This blog is reading the book of Genesis and the Gospel of Mark in tandem. The headline is there to remind me of the world.
IRAN FOREIGN MINISTER DENOUNCES REPUBLICAN WARMONGERING
25 (vi) Avraham took another wife, whose name was K’turah. 2 She bore him Zimran, Yokshan, Medan, Midyan, Yishbak; and Shuach. 3 Yokshan fathered Sh’va and D’dan. The sons of D’dan were Ashurim, L’tushim and L’umim. 4 The sons of Midyan were ‘Eifah, ‘Efer, Hanokh, Avida and Elda‘ah. All these were descendants of K’turah.
5 Avraham gave everything he owned to Yitz’chak. 6 But to the sons of the concubines he made grants while he was still living and sent them off to the east, to the land of Kedem, away from Yitz’chak his son.
7 This is how long Avraham lived: 175 years. 8 Then Avraham breathed his last, dying at a ripe old age, an old man full of years; and he was gathered to his people. 9 Yitz’chak and Yishma‘el his sons buried him in the cave of Makhpelah, in the field of ‘Efron the son of Tzochar the Hitti, by Mamre, 10 the field which Avraham purchased from the sons of Het. Avraham was buried there with Sarah his wife.
11 After Avraham died, God blessed Yitz’chak his son, and Yitz’chak lived near Be’er-Lachai-Ro’i.
(vii) 12 Here is the genealogy of Yishma‘el, Avraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian woman bore to Avraham. 13 These are the names of the sons of Yishma‘el, listed in the order of their birth. The firstbo. rn of Yishma‘el was N’vayot; followed by Kedar, Adbe’el, Mivsam, 14 Mishma, Dumah, Massa, 15 Hadad, Teima, Y’tur, Nafish and Kedmah. (Maftir) 16 These are the sons of Yishma‘el, and these are their names, according to their settlements and camps, twelve tribal rulers.
17 This is how long Yishma‘el lived: 137 years. Then he breathed his last, died and was gathered to his people.
18 Yishma‘el’s sons lived between Havilah and Shur, near Egypt as you go toward Ashur; he settled near all his kinsmen.
After the focus on the true line of descent from Avraham, that is, via Yitzhak and his new wife Rivka, the narrator tidies things up by giving some detail of those born on the wrong side of the bed. Indeed it’s a bit of a surprise that Avraham whose begetting of Yitzhak was considered miraculous for a man of his age, should have taken a new wife after the death of Sara and fathered a whole new brood of children. These however are not considered children of the promise and are provided for during Avraham’s lifetime rather than after his death when his whole estate goes to Yitzhak. They, like the descendants of Yishmael, are given respect as part of the wider family of Avraham but are removed from the ongoing history of YHWH’s partnership with Yitzhak and his children.
The old wanderer is given a peaceful death and is buried in the cave he purchased as a family burial place at Makhpelah, within the land that God had promised to his descendants. After all his vision and faithfulness, Avraham only possesses a tomb in the land of promise, and even that is in Hittite territory. Again it’s worth noting the absence of the classic Israeli aggression towards the Canaanite tribes whose land they claim as their own. The patriarchs find the way of God, quietly, alongside other people, rather than against them.
46 And they come to Jericho, and as he was going out from Jericho, and his disciples and a large crowd, the son of Timaeus, Bartimaeus, the blind man, sat by the wayside begging.
47 And having heard that it was Jesus the Nazaraean, he began to cry out and to say, O Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me.
48 And many rebuked him, that he might be silent; but he cried so much the more, Son of David, have mercy on me.
49 And Jesus, standing still, desired him to be called. And they call the blind man saying to him. , Be of good courage, rise up, he calls you.
50 And, throwing away his garment, he started up and came to Jesus.
51 And Jesus answering says to him, What do you want that I should do for you. And the blind mn said to him, Rabboni, that I may see.
52 And Jesus said to him, Go, your faith has healed thee. And he saw immediately, and followed him in the way.
At the end of chapter showing the blindness of the disciples to Jesus’ Way, Mark gives us a blind man who sees with surprising clarity. He hails Jesus as “son of David” meaning Messiah, he responds with alacrity to Jesus’ “call”, and he asks for the gift of sight. He is you and me and all the world in our better moments when we realise the extent of our blindness and trust that Jesus can open our eyes. Mark has used the disciples of Jesus to show us all in our worse moments when our self importance and desire for status blinds us to the way that Jesus is going and invites us to go.
The image of the “way” becomes more and more clearly defined by Mark as he tells the story of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. It is a journey into darkness and it often seems that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Nobody reading Mark could imagine that salvation is an instant conversion: it comes from trying and failing to walk with Jesus on the way of the cross.
In this regard the witness of those who have walked further with Jesus on that road is valuable. The black slaves in the USA knew the daily burden of the cross, and understood well their need to perceive the true way:
Blin’ man stood on the road an’ cried
Blin’ man stood on the road an’ cried
Cryin’ O Lord, show me the way
Blin’ man stood on the road an’ cried.
Their white oppressors had more need of enlightenment than they did, but they knew their own need and sang about that.