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rest and to refresh herself, at a fountain in the wilderness. Here an angel of the Lord appeared to her, asking, whence she had come and whither she was bound ? She answered in all the bitterness of her spirit, 'I flee from my mistress Sarai.' Then the angel of the Lord bade her return again to her mistress and humble herself before her. But Hagar must indeed have rejoiced at the promise then conveyed to her by the words of the Lord ; for the angel continued : I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. Behold, thou wilt bear a son, and thou shalt call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has heard thy affliction; and he will be a wild ass of a man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him ; and he shall dwell before all his brethren’-the true and pithy description of the Bedouin, bold, lawless, undaunted, and free. Full of amazement at this strange but glorious prophecy, Hagar called the name of the well Beer-lahairoi, that is, the well where she had seen the Divine presence and yet lived. She returned forthwith to Mamre, where her child was born. Abram, then eighty-six years old, in his joy and gratitude, called the child Ishmael, or . God has heard me.'

In due time all that the angel foretold of Ishmael's descendants was realised : the Arabs have indeed been, as they still are, comparable only to the zebra of the deserts which they inhabit. • Against them alone time seems to have no sickle, and the conqueror's sword no edge. They have defied the softening influence of civilisation, and mocked the attacks of the invader. Ungovernable and roaming, obeying no law but their spirit of adventure, regarding all mankind as their enemies, whom they must either attack with their spears or elude with their faithful steeds, and cherishing their deserts as heartily as they despise the constraint of towns and communities, the Be

douins are the outlaws among the nations. Plunder is legitimate gain, and daring robbery is praised as valour. Liberty is the element which the Arabs breathe ; and if they were thrown into servitude, they would either break the yoke or perish in the attempt. They cannot indeed be better compared than with a wild ass. ...

... They may be hunted like game, but they cannot be caught; their wants are few, they neither covet wealth, nor tempt the conqueror's avarice; and the waste tracts shunned by other nations are their terrestrial paradise. “In the desert everybody is everybody's enemy," is among thema proverbial saying; and they express, therefore, only in other words, the sense of our text: “ His hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him.” Their love of liberty is frequently carried to the utmost pitch of unbridled ferocity; they seek danger for its own sake; they delight in the excitement of combat and pursuit; and even among themselves sanguinary feuds are often carried on during centuries ; the fearful custom of avenging of blood has a decided influence upon their characters; it renders them suspicious and vindictive; it teaches them cunning and treachery; and the cruelty and bloodthirstiness which it engenders, arm friend against friend, and relative against relative. Thus the prediction of our text has also its sad application: the Bedouin's hand is uplifted not only against the unwary pilgrim who happens to traverse his deserts, but against the descendants of his own tribes, and against those who speak his own tongue.''

Abram was being constantly comforted and strengthened by Divine revelation ; few of his descendants were frequently favoured with visions, were so incessantly reminded of the fulfilment of the Divine promises. He had no outward symbols of faith. No holy Temple, no

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· Kalisch, Commentary on Genesis, pp. 378, 379.

sacred Ark, no regular worship or sacrifice were there to attest the presence of God; but the spirit of the Lord dwelt among the oak-groves of Mamre.

When Abram had attained the age of ninety-nine years, the Lord appeared to him again, repeating the assurance He had so often given him before. But no longer satisfied with a passive faith, since He intended to conclude a covenant with the patriarch, He exhorted him at the same time to walk before God and be perfect.' Abram, awed by the Divine presence, fell upon his face, and God spoke to him, saying, "As for Me, behold My covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of a multitude of nations, and thy name shall no more be Abram, but Abraham, for a father of a multitude of nations I have made thee.'

The name “Abram,' meaning only great father, was altered into - Abraham,' father of a numerous progenya change which implied that the appointed time was drawing near, when God's promises were to find their earliest fulfilment. To strengthen the covenant between the Lord and Abraham, the rite of circumcision was commanded as a Divine law.

Sarai now received for the first time the direct blessing of God; hitherto she had been called Sarai, 'the struggling woman;' but henceforth she should be known by the noble and proud name of Sarah,' Queen: 'I shall bless her,' said God, and she shall be a mother of nations ; kings of people shall be of her.'

But Abraham marvelled at the promise and doubted. He could not believe in that child of his old age, and he tremblingly said to God : O that Ishmael might live before Thee!' But God mercifully repeated His promise: Indeed, Sarah thy wife will bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant with his seed

after him. And remembering Abraham's plaintive cry, the Lord said: “And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee; behold, I have blessed him, and I shall make him fruitful and shall multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I shall make him a great nation.'

But the glory of transmitting the name of the true God from generation to generation was to be the blessed inheritance of Isaac, the child whom Sarah should bear in the ensuing year.

10. THE DESTRUCTION OF SODOM AND

GOMORRAH.

[GENES. XVIII.-XX.] Abraham was sitting at the door of his tent in the heat of the day, when he saw three men approaching. Rejoiced to find an opportunity for exercising the duties of hospitality, he welcomed the strangers cordially. He pressed them not to pass his tent, but to rest beneath the shade of the trees, whilst he fetched water to wash their feet, and bread for refreshment. No servant was to assist in preparing the strangers' meal, but Sarah herself, the wife of the great emir, baked the cakes of fine flour, while Abraham hastened to the herd, choosing a young and tender calf, which was made ready without delay. Cream and milk were added to the repast, of which the guests partook in the presence of Abraham.

The strangers were messengers of God sent to repeat the old promise, but with greater distinctness : “I shall surely come again to thee at the return of this season : and behold, Sarah thy wife will have a son.' Sarah had meanwhile stayed in the tent, where unseen she heard the angel's words. She laughed within herself at the promise; she had but little faith in the Divine power. But the voice

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of God reproved her for this lack of confidence: Why did Sarah laugh? Is anything too difficult for the Lord?' Sarah, ashamed and afraid, stammered forth a denial, • I did not laugh, whereupon God said, “Nay, thou didst laugh.

The heavenly messengers then rose and went in the direction of Sodom. As a mark of courtesy towards his parting guests, Abraham accompanied them on their way. Since the battle of the eastern kings, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah had grown in wickedness so exceedingly, that God had decreed their immediate destruction. He communicated this intention to Abraham, His faithful servant. The patriarch heard the announcement with grief and dismay; and impelled by his spirit of justice and mercy, he made this request to the Lord: "Perhaps there are fifty righteous men within the city, wilt Thou destroy and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty? That be far from Thee to do in this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked :... shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?' And the Lord said : “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous man, I shall spare all the place for their sake.' But this was not enough for Abraham : might not the wickedness be even greater than he had imagined ? Perhaps there were no more than forty-five good men in Sodom; no more than forty, or thirty, or twenty, or even ten? God listened graciously to each fervent supplication of the patriarch, and granted it: He readily accepted the prayer coming from a pure and faithful heart. The city of Sodom should not be destroyed if it contained but ten righteous men.

Two of the angels who had visited Abraham's tent at noon, came to Sodom in the evening. Lot was sitting in the gates of the city. Just as the Forum of Rome, or the market-place of the mediæval towns, was the general resort for old and young, as the village green is even now

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