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Musing of a Progressive Christian Layman: Was Isaac the Son of Pharaoh?

Let me play Devil’s Advocate, something I really enjoy doing. In this instance, I want to present an alternative position from the accepted norm.

I have recently read speculation that Isaac was the son of Pharaoh Thutmose (or Tuthmosis) III. If he wasn’t Abraham’s son, that might explain why Abraham was willing to sacrifice him. That’s always bother me. I know we’re supposed to obey God, but not if he tells me to kill my son. How could Abraham even consider something so hideous? No father should obey a voice, even if it was supposedly God, telling him to offer his son as a sacrifice. A father or stepfather would have to be suffering from dementia to consider an order that goes against every human instinct.

Was God was testing Abraham to determine if he would do God’s bidding regardless of the consequences? Was God allowing Abraham to demonstrate that he trusted God completely? Was God condoning child sacrifice? The answer to the last question is easy: NO! Whatever God’s purpose, it appears to be uncalled for and potentially evil.

If Abram, his name wasn’t Abraham yet, actually existed, and there isn’t any credible evidence that he did, Genesis tells us he lived in Haran, a city in upper Mesopotamia, when God told him to travel to a place that would be revealed to him. If he obeyed, God promised to make his descendants into a great nation – a promise that has never been fulfilled.

Abram and his wife, Sarai, along with his nephew, Lot, and their slaves, moved south to Canaan.

When a severe famine hit, they traveled to Egypt. Abram was afraid that the pharaoh, Tuthmosis III, would have him killed and take his beautiful wife, so he told Sarai to say that she was his sister. Word spread concerning Sarai’s beauty, so the Pharaoh wanted her as one of his wives. He paid “her brother,” a bride price of sheep, oxen, male and female donkeys, camels, and male and female slaves. What kind of man would sell his wife to another man? And especially when it was evident that, as his new wife, the man would have sex with her? Believe it or not, Abraham did this twice! Later, in Genesis 20, he tells King Abimelech that Sarah is his sister, so Abimelech takes her as one of his wives. Genesis claims God intervened before Abimelech had sex with her. Isn’t it shocking that the founding father of Judaism was a wuss!

After Pharaoh had “known her,” the euphemism the Bible uses for sex, he somehow discerned that Sarai was Abram’s wife. So he summoned Abram and accused him of cheating him and making him look foolish. However, instead of killing him, he inexplicably showed mercy and simply ordered them to leave his country. He even gave Sarai a parting gift – a handmaiden. That’s hardly the behavior one would expect from a Pharaoh who had been lied to and duped. However, if Sarai was pregnant with Pharaoh’s child, he might have sent a handmaiden to act as midwife in the birth of his child.

Shortly after they left Egypt, God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, which means “father of many,” and Sarai’s name to Sarah, which means “princess.” Now that she is pregnant with the child of the Pharaoh, she could be considered a princess or even a queen.

Is it possible that the Old Testament account of Isaac’s birth is in error? The writer of Genesis places Isaac’s birth long after Sarah’s time in Pharaoh’s harem. In Genesis, Isaac’s birth is fourteen years after Ishmael’s birth. But if Sarah was pregnant when she left Egypt, what happened to that child? Was it Isaac? Was Isaac actually born before Ishmael? If Isaac’s father was the Pharaoh, even if he was born first, Ishmael would be Abraham’s first son.

The Old Testament tells us that Sarah was barren, but perhaps not. Abraham might not have been able to get her pregnant, but that doesn’t mean Pharaoh had not impregnated her. Or she might have given birth only to daughters from Abraham. When she couldn’t give him a son, she offered her Egyptian handmaid, Hagar, to him. After Hagar conceived, Sarah became extremely jealous of her, so Hagar ran away. Hagar encountered an angel who comforted her and promised her a son who would be a “wild ass of a man.” Was that a compliment? So Hagar returned, gave birth to Ishmael, who, if this alternative story bears weight, was Abraham’s first and only son to this point.

Genesis indicates that Ishmael was fourteen years old when Isaac was born. After Isaac was weaned, which was traditionally at age three (Ishmael would have been seventeen), Sarah became so jealous that she forced Abraham to cast Hagar and Ishmael out. Scripture says that Hagar carried Ishmael into the wilderness, but she could not have carried a seventeen-year-old. One of the reasons that Sarah became so jealous was she saw Isaac and Ishmael playing together. It isn’t likely that a seventeen-year-old and a three-year-old would have been playing together.

According to the Koran, Ishmael was cast out at the time of Isaac’s weaning feast, but in comparison to the Old Testament, he was a young child, which makes the story of Hagar carrying him into the wilderness far more plausible. In this circumstance, Ishmael would have been born after Isaac, so he would have been less than three.

The Talmud, the book of Jewish law, claims that when Abraham invited his neighbors to a feast to celebrate Isaac’s birth, only a few accepted his invitation. Perhaps they didn’t think Isaac was Abraham’s child.

If Pharaoh fathered Isaac, that would also impact the later Biblical stories, especially those about Moses and Joseph. And the Jewish claim to a great swath of the Middle East – from the Nile River in Egypt to the Euphrates River, which runs through present day Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Isaac, however, if he descended from Pharaoh Tuthmosis III and his mother, Sarah, his descendants would be entitled to that inheritance.

Review & Commentary