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B'resheet (Gen) 21

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1Adonai remembered Sarah as he had said, and Adonai did for Sarah what he had promised. 2Sarah conceived and bore Avraham a son in his old age, at the very time God had said to him. 3Avraham called his son, born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Yitz’chak. 4Avraham circumcised his son Yitz’chak when he was eight days old, as God had ordered him to do.
(v) 5Avraham was one hundred years old when his son Yitz’chak [laughter] was born to him. 6Sarah said, “God has given me good reason to laugh; now everyone who hears about it will laugh with me.” 7And she said, “Who would have said to Avraham that Sarah would nurse children? Nevertheless, I have borne him a son in his old age!”
8The child grew and was weaned, and Avraham gave a great banquet on the day that Yitz’chak was weaned. 9But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom Hagar had borne to Avraham, making fun of Yitz’chak; 10so Sarah said to Avraham, “Throw this slave-girl out! And her son! I will not have this slave-girl’s son as your heir along with my son Yitz’chak!”
11Avraham became very distressed over this matter of his son. 12But God said to Avraham, “Don’t be distressed because of the boy and your slave-girl. Listen to everything Sarah says to you, because it is your descendants through Yitz’chak who will be counted. 13But I will also make a nation from the son of the slave-girl, since he is descended from you.”
14Avraham got up early in the morning, took bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child; then he sent her away. After leaving, she wandered in the desert around Be’er-Sheva. 15When the water in the skin was gone, she left the child under a bush, 16and went and sat down, looking the other way, about a bow-shot’s distance from him; because she said, “I can’t bear to watch my child die.” So she sat there, looking the other way, crying out and weeping. 17God heard the boy’s voice, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What’s wrong with you, Hagar? Don’t be afraid, because God has heard the voice of the boy in his present situation. 18Get up, lift the boy up, and hold him tightly in your hand, because I am going to make him a great nation.” 19Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. So she went, filled the skin with water and gave the boy water to drink.
20God was with the boy, and he grew. He lived in the desert and became an archer. 21He lived in the Pa’ran Desert, and his mother chose a wife for him from the land of Egypt.
(vi) 22At that time Avimelekh and Pikhol the commander of his army spoke to Avraham. They said, “God is with you in everything you do. 23Therefore, swear to me here by God that you will never deal falsely with me or with my son or grandson; but according to the kindness with which I have treated you, you will treat me and the land in which you have lived as a foreigner. 24Avraham said, “I swear it.”
25Now Avraham had complained to Avimelekh about a well which Avimelekh’s servants had seized. 26Avimelekh answered, “I don’t know who has done this. You didn’t tell me, and I heard about it only today.” 27Avraham took sheep and cattle and gave them to Avimelekh, and the two of them made a covenant. 28Avraham put seven female lambs from the flock by themselves. 29Avimelekh asked Avraham, “What is the meaning of these seven female lambs you have put by themselves?” 30He answered, “You are to accept these seven female lambs from me as witness that I dug this well.” 31This is why that place was called Be’er-Sheva [well of seven, well of an oath] — because they both swore an oath there. 32When they made the covenant at Be’er-Sheva, Avimelekh departed with Pikhol the commander of his army and returned to the land of the P’lishtim. 33Avraham planted a tamarisk tree in Be’er-Sheva, and there he called on the name of Adonai, the everlasting God. 34Avraham lived for a long time as a foreigner in the land of the P’lishtim.
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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.