oh brother


(picture of Gaza children looking for food)

it’s another family feud–one we cannot begin to understand, yet still manage to judge.

the war stems from a tale of two brothers: animosity between sarah, isaac’s mother, and hagar, the mother of ishmael (and abraham’s servant), sent the single mom and her son into hiding… but the bible says “God loved (Hagar and Ishmael), and had mercy on them.”

we cannot comprehend, yet we still take sides: we cannot speak the language, yet we dare to interpret thousands of years of hatred.

israel and palestine speak in terms of shame and honour, whereas we speak in terms of right and wrong.

the feud was instigated when ishmael felt ashamed–and stood up for the honour of his mother, hagar. in turn, isaac fought for the honour of his father abraham. their loyalties were well-placed, and yet, doesn’t there come a point when even the most honourable intentions turn shameful?

perhaps when more than 1,000 lie dead in Gaza and the UN headquarters sit crumbling, black and blue, from an early-morning bombing?

but there i go again, trying to understand something i never will. i can only pray, “Lord, have mercy on them.”



  1. Teneale said,

    January 16, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    I never really thought about this war starting all the way back in the Bible. That is crazy! Hope all is going well. Hugs.

  2. joannamallory said,

    January 17, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    LORD, have mercy indeed.

    This is so much bigger than we can comprehend, but He’s bigger still.

    Thanks for the reminder of how this all started. Only God can bring something good here.

  3. Annie said,

    January 17, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Hi Em! Maybe I’m just having a dense moment, but where do the Scriptures describe this feud/fighting taking place between Ishmael and Isaac?

    I know there were definitely tensions between their two mothers. It all stemmed from Sarah’s lack of faith that God would give her a son when He promised to. So she came up with the idea of “helping God” by substituting her maidservant Hagar with Abraham, as a sort of “surrogate mom.” When Hagar knew she was pregnant, she became scornful of Sarah, and then Sarah mistreated her, and then Hagar ran away. All these bad feelings and relations stemmed from an initial lack of trust in God and trying to accomplish things through human means and methods.

    (On a side note, I’ve noticed it’s never a good thing when a man has multiple wives in Scripture – and Abraham did marry Hagar too.)

    Despite the messiness of the situation, God showed great mercy toward Hagar – He sought her out in the desert, restored her to her home, and promised to bless her son Ishmael, and make a great nation out of him. But God also gave the prophecy that “his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” God later repeated to Abraham that it was with Isaac that He had chosen to establish His covenant. Human foibles, fights and follies did not change or alter His plan.

    How exactly the prophecy about Ishmael has played out in history to the present I’m not sure. The animosity between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims is not only along ethnic lines, but also religious ones. And Islam did not even become a religion until the 500’s AD, so I’m not sure exactly how it traces to Ishmael. Nevertheless, that’s still a long time to have conflict and fighting. With that much history, you know that neither “side” is blameless. There have been real injustices committed by both sides. Which is what perpetuates the fighting – vengeance and retaliation. That, and the extremists and radicals who follow a bloody creed and shamelessly use the innocents to justify their outrage. It is an all out power struggle – the physical clash makes the news, but it is a fight with spiritual ramifications for both sides too.

    If we outsiders want to understand or stop the physical conflict, we must address the ideas, the beliefs which are supporting the actions. Where is each side getting its ideas, its authorization, and how legitimate or right are those sources? But ultimately, these two groups (especially the extremists among them) have to become willing to debate and contest the value of their ideas – not the value of human beings. And if they cannot resolve differing systems of belief (which they most likely will not be able to), they might still figure out some way to coexist in physical peace, even if they continue to have intellectual tensions. Not everyone can be right at the same time, but perhaps everyone could live rightly with some form of justice and toleration. The problem is that emotional reactions and counterreactions are constantly erupting, exploding and clouding the issues, as well as any resolutions which might be reached. But we are emotional creatures too! Therein lies the complexity – how to resolve the multifaceted beast of a problem which has become mired in the middle east, refusing to budge, to give an inch, out of honor, or fear, or distrust.

    On the surface we are witnesses to the terrible loss of life and innocence. But the children of each side also believe what they are taught, and the children grow up to become the adults who perpetuate the hostilities.

    So where does peace begin?

    If enmity begins by distrusting God, then peace must begin by trusting Him.

    Love you!

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