Genesis 21 - Outline of Genesis (MENU page)
21:1 And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said,
and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken.
21:2 For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age,
at the set time of which God had spoken to him.
21:3 And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him,
whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac.
21:4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old,
as God had commanded him.
{Gen 17:10-14}
21:5 And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him.
21:6 And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, [so that] all that hear will laugh with me.
21:7 And she said,
Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given children suck?
for I have born [him] a son in his old age.
The LORD visited... the LORD did... as He had spoken.-
God accomplished what He had promised without the aid of flesh. When flesh attempted to assist, it only produced problems. (eg., the birth of Ishmael, who was not needed for fulfillment of God's Covenant, and who would complicate the lives of the Covenant people.)
''Nature can never do [anything] for God. The Lord must 'visit', the Lord must 'do', and faith must wait, and nature must be still -- yea, must be entirely set aside as a dead worthless thing, and then the divine glory can shine out, and faith find in that outshining all its rich and sweet reward.'' [CHM]
Isaac - 'laughter', became the joy of life for Abraham & Sarah.
They had waited for God's promise, and now they could hardly contain themselves for joy at its fulfillment.
Several aspects of Isaac's life foreshadow the earthly life of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We will touch on them as we come to them in the text.
Here are some similarities relating to their births-
  1. as the Lord had spoken...- Both births were foretold long before the event. Gen 12:2; Gen 3:15
  2. you shall call his name...- Both were named prior to birth. Gen 17:19; Mat 1:21
  3. Who would have said...?- Both births were physically impossible:
    due to the parents' old age (v.7), or, due to a mother's virginity (Luk 1:34).
  4. at the set time...- Both births occurred at God's appointed time. v.2; Gen 18:14; Gal 4:4
21:8 And the child grew, and was weaned:
and Abraham made a great feast the [same] day that Isaac was weaned.
21:9 And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian,
{Gen 16:1,2,15}
which she had born unto Abraham, mocking.
21:10 Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son:
for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, [even] with Isaac.
21:11 And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight because of his son.
21:12 And God said unto Abraham,
Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman;
in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice;
for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.
21:13 And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he [is] thy seed.
the child grew and was weaned- (probably when Isaac was 3 to 5 years old.)
The feast which Abraham made marked a milestone in Isaac's maturity (cp. Heb 5:13,14),
and honored Isaac as his designated heir. No doubt, the animosity expressed by Ishmael was in response to the preference of Isaac before him.
The struggle that came to Abraham's household was a conflict between
what his flesh produced (ie., Ishmael), and what God brought forth (Isaac).
The source of struggle ''was not Ishmael changed, but it was Isaac born.'' [CHM]
The presence of that which was spiritual brought out the worst in that which was of the flesh.
In the NT, these two boys become a picture of the believer's two incompatible natures. Gal 4:19-31
The 'son of the bondwoman' pictures the flesh, the old nature -
  • The old nature- is acquired at natural birth. Joh 3:6
  • cannot be improved, and cannot please God. Rom 8:5-8
  • attempts to please God, via a religion of works (the Law), but fails hopelessly. Rom 7:7-14
The 'son of the freewoman' pictures the spiritual nature -
  • The new nature- is acquired via spiritual birth (Joh 3:5,6).
  • serves God by the power of God's Son (Rom 8:1-4) and God's Spirit (Rom 8:9-13), and is therefore free to accomplish what the flesh could not.
  • inherits (receives) all that it is and hopes to be from God (Rom 8:14-17).
Cast out this bondwoman and her son...- Sarah's demand caused grief to Abraham.
Yet, painful as it was, it was according to God's will, because Isaac alone was heir. v.12
Abraham was comforted by God's promise to provide for Ishmael. v.13
Here also is God's solution for dealing with the believer's incompatible natures. Gal 4:28-31
  1. The old nature is to be consciously 'cast out' or 'put off'. Col 3:9,10
    - - The new nature in Christ is 'put on'. Gal 3:26-29
    - - The believer is to regard himself as dead to sin through Christ's death, and alive to God through Christ's resurrection. Rom 6:1-10; cp. Joh 8:34-36
    (The 'putting off' of the old nature, while not pain free, results in true freedom.)
  2. The old religion of works (the Law) is cast off, no longer having jurisdiction. Gal 3:19-25
    - - The believer is no longer bound to a religion of works (the Law) because that relationship was broken by Christ's death, so that we could be joined to Him in newness of life. Rom 7:1-6
21:14 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water,
and gave [it] unto Hagar, putting [it] on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away:
and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.
21:15 And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs.
21:16 And she went, and sat her down over against [him] a good way off, as it were a bowshot:
for she said, Let me not see the death of the child.
And she sat over against [him], and lift up her voice, and wept.
{cp. Gen 16:7-15}
21:17 And God heard the voice of the lad;
and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her,
What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he [is].
21:18 Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.
21:19 And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water;
and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.
21:20 And God was with the lad;
and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer.
21:21 And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran:
and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt.
Hagar and Ishmael were sent out to fend for themselves.
When things looked bleak, God saw to it that their needs were met.
The terms ''child'' (HB= yeled, a begotten child) and ''lad'' (HB= naar, youth, young man)
are used interchangeably here. Ishmael would have been about 15 to 20 years old (cp. Gen 16:16; 21:5, add a few years for Isaac's weaning). As a 'young man,' Ishmael remained Hagar's 'child.'
Scripture now sets Ishmael aside, to focus on the line of promise through Isaac.
21:22 And it came to pass at that time,
that Abimelech and Phichol the chief captain of his host spake unto Abraham, saying,
God [is] with thee in all that thou doest:
21:23 Now therefore swear unto me here by God that thou wilt not deal falsely with me,
nor with my son, nor with my son's son:
[but] according to the kindness that I have done unto thee, thou shalt do unto me,
and to the land wherein thou hast sojourned.
21:24 And Abraham said, I will swear.
21:25 And Abraham reproved Abimelech because of a well of water,
which Abimelech's servants had violently taken away.
21:26 And Abimelech said, I wot
{know} not who hath done this thing:
neither didst thou tell me, neither yet heard I [of it], but to day.
21:27 And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech;
and both of them made a covenant.
21:28 And Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves.
21:29 And Abimelech said unto Abraham,
What [mean] these seven ewe lambs which thou hast set by themselves?
21:30 And he said, For [these] seven ewe lambs shalt thou take of my hand,
that they may be a witness unto me, that I have digged this well.
21:31 Wherefore he called that place Beersheba
{lit., 'the well of the oath'};
because there they sware both of them.
21:32 Thus they made a covenant at Beersheba:
then Abimelech rose up, and Phichol the chief captain of his host,
and they returned into the land of the Philistines.
21:33 And [Abraham] planted a grove
{or, a tree} in Beersheba,
and called there on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God.
21:34 And Abraham sojourned in the Philistines' land many days.
God is with thee...- this assessment from Abimelech, who had once reproved Abraham (ch.20).
Abraham having dealt with his sin, being confident of God's presence, and having received the promised heir, is now bold (1) to reprove Abimelech for his wrong (v.25) and (2) to claim usage rights to a single well in the promised land (v.30,31).
the everlasting God (v.33)- This introduces another name for God: HB= El Olam
The word 'Olam' means: old, ancient, everlasting, hidden, secret.
This name speaks of (1) His transcendance of time (Psa 90:2),
and (2) His wisdom & authority over things which are hidden to men (cp. Isa 46:9,10; Mat 13:11; Eph 1:9,10).

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