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The first feature in Abraham which is very interesting is: he is an old man.  He starts his career, his adventure at seventy-five, according to the Bible—we have not to believe that—but he was quite old.  So there is a future even for old people.  He behaves like a very young man, abandoning his family, abandoning his past and everything to start something completely new at seventy-five.  This is the first feature. 

The second feature of Abraham that makes him sympathetic, I think, is that he has his weaknesses.  He is not a hero of virtue.  He has some very weak parts and some very bad moments; and, nonetheless, he is the father of Israel, he is the father of faith, a father of the faithful.  For instance, he says that his wife is his sister because he is frightened and afraid of being killed because of his beautiful wife.  So, he has very weak moments and has very strong moments too.  This alternative of different moments in his life, different aspects of his life makes it very similar to ourselves.

And there’s a third elements, perhaps, in Abraham’s life, in the narratives that we find in the Bible about Abraham which is very interesting that his experiences are not really extraordinary experiences.  He has to deal with family problems, with the rivalry between his wife and a maidservant, between Sarah and Hagar.  There are conflicts between his sons.  There are conflicts between his shepherds and his nephew’s shepherds.  So, he has to deal with problems of daily life and when God appears to him, it’s a very simple setting; he prepares a meal. 

There are other moments, which are rather exceptional, for instance, when God asks him to sacrifice his son, but this is rather an exception.  So, it means that the deep human experience can be a daily experience.  You have not to wait for extraordinary moments or sensational experiences, extraordinary experiences, but the real deep and religious experience is a daily experience of daily life.



  • Jean-Louis Ska

    Jean-Louis Ska, S.J., is professor of Old Testament exegesis at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. He is the author of several books, in French and in English, including Introduction to Reading the Pentateuch (Eisenbrauns).