“The way a book is read — which is to say, the qualities a reader brings to a book — can have as much to do with its worth as anything the author puts into it…. Anyone who can read can learn how to read deeply and thus live more fully.”
~Norman Cousins

Writing is where we truly learn. Join the Journey.

I read from my scriptures (book), but you can find scripture reference here.

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Father's Blessing Genesis 21:9-13

And he loveth those who will have him to be their God. Behold, he loved our fathers, and he covenanted with them, 
yea, even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and he remembered the covenants which he had made; 
wherefore, he did bring them out of the land of Egypt.

1 Nephi 17:40

What mother has not wanted the best with regard to her own child's welfare, livelihood, or inheritance? Or has done what was necessary to ensure it? What father has not grieved over his wife's anxiety and fear concerning their child's welfare and inheritance? What mother has not sought the blessings of God's higher power to help ensure her child's longevity, success or place in his kingdom? What older child has not acted out in jealousy at the birth of a younger sibling? Especially when as many as fourteen years separated them? 

The story of Sarah and Hagar  is one that carries many familiar human emotions common to family life. As I read it I was reminded of my own feelings and desires surrounding the birth of my children.  For each birth I rejoiced, prayed and hoped for the very best.  Before their birth I created a journal for them and then used it to describe their own birth experience. I created a scrapbook to document their firsts: words, steps, etc, and I made each an outfit of white to wear to their first priesthood blessing.  I would do whatever was needed to ensure that each of my children  had the best opportunities and that nothing (even my own shortsightedness) stood between them and their family inheritance: love, faith, gifts, education, time, stories, traditions, and above all the blessings that their father and his sacred priesthood could offer them. Indeed I purposefully chose to marry a man who as a priesthood bearer honored and sustained all that I hoped for with regards to my children. I purposefully chose a man who not only would love and cherish me but would understand the importance of how his priesthood power could shower down the blessing of heaven upon my children, our posterity. A man who lived worthy to both receive and give the priesthood blessings to our family. A man who respects and adheres to the example of Abraham's blessing upon his sons. 

Through no real planning of his own Abraham has found himself the father of two, not one son. 
Through his faith fulfilled Abraham found himself and Sarah the proud parents of Isaac. Ishmael came as a result of Sarah's fear that Abraham's God had failed him. Later after Sarah's faith matures, Isaac came as a result of Sarah's faith in "one who had promised." (Hebrews 11:11) 

I read allot about the relationship between Sarah and Hagar and Abraham. They all brought forth very valid points concerning their circumstances and their faults and the judgements we place on them and their actions. I believe that this story is really about a mother's love for her sons. Sarah loved Ishmael. Hagar loved Ishmael. As family they loved each other and one another's sons. Abraham loved them all. But his love of God and respect for his ability to bless them that proved to be the motivation for his action.  Even though the family appears to take a matrilineal track (with the adherence of Sara's will) it was in fact the Lord whom Abraham chose to obey. (Gen 21:12-13) It was Abraham's choice to respect his priesthood power of prayer and revelation as well as his covenants that led to setting his "bondwoman" or slave free,  into the wilderness, where the Lord could then fulfill his promise to her by providing her and Ishmael with the land of Beer-sheba. Gen 21:14-31. 

Both Sarah and Hagar desired a father's blessing for their child. Each received it. Both Sarah and Hagar desired an inheritance for their son. Each received it. The difference was not in the son but in the mother's faith and trust in the Lord's promise to them. Sarah, having learned her lesson of unbelief in Abraham's God recognizes Ishmael's mocking as disbelief and a lack of faith. Maybe a difference of perspective but none the less enough of a difference to alarm Sarah. As the guardian of Isaac's faith and the Abrahamic covenant I do not hold Sarah's actions as being ones of disgruntlement or jealousy. I see her actions as ones of protection for the faith of her covenant with God and protection of Isaac's upbringing and as a way to ensure that Ishmael does nothing to dishonor his father's love for him. I believe that Sarah's actions stemmed from her devotion to God and respect for her husband's priesthood, that she was full of truth and took her matriarchal duties to teach and uphold the covenat seriously. That she understood that nature of Isaac's divine birth.  Did she realize that God's love would ensure Ishmael's land inheritance and survival. I think yes.  Sarah was much older and wiser than Hagar.  She was aware of what faith in Abraham's "most high God" could do for all of those she loved and called family. 

Who was Hagar? Some believe she was more than an Egyptain slave given to Abraham by the Pharaoh,  that she might have been the Pharaoh's daughter, a princess born of and accustomed to royal birth. She would have had to endure a great culture shock as she left the grandeur of the Egyptian palace for the nomadic dessert. She would have been accustomed to judging a woman's usefulness not merely by her beauty but rather by her ability to give birth, hence her quick despise of Sarah when she conceived. As Sarah's slave and handmaid she would have been present at Isaac's birth. She would have been loved by Sarah or else why would Sarah have entrusted her to her husband's bed. They would have shared many intimate secrets that would have bound them to one another as sisters. 

But Hagar's inability or refusal to comprehend the faith of Abraham and Sarah becomes an issue that must be reckoned with before Isaac reaches an impressionable age. Sarah's love for Hagar and Ishmael cannot preclude her love for God who fulfilled his promise to her and Abraham. So it is to Abraham that she turns to for the fulfilling of both son's blessings and for the guidance that Abraham, as the father of both sons, must receive. 

  • 14 years of age at time of separation
  • like Esau, Reuben or Manasseh Ishmael is the oldest brother 
  • Paul refers to him as a child "born after the flesh," referring to his birth that came as a result of man's arrangements not from God's promise.  (Galatians 4: 23) 
  • as a circumcised male he belonged to the covenant (Gen 17:23-27) age 13 
  • Abraham rejoiced over Ishmael (17:18) "Oh that Ishmael might live before thee"
  • An Angel came to protect Ishmael while in utero. (Gen 16:9)  Hagar had fled from Sarah and in order for the child to survive (the first three years were crucial) she needed Abraham's house for protection and security.
  • Ishmael has his own promise from the Lord: "I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation" (Gen 17:20) 
  • Ishmael's separation from Abraham and Sarah was likely a way to divide the inheritance land thus providing Ishmael with a land of his own. Was Sarah being spiteful or loving in setting a proper precedence of inheritance between Abrahams two sons? 
  • Ishmael shared the blessing of posterity and land that came from the covenant (Gen 17:20)
  • 3 years of age (or close to it) near the time of his weaning. 
  • Like Jacob, Joseph, and Ephraim, Isaac was the second oldest brother
  • Paul refers to him as a child that was born  "as by promise," referring to the miracle of his birth to one who was ninety years of age and past the time of women. 
  • Was circumcised at the age of 8 days to ensure his place in the covenant. The token of circumcision was vital to the covenant. 
  • Isaac was greatly rejoiced over and made a fuss over. Isaac was conceived by Sarah's faith because as Paul put it, "she judged him faithful who had promised." Hebrews 11:11 
  • Isaac's name "to laugh" refers to the joy that Sarah and Abraham felt at his birth
  • Ishmaels departure from the camp of Abraham secures Isaacs spot of inheritance. 

9  ¶ And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking. - Was it Ishmael's actions, (a 14 year old son of Abraham) that caused Sarah concern or Hagar, his mother's unwillingness to discipline her son and ensure the proper guardianship of the covenant? 
10  Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.-  Is not Ishmael Isaac's older brother? Will his influence and hence Hagar's influence have profound affect upon Isaac? What will she do to ensure that her part of the covenant to raise Isaac righteously before the Lord is upheld? 
11  And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight because of his son.- Ishmael is his son as is Isaac. Would Abraham have been able to see the influence of Hagar's attitude that "despised"Sarah. (16:5)
12  ¶ And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. Abraham calls upon the Lord for wisdom and receives it. 
13 And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed.
Genesis 21:9-13 Abraham is assured that Hagar and Ishmael will be protected and watched over. 

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