Commentary on Gen 21:8-21 (Hagar & Ishmael) – JK Kato
For a long, time, I was bothered by the so-called “chosen people language” of the Bible. By that I mean that in certain stories, God seems to “favour” certain individuals or certain people over others. This is shown clearly in today’s story of Abraham and Sarah and their treatment of Hagar and her son, the bastard known as Ishmael. It’s clear that the Genesis story favours the lineage of Abraham through Sarah, not through Hagar. Hence, the promise of God, according to the Bible, continues through Isaac and not Ishmael. (Of course, Islam understands this differently – the promise is fulfilled through Ishmael!) There you have it! God’s choice or preference creates the so-called “chosen people.”
At a certain point in my life, I began to think, if God is really God, then God shouldn’t have any favourites; no one should be more preferred than others in God’s eyes. Having a preference, having a specially chosen person or people just doesn’t seem to be the nature of a loving God. So I began to rebel against passages in the Bible that seemed to suggest that God did have some favouritism.
Now (that I’m old!), however, I’m not so rebellious anymore. I think I began to change when my daughter was born. It became very clear to me then that part of being human means to feel that one is special, that one is chosen. In English grammar, we learn that there is a definite article “the” and there is also an indefinite article “a”. To say, “She is A pretty little girl” (indefinite article) is vastly different from the statement “she is THE prettiest little girl” (definite article).
Now when my daughter was born, people came to see the baby and some said, “Isn’t she a pretty little girl?” Others, however, to make me really happy said, “JK, oh my god, your daughter is THE prettiest little girl in the world!” Of course, we all know that’s not true. My daughter might be pretty; but she is definitely not, literally speaking, THE prettiest little girl in the world. Even she knows that. But if you want to make me happy, use “the”, not “a”, for Pete’s sake!
So there’s the rub! To be human is to use frequently the definite article “the” when what we actually mean to say is the indefinite article, “a” because we all need to feel that we are the chosen one, the special one. We all need to know sometimes that in someone’s eyes, we are THE ONE.
So cut the Bible some slack. The Bible’s “chosen people” language reflects a very human need to feel especially beloved of God. And that is the truth – God loves each of us, as if I or you were the only one. Of course, if God loves each of us that way, we ought to love others as God loves each one of us, and never use that “metaphorical chosen people language” to justify trampling on the dignity of others.
Kate’s Commentary on Genesis 23:21
Our Sunday School Group talked about the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar and her son Ishmael. When we first read the story, we thought Hagar was bad. We thought Abraham must have cheated on Sarah to have a baby with Hagar, or that maybe Abraham divorced Sarah. We also wondered how God could open Hagar’s eyes when she was in the desert with no water.
The next week, we learned that Sarah was sad because she was old and didn’t have any children of her own. She was worried Abraham would die with no one to inherit his land and carry on his name. So, she asked Hagar, her Egyptian servant, to have a baby with Abraham. So, they did that with her permission.
When we read that Sarah wanted Hagar and Ishmael to leave, we were worried. When Hagar had to put Ishmael under a bush to die when their water ran out, we were sad. Then, when God showed Hagar the water well we were happy. We learned that God promised Hagar that Ishmael would be the head of a nation of his own, and that he would be a wild man and a fighter. But he would be strong and survive.
We talked about what this story shows about God:
- God keeps promises.
- God opens your eyes to the world.
- If you’re wild you are still a person and you’re strong.
- God gives everyone a second chance.
- God makes everything alright in a fair world.
- God loves people no matter who they are and what they look like.
Matthew 10: Verses 24 & 25 read as follows
“The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If they call the master of the house Beelzebub, that is…the devil…, how much more will they malign those of his household”.
How many times have we said, or heard someone else say, my boss is an idiot or my teacher is a jerk? We need to step back and recognize that they may have knowledge and skills that we are unaware of and that is why they are our boss or our teacher. It is not just young people… like myself… but also older people like you folks who may be guilty of this type of behaviour from time to time. In condemning our boss or our teacher, we are effectively condemning ourselves as part of the group. However, if there truly is evidence of evil, then we need to walk away in order that we not be maligned ourselves…by becoming like Beelzebub.
Reflections on Mathew10:21-31
Richard Dawkins 2006 book “The God Delusion” presents Christianity as a social meme that is passed from one generation to another. While many memes are good, Dawkins claims that religion operates like a social virus with a specific pathology. Dawkins foresees a future in which the virus is expunged, but this can only happen if the disciples essential to pathogenesis are stopped.
Jesus said “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.” For the growing numbers who see the church as evil, the disciples will be mocked and maligned. You will be mocked and maligned.
Jesus also said “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.”
Mathew’s gospel speaks to me by reminding me we must have courage and bear witness despite the risk of ridicule and derision in a world that is increasingly intolerant of religious voices.
Here are Emma’s reflections on this passage…
No matter what path you walk, and even though everyone’s path is different, God still loves you unconditionally. Poor or rich, powerful or weak, God will still treat us all the same. This passage also says that if you are lost, no matter where you are, God will show you the way home. God lives in all of us and will always guide us on our way.