Abraham-Sarah in the Challenge of Ishmael
We learn several lessons from Abraham-Sarah interactions in the separation of Ishmael from Isaac: Quick and permanent resolution of a potentially dividing husband-wife disagreement to remain united as one before God; conflict resolution strategy based on understanding and addressing the underlying concerns in a conflict; and opportunity selection based on remaining connected to God to receive guidance regarding opportunities that one may de-emphasize in order to focus on proper development of other opportunities.
We discuss Abraham-Sarah interactions regarding Ishmael to learn about resolving a potentially dividing husband-wife disagreement quickly and permanently. Also, the interactions help us understand that certain things or opportunities that are important to us may at times need to be de-emphasized or abandoned in order to make room for proper development of other opportunities.
Sarah gave birth to Isaac, a son with husband Abraham in their old age, fulfilling God’s promise: “… 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, and with his descendants after him” [Genesis 17:19]. Therefore, Isaac was the child of promise: God’s promise to Abraham-Sarah will be fulfilled through Isaac’s offspring. However, Abraham with Sarah’s approval had fathered a child Ishmael with Sarah’s maid-servant Hagar. He loved Ishmael, felt a responsibility for him, and maybe wondered about Ishmael’s rightful inheritance as his son.
During a feast to celebrate Isaac’s weaning, Sarah noticed Ishmael display apparent hostility toward Isaac: “And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, scoffing” [Genesis 21:9]. She recognized the behavior as a sign of potential future threat to Isaac growing up in the presence of Ishmael. Therefore, she demanded Ishmael and his mother be expelled from the household to protect Isaac: “Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, namely with Isaac” [Genesis 21:10].
Her demand troubled Abraham greatly: “And the matter was very displeasing in Abraham’s sight because of his son” [Genesis 21:11]. He likely was sympathetic to Sarah’s demand but felt an internal conflict with throwing out his son because of a sense of responsibility and concern for his well being. God intervened: He directed Abraham to accept his wife’s demand and resolved his internal conflict by explaining that he will bless each of the two children separately [Genesis 21:12–13]: “But God said to him, ‘Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.’”
We learn several lessons through these events. First, we learn an important conflict resolution strategy through God’s resolution of Abraham’s internal conflict. Second, we discuss the urgency of his intervention and the resolution he provided to underscore the need for quick and permanent resolution of any potentially dividing husband-wife disagreement. Third, the separation of Ishmael from Isaac provides a lesson on opportunity selection—recognizing available opportunities that may need to be de-emphasized or abandoned in order to make room for proper development of other opportunities.
Continue reading “Husband-Wife Conflict Resolution from Abraham-Sarah”