Lesson 3 – From Abraham to Isaac (Genesis 12 to 24)

Abraham

Abraham came to earth twenty centuries BC, 4000 years ago. At that time, God was not known. Each country had its gods, where one was superior to the others, polytheism and mythology were everywhere with gods that changed names depending on the country. Idolatry reigned everywhere under the form of statues made of wood or stone for the Assyrian, Babylonian, Canaanite gods, etc… The idols of Greek mythology still proliferated 1500 years after Abraham. The idolatrous empires (Assyrian, Babylonian, Greek and Roman) opposed the nascent monotheism with an absolute refusal. They fought it ferociously and persecuted the first believers. We find an echo of this resistance to monotheism in the modern atheist regimes.

Since the time of Abraham, there were neither Jews nor Hebrews. Contrary to what some claim, Abraham is a Syrian from Haran, not a Hebrew. The scribes, in a racist intention, tried hard to convince their co-religionists of a historical error in claiming that the Jews existed before Abraham as a Hebrew people. This descended from one of the sons of Shem, Eber from which the name Hebrew derives. Some present this people as the “race” of Eber.

The sons of Shem, according to the writers of Genesis, are: Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud and Aram. We should note that these sons of Shem are the names of countries: Elam was found in the south of Iran and its capital was Suse; Ashur was Assyria (current Iraq), Lud is probably in Palestine (the airport of Lod in Israel), and Aram is Syria. This comes back to say that all these regions, having belonged to the sons of Shem, are the property of the Hebrews by heritage and form “Greater Israel”, an empire for which the Israelis aspire today. These limits appear in the current Israeli currency.

The biblical scribes, seeking to justify their sentiments of being the “chosen people”, already introduce Abraham as a Hebrew at the time of his calling, being “son of Eber” descendant of Arpachshad (Genesis 11,10-26), son of Shem. This “Eber” would have given his name to the Hebrews (Genesis 11,14). All this genealogical build-up aims at presenting the Hebrews as chosen by God, altogether, in the person of Abraham. And so, the whole world should understand that all the Jews, of all times and of all places form the only “chosen people”, the only race chosen and placed by God above all other races.

This is why the scribes insert with finesse in Genesis 14,13: “Abram the Hebrew“. This qualification is slipped surreptitiously “by the lying pen of the scribes!” (Jeremiah 8,8) to acquire racial and socio-political privileges. Moses, to fight this fanatical tendency reminds the Jews that their father Abraham, “was a wandering Aramaic (Syrian) …” (Deuteronomy 26,5), not a Hebrew. It suffices to read Genesis to be convinced that all Abraham’s family, his sons as well as their wives were Syrian. Nowhere does the Bible speak of a Hebrew people, preexistent to Abraham… Neither does History!

God thus chose a man and not a people, a Syrian (Aramaic) and not a Hebrew. The Hebrews still did not exist at the time.

God blesses Abraham then says to him: “All the tribes of the earth shall bless themselves by you.” (Genesis 12,3) The rabbis interpret this verse as follows: “By you the Jews of all nations on earth will bless themselves”. This restrictive interpretation is not God’s intention.
God’s call was done to Abraham when he was 75 years old and his wife Sarah 65. At that time he was in Haran, in the north of Syria. God says to him: “Leave your country, your kindred… for a country which I shall show you; and I shall make you a great nation…” (Genesis 12,1-2). “A great nation“, the rabbis translate as giving a political, Israeli nuance to the divine choice.

Later, God changed the name of Abram into Abraham (Ab=father), “for, he tells him, I am making you father of many nations” (Genesis 17,5). Here appears God’s universal plan: it englobes all men and is not at the exclusive profit of a particular group. The fanatic Jews see in this multitude nothing but the Jews dispersed amongst the nations to rule the world. These nations are the descendents of Japheth, the non-Jews “from whom came the dispersal (of the non-Jews) to the islands of the nations… each of their languages, according to their tribes and their nations.” (Genesis 10,1-5) The “islands of the nations” represent the islands and the Mediterranean countries, as well as the non-Jewish world.

Jesus denounced the racism of the scribes and the Pharisees. His disciples understood that God had never chosen a “people”, but wanted to form a community of believers from which the Messiah was to be born. This community had as a mission of preparing men, all men, to this grand divine plan, instead of guarding it for itself, this design of universal salvation. The Apostles understood that all those who believe in Jesus are the sons of Abraham, this relation being of the spiritual order, not by blood. St Paul says indeed: “By being Christ’s, you are that progeny of Abraham” (Galatians 3,29). This blessed lineage is thus universal, including all nations and all races as was announced to Abraham.

Abraham was called 2000 years BC; so the Christ is exactly between him and us, people of the 21st century. Some wonder to themselves why God had waited so long before appearing to men. So many centuries had passed before Abraham! The answer is as follows: the original sin made man lose his spiritual and psychological faculties. It was necessary to wait a long time in order for him to recuperate, along the centuries, a minimal capacity rendering him apt to reflection. So he was able to reach a certain degree of intellectual maturity to understand that God is Spirit, that he is unique, and that he should not be sought after in material objects (the sun, etc…), nor in idols. Still today, many are unable of grasping the spiritual realities and the existence of a unique God. In the so-called civilized societies, fetishism and superstition reign supreme. There are still polytheist tribes in Africa, Asia, America, and Australia. You will realize how difficult it is to reveal God to men of our century: they must have a minimal spiritual interest and reach a certain moral maturity to accept God… or to refuse Him in preference to personal interests, even after having known Him.
Now, André Gide, after repenting of his homosexual disorders and declaring his love to God, speaks to Him, saying:

“Forgive me Lord! Yes, I know that I lie. The truth is that, this flesh that I hate, I love it still more than Yourself.” (Translated from the French book “André Gide par lui-même”, Ecrivains de toujours, Editeurs du Seuil. Claude Martin, 1963.)

There are legions who think in this way.

Abraham was invited by God to leave his country, Syria, his family and his father’s house. It was necessary to draw him away from his idolatrous and polytheist environment, to isolate him and keep him far from any spiritual contamination and opposing attacks. God sent him to a place where he is unknown to safeguard his plan and guarantee his healthy evolution. Abraham had to detach himself from the society who knew him, from the parents and friends who represented a danger to his new faith. It is the case of any person who begins to discover God and spiritual life; it arouses the animosity of materialistic people. Did not Jesus say: “A man’s enemies will be those of his own household.” (Matthew 10,36) Anyone who hears God’s call and wants to let themself be attracted by the life of the soul, must know how to de-condition themself, to detach their mentality, to liberate it from links that may hinder their inner momentum. This is explained in the “Preliminary” and “Awareness” parts of our study. We must have the courage to break with any person who prevents us from evolving, including members of the family. The Psalm (45,10-11) says to the believing soul: “Listen daughter, pay careful attention: forget your nation and your ancestral home (de-condition yourself!), then the King (God) will fall in love with your beauty. He is your master now, bow down to him.” And Christ also says regarding this: “No one who prefers father or mother to me is worthy of me” (Matthew 10,37).

Here now, are the most important points of this lesson:

God promises Abraham a lineage and a land (Genesis 12,6-7)

After asking Abraham to leave his country, Syria, God announces to him that he will protect and reward him: “Have no fear, Abram, I am your shield; your reward will be very great.” This declaration does not satisfy the Called: “My Lord Yahweh, what do you intend to give me? I go childless…” And God, to comfort him, promises him descendants as numerous as the stars (Genesis 15,1-6).


Mesopotamian and Near Eastern sites of Antiquity related to the history of the patriarchs

To this promise of giving him his progeny, God added too, a land of welcome in compensation for the one he had left: “I shall give this country to your progeny” (Genesis 12,7). The scribes abruptly pass from the lineage claimed by Abraham to a non-claimed and non-specified land. A land not indicated until later: the land of Canaan, Palestine.
This geographical gift to Abraham’s descendants is at the origin of the notion of a “Promised Land”, which the Hebrews, all along the centuries and wrongly so, attributed exclusively to themselves. To rectify this false interpretation, it is necessary to understand, according to God, what this land and Abraham’s true descendants are.
The land God promises is not a geographical place; it is the symbol of a higher and eternal reality. It is about divine happiness, that which Adam enjoyed before his expulsion from Paradise. This “Promised Land” symbolizes God himself, solely capable of fully satisfying thirsty souls for life and happiness; the Creator is the only stable and sure Homeland. For ever.
St Paul confirms this fact of a spiritual Promised Land by saying: “It was by faith that Abraham obeyed the call to set out for a country that was the inheritance given to him and his descendants… By faith he arrived, as a foreigner, in the Promised Land, and lived there as if in a strange country… He looked forward to a city founded, designed and built by God…” (Hebrews 11,8-10) This non-terrestrial City is God himself, “for, as Paul also explains, there is no eternal city for us in this life but we look for one in the life to come.” (Hebrews 13,14)
As for the descendants of Abraham, they are the disciples of Jesus. Paul signals this fact in saying this: “Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs (of the Heavenly Land) he was promised.” (Galatians 3,29)
God invited Abraham to settle in Canaan so to live in peace with the inhabitants of the country. The divine intention was for this first monotheist community to spread in fraternity and wisdom, the light of the One God around it. God’s aim was not to “drive out the local inhabitants before you…” as the scribes shamelessly confess in the Book of Numbers (Numbers 33,55). It is such verses that Jeremiah denounces as untrue (Jeremiah 8,8). God’s aim in the calling of Abraham was never political or nationalist, but spiritual and universal.
When the Jews penetrated Palestine in the XIIIth century BC, after their exodus from Egypt with Moses, they settled there and wanted to create an Israeli kingdom. This politicization of Judaism was condemned by God and the prophets.
Abraham did not have as a mission of establishing a nation “like all nations”, but of forming a monotheist community composed of all nations. This mission consisted of revealing the One God and to prepare humanity in welcoming the Messiah. The Jews have deviated the universal plan of God in transforming Judaism into political Zionism.
When the scribes wrote the Bible in the Xth century BC, the Israeli kingdom was already founded. Putting it into writing in the Bible was thus performed, in an already politicized Zionist spirit. The Divine Revelation passed through the zionist prism and the scribes tried hard to insert in the texts a tone and insinuations favorable to their policy. The prophets did not fail to denounce this “dishonest” practice (Jeremiah 7,22 / 8,8).
To create an Israeli State, as in the past and still today, unspeakable crimes were committed and continue to be committed. order which rejects the teachings of Jesus, the universal Messiah. The prophets Micah and Isaiah, eight centuries BC, had already denounced “the princes of the house of Israel who loathe justice and pervert all that is right, who build Zion (Zionism) with blood, Jerusalem (capital of Israel) with iniquity!” (Micah 3,9-10) “Woe to who add house to house and join field to field until everywhere belongs to them and they are the sole inhabitants of the land.” (Isaiah 5,8)
Thus, according to the prophets themselves, a Jewish nationalism could only be built on injustice.
In the XIIth century BC, Gideon had understood that. At the Israelite’s request of proclaiming him king of Israel, he categorically refused: “It is not I who shall rule over you, nor my son; Yahweh must be your lord.” (Judges 8,22-23) The prophet Samuel refused, he too, to yield to the request of the Israeli chiefs who asked him: “… ‘give us a king to rule over us, like the other nations.’ It displeased Samuel that they should say so…” The prophet tried to dissuade them, “The people, however, refused to listen to Samuel. They said, ‘No! We want a king, so that we in our turn can be like the other nations…” (1 Samuel 8,4-21) The people realized later on that in founding a kingdom they had gravely sinned and acknowledged to Samuel: “… for we have added to all our sins this evil of asking to have a king.” (1 Samuel 12,19)
Jesus, on his turn, rejected such a terrestrial kingdom. Here is why, seeing that the Jewish nationalists, dazzled by his miracles “were about to come and take him by force and make him king (political), escaped back to the hills by himself.” (John 6,15) In front of Pilate who asked him: “‘So, then you are a king then?’, He declared: ‘It is you who say it… Mine is not a kingdom of this world” (John 18,36-37).
By consequence, any Christian who recognizes the right to consider Palestine to the Jews, as the promised land, demonstrate that they understand nothing of Jesus’ message. A Christian favorable to the creation of an Israeli state ceases to be a witness of Jesus.
Finally, notice how the specified borders of this “promised” land vary in the Bible according to the ambitions and cravings of the different scribes along the centuries: in Genesis 15,18, they extend from the Nile to the Euphrates, in Numbers 34,1-12, the Eastern border stops at the Jordan and the Dead Sea, quite far from Euphrates… In Joshua 1,4 it extends again to the Euphrates, but the western border retracts up till the Sinai and dares not to extend up till the Nile. If God had been the conspirator of the Israeli borders, they would not have been so far-fetched. God does not contradict himself.

Melchizedek (Genesis 14,17-20)

It is very important to get to know Melchizedek because he symbolizes the Messiah as Paul explains in Hebrews 7,1-3: “Melchizedek, king of Salem… he has no father, no mother or (known) ancestry, and his life has no beginning or ending; he is like the Son of God (Jesus)…”

Now read chapters 12 to 50 of Genesis in a row. You will encounter some obscure points, strange to our mentality and to the customs of the 21st century. Do not stop at them; but continue your reading until the end. After that, in resuming this biblical course, you will have all the necessary clarifications. Notice all along your reading how God formed through Abraham a monotheistic society in the midst of pagan nations of the time. Notice his spiritual, non-political role. God had formed this community by a Syrian man, and he absolutely did not choose a Hebrew people, being inexistent at the time.

Chapter 14 recounts Abraham’s war to save Lot, his nephew. I had explained to you why verse 13 mentions Abram “the Hebrew”, a word slipped in by the scribes to give the impression that the Hebrews existed since the beginning of the world. Always remind yourself that the Ray of the Divine Revelation was passed through the deforming prism of the racist Zionist politics. To again find this Ray in its purity and in its limpidity, it is necessary, as I already have said to you, to exorcise the Bible of its politico-Zionist content, just as gold is purified from mud through fire, and as wheat is separated from the chaff.

After Abraham’s victory, Melchizedek comes to congratulate him and bless him. Who is Melchizedek? He is unknown in History. Genesis but reveals his symbolic aspects, traits, as Paul explains it, which “is like the Son of God”, Jesus (Hebrews 7,1-3). Genesis reveals that he is king and priest at the same time. He is the king of “Salem” (Jerusalem) while being a priest of “God Most High”, an Aramaic expression meaning “God the Almighty” or “Supreme God”, higher and greater in power than all the other gods of the middle-eastern mythology. Remark that it is this Supreme God who is the “creator of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14,19). The God that Melchizedek adored is thus, without him knowing, the only God Creator whom we know, the One Who revealed himself to Abraham, then Moses and who was incarnate in His Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

Thus Melchizedek symbolizes Christ who, like him, is Priest and King at the same time. Jesus is a priest because he offered Himself in sacrifice to God -not through another priest– on the altar of the Cross in Jerusalem, the city of Melchizedek. Jesus is also the spiritual king, the sovereign of hearts, his reign is not political and englobes men of all races and languages. Jesus reigns over his believers from the heavenly Jerusalem (Revelation 21,2), symbolized by the terrestrial Jerusalem, the “Salem” of Melchizedek. It is from Jerusalem thus, that Melchizedek and Jesus reign and offer their sacrifices. By introducing Melchizedek, king and priest of “Salem”, God points out to another King and Priest who will come out 2000 years later from this same city: Jesus, who, he too, offers the Eucharistic Bread and Wine to his own everyday.

Jesus is priest, but his priesthood is not like that of the pagans, limited to the slaughter of animals to God. Christ’s priesthood is similar to that of Melchizedek who “brought bread and wine” because “he was a priest of God Most High”, explains Genesis 14,18. Jesus clarified the real sense of the bread and the wine during his last Passover Supper with his Apostles: the bread is his torn Body and the wine is his blood versed on the cross (Matthew 26,26-29). The bread and wine of Jesus thus make present his sacrifice. It is the sacrifice of the new sacerdotal order instituted by Him for the salvation of all believers. He dwarfs the animal sacrifices prescribed by the Torah, but incapable of touching God’s Heart: “Bulls’ blood and goats’ blood are useless for taking away sins”, says Paul (Hebrews 10,4). That will become clear later.

Melchizedek, as king-priest, blesses Abraham, the holder of the Divine Covenant: “Blessed be Abram by God Most High (El-Eliôn), creator of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14,19). Notice in verse 14,22 that Abraham, at his turn, swears before the king of Sodom by “YHVH, God Most High, creator of heaven and earth”. He thus reveals that there is but one God creator, and that his name is not “El-Eliôn”, the “god” of mythology, abstract and unknown, but “YHVH” (word meaning “The One Who Is”), the God of the Revelation, who manifested personally to men, by him, Abraham.

Melchizedek appears all of a sudden, like a scene out of context, interrupting the narrative of the encounter between the king of Sodom and Abraham, which immediately restarts afterwards. This is also symbolic: the spiritual does interruptions in our temporal lives, it interrupts the course of the profane narrative to reveal itself to man, to attract his attention. Then, the narrative of the king of Sodom retakes its course: he continues his meeting with Abraham. This means that man must retake the normal course of life after having encountered the spiritual, but must endeavor to never forget this spiritual world, which revealed itself to him.

The astonishing thing in this narrative is that Abraham, he, holder of the Divine Covenant, gives Melchizedek “a tenth of everything” (Genesis 14,20). It is also this latter who blesses Abraham: “Now think how great this man must have been, if the patriarch Abraham paid him a tenth of the finest treasure he had captured… and he gave his blessing to the holder of the promises. Now it is indisputable that a blessing is given by a superior to an inferior (Abraham) …” says St Paul (Hebrews 7,4-7). Melchizedek’s grandeur is that he prefigures the Messiah’s priesthood. King David explained this prefiguration in a Psalm (inspired canticle) 800 years later. He addresses himself to the Messiah to come in these terms: “You are a priest for ever of the order of Melchizedek” (Psalms 110,4).
Melchizedek thus prefigures the Christ because his priesthood represents that which God approves of, an adoration “in spirit and truth” as Jesus explains it (John 4,23), not a human priesthood with its money trafficking and ritual worship (priest clothing, incense, ornaments, specific gestures, etc…) God does not allow himself to yield to such a theatrical priesthood: He intervened in the human narrative to reveal to us that Melchizedek’s priesthood, as pagan as it was, was more valuable to Him than the pseudo religious worships. This is why He revealed that His Messiah’s priesthood will not be according to the order of Aaron, a Hebrew -though an issue of Abraham, as you will later see- but according to an order strange to this blood lineage. This was fulfilled through Jesus who instituted, by his crucifixion, a priesthood alien to the Jews. Jesus is priest; He is even the High Priest of a new priesthood, at the same time not of the tribe of Levi, as Paul explains in his letter to the Hebrews, chapters 5-7. For the Jews, only the Levite descendants of Aaron, can be priests and sacrifice animals (Numbers 18). Through Jesus, God turned this human conception of priesthood upside down in annulling, by the Cross, animal sacrifices.

With the Book of Revelation (you will see that later), God turns the ritual concept of the Christian priesthood upside down, in instituting a new priesthood. This is formed by all those who believe in the one interpretation of the Book of Revelation revealed by Jesus Himself on May 13, 1970 (see text “The Key of the Apocalypse”).

Therefore, though Melchizedek’s apparition was brief and this is mentioned but one more time in the Old Testament in the (Psalm 110,4), the reference to this enigmatic personage holds a very precious teaching. It permits courageous believers to liberate themselves from the traditional worships, filled with superstition and fanaticism. They thus access the highest degrees of the spiritual union with God by a priesthood of the heart, according to “the order of Melchizedek”, not according to an order of theatrical worship, be it Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or whatever else… Jesus had said: “True worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth: that is the kind of worshiper the Father wants. God is spirit, and those who worship must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4,23-24)

Such is the lesson to be retained from Melchizedek.

It would be good, at this stage, to read chapters 5-10 of the letter to the Hebrews. St Paul comments marvelously therein on the role of Melchizedek, and exposes the importance of the new Priesthood of Jesus for the salvation of humanity. It is the salvation promised to Adam and Eve.

The Covenant of the Halves (Genesis 15,7-17)

God promised to Abraham, whose wife was sterile and aged, a descendant and a homeland. This long awaited son did not arrive. Abraham, aged more than 80 years, complained to God that a stranger to his house would be his heir: “‘My Lord Yahweh… you have given me no descendants; some man of my household will be my heir.’ But God says to him: ‘He shall not be your heir; your heir shall be of your own flesh and blood.’” Abraham then asked to be reassured about the country that he was to live in after leaving Harân: “How am I to know that I shall inherit it?” He was in need of a tangible sign to believe, especially at that time, in the miracle. He had understood the difficulty of his mission and his pact with God and wanted God’s “signature” stamped at the bottom of the “contract” between them. God thus says to him: “Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old she-goat, a three-year-old ram, etc…” Abraham “brought him all these, cut them in half (after having slaughtered them) and put half on one side and half facing it on the other…” (Genesis 15,1-11)

To understand this text, it should be known that the men of Abraham’s time were superstitious. Also, it was customary that a contract is done in the following way: an animal (or several animals, depending on the importance of the contract) was sacrificed to this end, then cut into two halves in between which the contractors should pass. This passage between the two pieces of the animal meant that the pact was concluded and that the party who breaks the contract’s clauses would suffer the fate of that animal (or animals), and would be torn in half by the gods. This custom was practiced, even by the Jews well after Abraham; it is mentioned by the prophet Jeremiah, in the VIth century BC, 1500 years after Abraham, who denounces the Hebrews’ infidelity in these terms: “And these men who have infringed my covenant, who have not observed the terms of the covenant made in my presence, I will treat these men like the calf they cut in two to pass between the parts of it. As for the nobles of Judah and of Jerusalem, the eunuchs and the priests, and all the people of the country who have passed between the parts of the calf, I will put them into the power of their enemies…” (Jeremiah 34,18-20).

To show that He would accomplish His promise made to Abraham, God, under the form “of a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch” passed between the cut pieces. Genesis explains why “that day Yahweh made a covenant with Abram” (Genesis 15,17-18). God had thus “signed” the contract with his chosen. This vision was the tangible sign asked by Abraham.

It was believed at that time that if carnivorous birds managed to devour the sacrificed animals’ flesh, it would be an ill forecast for the pact. This is why the Bible says: “Birds of prey came down on the carcasses but Abram drove them off.” (Genesis 15,11) Another sign that this covenant will succeed. Abraham will therefore have his “land” and his lineage from Sarah, his old and sterile wife. In spite of the human impossibility of accomplishing the pact’s terms, “Abram put his faith in Yahweh, who counted this as making him justified (because of his faith).” (Genesis 15,6) Abraham’s faith is a light for all believers. It nourished the Apostles and St Paul, themselves often referring to it, and present it as an example: “Abraham put his faith in God, and this faith was considered as justifying him. Don’t you see that it is those who rely on faith (in Jesus) are the sons of Abraham?” (Galatians 3,6-7)

This vision leads us to two very important conclusions that we must retain to understand the spirit of the Bible:

1) God is pedagogue: He employs the language of man and respects his mentality. He descends to the level of man, addresses himself to him in human language to make himself understood, then He gradually elevates him to the divine mentality, which is the Holy Spirit. Also, in passing through the halves, He gives Abraham a sign which he could understand.

2) To understand a prophet, we should place him in his historical and social context. This is valid, not only for the two Covenants (the Old through the Torah, and the New by the Gospels), but also, today, for the Apocalyptic Covenant, that of the End of times, which is the Last Covenant, the final chance given to men to amend themselves. The apocalyptic messenger should be seen with a pair of new eyes and, to be understood, he should be placed in the historical and social context of his time: the XXth and XXIst centuries.

Ishmael (Genesis 16)

Abraham and Sarah, being unaware of God’s Omnipotence, did not understand how God would give them a son, seeing their old age and Sarah’s sterility. Miracles were not yet known.

At that time, a law by king Hammourabi stipulated that, in the case of sterility, a legitimate wife could have children considered legitimate by permitting her husband to sleep with her servant. The child born of this extra-marital relation was nevertheless considered that of the married couple, provided he is received, at birth, into the arms of the lawful wife to signify her full consent (today there are “surrogate mothers”).

Sarah, whose faith seems to be less solid than that of her husband’s, seeing that a son would not come from her, pushed Abraham towards Hagar, her Egyptian servant, because she knew she was sterile: “‘Go to my slave-girl. Perhaps I shall get children through her.’ Abram took to what Sarai had said.” (Genesis 16,2) This act reproduced itself again later with Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, who coupled with the two maidservants of his wives, Rachel (Genesis 30,1-6) and Lea (Genesis 30,9-13).

Ishmael was born from the union between Abraham and Hagar. Abraham was 86 years old then (Genesis 16,16). You notice that God was not pressed to fulfill his promise of giving Abraham a son from Sarah; it is His way of making man grow up in divine stature through patience.

Now, Sarah took the initiative of having a son in her fashion. But God had a plan of his own which He will not modify. The birth of Ishmael did not prevent Him from appearing once again to Abraham to reveal to him His miraculous plan: “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah. I will bless her and moreover give you a son by her“. That appeared too wonderful to the old man: “Is a child to be born to a man one hundred years old, and will Sarah have a child at the age of ninety? Oh, let Ishmael live in your presence!” Abraham said to God, who “bowed to the ground and laughed to himself”, before such an incredible announcement. But God insisted: “Yes, your wife Sarah will bear you a son whom you must name Isaac. And I shall maintain my covenant with him” (Genesis 17,15-19). That was the announcement of the first miracle of human history. The covenant meant that it was from Isaac’s lineage that the Messiah would come.

Isaac (Genesis 17 & 18)

Abraham had to wait a long time for this son who was announced ever since the covenant “of the halves”. Indeed, Isaac was born but fifteen years after this vision.

At the announcement of his birth, both his father and mother “laughed to themselves” (Genesis 17,17 / 18,12). This laughing occasion is at the origin of the name of Isaac (Yitzhak), which means “to laugh” in Hebrew, like the Arabic “Yidhac”: “God has given me cause to laugh; all those who hear of it will laugh with me. Who would have told Abraham that Sarah would nurse children! Yet I have borne hime a child in his old age”, the old man’s wife comments joyfully who, at the birth of Isaac, was 90 years old and her husband 100 (Genesis 21,6-7). Only God could announce such a surprise to Abraham and accomplish it. For the old couple, there was indeed reason to laugh. We would have done the same. Many would laugh at the sight of a pregnant nonagenarian.

Isaac is important because he comes to concretize materially, the sign demanded by Abraham to God: this son is the fulfillment of the pact “of the halves”. This sign, unexplainable by the science of all the times, is a formidable sign for men of all centuries. It thus does not concern Abraham only: it puts us all in cause because the Covenant that would perpetuate Isaac was through the Messiah; He had to come from the lineage of this son of Abraham, not of another, because God says: “For Ishmael too I grant you your request. I bless him… But my covenant I will establish with Isaac…” (Genesis 17,20-21)

This miracle consolidated Abraham’s faith; it must also strengthen ours. It is to this purpose which God intended.

The plan of salvation announced to Adam and Eve is thus fulfilled by Abraham. It must appear as a divine initiative and intervention, an irrefutable proof of the existence and Omnipotence of God, and of a divine plan that men must respect and follow. Only men of good faith will see and understand.
You may have noticed God’s patience: it is but 13 years after the birth of Ishmael that the Creator specified his plan to Abraham. He no longer thought of having other sons, neither did his wife. They were satisfied with Ishmael. But God had his plan and, to lead it to good terms, he had to turn the human perspective upside down. Such is his Wisdom. Creatures must ceaselessly learn how to adapt themselves to the will of the Creator; they will discover God’s profound wisdom in yielding themselves to his will without resistance, and will never regret abandoning themselves to Him.

With Isaac, God demonstrated his Omnipotence, He thus prepared humanity for another miracle, even more marvelous, that of the Messiah’s birth 2000 years after Abraham: Jesus was born from the Virgin Mary by direct divine action, without even the intervention of a man: “The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a virgin… Mary… and said to her: ‘You are to conceive and bear a son… He will be called Son of the Most High… The Holy Spirit will come upon you… And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God…’” (Luke 1,26-38)

Isaac thus comes to prepare men for the welcoming of the Messiah. They are no longer justifiable if they do not believe in the miraculous birth of Jesus.

Circumcision (Genesis 17,9-14)

Circumcision is a pre-biblical custom; it existed before Abraham, often practiced by the Pagans for various reasons. In a war, the vanquished were subject to “the humiliation” of circumcision by the victors. This fact is reported by the Bible itself: king Saul demands David “one hundred Philistine foreskins, in vengeance on the king’s enemies” (1 Samuel 18,25). This practice then, does not necessarily signify a covenant with God, even if the scribes of the Old Covenant present it as “a sign of the Covenant” with God (Genesis 17,11).

Since Antiquity, circumcision was practiced throughout the world. Today still, some Australian, African and American tribes consider it as a sign of virility: a man refuses to give his daughter in marriage to an uncircumcised. Some even perform this operation on girls (ablation of the clitoris).

Abraham, seeing that the Pagans practiced circumcision for their gods, thought that he should, for a stronger reason, subject himself to this operation for the only true God. But with time, the prophets understood the symbolic valor of this act, and Moses already demanded that the heart be circumcised (Deuteronomy 10,16). Jeremy, he too, insists on the purification of the soul through the circumcision of the heart (Jeremiah 4,4). This great prophet never stopped inviting believers to introspection and to the “cleansing” of the conscience, denouncing the illusion and superficiality of the foreskin’s circumcision, and stresses that it is even practiced by the Pagans: “See, the days are coming—it is Yahweh who speaks—when I am going to punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh: Egypt, Judah, Edom… For all these nations, and the whole House of Israel too, are uncircumcised at heart” (Jeremiah 9,24-25). Note that Judah (the Jews) is placed in the same ranks as the Pagans of the time (Egypt, Edom) despite the circumcision, and that this custom was practiced outside the borders of Palestine.

Circumcision should be compared to the modern cults inspired by paganism: priest clothing, incense, kneeling, etc… All these forms of adoration are but illusions, a superficial religiosity incapable of pleasing God and in helping spiritual evolution. They are material obstacles for the true elevation of the soul. We can say the same for the baptism with water; it is but a symbol. The only valid worship is that of knowledge and love, the worship of God in “spirit and truth” as mentioned already (John 4,23-24).

With the Gospels, we definitively pass from the physical concept of circumcision to the spiritual concept, which renders this custom obsolete: “Because to be circumcised or uncircumcised means nothing: what does matter is to keep the commandments of God”, says Paul (1 Corinthians 7,19). And also: “Since in Christ Jesus whether you are circumcised or not makes no difference—what matters is faith that makes its power felt through love” (Galatians 5,6), “In him (Jesus) you have been circumcised, with a circumcision not performed by human hand, but by the complete stripping of your body of flesh. This is circumcision according to Christ”, adds Paul (Colossians 2,11).

“The worship they offer me is worthless”, says Jesus of the Pharisees and the scribes despite their circumcision (Matthew 15,9). Isaiah, like most of the prophets, had, he too, denounced these cults: “The Lord has said: Because this people approaches me only in words, honors me only with lip-service while their hearts are far from me, and my religion, as far as it is concerned, is nothing but human commandment, a lesson memorized!” (Isaiah 29,13). We are astonished that the “disciples” of Jesus insist, even today, on adoring according to worships and rites denounced by Jesus and the prophets: “Hypocrites! It was you Isaiah meant when he so rightly prophesied: This people honors me only with lip-service, while their hearts are far from me. The worship they offer me is worthless; the doctrines they teach are only human regulations”, again repeats Jesus (Matthew 15,7-9).

Revelation of the Holy Trinity (Genesis 18)

Chapter 18 repeats the annunciation made by God to Abraham concerning the birth of Isaac, but this time with Sarah’s presence. In the first narrative, it is Abraham who “laughed to himself” (Genesis 17,17), but in the second, it was Sarah who, “was listening at the entrance of the tent behind Abraham”… she who “had ceased to have her monthly periods… laughed to herself, thinking, ‘Now that I am past the age of childbearing, and my husband is an old man, is pleasure to come my way again?'” (Genesis 18,11-12)

One recognizes the two narratives at the repetition of the mention that Isaac will be born “at this time next year” (Genesis 17,21 / 18,14). There are here, two oral traditions, the second being respectful of the dignity of the Patriarch: it is not he who laughed and doubted, but Sarah whose faith is weaker than that of her husband considered irreproachable. The first story is told according to the elohist tradition: “God (Elohim) said to Abraham…” (Genesis 17,9-22), and the second according to the yahwist tradition: “Yahweh appeared to him at the Oak of Mamre…” (Genesis 18,1-14).

God, who sees the hearts, seizes the internal laughter of Sarah, He asks her why she had laughed, not to overwhelm her, but to make her realize his Omnipotence. Her, sensing she was uncovered, got scared and denied saying: “I did not laugh”. But God, good and understanding, said again paternally: “Oh yes, you did laugh”. He did not consider as untruthful, the intimidated attitude of his “little” creature (Genesis 18,15).

The most important point in this second narrative is the revelation of the Holy Trinity. Indeed, God appeared to Abraham in the form of Three Persons: “He looked up, and there he saw three men standing near him.” (Genesis 18,2)

The dialogue between God and Abraham is in itself revealing: the Patriarch addresses himself to these three Persons in the singular at times, and sometimes in the plural. He seems unable to understand if he must address himself to one or to three: “‘My Lord, I beg you, if I find favor with you… A little water shall be brought; you shall wash your feet…’ They replied: ‘Do as you say.’” (Genesis 18,2-5) It is God-Trinity who erupts into the world of men and reveals himself, already 2000 years before Christ, without being grasped by human intelligence, still opaque.

Reread chapter 18 attentively and reflect therein. What do you think of these three persons who appeared to Abraham? Why does the dialogue vary between the singular and the plural? Give your explanations.

Meditate on the manner in which the narrative is reported: all is said simply, freshly and with no false modesty, especially on Sarah’s behalf. Abraham hastens to welcome his host with a spontaneous enthusiasm, and offers him the best of his herd (contrary to Cain’s avarice). And Sarah, withered with age, who “had ceased to have her monthly periods”, wonders with her hidden laugh: “Now that I am old, is pleasure to come my way again”… with a husband who is “an old man!” …

These traits reveal us Abraham’s aspect: A simple man, straight and whole, with a generous heart, spontaneous and sufficiently flexible to let himself be modeled by God. This explains why God chose him. Do not forget that the divine choice fell on this man, a Syrian, and never on a Hebrew “people”, whose heart is hardened and rebellious to God, as the prophets reveal (Isaiah 1,2-4 / Jeremiah 7,25-28, etc…)

Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19)

After announcing Isaac’s birth, God revealed to Abraham of His determination to strike down Sodom and Gomorrah because of their perversities. These two cities, located south of the Dead Sea, were reputed for their debauchery, notably homosexuality, from which comes the expression “sodomy”. God decided to punish them, as he had done before, at Noah’s period, with a dissolute civilization. This should serve as a lesson to future generations, and serve as an example of the punishment that is to fall on the impious world in the end of times (Luke 17,26-30).
Lot and his wife were invited to leave Sodom with their two daughters because they did not let themselves be contaminated by the sodomites. The vice of the latter was clearly homosexuality (Genesis 19,4-11). It was recommended to Lot’s family not to look back while leaving (Genesis 19,17), ie to leave this past without regret, without leaving your heart there because of possessions, houses, etc… but to look towards the future, trusting in God. Lot’s wife did not take this divine recommendation into account and was transformed into “a pillar of salt” (Genesis 19,26).
We must understand the symbolic meaning of this story: One should never hesitate to give up a life without God. Who desires to raise themselves spiritually, must liberate themselves from worldly attractions to leap towards spiritual life without looking back, without entertaining the nostalgia of past pleasures: “Once the hand is laid on the plow (spiritual life), no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God”, said Jesus (Luke 9,62).

Isaac’s birth and the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael (Genesis 21)

After Isaac’s birth, “Now Sarah watched the son that Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. ‘Drive away that slave-girl and her son,’ she said to Abraham, ‘this slave-girl’s son is not to share the inheritance with my son Isaac.’” (Genesis 21,9-10) Sarah thus disavows Ishmael as her son and rejects him, exiling him with his mother… after having been herself the instigator of her husband’s union with Hagar.
Sarah’s attitude “greatly distressed Abraham because of his son, but God said to him, ‘Do not distress yourself on account of the boy and your slave-girl. Grant Sarah all she asks of you, for it is through Isaac that your name will be carried on.’” (Genesis 21,9-12)
God allowed for this female jealousy; He consented to the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael, not to discredit them and approve Sarah, as the rabbis interpret it, but to accomplish his Messianic plan through Isaac. It was necessary that peace reigned in the family without quarrels. This is why God asked Abraham not to be sad because of this moving away. God confirms His blessing, given already to Ishmael (Genesis 17,20), recalling that from “the slave-girl’s son I shall also make him into a great nation, for he too is your child” (Genesis 21,13).


Sites and peoples of Canaan related in the history of the patriarchs

This divine blessing contradicts the attitude of many fanatic Jews and with regards to Ishmael and the Arabs, under the pretext that their ancestor, Ishmael, was “driven out” by Abraham. It is not in this racist mindset that Ishmael’s distancing is presented in Genesis, which considers him, he too, of Abraham’s lineage. After the expulsion of Hagar and her son, an Angel appeared to them to support and comfort the distraught mother: “‘Do not be afraid, for God has heard the boy’s cry where he lies… for I will make him into a great nation.’ Then God opened Hagar’s eyes and she saw a well, so she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. God was with the boy…” (Genesis 21,14-21).

God never abandoned Ishmael, but his Messianic plan was to be fulfilled through Isaac.

The sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22)

The Pagans of the time had the custom of offering their children in sacrifice to the idols. This was even practiced by some Jewish kings after Abraham and condemned by the prophets (Jeremiah 7,31). Abraham, under the weight of a crisis of conscience, wanted to offer his son to God like the Pagans offered their children to their gods, thinking in honoring God this way. But God intervened on time to prevent him from doing so, and to signify to him that He is not like the pagan “gods” who demanded human sacrifices: an Angel says to him: “‘Do not raise your hand against the boy, do not harm him, for now I know you fear God. You have not refused me your son, your only son.’ Then looking up, Abraham saw a ram… and offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son.” (Genesis 22,9-13)

Later on, God explained through the prophets that the only sacrifices that were pleasant to him were repentance, justice and love. Micah the prophet exclaimed: “‘With what gift shall I come into Yahweh’s presence…? Must I give my first-born for what I have done wrong, the fruit of my own body for my own sin?’—What is good has been explained to you, man; this is what Yahweh asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6,6-8)

With the advent of Jesus, a new light was given to us. Not only does God not require from men their children in sacrifice, but it is He, God, who offers his only Son to humanity in sacrifice for their salvation: “Yes, God loved the world so much that He gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life”, said Jesus (John 3,16); and also: “A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you.” (John 15,13-14) Through his intervention in human history, God has changed, with wisdom and pedagogy, man’s mentality concerning sacrifices and, with the Advent of Jesus, the upheaval was total. The dictator gods of mythology yielded the place to the only Creator who revealed Himself as good, compassionate and merciful.

Isaac’s marriage (Genesis 24)

Abraham wanted a wife from “his native land and his own kinsfolk” for his son Isaac (Genesis 24,1-4). He thus sent his servant to Syria, “Aram Naharaim”, ie “Syria of the rivers” (in the north of the Tigris and the Euphrates), where is situated the city of Harân from which he had left (Genesis 24,10-15). It is from there that the servant brought back Rebekah as a wife for Isaac. She is no other than the granddaughter of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother (Genesis 11,27-29). She is thus Isaac’s paternal cousin. It is also from there that Rebekah will later want a wife for her son Jacob (Genesis 27,46 / 28,5). This demonstrates the Syrian origins of Abraham’s family.

Reflection
God reassured Abraham in blessing Ishmael. He also announced to him that Ishmael “will be the father of 12 Princes” (Genesis 17,20) whose names are mentioned in Genesis 25,12-16. This number is symbolic and must be compared to the 12 tribes of Israel in parallel (see further down on the 12 sons of Jacob in Genesis 35,22-26). The 12 “nobles”, descendants of Ishmael are precious in the eyes of God, and thus worthy of esteem. As all men of good faith, they are entitled to the same spiritual heritage as Isaac’s descendants of good faith.

A writer favorable to Hagar and Ishmael would have written: “Sarah, after having Isaac, abandoned Ishmael who felt the blow. She ends up by moving him away, forgetting that she had ardently wished for him and adopted him. Now, she ends up, from jealousy, refusing him even the legitimate right of inheritance as Isaac, his brother”. Sarah’s attitude “greatly distressed Abraham” (Genesis 21,9-11). Ever since, fanatics have adopted Sarah’s chauvinistic mentality, instead of following Abraham’s kindness and justice.