What’s with that Abraham?

Sarah Presenting Hagar

I’ve been doing some Bible reading in the book of Genesis about Abraham and Sarah. In case you’re interested exactly what I’m referencing, it’s Genesis, Chapter 16, verses 1-4. In this story, Sarah has figured enough is enough, and so she tells Abraham to go ahead and have sex with her maid, Hagar. (Just for the record, Hagar’s first name was NOT Sammy!)  We read elsewhere in Genesis that Abraham was the friend of God. Get that: friend. Not sometime acquaintance. And for Abraham, his faith was accounted to him as righteousness.

But what we do not read is that Abraham put up a fight about this. I don’t understand that. Well, actually I do understand that. But I don’t like it. How is it that a God-respecting man like Abraham feels like it’s okay to just dip his wick in anywhere he can get some? And yes, I do understand the cultural mores of the time. (There’s plenty of interesting stories in the book of Genesis that you’ll never see on a felt board!)

I’m sure to get some flack on this from somebody–probably somebody who’s never read my blog before and doesn’t know me from Adam. Now’s there’s another man who didn’t do what was right, either. The chicks always get blamed!

There are two related articles below. The first is a good one. The second is just ludicrous!

And, to give credit where credit is due, the image above is a detail from the painting by Adriaen van der Werff entitled “Sarah Presenting Hagar to Abraham”.

Related Articles

  • Waiting on God to Act: The Story of Sarah and Hagar (crazygodchick.wordpress.com)
    (This is a really great article. I like this lady because she thinks like me.)
  • The Birth of Ishmael. (greatriversofhope.wordpress.com)
    (This is a dreadful article, full of just the most nonsensical interpretive comments! I DO NOT UNDERSTAND what version of the Bible this guy is reading to get these things!)
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15 thoughts on “What’s with that Abraham?

  1. His wife, Sarah was apparently barren. It was required that he sire heirs, adoption apparently not being condoned. Hence, another woman of his household was chosen as a surrogate of sorts.

    It’s not that different really than what is fairly common today.

    There’s no indication in the Bible that Abraham was promiscuous.

    • Yes, yes… Like I said, I’m well aware of the cultural mores of the day. “Apparently” barren would perhaps be an understatement. And I’m not saying that Abraham was any more promiscuous than any other old testament Patriarch, I’m just saying that he sure didn’t need a lot of prompting when it came to taking another woman into his bed.

      • Hehe…I said apparently barren because there was no evidence in the Bible to support the theory that was HER that was barren and not him. 😉

        As for his not needing much prompting – “Be fruitful an multiply” was his mandate from his God and inheritance and was a major factor in all familial law back then…

      • Of course you’re right about the fact that it could’ve been HIS barrenness. I’m adopted, and my own father told me a couple of years ago that during the adoption process (1960’s) it was assumed that that his and my mother’s inability to have children was probably her fault. I was amazed to hear him admit that he might have been the infertile one, but that nobody checked.

  2. Thank you for referencing my blog article!

    Yes, I really wonder about that Abraham. I know things were vastly different back then, but the fact that he didn’t consult God about the decision to sleep with Hagar just boggles the mind, doesn’t it? He just went along with what Sarah wanted and neither of them stopped to think and listen for God’s direction.

    And thank you for the LOL moment on this: “Just for the record, Hagar’s first name was NOT Sammy!”

    Have a great day!
    Jennifer

  3. It’s been a while since I have carefully studied this portion of the Old Testament. Nonetheless, my understanding is that Abraham was aware of the fact that God had promised him an heir at the time that he and Hagar conceived Ishmael. Thus, is it possible that Abraham perceived Sarai’s offering of Hagar as a manifestation of God’s will, and hence, not to be questioned? Thus, could Abraham have perceived his actions to be those of a deeply pious man?

    • To follow up on my previous post…

      Isn’t almost impossible to KNOW exactly what God is telling someone else? I have a hard enough time understanding what God is telling ME, let alone what God is telling someone else! So, in the absence of explicit biblical commentary, why can’t we assume that everything that happened to Abraham, Hagar, and Sarai/Sarah is simply a manifestation of God’s will and planning and that Abraham AND Sarai/Sarah are blameless in this matter?

      • I think Sarah acted in the fashion of the day. There are numerous accounts of the practice of adopting children of a concubine as legitimate heirs. I’m not saying we should blame them for what happened. I just think they, and Abraham most specifically, acted rashly. I DO NOT believe that their actions are in accordance with God’s will and planning, because I believe that would violate free will, as I understand it. God worked this out, as He works out the results of our nonsensical actions all the time. The story of Joseph could easily be referenced here, when he told his brothers,

        “I am your brother Joseph, whom you once sold into Egypt. But now do not be distressed, and do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here. It was really for the sake of saving lives that God sent me here ahead of you…to ensure for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives in an extraordinary deliverance.” (Genesis 45:4b-7, NAB)

        So while I think it worked out, I’m not at all certain that it was part of the original plan of God.

        Goodness, this is the longest thread I’ve ever had going here. Whodathunk?

  4. Well, now that I have posted my intellectual drivel (dribble?) on this topic, let me share what I really have been thinking about the original post:

    Check out Abraham’s abs in that picture. A six-pack on an 86-year old?! Now THAT is a miracle!

    Uh-oh, is that a thunderstorm coming up? ZZZZZAAAAP!

    • Hehe…Well, the Bible does claim that Abraham lived to the ripe old age of 175 years old. That being the case, being that fit at a mere 86 doesn’t seem tha far-fetched.

      Hellfire! Look at Chuck Norris. He’s what, 75? And he still looks like he could beat down a small army of Philistines.

  5. Pingback: Son of a Wandering Aramean: Abraham Redux « After the Ecstasy, the Laundry . . .

  6. Thanks for struggling with the Patriarch. Your article and links helped with my researching a bit. Especially the link to the crazygodchick who points out that Hagar is the only one talking to God in this particular story.

    The other link of course is pointing to Jewish mythology and the midrash some of which can get pretty crazy.

    shalom.

    • I realize this blog entry is a bit irreverent, but that’s sort of my point with this. Sometimes when we get a bit snarky with the Bible, we see through our own previously unchallenged acceptance of certain ideas, to the real issues at hand. One of these is that, despite Abraham’s obvious friendship with God, he chose, instead, to listen to his wife. And Hagar, usually thought of as a pagan foreigner (especially as an “Egyptian,” notoriously the “bad” people of the Bible) is the one who is really following God here…

      Sort of like the wise men, no?

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