Ishmael (Ismael) was the son of Abraham a Semite and Hagar Sarah’s maid an Egyptian. Sarah became envious when Hagar prided herself while pregnant and began to mistreat her. Hagar fled into the desert and a messenger from God sent her back to Sarah and told her to endure the abuse for the sake of her child; for God had great plans for the child’s descendants. The angel gave Hagar a glimpse of what her son would become. “You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand will be against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”
The emerging of an Apostolic Office was based on Jesus assigning the leadership to Simon Peter (Mt. 16:18-19, Lk. 22:32; Jn. 21:15-19). Peter envisioned a priesthood of all believers where every person had access to grace by faith (I Pe. 2:9). That idea appealed to spirited individuals that could get people to follow them. The common person needed someone to guide him. These spiritual leaders differed in their perceptions what direction Jesus intended to take them. The first troublesome issue was whether to admit Gentiles and James took the helm and laid down the guidelines for admission (Ac. 15:12-35). By the time of Cyprian of Carthage (195-258 A.D.) too many views had evolved and required a firm decision as to what a Church was and who was put in charge. He set forth nine legalistic rules that the Church was one and Catholic (universal). To be a Christian, one had to be a Catholic. The Catholic Church consisted of bishops. Bishops were the successors of the apostles and also chosen by Christ. The Catholic Church alone provided salvation. The bishops were a college, the episcopate. All bishops were equal in rank. Rebellion against a bishop was a sin against God. The clergy were best suited to administer salvation and the sacraments. Augustine declared that the authority rested in the office and not in the person that held the office. Original sin required infant baptism and the amount of water was incidental (395 A.D.).
Rome, under Pompey, had begun to spread its wings and became power hungry. Small states like Judah invited the Romans to protect them from their enemies, the Egyptians and the Syrians. The Romans did send Syria home and conquered Egypt. The Jews were granted their religious liberties and the High Priest had an ear with the Emperor. That is why the Governor had to satisfy the religious elite and crucify Jesus the Christ. When the political uprisings continued, Rome dissolved Judah and scattered the Jews all over her empire. The orthodox Jews kept their national identity and their Torah. Seventy years before Rome dissolved the Jewish hope of another Davidic monarchy, Jesus of Nazareth appeared proclaiming a new kind of “Kingdom.” It was Heavenly, Godly and in the Heart. Jesus, in person, was the way back to God, via the truth and a new life. To enter, one had to believe that God the Father had sent Jesus and one had to repent or make a one hundred eighty degree turn from a sinful life or an unfair system. Jesus predicted that individual transgressions and the traditions of the fathers had replaced God’s Law and would lead to the downfall of the Jewish state. Jesus had come to offer peace through preaching of the Word, but the Jewish leaders chose Caesar and the sword. Ironically, their High Priest predicted that one had to die for their nation so they would not die. This concept would become one of the main doctrines of the followers of Jesus; only, it would be applied to the human soul and not to the body.
The Northern Kingdom would be dissolved by Assyria, another Babylonian abstract. One hundred fifty years later, the Southern Kingdom ceased to exist for seventy years. During the captivity, the prophets Haggai, Zechariah and leaders accepted the verdict of Yahweh against them and they decided that they could remain Yahweh followers in captivity and not loose their identity. Only a remnant would return to Palestine and rebuild the nation of Judah or Israel. The leaders were mostly priests and scribes that held on to Yahweh and His laws. The remnant had seventy years to gain the trust of their captors before they were allowed to take an extended vacation. The men that proved themselves worthy were Daniel, Mordecai, Ezra, Nehemiah and Queen Ester. Of these, Ezra and Nehemiah were allowed to go on extended leaves from their services of the new kings of Medes and Persians, under Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes and Artaxerxes. The other Jews in captivity adjusted gradually to their masters and with their skills ended up managing their captor’s estates and money. Jewish farmers and shepherds became bankers, merchants and traders. Nebuchadnezzer did not take all the leading Jews to Babylon. A large group escaped to Egypt and many of them adapted to their new jobs and skills. Under Greek and Roman expansion, many Jews prospered and began controlling a considerable part of the world’s trade and banking. In Alexandria, Jews were Hellenized and they gave the world a Greek Bible, the Septuagenta.
It all began with a dream. Abraham had grown wealthy with no heir. He fell asleep and in his dream God made a covenant with him, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates” (Gen. 15:18). The “Covenant” was similar to a “Will” or Last Testament of a dying man. The “Will” was hijacked and altered by one child that had a shrewd attorney. In this case, it was the grandson Jacob with the help of his mother Rebekah. Together, they swindled the older son, Esau, out of his birthright. Jacob’ grandmother Sarah did the same with Ishmael when she, and not Abraham, decided who was to inherit the land. She gave it to Isaac. The writer that was, no doubt a descendant of Jacob, led this branch of Abraham’s seed to believe that it was God’s intention to assign the covenant to Jacob. During the time of David, the same covenant was taken over by Judah. Jacob fled from his brother to Laban, the place where his grandfather Abraham came from. Jacob stole his uncle’s daughters and sheep and got away with it because Jacob had become the chosen one of God. While he fled from Laban, Jacob had a dream about climbing a ladder to heaven. From that point on, he became the penitent Israel, founder of the chosen people of God. Esau forgave Jacob and Jacob fathered twelve sons. His sons sold their brother Joseph into slavery. He ended up in Egypt and his family followed him. Jacob’s stay in Canaan was brief and the writer did not bother to ask what entitlement Abraham’s seven other sons had on Canaan? They were the ones that turned the land into milk and honey.
The Spirit directed Samuel to anoint Saul from the tribe of Benjamin as the first king over Israel. The installation of kings would not decrease the internal struggle between the Hebrew God and the gods of the Canaanites. The cost to maintain a monarchy would weaken the nation even more and become an easier prey for her enemies. Saul, however, began to rule with the help of Samuel and he freed Israel of their oppressors. Samuel retired and Saul became the oppressor over his own people. He defended his throne for forty-two years instead of the nation. To do so, he kept a standing army of three thousand men. When the Philistines grew stronger, the people no longer rallied to his support as they did in the beginning. He also exhausted his means by hunting after David whom he regarded as his contender and mortal enemy. Saul also acted as his own priest by sacrificing to Yahweh and he made promises that almost cost his son’s Benjamin life. Instead of seeking council from Yahweh’s followers, he turned to a witch at Endor. The Philistines defeated Saul’s army and he fell on his own sword. Saul had lost his kingship to David long before his own fall. When David was in his service, Saul’s kingdom and his health prospered. David had endeared himself to the people by slaying Goliath and leading a victorious army.
The land of Canaan played a crucial role in the evolvement of monotheism and in the role Abraham’s descendants would play in the world. It was not a light matter for an Israelite writer to admit that it was Sarah and not God that excluded Ishmael from the covenant. Before there was an Israel, there was a Canaan. And before the Canaanites there were the Anakims or the giants or the Nephilims. The Philistines, descendants of Mizraim brother to Canaan had also settled in Canaan. Then there was the mysterious king–priest of “God Most High,” Melchizedeck. His tribal origin is uncertain. Abraham arrived in Canaan when many wandering tribes were relocating and the location of Canaan was ideally suited for trafficking in business and expansion between the North and the South. The fact that Abraham, a nomad, had a stronger army than the city kings does indicate that the area was in its early development. His offering of ten percent to the king of Salem may have been a political necessity to Canaan’s growth rather than a religious act and so was his purchase of a burial place for himself and his offspring. By the time of Moses’ first attempt to invade Canaan, the region had become too strong for an ill-organized Hebrew army. Forty years later, the picture had changed and the cities’ power and union had declined.
Noah began on his right foot and ended on his left. He promised to obey God’s laws and then turned around, became drunk and cursed his grandson for exposing his shame. Noah was a continuation of the sons of God that began with Adam and like Adam he too lost his place with God and ended losing his identity among the worldly people. It is interesting that both Adam and Noah were naked. It also suggests some form of illegal use of lovemaking. Who were their lovers, certainly not their wives? What form did the serpent take this time? It does not take second guessing what sin plagued mankind the most. The desire of the flesh has yet to be tamed. The remarkable evolvement or material progress came at the hands of the people Noah had cursed. Ham’s descendants proved that a human curse could challenge the cursed one to succeed in spite of a bad omen. It was Nimrod, grandson of Ham and great grandson of Noah who became a mighty warrior and the first power hungry king that build a tower to reach heaven. He was also “a mighty hunter before the Lord.” In other words, he was divinely endowed to be the leader. That idea led to the belief that kings, leaders and priests were descendants of the gods. The tower was not intended to reach God, but elevate a person into a god and to keep the people from scattering. An enormously huge earthquake had driven the fear of God back into their hearts.
There were three Israel kingdoms with three distinct governments, theocratic, monarchical and priestly. The theocratic government of Israel was one of the best and simplest systems the world has ever know. It was based and guided by ten principles rather than by clever and cunning humans. Each tribe was self-governing with the Levites, for a tenth, were providing the necessary services. Joshua led the tribes into Canaan as conquerors and plunderers. There was nothing humane about the invaders. In the name of Yahweh, Joshua’s army mowed down the resisting inhabitants as if they were weeds. Two and one half tribes settled East of the river Jordan and the others in Canaan. Joshua was a Yahweh loyalist. He served under Moses for forty years and was committed to carry out his teacher’s orders to the letter. His most difficult task was to remind the people regarding the law of cause and effect; namely, obedience to theocratic laws will yield blessings and disobedience curses (Deut. 11:26-32). He firmly believed that God had kept every promise and that it was up to the new settlers to claim it. To do so, they had to remove the conquered people from Canaan so they would not be enticed by them and end up being destroyed. Joshua warned them not to let any one or anything come between Yahweh and His Laws and themselves (Jos. 23-24). Joshua’s challenge was similar to what Benjamin Franklin said, “We gave you a Republic; we hope you can keep it.”
Nephilim were a new people in an old country. It was still a union between Eden and Nod, but with the addition of a third class of people that became the high and mighty known as the “Nephilim.” It was not an overnight takeover, but a gradual development over many generations. It began when the sons of God decided to marry lustfully the beautiful daughters of men that God was completely left out (Gen. 6). These were the Sethites that married Nod-Canite women. Luxury and pleasure had replaced morals. Human achievements were praised above human decency and justice. These Children of mixed marriages became heroes and acclaimed geniuses in the world. Their names appeared in Canaan (Num. 13:33) and in their skills in Egypt and among the Incas in South America. They took the royal places in the world as descendants of the gods. They became gods themselves in direct opposition to the Creator God. They set up images and idols to have their subjects bow to them. They built unto themselves monuments like hanging gardens, Pyramids, towers and temples.