeless single mother, cast out by the Patriarch of Many? Hagar is the only person, male or female, in the Hebrew Bible to ever speak and name God directly:
13 Hagar asked herself, “Have I really seen God and lived to tell about it?” So she called the Lord, who had spoken to her, “A God Who Sees” (Genesis 16: 13 Good News Translation GNT)
What’s more, Ishmael never leaves the sphere of God’s blessing. The text seems to be bending over backwards to create a sort of balance to affirm that Abraham has no favorites.
Abraham achieves in death what he could never attain in life. This moment of reconciliation foreshadows a hopeful side-by-side flicker of possibilities. Jews, Christians, and Muslims don’t need to outclass each other nor intimidate each other with fear and warmongering. They are family.
The Hebrew Bible foretells where we’re going to be so many thousands of years later. It’s standing side by side and respecting that coexistence (Chapter 5: Abraham – A Life without Borders; Sub-chapter 5.8: Standing Sid by Side – Coexistence; Page 128; Kindle Locations 2552-2555).
“Shalom! Shalom is my cordial greeting – my heartfelt wish – to you … May God, in His goodness, protects and bless each one of us. May he especially bless all who forge a path of friendship and peace among the men and women of every race and culture.
This beautiful word, so dear, means salvation, happiness, harmony; it highlights that peace is a gift of God, a fragile gift, placed in human hands, that has to be safeguarded by the dedication of our communities.
May God make us builders of peace, with the consciousness that, when humankind works for peace, he or she becomes capable of making the world better.“
The land and place are less material to God than how humanity treats each other and the other.
Mark 12: 28-34 (Aramaic Plain English translation):
28 … ‘Which is the first commandment of all?’
29 Yeshua said to him, ‘The first of all the commandments: ‘Hear Israel, THE LORD JEHOVAH your God, THE LORD JEHOVAH, he is One.’
30 ‘And, you shall love THE LORD JEHOVAH your God with your whole heart and with your entire soul and with your full mind and with all your power.‘ This is the first commandment”.
31 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
“The essence of our Abrahamic Faiths,” says Moshe Menuhin, author of ‘Not by Might, Nor by Power: The Zionist Betrayal of Judaism’ is: “In the place where the repentant stands, even the completely righteous man cannot stand.”
Said Nathan Chofshi in ‘William Zukerman’s Jewish Newsletter’ of February 9, 1959:
“We came and turned the native Arabs [Palestinians] into tragic refugees. And still, we dare slander and malign them, to besmirch their name;
instead of being deeply ashamed of what we did and trying to undo some of the evil we committed, we justify our terrible acts and even attempt to glorify them …” (Chapter 5: Abraham – A Life without Borders; Sub-chapter 5.9: Our Divine Heritage Supersedes Land; Page 129-130; Kindle Locations 2591-2594).
One name echoes in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Abraham! One man is at the heart of our Abrahamic faiths. Jews, Christians, and Muslims come from the same family, from the same land. And therein lies the tension. God blesses Abraham. God also blesses both Ishmael and Isaac. God grants all humanity unconditional grace. God’s love is eternal (John 3: 16).
Why do Christians take sides when, clearly, God hasn’t? Why don’t Christians spread the Good News About the Kingdom? Christians still don’t understand. The land has become their Golden Calf. Why don’t they seek inner peace and wisdom by entering the spiritual and living Kingdom of God, the Promised Land, open to all? Why are Christians obsessed with possession of mere sand?
Shouldn’t Christians walk the talk as commanded by Jesus in Matthew 24: 14?
With every good wish to you, SHALOM!
Abraham A. van Kempen
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