Monday, 21 January 2013

Reading the Bible 7: Gen 16-17
We are in the potential mine field of family relations.  I could say the area of family values which is a rather loaded phrase that carries a lot of assumptions today with connotations of what does and doesn’t construe a family i.e. one man and one woman and two and a half children.  No evidence of that here.  But of course God’s intention for the family of humans will be revealed more fully as God’s relationship with humans is developed in biblical history. 

What is of interest to me in this reading is the power structure that is explored in this chunk of scripture.  Here we have Abram who has not believed fully in God’s promise of descendants unnumbered.  Sarai is apparently barren so he decides that God needs some help and takes matters into his own hand so to speak – and with the active consent to Sarai uses her hand maiden Hagar to fulfill God’s promise.  We don’t truly know how all the parties felt about this.  Of course it was a conventional arrangement for the times and probably no one thought twice about it but feeling might have been another matter.  Margaret Atwood has explored what this type of arrangement might look like in a dystopia.  However, this handmaid’s tale Hagar goes from a position of powerlessness to one – at least temporarily – of power.  Once she is carrying the heir apparent (she must have assumed it would be a boy) she begins to lord it over Sarai  - at least in Sarai’s projection.  As quickly as her vision of grandeur is played out it comes crashing down when Abram declines – in his wisdom – to support her power play.  He wisely does not want to get in the middle of the dispute between the two women in his life.  In her renewed position of powerlessness she believes the only option open to her is to escape the situation even if it is in the wilderness.  I think we may come across this theme again. 
Although these circumstances are worlds apart from our world the role of power struggles and power plays are basically the same.  We need to be in control.  We struggle to ensure that our lives are in our hands rather than God’s.  We struggle to trust the promises that God has made to us.

In this context I can see why God believed he needed to reaffirm the promise He had made to Abram and recut the b’rit (covenant).  How many times has he done this now – three?  In any case for me it is reassuring that God doesn’t give up on us easily or at all for that matter.  It’s up to us not to give up on God.




No comments:

Post a Comment