Ishmael, God, and the Angels: A Morality Tale with a Lesson for Our Times

by Dr. David Mandler

Whether you see them as refugees or economic migrants, I see the people in the pictures below, first and foremost, as human beings with human needs in deep trouble. To those who reject these people from Syria on the grounds that they represent danger to the Christian character of Europe–as Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary has claimed–I have a story to share that sheds light on how people who truly want to emulate the ways of God should relate to these hungry and thirsty masses flooding into Europe, seeking shelter.

“Ishmael, left under a shrub by his despairing mother, prayed to God to take his soul and not permit him to suffer the torments of a slow death (comp. Targ. pseudo-Jonathan to Gen. xxi. 15). God then commanded the angel to show Hagar the well which was created on Friday in the week of Creation, in the twilight (comp. Ab. v. 6), and which afterward accompanied the Israelites in the wilderness (Pirḳe R. El. xxx.). But this was protested against by the angels, who said: “Why should Ishmael have water, since his descendants will destroy the Israelites by thirst?” (comp. Yer. Ta’an. iv. 8; Lam. R. ii. 2). God replied: “But now he is innocent, and I judge him according to what he is now” (Pirḳe R. El. l.c.; Gen. R. l.c.; et al.).

Let us judge these people according to what they are now!


Photos courtesy of Petra Parker (Budapest, near Keleti Railway Station on August 31st, September 1st and 2nd).