Sometimes small incidents, rather than glorious exploits, give us the best evidence of character. So, as portrait painters are more exact in doing the face, I must give particular attention to the marks of the souls of men. — Plutarch

Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber




The Birth of Isaac

While Abraham had been pleading with one of the strangers to spare the wicked cities, the two others had gone ahead, and had entered the city of Sodom. Lot, the only good man in the whole place, invited them into his house to spend the night.

But the people of Sodom, hearing that there were strangers at his house, rushed there, and asked that these should be delivered up, so that they might be put to the torture. Lot refused to give up his guests, and began to defend them with all his might.

The Sodomites, however, were so great in number that Lot would not have been able to resist them had not the strangers struck them with sudden blindness. The rude men now groped their way helplessly through the streets, little suspecting that this attempt to injure strangers had settled their own fate.

As Lot was a very good man, and had not sinned, the strangers now bade him leave the city, with his wife and daughters and all that he had. In hopes of saving some of the people from the threatened ruin, Lot lingered there, until the angels led him out with his wife and daughters, bidding them all not to look behind them, but to escape to the mountains lest they should be burned.

Lot and his daughters obeyed, and did not turn their heads when the fire from heaven rained down upon the cities, and destroyed them and their inhabitants. But Lotís wife, prompted by curiosity, disobeyed. In punishment, she was changed into a pillar of salt.

The place once occupied by these flourishing cities is now covered by the waters of the Dead Sea, and the land all around there is very barren, and shows signs of having once been a prey to a raging fire. Near there are great mountains of rock salt, and the waters of the Dead Sea are so briny and bitter that no fish can live in them.

Although Lot had been saved from destruction, he too sinned greatly soon after this, and like Noah gave way to the vice of drunkenness. In punishment for this sin, God made him the ancestor of two wild races, the Ammonites and the Moabites, who took these names from Ammon and Moab, the sons of Lotís two daughters. These two tribes, as you will see later, were destined to cause many sufferings to the Jews.

After staying a long while at his home, where the three strangers had visited him, Abraham again moved toward the southern boundary of the Holy Land, and came to a place called Beersheba. Here lived the Philistines, who were then ruled by a king named Abimelech. Abraham, fearing him, again declared that Sarah was his sister; so the king thought that he would marry her.

Warned by God in a dream that Sarah was Abrahamís wife, Abimelech gave her back to the patriarch, and added many gifts of great value. When Abraham saw how generous the heathen were, he regretted that he had deceived them, and prayed God to bless them. This prayer was soon granted, and the Philistines began to enjoy great prosperity.

Hagar and Ishmael
HAGAR AND ISHMAEL


It was during Abrahamís sojourn at Beersheba that his faith in Godís promises was rewarded; for Sarah bore him a son named Isaac. When this child was old enough to be weaned, Sarah saw Ishmael, the son of Hagar, mocking him. In her anger she begged Abraham to send mother and son both away. He was at first unwilling to do so, but God comforted him with the promise that Ishmael would be the ancestor of a mighty nation.

Provided with a scanty supply of food and a skin bottle full of water, Hagar and Ishmael were sent away from Abrahamís tent, and wandered out into the desert. Here their provisions soon gave out, and Hagar, seeing no hope of saving the life of her son, left him lying under one of the desert shrubs, and went off a little distance because she could not bear to see him die.

But God had not forgotten his promise. While Hagar was weeping in despair, an angel bade her fear nothing, repeated the promise that her son Ishmael should be the ancestor of a mighty people, and then pointed out a well whence she might draw water to refresh him. Thus saved from death, Ishmael grew and dwelt in the wilderness, and finally took a wife from the land of Egypt.