Genesis 21: The Birth of Isaac; The Expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael; The Pact at Beer Sheba

well water bucket desertHebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Abraham and Sarah have a son in their old age and the boy, who is circumcised on the eighth day, is named Isaac (yitzhaq) because people will laugh (yitzhaq) at the age of his parents. Upon Sarah’s request and Yahweh’s blessing, Abraham sends his slave Hagar and their mutual son Ishmael into the desert, where Yahweh takes care of the two. Abraham and Abimelech make a pact demonstrating Abraham’s ownership of Beer Sheba (“the well of seven”) with seven ewes.

II. Photo

Yahweh saves Hagar and Ishmael: “Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went and filled the skin with water, and let the boy drink.” (v. 19)

III. Select Verses

4: And when his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God had commanded him.

6-7: Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham That Sarah would suckle children! Yet I have borne a son in his old age.”

10-13: She said to Abraham, “Cast out that slave-woman and her son, for the son of that slave shall not share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” The matter distressed Abraham greatly, for it concerned a son of his. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed over the boy or your slave; whatever Sarah tells you, do as she says, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be continued for you.  As for the son of the slave-woman, I will make a nation of him, too, for he is your seed.”

14-19: Early next morning Abraham took some bread and a skin of water, and gave them to Hagar. He placed them over her shoulder, together with the child, and sent her away. And she wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. When the water was gone from the skin, she left the child under one of the bushes, and went and sat down at a distance, a bowshot away; for she thought, “Let me not look on as the child dies.” And sitting thus afar, she burst into tears. God heard the cry of the boy, and an angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heeded the cry of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went and filled the skin with water, and let the boy drink.

30-31: He replied, “You are to accept these seven ewes from me as proof that I dug this well.”  Hence that place was called Beer-sheba, for there the two of them swore an oath.

IV. Outline

1-8. The birth of Isaac

    1-2. Yahweh grants Sarah a son

    3. Abraham names the boy Isaac

    4. Circumcision on the 8th day

    5. Abraham’s age: 100

    6-7. Sarah’s etymology for Isaac (yitzhaq): people will laugh (yitzchaq) at the parents’ age

    8. Abraham held a feast on Isaac’s weaning day

9-21. The expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael

    9-10. Sarah tells Abraham to cast off Hagar the slave and her son Ishmael born to Abraham

    11-13. Yahweh agrees with the plan; Isaac will inherit Abraham and Ishmael will become a nation

    14. Abraham sends Hagar and Ishamel off with some bread and water

    15-16. Dying of thirst, Hagar distances herself from Ishmael and cries

    17-18. Yahweh hears Ishmael’s cries and informs Hagar that Ishmael will become a nation

    19. A well appears to Hagar and she drinks with Ishmael

    20-21. Ishmael becomes a bowman in the desert and marries an Egyptian

22-34. Abraham and Abimelech’s pact

    22-24. Abraham swears to be honest to Abimelech and his general Phicol

    25. Abraham reproaches Abimelech for the loss of a well

    26. Abimelech denies knowledge

    27-31. Abraham and Abimelech make a pact with seven ewes, hence the place was named Beer Sheba (“the well of seven”)

    32. Abimelech and Phicol return to Philistia

33. Abraham plants a tamarisk tree and calls in the name of Yahweh at Beer Sheba

34. Abraham dwells in Philistia for many days

V. Comment

No comment today. Stay tuned.

Note: There is some confusion as to who is acting in verse 33, Abraham or Abimelech. As pointed out by the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, the Samaritan, Greek, Syriac, and Vulgate versions all include the name Abraham, which makes sense because Abraham was the one dwelling in Beer Sheba.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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