Genesis 21


‘Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Sarah said, ‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.’ And she added, ‘Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.’ Genesis 21:1-7

In this chapter, we read that Abraham is now 100 years old and more importantly we read about how God fulfilled His promise which took 25 years, Genesis 21:1-4. We must remember that God always keeps His promises and He is faithful to His promises.

When Sarah became pregnant, we see the fulfilment of God’s promise was realised, Genesis 17:15-17 / Genesis 18:9-15. Despite Sarah and Abraham being old, God did what no man could ever do and ever think possible. Even though both Abraham and Sarah had laughed because they thought it was impossible to have children at their age, God performed a miracle with the birth of Isaac, remembering that the seed promise, the Saviour of the world would eventually come through their family lineage, Genesis 3:15.

The name Isaac means laughter, Genesis 17:17-19 / Genesis 19:12-15 and it seems that both Sarah and Abraham would never be allowed to forget what God did for them and through them. In a sense every time they called the name Isaac they would be reminded of when God rebuked them but also the joy in the fulfilment of God’s promise.

When we look at the birth of Isaac, we get an insight into what the Messiah would look like.

Isaac and Jesus

1. Both were promised, sons.

2. Both were born after a period of delay.

3. Both mothers were assured by God. Genesis 18:13-14 / Luke 1:34 / Luke 1:37.

4. Both were given names with meaning before they were born.

5. Both births occurred at God’s appointed time. Genesis 21:2 / Galatians 4:4.

6. Both births were miraculous.

7. Both births were accompanied by joy. Genesis 21:6 / Luke 1:46-47 / Luke 2:10-11.

‘The child grew and was weaned, and on the day, Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, ‘Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.’ The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, ‘Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.’ Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba.’ Genesis 21:8-14

As with most people, even in today’s society, the birth of a child brings a time of celebration. The feast mentioned here seems to have taken place when Isaac was being weaned, which could have been up to three years after the birth. Notice here that it’s Ishmael, not Hagar, who was the one causing trouble in the family, it was the older son Ishmael who was mocking the small child Isaac. There is a conflict between Isaac and Ishmael, but it all comes from Ishmael.

The family feud was now so bad that Abraham was beginning to feel the stress of it all, originally the tension in the family was between Sarah and Hagar, Genesis 16:4-6. God says that Abraham should listen to his wife, and he needs to reassure her that God also has great plans for Ishmael, from him a great nation would come.

The law of Nuzu a pagan king said that somebody had the right to throw out any woman slave who had a child to their master if the master had a child naturally. The custom of the time was that the son of the servant woman was to be cared for by the father of the child and he was to do this even though the true wife eventually gave birth to a son. It seems that this custom was put aside and the reason for this was the posterity of Abraham would be continued through Isaac, not Ishmael.

When Paul addresses the legalizers in Galatia, he reminds them that they were not children of Abraham but Ishmael and their mother was Hagar. Ishmael was born of flesh, whereas Isaac was born of the promise. Paul speaks about the Law of Moses and the law of Christ and gives the illustration that Hagar was a slave to the law, but Sarah was a free woman, Galatians 4:22-29.

Abraham sends Hagar and Ishmael away because God’s plan is for Isaac, so Abraham sent away the son of flesh, Galatians 5:34. Today we belong to the free woman and we must remember that God is looking here at the spiritual bond. Abraham gave Hagar and Ishmael some food and some water, which seems generous but, how long would they survive in the desert with such small supplies?

‘When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, ‘I cannot watch the boy die.’ And as she sat there, she began to sob. God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.’ Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So, she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt.’ Genesis 21:15-21

We don’t know how long or how far Hagar and Ishmael are in the desert, but they soon ran out of supplies and Hagar comes to the conclusion that they are both going to die very soon. Notice though, God hears Ishmael crying, God keeps His promises to her and Ishmael and tells her that they both wouldn’t die because from Ishmael a great nation would come. Once again, we learn that when we think no one cares and no one notices, God does, Genesis 16:7-14.

The Desert of Para was in the area south of Canaan. The two sons of Lot, Abraham’s nephew, grew into the two nations of Moab and Ammon on the east side of the Jordan, east of Palestine. Now Ishmael would develop a barrier nation to the south of Canaan.

What does all this mean?

It means that God was setting up Canaan for the possession of Abraham’s descendants which would take place about four hundred years from the time these events happened in Abraham’s life.

‘At that time Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, ‘God is with you in everything you do. Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you now reside as a foreigner the same kindness, I have shown to you.’ Abraham said, ‘I swear it.’ Genesis 21:22-24

It seems that Abimelek still remembered how he had been previously deceived by Abraham, Genesis 20:1-18 and needed some kind of reassurance. Since he had been kind to Abraham in the past, he was asking the favour in return. The name Abimelek simply means king and a treaty is made between Abraham and Abimelek. Abimelek saw that God was with him, in other words, the blessings were obvious.

‘Then Abraham complained to Abimelek about a well of water that Abimelek’s servants had seized. But Abimelek said, ‘I don’t know who has done this. You did not tell me, and I heard about it only today.’ So, Abraham brought sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelek, and the two men made a treaty. Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, and Abimelek asked Abraham, ‘What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?’ He replied, ‘Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.’ So that place was called Beersheba, because the two men swore an oath there. After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the LORD, the Eternal God. And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.’ Genesis 21:25-34

After swearing an agreement with Abimelek, there was conflict between Abraham and Abimelek over a well that was there. Abraham goes on to rebuke him for the behaviour of his servants concerning a water well that had been stolen from Abraham’s servants. Abraham’s servants had laboured to dig the well but when it was finished, Abimelek’s servants stole it from them.

This is the first mention of treaties or covenants in the Old Testament that were commonly made between men during the Old Testament times. Notice the order of this covenant.

1. The terms and conditions for the covenant were first made by both parties, Genesis 21:23.

2. Each party then swore by the covenant, Genesis 21:24

3. Then the sacrifice of animals was made in order to seal the covenant, Genesis 21:28.

In the sacrifice of the animals, everyone involved in making the covenant ate of the sacrificed animals in a great feast. Such was the custom of Abraham’s culture in making covenants. In this case, Abraham wanted to provide the animals for the sacrifice, though it was customary that both parties provide the offering.

Abraham calls on the everlasting God and now seems to be asking God for help. Notice the place where the covenant was made, it was named Beersheba, which means ‘well of seven.’ Beersheba would eventually become the southern extremity of the promised land that would be given to Abraham’s descendants four hundred years from the time of this event.

Go To Genesis 22



"But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me"