A Promise Fit for Modern Times
And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. And he said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai. And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. And the angel of the Lord said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the Lord hath heard thy affliction. And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.
This is a neat story. God cares a lot for Hagar, not entirely sure why considering she hates Sarai, but I guess just because Hagar is carrying Abrams son? Also what’s with this multiplying seed thing that god and his people are so obsessed with. Having a prosperous and happy next generation or two seems a lot more important than having “endless, uncountable” grand-children. Also, it’s really not a special gift from god, considering everybody can do the same thing without any blessing from him. All of us come from some crazy long ass lineage from somewhere, it’s one of the least impressive things we can do.
The “blessing” turns kind of sour at the end too…I’d be pretty stressed knowing that my kid will be constantly warring with others. That’s some terrible bedside manners from god. “Congratulations, you’re having a boy! Although, you should know he’ll be in constant danger and probably be a bully.”
She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.
This is an example of a mythic story being used to explain a local landmark. It is a common practice around the world, and I think it makes the story simultaneously more interesting, and less credible. These are myths used to attach significance to an already well-known place by giving it a memorable origin story. It is suspicious to find stories like these in the bible if it’s the word of god, because we can so easily recognize it for what it is and make such obvious comparisons to other equally debunked religions, myths, and origin stories. One of my favorites is the story behind the naming of Athens and the importance of the olive tree.
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.
I will rant now, again, about how God is constantly promising folks that he will increase their numbers, sometimes adding that the numbers will match “the stars in the sky.” It is an obviously human thing to say. I imagine the rich old men in power thought having tons of children to carry on their name and increase their family power was of paramount importance. So what does god promise the rich old men in the bible? Tons o kids. I’m obviously increeeedibly biased, but when I think of divine wisdom I just don’t see it including promises of having a gigantic family. If god appeared to me today and was like, “Hey, I know I ask for undying loyalty while offering little more than jealous abuse in return, but if you promise to cut the tip of your penis off I’ll make all the women in your family constantly pregnant for generations, whadda say?” I’d respond with something like…”Will you just forget about penises for like a second and go de-escalate the middle-east? JESUS!”