Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Vol. 1: Comments on
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus,
Copyright © 1895. All Rights Reserved.
1. And the lord visited Sarah as he had said.
2. For Sarah bare Abraham a son in his old age.
3. And Abraham called the name of his son whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac.
5. And Abraham was a hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him.
6. ¶ And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.
9. ¶ And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had home unto Abraham, mocking.
10. Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.
11. And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight.
12. ¶ And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.
13. And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed.
14. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away; and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.
15. And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs.
16. And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off: for she said, let me not see the death of the child. And she lifted up her voice, and wept.
17. And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not, for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is.
18. Arise, lift up the lad, and bold him in thine hand: for I will make him a great nation.
19. And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water: and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.
20. And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer.
21. And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt.
ELIZABETH CADY STANTON
THE great event of Isaac's birth having taken place, Sarah is represented through several chapters as laughing, even in the presence of angels, not only in the anticipation of motherhood, but in its realization. She evidently forgot that maternity was intended as a curse on all Eve's daughters, for the sin of the first woman, and all merry-making on such occasions was unpardonable. Some philosophers consider the most exalted of all forms of love to be that of a mother for her children. But this divine awakening of a new affection does not seem to have softened Sarah's heart towards her unfortunate slave Hagar. And so far from Sarah's desire being to her husband, and Abraham dominating her, he seemed to be under her control, as the Lord told him "to hearken to her voice, and to obey her command." In so doing he drives Hagar out of his house.
In this scene Abraham does not appear in a very attractive light, rising early in the morning, and sending his child and its mother forth into the wilderness, with a breakfast of bread and water, to care for themselves. Why did he not provide them with a servant, an ass laden with provisions, and a tent to shelter them from the elements, or better still, some abiding, resting place. Common humanity demanded this much attention to his own son and the woman who bore him. But the worst feature in this drama is that it seems to have been done with Jehovah's approval.
Does any one seriously believe that the great spirit of all good talked with these Jews, and really said the extraordinary things they report? It was, however, a very cunning way for the Patriarchs to enforce their own authority, to do whatever they desired, and say the Lord commanded them to do and say thus and so. Many pulpits even in our day enforce their lessons of subjection for woman with the same authority, "Thus saith the Lord," "Thou shalt," and "Thou shall not."
E. C. S.
ELIZABETH CADY STANTON
1. And Sarah was a hundred and seven and twenty years old.
2. And Sarah died in Kirjath-arba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.
3. ¶ And Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spake unto the sons of Heth, saying,
4. I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a burying place with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.
5. And the children of Heth answered Abraham, saying unto him.
6. Hear us, my lord: thou art a mighty prince among us: in the choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead; none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulchre.
7. And Abraham stood up, and bowed himself to the people of the land.
8. And he communed with them, saying, If it be your mind that I should bury my dead out of my sight, hear me, and entreat Ephron the son of Zohar.
9. That he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he hath, which is in the end of his field; for as much money as it is worth.
14. And Ephron answered Abraham, saying unto him.
15. My lord, hearken unto me: the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver; what is that betwixt me and thee? bury therefore thy dead.
16. And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant.
19. And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre.
20. And the field, and the cave that is therein, were made sure unto Abraham for a burying place by the sons of Heth.
ELIZABETH CADY STANTON
It is seldom that the age and death of any woman, are recorded by the sacred historian, but Sarah seems to have been specially honored, not only in the mention of her demise and ripe years, but in the tender manifestations of grief by Abraham, and his painstaking selection of her burial place. That Abraham paid for all this in silver, "current money with the merchant," might suggest to the financiers of our day that our commercial relations might be adjusted with the same coin, especially as we have plenty of it.
If our bimetallists in the halls of legislation were conversant with sacred history, they might get fresh inspiration from the views of the Patriarchs on good money.
Some critics tell us that there was no coined money at that time; the Israelites had no written language, no commerce with neighboring tribes, and that they could neither read nor write.
Whilst we drop a tear at the tomb of Sarah, we cannot recommend her as an example to the young women of our day, as she lacked several of the cardinal virtues. She was undignified, untruthful, and unkind to Hagar. But our moral standard differs from that of the period in which she lived, as our ideas of right and wrong are not innate, but depend on education. Sarah probably lived up to the light that was in her.
E. C. S.
ELIZABETH CADY STANTON
CLARA BEWICK COLBY
The cruelty and injustice of Abraham and Sarah, as commented on by Mrs. Stanton, doubtless stand out much more prominently in this condensed account than their proper proportions to the motives which actuated the figures in the drama. If we take any part of the story we must take it all, and remember that it had been promised to Abraham that of Ishmael a great nation should be born. Whether this was an actual revelation from God, or a prophetic vision that Abraham had, or is interpolated by the historian to correspond with the actual facts that transpired, in either case the firm belief that no harm could come to Ishmael, must be taken into account when estimating the motives which led Abraham and Sarah, for doubtless Abraham told Sarah of his vision, to send Hagar and her son off into the wilderness; just as much as the firm belief that the promise of God with regard to his seed would be fulfilled made Abraham, a little afterward, prepare to offer up his son Isaac.
Abraham loved and honored his wife very greatly, probably admiring equally her beauty and strength of character. Abraham was ten years older than Sarah and we read that he was seventy-five years old when he started from Haran for the land of Canaan. Some time after this driven, by famine, he went down into Egypt, and here when she must have been at least seventy years of age the Egyptians saw that she was very fair, and the princes of Pharaoh so praised her beauty to their royal master that he sent and took her for his wife. The same thing happened when she was ninety years old, when she was seized by Abimelech, king of Gerar. In both cases they told, not a lie, but a half truth, for Sarah was Abraham's half sister. it being then the custom for children of the same father by different mothers to marry. Abraham's deceit was brought about by cowardice, while Sarah connived at the fraud for love of her husband, being besought to do so to save his life. Perhaps, too, she might have been amenable to the gracious tribute to her beauty that Abraham gave in making the request.
Sarah's strength of character is shown all through her history. Wherever she is mentioned the reader is made to feet that she is an important part of the narrative, and not merely a connecting link between two generations. In this story she carries her point, and Abraham follows her instructions implicitly, nay, is even commanded by God to do so.
Notwithstanding that Abraham mourned Sarah so sincerely, within three years after she died, and when at the ripe age of a hundred and forty years, he married again and the six children he begat by Keturah he took quite as a matter of course, although half a century before, when told that a son should be born to him, he laughed incredulously. Abraham had his failings, some of which are shared by the moderns, yet doubtless he was a moral giant compared with other men of the land from which he came and of the nations around him. As such he was chosen as the founder of a race whose history should promulgate the idea of the one true God. Certainly the descendants from this remarkable trio have retained their own peculiar characteristics and have ever been worshippers at the shrine of Jehovah.
A singular fact may be mentioned here that Mrs. Souvielle in her book "The Sequel to the Parliament of Religions," has shown that from Midian, one of the sons of Keturah, came Jethro or Zoroaster.
Western thinkers are so matter-of-fact in their speech and thought that it might not have occurred to them that the true value of this story of Sarah and Hagar, like that of all else, not only in our own Bible but in the scriptures of other faiths, lies in the esoteric meaning, had it not been for Paul, that prince of occult philosophers, who distinctly says, according to the old version, that it is an allegory; according to the revised, that it contains an allegory: "for these women are two covenants," one bearing, children unto bondage, the other unto freedom. It is our privilege, Paul goes on to teach, to be children of the free woman, but although we are this by birthright, yet there has to be a personal appreciation of that fact, and an effort to maintain our liberty. The mystical significance of this allegory has never been elucidated in reference to the position of woman, but it may well be considered as establishing her claim, not only for personal freedom, but for the integrity of the home. Acting according to the customs of the day, Sarah connived at her own degradation. Later, when her womanly dignity was developed by reason of her motherhood, she saw what should be her true position in her home, and she made her rightful demand for unrivalled supremacy in that home and in her husband's affections. She was blessed of God in taking that attitude, and was held up to the elect descendants of Abraham nearly 1660 years later by the Apostle Peter as an example to be imitated. And these later women are to be Sarah's daughters, we are told, if like her, they "are not afraid with any amazement," or as the new version hath it, if they "are not put in fear by any terror."
Even as mere history the life and character of Sarah certainly do not intimate that it was the Divine plan that woman was to be a subordinate, either in person or in her home. Taken esoterically, as all ancient Oriental writings must be to get their full significance, it is an inspiration to woman to-day to stand for her liberty. The bondwoman must be cast out. All that makes for industrial bondage, for sex slavery and humiliation, for the dwarfing of individuality, and for the thralldom of the soul, must be cast out from our home, from society, and from our lives. The woman who does not claim her birthright of freedom will remain in the wilderness with the children that she has borne in degradation, heart starvation, and anguish of spirit, only to find that they are Ishmaels, with their hand against every man. They will be the subjects of Divine care an d protection until their destiny is worked out. But she who is to be the mother of kings must herself be free, and have surroundings conducive to maintaining her own purity and dignity. After long ages of freedom shall have eradicated from woman's mind and heart the thought habits of the slave, then will she be a true daughter of Sarah, the Princess.
C. B. C.
CLARA BEWICK COLBY
LILLIE DEVEREUX BLAKE
Abraham has been held up as one of the model men of sacred history. One credit he doubtless deserves, be was a monotheist, in the midst of the degraded and cruel forms of religion then prevalent in all the oriental world; this man and his wife saw enough of the light to worship a God of Spirit. Yet we find his conduct to the last degree reprehensible. While in Egypt in order to gain wealth he voluntarily surrenders his wife to Pharaoh. Sarah having been trained in subjection to her husband had no choice but to obey his will. When she left the king, Abraham complacently took her back without objection, which was no more than he should do seeing that her sacrifice had brought him wealth and honor. Like many a modern millionaire he was not a self-made but a wife-made man. When Pharaoh sent him away with his dangerously beautiful wife he is described as, "being rich in cattle, in silver and in gold," but it is a little curious that the man who thus gained wealth as the price of his wife's dishonor should have been held up as a model of all the patriarchal virtues.
L. D. B.
LILLIE DEVEREUX BLAKE
May the Wisdom Force
be with You.
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