Ishmael

Major themes

Ishmael proposes that the story of Genesis was written by the Semites and later adapted to work within Hebrew and Christian belief structures. He proposes that Abel's extinction metaphorically represents the nomadic Semites' losing in their conflict with agriculturalists. As they were driven further into the Arabian peninsula, the Semites became isolated from other herding cultures and, according to Ishmael, illustrated their plight through oral history, which was later adopted into the Hebrew book of Genesis.

Ishmael denies that the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was forbidden to humans simply to test humans' self-control. Instead, he proposes that eating of the Tree would not actually give humans divine knowledge but would only make humans believe they had been given it, and that the Tree represents the choice to bear the responsibility of deciding which species live and which die. This is a decision agricultural peoples (i.e. Takers) make when deciding which organisms to cultivate, which to displace, and which to kill in protection of the first.

Ishmael explains that the Fall of Adam represents the Semitic belief that, once mankind usurps this responsibility - historically decided through natural ecology (i.e. food chains) - that mankind will perish. He cites as fulfillment of this prophecy contemporary environmental crises such as endangered or extinct species, global warming, and modern mental illnesses.


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