BR 14:05, Oct 1998
What Did Sarah See?
Did Ishmael, the firstborn son of the patriarch Abraham, molest his five-year-old half-brother, Isaac?
The disappearance of four words in an early version of the biblical text raises the intriguing if troubling prospect that the Bible records an incident of incestuous child molestation, a notion so shocking that it may have been literally written out of the Bible by the rabbinic censors.
Abraham and Sarah are childless, as we read in Genesis, and so Sarah sends her husband to the bed of her handmaiden, an Egyptian woman named Hagar, who eventually bears him a son named Ishmael (Genesis 16:416).
As Ishmael is growing up, God makes a remarkable promise to the 99-year-old Abraham and his 90-year-old wife: Sarah will bear a son who will replace Ishmael as the inheritor of Abrahams divine blessing (Genesis 17:19). So remarkable is the news that Sarah laughs out loud; her sons name, Isaac, is a bit of Hebrew wordplay that means I laughed (Genesis 18:12, 21:3).a