Containing The Interval Of Three Thousand Eight Hundred And Thirty-Three Years.
From The Creation To The Death Of Isaac
Concerning Abimelech; And Concerning Ismael The Son Of Abraham; And Concerning The Arabians, Who Were His Posterity.
1. ABRAHAM now removed to Gerar of Palestine, leading Sarah along with him, under the notion of his sister, using the like dissimulation that he had used before, and this out of fear: for he was afraid of Abimelech, the king of that country, who did also himself fall in love with Sarah, and was disposed to corrupt her; but he was restrained from satisfying his lust by a dangerous distemper which befell him from God.
Now when his physicians despaired of curing him, he fell asleep, and saw a dream, warning him not to abuse the stranger's wife; and when he recovered, he told his friends that God had inflicted that disease upon him, by way of punishment, for his injury to the stranger; and in order to preserve the chastity of his wife, for that she did not accompany him as his sister, but as his legitimate wife; and that God had promised to be gracious to him for the time to come, if this person be once secure of his wife's chastity.
When he had said this, by the advice of his friends, he sent for Abraham, and bid him not to be concerned about his wife, or fear the corruption of her chastity; for that God took care of him, and that it was by his providence that he received his wife again, without her suffering any abuse. And he appealed to God, and to his wife's conscience; and said that he had not any inclination at first to enjoy her, if he had known she was his wife; but since, said he, thou leddest her about as thy sister, I was guilty of no offense.
He also entreated him to be at peace with him, and to make God propitious to him; and that if he thought fit to continue with him, he should have what he wanted in abundance; but that if he designed to go away, he should be honorably conducted, and have whatsoever supply he wanted when he came thither.
Upon his saying this, Abraham told him that his pretense of kindred to his wife was no lie, because she was his brother's daughter; and that he did not think himself safe in his travels abroad, without this sort of dissimulation; and that he was not the cause of his distemper, but was only solicitous for his own safety: he said also, that he was ready to stay with him.
Whereupon Abimelech assigned him land and money; and they coventanted to live together without guile, and took an oath at a certain well called Beersheba, which may be interpreted, The Well of the Oath: and so it is named by the people of the country unto this day.
2. Now in a little time Abraham had a son by Sarah, as God had foretold to him, whom he named Isaac, which signifies Laughter. And indeed they so called him, because Sarah laughed when God (25) said that she should bear a son, she not expecting such a thing, as being past the age of child-bearing, for she was ninety years old, and Abraham a hundred; so that this son was born to them both in the last year of each of those decimal numbers.
And they circumcised him upon the eighth day and from that time the Jews continue the custom of circumcising their sons within that number of days. But as for the Arabians, they circumcise after the thirteenth year, because Ismael, the founder of their nation, who was born to Abraham of the concubine, was circumcised at that age; concerning whom I will presently give a particular account, with great exactness.
3. As for Sarah, she at first loved Ismael, who was born of her own handmaid Hagar, with an affection not inferior to that of her own son, for he was brought up in order to succeed in the government; but when she herself had borne Isaac, she was not willing that Ismael should be brought up with him, as being too old for him, and able to do him injuries when their father should be dead; she therefore persuaded Abraham to send him and his mother to some distant country.
Now, at the first, he did not agree to what Sarah was so zealous for, and thought it an instance of the greatest barbarity, to send away a young child (26) and a woman unprovided of necessaries; but at length he agreed to it, because God was pleased with what Sarah had determined: so he delivered Ismael to his mother, as not yet able to go by himself; and commanded her to take a bottle of water, and a loaf of bread, and so to depart, and to take Necessity for her guide.
But as soon as her necessary provisions failed, she found herself in an evil case; and when the water was almost spent, she laid the young child, who was ready to expire, under a fig-tree, and went on further, that so he might die while she was absent. But a Divine Angel came to her, and told her of a fountain hard by, and bid her take care, and bring up the child, because she should be very happy by the preservation of Ismael. She then took courage, upon the prospect of what was promised her, and, meeting with some shepherds, by their care she got clear of the distresses she had been in.
4. When the lad was grown up, he married a wife, by birth an Egyptian, from whence the mother was herself derived originally. Of this wife were born to Ismael twelve sons; Nabaioth, Kedar, Abdeel, Mabsam, Idumas, Masmaos, Masaos, Chodad, Theman, Jetur, Naphesus, Cadmas. These inhabited all the country from Euphrates to the Red Sea, and called it Nabatene. They are an Arabian nation, and name their tribes from these, both because of their own virtue, and because of the dignity of Abraham their father.
(25) It is well worth observation, that Josephus here calls that principal Angel, who appeared to Abraham and foretold the birth of Isaac, directly God; which language of Josephus here, prepares us to believe those other expressions of his, that Jesus was a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, Antiq. B. XVIII. Ch. 3. Sect. 3, and of God the Word, in his homily concerning Hades, may be both genuine. Nor is the other expression of Divine Angel, used presently, and before, also of any other signification.
(26) Josephus here calls Ismael a young child or infant, though he was about 13 years of age; as Judas calls himself and his brethren young men, when he was 47, and had two children, Antiq. B. II. Ch. 6. Sect. 8, and they were of much the same age; as is a damsel of 12 years old called a little child, Mark 5:39-42, five several times. Herod is also said by Josephus to be a very young man at 25. See the note on Antiq. B. XIV. Ch. 9. Sect. 2, and of the War, B. I. Ch. 10. And Aristobulus is styled a very little child at 16 years of age, Antiq. B. XV. Ch. 2. Sect. 6, 7. Domitian also is called by him a very young child, when he went on his German expedition at about 18 years of age, of the War, B. VII. Ch. 4. Sect. 2. Samson's wife, and Ruth, when they were widows, are called children, Antiq. B. V. Ch. 8. Sect. 6, and Ch. 9. Sect. 2 3.