Thursday, September 15, 2011

Genesis XXXII

Then Abraham’s wife became angered, wrathful in her heart
at her work-slave, stern and fierce, speaking a willful injury
severely upon the woman. She then departed fleeing both
punishment and servitude. She wished no longer to endure
wicked reprisals for what she had done to Sarah, but she
left on her way seeking the desert. There a thane of glory,
an angel of the Lord met her alone misery-minded, and he
eagerly asked her: “Whither do you strive, destitute lady,
to accomplish your journey? You are owned by Sarah.” (2261-72)

She answered him at once: “I have flown from unhappiness,
wanting any sort of pleasure, the hate of my lady, exalted
in the towns, grief and injury. Teary-cheeked now I must
await my destiny in the desert, when hunger or wolves
shall drag out soul and sorrow as one from my heart.” (2273-79)

Then the angel answered her: “Do not trouble yourself to separate
your own mutual meal with flight far from here,* but seek instead
your home. Labor for your honor, and humble begin to strive
for what is seemly, be loyal to your lord. You shall, Hagar,
bring the son of Abraham into this world. Wordfully I say to you
now that that warrior son shall be called Ishmael by people.
He shall be fierce, battle-greedy, and an enemy to the men
of his generation, his own kin. Many will struggle with weapon-wrack
against him wrathfully. From that first-spear a people shall be born,
an enormous race. Go again and seek your lord.
Dwell with those that own you!” (2280-95)

Then she at once left by the angel’s teaching back to her lords,
as the holy one had commanded, God’s messaging-spirit,
wise of speech. Then Ishmael was born to Abraham,
when he had exactly six and eighty winters in this world.
His son grew and prospered, as the angel had said before
to the woman by own words, a dear emissary of peace. (2296-2303)

Then about thirteen years later, the Prince, the Eternal Lord
spoke with Abraham: “Dear man, as I will instruct you,
fulfill faithfully our troth-pledge! I will exalt you
in every season with glory. Be strong in your deeds
by my will! I will fulfill our compact truly from now,
which I gave you once before as a pledge of comfort,
of which your spirit was troubled. (2304-11)

“You must hallow your household. Set the true token of victory
upon every male member,* if you would have me for a Lord
or a faithful friend unto your family. I will be Warden and Holder
of that people, if you obey me in your breast-thoughts and wish
to carry out my commandments. Every man of that generation of males
shall be as a child, of those who come into this world,
about seven nights old shall be dedicated to me with the sign
of victory, or else they shall be separated far from the earth
through my hostility, driven away from all glory. (2312-25a)

Do what I tell you! I will be true to you, if you observe that sign
with true belief. You shall have a son, a child of your own bride,
who all the city-dwellers must call Isaac. There is no need to be
ashamed of that boy, yet I will give my godly gift to your son
with the power of my spirit, with the benefits of my friendly abundance.
He shall take up my bliss and my blessing, my love and my delight.
From that start of peoples a broad folk will arise,
guardians of realms, kings of this world known widely.” (2325b-37)

* That is, of Abraham’s household, but since God is talking about circumcision perhaps the pun can stand, if isn’t too distasteful.

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