Genesis Chapter Twenty-One


Read Genesis 21:1-8 – Birth of Isaac


v.1And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken.”


            God keeps his promises.  The promise to provide Abraham and Sarah a son was made by God and repeated during our recent study.


Genesis 17:19And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.”


Genesis 18:10And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.”


            Sometimes God even exceeds what we request or expect of him in keeping his promises.  When Hannah pleaded with God for a son; God gave her Samuel but more than just Samuel:


I Samuel 2:21And the LORD visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the LORD.”


Just as Isaac and Samuel were children as the result of a promise made by Almighty God, so are you and I children of God as a result of the same promise.


Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.” Galatians 4:28


v.2For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.”


            But God’s promised are fulfilled when the “SET TIME” has passed or has come to be.  About twenty-four years after bringing Abram and Sarai to Canaan God set a time:


But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.” Genesis 17:21


            We read in God’s record of the faith of the patriarchs; about the faith of Abel, Noah, Abraham and others but I don’t think that we think of or emphasize that Sarah was also honored because of her faith.  Oh, yes she was skeptical, she laughed behind the tent door when she heard the promise of the Lord to give her a son in her old age, but we’re also told that she received God’s promise because of her faith:


Through faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.” Hebrews 11:11


v.3-4And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac. 4And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old, as God had commanded him.”


            Abraham obeyed both of God’s commandments concerning Isaac.  First that he was to be named as God had directed:


And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.” Genesis 17:19


Secondly that he, as well as any others born in the household were to be circumcised.


“This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.” Genesis 17:10


v.5-6And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him.  And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.”


            Oh, the joy of a son; especially to a lady who is of the age to be a ggggrandmother, a joy that families share even unto today.




v.7-8 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. 8And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned.”


            Sarah is not the only one celebrating with joy the birth of a son, but Abraham is as well.  The wonders of God never cease.  After long years of waiting; waiting sometimes not very patiently God’s promise is fulfilled.  Even though a miracle is required, a miracle because God planned it that way, Abraham and Sarah in the ages of 100 for Abraham and 90 for Sarah have a son.  Abraham makes a feast of celebration, a great feast we’re told, in keeping with the wealth and power of a man blessed by God.  But as it seems is always the case there is trouble on the horizon.


Read Genesis 21:9-21 – Trouble with Ishmael


v.9And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking.”


            By this time Ishmael is about fifteen years old.  He has enjoyed the status of being Abraham’s only son, even though the son of a bondwoman; but things have now changed.  In his mind, at least, he has been replaced.  We don’t know exactly what Ishmael did but, concerning this incident, the apostle Paul writes:


But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.” Galatians 4:29


Sarah sees him mocking or as Paul says persecuting Isaac and the wrath of a mother protecting her offspring arises.


v.10Wherefore 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.”


            Sarah does not want Ishmael to be recognized as a legitimate son of Abraham or share in the inheritance of Isaac in any form.  So she wants Abraham to send Ishmael and Hagar away.  In later years Abraham did the same with other sons that he had by Keturah as well.


But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country.” Genesis 25:6


This occurrence is used in the New Testament by the Holy Spirit to explain the difference between those under the bondage of the Mosaic Law and those who now enjoy the freedom from bondage to sin under the Law of Christ.


Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. 31So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.” Galatians 4:30-31


v.11 And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son.”


            Ishmael may be the son of a bondwoman, a slave, but he is still Abraham’s son, loved by his father and this animosity toward Ishmael by Sarah grieves him.  But God reassures him.


v.12And 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.”


            Isaac is the child of God’s seed promise.  Isaac is the one through whom God will bring about the coming of the Messiah, his Son.


Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. 8That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” Romans 9:7-8


But just as he had promised both Hagar and Abraham before; God’s promise to bless all nations through Isaac doesn’t mean that Ishmael is going to be abandoned by God.


v.13And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed.”


Genesis 17:20And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.”


v.14And 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.”


            Abraham sends Hagar and Ishmael away, just as Sarah wishes and God has commanded.  Hagar goes into the Wilderness of Beersheba.  On some of the maps in your study Bibles it will labeled the Negeb and is in effect the northern part of the Wilderness of Sinai.  The cities of the plain have been destroyed and this has become a dry and desolate region, just as it is today.


v.15-16And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs. 16And 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,”


            I think we’re prone to think of Ishmael as a small child when this incident occurs but remember that he is about fifteen years.  Consequently he’s about the age that many, myself included, accepted many of the responsibilities of being an adult.  But, as the scripture implies, he was apparently weak from the need for water, Hagar is lost, worried and doesn’t know what to do now.  She’s convinced that he will die and weeps for him. But God still has plans for them and intervenes.


v.17-18And 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. 18Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.”


            Perhaps Ishmael had been taught by Abraham to pray, perhaps in his distress he calls out to God as he had probably seen Abraham, his father, do.  God has a purpose for Ishmael and will not let him die as Hagar feared.  Hagar has been in this kind of a situation before (Genesis 16:7).  God hears Ishmael just as he heard the cries of his children in Egypt:


And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows;” Exodus 3:7


v.19And 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.”


            God provides water from a well that either was there and Hagar had not found or that he provided.  He opened her eyes, just as he opened the eyes of others at other times, to see what was there that they had not seen or could not see.


Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face.” Numbers 22:31


Hagar fills her water bottle and gives water to Ishmael.


v.20And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer.”


            Ishmael was blessed by God according to his promise:


Genesis 16:12And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”


His descendants become the wild and free men of the desert, the Bedouins; warlike, answering to no man and experts with the bow, a major weapon of war from this time until the invention of gunpowder.  They also were the first breeders and developers of the Arabian horses so desired by many of the whole world even yet today.


v.21And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt.”


            Ishmael lives in the Wilderness of Paran, an area located in the northeastern part of the Sinai and still home to the Bedouin people today.  It is a very dry area, receiving only about 10 inches of rain a year, about 1/3 of that received here in this region of Louisiana and an area filled with caves and caverns.


Read Genesis 21:22-34 – Abraham at Beersheba


v.22And 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:”


            In spite of Abraham’s deception concerning his relationship with Sarah you will remember that Abimelech gave him the freedom to live wherever he chose in his kingdom.


Genesis 20:15And Abimelech said, Behold, my land is before thee: dwell where it pleaseth thee.”


Now the situation has arisen where Abimelech may be having second thoughts about his generosity.  Abraham is a man of God, blessed greatly by God and becoming more wealthy and consequently more powerful as each day goes by.  He comes to Abraham seeking a new covenant, reassurance that Abraham will not turn on him as many men would.


v.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.”


            Abimelech seeks a just recompense for his kindness, just as Rahab does when she saves and protects the spies of Joshua at Jericho.


Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the LORD, since I have showed you kindness, that ye will also show kindness unto my father’s house, and give me a true token:” Joshua 2:12


v.24And Abraham said, I will swear.


            Abraham readily agrees but then wants Abimelech to also provide justice to those of his kingdom who have wronged him.


v.25 And Abraham reproved Abimelech because of a well of water, which Abimelech’s servants had violently taken away.”


            In this region, even yet today, water is scarce and vital even to being able to sustain life.  Abraham apparently had dug a well in order to have water and the servants of Abimelech had taken his well away from him.  In fact, as we will learn in study of later chapters, Abraham had dug numerous wells in the lands of Abimelech, described by Moses as the land south of the land of Philistines.


v.26And Abimelech said, I wot not who hath done this thing: neither didst thou tell me, neither yet heard I of it, but to day.”


            Apparently strife has arisen between the servants of Abimelech and Abraham much the same as had occurred in the days of Lot.  Abimelech has not been made aware of this problem and learns of it only because Abraham tells him.


v.27-28And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech; and both of them made a covenant. 28And Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves.”


            Abraham and Abimelech make a new covenant.  As was the custom of the day Abraham makes gifts to Abimelech as a result of this covenant.  But Abraham goes beyond that of custom and Abimelech wants to know why.


v.29And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What mean these seven ewe lambs which thou hast set by themselves?”


            The seven ewe lambs are made as a separate gift, they have some significance.


v.30-31And 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. 31Wherefore he called that place Beersheba; because there they sware both of them.”


            Abraham gives the seven ewes to Abimelech in order to persuade him to give him his well back or as Abraham calls it, as a witness that this is his well.  Abimelech accepts this gift and a covenant is drawn between them.  This is also how Beersheba gets it name as the name means the “well of seven” or “well of covenant”.  Names have significance and we find a number of places in the Old Testament were names are given to cause people to remember an event or a covenant.


v.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.”


            Abimelech is now assured that Abraham is not going to pose a threat to his kingdom, makes a covenant with Abraham and returns to his home in the cities of the plain which are along the Mediterrean coast.  These cities later are indeed the cities of the Philistines used by God to punish Israel when she was unfaithful.


v.33-34 And Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God. 34And Abraham sojourned in the Philistines’ land many days.”


            As is common in this desert land when a well is available an oasis is possible.  An oasis is a place of abundance with water, trees, and when developed as Abraham apparently did this one, it also has groves and gardens.

            Abraham “CALLED THERE ON THE NAME OF THE LORD”, worshiped and served God, living there in the land that belonged to the Philistines, the people of Abimelech, we’re told, “FOR MANY DAYS”.