I was involved in a conversation with two people who read my book, Men Djinn & Angels, and the question arose regarding my personal belief in the Abraham child sacrifice.  In my book, I seemed to lean to the idea that Ishmael was the child of sacrifice and not Isaac.  It may be difficult for many of us in the western hemisphere to accept, but the majority of the world leans the same way.  I don’t claim to know the answers, but there seems to be more weight on the Ishmael point of view than the latter.  Here are some reasons that I shared with them.

One of the first things I consider is that the accounts described in the Biblical text are not all in chronological order.  Let’s just say for the sake of continuity, Genesis chapter 21 describes a moment when Isaac was born and later weened.  There was a big party for the successful weening and then Sarah, the mother, becomes concerned that Abraham’s first born, Ishmael, the rightful heir to Abraham’s wealth would be given what he deserved.  In fact, as it is described in the Biblical text, Sarah was so selfish that she wanted it all for her son.  She was not at all so inclined to suggest a 90% to 10% split between the two.  She wanted everything for her son, so she demanded that Abraham discard his child.  In Chapter 22, we have the sacrifice where the script claims that Abraham, through divine command, was told to offer his only son, Isaac, as a burnt offering.  The continuity is obviously flawed.  There was no point ever where Isaac was the only son.  Considering this, I become suspicious of text tampering.

 

Another suspicion I have comes from the nature and concept of sacrifice. For one to make a sacrifice in Biblical times, one had to part with the thing that he loved or needed the most.  An example is when sacrifices were made, the owner needed to sacrifice his best goat or lamb – the one with no flaws. In this sense, the eldest son, in those times, was held in very high regard and would have been a more acceptable sacrifice that kept in line with tradition.  Not to say that it would not be heart wrenching for a parent to sacrifice any of his children, but in the character of sacrifice, it would have been more of a show of faith for Abraham to sacrifice his first born before a second was born. If we assumed the order of events as listed in Geneses is correct, I believe that Abraham would have seen the sacrifice of Isaac a punishment rather than a service – a punishment for sending his young son and the mother into the wild with little food and water.   Especially for the selfishness and inhumane reasons for the dismissal.  It does not seem divine that a person, Sarah in this case, would be rewarded with a son who deserved the blessings of Abraham’s faith and wealth when she exemplified the vices that the religion should discourage.  When I think about it, I ask myself, what virtues are we to learn from Sarah’s actions?  Additionally, when it comes to virtue, the Biblical account paints a picture of Abraham in a less than virtuous light when he is not honest with his son.  When “Isaac” ask his father regarding the lamb for the sacrifice, Abraham did not say that the sacrifice is you, my son.  Instead, he says that the lamb would be provided.  Some would say that he spoke out of faith and thus deserved the title Father of faith, whereas others may see this as a second character flaw, the first being to leave his firstborn child, fatherless.

 

When it comes to research, we are taught to question the authority of the sources that we use to make our conclusions.  In this, it is difficult to say that there is a credible source of Abraham’s existence, or his other sons.  That being said, when I look at the sources, I know that the sources claiming Isaac was the sacrificial son comes from the Jewish ideology.  It was allegedly written by Moses at a time when he needed to unify the different sects of Israeli faithful.  Keep in mind that Jacob (Israel) had over 70 children, only 12 of those and their families left the desert life to live in Egypt where they were subsequently taken into bondage.  The other 50 plus families remained outside of Egypt making two separate groups with various ideologies and cultures.  Being that Moses is the one credited with writing the Book of Genesis, he had only one commonality between the free Israelis and those who came from Egypt.  That was the common belief in Abraham.  It is likely, that Moses or whoever wrote the Book of Genesis altered some details to create unity between the two sections. Again, being that our most common source of information comes from just one of the lines from those many families, it seems opportune to have Isaac, not Ishmael be the sacrificial son.  For me, the source of information lacks credibility.  Whereas in the Arab world, even before Islam, the influence of Ishmael and Abraham’s relationship is paramount.

In the Arab world, there is the Kaaba, a cube like structure that was and is believed to have been originally structured by Abraham and Ishmael.  It has always played a vital roll in Arab tradition.  Before Islam, it was a place believed to hold such spiritual importance that the Arab tribes felt it important to have their idols housed there. It was believed by them that if they left their idols in the Kaaba, their gods would send blessings on them.  As a result, the Quraysh tribe who maintained the Kaaba charged the other tribes rent fees.  After Muslims were victorious over the polytheist tribes, the Kaaba was cleansed and placed as a cornerstone in the religious practices.  In this, I see that while the Arabs had veered away from Abraham’s theology, they retained the value of his relationship with Ishmael, even until this day where Abraham’s sacrifice is commemorated with a holiday celebration where the first-born sons are celebrated.  Additionally, as Abraham is depicted in the Islamic traditions, the sacrifice has more purity than the Biblical depiction.  In the Islamic tradition, Abraham is depicted as an honest man who is open and transparent with his son who is trusting and equally faithful.  The reward of a lamb in his place seems more inline with the values the lesson should teach.  In this, Ishmael and Abraham are rewarded for their good and faithful deeds, not for the selfishness, and hidden agendas depicted in the Biblical tradition.

Shortly after my college days, I developed a series of questions that I would present to women I met who interested me enough to make me want to know more about them than how well they performed on the dance floor.  Not to take anything away from the dance floor.  One should not underestimate what can be discovered on the dance floor.  Neither should one understate the difficulty in the cold sales pitch needed to get a complete stranger isolated in a crowd of moving bodies.  When on those occasional times I was successful, the next challenge was to leave the dance floor with the girl, luring her away from her friends’ assuming eyes.  Finally, away from the dance floor, somewhat able to hear each other’s words over the music, I would ask at some point in the conversation what color dress she would like, if I was to buy her any dress that she’d ever want.  It was my way of asking “What is your favorite color” and not sound like a goof.   Furthermore, when I juxtaposed her answer to the clothes she wore at that time, I gained a little insight on her psyche.  This was good for me in my attempt to level the playing field.  You see, the guy already plays his hand when he asks the lady to dance.  Now, she already knows he’s in to her.  He doesn’t know, however, that she’s in to him.  Yeah she may be curious; she may even like something about him, but he never knows for sure what it is.  She could be out for a free drink – he’ll never know, so the guy has to find a way of leveling the playing field.

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At this moment in my life, I understood how to get from people information that was not necessarily volunteered.  I understood the power of symbolism.  I learned that the colors a person wore more frequently had connections to their personality, securities or insecurities.  It would be an over simplification to say that most people who often dress with bright, flamboyant colors are seeking attention or hiding their insecurities.  But there is some degree of truth to such assumptions.  Despite the amount of research in this matter, little information has been disseminated on the effects that colors have on the human psyche.  Jill Morton is an instructor for Color Matters, which is an online class with a full curriculum.  In her courses, she teaches how colors have profound effects on the human mind and behavior; additionally, she shows that colors embody messages that often sway thinking and influence emotional reactions.

To go a little further, after a day or two, I would ask a lady to make an animal symbol to represent me.   Then I would ask that she did the same for herself.  From her answer I would infer her expectations in a relationship.  If she described me as a lion and described herself as a rabbit, I inferred that she wished for a secure, somewhat aggressive, and almost imposing man in her relationship – not forceful, gentle at times but in no way a pushover, still sensitive enough to stroke her ego and enjoy intimate and meaningful moments.  In some cases, I turned, ran and never looked back.  The point is that I understood that if a pitcher is worth a thousand words, a symbol is worth a hundred more.

I use symbols in my writing, quiet a bit.  I like to play with the conspiracy theorist who find Illuminati symbolism in everything.  The truth is that if Rihanna makes a hand symbol in a music video, it will have no effect on the viewer unless the symbol’s meaning is interpreted in the way it was intended.   Cultural ideas and definitions are what makes cultural symbols work.  Remember the scene in DaVinci Code when Robert Langdon made his presentation and revealed that the priest in Spain use the same symbol as the Ku Klux Klan?  The symbols of the hooded robes had one meaning in Spain and a different almost opposite meaning in America. He did the same thing with the Poseidon’s trident when the crowd assumed it was the devil’s pitch fork.

This is not to disqualify symbolism.  Psychologists know that symbols have very effective uses that can hold complex ideas and beliefs.  In 1935, using symbolism, Carl Jung developed the Active Imagination technique to treat patients.  This technique parented others like autogenic Therapy and guided affective imagery to help treat patience.  Along with psychologists, Wiccans understand that symbols hold various transferable energies.  In Men Djinn & Angels – Awakening, there is a scene where Charles takes letters from the Angelic Alphabet to create a symbol, and using a Wiccan technique, he heals his sick aunt.  In this technique, the spell is activated when the image is burned or destroyed (with the proper type of mental, spiritual, and physical energy).

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The use of symbols by characters and in narration or plot line can be a fun way to tell a story.  I believe it also provides depth to characters and plot by giving an extra layer that could inspire higher level thinking.  When I write, I often try to convey a message as well as tell an entertaining story.  Sometimes the names of my characters are used as symbols.  This was a technique I picked up from To Kill A Mockingbird.  Nathanial Hawthorn and Edger Allen Poe were writers who influenced me to use symbolism in my writing and now I enjoy doing so.  In Men Djinn & Angels – Awakening, Talib’s name is an example of name symbolism.  The two ships that sale over the waters dividing continents are symbolic, and Charles’ trip to England with his Grandfather is symbolic as well.

With all this being said, I believe that symbols can be powerful tools.  As far as the conspiracy theories of mass hypnoses, I think there is some truth to them, however exaggerated they may be.  I often laugh about a YouTube video I saw a couple of years ago where some guy elaborately uses the “clues” from a Kanye West No Church In the Wild video to prove how Obama and Prince William will lead the US to war against Russia.  I think it is safe to say he was wrong.  But if you are a writer, I encourage you to use symbolism.  If you read many books, look for the use of symbolism and you will get much more from your reading experience.