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Genesis 21

21
Birth of Isaac
1Then Adonai visited Sarah just as He had said, and Adonai did for Sarah just as He had spoken.
2So Sarah became pregnant and gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time that God had told him.
3Abraham named his son who was born to him—whom Sarah bore for him—Isaac.
4Then Abraham circumcised Isaac, his eight-day-old son, just as God had commanded him.
5Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac his son was born to him.
6So Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me! Everyone who hears will laugh with me.”
7She also said, “Who would have said to Abraham, ‘Sarah has nursed children’? For I have given birth to a son in his old age!”
Ishmael Banished, Yet Delivered
8The child grew and was weaned—Abraham made a big feast on the day Isaac was weaned.
9But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian whom she had born to Abraham—making fun.
10So she said to Abraham, “Drive out this female slave and her son, for the son of this female slave will not be an heir with my son—with Isaac.”
11Now the matter was very displeasing in Abraham’s eyes on account of his son.
12But God said to Abraham, “Do not be displeased about the boy and your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, listen to her voice. For through Isaac shall your seed be called.
13Yet I will also make the son of the slave woman into a nation, because he is your seed.”
14So Abraham got up early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar, putting them on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away. She went and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.
15When the water from the skin was finished, she abandoned the child under one of the bushes.
16Then she went and sat herself down opposite, about a bowshot away, for she had said, “I can’t bear to see the child dying!” So she sat down opposite and lifted up her voice and wept.
17Then God heard the boy’s voice and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and He said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid, because God has heard the boy’s voice where he is.
18Get up! Lift the boy up, and hold on to him with your hand, for I will make him a great nation.”
19Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water, and she went and filled the water skin, and gave the boy a drink.
20God was with the boy and he grew. He dwelled in the wilderness and became an archer.
21He dwelled in the wilderness of Paran, and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.
Covenant of Abimelech and Abraham
22Now it came about at that same time that Abimelech—with Phicol the commander of his army---said to Abraham, “God is with you in all that you do.
23So now, make a pledge to me here, by God, that you will not violate your word with me or with my descendants or with my offspring. As I have shown loyalty to you, show the same to me, and to the land in which you have lived as an outsider.”
24Abraham said, “I make a pledge.”
25Now Abraham had rebuked Abimelech because of the well of water that Abimelech’s servants had seized.
26So Abimelech said, “I don’t know who did this thing. Nor did you tell me, nor did I hear about it until today.”
27Then Abraham took a flock of sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelech, and the two of them made a covenant.
28Abraham set seven young ewe-lambs apart from the flock of sheep by themselves.
29Abimelech said to Abraham, “What do these seven ewe-lambs that you’ve set by themselves mean?”
30He said, “You are to accept the seven ewe-lambs from my hand, so that they may be a witness for me that I dug this well.”
31That is why that place is named Beer-sheba, because there both of them made a pledge,
32and they made a covenant in Beer-sheba. Then Abimelech got up, with Phicol the commander of his army, and they returned to the land of the Philistines.
33Then he planted a tamarisk tree in Beer-sheba and called there on the Name of Adonai, the Everlasting God.
34He lived as an outsider in the land of the Philistines for many days.
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.