After God inaugurates the election of Israel with Abram’s call (Gen 12:1-3), the Lord continues the chosen line through Isaac (Gen 21:1-3), saying, “Through Isaac your offspring shall be named” (21:12). After Sarah gives birth to her son, God tests Abraham by asking him to sacrifice Isaac—an event known in Jewish tradition as the Aqedah, or “binding” of Isaac (Gen 22:1-19). Ultimately, God saves Isaac from Abraham’s knife in order to carry on the chosen lineage of Israel. Yet, such divine salvation is not limited to the elect Isaac; just one chapter before the Aqedah, Genesis anticipates the protection of Isaac when God saves Ishmael in much the same way.
Genesis 22 describes the elect Isaac’s salvation thusly: “The angel of the Lord (מלאך יהוה; malakh Hashem) called (קרא; qara) to [Abraham] from the heavens (מן השׁמים; min ha’shamayim) and said… ‘Do not lay your hand (יד; yad) on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing that your have not withheld your son, your favored one, from me.’ And Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw (עניו וירא; enav va’yar’), and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in the thicket by his horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.” (22:11-14)
Genesis 21 uses the same language to describe the non-elect Ishmael’s salvation. As Hagar weeps beside her child because she has run out of water in the wilderness, “God heard the boy’s voice, and the angel of God (מלאך אלהים; malakh Elohim) called (קרא; qara) to Hagar from the heavens (מן השׁמים; min ha’shamayim) and said to her, ‘What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not… lift up the boy and hold on to him with your hand (יד; yad), for I will make him into a great nation.’ Then God opened her eyes and she saw (עיניה ותרא; eneha va’tere’) a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink” (21:17-19).
Just as God sends an “angel from heaven” who causes Abraham to “lift up his eyes” and see a ram that he can use to save his son, the Lord also sends an “angel from heaven” who causes Hagar to “open her eyes” and see a well that saves her son. This shows us that, while Ishmael is not “chosen” in the same way as Isaac, both the “elect” (Isaac) and the “non-elect” (Ishmael) receive the same salvific grace from the God of Israel.
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