Chapter 21

Introduction

God keeps His promises. So verse 1 makes that simple statement. Old or not, God keeps His promises with Abraham and Saran. Sarah has a baby to be named Isaac. What was once a "laughing" matter now is fact. With growing problems between Ishmael and Isaac, Hagar and Ishmael were cast out into the wilderness. Ishmael and Hagar have a hard time in the wilderness. But, God comes through again.

Abraham makes a promise to Abimelech to not lie anymore to me or any of my family since Abimelech has treated Abraham so well. However, it appears water was suddenly taken away from Abraham by Abimelech's servants. Abimelech did not correct the situation for some time. Abraham made a covenant with Abimelech. Abraham took some seven ewes and gave them to Abimelech as a witness to of correcting the water issue. The number seven can mean completeness to total in the Bible. However, Beer-Sheba means well of the seven or of the oath or seven. It is thought that the seven ewes and the "digging of this well" are related.

Gen. 21:1-7:

Now the Lord keeps His promise to Abraham and Sarah. Sarah (now 90 years old) and Abraham (now 100 years old) have the God promised baby, Isaac. The name Isaac was chosen and means laughter after the "laughters" of Sarah and Abraham (Gen. 17:17; 18:12-13). However, they rejoiced in the physical ability of Sarah to have a baby and in the fact that she now has proven God's power. Abraham, in accordance with the covenant with God now circumcises Isaac in the eighth day after birth. This is also part of the covenant. It is really thrilling to Abraham and Sarah. Although they had laughed earlier, they are now in joy.Hagar and Ishmael were cast out into the wilderness.

Gen. 21:8-14:

As time went on, Isaac was weaned. Abraham through a big feast for this was a definite sign of growing of the child. As Isaac was getting older, Ishael was doing a lot of mocking of Isaac. The term "mocking" is tsachaq which means to laugh at or to make sport of.

Although it is not known exactly what the mocking cosisted of, Paul (Galatians 4:28-31) calls it persecuting. It is likely he meant a kind of ridicule used by Ishmael probably with respect to the age of Sarah at Isaac’s birth, and her previous barrenness. The Jerusalem Targum (an Aramaic version of the Old Testament) represented Ishmael as possibly performing some idolatrous rite on the occasion, and that this had given the offense to Sarah. A favorite reason for the mocking may have been jealousy. Ishmael was not now getting all the attention of Sarah and Abraham. Now he had to share. This was not acceptable to Ishmael.

Sarah now tells Abraham to send away Hagar and Ishmael the servant (maid, bondswoman) Hagar and Ishmael, her son. Sarah said that Ishmael will not be an heir to Sarah and Abraham. One has to remember that Abraham really loved Ishmael. He was of his blood and had been with him for about 13 years before Isaac was born. So, Abraham is quite grieved when Sarah wanted him sent away. Now God comes through again. He tells Abraham not to be concerned. Do what Sarah says to do. God will care for Ishmael and Hagar because He told Abraham he would take care of Abraham's descendants. So Sarah wanted Ishmael and Hagar to be cast out into the wilderness.<

So, Abraham gets up in the morning and provides provisions, bread and water in an animal skin, to Hagar. She then left with Ishmael and wondered about in the wilderness of Beersheba, about 30-40 miles SW of Jerusalem. Ishmael was about 17 at the time. If sounds in scripture as if Ishmael was as infant (KJV - "...morning, and took bread and a bottle of water and gave them unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, ...."). However, we know from the chronology of Ishmael's birth, 13 years before Isaac; then a couple of years to weaning; then a couple of years of "mocking" puts Ishmael at about 17 years old. Therefore, he was not a small person. The NASB and other versions say that Hagar was sent away "with" her child. That is what is meant.

Gen. 21:15-21:

As Hagar and Ishmael wandered in the wilderness, there water was used up. No mother would want to see their child die. There are a few unanswered questions here. Even though Ishmael was a young man of about 17 years, he must have been is very poor physical condition. It appears that Hagar might have been in a little better physical condition because she set her son under a bush to die. Some think that this was a cruel thing to do. Should they have died together. Scripture says that she could not face his dying. So she left him about a "bowshot' away. This is another point where it looks as if she "lays" her son down. However, again she would not be carrying a 17 year old boy. She now sits down and cries.

God hears her cries and come. So, He sent an angel to communicate to Hagar. The angel almost admonishes her by asking her what the matter was. She was told not to be frightened. God has heard the cries of Ishmael and Hagar. The angel says to lift the boy which would have been by his hands and to stand him up. God promised to make a great nation and He will. She must have closed her eyes during the weeping. She opened her eyes and sees well of water. She went to the water; she filled her water skins; and she took the water to Ishmael.

Now Ishmael grows up; he lives in the wilderness and becomes a great archer.They lived in the wilderness of Paran. Hagar chooses a wife for him from Egypt. In those days, as we shall also see with Abraham and Isaac, the parents would commonly choose the spouse for the son and daughter. Since, at this time, Ishmael is living without a father, he depends on his mother to choose.

Gen. 21:22-24:

According to Hebrew common law, the event of vs. 22-24 place before some of the circumstances recorded in the previous passages; probably not long after the birth of Isaac. Abimelech, accompanied by Phicol, his commander-in-chief, proposes to form a promise with Abraham. With the power that Abraham has, a promise is the practical thing for Abimelech to do. It is the part of sound policy, therefore, to approach him and to ask him to swear by God not to deal falsely with him or his family. Abraham frankly consents to this oath. This is evidently a personal covenant, referring to existing circumstances. Abraham was disposed to such alliances, because they tend to keep the peace.

Gen. 21:25-26:

Apparently, water was blocked or re-directed by someone who reports to Abimelech. However, Abimelech denies he knows anything about the water problem. It can be assumed that Abraham had complained before to the servants. However, he still did not have water. Abimelech apparently did not correct the situation for some time.<

Gen. 12:27:34:

Abraham made a covenant with Abimelech. Abraham gives Abimelech sheep and oxen. With two ewe lambs from the flock, Abraham sets them aside for a sacrifice of the covenant. Since covenants were sealed with animals, Abraham also took seven ewes and put them aside. The number seven can mean completeness to total in the Bible. However, Beer-Sheba means well of the seven or of the oath or seven. It is thought that the seven ewes and the "digging of this well" of Gen. 21:30 are related. Abimelech asks what the segregated ewes meant. Abraham says that Abimelech will take the ewes as a sign or witness that Abraham owns the well. The ewes could have been a gift or a gift to Abimelech. Whatever the ewes were supposed to designate, the well was to be Abraham's and to be named by him.

The place was called Beersheba. Literally, this means "the well of swearing or of the oath", because they both swore to confirm the covenant. Since this name is issued at this time, it adds credence to the probability that this occurred earlier in the life of Abraham, possibly just after Isaac was born. That would explain why Hagar and Ishmael roamed the wilderness of Beersheba (v 14); the name had already been given to the area by Abraham.

Abraham plants a tamarisk tree at Beersheba. A tamarisk is a shrub-like tree common to the Sinai and southern Palestine. It had small white or pink flowers. [NOTE: Some scholars believe the tamarisk resin produced may have been the manna eaten by the Hebrews during the wilderness wanderings.] There is also a possibility that the true meaning of the original word eshel was variously translated a grove, a plantation, an orchard, a cultivated field, and an oak.

Abraham now leaves to go to the land of the Philistines. Beersheba is actually on the border of Palestine and the territory of the Philistines.


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