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Blood Brothers
In Defense of the Faith
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Wendy Wippel

Nearly 4 billion people (54% of the world's population) revere Abraham and by association, Isaac and Ishmael.  Pretty incredible, since their lives (more than 4000 years ago) are corroborated by no other ancient texts.  But is there evidence?  Yep, and sometimes the most subtle proofs are the most convincing.

Jews and therefore Christians, obviously, respect Abraham as the man God called out of Ur to found the nation that would become God's own people, the Jews: 

Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country … to a land that I will show you.2 I will make you a great nation; …. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12: 1-32 NKJV)

You know the story: God led Abraham to the land of Canaan, entered into a covenant with him that promised his descendants the land (Genesis 15:17-19), and promised him a son of his own flesh that would become the great nation promised. 

But the promise of a son tarried.  Ten long years in Canaan, and still no great nation.

In fact, not even a single child.

Sarah, like most of us have at one time or another, decided God needed help, and brought her servant Hagar to Abraham as a stand in. 

Though not a great moment of faith, this wasn't as bad as it may seem to modern sensibilities.  A cache of clay tablets discovered in northern Iraq in an ancient town called Nuzi date from Abraham's time period and describe the same practice as a common and acceptable way of producing heirs in childless marriages.

So Hagar has a son, and they name him Ishmael.

But God had other plans and, for whatever reasons, another time table.

Twelve more years go by before God appears to Abraham and tells him that he will have another son, and that his wife, Sarah will herself bear this child:

Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, … I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.” (Genesis 17:15-16 NKJV)

This time it's Abraham whose faith is lacking: 

Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!” (Genesis 17:17-18 NKJV)

He also offers God a stand-in for the son he doubts God can produce in the aged Sarah.

But God makes it clear that Ishmael was not the son God He planned:

Then God said: “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, …. (Genesis 17:19 NJKV)

According to the Bible, the progenitor of God's chosen people-- the nation promised to Abraham-- was Isaac.  The Koran, BTW, asserts that Ishmael was the firstborn and thus the child of the promise, but Galatians pretty much clears that up: 

"For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise."  (Galatians 4:22-23 NJKV)

The point is that these two guys-- the child of the flesh and the child of the promise-- end up being huge to more than half the world's population.  So can we even know that they existed?

Abraham was promised, after Ishmael was on the scene, that he would be the father of many nations:

"As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you." (Genesis 17:4,6 NJKV) 

Abraham, through Ishmael, fathered twelve other middle eastern tribes; following the death of Sarah he married Keturah and had six more sons who also founded middle eastern tribes.  So, as promised, Abraham was the father of many middle eastern peoples.

And that's been documented genetically.

Michael Hammer, Professor of Genetics at the University of Arizona, collected Y-chromosome DNA (which only men carry)  from 1371 human males in the middle east. Hammer included both Jewish and non-Jewish populations, including Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese, Israeli Druze, Saudi Arabians and Turks.

By comparing variations in the Y-chromosome he found that both Jews and Arabs in the Middle East could be traced back to a single common ancestor.  And through a genetic dating, inherent in the testing based on a predictable rate of mutation over time, it possible, with some confidence, to tell when this common ancestor lived.

The genetic common ancestor of both Jews and Arabs lived approximately 3800 years ago.

Exactly when Abraham would have lived. 

Way cool.

But there's another subtle proof in the text itself.

When God promised Abraham and son from his own wife's loins, He gave him some further instructions:

And God said to Abraham: “As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. 10 This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; 11 and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant. (Genesis 17:9-12 NKJV) 

As the sign of the promise of a son, every male in the household of Abraham was to be circumcised.

Why circumcision?  Hmmm… how to put this delicately… when God promised not to destroy the world again by water falling from the sky, He put a rainbow in the sky as the sign of the covenant.  See the rainbow, remember the promise.  For Abraham, the promise was for a son-- the seed-- that would eventually result in the seed promised Eve-- the Messiah.  So see the circumcision, remember the promise.  You get the idea.

So Abraham took …, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very same day, as God had said to him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 26 That very same day Abraham was circumcised, and his son Ishmael… (Genesis 17:23-26 NKJV)

Note here that God commanded for the future that male babies be circumcised on the eighth day, but for Abraham to circumcise all of the camp immediately.  And as Genesis tells us, in Abraham's obedience, Ishmael was circumcised at 13 years of age.

4000 years later, Jews, following the commandment, still circumcise on the eighth day.

And Arab tribes still circumcise at 13.

Is there any explanation for that except that the Bible is truth, and completely accurate in even the seemingly insignificant details?

I don't think so…

About Wendy Wippel

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