I will make your name great, and you shall be a blessing and all the families of the earth will be blessed through you.
- Genesis 12:2-3
Zack and Mel were half brothers - one father, two mothers - but they werent especially brotherly. Zack spent his childhood with both parents, in comfortable surroundings. Mel lived with both parents, too, until discord filled their home and the mother left comfort behind to eke out a meager, nomadic life with her young son. The father loved both sons. The mothers didnt love each other.
The father was a devout man who worshipped only one God, unusual in a land where most of his countrymen honored multiple deities depicted in nature and stone. Stranger still, the fathers God talked to him, predicted his future, and promised divine blessings on him and his sons. The latter blessings, though lavish to both, would not be identical. Mels descendents would include 12 princes and spawn a great nation. Zacks heirs would become a great nation, too, but through them all the nations of the earth would be blessed.
Did it happen? Did the brothers continue their fathers spiritual legacy along with the biological one? Sort of, for a time.
Generations passed, the nations grew, and the discord reappeared. Zacks people, it seemed, remained closer to the God - at least periodically, one or two generations at a time. Then the fervor would fade, until one of the heirs discovered some remembrance of the God, and their hearts were stirred to revere him again.
When the Zack line faltered, the Mel line often rose up militarily and conquered their distant cousins. But when the Zack line returned to the God, they were as strong in their defense as they were in spirit. As the generations continued, life for both groups became increasingly unstable.
After many centuries there arose a king from Zacks line through whom the God again said all the nations of the earth would be blessed. But not all Zackians believed the God, and the line split in two. Each side answered to a different name, and developed different ways to worship the God.
Meanwhile a prophet appeared from Mels line with a message he said was superior to that of the Zackian king. But when the prophets message couldnt conquer Zackian minds, he and all the Melians grew angry. The Zackians were angry, too, and defensive, and wars with consequences that continue to this day broke out in many of those nations of the earth the God wanted to bless.
Today, the descendents of all three groups continue to claim the father of Zack and Mel, and the God who promised to bless them, as their own. The family tree, strong in the planting, has weakened in the growing.
Even those with limited knowledge of the Bible and world events will recognize this story as an allegory of the origin of the worlds three largest religions: Christians, Muslims and Jews.
All three claim the patriarch Abraham as their father, one of his sons, Isaac or Ishmael, as their ancestor, and Jehovah/Allah as their God. Isaac, the second son, was the father of the Jews and also, following the birth of (the king) Jesus, the Christians; and Ishmael, through whom the prophet Mohammed was born, was the father of Islam and its followers, the Muslim people.
For a deeper understanding of the differences between these three faiths, I strongly recommend Bruce Feilers recent book, Abraham.
To review the Biblical portion of this story, read Genesis 12-21.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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