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Genesis 21

21
Isaac Is Born
1The Lord was gracious to Sarah, just as he had said he would be. The Lord did for Sarah what he had promised to do. 2Sarah became pregnant. She had a son by Abraham when he was old. The child was born at the exact time God had promised. 3Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah had by him. 4When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him. He did it exactly as God had commanded him. 5Abraham was 100 years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
6Sarah said, “God has given laughter to me. Everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” 7She also said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would breast-feed children? But I’ve had a son by him when he is old.”
Abraham Sends Hagar and Ishmael Away
8Isaac grew. The time came for his mother to stop breast-feeding him. On that day Abraham prepared a big celebration. 9But Sarah saw Ishmael making fun of Isaac. Ishmael was the son Hagar had by Abraham. Hagar was Sarah’s Egyptian slave. 10Sarah said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman! Get rid of her son! That woman’s son will never have a share of the family’s property. All of it belongs to my son Isaac.”
11What Sarah said upset Abraham very much. After all, Ishmael was his son. 12But God said to Abraham, “Do not be so upset about the boy and your slave Hagar. Listen to what Sarah tells you, because your family line will continue through Isaac. 13I will also make the son of your slave into a nation. I will do it because he is your child.”
14Early the next morning Abraham got some food and a bottle of water. The bottle was made out of animal skin. He gave the food and water to Hagar, placing them on her shoulders. Then he sent her away with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba.
15When the water in the bottle was gone, she put the boy under a bush. 16Then she sat down about as far away as a person can shoot an arrow. She thought, “I can’t stand to watch the boy die.” As she sat there, she began to sob.
17God heard the boy crying. Then the angel of God called out to Hagar from heaven. He said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid. God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18Lift up the boy and take him by the hand. I will make him into a great nation.”
19Then God opened Hagar’s eyes, and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the bottle with water and gave the boy a drink.
20God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and learned to shoot a bow and arrow. 21While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt.
The Agreement at Beersheba
22At that time Abimelek and his army commander, Phicol, spoke to Abraham. They said to Abraham, “God is with you in everything you do. 23Now make a promise to me here while God is watching. Give me your word that you will treat me fairly. Promise that you will treat my children and their children the same way. I’ve been kind to you. Now you be kind to me and the country where you are living as an outsider.”
24Abraham said, “I give you my word that I’ll do it.”
25Then Abraham complained to Abimelek that his servants had taken over a well of water. 26But Abimelek said, “I don’t know who has done this. You didn’t tell me. And today is the first time I heard about it.”
27So Abraham gave Abimelek sheep and cattle. The two men came to an agreement. 28Then Abraham picked out seven female lambs from his flock. 29Abimelek asked Abraham, “What’s the meaning of these seven female lambs? Why have you picked them out and set them apart?”
30Abraham replied, “Accept the seven lambs from me. They will be a witness that I dug this well.”
31So that place was named Beersheba. That’s because there the two men came to an agreement.
32After the agreement had been made at Beersheba, Abimelek went back to the land of the Philistines. His army commander, Phicol, went with him. 33Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba. There he called on the name of the Lord, the God who lives forever. 34Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.
21
Birth of Isaac.#The long-awaited birth of Isaac parallels the birth of Ishmael in chap. 16, precipitating a rivalry and expulsion as in that chapter. Though this chapter is unified, the focus of vv. 1–7 is exclusively on Sarah and Isaac, and the focus of vv. 8–21 is exclusively on Hagar and Ishmael. The promise of a son to the barren Sarah and elderly Abraham has been central to the previous chapters and now that promise comes true with the birth of Isaac. The other great promise, that of land, will be resolved, at least in an anticipatory way, in Abraham’s purchase of the cave at Machpelah in chap. 23. The parallel births of the two boys has influenced the Lucan birth narratives of John the Baptist and Jesus (Lk 1–2). 1The Lord took note of Sarah as he had said he would; the Lord did for her as he had promised.#Gn 17:19; 18:10. 2Sarah became pregnant and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time that God had stated.#Gal 4:23; Heb 11:11. 3Abraham gave the name Isaac to this son of his whom Sarah bore him.#Mt 1:2; Lk 3:34. 4When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God had commanded.#Gn 17:10–14; Acts 7:8. 5Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6Sarah then said, “God has given me cause to laugh,#Laugh: for the third time (cf. 17:17 and 18:12) there is laughter, playing on the similarity in Hebrew between the pronunciation of the name Isaac and words associated with laughter. and all who hear of it will laugh with me.#Gn 17:17. 7Who would ever have told Abraham,” she added, “that Sarah would nurse children! Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.” 8The child grew and was weaned, and Abraham held a great banquet on the day of the child’s weaning.
9Sarah noticed the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham playing with her son Isaac; 10so she demanded of Abraham: “Drive out that slave and her son! No son of that slave is going to share the inheritance with my son Isaac!”#Jgs 11:2; Gal 4:30. 11Abraham was greatly distressed because it concerned a son of his.#A son of his: Abraham is the father of both boys, but Sarah is the mother only of Isaac. Abraham is very concerned that Ishmael have a sufficient inheritance. 12But God said to Abraham: Do not be distressed about the boy or about your slave woman. Obey Sarah, no matter what she asks of you; for it is through Isaac that descendants will bear your name.#Rom 9:7; Heb 11:18. 13As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also,#I will make a nation of him also: Ishmael’s descendants are named in 25:12–18. since he too is your offspring.
14Early the next morning Abraham got some bread and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. Then, placing the child on her back,#Placing the child on her back: a reading based on an emendation of the traditional Hebrew text. In the traditional Hebrew text, Abraham put the bread and the waterskin on Hagar’s back, while her son apparently walked beside her. In this way the traditional Hebrew text harmonizes the data of the Priestly source, in which Ishmael would have been at least fourteen years old when Isaac was born; compare 16:16 with 21:5; cf. 17:25. But in the present Elohist (?) story, Ishmael is obviously a little boy, not much older than Isaac; cf. vv. 15, 18. he sent her away. As she roamed aimlessly in the wilderness of Beer-sheba, 15the water in the skin was used up. So she put the child down under one of the bushes, 16and then went and sat down opposite him, about a bowshot away; for she said to herself, “I cannot watch the child die.” As she sat opposite him, she wept aloud. 17God heard the boy’s voice, and God’s angel called to Hagar from heaven: “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not fear; God has heard the boy’s voice in this plight of his.#Gn 16:7. 18Get up, lift up the boy and hold him by the hand; for I will make of him a great nation.” 19Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. She went and filled the skin with water, and then let the boy drink.
20God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the wilderness and became an expert bowman. 21He lived in the wilderness of Paran. His mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.
The Covenant at Beer-sheba. 22#Of the two related promises of progeny and land, that of progeny has been fulfilled in the previous chapter. Now the claim on the land begins to be solidified by Abimelech’s recognition of Abraham’s claim on the well at Beer-sheba; it will be furthered by Abraham’s purchase of the cave at Machpelah in chap. 23. Two levels of editing are visible in the story: (1) vv. 22–24, 27, 32, the general covenant with Abimelech; (2) vv. 25–26, 28–30, 31, Abraham’s claim on the well. Both versions play on the root of the Hebrew word sheba‘, which means “seven” and “swear,” and the place name Beer-sheba. At that time Abimelech, accompanied by Phicol, the commander of his army, said to Abraham: “God is with you in everything you do. 23So now, swear to me by God at this place#This place: Beer-sheba (v. 31). Abimelech had come from Gerar (20:2), about thirty miles west of Beer-sheba. that you will not deal falsely with me or with my progeny and posterity, but will act as loyally toward me and the land in which you reside as I have acted toward you.” 24Abraham replied, “I so swear.”
25Abraham, however, reproached Abimelech about a well that Abimelech’s servants had seized by force. 26“I have no idea who did that,” Abimelech replied. “In fact, you never told me about it, nor did I ever hear of it until now.”
27Then Abraham took sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelech and the two made a covenant. 28Abraham also set apart seven ewe lambs of the flock, 29and Abimelech asked him, “What is the purpose of these seven ewe lambs that you have set apart?” 30Abraham answered, “The seven ewe lambs you shall accept from me that you may be my witness that I dug this well.” 31This is why the place is called Beer-sheba; the two of them took an oath there. 32When they had thus made the covenant in Beer-sheba, Abimelech, along with Phicol, the commander of his army, left to return to the land of the Philistines.#Philistines: one of the Sea Peoples, who migrated from Mycenaean Greece around 1200 B.C. and settled on the coastland of Canaan, becoming a principal rival of Israel. Non-biblical texts do not use the term “Philistine” before ca. 1200 B.C.; it is probable that this usage and those in chap. 26 are anachronistic, perhaps applying a later ethnic term for an earlier, less-known one.
33Abraham planted a tamarisk at Beer-sheba, and there he invoked by name the Lord, God the Eternal.#God the Eternal: in Hebrew, ’el ‘olam, perhaps the name of the deity of the pre-Israelite sanctuary at Beer-sheba, but used by Abraham as a title of God; cf. Is 40:28. 34Abraham resided in the land of the Philistines for a long time.