Sunday, March 19, 2006

Genesis Part Ten

Under the Terebinths of Mamre - The Three Visitors

Genesis Chapter 18:1-15

The Lord once again appears to Abraham. Abraham is encamped under the terebinths of Mamre. This is near Hebron where Abraham had once built an altar. A terebinth is a grove of large trees that grow in this desert region. This makes it clear to us that the visitors in this story are indeed God or God and His representatives.

Recently there was a PBS TV special that dealt with a traveler that was making a pilgrimage to Mt. Sinai to follow the steps of Moses. In his travels he spent a few days with some Arab nomads. (In nomad culture, to be hospitable you are welcomed as an honored guest for 3 days. After that you are treated like a pariah.) While watching this show I thought back to this chapter in Genesis and imagined how much this resembled Abraham sitting on pillows and rugs in the front windflap of his tent that was tethered under the grove of trees.

The name Mamre, we may recall was a landowner.

God appeared to him as the day grew hot. Abraham looked up and saw three men approaching. He ran from the entrance of his tent to greet them. This tells us that Abraham was not expecting anyone and was startled by the forthcoming visitors.

He bowed low to the ground in reverence and begged them to come to his tent for water to drink and bathe their feet and a morsel of bread that they may refresh themselves.

As a gracious host Abraham makes an understatement as he intends to serve much more. He makes haste into the tent and instructs Sarah on what to prepare and tells her to be quick about her business. Additionally he runs to the herds and instructs his servant boy to prepare a tender calf. Also instructing him to prepare curds and milk. The laws of Kashrut were not yet observed. We know that the amount of food prepared was far beyond what 4 people could eat. We do not know if the feast was meant as a celebration for the visitors and Abraham’s family or as extra provisions for the visitor’s journey.

There are also Midrash arguments on whether or not the Divine visitors actually ate or merely pretended to eat. I don’t think this is important and would not begin to determine what or what not God could do.

The visitors ask of Abraham, "Where is your wife Sarah?" (Did he ask himself, how do they know her name?)

Abraham replies, "She is there in the tent."

One of the visitors says, "I will return to you when life is due and your wife Sarah shall have a son!"

Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent which was behind the visitor that just spoke. I reiterate that both Sarah and Abraham were old. Sarah had not menstruated for many years.

Sarah laughed to herself saying, "Now that I am withered am I to have enjoyment with my husband who is so old?" Contrary to the Puritans and those religious who say that sex is merely for procreation, Sarah states here that it is for enjoyment.

The Lord said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh saying, ‘Shall I bear a child as old as I am?’ Is anything too wondrous for the Lord? I will return to you at the time that life is due and Sarah shall have a son."

Sarah lied saying, "I did not laugh." For she was frightened.

But He replied, "You did laugh."

Laughed in Hebrew is va-titzchak. Sarah’s behavior explains the name Isaac Yitchak.

We are not told the identity of two of the three men. Were they angels? Were they aspects of the One God? We do not know. From prior verses we know that God talks to Himself. Moving to the next study we find angels coming to visit Lot, Abraham’s nephew. The belief in angels is widespread in Near Eastern literature and angels are frequently sited in the Scriptures as messengers or couriers of God’s message. Here we see "The Annunciation" of Isaac’s birth. Later on we are privy to another "Annunciation of Jesus." We also see a reecho of Isaac’s sacrifice with the sacrifice of Jesus. But let us not get ahead of ourselves.

In post-Biblical Judaism, in Islam and also in Christianity there developed an elaborate structure of "angelology." I am not going to comment or judge this since I have nothing on which to base it’s foundation. Lately we have been deluged with folks claiming that they can talk with angels that write books and give lectures on the subject. Since I have nothing to use as exegesis on this subject I once again will rely and concentrate on Scripture.

This is a rather unusual story to be included. It brings up some topics that were discussed in the prior chapter. Some scholars believe that this follows Abraham’s circumcision to show us how much importance God places on visiting the sick. Hence the mitzvah of visiting the sick.

Hospitality is of great importance in Judaism then and now.

Some scholars say that this was all a vision of Abraham. Others say it was an event.
What is important? God speaks, Abraham listens, trusts God and shows hospitality to passing strangers. That is the importance of this chapter.

Genesis Part Nine

The Covenant of the Circumcision

Genesis 17:1-27

Before now God has made no demands on Abraham in return for His Promise. A fundamental change is to take place in this one-sided obligation. As a sign of the completion of the Covenant, God gives Abraham and his wife new names. The descendants of Abraham will bear the Mark of the Covenant on their flesh. Now Abraham and his progeny will be partners in the obligation of covenant.

From the onset of verse one we learn that Abram is now 99 years old. It has been 13 years since Hagar gave birth to Ishmael. I have to stop and think how often we expect instant response to our prayers. God once again appears to Abram and announces, "I am El Shaddai. Walk in My Ways and be blameless. I will establish My Covenant between Me and you and I will make you exceedingly numerous."

In modern Christian culture we have been told that El Shaddai translates to God Almighty. This is probably the most frequent translation, but scholars actually do not know what this phrase means. Some feel that Shaddai comes from the Akkadian phrase for "Mountain" or from the root "To send rain." The famous Rebbe Rashi explained that the name means "I Am He Whose Divinity is sufficient to all creation."

God asks of Abram to Walk in His Ways and be blameless. He used the same phrase with Noah.

Abram prostrates himself on the ground as is the custom in front of kings.
Once again God promises Abram that he will be the father of nations and he will be exceedingly fertile. He seals the covenant by giving Abram a new name. He will know be known as Abraham. Abram may have been a contraction of Abi-ram which means my father is exulted. The additional syllable Ha adds a part of God’s name to his.

Not only does God once again state that Abraham will be the father of a nation through his offspring, but God promises to him the land of Canaan in which he sojourns. He goes on to say that Abraham and his offspring shall bear a sign as a reminder of the Covenant. Abraham and every male offspring among his people will be circumcised. God states that this should be done on the eighth day after birth. This would not only include all of Abraham's family and progeny, but any slave whether they be home-born or purchased. If any man does not become circumcised they shall be cut off from their kin.

God also shares His covenant with Sarai and changes her name to Sarah. He blesses her and states that rulers will issue from her. (The name Sarah can be translated to "princess.")

We are told that Abraham threw himself on his face and laughed at the Almighty and said, "Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old and to a woman who is ninety? Oh that Ishmael might live by Your favor."

God replies to Abraham, "Never the less you will have a son and you will name him Isaac; and I will maintain My Covenant with him as an everlasting Covenant for his offspring to come."

"As for Ishmael," God states, "I have heeded you and I will bless him. He will be fertile and exceedingly numerous and will be the father of twelve chieftain. But My Covenant I will maintain through Isaac whom Sarah will bear to you next season."

When God was done speaking, He was gone.

Isaac or Yitzak is a Hebrew name that means to laugh. Be careful what you say in God's presence. Additionally the name Ishmael you may recall means God will heed.

Like his predecesor Noah, Abraham spares no time in following God's command. He walked in His ways and was blameless. Abraham went on to circumcise himself and his son Ishmael and the flesh of all the men of his household. The flesh of the home-born slaves and any that were purchased were circumcised as well.

Let me interrupt here. When I was a very young man I was trained and became certified as an operating room technician. In this capacity I passed surgeons their instruments and was able to do some surgical assisting. I was familiar with many of the procedures including adult circumcision. Infant circumcision is a much simpler procedure in the hospital. It is up to the doctor regarding anesthesia since the injection site may cause swelling. However topical anesthesia is the norm. As for adult circumcision, depending on the surgeon, it can be a procedure that can involve one to one and a half hours of actual surgery and can involve extensive cutting. Advances in surgical tools, since the 1970's have made adult circumcision a much easier process. something that was unknown to Abraham and his peers. Instead of razor sharp scalpels, the tool of choice for Abraham was a flint knife.

Jews have a wonderful and significant ceremony that can be held at their home or synagogue called a Brit Milah, the covenant of circumcision. For a healthy male child this is held on the eighth day from their birth and all the babies relatives attend. The rite is performed by a specially trained rabbi called a Mohel. This rite of passage confirms the infants special relationship in the community, but does not make him a Jew.

When Jews did not practice the rite of circumcision, they neglected God's Covenant. Perhaps they wilfully rejected God's Covenant and at times this seemed like a prelude to divine punishment.

During the Roman reign of Antiochus lV circumcision was prohibited by royal decree, although Jews practiced it even upon risk of death. One hundred years later, upper class Jews neglected this rite in order to assimilate into Roman society. During the reign of Hadrian not only was circumcision banned, so was reading of Torah. Once again observant Jews undertook the chance of death and kept the rite. Even during the Nazi reign of terror, circumcision was one way of determining the Jewishness of a male victim by their persecutors. However Jews continued to circumcise their male children in accordance with God's commandment. In Russia, during the communist era, the practice nearly disappeared. In the United States most males are routinely circumcised as a hygienic measure although this is not the same as Brit Milah.

Circumcision was not just practiced by the Jews. The prophet Jeremiah indicates that the Egyptians, Moabites and Ammonites all underwent circumcision. Among the nations bordering Israel only the Philistines did not practice it. In modern times it is also a Moslem practice.

Why was it so widespread? Ancient scholars sited the hygienic reasons and also stated that it reduced sexual activity to a manageable level. It also was due to popularity of fertility rites and in some instances it was an initiation to puberty or manhood prior to marriage. This holds true today with some African tribes.

In the Torah God gave woman no such sign.

Abram's name is changed to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah. We see name changes throughout the Bible. Jacob to Israel, Hoshea to Joshua, Mattaniah to Zedekiah, Simon to Peter, Levi to Matthew, Saul to Paul. In each instance the name change symbolizes a change in personality or status of the bearer.

Kings and Popes take on new names to reflect their new status. In marriage the wife may take on the husband's surname to reflect her married status. The same with adoptions. Names may say something about a civilizations culture. For instance Ibn Ezra or Ibn Chayim (Ibn is Arabic for son) expressed the joining together of Israeli and Arabic cultures. Names given not only in Puritan times, but to Amish, Jewish and even Christian peoples expressed commitment to religious tradition in using names from the Bible. Jesus, Mary, Joseph even Angel and Archangel are common Hispanic names.

At the Brit Milah, the child is officially named. It may be the name of a deceased relative. One way of providing tribute to someone that has passed is to use the initials of their name. To honor a name is not only to be true to one's self but also to that tradition for which the name stands.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I Interrupt This Bible Study for an Important Story

We were walking through lower Price Hill; however the street layout looked more like Northside. There was a maze of dead end streets that ran into dilapidated abandon factories and warehouses. I knew it was Price Hill because it was near the Ohio River and I could see the street over pass. 

So there we were walking and trying to find an open street that led to the highway. I think that I was with my wife, but I cannot be certain. I just remember walking and wishing that there was a way out of here. 

I then remembered why we had come this way and what we needed to accomplish. We walked into one of the factories. There were two of us, but now we were three.

We were inside this large, musty room. The cinder block walls were damp. The cement floor was covered with a thin sheet of water that was leaking from a pipe. Hundreds of eyeballs were squirming around the floor. They were rolling about on their own power. Suddenly they all looked at us and scurried to our feet. 

We were frightened and began to run towards the back of the room. In the process we stepped on many of the eyes and they crushed beneath our feet. It was horrible, but we did not care. We did not stop to examine the damage. We just wanted out of that room.

Before us in the adjoining room was a rusted steel door with huge hinges that had been welded to its mass. It was heavy, rusted and hard to pry open. We tore our finger open clawing at it, but finally it swung towards us. As it did we jumped into the next room and slammed that door behind us.

The room was full of neatly made up beds with yellow flannel blankets that had animal designs on them. In each bed were two or three little girls. Each frightened child was about nine or ten years old. One of them looked exactly like my niece when she was that age. This one told me that they were all taken from their homes and they were very, very frightened.

I couldn’t believe they had not attempted to leave, since there was a door leading to the street and the interior was visible, though barely, through some filthy windows. My friend threw something heavy at the plate glass and the window shattered in a thousand pieces. Carefully we climbed through the shards out to the street. We then began kicking on the locked door until we broke it wide open.

We did not notice the old car outside. It was an ancient Ford Pinto. It was dirty and had at one time been yellow. Now there was flaking blue paint that was trying to cover up the dirty yellow original finish. A greasy looking young fellow jumped out of the drivers side with a long barreled revolver that he pointed at us. We didn't pay any attention to him. Our concern was only for the children safety. We did not realize that he was their captor.

He too wasn't paying attention. Immediately a Cincinnati police officer held a gun to his head and said, "I think you ought to put that thing down mister."

The blackheart lowered the gun's barrel and without a word surrendered it to the cop.

I looked around and said, "My Lord, look at all the guns in this car!"

On the car seat was another revolver. It was newer and was made of blackened steel. There was also a 45 caliber automatic pistol and a huge black automatic assault rifle. There was an assortment of other pistols and knives on the floor of the car. By then dozens of cars with sirens blaring surrounded the street. The police arrested the bad man and confiscated the arsenal and the car.

We talked with them for a long time as they whisked the little girls to awaiting squad cars to be reunited with their families. The lady that was one of the three vanished. I was now left alone with the young man that was with me. I told the police that we were walking over to Good Samaritan Hospital. They thought that was a good idea and wished us well.

Let me point out that this all took place on State Avenue in Lower Price Hill. I recognized the broken down storefronts and tenements. If you are not familiar with the area, the inhabitants are mostly poor Appalachians whose families migrated here from the coal mines and farms of the rural Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia. They probably would have been better off staying there, since the work wasn’t all that good here. And now the third or fourth generation is still here and still down on their luck, existing by the skin of their teeth and government assistance.

My friend and I walked across the street to Burnet Avenue to Good Sam. If you live around here you would realize that these two streets are separated by probably a good ten or fifteen miles and that Good Samaritan Hospital is in a section of Cincinnati called Clifton. It is not at the foot of Price Hill. In fact Good Samaritan isn't even close to Burnet Avenue. At one time there were five hospitals on or near Burnet. We used to refer to it as Pill Hill. But Good Sam was on the other side of Clifton. However we found ourselves walking up Burnet to Good Sam Hospital.

We had to walk through the construction that was going on at the Hospital. They were doing a total remodel, which is something that never ends at non-profit hospitals. We walked into the new entrance which lead us to the hospital's newest feature which was called The Mosaic Museum.

The Mosaic Museum was about six or seven dimly lit rooms that featured walls made of small tiles that had skillfully been applied to make designs that celebrated the marvels of the healing arts. The floors were all polished hardwood. 

There were also sculptures made of even tinier mosaic tiles. The works were encased in glass boxes. Small spot lights were strategically placed to give highlight the pieces of art. Two of the rooms were unique since the floors moved. In one room the floor moved very slowly in a back and forth rocking motion. The other room had a similar floor only the motion was circular. It sounds like it would make one nauseous, but it really was rather comforting.

My friend and I had no intention of visiting this museum. We didn't even know about of it’s existence. We were merely trying to make our way to the other side of the hospital since he told me that there was some sort of station on that side. I wasn’t clear if it was a bus or train station. Perhaps it was a small airport.

It became difficult to make our way out of the museum because all of the Ladies Aide were there for the Grand Opening. We had to dodge over-dressed, over-perfumed wives of executives, bankers and doctors to make our way to the museum entrance. It seems we had made our way in through the back door and we were taking the reverse tour.

When we were finally at the other side, we walked out the door and back to Burnet Avenue. Instead of heading up the street we were now heading downward to the station.
My friend said that he was going back home to his family in New Mexico and bid me farewell. I thanked him and said good-by. I was alone, but not for long.

I next found myself in some sort of a airplane, flying saucer or jetplane. I’m not sure what it was or how I got there. From the interior it may have been a car, but we were not in traffic. We were way above the traffic. And once again I was with two different unknown people. The older man told the younger boy that was driving to pull up above the Big Mac bridge.

A nearby helicopter pilot watched in amazement as we flew above the Ohio River and passed the cities below. The young boy driving swung the ship around and down towards the traffic on Fourth Street, buzzing atop the cars and frightened drivers. We were spotted by another helicopter and a few jet airplanes.

Inside the craft I watched from what I guess was the back seat at the boy in the front seat. The steering wheel he gripped reminded me of an old classic car. It was big and made of light colored polished wood. I couldn't see the dashboard. The older man was saying, "Be careful Johnny, your going to cause us to crash." But Johnny wasn't listening.

One more time we went up in the sky, up above the bridges that span the Ohio. We came down and perched on the flat portion of a hill on the side of Mount Adams, in the yard of an A-frame building. This was the same flower shop that is in Bellevue Kentucky on Donnemeyer Road. Somehow it had now transported to Mount Adams. Two women came out of the flower shop. One was somewhat older than the other. The ship opened it's hatch like a giant clam. I could now see what I had been riding in.

It was indeed some sort of space craft. It appearance was similar to one of the old three man space capsules of the 1960's. It was bronze in color. Although the capsule was enclosed in some sort of burnished metal, you could see through it's walls from the craft’s interior. Behind the capsule was some sort of engine and rudder. I suppose it was an engine, however it made no noise.

As the top of the capsule slowly swung back I could see why we could all fit into this small craft. We had been shrunken down to our essence. Each of us looked like a sort of squiggly piece of chewing gum. We were red, blue, dark green, and yellow. I don't know who yellow was. 

He never said anything to me while we were flying. I was blue. The older guy was green and the younger fellow was red. We all sat...uh were laid out on this big lime green vinyl cushion. It probably wasn't actually vinyl, but that's the best way I can describe it. I don’t think that they still use vinyl in more advanced civilizations. The older guy and I got out and suddenly were normal sized again. We talked with the ladies.

The older one said that she was in pain. She laid prostate on the grass and her clothing disappeared. I massaged her back and back side for a long time and she said it felt good. Eventually she said that she felt much better. We told them we had to leave. The older lady stood up and her clothing reappeared. She said that she was not letting us go anywhere without taking her. You know I say she was older, but she was actually about my same age. It’s just that I’m not a kid anymore. This lady looked very much like my wife, but somewhat different. As we all approached the craft we again became gum sized. Away we went, rising slowly at first and then we got up to speed and headed skyward.

Once again the older man, who was the captain was shouting, "Slow down son and take it easy!"

And once again Johnny wasn't listening. We followed the route up I-75 high above the traffic below. By now it was twilight, that time between night and day when the sky looks like it can't make up it's mind.

"Pull up Johnny! Pull up!" But it was too late. Apparently we crashed. I guess being the size of a stick of Wrigley's gum softened the blow as I didn't feel anything. We found ourselves on another hillside similar to the one we had just left.

My lady friend and I got out and walked into the small house on this hill. No one was there, but the door to the cottage was opened. The living room was small and the walls were covered in old fashioned flowered wallpaper that was huge prints of wildflowers. 

The chairs were old high backs covered also in flowered print fabric. They all had doilies on the armrests and the chair backs. The wooden floor had a big woven rug. We walked into the old kitchen. It was spotless, but the fixtures were very old. The stove stood on huge legs, as did the tiny refrigerator. The floor was flowery linoleum. The sink had a wooden back board and side board and was painted with white enamel. We walked out the back door and saw a small grove of walnut trees that were planted very close together. Our ship was underneath the trees.

The hatch opened slightly and out came two sticks of gum. The captain and the young boy, Johnny. The chewing gum adventurers took on shapes more like malleable soda straws. They wiggled off the side and burrowed into the ground. The space craft also slowly sunk into the ground and vanished from sight. The grass above it immediately grew back..

All at once a thin green vine started springing from the ground and it grew rapidly. Not only did it grow in length, but in width as well. It took the form of another walnut tree, but instead of it's trunk reaching toward the sky, it grew horizontally and parallel to the ground before it's branches started to sprout upwards.

From the house we heard voices and people came out into the garden that was enclosed by the trees.

"However did you get this tree to grow like this? It's amazing. It's like having a natural backyard seat" one of the ladies said to the hostess. People gathered in the backyard under the lights that were strung from the trees and sipped wine from plastic goblets and made idle talk.

They were totally oblivious to the fact that right under their feet was a spacecraft from...who-knows-where.

Neither did they know that they were sitting on my friends who had taken the shape of a tree. Nor were they able to hear the high pitched beacon crying out from the uppermost branches and beaming a signal homeward. You see my friends figured that they would be here for sometime and thought it better to lay down and be comfortable instead of stand up for a few centuries.

As for the lady that I was with, well she looked much more like my wife when she was younger and I looked like myself only I was older. No one paid us any mind since we apparently could not be seen, although I think we were no longer looking like chewing gum. I didn't mind not being seen since I feel invisible in that sort of crowd anyway.

I looked at my friend and said, "What do you think?" She just smiled. I said, "I like it here. It's so peaceful do you mind if we stay? She just smiled.

It's Tuesday morning now. I am awake. I am making a promise never to eat a steak hoagie, a piece of pepperoni and sausage pizza and two dill pickles before going to bed ever again.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Genesis - Part Eight

Genesis 15:1 - 16:16

A Covenant and the Birth of Ishmael

In these chapters God cuts a berit with Abram or makes a Covenant. We see a new part of the covenant process. In Chapter 12 the Lord spoke to Abram and told him that He would make him a great nation. Abram went on to build an altar unto the Lord at Bethel. Now we are told that again the Word of the Lord came to Abram, "Fear not, I AM a shield to you. Your reward shall be very great."

(Prophetic visions and pronouncements frequently begin with..The Word of The Lord Came to...)

From Abrams response we are to understand that the Lord is reminding Abram of His Promise from Chapter 12 as Abram replies, "O Lord God, what can You give me seeing that I shall die childless and the one in charge of my household is Dammesek Eliezer?"

Abram further says, "Since You have granted me no offspring, my steward will be my heir." Most likely Dammesek refers to Eliezer the Damascan. Under Hurrian law, Abram could of adopted Eliezer as a son. Eliezer would then be Abram’s beneficiary.
However Eliezer was native born of the land of Damascus and not of Abram’s lineage.

The Word of the Lord came to him in reply, "That one shall not be your heir; none but your very own issue shall be your heir."

All this must have taken place in the tent of Abram during the night, because we are next told, He took him outside and said, "Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And The Lord said, "So shall your offspring be."
It notes that because Abram put his trust in The Lord, He reckoned it to his merit.

Then The Lord said to him, "I AM The Lord Who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land as a possession."

Abram says, "Oh Lord God, how shall I know that I am to possess it?"

(We now see a new part of the Covenant ceremony)
The Lord answered, "Bring Me a three year-old heifer, a three-year-old she-goat, a three year-old ram, a turtledove and a young bird."

Abram did as he was told, slaughtered them and cut them in to two parts, placing each half opposite the other. He did not cut up the bird. He laid the pieces on the ground. We are told that birds of prey came down upon the carcasses and Abram drove them away.

As the sun was about to set, a deep sleep fell upon Abram and a dark dread descended upon him. The Lord said to Abram, "Know that your offspring shall be strangers in a land not theirs and they shall be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will execute judgement on the nation they shall serve and in the end they shall go free with great wealth. As for you. You shall go to your fathers in peace, you shall be buried at a ripe old age. And they shall return here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete."

When the sun set and it was very dark, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between the pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram saying, "To your offspring I give this land from the river of Egypt to the great river Euphrates; the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites."

Birds of prey most likely were forces that try to prevent the covenant from being concluded.

Four hundred years is the time that the Hebrews were enslaved in Egypt after the death of Joseph.

The term fourth generation is figurative and could mean much later. Israel’s sons are four generations from Abraham.

The iniquity of the Amorites. Once it reaches its full measure, it will cause them to lose the land that they now possess. The relationship of morality and possession is part of the Holy Land’s special nature. The boundaries that are described are far greater than those of the present State of Israel or even those after the Six Day War in 1967.

The names of the tribes described denote the direction wherein they lived. The Kenites and the Kenizzites dwelt in the Negev which was south. The Kadmonites means easterners or also ancients. The other tribes are mentioned in Chapter 10 as descendants of Canaan.

We can see that the events must have taken place over at least two days if not more. During the first verses, Abram is in his tent and goes outside to count the stars. During further verses, Abram slaughters the sacrifice animals and we are told that he falls into a deep sleep as the sun was setting.

This Covenant has one outstanding feature that is the same as the Covenant that God made with Noah. It obligates God but demands nothing of man. This differs from the Covenant later made with Israel. Here God’s commitment is unconditional. God has made a universe, a world with immutable laws and conditions for an unchanging spiritual world as well. Unlike pagan deities of that time, whose universes were capricious and unpredictable, The Lord God shows Himself to be El-Ne-eman, a God who is faithful, dependable and trustworthy.

We see remnants of Covenant in the marriage ceremony. i.e the cutting of the cake or cutting of a ribbon to commemorate an opening of a new highway, bridge or business. The cutting of the pieces in the ancient ceremony of Covenant may have symbolized that the contracting parties were now the guarantors of wholeness who have finalized the pact.

Abram tells his wife of the prophecy. Sarai blames God for her problems. Instead of calling upon The Lord to give her wisdom, she comes up with her own solution. She tells Abram to consort with her maidservant Hagar. "Perhaps I will have a son by her?" This was part of the ancient laws and is confirmed in the Cod of Hammurabi. The Nuzi laws also provided for such an agreement for concubines.

So Abram heeds Sarai’s request. Sarai becomes angry with Abram. Sarai’s anger is not that he lay with Hagar, it is because Hagar displays an attitude of superiority over Sarai, her mistress. Sarai lays it out for Abram when she says, "The Lord decide between you and me!" Abram puts it back to Sarai saying, "Your maid is in your hands. Deal with her as you think is right."

The Hebrew word for wife, ishah, is also the term used for Hagar, although Hagar remained Sarai’s servant. Because of Hagar’s position as a servant and concubine she could not be sold or expelled therefore Sarai was aware that her harsh treatment would have the desired effect. Sarai treats Hagar harshly and Hagar runs away.

The next verses are very interesting. An angel of The Lord found Hagar by a spring of water in the wilderness and said to her, "Hagar slave of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?" Hagar says that she is running away. The angel of The Lord said to her, "Go back to your mistress and submit to her harsh treatment. I Will greatly increase your offspring. And they shall be too many to count. Behold you are with child and shall bear a son. You shall call him Ishmael, for The Lord has paid heed to your suffering. He shall be a wild ass of a man. His hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him. He shall dwell alongside of all his kinsmen."

And Hagar called The Lord Who spoke to her, "Your Are El-Roi" by which she meant, "Have I not gone on seeing after He saw me!" Therefore the well at Shur, where the spring was, is called Beer-lahi-roi.

We are told that Hagar bore a son to Abram and that Abram was 86 years old.
The name Ishmael means God Heeds.

The term wild ass of a man had a different connotation to the nomadic tribes of the region. It referred to the wild ass of the desert or living in highly mobile groups.