West Wing Continuity Guide
path: Home / Third Season Episodes / * "Isaac and Ishmael"
What is the story of Isaac and Ishmael?
By tradition, of course, Isaac's descendents became the Jews and Ishmael's became the Arabs (one of Ishmael's descendents, mentioned in Genesis, is an ancestor of The Prophet Mohammed. Therefore, each people have their own account of the story of who did what to whom.

The Genesis version of this story is not the only version of it. The Koran (Qur'an) has another version with a different emphasis and Islamic Commentaries expand on the story and suggest that Genesis got it wrong.

We are not Biblical nor Islamic scholars and our research is ongoing so these pages my change, but we thought we might be able to come up with a summary of the various information we could find which might give our viewers some places to start if they wished to further investigate the various approaches to this story.

Time Line as told in Genesis
  1. Abraham has been told by God that he will father many nations
  2. His wife,Sarah, knowing she is past the age of child bearing, tries to help Abraham by allowing Abraham to have a child by her handmaid that he might fulfill God's promise.
  3. But Sarah gets jealous when Hagar (the Egyptian handmaid) conceives and Sarah beats her and Hagar runs away.
  4. God tells Hagar to go back because the child she carries will be the father of a great nation.
  5. Ishmael is born.
  6. When Ishmael is 13 God tells Abraham to circumcise himself and his people as a token of the Covenent God has made with him.
  7. God tells Sarah and Abraham that they will have a son together.
  8. Isaac is born and he is circumcised when he is eight days old thus showing that he wasn't around when Ishmael and the others were circumcised when Ishmael was 13.
  9. After Isaac is weaned, Ishmael and his mother are sent away.
  10. God intervenes to save Ishmael and his mother (though the child spoken of in these passages seems to be less than 13 (Hagar seems to be able to lift and maybe even carry him) even though he must by now be almost 16 or so).
  11. God calls on Abraham to sacrifice Isaac who God calls Abraham's "only son".
  12. When Abraham dies, he is buried by both Isaac and Ishmael. He leaves everything he owns to Isaac, with a few gifts for his later children (he had remarried after Sarah died) though no mention of leaving anything specific to Ishmael.

Time Line of the story as told in the Koran (Qur'an) and the Islamic Commentaries:
  1. Before Ismael is weaned, Abraham takes the child and his mother to Mecca and leaves them there assuming that God (Allah) would take care of them.
  2. Abraham has a dream that tells him to sacrifice his only son, but before he can do so, God stops him.
  3. Later Abraham takes various trips back to Mecca to find out how Ishmael is doing and he builds, with Ismael's help, a "House a pilgrimage for men" devoted to Allah.

One of the differences between Genesis and the Koran (Qur'an) concerns just which son was to be sacrificed. The Koran (Qur'an) never names the son. The Islamic Commentaries on the passages, however, suggest that the only time God could have talked about Abraham's "only son" was before the birth of Isaac when Ishmael was Abraham's only son. Isaac, on the other hand, was never Abraham's only son.

The other side argues that Isaac was Abraham's only "legitimate" son (Ishmael, however, was certainly an "acknowledged" son) and that Abraham at this point doesn't even know whether Ishmael is alive or not (since he had sent the boy and his mother off with just a loaf of bread and a skin of water); but God knows that Ishmael is still alive and it is God who is talking about Abraham's "only son".

When Ishmael and his mother were sent away is also entirely different. The Genesis passages suggest that Ishmael was a very young child even though he was, also according to Genesis, 13 before Isaac was born and that Ishmael wasn't sent away until after Isaac was born.

A problem with the way the story is told in Islam is that Abraham asks, and God promises, that his descendents will not fall back into being idol worshipers. And yet the Arabs don't become monotheistic until more than a thousand years later.

28 Amendment
Don't miss Neal Rechtman's election thriller The 28th Amendment in which an actor
who portrays a fictional US President on television gets drawn into real-world politics
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