That Ole Family Tree

Hamas shot rockets into Israel from Gaza. Israel didn’t take it sitting down and returned the favor by dropping bombs on Gaza. In between these two, innocent civilians have taken the pounding. Evangelical Christians are either defending or condemning Israel. The condemnation of Israel is pretty straight forward. Their treatment of the Palestinians has been horrible. Civilians have been cut off from their homes and families as well as injured and killed by the heavy-handed response. Evangelical Christians defense of Israel’s actions affirm Israel’s right to exist as a nation and though I haven’t read it myself, I suppose there is some justification for their action based on the conquest of the Promised Land in the book of Joshua in the Bible. This, it is believed, is Israel’s land and they have a right to take it and rule it. Theologically, the debate is complex and rests more on hermeneutics than simply politics.

These are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s servant, bore to Abraham…They settled from Havilah to Shur, which is opposite Egypt in the direction of Assyria. – Genesis 25:12, 18Aside from the current events aspect, I bring this up because I found myself reflecting on it when I was reading through Genesis this week. Yea, I know, reflecting on modern Israel by reading Genesis and not Revelation? What kind of Evangelical am I? Well, I’ll let my readers answer that question and instead will dig into the insight from Genesis.

There is a pattern with the patriarchs that you’ll notice as you read through the life of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. There are divisions. Abraham had Ishmael and apparently cared for the boy. When God said that the blessing would not go to Ishmael but to Isaac, Abraham pleaded from Ishmael and God explained how the boy would be blessed because of Abraham. Isaac had Esau and Jacob and again God picked the wrong son and chose to bless Jacob before either was born. It didn’t help that Esau despised his birthright but that’s another discussion.

One of the things you’ll notice as you read through Genesis is that Moses doesn’t just drop Ishmael (for example) once he’s out of the story, Moses takes the time to explain Ishmael’s descendants. He wants Israel to understand the nations that surround the Promised Land that they will enter. He takes pains to explain who is and who is not a relative. Sure, they will be separated by hundreds of years but it is still true that the Edomites are the descendants of Esau, their patriarch’s brother.

Why? Why bother? Paper (well, whatever the Pentateuch was originally written on anyway) was not cheap in those days. Why spend the time writing this stuff? Because it mattered, that’s why. Yes, God would send his people in to the Promised Land and would command the execution of the Canaanites at their hands. But it wasn’t indiscriminate slaughter. It had a purpose. Israel would remain in Egypt for four hundred years “because the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (Gen 15:16). 1Notice that God didn’t judge the Amorites without waiting the their sin had reached its full measure. He gave them 400 years to knock it off. He had appointed a certain amount that he would tolerate and then the judgment would come. When Israel came into the Promised Land and killed the inhabitants it was to be a judgment upon a certain people. Israel was not allowed to then declare war on the Edomites, they were their relatives. Moses reminded them of this fact so that when they arrive in the Promised Land they will deal harshly with those whom God was judging and would deal kindly with the rest. If Edom attacked, Israel should remember that they would be waring against their relatives.

I think this is something that we should remember beyond just the conquest of Canaan. Go back a little further and you get to Noah and his three sons. Their off spring spread across the face of the globe in Genesis 10, the Table of the Nations. But they started out from three sons on a boat with a lot of animals. Go back to the beginning and we see that we all come from a common mother and father in Adam and Eve. We all, Israeli, Syrian, Palestinian, American, Egyptian, Asian, whatever, we all are descended from Adam and Eve and therefore bear the imago Dei, the image of God. Let’s remember our relatives and treat them as such. That lands not just in Israel’s and Hamas’ laps but in America’s also when we consider how we’ve treated (and may still be treating) Iraqi prisoners and “unlawful combatants” in Guantanamo. Moses took the time to remind Israel in his day that they were related to those around them. We should take the time to remember the same thing.

1 Notice that God didn’t judge the Amorites without waiting the their sin had reached its full measure. He gave them 400 years to knock it off. He had appointed a certain amount that he would tolerate and then the judgment would come.
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  • Nice post. I especially like the footnote.

  • Hey Mr. E,

    I’m reading through Genesis right now, and this is extremely helpful. In a sense, Genesis is a land-owners manual!

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