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Genesis 21

21
Isaac’s birth
1The LORD was attentive to Sarah just as he had said, and the LORD carried out just what he had promised her. 2She became pregnant and gave birth to a son for Abraham when he was old, at the very time God had told him. 3Abraham named his son—the one Sarah bore him—Isaac.#21.3 Or he laughs 4Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old just as God had commanded him. 5Abraham was 100 years old when his son Isaac was born. 6Sarah said, “God has given me laughter. Everyone who hears about it will laugh with me.”#21.6 Or God has made a joke of me. Everyone who hears about it will laugh at me. 7She said, “Who could have told Abraham that Sarah would nurse sons? But now I’ve given birth to a son when he was old!”
Hagar and Ishmael evicted
8The boy grew and stopped nursing. On the day he stopped nursing, Abraham prepared a huge banquet. 9Sarah saw Hagar’s son laughing, the one Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham. 10So she said to Abraham, “Send this servant away with her son! This servant’s son won’t share the inheritance with my son Isaac.”
11This upset Abraham terribly because the boy was his son. 12God said to Abraham, “Don’t be upset about the boy and your servant. Do everything Sarah tells you to do because your descendants will be traced through Isaac. 13But I will make of your servant’s son a great nation too, because he is also your descendant.” 14Abraham got up early in the morning, took some bread and a flask of water, and gave it to Hagar. He put the boy in her shoulder sling and sent her away.
She left and wandered through the desert near Beer-sheba. 15Finally the water in the flask ran out, and she put the boy down under one of the desert shrubs. 16She walked away from him about as far as a bow shot and sat down, telling herself, I can’t bear to see the boy die. She sat at a distance, cried out in grief, and wept.
17God heard the boy’s cries, and God’s messenger called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “Hagar! What’s wrong? Don’t be afraid. God has heard the boy’s cries over there. 18Get up, pick up the boy, and take him by the hand because I will make of him a great nation.” 19Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well. She went over, filled the water flask, and gave the boy a drink. 20God remained with the boy; he grew up, lived in the desert, and became an expert archer. 21He lived in the Paran desert, and his mother found him an Egyptian wife.
Abraham’s treaty with the Philistines
22At that time Abimelech, and Phicol commander of his forces, said to Abraham, “God is with you in everything that you do. 23So give me your word under God that you won’t cheat me, my children, or my descendants. Just as I have treated you fairly, so you must treat me and the land in which you are an immigrant.”
24Abraham said, “I give you my word.” 25Then Abraham complained to Abimelech about a well that Abimelech’s servants had seized.
26Abimelech said, “I don’t know who has done this, and you didn’t tell me. I didn’t even hear about it until today.” 27Abraham took flocks and cattle, gave them to Abimelech, and the two of them drew up a treaty.#21.27 Or covenant 28Abraham set aside, by themselves, seven female lambs from the flock. 29So Abimelech said to Abraham, “What are these seven lambs you’ve set apart?”
30Abraham said, “These seven lambs that you take from me will attest that I dug this well.” 31Therefore, the name of that place is Beer-sheba#21.31 Or Well of seven; or Well of giving one’s word because there they gave each other their word. 32After they drew up a treaty#21.32 Or covenant at Beer-sheba, Abimelech, and Phicol commander of his forces, returned to the land of the Philistines. 33Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beer-sheba, and he worshipped there in the name of the LORD, El Olam.#21.33 Or the eternal God 34Abraham lived as an immigrant in the Philistines’ land for a long time.
21
The Birth of Isaac
1 The Lord visited#sn The Hebrew verb translated “visit” (פָּקַד, paqad ) often describes divine intervention for blessing or cursing; it indicates God’s special attention to an individual or a matter, always with respect to his people’s destiny. He may visit (that is, destroy) the Amalekites; he may visit (that is, deliver) his people in Egypt. Here he visits Sarah, to allow her to have the promised child. One’s destiny is changed when the Lord “visits.” For a more detailed study of the term, see G. André, Determining the Destiny (ConBOT). Sarah just as he had said he would and did#tn Heb “and the Lord did.” The divine name has not been repeated here in the translation for stylistic reasons. for Sarah what he had promised.#tn Heb “spoken.” 2 So Sarah became pregnant#tn Or “she conceived.” and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the appointed time that God had told him. 3 Abraham named his son – whom Sarah bore to him – Isaac.#tn Heb “the one born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac.” The two modifying clauses, the first introduced with an article and the second with the relative pronoun, are placed in the middle of the sentence, before the name Isaac is stated. They are meant to underscore that this was indeed an actual birth to Abraham and Sarah in fulfillment of the promise. 4 When his son Isaac was eight days old,#tn Heb “Isaac his son, the son of eight days.” The name “Isaac” is repeated in the translation for clarity. Abraham circumcised him just as God had commanded him to do.#sn Just as God had commanded him to do. With the birth of the promised child, Abraham obeyed the Lord by both naming (Gen 17:19) and circumcising Isaac (17:12). 5 (Now Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.)#tn The parenthetical disjunctive clause underscores how miraculous this birth was. Abraham was 100 years old. The fact that the genealogies give the ages of the fathers when their first son is born shows that this was considered a major milestone in one’s life (G. J. Wenham, Genesis [WBC], 2:80).
6 Sarah said, “God has made me laugh.#tn Heb “Laughter God has made for me.” Everyone who hears about this#tn The words “about this” are supplied in the translation for clarification. will laugh#sn Sarah’s words play on the name “Isaac” in a final triumphant manner. God prepared “laughter” (צְחֹק, ysÿkhoq ) for her, and everyone who hears about this “will laugh” (יִצְחַק, yitskhaq ) with her. The laughter now signals great joy and fulfillment, not unbelief (cf. Gen 18:12-15). with me.” 7 She went on to say,#tn Heb “said.” “Who would#tn The perfect form of the verb is used here to describe a hypothetical situation. have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have given birth to a son for him in his old age!”
8 The child grew and was weaned. Abraham prepared#tn Heb “made.” a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.#sn Children were weaned closer to the age of two or three in the ancient world, because infant mortality was high. If an infant grew to this stage, it was fairly certain he or she would live. Such an event called for a celebration, especially for parents who had waited so long for a child. 9 But Sarah noticed#tn Heb “saw.” the son of Hagar the Egyptian – the son whom Hagar had borne to Abraham – mocking.#tn The Piel participle used here is from the same root as the name “Isaac.” In the Piel stem the verb means “to jest; to make sport of; to play with,” not simply “to laugh,” which is the meaning of the verb in the Qal stem. What exactly Ishmael was doing is not clear. Interpreters have generally concluded that the boy was either (1) mocking Isaac (cf. NASB, NIV, NLT) or (2) merely playing with Isaac as if on equal footing (cf. NAB, NRSV). In either case Sarah saw it as a threat. The same participial form was used in Gen 19:14 to describe how some in Lot’s family viewed his attempt to warn them of impending doom. It also appears later in Gen 39:14, 17, where Potiphar accuses Joseph of mocking them. sn Mocking. Here Sarah interprets Ishmael’s actions as being sinister. Ishmael probably did not take the younger child seriously and Sarah saw this as a threat to Isaac. Paul in Gal 4:29 says that Ishmael persecuted Isaac. He uses a Greek word that can mean “to put to flight; to chase away; to pursue” and may be drawing on a rabbinic interpretation of the passage. In Paul’s analogical application of the passage, he points out that once the promised child Isaac (symbolizing Christ as the fulfillment of God’s promise) has come, there is no room left for the slave woman and her son (who symbolize the Mosaic law). 10 So she said to Abraham, “Banish#tn Heb “drive out.” The language may seem severe, but Sarah’s maternal instincts sensed a real danger in that Ishmael was not treating Isaac with the proper respect. that slave woman and her son, for the son of that slave woman will not be an heir along with my son Isaac!”
11 Sarah’s demand displeased Abraham greatly because Ishmael was his son.#tn Heb “and the word was very wrong in the eyes of Abraham on account of his son.” The verb רָעַע (ra’a’) often refers to what is morally or ethically “evil.” It usage here suggests that Abraham thought Sarah’s demand was ethically (and perhaps legally) wrong. 12 But God said to Abraham, “Do not be upset#tn Heb “Let it not be evil in your eyes.” about the boy or your slave wife. Do#tn Heb “listen to her voice.” The idiomatic expression means “obey; comply.” Here her advice, though harsh, is necessary and conforms to the will of God. Later (see Gen 25), when Abraham has other sons, he sends them all away as well. all that Sarah is telling#tn The imperfect verbal form here draws attention to an action that is underway. you because through Isaac your descendants will be counted.#tn Or perhaps “will be named”; Heb “for in Isaac offspring will be called to you.” The exact meaning of the statement is not clear, but it does indicate that God’s covenantal promises to Abraham will be realized through Isaac, not Ishmael. 13 But I will also make the son of the slave wife into a great nation, for he is your descendant too.”
14 Early in the morning Abraham took#tn Heb “and Abraham rose up early in the morning and he took.” some food#tn Heb “bread,” although the term can be used for food in general. and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He put them on her shoulders, gave her the child,#tn Heb “He put upon her shoulder, and the boy [or perhaps, “and with the boy”], and he sent her away.” It is unclear how “and the boy” relates syntactically to what precedes. Perhaps the words should be rearranged and the text read, “and he put [them] on her shoulder and he gave to Hagar the boy.” and sent her away. So she went wandering#tn Heb “she went and wandered.” aimlessly through the wilderness#tn Or “desert,” although for English readers this usually connotes a sandy desert like the Sahara rather than the arid wasteland of this region with its sparse vegetation. of Beer Sheba. 15 When the water in the skin was gone, she shoved#tn Heb “threw,” but the child, who was now thirteen years old, would not have been carried, let alone thrown under a bush. The exaggerated language suggests Ishmael is limp from dehydration and is being abandoned to die. See G. J. Wenham, Genesis (WBC), 2:85. the child under one of the shrubs. 16 Then she went and sat down by herself across from him at quite a distance, about a bowshot#sn A bowshot would be a distance of about a hundred yards (ninety meters). away; for she thought,#tn Heb “said.” “I refuse to watch the child die.”#tn Heb “I will not look on the death of the child.” The cohortative verbal form (note the negative particle אַל,’al) here expresses her resolve to avoid the stated action. So she sat across from him and wept uncontrollably.#tn Heb “and she lifted up her voice and wept” (that is, she wept uncontrollably). The LXX reads “he” (referring to Ishmael) rather than “she” (referring to Hagar), but this is probably an attempt to harmonize this verse with the following one, which refers to the boy’s cries.
17 But God heard the boy’s voice.#sn God heard the boy’s voice. The text has not to this point indicated that Ishmael was crying out, either in pain or in prayer. But the text here makes it clear that God heard him. Ishmael is clearly central to the story. Both the mother and the Lord are focused on the child’s imminent death. The angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and asked her, “What is the matter,#tn Heb “What to you?” Hagar? Don’t be afraid, for God has heard#sn Here the verb heard picks up the main motif of the name Ishmael (“God hears”), introduced back in chap. 16. the boy’s voice right where he is crying. 18 Get up! Help the boy up and hold him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” 19 Then God enabled Hagar to see a well of water.#tn Heb “And God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.” The referent (Hagar) has been specified in the translation for clarity. She went over and filled the skin with water, and then gave the boy a drink.
20 God was with the boy as he grew. He lived in the wilderness and became an archer. 21 He lived in the wilderness of Paran.#sn The wilderness of Paran is an area in the east central region of the Sinai peninsula, northeast from the traditional site of Mt. Sinai and with the Arabah and the Gulf of Aqaba as its eastern border. His mother found a wife for him from the land of Egypt.#tn Heb “And his mother took for him a wife from the land of Egypt.”
22 At that time Abimelech and Phicol, the commander of his army, said to Abraham, “God is with you#sn God is with you. Abimelech and Phicol recognized that Abraham enjoyed special divine provision and protection. in all that you do. 23 Now swear to me right here in God’s name#tn Heb “And now swear to me by God here.” that you will not deceive me, my children, or my descendants.#tn Heb “my offspring and my descendants.” Show me, and the land#tn The word “land” refers by metonymy to the people in the land. where you are staying,#tn The Hebrew verb means “to stay, to live, to sojourn” as a temporary resident without ownership rights. the same loyalty#tn Or “kindness.” that I have shown you.”#tn Heb “According to the loyalty which I have done with you, do with me and with the land in which you are staying.”
24 Abraham said, “I swear to do this.”#tn Heb “I swear.” No object is specified in the Hebrew text, but the content of the oath requested by Abimelech is the implied object. 25 But Abraham lodged a complaint#tn The Hebrew verb used here means “to argue; to dispute”; it can focus on the beginning of the dispute (as here), the dispute itself, or the resolution of a dispute (Isa 1:18). Apparently the complaint was lodged before the actual oath was taken. against Abimelech concerning a well#tn Heb “concerning the matter of the well of water.” that Abimelech’s servants had seized.#tn The Hebrew verb used here means “to steal; to rob; to take violently.” The statement reflects Abraham’s perspective. 26 “I do not know who has done this thing,” Abimelech replied. “Moreover,#tn Heb “and also.” you did not tell me. I did not hear about it until today.”
27 Abraham took some sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelech. The two of them made a treaty.#tn Heb “cut a covenant.” 28 Then Abraham set seven ewe lambs apart from the flock by themselves. 29 Abimelech asked Abraham, “What is the meaning of these#tn Heb “What are these?” seven ewe lambs that you have set apart?” 30 He replied, “You must take these seven ewe lambs from my hand as legal proof#tn Heb “that it be for me for a witness.” that I dug this well.”#sn This well. Since the king wanted a treaty to share in Abraham’s good fortune, Abraham used the treaty to secure ownership of and protection for the well he dug. It would be useless to make a treaty to live in this territory if he had no rights to the water. Abraham consented to the treaty, but added his rider to it. 31 That is why he named that place#tn Heb “that is why he called that place.” Some translations render this as an impersonal passive, “that is why that place was called.” Beer Sheba,#sn The name Beer Sheba (בְּאֵר שָׁבַע, bÿ’er shava’) means “well of the oath” or “well of the seven.” Both the verb “to swear” and the number “seven” have been used throughout the account. Now they are drawn in as part of the explanation of the significance of the name. because the two of them swore#sn The verb forms a wordplay with the name Beer Sheba. an oath there.
32 So they made a treaty#tn Heb “cut a covenant.” at Beer Sheba. Then Abimelech and Phicol, the commander of his army, returned#tn Heb “arose and returned.” to the land of the Philistines.#sn The Philistines mentioned here may not be ethnically related to those who lived in Palestine in the time of the judges and the united monarchy. See D. M. Howard, “Philistines,” Peoples of the Old Testament World, 238. 33 Abraham#tn Heb “and he”; the referent (Abraham) has been specified in the translation for clarity. planted a tamarisk tree#sn The planting of the tamarisk tree is a sign of Abraham’s intent to stay there for a long time, not a religious act. A growing tree in the Negev would be a lasting witness to God’s provision of water. in Beer Sheba. There he worshiped the Lord,#tn Heb “he called there in the name of the Lord.” The expression refers to worshiping the Lord through prayer and sacrifice (see Gen 4:26; 12:8; 13:4; 26:25). See G. J. Wenham, Genesis (WBC), 1:116, 281. the eternal God. 34 So Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for quite some time.#tn Heb “many days.”