04. Three Wives of Abraham
Updated: Apr 27
Those of you who have been following this blog for some time will know that occasionally people with different view points make their feelings felt by interfering with my posts. Well, it's Déjà vu again, as they say.
Once more I make a reference in my posts to the disputed aspects of Abraham's ancient family and, within hours, I learn that one of our unidentified genetic 'cousins' is upset about it.
I suppose I should just feel grateful that they continue thinking about my words. And seriously, I am grateful that I can use my blog to respectfully communicate, and hopefully contribute to a greater understanding. But you see how hard it is to keep unity in the family?
That's pretty much been our history ever since Abraham thought He could keep several wives happy at the same time. Now, you don't have to be a Marriage Counsellor to see that right there, in the opening chapters of the Bible, we have a recipe for a soap opera of magnificent proportion.
Scene 1; Depending on which one of our family you're talking to, the story goes something like this; In brief, Sarah was Abraham's wife. Hagar was a Egyptian concubine or 'secondary wife' given to Abraham by Sarah, who was too old and seemingly unable to produce a child of her own. (In polygamous societies, a concubine is a woman who lives with a man but has lower status than a wife or wives. Although a concubine can produce heirs, her children will be inferior in social status to the wife's children.) To further complicate the story, in her old age Sarah did unexpectedly produce a healthy son. Then, after her death, Abraham took another "wife", Keturah, according to Genesis 25:1. (In a later record she too is called a concubine but because Keturah was in a monogamous relationship with Abraham, she could properly be considered his “wife,” but with a lesser rank than Sarah had enjoyed.)
Scene 2; The Bible records how Abraham gave gifts to the sons of His concubines and sent them to 'the country of the east', (at that time, a name for Arabia). And so, from those opening chapters of the Bible, a magnificent story begins to evolve. Which is what it proves to be, because least we take all this too lightly, the descendants of these three wives became founders of four great world religions; Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Bahá'í Faith. In this way it can really be claimed that Abraham fulfilled the great Abrahamic/Judaic prophecy of becoming the Father of Nations. As a consequence of this convoluted past, the various stories that have been recounted in the Torah, Bible, Quran and Kitab-i-Iqan have been creating confusion and disagreement in our one human family ever since.
According to Biblical account, Christ is descended from Abraham through Sarah's son Isaac. Muhammad, prophet of Islam, is descended through Ishmael - born to Abraham's and Sarah's handmaiden Hagar - and He is viewed as the final prophet of God in all the main branches of Islam, although some modern denominations diverge from this belief.
Finally, Baha'u'llah's ancestry is traced through Abraham's wife Keturah , but He is also of the ancient family of Zoroaster and Jesse of the Tribe of Judah. A commentary on The Kitáb-i-Aqdas (89) gives some brief historical background, explaining why Bahá’u’lláh as a typical Muslim man, had 4 wives, until He was guided to introduce monogamy. 'Abdu'l-Bahá elucidated at the time; Polygamy is a very ancient practice among the majority of humanity. The introduction of monogamy has been only gradually accomplished by the Manifestations of God. Jesus, for example, did not prohibit polygamy, but abolished divorce except in the case of fornication; Muḥammad limited the number of wives to four, but making plurality of wives contingent on justice, and reintroducing permission for divorce; Bahá’u’lláh, Who was revealing His Teachings in the milieu of a Muslim society, introduced the question of monogamy gradually in accordance with the principles of wisdom and the progressive unfoldment of His purpose. Scene 3; Returning to our original screen play...
Today the highly rated Britannica Book of the Year (1992–present) lists the Baha'i Faith as the second most widespread of the world's independent religions. That's some progress! Although our human family has not yet reached the scene where we all get to
'live happily ever after', the process is unfolding. More and more of us are coming together from different faiths and ancestral paths. Abraham's diverse families, and those of previously unknown indigenous peoples, are beginning to gather, contributing to a progressive unfolding of that promised family reunion longed for by all peoples. This will be a pow-wow of such feasting, singing and dancing as the world has never known.
Really, the whole wonderful story has only just begun...