Genesis Chapter 21: Isaac is Born, Hagar and Ishmael Sent Away, Well of the Oath

Feb 2nd, 2010 | By | Category: Genesis, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Genesis Chapter 21:  Isaac is Born, Hagar and Ishmael Sent Away, Well of the Oath

Gen. 21:1 And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken.

Gen. 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.

Gen. 21:3 And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac.

Sarah conceived and bore a son, whom Abraham called Isaac as God had instructed (Gen. 17:19). We know that Sarah was pregnant when taken into Abimelech’s quarters, for she had conceived previously (Gen. 17:21; 18:14).

Gen. 21:4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old, as God had commanded him.

When Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him (Gen. 17:10,12).

Gen. 21:5 And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him.

Abraham was 100 years old (and Sarah was 90) when Isaac was born. Since Abraham was 75 when he entered Canaan, the promise was fulfilled 25 years later. Abraham was 86 years old when Ishmael was born, so Ishmael was 13 or 14 years old at this time.

Gen. 21:6 And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.

Sarah had laughed inwardly when she first heard the angel say she would bear a son in her old age (Gen. 18:12). Then there was joyous outward laughter after she gave birth. And the neighbors, upon hearing, also laughed favorably. “Isaac” means “laughter.”

What about Sarah’s earlier inward laugh? Hebrews 11:11 states that she conceived by faith and bore Abraham a son in her old age; that is, Isaac’s conception was considered an act of faith. Her initial laugh was probably one of incredulity, but when she thought about the angel’s announcement and his superhuman knowledge of her inward laughter, etc., she had great faith. Hence her initial response was not as important as her reaction when she considered the matter and manifested faith. For 25 years, she had been promised a child and had even gone through change of life. And evidently, Abraham had become impotent after the birth of Ishmael, that is, when he was 86 years old (Rom. 4:19). “God hath made me to [really] laugh” is the thought—in other words, ”I have a son now!”

Gen. 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.

Gen. 21:8 And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned.

Isaac grew and was weaned. He would have been up to age 5 at this time, and Abraham made a great feast that day. “Weaned” means to no longer drink the mother’s milk. Thus the weaned child would be on his own and eating solid food. Incidentally, Samuel was probably 3 years old when weaned and taken to Eli. The clue is that Hannah took three bullocks with Samuel when giving him to Eli (1 Sam. 1:24).

Spiritual Weaning

Isaac can picture Jesus alone, The Christ, or just the Church (Gal. 3:29; 4:28). “For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe” (Heb. 5:13). Separation from the milk of the Word to the meat of the Word is the difference between a babe and a more mature Christian. Just as literal meat in a diet provides strength, so the more mature Christian, who uses the “meat” of the Word, is less apt to fall spiritually.

One can be a Christian for a number of years and still not have matured past the milk stage. “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it [meat], neither yet now are ye able” (1 Cor. 3:2). The babes were “yet carnal” (1 Cor. 3:3). Spiritual weaning pertains to a change in the diet—but still under the Sarah Covenant. We leave the milk but then get solid food (meat) from the same mother (covenant).7

We cannot discern in ourselves or in others the day that spiritual weaning occurs. Only God or Jesus knows that moment in time. In regard to Abraham’s feast, the Isaac class are down here on earth, and “Abraham” (the Heavenly Father) is in heaven. The date of a Christian’s spiritual weaning is significant and is a cause for celebration in heaven.

Weaned Christians, who use meat rather than milk, “have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:14). Christians have needed the basic principles in every stage of the gospel Church, and the weaning of the Isaac class pertaining to character development has been taking place throughout the Gospel Age. Weaning is a separation (1) from milk to meat and (2) from carnality to spirituality. Spirituality is the opposite of carnality.

Gen. 21:9 And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking.

Sarah saw Ishmael mocking Isaac. Earlier Hagar had mocked Sarah. This present incident indicated that Hagar had not learned a lesson and that Ishmael had been influenced by her wrong attitudes. Ishmael’s action was a malignant type of mocking, for he “persecuted” Isaac (Gal. 4:29). Being from 17 to 19 years old, Ishmael could have caused harm to a 5-year-old. Jealousy may have been one of the factors, for Ishmael, the firstborn, was not the promised seed. Abraham had great wealth, and Ishmael might have wanted it. The teasing or mocking was dangerous, for it would get out of hand if not checked.

Ishmael is a type of those who persecute the Isaac seed. The period of persecution was brief, for once Ishmael was cast out, the persecution of young Isaac ceased. Later on, persecution between the Isaac and the Ishmael seeds was renewed.

Gen. 21:10 Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondsman and her son: for the son of this bondsman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.

Gen. 21:11 And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son.

Abraham had a great fondness for Ishmael, so he was grieved at Sarah’s request to cast out Hagar and Ishmael.

Gen. 21:12 And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondsman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.

Gen. 21:13 And also of the son of the bondsman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed.

After telling Abraham to listen to Sarah, God said He would take care of Ishmael and make a nation of him. Thus Ishmael was destined to be great. However, God said that Sarah was right in regard to Hagar and Ishmael. Sarah had faith that the seed would be called “in Isaac.”

In telling Abraham that he would be the “father of many nations” (plural), God was referring to both Isaac and Ishmael (Gen. 17:4,5).

The Isaac seed was to be kings. }

The Ishmael seed was to be princes. } 12 sons in each

The Edom seed was to be dukes. }

Gen. 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 Beer-sheba.

Gen. 21:15 And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs.

The Hebrew yeled, translated “child,” has the thought of “young man,” “son,” etc. Hence Ishmael was older at this time than what we would usually consider a “child”; he would have been 17-19 years old.

Hagar’s being put out is the first case of a “legal separation.” Despite Abraham’s wealth, Hagar and Ishmael were cast out with the most meager of provisions, apparently at the Lord’s instruction. Also, Abraham would have had faith in the promise God had just given that He would make of Ishmael a nation. Thus Abraham trusted that God would provide for Ishmael. Incidentally, the water would have been in a skin.

Gen. 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.

The fact that the water was gone shows Hagar and Ishmael had wandered in the wilderness for a while. Hagar cast Ishmael under a shrub and went a “bowshot” distance off, not wanting to see him die. She wept. The Revised Standard Version states that Ishmael wept. Perhaps both did weep.

In antitype, Ishmael’s being cast out could picture the Jews being cast off in the Diaspora, where, as shown in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, they did not have even a drop of water for their tongues. The Genesis account is a condensed picture of what happened to Israel as a nation. The well of water in succeeding verses pictures the awakening of Zionist hopes in 1878. If this parallel is carried further, Ishmael represents natural Jewry, and Isaac pictures spiritual Israel.

Gen. 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.

God heard the lad but addressed the mother. Both Hagar and Ishmael were crying, but God heard the voice of the lad, thus giving him the priority as the son of Abraham.

Gen. 21:18 Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.

While Hagar was weeping, she was instructed to arise and lift up Ishmael, who was far spent and near death. Then God said, at this lowest ebb, “I will make him a great nation,” which was a high promise. The promise to make Ishmael a nation was given earlier and then repeated here at a crucial time (Gen. 16:10; 21:13). This incident shows that Hagar was a physically strong woman. In antitype, Hagar (the Law Covenant) lifted up Ishmael (the Jewish nation).

Gen. 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.

We do not know if the well of water had been there all along and then God “opened” Hagar’s eyes to see it, or if the well was suddenly and miraculously produced. At any rate, the casting out of Hagar and Ishmael (verse 14) represents Israel’s going into Diaspora. Hence the well of water represents the Zionist hopes that revived the Israelites from 1878 on. The Zionist movement was inspired by the Old Testament promises of Israel’s restoration. Thus the water

of the Word was ministered to Ishmael by Hagar, who gave Ishmael literal water to drink. In the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, the rich man (the Jewish nation) was perishing for lack of water. Here the lad Ishmael was perishing for want of water. The revival of Jewish hopes occurred in 1878 with the birth of the Zionist movement; that is, the fig tree brought forth its first sign of life at that time. The wineskin (“bottle”) was filled with truth (“water”) from the Word of God (the “well of water”).

Gen. 21:20 And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer.

Ishmael grew, dwelled in the wilderness, and became an archer. It was prophesied that he would be a “wild man” (Gen. 16:12). As an “archer,” Ishmael lived a harsher life than Abraham the herdsman. Spiritually speaking, the Jews, by force of circumstance, have been aggressive and thus have advanced in science and other fields. They are superior as a people. It is interesting that Esau was also a hunter.

How did the lad “grow” in antitype? From 1878 on, “Israel” has experienced miraculous growth and development. Even in warfare, the Jews have excelled. Through God’s providence, that little nation has survived.

In the final analysis, Ishmael pictures the Holy Remnant, for the majority of Jews do not have the faith of Abraham. God will deal with the faith element as a part of the nucleus of His Kingdom.

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

Hagar had some faith in the promise. In her first fleeing, she was headed for Egypt (Gen. 16:7).

Now she was content to stay in Paran, a part of Sinai that bordered Israel. The “well” of water, that is, the Scriptures, was the source of her strength.

Verse 21 does not mean that Hagar actually went to Egypt to get Ishmael a wife. Hagar chose an Egyptian because she herself was Egyptian. It was customary for the father to choose the wife. Hagar had to take the place of the father, for she was both mother and father to Ishmael.

Gen. 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:

Abimelech and Phichol, the chief captain, spoke to Abraham, saying, “God is with you.”

Gen. 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.

Abimelech and Phichol constrained Abraham to make an oath so that no later unkindness would develop between their people and those associated with Abraham. Earlier God had told Abimelech that he would be a dead man if Sarah was not restored to Abraham (Gen. 20:1-7). Probably that fear had stayed with Abimelech, and he knew God was with Abraham—hence his desire for the covenant. Abimelech wanted long-term peace.

Gen. 21:24 And Abraham said, I will swear.

Gen. 21:25 And Abraham reproved Abimelech because of a well of water, which Abimelech’s servants had violently taken away.

Gen. 21:26 And Abimelech said, I wot not who hath done this thing: neither didst thou tell me, neither yet heard I of it, but today.

Abraham said he would make the oath and then gave a reproof because Abimelech’s servants had violently taken away a well that belonged to him. Apparently, Abraham appreciated Abimelech’s sentiments and trusted that the matter of the well would be straightened out afterwards, but the well situation had to be settled before the covenant was actually made. Just as earlier Abimelech was unaware that Sarah was married to Abraham, so now he was unaware that his servants had unjustly seized the well. Abraham could have fought for the well at the time (as he had fought to retrieve Lot), but being peaceful by nature, he suffered the loss (Gen. 14:1-16).

Gen. 21:27 And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech; and both of them made a covenant.

Abraham gave Abimelech sheep and oxen, and they both made a covenant. Earlier, when Abimelech took Sarah, he tried to heal the wound by giving Abraham menservants, maidservants, and livestock. Abimelech was generous because he had been warned in a dream and punishment had come upon his house by the wombs being closed up (Gen. 20:17,18). Now Abraham was the generous one, even though it was Abimelech who had asked for the covenant. Abraham thus sealed the covenant in a natural way by giving Abimelech the sheep and oxen. There is a spiritual antitype here; namely, it was appropriate for Abraham to give gifts because The Christ will bestow blessings on the world in the Kingdom. Both Abraham and Abimelech made an oath.

Gen. 21:28 And Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves.

Gen. 21:29 And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What mean these seven ewe lambs which thou hast set by themselves?

Gen. 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.

When Abraham separated out seven ewe lambs, Abimelech asked why. Abraham replied, “Take the seven ewe lambs from me as a witness that I dug this well.” The seven female lambs represent the Church in the seven stages of the Gospel Age. Abraham dug the well, and the seven female sheep bore witness to this act. The well was violently exploited initially by Abimelech’s servants, who did not dig it. Abimelech, Phichol, Abimelech’s servants, and the Philistines all represent nominal Christendom. Abraham represents God, and the well is a symbol of the Bible. Promises from the Scriptures, as well as the authority of the Word, were taken by nominal (tare) Christians. The well was for the seven ewe lambs.

Gen. 21:31 Wherefore he called that place Beer-sheba; because there they sware both of them.

“Beersheba” means “well of the oath” (Beer = well; sheba = oath). “Sheba” also means “seven”; in other words, there were seven wells in Beersheba. The place was named Beersheba because that is where Abraham and Abimelech made the covenant. Many years later Elijah fled to Beersheba to escape from Jezebel. He was en route to Sinai when he slept in Beersheba under a broom tree. In both cases, Beersheba was a resting place of the Word. Elijah was refreshed by an angel. Elijah’s life is sequential as a type, whereas Abraham’s life consists of separate pictures.

Gen. 21:32 Thus they made a covenant at Beer-sheba: then Abimelech rose up, and Phichol the chief captain of his host, and they returned into the land of the Philistines.

Abimelech and Phichol were Philistines. The oaths made by Abraham and Abimelech are one reason the Philistines were not among the seven peoples that the Israelites were to completely destroy out of the land of Canaan when they entered in Joshua’s day.

Gen. 21:33 And Abraham planted a grove in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God.

The Hebrew word translated “grove” can be either tree (singular) or grove (trees plural). Elijah slept under a tree (singular) in Beersheba.

Gen. 21:34 And Abraham sojourned in the Philistines’ land many days.

Abraham sojourned in Philistine land, moving around freely, for several years.

(1987–1989 Study)

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