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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.
21
1And the Lord visited Sara, as he had promised: and fulfilled what he had spoken.
2And she conceived and bore a son in her old age, at the time that God had foretold her.
3And Abraham called the name of his son, whom Sara bore him, Isaac.
4And he circumcised him the eighth day, as God had commanded him.
5When he was a hundred years old: for at this age of his father was Isaac born.
6And Sara said: God hath made a laughter for me. Whosoever shall hear of it will laugh with me.
7And again she said: Who would believe that Abraham should hear that Sara gave suck to a son, whom she bore to him in his old age?
8And the child grew and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast on the day of his weaning.
9And when Sara had seen the son of Agar the Egyptian playing with Isaac her son, she said to Abraham:
10Cast out this bondwoman, and her son; for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.
11Abraham took this grievously for his son.
12And God said to him: Let it not seem grievous to thee for the boy, and for thy bondwoman. In all that Sara hath said to thee, hearken to her voice: for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.
13But I will make the son also of the bondwoman a great nation: because he is thy seed.
14So Abraham rose up in the morning, and taking bread and a bottle of water, put it upon her shoulder, and delivered the boy, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Bersabee.
15And when the water in the bottle was spent, she cast the boy under one of the trees that were there.
16And she went her way, and sat over against him a great way off as far as a bow can carry. For she said: I will not see the boy die. And sitting over against, she lifted up her voice and wept.
17And God heard the voice of the boy. And an angel of God called to Agar from heaven, saying: What art thou doing, Agar? Fear not: for God hath heard the voice of the boy, from the place wherein he is.
18Arise, take up the boy, and hold him by the hand: for I will make him a great nation.
19And God opened her eyes: and she saw a well of water, and went and filled the bottle, and gave the boy to drink.
20And GOD was with him: and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became a young man, an archer.
21And he dwelt in the wilderness of Pharan: and his mother took a wife for him out of the land of Egypt.
22At the same time Abimelech, and Phicol, the general of his army, said to Abraham: God is with thee in all that thou dost.
23Swear therefore by God, that thou wilt not hurt me, nor my posterity, nor my stock: but according to the kindness that I have done to thee, thou shalt do to me, and to the land wherein thou hast lived a stranger.
24And Abraham said: I will swear.
25And he reproved Abimelech for a well of water, which his servants had taken away by force.
26And Abimelech answered: I knew not who did this thing; and thou didst not tell me, and I heard not of it till to-day.
27And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them to Abimelech: and both of them made a league.
28And Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs of the flock.
29And Abimelech said to him: What mean these seven ewe lambs which thou hast set apart?
30But he said: Thou shalt take seven ewe lambs at my hand: that they may be a testimony for me, that I dug this well.
31Therefore that place was called Bersabee: because there both of them did swear.
32And they made a league for the well of oath.
33And Abimelech, and Phicol, the general of his army, arose and returned to the land of the Palestines. But Abraham planted a grove in Bersabee, and there called upon the name of the Lord God eternal.
34And he was a sojourner in the land of the Palestines many days.