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Genesis 21

21
The Birth of Isaac
1The LORD blessed Sarah, as he had promised, 2#Heb 11.11and she became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham when he was old. The boy was born at the time God had said he would be born. 3Abraham named him Isaac, 4#Gen 17.12; Acts 7.8and when Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God had commanded. 5Abraham was a hundred years old when Isaac was born. 6Sarah said, “God has brought me joy and laughter.#21.6 laughter: The name Isaac in Hebrew means “he laughs” (see also 17.17–19). Everyone who hears about it will laugh with me.” 7Then she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
8The child grew, and on the day that he was weaned, Abraham gave a great feast.
Hagar and Ishmael are Sent Away
9One day Ishmael, whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham, was playing with#21.9 playing with; or making fun of. Sarah's son Isaac.#21.9 Some ancient translations with Sarah's son Isaac; Hebrew does not have these words. 10#Gal 4.29–30Sarah saw them and said to Abraham, “Send this slave and her son away. The son of this woman must not get any part of your wealth, which my son Isaac should inherit.” 11This troubled Abraham very much, because Ishmael was also his son. 12#Rom 9.7; Heb 11.18But God said to Abraham, “Don't be worried about the boy and your slave Hagar. Do whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that you will have the descendants I have promised. 13I will also give many children to the son of the slave woman, so that they will become a nation. He too is your son.”
14Early the next morning Abraham gave Hagar some food and a leather bag full of water. He put the child on her back and sent her away. She left and wandered about in the wilderness of Beersheba. 15When the water was all gone, she left the child under a bush 16and sat down about a hundred metres away. She said to herself, “I can't bear to see my child die.” While she was sitting there, she#21.16 she; one ancient translation the child. began to cry.
17God heard the boy crying, and from heaven the angel of God spoke to Hagar, “What are you troubled about, Hagar? Don't be afraid. God has heard the boy crying. 18Get up, go and pick him up, and comfort him. I will make a great nation out of his descendants.” 19Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well. She went and filled the leather bag with water and gave some to the boy. 20God was with the boy as he grew up; he lived in the wilderness of Paran and became a skilful hunter. 21His mother found an Egyptian wife for him.
The Agreement between Abraham and Abimelech
22 # Gen 26.26 At that time Abimelech went with Phicol, the commander of his army, and said to Abraham, “God is with you in everything you do. 23So make a vow here in the presence of God that you will not deceive me, my children, or my descendants. I have been loyal to you, so promise that you will also be loyal to me and to this country in which you are living.”
24Abraham said, “I promise.”
25Abraham complained to Abimelech about a well which the servants of Abimelech had seized. 26Abimelech said, “I don't know who did this. You didn't tell me about it, and this is the first I have heard of it.” 27Then Abraham gave some sheep and cattle to Abimelech, and the two of them made an agreement. 28Abraham separated seven lambs from his flock, 29and Abimelech asked him, “Why did you do that?”
30Abraham answered, “Accept these seven lambs. By doing this, you admit that I am the one who dug this well.” 31And so the place was called Beersheba,#21.31 Beersheba: This name in Hebrew means “Well of the Vow” or “Well of Seven” (see also 26.33). because it was there that the two of them made a vow.
32After they had made this agreement at Beersheba, Abimelech and Phicol went back to Philistia. 33Then Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and worshipped the LORD, the Everlasting God. 34Abraham lived in Philistia for a long time.

Genesis 21

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.