by Robert Brow    (

Brow Publications, Kingston, Ontario (e-mail: 2004

Introduction | Genesis 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11| 12| 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30

31 | 32 | 33| 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41| 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50| PostScript

Table Of Contents:

Genesis 21:1-7 Genesis 21:20
Genesis 21:8 Genesis 21:21
Genesis 21:9-10 Genesis 21:22-24
Genesis 21:11-13 Genesis 21:25-26
Genesis 21:14 Genesis 21:27-32
Genesis 21:15-16 Genesis 21:33
Genesis 21:17-19 Genesis 21:34

GENESIS  21:1-7   (Sarah gives birth to Isaac)

21:1    Sarah had laughed at the idea that she could give birth to a child in her old age, but the LORD pointed out that nothing was too hard for him (18:9-14).  And he had done exactly what he had said.   Abraham’s faith was based on receiving and acting on God’s promises (Romans 4:19-21; 2 Corinthians 1:20)

21:2-3    For Abraham’s son God had  chosen the name Yitzkhaak meaning “he/she will  laugh from joy or amazement.”

21:4-5    A year before there had been the circumcision of Abraham at the age of 99 and his thirteen year-old son Ishmael  by Sarah’s servant maid Hagar (17:23-27).

21:6-7   A year before her laughter (18:12) had been the laugh of unbelief, but now she realizes God has given her tzakhok (laughter) and all her neighbors would yitzkhak (laugh) with her.  The unthinkable had happened, and she was now nursing  a son for Abraham.


GENESIS  21:8-21   (Hagar and Ishmael are sent away to begin the Arab people).

21:8   When a male heir was weaned there was a celebration that he had survived the first two or three years when many infants died.  

21:9-10  Sarah saw Ishmael, the son of Hagar the Egyptian, matzakhek (laughing with, laughing at, here probably mocking) her son Isaac.    Paul wrote  “You, my friends are children of the promise, like Isaac.  But just as at that time the child who was born according to the flesh persecuted the child who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also (Galatians 4:29).  Whatever it was that irritated her, Sarah wanted Ishmael immediately removed from any possibility of having a share in her own son Isaac’s inheritance. 

21:11-13    Abraham was very upset at the idea of his firstborn son Ishmael being disinherited. On the one hand God insisted that God’s covenant purposes for the Jewish people would be through Isaac (as promised in 17:15-21).   On the other hand God also assured Abraham that the great Arab nation would be born through Ishmael.   This was in answer to Abraham’s prayer.  “As for Ishmael, I have heard you; I will bless him and make him fruitful and exceedingly numerous; he shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation (see 17:20; 21:18).   This is the origin of the 3,800 year old quarrel between Jews and Arabs.

21:14   By this time Ishmael was a boy aged 14 (17:24-26; 21:5).  Abraham loaded him and his mother with a skin of water (21:15,19) and food for the journey.  Instead of going west into Egypt from the area south of Gerar (see note on 20:1) they traveled for three days,  50 miles, 80 km, due east into the wilderness around what was later called Beersheba.  Perhaps Hagar already knew that Ishmael’s future would not be in Egypt but to the east in the vast areas of Arabia.

21:15-16   Hagar was in unfamiliar territory, and seems to have wandered around looking for a spring to refill their water skin.      Her son was obviously going to die from dehydration, and she sat just out of sight so she would not hear him crying,  and she wept in hopeless despair.

21:17-19   An angel called to her (see note on 19:1), and asked her what was troubling her (see the preliminary probing questions in 3:9; 4:9; 16:8).   As a sign of faith she was told to pick up the young man and hug him.   Then she was reminded of what she had been told on a previous occasion.  “I will so greatly multiply your offspring that they cannot be counted for multitude” (16:10).   Only then was she able to see the well of water that was right by her, and she quickly filled the skin with water and gave him a drink.

21:20   We noted  that the term “wild ass” (16:12) applied to Ishmael was not derogatory.  Wild asses were fast,  powerful, and able to survive in the worst of desert conditions.  Ishmael also became an expert archer.   He could both kill game both for food and to fight against enemies.

21:21   Hagar and Ishmael moved another 100 miles, 160 km, south into what is now the Sinai Peninsula.  There in that isolated rugged area  Ishmael was able to develop his leadership skills as he strengthened  his control of other Arab tribes.   There his mother, Hagar the slave from Egypt, arranged a marriage for him from among her own people.


GENESIS  21:22-34   (Abraham’s long residence in Philistine territory)

21:22-24   Meanwhile Abraham continued living at the western boundary of the Kingdom of Gerar (see 20:1).    He had previously misjudged Abimelech’s integrity (20:11).  And now the King recognized  that God’s hand of blessing was on Abraham.  Phicol, the commander in chief of his army, probably felt that Abraham and his growing tribe were becoming a threat to the Kingdom.   So he arranged for King Abimelech to make a solemn non-aggression pact with Abraham.

21:25-26   That did not prevent Abimelech’s servants from seizing one of the wells that Abraham had dug, and the King pretended he knew nothing about this.  This illustrates the fact that treaties have to be maintained by continual watchfulness on both sides.

21:27-32   To settle his right to the well and the surrounding territory Abraham insisted on a covenant based on the sacrifice of seven ewe lambs.   Beersheba is still the main city at the southern border between Israel and Egypt (see the expression “From Dan to Beersheba, Judges 20:1, 1 Samuel 3:20).  Hebrew has the same three consonants for shabagh (an oath) and shebagh (the number seven), and this reflects the practice that a permanent oath of agreement was sealed sevenfold, in this case by seven lambs.

21:33   We have noted how Abraham’s faith was expressed again and again in different ways (see comment on 15:6).   He recognized that God had continually guided and protected him in many hazards as he had traveled 600 miles, 960 km from Ur to Haran, then 700 miles, 1000 km, down into Egypt, back into Canaan, his relationships with dangerous neighbors, and now in the difficult business dealings with the King of Gerar.   His faith was now expressed by worshiping God as el-gholam (the Everlasting God, see 17:1).  As a reminder of God’s faithfulness, and the agreement with Abimelech,  he planted a tree in Beersheba.  

21:34   Sarah was 90 years old (17:17)  when Isaac was born in Philistine territory (20:1), and she was buried 37 years later in Hebron (23:1-2).  It is not clear how long was the time that Abraham and his family lived as aliens in the territory of the King of Gerar, but he had returned to the Oaks of Mamre near Hebron(18:1) by the time Sarah died at the age of 127.  

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