The Lost Son - the Lost Brother
“There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, `Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.´ And he divided his living between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. And when he spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to herd his animals. And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the animals ate, and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, `How many of my father´s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, `Father I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.´And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him; `Father I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son. But the father said to the servants, `Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.`…”
Luke 15: 11-32
Two descendends of Abraham, a son of Jacob and a son of Ismail, both showing similar hairdress.
At the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem
Medhab, a young sheikh of Ateyba, photo Carl Raswan
A lost son is at the same time a lost brother. Ismail /Ishmael is regarded by Christian and Jewish tradition as a son of Abraham who has no claim to the inheritance of his father. He and his children seem to be forgotten brothers and sisters. No children´s Bible contains the story of Abraham sending away his son Ismail into the desert, together with his mother and some bread and water. But Ismail, in the eye of the author, proved to be a true son of the father of all believers, Abraham. He proved it through his life, by his desert life. He and his children continued the nomadic life of their father Abraham as herders of their animals. They preserved it nearly unchanged for thousands of years in a society largely based on solidarity lasting until the days of the beginning 20th century, a living mirror of the Biblical world of past days.
The book Genesis tells us, that it took only a short time until the paths of the descendents of the two lines of Abraham, Isaac and Ismail, crossed each other for the first time. Joseph, son of Abraham´s grandson Jacob, was sent out by his father to see after his brothers. But his brothers planned evil for him. First they intended to kill him. But when some Ishmaelites came along, they sold their brother to them. They lied to their father Jacob pretending Joseph had died. But thanks to the Ishmaelites, Joseph survived. He rose from a slave to the second man in Egypt, allowed to ride in the second chariot of the Pharaoh (Genesis 41: 43). His role, how he saved his people and the whole of Egypt in the seven years of famine, is considered as a prototype of the Messiah. Since that incidence, the two lines of Abraham did have a long history of relations, since World War II in the very focus of world politics.
The hope for the coming Messiah is a vital part of our present days. Many believers around the world, from many backgrounds and nations, look forward to his day. This was even expressed at the United Nations by President Ahmadineschad of Iran in September 2005, who spoke of the mahdi, the correspondent Schiitic tradition. The New Testament describes the Messiah as a rider on a white horse. And behold, this rider will come in the tradition of the desert, as a son of Ismail, in a spiritual likeness of Ismail. Sent by the father to all his brothers.
The “return of the lost son” to the house of the father, admittedly in a somewhat different story to the parable of Jesus in Luke 15, will result in the reconciliation of mankind. The house of the father encompasses all who live in the one house under the one black tent of stars. Today no one can imagine how this reconciliation will happen. But it will happen, like the reconciliation of another pair of brothers in the book Genesis: Esau and Jacob. Both became lost sons when Jacob stole the father´s blessing for the firstborn by deceit. Jacob had to flee from the tent of his father because his brother wanted to kill him. But God was with both of them (although many readers only focus on Jacob) and changed their hearts. Jacob became Israel and was ready to face his brother after having crossed the river Jabbok. The approach of both brothers is worth reading. Their reconciliation is described with nearly identical words to the parable of Jesus from Luke 15: 20:
And Jacob lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids. And he put the maids with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. He himself went on before them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.
Genesis 33: 1 -4