As a child I had known there were people across the Jordan whose genealogy descended from my uncle Lot. But Sarai (her name was later changed to Sarah, 17:15) wanted nothing to do with them. The division of the land between Abraham and Lot had taken place ten years before I was born. I gathered Abraham had been very generous and offered his nephew the choice of which area he wanted. Lot settled in the Jordan valley near the city of Sodom (13:8-12). He was soon taken captive by a huge army of four kings from the north, and Abraham had to go out and defeat them to retrieve Lot and his family (14:1-16). I had also seen Abraham praying for the deliverance of Lot when Sodom was about to be destroyed (18:22-33). But no one would explain to me how Lot had blotted his copy book. All I knew was that Sarah viewed him as worse than the heathen.
After my eighteenth birthday Hagar thought I was old enough to understand the enormity which had occured. With some embarrassment she described that, after their escape from Sodom, Lot and his two daughters lived alone in a cave (19:30). The women had been betrothed, but they lost their future husbands in the conflagration that destroyed the city (19:14). Lot withdrew into his shell, and month after month was obviously incapable of arranging marriages for them. That meant that their family line would end (19:32). The two women decided the only solution was to become pregnant by their father (19:32). So they got him drunk, and the elder daughter had sex with him. The next night the younger daughter did the same (19:33-36). My poor old uncle Lot never even knew that there had been incest of a totally unthinkable kind.
The elder sister had a son named Moab, and his children and grandchildren were called Moabites (19:37). The younger daughter named her son Ben-Ammi (Son of my people) and his tribe became the Ammonites (19:38). I decided that the sons of Moab and Ammon were still my cousins, and his grandchildren had every right to be part of our Arab brotherhood. You don't write somebody off because his father got drunk and behaved abominably. So I decided to go and visit them. I sent two of my trusted riders straight back home with my personal news for Hagar, and instructions for those left behind in our oasis.
As I left my father asked "Why are you going east across the River Jordan) instead of south to your own country." I said I knew incest had occured, but that was no reason to exclude Lot's grandchildren from our -Bene Avraham- (Arab term for the children of Abraham). "How are we going to maintain the purity of our family line if you include such people?" I told him there was an exclusive genealogical line descended from Isaac who would occupy the land Abraham had been promised in Canaanite territory (see 28:3-4). But what God was saying to me was that our Arab nation would include all the children of Abraham who joined themselves to us. After a long silence he said "You are right my son, God bless you, and tell the Moabites and Ammonites that I view them as part of my greater family." That blessing was sweet music to my ears.
With my remaining six retainers I traveled down the road to the ancient city of Jericho in the Jordan valley. There was a fine oasis with a perennial spring (later called :the city of Palm trees, Deuteronomy 34:3). It had been part of the inheritance Lot had chosen for himself (13:10-12) when Abraham agreed to keep only the hill country of Canaan for himself (13:9,12).
When I crossed the Jordan I was told that the Ammonites (descended from Lot, 19:38) lived between the Wadi Jabbok flowing west into the Jordan and the Wadi Arnon that flowed into the Dead Sea (see Deuteronomy 2:18,19, 2 Samuel 12:26, Jeremiah 49:9). It was dangerous country because some of the original Rephaim (locally called Zammzummim, Deuteronomy 2:20) still lurked in the hills and lived by robbery. We had a hard day's ride on our camels up to Rabbah (Deuteronomy 3:11, Ezekiel 21:20, Amman is the capital of modern Jordan).
When I visited the Ammonite chief I told him Lot was my uncle, so his grandfather was my cousin. He recounted the story of how God had wonderfully helped them defeat the giant Rephaim people (Deuteronomy 2:9, 20, 3:11), and their -Bene-Ammon- were now the strongest tribe in the area. I wanted him to know I welcomed him as part of our Arab family. And I gave him Abraham's blessing. He was very moved to be honored in this way and we sealed the restoration of our Abrahamic family ties with a sumptuous covenant feast.
Then my men and I went south another three days' journey across the Wadi Arnon. There again the Moabite chief (descended from Lot, 19:37) welcomed me even more enthusiastically. He too described how his tribe had defeated the giants who lived there before them (2:9-11). With his tribal leaders we all agreed to form with their Ammonite neighbors a wider Arab alliance to join my twelve sons in Arabia. I was excited to see our Arab brotherhood emerging so rapidly.
When I got back to Hagar she wondered about taking in tribes whose genealogy was not descended from our family. I pointed out that Lot had been adopted into our family by Abraham (12:4). And by incest the blood of his children was pure Sumerian (descended from Arphachshad, 10:22, 11:10, 31, 19:36-37). What better right to be counted as part of our Arab family? Once I reminded her of this Abrahamic connection, she bowed her head, and admitted I was right. After a few minutes she added "I am now seventy five years old. From today you must make these difficult decisions about our Arab empire. But make sure the next tribe you accept have the right Abrahamic genealogy."
That evening I went out alone, as I had often seen my father do. I remembered how God had appointed his descendants to be as numerous as the stars I could see in the night sky (15:5). And my twelve sons were already beginning to fulfill that promise. I think it was then I realized for the first time that I had the same faith in the God of the impossible as Abraham (15:6, see Romans 4:1-25). At midnight when Hagar came to call me she found me singing out loud a hymn of praise. She said it would become our national anthem.
Next day we built an altar of stones as I had seen my father do wherever we located our tents (12:8, 13:4, 18). We thanked God that this cow was dying so we could eat, and the whole encampment joined in the hymn of praise that the inspiration of the -ruakh elohim- (Spirit of God) had given us.
Three years after the death of Sarah I heard that Abraham was finally able to get my brother Isaac married to one of my cousins(25:20). He sent his trusted servant (24:2-14) to make the arrangement with our relatives (11:29) in the Aramean (10:22) area of Haran (now north Syria, 11:31). What sounded ominous was that when Rebekah arrived to consumate the marriage Isaac installed her in his mother's tent (24:67). Like Sarah she was a pure Sumerian (descended from Arphachshad, 11:10, 29, 22:20-23). And I imagined she would quickly adopt Sarah's attitude of exclusivity towards people of other races. This was exactly what happened (see 27:46).
But as I thought about this, I saw that my task would be to build our Arab family on the basis of including any who were willing to have their male children circumcized. This was God's command to Abraham, and the rite would include not only those with a pure genealogy but all those born in an Arab household (17:9-12, 17:23). That meant that my brother Isaac's concern would be for the purity of his Abrahamic genealogy, and their destiny in the land of Canaan. I would focus on any who were willing to join our brotherhood.
Why should I exclude the Sumerians from whom my father Abraham had come? Perhaps one day our Arab people would include all of the remaining Sumerians of Mesopotamia and the Hamitic invaders who had taken over their land. The interesting thing was that, in the providence of God, we now had a common Aramaic language (a form of Canaanite, later called Syriac) which was understood from Ur on the Persian Gulf, all the way up the Tigris and Euphrates, down through Syria, both sides of the Jordan, and among many tribes in the desert of Arabia. I called that language Arabic, the language of my Arab people.
By then I had also heard that my father had married Keturah (25:1). That was after Sarah had been buried in the cave of Macpelah (23:19), and Abraham must have decided to do this very soon after my visit. Keturah soon had six children (25:1). But Isaac's wife did not like this foreign intrusion into our family. Although Rebekah remained barren for twenty years (25:20, 26) she wanted to make sure Abraham's genealogy would eventually pass to her own son.
Just as he had done with Hagar and me, Abraham gave in to this racist pressure, and downgraded Keturah from the status of a legal wife to a concubine. The difference in the case of a wife was that her male children were included in the family genealogy. But the children of a concubine had no rights of inheritance.
As soon as Esau and Jacob were born (25:26) Keturah's six sons were sent away to the east (25:6). I had expected this, and sent a group of our men to meet them, take care of them, and settle them safely at the west end of our Arab territory. There was a great sacrifice to feast them, and we sang our national hymn of praise. My mother Hagar, the great lady of the Arabs, was there. She died soon after, and I had the sad task of burying her under a pile of stones in her favorite area of the desert. After the next sandstorm I couldn't even find her grave.
To celebrate Isaac's sixtieth birthday I heard that God had finally given him a pair of twin boys (25:26). I guessed from the beginning that one of them would be excluded from the line of Isaac. Esau was apparently born first, and came out an unusual color and hairy all over (25:25). I knew he didn't have a chance of making it in Rebekah's family as a Sumerian (25:28). And sure enough Esau himself despised his birthright (25:32-34). Then Rebekah managed to trick poor old blind Isaac into transferring to her favorite son the genealogical right to the family line (27:1-5, 21-29).
But by then my father Abraham had died, and there was no way to right
this family injustice. The good news was that eventually the descendants
of Esau, who became the great tribe of Edomites, would eventualy join our
Arab brotherhood (36:1-43).
Chapter 6 .....