Sunday, November 17, 1996 at 6 p.m. (E.T.)|
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The children God promised Abraham have not come as Sarah is barren. Sarah gives her slave-girl, Hagar, to Abraham so that she may bear him a descendent.
This triangle ultimately leads Judaism and Islam on their separate paths. Bill Moyers says:
"Sometimes the details of the stories we are discussing from Genesis sound like pulp
fiction. In this one we come to the first triangle: Two women share the bed of the same
man. The squabbling gets mean. Everybody gets hurt. The stuff of a cheap novel and fast
read. But peel back the layers and the Bible is Tolstoy, Shakespeare, and Faulkner."
Featuring Robert Alter, Azizah Al-Hibri, Bharati Mukherjee, Eugene Rivers, Lewis
Smedes, Elizabeth Swados, Burton L. Visotzky. See Biographies for more information about the participants.
See more information on audio downloads or on obtaining a RealAudio player. For RealAudio, we recommend 2.0 or later.
Actress Alfre Woodard has lent her voice to the GENESIS television series as a storyteller. You may listen to the actual sound recording of this story either as RealAudio
or as a download.
Narrative written by Elizabeth Swados.
God made a covenant with Abraham. He promised to make him the father of many nations. But
Sarah, Abraham's wife, had borne no children. Sarah waited and waited and finally said,
"Abraham, lie with my Egyptian slave, Hagar. Perhaps we can have a son through her?"
Soon Hagar became pregnant by Abraham. And when she felt Abraham's child move within her,
Hagar looked down on Sarah. When Sarah complained to Abraham, he said, "Do with her as you
please, she is in your hands." So Sarah treated her slave harshly and Hagar fled into the
wilderness. An angel of the Lord found Hagar by a spring of water. The angel said, "You are
carrying a son who will be called Ishmael. He will be wild and strong. Go back and submit to the
harsh treatment of your mistress. I will bless you and your descendants."
After Ishmael was born, God told Abraham, "You and Sarah will have your own son. I will bless
her and make her the mother of nations. And I will make an everlasting covenant with your son."
Abraham fell on the ground laughing,. "How can a hundred-year-old man have a son," he asked,
"by a woman who is ninety?"
One day, Abraham sat outside his tent with the sun beating down on his head. Three strangers
appeared. After Abraham offered them food and drink, one of the strangers said to him, "By this
time next year you and Sarah will have your son." Sarah overheard this and laughed to herself.
"How can I find pleasure with my body so withered and my husband so old?" she asked.
But God kept his word and Sarah gave birth to a son. Isaac was his name. There was a great feast
on the day he was weaned and Sarah came upon Ishmael laughing and playing. Sarah demanded
of Abraham, "Drive that Egyptian slave and her son far away from here. The son of this
slavewoman will not share inheritance with my son, Isaac."
This grieved Abraham because he loved Ishmael. But God said, "Do as Sarah asks you. One
nation of descendants lies within Isaac. Another will grow from Ishmael."
So Hagar and Ishmael were set to wandering in the desert. Abraham gave them bread and a skin
of water, and when the water was gone Hagar cast the child under a bush so she wouldn't have to
watch him die. And she wept.
God heard the cry of the boy and an angel appeared from heaven. "Lift up your child," the angel
called out. "God has not forgotten Ishmael. He and his nation shall live." And God opened her
eyes and she saw a well of water and gave her son a drink.