There is no more pivotal, defining, and foundational figure among the world’s monotheists than Abraham.1 All three major monotheistic religions assert their ancestral linkage to him.2 “Despite countless revolutions in the history of ideas, Abraham remains a defining figure for half the world’s believers.”3 The Hebrew Bible focuses on Abraham’s descendants through Isaac and Jacob who become known as the Children of Israel. The Christian faith sprang from Judaism with the claim that Jesus of Nazareth was the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, and the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham that through his progeny all the nations of the earth would be blessed. The Muslim faith sprang from the sands of Arabia with the claim that Muhammad was the last and greatest prophet called by the one, true God of Abraham to restore the radical monotheism ostensibly corrupted and lost through the centuries. Some critics allege that monotheism itself, particularly the legacy of Abraham’s descendants, has caused the world great conflagration.4 Significant carnage and destruction could have been avoided if only monotheism had not arisen in the first place. Regina Schwartz argues that the identity constructed on the basis of covenant, land, and kinship drawing a distinction between insiders and outsiders through the beginning of the Hebrew Bible, gives monotheism a certain predisposition to violence that otherwise would not be present.5 This article will examine two narratives (Gen 16, 17) involving the firstborn son of Abraham, Ishmael, in light of the covenant promises made to Abraham.6 Although the book of Genesis identifies Abraham’s second born, Isaac, as the covenant child and heir to the fullness of the promises, Genesis records that some of the covenant blessings would also apply to Ishmael. Through the narratives of Gen 16 and 17, the description of the Lord’s interaction with Ishmael’s mother Hagar indicates a sympathy for one who was an outsider in her own household. The Lord’s benevolence toward Hagar speaks to the character of the divine in the book of Genesis as one who is not inherently hostile toward the outsider. This kindness gives an example that followers of Jesus can emulate as heirs to the Abrahamic covenant today (Rom 4:12; 9:7–8; Gal 3:7, 29).
"A God Who Sees and Hears the “Other”: Hagar’s Theophany as an Illustration of the Lord’s Benevolence Toward Those Outside the Covenant,"
Journal of the Adventist Theological Society: Vol. 30:
1, Article 8.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.andrews.edu/jats/vol30/iss1/8