Genesis Chapter 21  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: Genesis 21
Gen 21:1(top)
Gen 21:2(top)
Gen 21:3

“whom Sarah bore to him.” This is in the text as emphasis that Sarah did indeed give birth to Abraham’s son.

Gen 21:4

“when he was eight days old.” The Hebrew text is idiomatic: “a son of eight days.”

Gen 21:5(top)
Gen 21:6

“laugh.” Laugh with joy. Sarah had been considered cursed and a cloud hung over her head. Now she was vindicated and had the joy of a baby boy.

Gen 21:7(top)
Gen 21:8

“feast.” The Hebrew word indicates that this would be a wonderful feast with food and wine.

“on the day Isaac was weaned.” Children were weaned late in the biblical world, sometimes at two, but sometimes as late as five. Infant mortality was high in biblical times, but if a baby lived long enough to be weaned, it had survived a very dangerous period of life, which was a cause for great celebration. For a wealthy man like Abraham, especially given that Isaac was a God-given miracle baby, this feast was a feast indeed. It may have even gone on for days.

Gen 21:9(top)
Gen 21:10(top)
Gen 21:11

Sarah’s.” Added to the text for clarity. Her demand caused Abraham great distress. He loved Ishmael, who was 14 when Isaac was born (Gen. 16:16; 21:5), and now, at Isaac’s weaning, may have been as old as 19.

“word.” The Hebrew text is dabar (#01697 דָּבָר), which is the common word for “word,” but also, like the Greek word logos, it had a wide range of meanings, including “thing,” “matter.” Thus the translation might well read, “This matter,” or “This thing.”

“grievous.” The Hebrew word, raa (#07489), is more commonly “bad,” but has a wide range of meanings, thus the English translation varies quite a bit. To Abraham, Sarah’s demand was “bad,” “wrong,” “hurtful,” “distressing,” “difficult,” “displeasing,” etc. All these accurately express what Abraham felt and was going through in facing casting out his son, whom he would never see again. In the next verse, we see that our gracious God spoke to Abraham and helped him deal with his emotions and the situation.

Gen 21:12

“it is through Isaac that your seed will be called.” This is God’s promise that the Messiah will come through Isaac. God’s promise in Genesis 12:3 was much more broad, that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through Abraham—a promise of the Messiah coming through him. Here God says the Messiah will come through Isaac.

Gen 21:13(top)
Gen 21:14

“skin-bottle.” A “bottle” or container made from animal skin.

[For more on skin-bottles, which were usually made from the skins of goats, see commentary on 1 Sam. 10:3.]

“gave her the child.” According to the custom of the biblical world, the child of a slave born in a master’s house belonged to the master (Exod. 21:4), so Abraham had to give Hagar her son.

Gen 21:15

“shoved.” This seems to be somewhat of a hyperbole, since Ishmael was now at least 16 and may have been as old as 19 (Ishmael was born when Abraham was 86; Gen. 16:16), but it expresses Hagar’s desperate action to keep her son in the shade and alive a little longer. It is likely that Ishmael was weak and dehydrated and had grown faint, and Hagar was distressed and did not know what else to do, thus her action is somewhat hopeless desperation. She put him in the shade under a bush and walked a distance away to separate herself from her son. Indeed, it is likely that they both would have died without divine help at that time.

Gen 21:16

“about a bow shot.” About 100 yards (100 meters), more or less. Far enough to be near her son, but not see him from where she was.

“lifted up her voice and wept.” An idiomatic way of saying she cried loudly and uncontrollably. She had lost her home, the father of her child, and now was on the verge of watching her son die and likely herself as well. Hagar began to cry uncontrollably.

Gen 21:17

“What troubles you.” The Hebrew is an idiom, literally, “What to you?” It means, what troubles you, what is the matter, what is wrong.

“Hagar.” The angel more or less introduces himself by calling Hagar by her name and having knowledge of her trouble; things a stranger would not have known.

“voice of the boy.” Hagar was the one who was crying loudly and uncontrollably, but Ishmael also must have called out for help to God. He had been raised by Abraham for at least 16 years, and more likely 19, and he surely would have come to know, and to some extent rely on, Abraham’s God, Yahweh. The angel said to Hagar that God heard the voice of the boy, not her voice, not because God did not love Hagar, but in part to get Hagar’s focus off herself and also because God had promised that Ishmael would become a great nation (Gen. 17:20), and He would do what it takes to fulfill His promises.

“where he is.” This phrase can have a broad meaning, and likely includes both his physical location and his situation. Thus, the HCSB has, “from the place where he is,” and the NAB has, “in this plight of his.” Both meanings likely apply. God knows both where we are and our situation.

Gen 21:18

“hold him up with your hand.” This is more literally, “hold him with your hand,” but the reference is to holding him up or supporting him because he was so weak at this point.

Gen 21:19(top)
Gen 21:20(top)
Gen 21:21

“wife...Egypt.” It was the custom that the parents of the man (or teenager; most boys married in their mid to late teens) negotiated the marriage and its details with the parents of an available woman (who was usually a young teen). Thus it was according to custom that Hagar got a wife for Ishmael. She was an Egyptian, and she got an Egyptian wife, so she may have gotten a relative of hers or a contact from a relative. Samson had his parents get a wife for him, even though he knew the girl he wanted to marry (Judg. 14:2-3).

Gen 21:22

“Abimelech.” The king of Gerar, where Abraham had set up his tent camp (cp. Gen. 20:1-2).

“Phicol.” The leader of Abimelech’s army.

Gen 21:23

“swear to me.” Although both Abimelech the king and Phicol his general (and likely others are there with Abraham too), it is king Abimelech who speaks. The reason that Abimelech wants Abraham to swear to be honest with him is because Abraham lied to him about Sarah.

Gen 21:24(top)
Gen 21:25(top)
Gen 21:26

“I don’t know.” Given Abimelech’s honest and upright behavior throughout his dealings with Abraham, this is an honest answer.

Gen 21:27

“sheep and cattle.” It was customary in the making of a covenant that gifts would be exchanged.

“cut a covenant.” Although the term “cut a covenant” is sometimes used as a general term for making a covenant even when it is not a blood covenant, it is likely that Abraham and Abimelech made a blood covenant at this time. However, the form of the covenant is not known. For example, instead of cutting themselves, they may have killed animals and walked between the pieces (cp. Gen. 15:10, 17; Jer. 34:18).

Gen 21:28(top)
Gen 21:29(top)
Gen 21:30(top)
Gen 21:31(top)
Gen 21:32(top)
Gen 21:33

“planted a tamarisk tree.” The tamarisk could grow in very arid regions, such as the Negev, and provide shade. There is no indication that Abraham planted the tree as some kind of religious act or dedication to God. It is more likely that he intended to stay there in Beer-sheba, or have a place where, as he tented from place to place, he could return and have shade. Preparing for the future and providing for others are hallmarks of a wise and godly person.

Gen 21:34(top)

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