Of Noble Character (Background)

I am not an overly religious person. What I mean by that is that I don’t proselytize, do things that validate hostility against other classes or races of people, nor engage in isms of any sort. I do not ask my Facebook friends to copy and paste religious posts back and forth or even go to church; in fact, I have a very low tolerance for most things religious. That said, I believe in a power greater than myself, and for me, that power is God.

Irrespective of my assertion of not being religious, one thing that I do is read my Bible. While not an everyday ritual, it is a stronghold of my faith, and at least one of the three Bibles I possess remains on my nightstand right next to my bed, ready to be picked up and read as needed. I identify as Christian and have been baptized twice, once as African Methodist Episcopalian and later as Presbyterian; still, I am partial to Old Testament Bible stories, and as soon as I get to the book of Malachi that speaks to how God will provide us with the distinction between the “righteous and the wicked,” I tend to return to Genesis and start over.

After years of this, I had not expected to read or, should I say, understand anything different, except one day, I did. It has to do with a story in Genesis where Abraham, at God’s request, takes his son Isaac to the mountain to be sacrificed. So let me paraphrase what happened, and I ask those nonbelievers still reading to bear with me to understand how I came to write Of Noble Character.

The Story of Abraham and Sarah

Abraham was a man who loved God, and God, in turn, loved him; in Isaiah 41:8, God speaks to Israel, calling them “descendants of Abraham, my friend.” Although his wife Sarah was barren and past the age of childbearing, God tells him that he will have a son and be the father of many nations. Upon telling Sarah of God’s plan, Sarah, not the one of great faith, scoffs at the notion. Taking matters into her own hands (funny how we dare to think God needs our help), she demands that her maidservant, Hagar, sleep with Abraham with the hopes of ensuring Abraham has a son. The plan works, and Hagar gives birth to Ishmael, causing results Sarah had not thought through.

Thirteen years after Ishmael’s birth, and at age ninety, Sarah conceives and gives birth to Isaac; Abraham is one hundred.

Think about how overjoyed Sarah must have been and try to think of how you would have felt if your husband then announced he was taking your long-awaited child to a mountain to be sacrificed because God instructed him to do so; well, that’s what happened. “Early the next morning, Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. After cutting enough wood for the sacrifice, he takes two of his servants and, along with Isaac, sets out for the place where God instructed him. On the third day, he found the place and telling his servants to wait, he took Isaac up the mountain.” The Bible does not tell us how old Isaac was, but the inference is that he had to be old enough to carry wood up a mountain; more importantly, the fact he questioned his father, he was old enough to have some understanding of what was required for an appropriate sacrifice. “The fire and wood are here, Father, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”  

Abraham built the altar, arranged the wood, and bound his son on top. Then, taking his knife, he was prepared to slay his only son when the Bible says, “An Angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven,” instructing him not to touch the boy.” Perhaps this is where some of you have heard about a ram caught in the thicket sacrificed in place of Isaac as God blessed Abraham for his obedience.

How often had I read this passage, and why did I read something on that day that I had not seen so many times before? Something that caused me to sit up straight and closely review what came next. When Abraham and Isaac returned from the mountain to the waiting servants, they set off together for home in Beersheba. “And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.”

In the next chapter, we read that Sarah lived to be one hundred and twenty-seven. She died in Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and “Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and weep over her. Rising from beside his dead wife, Abraham spoke to the Hittites, asking them to sell him some property to bury her.”

How did Sarah get to Hebron? What would cause her to leave her husband? This would have been an unheard-of occurrence at the time.

The realization that Sarah would leave Abraham was astounding to me. For starters, life at the time was deeply patriarchal. Wealthy women, as Sarah undoubtedly was, may have had an easier time; nevertheless, without a husband, there would be no social or civil protection for them. Hebron was thirty miles away from Beersheba, a distance that would have taken Abraham two weeks to travel by camel. As I mentioned previously, it is essential to note that Sarah was not the one with the unyielding faith. Assuming Abraham shared his plan to sacrifice Isaac, she would have had little to say about the decision. Never expecting to see her son again and unable to bear that pain, it is my opinion that she left Abraham. We know that Sarah lived in Hebron, without Abraham, for three decades before she died. More interestingly, in the Christian Bible, there is no mention of her beloved son, Isaac, attending her funeral.

Some Biblical scholars might have a better explanation, but I now began to imagine how the whole story could have played out in modern times. As the events of Abraham and Sarah unfolded, the characters Syd and Jay Adler developed, and Of Noble Character was born.

Nobility- 1. the quality of being noble in character, mind, birth, or rank. 2. a group of people belonging to a noble class in a country, especially those with heredity or honor. (New Oxford American Dictionary)

Of Noble Character is available at amazon.com Of Noble Character: Second Edition – Kindle edition by Swayze, Carolyne. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.