Genesis 21: The Birth of Isaac

1 The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised. 2 And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. 3 Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac. 4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6 And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.” 7 And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

-Imagine that, God said it, and it happened. This laughter Sarah speaks of is a laughter out of joy. This is a kind of laughter that you might have when your team scores the winning point in an unlikely come from behind fashion. You laugh and shout for joy that you’re team one but it’s almost like you don’t believe it, like it shouldn’t have happened. It was a “miracle play”, so to speak. This was God’s miracle play and I can’t imagine the joy Abraham and Sarah must have had after 25 years of waiting to finally hold their promised son in their hands.

God Protects Hagar and Ishmael

8 And the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. 9 But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, laughing. 10 So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.” 11 And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account of his son.

-Sarah had great guilt and bitterness over the past. Ishmael was a constant reminder of their mistake of not waiting on God. Just seeing Ishmael alive and enjoying life was enough to embitter her. It is such a terrible thing when parents take out their frustrations on their children. Mental disorders and great emotional pain always result. Perhaps Ishmael became a wild donkey of a man because of how he was seen growing up as the “unwanted” child by Sarah. His mother, who he most likely dearly loved, was also rejected and unloved even though his father had had a child by her first. I can imagine Ishmael having great bitterness and resentment over the situation as well. It is not his fault. This is one example of why we cannot live in the past. God is in control of all things, knew the decision would be made to result in Ishmael, and Ishmael is a part of His plan. Sarah needs to accept this and trust in God’s ability to turn evil into good and love Ishmael as her own son. Perhaps Sarah had not confessed her sins to God. Confession resolves guilt and Sarah seems to be showing a lot of guilt here.

12 But God said to Abraham, “Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named. 13 And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring.” 14 So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.

-God’s plan is in motion. Sarah’s bitterness towards Hagar and Ishmael was part of the plan and by their departure, Ishmael is able to be made into his own nation of peoples in another area just as God had promised Hagar before. Interesting too that God points out Ishmael is being blessed and his descendants numerous because he is a son of Abraham. Ishmael multiplying is part of the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham that his descendants shall be like the stars in the sky. Beersheba is the capital of the Negeb region of southern Israel today and we find out more about this place in the verses to follow.

15 When the water in the skin was gone, she put the child under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, “Let me not look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept.

-This is such a sad turn of events because we have not been told about anything Hagar had done wrong aside from perhaps feeling smug in the beginning that she had a child by Abraham and not Sarah. It just seems like she has gotten the raw end of the deal here. And now she is out of water and is about to die in the desert. She puts her son in the shade of a bush and walks away because she cannot handle the sorrow of seeing her son die.

17 And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. 18 Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”

-I will say this again that when God reveals His plan, it happens. Always! I truly believe I have been given a tremendous blessing because God revealed to me almost a year ago today that I would one day be a pastor. Because I know this is from God, if I am ever in a situation where I may die, I will not worry. Because I know I will at least live long enough to become a pastor somewhere. It is God’s plan and it will happen, no matter what, even if a miracle has to occur to ensure this happens. God will never forget you and God has no desire to see you suffer. Hagar was obedient and showed faith in God by returning to where she was unwanted before and now God is caring for her in her time of need now. This is another reason why I do not like the interpretation that all Arabs will be wild donkeys of men because we see such a great love God has for Hagar and Ishmael to ensure a nation begins from them. God does not hate any person or people. He loves all nations, including all Arab nations. Why would he curse the Arabs on account of Abraham and Sarah’s mistake? Of course, this is all assuming that description is true which certainly is not of all descendants of Ishmael. It is true that throughout Israel’s history and even to this day, every Arab nation around Israel has been an enemy but that does not somehow make Arab’s worse. The terrorism we see from radical Islam that conduct violent attacks against women and children and suicide bombing public places is a great great evil. But it is a result of sin and the enemy attacking Israel. All mankind is capable of this evil and it is not special to Arabs. Every race on earth has committed horrible unspeakable atrocities and it is only because we are seeing the events of current times right now that we are making sweeping assumptions about whole races of peoples.

19 Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. 20 And God was with the boy, and he grew up. He lived in the wilderness and became an expert with the bow. 21 He lived in the wilderness of Paran, and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

-It is not explicit that God caused a miracle to happen or simply showed Hagar she needn’t give up because there happened to be a well there but it certainly seems as though God made a well there. Paran was located somewhere in the Sinai Peninsula and here is a map of its probable location: . This is also where the Israelites wondered in the desert during their exile.

A Treaty with Abimelech

22 At that time Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his army said to Abraham, “God is with you in all that you do. 23 Now therefore swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me or with my descendants or with my posterity, but as I have dealt kindly with you, so you will deal with me and with the land where you have sojourned.” 24 And Abraham said, “I will swear.”

-This may be further evidence that the previous chapter was indeed in chronological order because it would have been a few years later when this event happens. If it had been 20 years, it does not seem likely Abimelech would have remembered or shown such fear. Abimelech recognizes Abraham is protected by God and so he wisely decides to ally with him. This was a gift of God for Abimelech to have this understanding and treat Abraham so well.

25 When Abraham reproved Abimelech about a well of water that Abimelech’s servants had seized, 26 Abimelech said, “I do not know who has done this thing; you did not tell me, and I have not heard of it until today.”

-This was probably the truth that Abimelech did not know. How often when lower members of an organization do something we assume the leader had orchestrated the whole thing. In the US, everything is blamed on the President yet even if he never slept and constantly worked 24/7 could he do half the things we seem to claim that he has done. But at the same time, there is a such thing as accountability and responsibility and while Abimelech could not have known what his men would do, as the leader, he still is accountable.

27 So Abraham took sheep and oxen and gave them to Abimelech, and the two men made a covenant. 28 Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock apart. 29 And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs that you have set apart?” 30 He said, “These seven ewe lambs you will take from my hand, that this may be a witness for me that I dug this well.”

-This is proof that the covenant God made with Abraham was a standard way of drawing contracts in this day. Seven animals were split in half and it is assumed both of them walked across. Although Abraham had a right to the well because he dug it, he still offers these seven ewe lambs to back up his word in the deal. For those not adversed with farm terminology like me (aka city slickers), an ewe lamb is a young female sheep. We see the number seven again which is always God’s number. Abraham was making an oath so perhaps by using seven he was “swearing to God” that he spoke the truth.

31 Therefore that place was called Beersheba, because there both of them swore an oath. 32 So they made a covenant at Beersheba. Then Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his army rose up and returned to the land of the Philistines. 33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God. 34 And Abraham sojourned many days in the land of the Philistines.

-The word “Beersheba” in Hebrew likely means “well of seven” which refers to the seven lambs sacrificed on account of this well. Perhaps the covenant was made where this well lie. The tamarisk tree planting was not random and held great significance. A tamarisk tree grows very slow and takes generations to maintain. So this tree planting was Abraham saying that there will be peace between them for generations. The fact that Abraham sojourned so long in this land shows this good relationship. We don’t know, however, why Abraham continues to wander around. He was originally told by God in Genesis 13:7 to go and “walk through the length and breadth of the land” but it is unclear whether this was intended as a permanent command or was done in the early years before Isaac and no longer applies. It could be too that Abraham simply saw his status as a sojourner waiting for an inheritance so he continued to wander, never staying in any one place for too long because he was a guest in the land. He only finally buys land for the first time when his wife Sarah dies. Aside from that, Abraham never actually owned any land in Canaan.


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