About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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Chapter 21

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ch. 21:1-7       ch. 21:8-21    ch. 21:22-34

The Birth Of Isaac (ch. 21:1 - 7)


Verse 1 tells us that the Lord was "gracious" to Sarah as He had promised.  The grace of God is one of the major themes throughout the Bible, and here we see His graciousness towards Sarah.  God is gracious here for two reasons.  One Sarah really wanted her own child, and this is what this verse implies.  Yet God had a plan that went far beyond Sarah having a baby, a plan of many redemptive miracles, and this was the first.


In verse 2 the text says that Sarah got pregnant and bore Abraham a son "at the very time" God had promised.  Notice here that the son was born for Abraham.  This was the culture of the day.  The wife would have children, but it was understood that she was having these children for her husband, so his family name could be carried on down through time. 


Notice also in verse 2 that this came about just at the time when God promised.  God had already promised Abraham and Sarah that he would return in one year, and at that time, Sarah would have a son.  It came true as God stated.  This is yet another reason for us to understand that God has a time table of events.  Things happen when He wants them to happen, and in my thinking, he has it all planned out when things will happen.  We see this throughout the Bible.


This son would be a blessing to Abraham and Sarah.  This would be their first child together, and they were very old.  This was a joyous occasion for them, but the Lord didn't cause Sarah to have a son just for her own benefit.  It was for His benefit as well.  God wanted a distinct people that He would call his people and He wanted this family to be in the lineage of Abraham that would come through Isaac, not Ishmael.  So Sarah had to have a son.  There was no way around this.  So the son was really more for the purpose of God than he was for Abraham and Sarah. 


Verse 3 tells us that Abraham called the son Isaac.  The father usually pronounced the names of the children in those days.  But this too had already been decided by God as can be seen in chapter 17.  Isaac means "laughter", and this name was chosen because Sarah laughed when she heard for herself that she would have a son.   We concluded earlier that this laughter was one of joy, amazement, and wonder, not of doubt.


In verse 4 we see Abraham following God's command.  When Isaac was eight days old, he was circumcised.  Circumcision was an outward act that showed that you were a son of the covenant, you were a part of God's covenant that He spoke to Abraham.  If Abraham would not have obeyed God in this, things would have really gotten messed up because God specifically said that if a man was not circumcised, he would be cut off from the covenant people of God.   In this case, that would have been a complete disaster because the covenant people would flow through the lineage of Isaac, and that could not have been if Isaac was not a part of God's covenant people.


You might wonder just why God chose circumcision to be the outward sign of His covenant.  I can't say for sure but I have an idea.  God chose Abraham to be the father of a Godly family or people that would turn into a nation.  The process in which one would become part of the people of God was through birth, although the Law of Moses at a later date did make provision for non Jews to become part of God's people.  Still, the main way into the people of God was through natural child-birth.  For this reason part of the flesh of the man would be cut off, signifying a removal of the sinful nature. In turn the male sex organ could therefore be separated or sanctified for the work of the Lord in carrying on the family line of His people.     


Verse 5 simply states that Abraham was one hundred years old when Isaac was born.   At this time in history, one hundred years old was old.  This was not like in earlier years when people lived up to nine hundred years of age.


You can see that Sarah was very happy in verse 6.  She said that God had brought her laughter, and everyone else laughed when  seeing Isaac.  This would be a laugh of joy since she was so old, too old to have a child.  This was truly a miracle. God will do miracles to perform His will.  So Sarah laughed when she heard that she'd have a baby, and she laughed when the baby boy was born.


In verse 7 Sarah asks, "who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children"?   This is a question based on Sarah's amazement.  Notice the question is directed to Abraham.  It is not directed to Sarah.  Once again, it is the culture of the day that is seen here.  Men were more important than women.  Such a question would not have been directed to a woman, unless maybe by a close personal friend.


Concerning culture in the Bible, we must distinguish between things said and done in the Bible based on culture, and things said and done based on God's word.  We often get confused on these things.  Just because the husband and wife relationship seen here with Abraham and Sarah was as it was, does not mean this is how we should practice husband and wife relationships because it is the will of God.  Culture in Scripture is a big and important subject that needs a lot of thought, more than what I can give it here.  


Also in verse 7 we see Sarah saying, "yet I have borne Abraham a son in his old age".  Once again you see that she gave birth to the son, but the son was for her husband.  It is like a woman gives birth, and then the baby is handed over to the father, and the wife says, "here is your son".  This is very foreign in today's western world. 


Hagar And Ishmael Sent Away (ch. 21:8 - 21)


In verse 7 Sarah spoke about the miracle of here nursing a child.  Here in verse 8 this subject continues when the text states that after Isaac was weaned, Abraham had a great feast.  How good Abraham and Sarah must have felt as they saw their promised son grow into the next step of life.  Isaac truly was the promised son.  He was a foreshadow of the most important promised son, and that is Jesus.


In verse 9 Sarah noticed Hagar the Egyptian.  Her son Ishmael was mocking Isaac.  Notice the words "the Egyptian".  You know that Sarah never got over the fact that Abraham gave her to the Pharaoh to be his wife, and then ended up bringing this Egyptian servant girl home and eventually sleeping with her, producing Ishmael, her son.  We need to remember that it was Sarah's idea for Abraham to sleep with Hagar, but still, she resented him for doing it.  And now the struggle between the two ladies goes on, the struggle that Paul uses as an analogy in Galatians.   Also, the same struggle that was between Sarah and Hagar has carried over into history with their sons Isaac and Ishmael.   


The probable reason why Ishmael was mocking Isaac was because he felt threatened.  He would have been Abraham's important son, but not now.   Being born from a slave girl, when Isaac was born from Abraham's wife meant that he was out in the cold when it comes to inheritance and taking over the leadership of the family.     


In verse 10 Hagar tells Abraham to "get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac".   Notice by now that Sarah is very upset.  She doesn't even call Hagar by her name.  Twice she calls Hagar "that woman". 


Sarah is right, in one real sense of the word, that slave woman's son Ishmael would not share in any inheritance promised to Abraham through Isaac. 


Paul, in Galatians 4:31 quotes these same words.  He speaks of Sarah and Hagar as an analogy.  Sarah represents believers in Jesus and Hagar represents the Jews who would not believe in Jesus.  Paul says, "get rid of the "  What Paul is saying is that the time has come to get rid of the traditions of his fathers, which included the Law of Moses itself.  The Law and the traditions had their day, and now they are replaced by Jesus Himself.  This is a very important truth to understand.  I will not get involved in the discussion here.  I've done that elsewhere.  I'll just say one thing.  The Law of Moses is more about man than God, as was Ishmael.  Jesus is more about God than man, as was Isaac, the promised son.  The Law of Moses came from God, but it was only there because of the situation man was in. God was in Jesus, and He came because of the situation of man as well, but from a more heavenly perspective.      


In verses 11and 12 we see that Sarah's treatment of Hagar really bothered Abraham, and for good reason.  Even though Hagar was not his wife, Ishmael was his son.  The idea to send Hagar and Ishmael away would be bothersome to you if you were in Abraham's place too. 


But God told Abraham not to be distressed.  The "reckoned offspring" would come through Isaac.  This was meant to be an encouragement to Abraham.  On more than one occasion God told Abraham this very thing, and now He tells him again.  Abraham should feel very good about this special offspring that would come through the lineage of Isaac, and we've learned that this offspring is Jesus.  This should put Abraham's heart at rest.


God told him to do as Sarah says.  That may sound crewel and harsh on the part of God, but in reality, that is the way it was to work, both with Isaac and Ishmael, and how Paul uses this as an analogy of things that took place in his day. 


God telling Abraham to do as his wife tells him would not be culturally correct in those days.  Abraham was already disturbed enough and this probably didn't help him.  Yet, God told Abraham that Isaac is the important son.  That should have been encouraging for him.


Verse 14 tells us that the next day, that is, the day after the Lord spoke to Abraham, he gave Sarah and the boy some food and water and sent them on their way.  How sad this must have been, but this appeared to be not just the will of Sarah, but the will of God.


God loves everyone, yet at the same time, He has to send people on their way who aren't His.  Ishmael was born outside of the will of God.  The same is true for us today.  If we aren't born again into the will of God, we will be sent on our way as well.  It is as simple as that. 


Hagar headed south, where she did a few years ago when she left after Ishmael was first born.  South was the direction of her original home in Egypt. The text says that she "wandered in the desert of Beersheba". 


Verses 15 and 16 are sad.  When Hagar ran out of the food and water that Abraham had given her, she put Ishmael under a bush and walked away for about a bowshot.  She just sat and cried, knowing her son would die. It is clear at this point that Ishmael was sick, probably for lack of good food and water. 


Ishmael did not die.  This is not the end of the story.  God Himself heard the cry of Ishmael.  An angel of the Lord told Hagar in verses 17 and 18 that Ishmael too would become a great nation.  He'd become a great nation, but he would not become that one special nation that would come through Isaac's lineage.


God asked Hagar why she was crying.  I'm sure that God knew why she was crying.  He knows all things.  As I've said before, it appears that God wants us to talk to Him, communicate to Him, express our thoughts.  He wants us to verbalize what we think and feel. 


You might think that God is being a bit indifferent towards Hagar, but in reality, He knows all things.  He sees the end from the beginning.  He knows that Ishmael will not die.  We get caught up in our situations and we often view things from a human viewpoint, when in fact, we should be viewing things from God's viewpoint.   


This is not the first time God told Hagar that Ishmael would become a great nation.  You might wonder then why Hagar thought that her son might die.  It's simple human nature.  Your son is sick.  Your son is at death's door.  You are concerned and depressed.


We note here that God loves everyone, even those who are born out of his will.  Yet when God says that Ishmael would become a great nation, this does not mean that Ishmael will be a godly nation and on the side of God.  It simply means that Ishmael was not going to die under that tree.  God had plans for Ishmael and those who were born through his lineage, plans that are still in affect today, plans that would cause Israel all sorts of problems throughout history.


When I say that God loves everyone, that is correct., but we need to distinguish between God loving everyone and Him calling everyone.  Ishmael did not have the same calling from God as Isaac did.  God loves everyone in the world today, but unless people repent and put their faith in Him, they will be sent on their way as Ishmael was. 


In verse 19 God opened the eyes of Hagar and she saw a well of water.  Was this well here all along, or did God miraculously put it there?  I think that Hagar was so full of sorrow, and her eyes full of tears, and that the well was off in the distance, that she just never saw the well.  When her tears dried up, she saw the well and gave water to Ishmael.  That being said, this might have been a miracle well.


We learn in verses 20 and 21 that Ishmael grew up in the desert, and that Hagar found him a wife from her native country of Egypt.  It does not appear that Hagar ever re-married.  The finding of a wife for a son was normally the job of the father, but in this case, the father was not around, so the mother had to find her son a wife.


The Treaty At Beersheba (ch. 21:22 - 34)


In verse 22 we see the name "Abimelech". We do not know for sure if this is the same Abimelech that we saw a few chapters back who took Sarah to be one of his wives.  My guess is it is the same Abimelech.  Abimelech is more of a title than a personal name, just like Pharaoh is a title and not a personal name.  Abimelech was a Philistine ruler. 


We also see the name Phicoh in verse 22.  He is one of Abimelech's military rulers. 


Both Abimelech and Phicoh tell Abraham that God is with him in everything he does.  I'd suggest that this might well be somewhat surprising to Abimelech and Phicoh because at times Abraham doesn't appear to be the godly man he should be.  Still, they now know God was with Abraham, and even declared him righteous, not because of anything he did, but simply because he trusted that what God said He would do, would be done.  Simply put, Abraham trusted in God, imperfect as he and his trust was.


Here is a good example of a secular man, a secular nation, who realized that Abraham and his large family was chosen by God to be a people of distinction.  Western nations should follow in Abimelech's footsteps, but we're not at present. 


Even though Abimelech felt God was on Abraham's side, he didn't fully trust Abraham as seen in verse 23.  Abimelech was already tricked by Isaac, and he might well have heard that Abraham kicked Hagar and her son out of his camp.  This would cause natural suspicion within Abimelech.  Abimelech wanted Abraham to swear before God that he would not deal falsely with him or his children.  This request was well founded.  After the way Abraham treated Abimelech earlier by falsely saying Sarah was his sister and not his wife would make Abimelech wonder how many more times Abraham would not be truthful.


Again, we note that Abimelech understands that God has chosen Abraham and his descendents to be special, but just because they are special, Abimelech still doesn't fully trust Abraham.  


Abimelech just slips in the thought that Abraham is an alien in the land in which he was presently living.  Remember, Abraham relocated to this area.  Abimelech might have been suggesting, especially with his military leader who was with him, that if Abraham did continue in his falsehood that he would take action against him.  Abimelech did not openly say this, but I think it is implied.


Abimelech reminds Abraham that he has dealt kindly with him, and that Abraham should in turn deal kindly with him.  That's only common decency.  Still, behind this request I believe was a veiled threat, that is, "be true to your word or else I will take action against you".


In verse 24 Abraham agreed and he did swear to be honest.


In verse 25, it seems within moments after agreeing to Abimelech's request, that Abraham made his own request in the form of a complaint.  Abraham said that Abimelech's servants seized a well from him.  Apparently these men blocked Abraham and his people from using a particular well, but Abimelech did not seem aware of this, as seen in verse 26.


Now that things were out in the open, in verse 27 we see that Abraham brought cattle to Abimelech. The reason for this is found in verse 28.  The two men were about to formalize this agreement by making a covenant with one another in the fashion that was customary in those days. 


Part of the sheep and cattle would go directly to Abimelech as a kind of payment from Abraham.  The text does not clearly state it, but the two men most likely cut some of the animals in half, as did Abraham back in chapter 15 when God confirmed the covenant with him.  What normally happened with these covenants is the animals would be cut in half and laid out on the ground.  The parties involved in the covenant would walk between the pieces of dead animals.  The stipulation of the covenant or agreement would be verbalized along with the penalties if it was broken. 


In verse 29 Abimelech asked Abraham about seven lambs that he had set aside.  In verse 30 Abraham replies by saying that these seven lambs were given to Abimelech as payment, or as a token of the agreement that it was understood by both men that it was Abraham that dug these wells in the first place.  So now we know why Abraham was upset and complained to Abimelech.  Even though he and his people were aliens in this land, they dug this well for themselves.


In verse 31 we see this plot of land where the well was became known as " Beersheba " because these two men had made a covenant or treaty with one another here.  The name " Beersheba" can mean either, "the will of seven, or the will of an oath". 


Verse 32 clearly tells us that Phicoh was the commander of Abimelech's army.  We also learn for sure that Abimelech was a Philistine.


In verse 33, as it seems to be Abraham's custom, since he has done this before, he planted a tree and worshiped the "Eternal God".  Once again, God had brought civil peace to Abraham and his people, and he did it through a treaty.    


We see the words "Eternal God" in this verse. This is the first mention of God being eternal, that is, having no beginning or end.  I don't know if this was a new revelation to Abraham, but it is new to the Genesis account.  We now see an aspect to God that hasn't been so clearly stated to date in Genesis.


Verse 34 states that Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.  Notice it was the land of the Philistines.  It wasn't Abraham's land.  The promised land stated in the covenant of chapter 15 had not yet been fulfilled, and won't be until the end of this present age in which we live when Jesus returns to claim the land for Himself and for Israel.

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