Genesis 21



1 "And the LORD visited Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as

He had spoken."  And the Lord - Jehovah; not because the verse is Jehovistic (Knobel,

Bleek, et alii), but because the promise naturally falls to be implemented by Him who

gave it (see ch. 18:10) - visited - remembered with love (Onkelos), ἐπισκέψατο

episkepsatovisited (Septuagint; compare ch. 50:24; Exodus 4:31; I Samuel 2:21;

Isaiah 23:17); though it sometimes means to approach in judgment (see Exodus 20:5;

32:34). Alleged to be peculiar to the Jehovist (the term used by the Elohist being זָכַר:

ch. 8:1;  19:29; 30:20), the word occurs in ch. 1:24, which Tuch and Bleek ascribe to

the Elohist - Sarah as He had said (ch. 17:21; 18:10, 14), - God's word of

promise being ever the rule of his performance (compare Exodus 12:25;

Luke 1:72)   and the Lord did unto Sarah as He had spoken - i.e. implemented

His promise; the proof of which is next given (compare Numbers 23:19;

Hebrews 6:18).


2 "For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time

of which God had spoken to him."  For Sarah conceived, - through faith receiving

strength from God for that purpose (Hebrews 11:11); the fruit of the womb, in every

instance GOD’S HANDIWORK  (Isaiah 44:2), being in her case a special gift of

grace and product of Divine power - and bare - the usual construction (ch. 29:32;

30:5) is here somewhat modified by the Jehovist (Kalisch); but the clause may be

compared with ch.  30:22-23, commonly assigned to the Elohlst - Abraham

(literally, to Abraham) a son in his old age, - literally, to his old age; εἰς τὸ γῆρας -

eis to gaeras -  (Septuagint) - at the set time (see Genesis 17:21;  18:10, 14) of

which God had spoken to him. God's word gave:


·         Abraham strength to beget,

·         Sarah to conceive, and

·         Isaac to come forth.

Three times repeated in two verses, the clause points to the supernatural

 character of Isaac's birth.


3 "And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom

Sarah bare to him, Isaac."  And Abraham called the name of his son - the

naming of a child by its father is, according to partitionists, a peculiarity of the

Elohist as distinguished from the Jehovist, who assigns that function to the

mother; but see Genesis 16:15 - that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to

 him (the latter clause being added to distinguish him from Hagar's child),

Isaac - laughter; the name appointed for him by God before his birth

(ch. 17:19).


4 "And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old, as God had

commanded him."  And Abraham circumcised (see on ch. 17:11, and note at the

end of that chapter) his son Isaac being eight days old (literally, a son of eight

days), as (not only because, but in the manner in which) God had commanded him.


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

And Abraham was an hundred years old (compare ch. 17:1, 17), when his son Isaac

was born unto him. Literally, at the time of bearing to him (ἐν τῷ τεκεῖνen to tekein)

Isaac (see Gesenius, 'Gram.,' § 143). Thus Abraham had waited twenty-five years for

the fulfillment of the promise - a remarkable instance of faith and patience (Romans

4:20), as Isaac's birth was a signal display of Divine power (Romans 4:17; Hebrews

11:12). Whether Isaac was born at Gerar or at Beersheba cannot with certitude be



6 "And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh

with me."  And Sarah said, - the spiritual elevation of her soul being indicated by

the poetical form of her speech. Differing from Mary‘s magnificat in having been

uttered after, and not before, the birth of the promised seed (Luke 1:46-55), the

anthem of Sarah was obviously designed as a prelude to that loftier song of the

Virgin (compare ibid. v. 46). It consists of two sentences, the first containing two,

and the second three lines - God hath made me to laugh. Or, retaining the order

of the Hebrew, To laugh hath made me Elohim; the emphatic position of צְחֹק,

containing an allusion to the name Isaac, probably indicating that Sarah's

laughter was of a different character now from what it had previously been

(ch. 18:12); and her ascription of it to Elohim intimating that Him whom she

formerly mistook for a traveler she now recognized to be Divine ('Speaker's

Commentary'). So that all that hear me will laugh with me. Not, will laugh at me,

deridebit me (Peele), a sense the words will bear (Rosenmüller, 'Speaker's

Commentary'), though in the instances adduced (Job 5:22; 39:7, 18, 22) צָחַק לְ

rather conveys the idea of despising difficulties (Kalisch); but, will laugh with

me, συγχαρεῖταί μουsugchareitaii mou, congaudebit mihi (Septuagint, Vulgate,

Targums, Calvin, Dathe, Keil).


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."  And she said,

Who would have said unto Abraham, - מִלֶּל, the poetic word for דּבֵּר, is introduced

by מִי in order to express astonishment; the meaning being that what had happened

was altogether out of the ordinary course of nature (remember El Shaddaisee

# 320 – this website – CY – 2019), was, in fact, God's work alone (Vatablus, Calvin,

Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, 'Speaker's Commentary').  That Sarah should have

given children suck? Literally, Sarah suckleth sons. "Many of the greatest saints

in Holy Scripture, and even our Lord Himself, were nursed by their own mothers"

(Wordsworth). For I have born him a son in his old age. Literally, I have born

a son to his old age. The Septuagint incorrectly render ἐν τῶ γήρᾳ μου

en to gaera mou).


8 "And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the

same day that Isaac was weaned."  And the child grew, - καὶ ἠυξήθη τὸ παιδίον

kai aeuxaethae to paidion (Septuagint): imitated by Luke concerning Christ:

τὸ παιδίον ηὔξανε  - to paidion aeuxanethe little boy grows up (Luke 2:40) –

and was weaned. The verb gamal originally signifies to do good to any one,

to do completely; hence to finish, or make completely ready, as an infant;

hence to wean, since either at that time the period of infancy is regarded as

complete, or the child s independent existence is then fully reached. The time

of weaning is commonly believed to have been at the end of the second or third

year (compare I Samuel 1:22-24; II Chronicles 31:16; II Maccabees 7:27;

Josephus, 'Ant.,' 2:09, 6). And Abraham made a great feast the same day that

Isaac was weaned. Literally, in the day of the weaning of Isaac; probably,

therefore, when Isaac was three years old and Ishmael seventeen. "It is still

customary in the East to have a festive gathering at the time a child is weaned.

Among the Hindoos, when the time for weaning has come, the event is

accompanied with feasting and religious ceremonies, during which rice is

formally presented to the child" ('Bible Manners and Customs,' by

Rev. J. A. Freeman, M.A., ' Homiletical Quarterly,' vol. 1. p. 78;

compare Roberts' 'Oriental Illustrations,' p. 24).




The Son of Promise, or A Young Child’s Biography (vs. 1-8)




Ø      A surprising phenomenon. “Who would have said that Sarah should

have suckled sons?”Motherhood at ninety was certainly unusual,

especially when conjoined with paternity at a hundred. In a world presided

over by A PERSONAL DEITY there must always be room for surprises.


Ø      A miraculous production. That the conception and birth of Isaac were

due to Divine interposition — that in fact, the child of promise was a

special supernatural creation — is asserted by Paul as well as Moses

(Romans 4:17).


Ø      An accomplished prediction. Not only the fact of Isaac’s birth, but the

exact time was specified beforehand. And now the long-looked-for child

had arrived. A signal proof of the Divine veracity, it was another pledge to

God’s people in every age of the Divine fidelity in implementing His

gracious word of promise.


Ø      A joyous inspiration. Isaac’s birth did not simply awake laughing echoes in

Sarah’s tent, but opened founts of song in Sarah’s breast; which was not

wonderful, considering that the tender infant over which she exulted was:


o        the child of her own and Abraham’s old age,

o        the child of promise,

o        the fruit of faith’

o        the gift of grace, and

o        the Heaven-appointed heir of the covenant blessing.


Ø      A prophetic intimation. Sarah’s anthem contained a higher note of

melody than that occasioned by a mother’s joy; there was in it too the

gladness of a faith that saw in Isaac the harbinger and pledge of another

and greater Seed. Like the birth of Isaac, that of Christ was:


o      fore announced by God,

o      waited for in faith,

o      accomplished through Divine power, and

o     welcomed with bursts of joy.




Ø      The import of the rite (see on ch. 17:10). It implied the formal

reception of the party upon whom it was imposed within the prime of the

Old Testament Church; it signified the putting away of the filth of the flesh;

it took the subject of it bound to a holy life. Of a like import is the

Christian sacrament of baptism, which, however, differs from the Hebrew

rite in looking back upon a Christ already manifested, instead of forward to

a Christ that was still to come.


Ø      The authority for the rite. This was exclusively the Divine

commandment the sole reason that can be assigned for the observance of

the Christian sacraments, which in themselves are only symbols of spiritual

transactions, and have no validity apart from the appointment of Christ.


Ø      The index to the rite. This was contained in the name generally given on

the occasion of its observance:


o        compare Abraham (ch. 17:5),

o        John the Baptist (Luke 1:60),

o        Jesus (ibid. ch. 2:21).


With this ancient custom must be connected the Christian practice of

naming children at baptism.




Ø      A mothers duty fulfilled. The first duty of a mother is to her babe, and

to withhold the sustenance God has provided for her babe’s necessities is

both to violate Divine law and to perpetrate a fraud upon her helpless

offspring. (Consider the implications concerning “Abortion on Demand”

in 2019 – CY)  Sarah, though a princess, was not above discharging the duties

of a nurse an example which Sarah’s daughters should diligently follow.


Ø      A childs independence begun. From the moment of weaning, a child

may be said to enter on a separate and as it were independent existence,

attaining then for the first time to a distinct individuality of being (denied

by the mother and the abortionist)


Ø      A fathers joy expressed. The interesting event was celebrated by a festal

entertainment, at which, if not Shem, Melchisedeck, and Selah, according

to the Rabbis, the inmates of Abraham’s household were doubtless present.

“God’s blessing upon the nursing of children, and His preservation of them

during the perils of infant age, are signal instances of the care and

tenderness of Divine providence, which ought to be acknowledged to its

praise” (Matthew Henry).


·         LESSONS:


1. The right of parents to rejoice in their children.

2. The duty of parents to introduce their children to the Church of God.

3. The propriety of parents recognizing the separate individualities of





Birth, Circumcision and Weaning of Isaac (vs. 1-8)


Here, is:


·         THE FAITIIFULNESS OF JEHOVAH. “As He had spoken. At the set

time.” “God hath made me to laugh.”


·         THE FAITH OF HIS SERVANT, which was evidenced in waiting,

hoping, naming the son born unto him, and obeying the commandment.




Ø      His love,

Ø      His power,

Ø      His purpose,

Ø      His patience.




Ø      the foreshadowing of the miraculous conception,

Ø      the kingdom of God, as originating in the sphere of human

infirmity and helplessness;

Ø      the introduction of bright hope and cheerful promise into the

gloomy barrenness of human life;

Ø      the lifting up of man’s state into the covenant of God,

o       sealed with His appointed ordinance, and

o       surrounded with the promised blessings.


Isaac was the type of Christ, Sarah of Mary, and Abraham of the people

and Church of God.


·         SARAH’S SONG, the first cradle hymn of a mother’s thankful joy,

representing the Divine delight in the pure and simple happiness of those

who are children of God. Abraham rejoiced to see the brightness of the

future (John 8:56).


·         THE WEANING FEAST. All were called in to share in the joy. Household

joy should be widespread. We may suppose that such a banquet was

religious in its character so, not only is it a sanction of religious festivals,

but it reminds us that we should connect the events of the family life

immediately with the word and ordinances of God.


9 "And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto

Abraham, mocking."  And Sarah saw - at the feast already mentioned

(Knobel, Keil); probably also on different occasions since the birth of Isaac –

the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking.

Παίζοντα μετὰ Ισαὰκ τοῦ υἰοῦ αὐτηςPaizonta meta Isaak tou huiou autaes

(Septuagint), ludentem cum Isaaco filio sue (Vulgate), playing like a child

(Aben Ezra, Knobel, Tuch, Ilgen), playing and dancing gracefully (Gesenius);

but the stronger sense of the word, implying mockery, scoffing, irritating and

deriding laughter (Kimchi, Vatablus, Grotius, Calvin, Rosenmüller, Keil,

Kalisch, 'Speaker's Commentary,' Murphy), besides being admissible

(compare ch. 19:14; 26:8; 39:14, 17; Exodus 32:6), seems involved in

the Piel form of the participle מְצַחֵק (Kurtz), and is demanded by

Galatians 4:29. That Ishmael ridiculed the banquet on the occasion of

Isaac's weaning (Malvenda), quarreled with him about the heirship

(Fagins, Piseator), and perhaps made sport of him as a father of nations

(Hengstenberg), though plausible conjectures, are not stated in the text.

Ainsworth dates from this event the 400 years of Israel's oppression

(see ch.15:13).


10 "Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son:

for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac."

Wherefore she said - though with an admixture of sinful feelings, non dubito

arcane Spiritus instinctu gubernatam fuisse ejus linguam et mentem (Calvin);

see Galatians 4:30 - unto Abraham, Cast out - by some kind of legal act

(as divorce: compare Leviticus 21:7,14; 22:13; Isaiah 57:20), which should

insure the disinheriting of Ishmael (Bush); though probably- this is to import

later Mosaic legislation into the records of primitive times - this bondwoman

a term ill befitting Sarah, who had given Hagar to her husband as a wife

(ch. 16:3) - and her son (who was Abraham's offspring, though not the

promised seed; a consideration which should have mitigated Sarah's anger):

for the son of this bondwoman (a repetition evincing the bitterness of her

contempt and the intensity of her choler - peevish or irascible temperament.)

shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac. Notwithstanding the

assurance (ch.17:21) that the covenant was made with Isaac, Sarah was

apprehensive lest Ishmael should contrive to disinherit him; an act of unbelief

into which she was manifestly betrayed by her maternal fears and womanly



11 "And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight because of his son."

And the thing (literally, the word, i.e. Sarah's proposal) was very grievous (literally,

evil exceedingly in Abraham's sight (literally, in the eyes of Abraham) because

of his son - who, besides being bound to him by the ties of natural affection,

had for years been regarded as the Heaven-appointed heir of the promise

(see ch.17:18).


12 "And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because

of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee,

hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called."  And God said unto

Abraham, - probably in a dream, or night vision (see v. 14) - Let it not be grievous

in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; - who was never

recognized by God as Abraham's wife (compare ch. 16:8) - in all that Sarah hath

said unto thee, hearken unto her voice. Though Sarah's counsel was approved by

God, it does not follow that her conduct was. On a former occasion Abraham's

hearkening unto Sarah's voice had led to sin (ch.16:2); this time it would lie exactly

in the line of duty. For in Isaac shall thy seed be called. Literally, in Isaac shall

seed (i.e. posterity) be called to thee; meaning neither, "by Isaac shall thy seed be

called, or named" (Hofmann, Kalisch, Ainsworth), nor, "in Isaac shall thy seed

be called into existence" (Dreschler); but, "in Isaac shall there be posterity to

thee which shall pass as such," i.e. be called or recognized as such (Keil); or,

more simply, "in Isaac," i.e. in the line of Isaac, "shall be called to thee a seed,"

i.e. a seed par excellence, the seed already promised (Bleek, Delitzsch, Rosenmüller,

Alford, Murphy).


13 "And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is

thy seed."  And also of the son of the bond-woman will I make a nation. Literally,

to nation I will set or put him; a promise already given (ch. 17:20), but here repeated

to render Ishmael's dismissal easier. Because he is thy seed. "Thy son according to

the flesh, though not after the promise, as Isaac was" (Ainsworth); a proof that

men may sometimes receive mercies for their fathers' sakes.


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

Beersheba."  And Abraham rose up early in the morning, - hastening to put in

force the Divine instructions (compare ch. 19:27;  22:8, Abraham; ch. 20:8,

Abimelech; ch. 28:18, Jacob) - and took bread, and a bottle of water, - the bottle,

from a root signifying to enclose (Furst); ἀσκόνaskon - bottle (Septuagint),

was composed of skin, the material of which the earliest carrying vessels were

constructed (compare Joshua 9:4, 13; Judges 4:19; I Samuel 16:20; Matthew 9:17).

"The monuments of Egypt, the sculptures of Mesopotamia, and the relics of

Herculaneum and Pompeii afford ample opportunities to learn the shape and

use of every variety of bottles, often surprising us both by their elegance and

costliness" (Kalisch) - and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, -

the usual place for carrying such vessels among Oriental women. According to

Herodotus (2. 35), Egyptian women carried burdens on their shoulders, Egyptian

men upon their heads - and the child, - not placing the child, now a youth of over

seventeen years, upon her shoulder (Septuagint, Schumann, Bohlen); but giving him,

along with the bottle (Havernick, Kalisch, A Lapide, Ainsworth), or, as well as the

bread (Keil, Murphy), to Hagar, not to be carried as a burden, but led as a companion –

and sent her away - divorced her by the command of God (A Lapide); but as Hagar

was never recognized by God as Abraham's wife, her sending away was not a case

of divorce (Wordsworth) - and she departed (from Beersheba, whither Abraham

had by this time removed, and where, in all probability, Isaac had been born),

and wandered - i.e. lost her way (compare ch. 37:15) - in the wilderness

(the uncultivated waste between Palestine and Egypt) of Beersheba

introduced here by anticipation, unless the incident in vs. 22-33 had

previously taken place (see on v. 31).




                                    The Expulsion of Ishmael (vs. 9-14)




Ø      The persecution of Isaac. “Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian

                        mocking.” That this was no mere sportive pleasantry may be inferred from

                        the deep feeling it aroused in Sarah, the summary chastisement it brought

                        on Ishmael, and the’ severe language in which it is characterized by Paul.

                        The emphasis laid by Sarah on the heirship suggests the probability that

                        Ishmael’s offence partook of the nature of wicked, irritating laughter at the

                        position and prospects of Sarah’s son, springing partly from envy and

                        partly from unbelief.


Ø      The apprehension of Sarah. That Sarah was actuated by personal dislike

                        of Hagar’s boy, or inspired solely by maternal jealousy, is a gratuitous

                        assumption. It is more satisfactory to ascribe her seemingly harsh counsel

                        to the clearness with which she recognized that Isaac alone was the

                        Heaven-appointed heir, and that nothing must be allowed to either damage

                        his position or endanger his prospects.


Ø      The commandment of God. Considering the patriarch’s former

                        experience of “hearkening to Sarah,” his acquiescence in her counsel on

                        this occasion would in all probability have been problematical, had not

                        God interposed to recommend its adoption. It would both secure the

                        happiness of Isaac and remove temptation from the path of Ishmael; while

                        it would serve to educate the patriarch himself for the coming sacrifice on

                        Mount Moriah. To facilitate the patriarch’s compliance with the Divine

                        injunction, the promise of future greatness to Ishmael is renewed, and in

                        the end Hagar and her boy are dismissed




Ø      With pain to himself. “The thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight

                        because of his son.” Parental affection must have urged him to retain his

                        first-born son. Conjugal love must have interceded for her who had been to

                        him as a wife. Self-interest may have represented the advisability of still

                        clinging to Ishmael for the fulfillment of the promise, in case the line of

                        Isaac should fail. Yet grace and faith triumphed. “All things are possible to

                        him that believeth.”


Ø      With tenderness towards the outcasts. Making provision for their

                        immediate necessities, and either then or afterwards adding gifts

                        (ch. 25:6), he sends them away, doubtless with many prayers and

                        tears. Nature and grace both enjoin tenderness in dealing with those

                        whom God in His providence calls to suffer.


Ø      With submission to the will of God. The moment the mind of God was

                        ascertained, internal controversy ceased and determined. The patriarch was

                        never irresolute in following when God led. Obedience is the first duty of





Ø      Ishmael and Isaac are representatives of Abraham’s natural descendants and

                        Abraham’s spiritual posterity; Israel after the flesh and Israel after the

                        spirit; souls in legal bondage and souls enjoying spiritual freedom.


Ø      Ishmaels mockery of Isaac foreshadowed the persecuting spirit of the

                        unbelieving Jews, who adhered to the system of Moses, towards the

                        disciples of the New Testament faith, who sought salvation through Christ;

                        hence also the antagonism of the sinful principle in man to the renewed life

                        of grace.


Ø      Ishmaels separation from Isaac prefigured the ultimate removal of

                        unbelievers from believers, of the world from the Church, of those in a

                        state of nature or of legal bondage from those who are children of the

                        promise and of the heavenly Jerusalem.


  • LEARN:


            1. The wickedness and danger of mocking at sacred persons and things.

            2. The superior spiritual insight not infrequently exhibited by woman.

            3. The necessity of trying all human opinions by God’s revealed will.

            4. The care God takes to guide sincere souls as to the path of duty.

            5. The proper function of faith, which is to hear and obey.

            6. The impossibility of any compromise existing between the world

                and the Church.

            7. The final casting out of the wicked from the congregation of the



15 "And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one

of the shrubs."  And the water was spent in (literally, from) the bottle, - so that

the wanderers became exhausted, and were in danger of fainting through thirst –

and she cast the child - a translation which certainly conveys an erroneous

impression, first of Ishmael, who was not an infant, but a grown lad (v. 14),

and secondly of Ishmael's mother, whom it represents as acting with violence,

if not with inhumanity; whereas the sense probably is that, having, as long as

her rapidly diminishing strength permitted, supported her fainting son, she at

length suddenly, through feebleness, released his nerveless hand as he fell,

and in despair, finding herself unable to give him further assistance, left him,

as she believed, to die where he had flung himself in his intolerable anguish –

under one of the shrubs.


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."  And she went, and sat

her down - וַתֵּשֶׁב לָהּ, the pronoun being added to the verb, as an ethical dative,

to indicate that the action was of special importance to her, meaning, "she, for

herself, or for her part, sat down" (see Ewald's 'Hebrews Synt. ,' § 315, a.; and

Glass, 'Phil Tract.,' 1. 3. tr. 2. c. 6; and compare ch. 12:1; 22:5) - over against him

a good way off. The hiphel infinitive of רָחַק, to go far away, to recede from any

one, is here used adverbially, as in Joshua 3:16 (Gesenius, Furst, Kalisch), though

by others it is understood as explaining the action of the previous verbs, and as

equivalent to a gerund in do, or a participle, elon-gando se (Rosenmüller), or

simply" removing to a distance" (Ewald; vide 'Hebrews Synt., § 280 a.).

As it were a bowshot. Literally, as those who draw the bow, i.e. as far off as

archers are accustomed to place the target (Keil). The sense is correctly given

by the Septuagint: μακρόθεν ὡσεὶ τόξου βολήνmakrothen hosei toxou bolaen

a good way off about a bow shot away.   For she said, Let me not see - i.e. look

upon with anguish (compare Numbers 11:15) - the death of the child - τοῦ παιδίου

μουtou paidiou mouof the child (Septuagint). And she sat over against him,

and lift up her voice, and wept. The verbs, being feminine, indicate that it is

Hagar's grief which is here described, and that the rendering, "and the child lifted

up his voice and wept" (Septuagint), is incorrect; although the next verse may

suggest that Ishmael, like his mother, was also dissolved in tears.


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."  And God - Elohim; Hagar and

Ishmael having now been removed from the care and superintendence of the

covenant God to the guidance and providence of God the ruler of all nations

(Keil) - heard the voice of the lad; - praying (Inglis), or weeping, and the angel

of God - Maleach Elohim; not Maleach Jehovah, as in ch.16:7-13, for the reason

above specified (Hengstenberg, Quarry) - called to Hagar out of heaven, - it may

be inferred there was no external appearance or theophaneia, such as was vouchsafed

to her when wandering in the wilderness of Shur (ch. 16:7) - and said unto her, What

aileth thee (literally, What to thee?) Hagar? fear not; - so the word of Jehovah

addressed Abram (ch. 15:1), Isaac (ch. 26:4), Daniel (Daniel 10:12), and John

(Revelation 1:17) - for God hath heard the voice of the lad - i.e. the voice (perhaps

the mute cry) of the lad's misery, and in that also the audible sob of Hagar's weeping.

It is not said that either Ishmael or his mother prayed to God in their distress. Hence

the Divine interposition on their behalf non quid a se peterent, sed quid servo suo

Abrahae de Ismaele pollicitus foret, respexit (Calvin) - where he is - an ellipsis for

from, or in, the place where he is - ἐκ τοῦ τόπου οὑ ἐστιν ek tou topou ou estin

(Septuagint); ex loco ubi est (Calvin); meaning either "in his helpless condition"

(Keil), or out in the desolate wilderness, as contrasted with the house of Abraham




                                    Hagar, a Weary Outcast (v. 17)


 “What aileth thee, Hagar?” Hagar is sent away from Abraham’s tents. In

the wilderness wandering she is lost. In despair she sinks down and weeps.

An angel’s voice is heard inquiring, “What aileth thee, Hagar?”



            STILL CHRISTLESS, They are —


Ø      Weary.

Ø      Thirsty.

Ø      Apparently man-forsaken and God-forsaken.

Ø      Their dearest comforts slipping from them, as Hagar’s child, by


Ø      Death expecting.



            IN TROUBLE.


            1. Realize it.

            2. Seek deliverance from above.


God is nearer to us than we imagine. He feels for us, hears us, helps us. He

gives sustenance, cheer, guidance.


18 "Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a

great nation."  Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand. Literally, bind

fast thy hand to him, i.e. give him thy support now, and take care of him till he

reaches manhood. Compare God's promise to Israel (Isaiah 42:6). For I will make

him  (literally, to) a great nation (see v. 13; and compare ch.16:10; 17:20).


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."  And God opened her eyes.

Not necessarily by miraculous operation; perhaps simply by providentially guiding

her search for water, after the administered consolation had revived her spirit and

roused her energies. And she saw a well of water, בְּאֵר מַיִם, as distinguished from

בּור, a pit or cistern, meant a fountain or spring of living water (compare 24:11, 20;

26:19-21). It had not been previously observed by Hagar, either because of her

mental agitation (dolors quasi caeca. Rosenmüller), or because, as was customary,

the mouth of the well was covered - and she went, and filled the bottle with water,

and gave the lad drink - which was certainly the first of the youth s necessities,

being needful to the preservation of his life and the reviving of his spirits.



                        God’s Appearance to Hagar (vs. 17-19)


The greatest truths in the Bible are put before us in a setting of human interest

and feeling. Our hearts are strangely touched by the picture of the desolate

woman and the helpless child. (Is this true America?  CY – 2019)  The fatherly

character of God is exhibited. He heard the voice of the lad. All such facts point

to THE GREATEST FACT, the union of God and man in the man

Christ Jesus. We see here:



            SUFFERING: our example, The object of pity apart from antecedents.


  • THE WORKING OUT OF DIVINE PURPOSES notwithstanding, and

            to some extent by means of, human infirmities, errors, and sins. Ishmael

            must be preserved, and has his part to play in the future.


  • TAKEN TYPICALLY, Hagar and Ishmael represent the life of man

            apart from the covenant of God, outside the circle of special privilege.

            There is God in the wilderness. The eyes which are darkened with

            ignorance and self-will may yet be mercifully opened to see the well of

            water. The angel of deliverance follows even the bondwoman and her son.

            But the way to God through the wilderness is a hard way:


Ø      a way of suffering,

Ø      a way of danger.


      God was with Ishmael. He was with him through Abraham, for Abraham’s

      sake. The course of Ishmael’s life illustrates the contrast between a truly

      religious career and one given up to natural impulse. Compare

            Esau and Joseph’s brethren.




                                    Hagar in the Wilderness (v. 19)


“And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water.” Hagar in the

wilderness. Why? She had no pleasure in her home; would not accept her

position there. Hence Ishmael’s mocking. Compare working of pride in Eden: 

“Ye shall be as gods” (ch. 3:5), and its result — Adam and Eve driven out.

Observe — a soul despising the position of a child of God is driven into the

wilderness by its own act. Pride rebels against terms of salvation

(Romans 10:3), a free gift to sinners seeking it as such (Mark 2:17).

Hagar felt her misery, like many who find no peace. “All is vanity.” She sat

down and wept. Did she cry to God? He had met her there before. Past

mercies should move to trust (Psalm 42:6). But pride and unbelief

hinder prayer (Exodus 17:3-6). But God had not forgotten her (compare

Matthew 18:11). “What aileth thee?” Compare our Lord’s dealing with

those He helped.


            1. Himself taking the first step.

            2. Requiring a confession of their want.

            3. Rousing expectation (John 4:14; 7:37).



            the water of life. Why are so many without peace? The well is beside them;

            the sound of the gospel is familiar to them. The Bible is read in their

            hearing, but it speaks nothing to them (II Corinthians 3:15). Christ died

            for all (ibid. ch. 5:14). His blood the ransom for all (I John 1:7).

            We have not to go to seek a Savior (Romans 10:6-8). No sin is too

            deep for cleansing, no sorrow too great for comfort; nothing required to

            give a right to trust him (Isaiah 55:1; Luke 15:2). Why without

            peace? The eyes are closed to the truth (I Corinthians 2:14). Human

            teaching cannot give life (Ezekiel 37:8). What is wanted is not a new

            fountain, but opened eyes. And it is disbelief of this that keeps so many in

            anxiety. To them the well is not there; they want God to give it. They look

            for something they are to do to find a Savior. It is important to know what is

            wanted — spiritual discernment. To many this seems a mere fancy; but

            they whose eyes are opened know it to be a passing from darkness to light

            (II Timothy 1:10). Words often read become full of new meaning.

            (Dwight Moody said he had read the Bible through a hundred times and

            each time it was new!  CY – 2019)


  • GOD OPENED HER EYES. It is blindness that causes trouble; but as the

            blind cannot see by his own will, so neither can the unspiritual. The way of

            salvation is before him, but while it commends itself to his reason it brings

            him no joy. Are we then without effort to sit still? No; all is ready on God’s

            part. “Wilt thou be made whole?” Want of will alone hinders. Often men

            would like to drink, but not at God’s fountain. Make an effort to believe,

            and power will be given.  (“But as many as received Him, to them gave

            He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His

            name.” -  John 1:12)


  • WHAT SHE SAW. The well of life; the revelation of Jesus Christ to

            the soul — THIS IS PEACE! Not by our own powers or wisdom, not by

            our own holiness or advance in grace; but trust in Him. No more fears. True,

            the wilderness is there; the work has to be done, temptations overcome,

            sorrows borne, graces cultivated; but we can do all through Christ.

            (Philippians 4:13)  Now troubles become helps (Psalm 84:6), for they

            make us flee to Christ (II Corinthians 12:9). And who can count the

            blessings revealed to him whose eyes are opened? A Father in everything:


Ø      protection,

Ø      teaching,

Ø      guidance.


  • Everything surrounding him, every event that happens to him,

            are inlets of ever increasing knowledge of God, whom to know is

            LIFE ETERNAL!


20 "And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness,

and became an archer.  21 And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and his

mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt.”  And God was with the lad.

Not simply in the ordinary sense in which He is with all men (Psalm 139:3-9;

Acts 17:27-28); not, certainly, in the spiritual sense in which He had promised to

be with Isaac (ch. 17:21), and in which He is with believers (ch. 26:24; Isaiah 41:10;

Matthew 28:20); but in the particular sense of exercising towards him a special

providence, with a view to implementing the promise made concerning him to

Abraham and Hagar. And he grew (literally, became great, i.e. progressed towards

manhood), and dwelt in the wilderness (i.e. led a roving and unsettled life),

and became an archer. Literally, and he was ׃ך׃ך רֹבֶה קַשָּׁת deriving רֹבֶה from רָבַה,

to grow great or multiply, either:


(1) when he grew up, an archer, or man using the bow (Gesenius, Keil);


(2) growing an archer, or acquiring skill as a bowman (Kalisch, Wordsworth); or


(3) growing, or multiplying into, a tribe of archers (Murphy).


With the first of these substantially agree the renderings καὶ ἀγένετο τοξότης

kai ageneto he grew up became an archer (Septuagint),

and factus est juvenis sagittarius (Vulgate). Others, connecting רֹבֶה with רָבַכ,

in the sense of to cast arrows (compare ch. 49:23), read:


(1) "and he was a shooter of arrows from the bow" (Jarchi, Kimchi, Rosenmüller),

      though in this case קֶשֶׁת would have to be read for קַשָּׁת (Furst);


(2) a marksman, archer, i.e. a marksman skilled in using the bow (Ewald,

      see  ' Hebrews Synt.,' § 287). Baumgarten translates, a hero (or great one),

      an archer. And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: - the desert of El-Tih,

      on the south of Canaan (compare ch.14:6) - and his mother took him a wife

      out of the land of Egypt (compare ch. 24:4, 55; Exodus 21:10).




                                    God’s Care for Ishmael (v. 20)


“And God was with the lad.” The encampment of Abraham was the scene

of joy and festivity on the occasion of the recognition of Isaac publicly as

his heir. It is said in Jewish lore that Abraham called a number of the

patriarchs to the feast, and that Melchizedek, Nahor, and even Noah were

present. Ishmael had been heir-presumptive up to that time. He was then

put in the position of a subject to the son of Sarah. He and his mother

despised the weakling and nursling. They “mocked.” This roused the

indignation of Sarah, and she insisted on the banishment of both. Abraham

was very unwilling to consent to the proposal, for he had great affection

for Ishmael. No wonder that he loved him, for he was, if not the child of

promise, at least the son who first roused in his breast the pride and joy of

paternity. He seems to have hoped that Ishmael would be the one through

whom the great blessings promised to him would be bestowed. Hence he

had prayed, “O that Ishmael might live before thee” (ch.17:18).

Perhaps unbelief had much to do with the expression of the hope. He

indicated his own contentment with that mode of fulfillment of the promise;

God, however, has another. Abraham evidently loved the lad, and now that

he is grown to be a stalwart youth of about sixteen, it is strongly against his

inclination to send him away. Sarah insists. She in her indignation will not

even speak of him by his name, but calls him contemptuously “the son of

this bondwoman” (v. 10). Abraham was very grieved (v. 11), but he can see

that there is no prospect of any peace in his encampment unless he should do

as Sarah wishes. Two jealous women are enough to embitter his life, and bring

discord eventually among his retainers For typical reasons the banishment was

permitted by God (v. 12), and Abraham sends both away, laden probably not only

with trinkets, which shall suffice for barter, but with a flask of water and strings

of small loaves. Abraham had thus to sacrifice his own inclinations in Ishmael,

his son after the flesh, as afterwards his will in offering up Isaac, his child of

promise. Away towards Egypt Hagar and Ishmael travel. They enter the

wilderness of Beersheba. Happiness and home is behind; desolateness,

dreariness, lonely journeys, imminent dangers from the wild beasts and

fierce hordes of men, with Egypt, before them. Hagar, with bread dry and

water spent, losing her way, waits for some one to guide. Unable to

proceed, she and her son sink down to die, to perish in the scorching heat

from that most fearful of all deprivations, water. Hagar, with bitter

memories of lost happiness and unjust treatment crowding, cannot bear the

sight of her son’s woe and sound of his moaning, therefore removes to a

slight distance, that she might not see his death nor disturb it as she sought

to ease her poor heart with tears. Oh, what moral beauty blossoms in the

desert in the maternal love of this outcast bondwoman. No human eye

detects it, but God notices and hears her voice, and that of the child. Then

comes the direction from heaven, and the promise, “I will make of him a

great nation.” We are told immediately afterwards in the brief record

concerning Ishmael that “God was with the lad,” and so the promise was

fulfilled. We notice Gods care even for an Ishmael, for one who would

appear to be outside all covenant blessings. He was one whose “hand was

to be against every man, and every man’s against him” (ch.16:12).

God manifested His care to Ishmael:


  • BY PRESERVING HIS LIFE. He heard his cry in distress. He knew his

            needs. God always knows our needs; whence to supply them, and where to

            find us even in the wilderness. A well of water is unexpectedly pointed out

            to the mother. Her eyes were opened to see its whereabouts. So God

            teaches many a mother, that she may lead her children to the well of living

            water. Every life preserved is only through the mercy of God. “In His hand

            our breath is” (Daniel 5:23). There is a well for bondsmen as well as

            free. God’s living well is to be reached in any position of life. It is near to

            us when we think it far off. “The word is nigh thee, in thine heart,” &c.

            (Romans 10:8). If we are to see the treasure, our spiritual understanding

            must be quickened, our “eyes opened” by the Holy Spirit. If we desire to

            know the way and well of life, we can pray for that opening.

            Only as we have this spiritual sight and life can we rejoice in the present

            existence, in our preservation. God preserved Ishmael that he might know



  • GOD ADVANCED HIM IN LIFE. He was with him as he grew up,

            and gave him favor in the sight of others. God is ever seeking by His Holy

            Spirit to mold the character of the worst for good. If we have any

            prosperity and grow up to influence, we should remember that it is from

            God. The darkest hour for Ishmael had ushered in the dawning of the

            brightest day. God knew what he would do with Ishmael. Ishmael is to

            found a nation. It is remarkable that he was the ancestor of the same

            number of tribes as was Israel (ch. 25:16). He found various

            scattered people in the Arabian desert, but the tribes descended from him

            seem to have absorbed all others. What an honor to be the founder of a

            house, a dynasty; how much more of a nation! This God granted to an



  • GOD GAVE HIM SKILL. “He became an archer.” He had to learn to

            defend himself, and secure for himself, by God’s help, a position. The

            fighting power is not the highest, but man has always had to protect

            himself before he could make progress in civilization. Alas, when he

            supposes himself to be civilized he often clings to the old habit, and still

            loves the fighting. The archers, like Ishmael, have their sphere as well as

            the shepherds, like Isaacs. The fiery defenders of faith and the controversial

            champions of the truth have their sphere as well as the pious, plodding

            pastors of Christ’s flock. If men have skill for the one thing, let them not

            despise the powers of others. We have all to learn to appreciate diversity of

            talents, and to remember that skill in any work is the outcome of

            independence, resolution, and energy. Ishmael had been endowed with

            these by God.



      He gave to him the desert for his domain. Here he might

            roam and pitch his tent at his own suggestion. God knew that the hot blood

            of his Egyptian mother, which coursed in his veins, would find its most

            fitting sphere in the desert. Instead of mingling with gentle herdsmen, he

            had to dwell among the fierce and untrained spirits of the desert. He

            became an ancestor of those who despised town life, and who were hardy

            and frugal enough to exist where others would have perished. Thus to

            Ishmael, the desert, with its widespread, sun-scorched sands, its scant

            herbage, its infrequent wells and scattered oases, became a fitting home.

            God chose for him his dwelling-place, and defined for him the bounds of

            his habitation. And is it not best for us to leave ourselves in God’s hands?

            He knows best where to place any of us, and what work to give us to do,

            what sphere to fill. We might prefer the green pasture and hills flowing

            with milk and honey of the Canaan of prosperity, but the desert of trial and

            loneliness may be the best for training our spirits. We may have losses to

            endure outwardly, but if we can acquire a spirit of contentment and faith,

            that is great gain. (I Timothy 6:6)  That spirit will lead us to say, “He shall

            choose our inheritance for us.”



            BRETHREN. He was to “dwell in the presence of his brethren”

            (ch. 16:12). Though cast out by Abraham, he was not cast off by

            God or cut off from all interchange with others. We find (ch. 25:6)

            that Abraham gave portions to the sons of his second wife, Keturah, and

            sent them away. Doubtless he gave a portion to Ishmael, for we find him

            uniting with Isaac in the funeral obsequies of his father (ibid. v. 9).

            The two sons were not at enmity now. Further, he seems to have kept up

            his union with his brother, for his daughter Bashemath (ch. 36:3)

            married Esau, Isaac’s son. Thus two families in the line of promise, but

            who had cast themselves out — Esau by his indifference, and Ishmael by

            his mocking — were united. Thus, although of fierce and fiery nature,

            Ishmael “dwelt in the presence of his brethren.” God was with him. He had

            a shorter life than Isaac. Ishmael died at 130 years old, Isaac at 180.

            Evidently the active, restless, wandering, hazardous life was more wearing

            and consuming than the calm and meditative life of the pastoral Isaac. But

            when he died God cared for him as well as for Isaac, only his purposes

            with respect to Isaac were different. Isaac was an ancestor after the flesh

            of the Messiah, but Ishmael had not that honor. Still we must not think that

            God had cast off Ishmael, and left him utterly and everlastingly to perish.

            Our God cares for those outside the pale of the Church, even as for those

            within. The former have not taken up their privileges, nor seen how Christ

            loves them. They are suffering great loss, and are in danger of further loss,

            but God cares for and pities them. He wills not the death of a sinner.


Ø      He pitied the people of Nineveh, sent them a warning, and gave

      them space for repentance.  (Jonah)

Ø      He healed a Naaman; (II Kings 5)

Ø      sent his prophet to dwell with a woman of Sarepta, and so conferred

      honor upon her; (I Kings 17) and

Ø      he brought a Nebuchadnezzar to his right mind by a judicious infliction.

                  (Daniel 4)


      All this was mercy shown outside the pale of Israel to those who would be

      accounted as Ishmaelites. Oh, how much more widely flows the channel of

      Divine mercy and love than we imagine! How little we conceive the depth of

      the Father’s love to all His creatures! In every heart He is seeking to find a

            reflection of His image. By the side of every soul, however much of an

            Ishmaelite, he is seeking by His Holy Spirit to walk, that He may win back

            to the fold of love and mercy. Oh, ye who think yourselves too sinful to

            have a share in the Divine compassion, see God’s treatment of an Ishmael.

            Remember that Christ came “not to call the righteous, but sinners to

            repentance.” God is merciful even to thoughtless sinners, and gives streams

            in the desert. If this be the spirit of our God and Savior, should it not teach

            us to take an interest in all? As the sun when setting in the west throws his

            golden and purple rays not only over the broad ocean, but on the dank

            ditches of the meadows and the puddles of the street, so should we

            remember that there is no heart so depraved but the love of God in Christ

            may light it up. If only we looked at our fellows thus, with deeper

            sympathy, we should see them won to Christ.


     The Separation of the Bondwoman’s Son from the Promised Seed

                                                     (vs. 8-21)


It was necessary that this should take place for the accomplishment of the

Divine plan. Human conduct is employed, as in so many other cases, as the

instrument or occasion. There was mockery or unbelief in Ishmael. It was

not personal merely, but a mockery of Jehovah and of His Church. Sarah

saw it. The mother’s keen affections were sharpened to detect the scorn of

her joy. Abraham and Sarah were both severely tried. Their lack of faith

must yield fruit of sorrow (in the matter of Hagar). The separation was pain to

the father, but it was part of the gracious work of God for Isaac. Abraham was

being prepared by such discipline for his great climax of trial. There is beautiful

tenderness and simplicity in Abraham’s conduct (v. 14). It is:


1. Entire obedience.

2. Kind and gentle consideration for Sarah and Hagar.

3. Strong faith; he committed her to God according to His word.

4. The master and the servant at the door of the house in the early

    morning; the master himself placing the bottle of water on the

    bondwoman’s shoulder as a sign of continued affinity.


God commands separations. In obedience to Him they may involve severe

struggle with self.  It should still be carried out with as little wounding of

human affections as possible.



                                     Hagar and Ishmael (vs. 15-21)




Ø      Banished from home. Hitherto the household of Abraham had been to

                        Hagar and her boy such a pleasant and doubtless much-prized abode;

                        henceforth their connection with the patriarch’s encampment was to be

                        completely severed. So God in His mysterious providence and in many

                        different ways frequently bereaves men of the shelter and society of home.


Ø      Separated from the Church. Practically the expulsion of this Egyptian

                        slave-mother and her son from the household of Abraham, if it did not

                        involve a casting off from God’s mercy, amounted to extrusion from the

                        patriarchal Church.


Ø      Lost in the wilderness. Whether because the region through which they

                        traveled was unfamiliar, or because, impelled by indignation and

                        excitement, they simply drifted on with aimless feet, the narrative depicts

                        the unhappy pair as having “wandered,” turned aside into unfrequented

                        paths, and become lost; in that touchingly portraying the sad condition of

                        thousands or homeless and churchless wanderers to-day, roaming

                        purposeless and perplexed across the trackless waste of life.




Ø      Perishing through thirst. Extreme thirst one of the most excruciating

                        torments to which the physical frame can be subjected, and a fellow

                        creature dying for lack of water, one of the commonest of God’s mercies,

                        as sad a spectacle as any on which the eye of man can gaze.


Ø      Sobbing in anguish. Too exhausted to weep aloud, the poor

                        disheartened lad moans out his misery. Happy they who, if they cannot

                        relieve, can at least understand and be affected by their necessities. To

                        recognize and make complaint of one’s spiritual destitution is better than to

                        be callous and indifferent to one’s dying condition.


Ø      Praying to God. Though not certain that the “voice” of the lad meant

                        more than the rude cry of his distress, charity may hope that in the day of

                        his calamity he directed his prayer to God. Prayer generally precedes





Ø      The voice of heathen, superstition. “Let me not see the death of the

                        lad.” To a Christian mother Hagar’s behavior is simply inexplicable. It is

                        doubtful if Sarah would have been a bow-shot removed from Isaac had he

                        been expiring. But then Hagar, though she had been Abraham’s wife, was

                        still a poor untutored slave-girl. It may assist us to understand our

                        indebtedness to the humanizing influences of Christ’s religion.


Ø      The cry of material affection.  “She sat over against her boy, and lifted up

                        her voice and wept.” Even in the breast of this Egyptian bondmaid nature

                        asserted her supremacy. Everywhere beautiful and sacred is a mother’s

                        love, worthy of being cherished and reciprocated by those who know its

                        sweetness and strength, never failing to bring down retribution on those by

                        whom it is rejected and despised.




Ø      Sympathizing with the sorrowful. “What aileth thee, Hagar?” What a

                        glimpse into the infinite pitifulness of the Divine nature! Only when Christ

                        came was it surpassed in clearness and fullness.


Ø      Listening to the suppliant. As the prayer of Ishmael came up into the

                        wakeful ear of God, so the cries of dying men and perishing souls never

                        fail to do.


Ø      Consoling the dejected. As to Hagar the angel spoke words of

                        encouragement, and renewed the formerly-given assurance concerning the

                        future greatness of her son, so God revives the drooping spirits of His

                        people by directing them to His exceeding great and precious promises.


Ø      Providing for the destitute. “God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of

                        water.” And so by the leadings of His providence, the teachings of His

                        word, and the illumination of His Spirit does God guide the meek to the

                        wells of salvation.


Ø      Abiding with the homeless. “God was with the lad.” Ejected from

                        Abraham’s house, he was not deserted by Abraham’s God. Happy they

                        who amid life’s wanderings can count on God’s companionship. For

                        desertions of friends and deprivations of goods it will prove ample





1. To prize the blessing of a home and the privilege of a Church.

2. To commiserate and succor those who have neither.

3. To use God in all the revealed aspects of His gracious character.


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:"  And it came to pass at that time, - possibly in immediate sequence

to the incident of the preceding chapter, but, "according to the common law

of Hebrew narrative, probably not long after the birth of Isaac." (Murphy) –

that Abimelech - the king of Gerar (ch. 20:2; 26:1,16) - and Phi-chol - if the

name be Shemitic, "mouth of all," i.e. spokesman of all (Murphy), ruler of all

(Gesenius); or "the distinguished" (Furst); believed to have been a titular

designation of the Philistine monarch's grand vizier or prime minister (Lange,

'Speaker's Commentary'), who was also - the chief captain of his host

(i.e. the commander-in-chief of his forces) spake unto Abraham (having

come from Gerar for the purpose), saying, God is with thee in all that thou doest

a conviction derived from his former acquaintance with the patriarch (ch. 20.), his

knowledge of Isaac s birth, and his general observation of the patriarch's prosperity.


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."  Now therefore swear unto me here by God - the verb to swear is

derived from the Hebrew numeral seven, inasmuch as the septennary number was

sacred, and oaths were confirmed either by seven sacrifices (v. 28) or by seven

witnesses and pledges - that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, - literally, if thou

shalt lie unto me; a common form of oath in Hebrew, in which the other member

of the sentence is for emphasis left unexpressed (compare Ruth 1:17, and see

ch. 14:23). As a prince, Abimelech was afraid of Abraham's growing power;

as a good man, he insures the safety of himself and his dominions not by resorting

to war, but by forming an amicable treaty with his neighbor - nor with my son,

nor with my son's son: - σπέρμα καὶ ὅνομαsperma kai honomaissue or seed

called by my surname – interpretation mine – CY – 2019) (Septuagint); posteri et

stirps (Vulgate); offspring and progeny (Kalisch); kith and kin (Murphy) - but

according to the kindness that I have done unto thee (see ch. 20:15), thou shalt

do unto me, and to the land wherein thou hast sojourned - the land being put for

the people (compare Numbers 14:13).


24 "And Abraham said, I will swear."  Only before concluding the agreement there

was a matter of a more personal character that required settlement.


25 “And Abraham reproved Abimelech because of a well of water, which

Abimelech's servants had violently taken away.”  And Abraham reproved

(literally, reasoned with, and proved to the satisfaction of) Abimelech (who was,

until informed, entirely unacquainted with the action of his servants) because of

a well of water, which Abimelech's servants had violently taken away. The greatest

possible injury of a material kind that could be done to a nomads chief was the

abstraction of his water supplies. Hence "the ownership of wells in Palestine was

as jealously guarded as the possession of a mine in our own" (Inglis). Contests for

wells "are now very common all over the country, but more especially in the

southern deserts" (Thomson, 'Land and Book,' p. 559).  (Also in the settlement

of the western United States – CY – 2019)


26 “And Abimelech said, I wot not who hath done this thing: neither didst

thou tell me, neither yet heard I of it, but to day.”  And Abimelech said,

I wot not who hath done this thing. There is no reason to question the sincerity

of the Philistine monarch in disclaiming all knowledge of the act of robbery

committed by his servants. Neither didst thou tell me, neither yet heard I of it,

but today. The prince rather complains that Abraham had done him an injustice.


27 “And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech;

and both of them made a covenant.”  And Abraham took sheep and oxen,

and gave them unto Abimelech As the usual covenant presents (compare

I Kings 15:19; Isaiah 30:6; 39:1). And both of them made a covenant.

As already Mamre, Aner, and Eshcol had formed a league with the patriarch

(see ch. 14:13).


28 “And Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves.  29 And

Abimelech said unto Abraham, What mean these seven ewe lambs which thou

hast set by themselves? 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.”   And Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves (designing

by another covenant to secure himself against future invasion of his rights). And

Abimelech said unto Abraham, What mean these seven ewe lambs which thou

hast set by themselves? And he said, For these seven ewe lambs shalt thou take

of my hand, that they may be a witness unto me, - that this peculiar kind of oath

never occurs again in Old Testament history is no proof of the mythical character

of the narrative (Bohlen); on the contrary, "that the custom existed in primitive

Hebrew times is shown by the word נִשְׁבַּע, which had early passed into the

language, and which would be inexplicable without the existence of such a

custom" (Havernick) - that I have digged this well.


31 “Wherefore he called that place Beersheba; because there they sware both

of them.”  Wherefore he called that place Beersheba. I.e. "the well of the oath,"

φρέαρ ὁρκισμοῦ - phrear horkismou (Septuagint, Gesenius, Furst, Rosenmüller),

or the well of the seven (Keil), rather than the seven wells (Lange); discovered

by Robinson in Bir-es-seba, in the Wady-es-seba, twelve miles to the south of

Hebron, with two deep wells of excellent water. "The great well has an internal

diameter at the mouth of twelve feet six inches, or a circumference of nearly

forty feet. The shaft is formed of excellent masonry to a great depth until it

reaches the rock, and at this juncture a spring trickles perpetually. Around

the mouth of the well is a circular course of masonry, topped by a circular

parapet of about a foot high; and at a distance of ten or twelve feet are stone

troughs placed in a concentric circle with the well, the sides of which have

deep indentions made by the wear of ropes on the upper edges The second well,

about 200 yards farther south, is not more than five feet in diameter, but is

formed of equally good masonry, and furnishes equally good water" (see

'Byeways in Palestine,' by James Finn, M.R.A.S., p. 190). Because there they

 sware both of them.


32 “Thus they made a covenant at Beersheba: then Abimelech rose up,

and Phichol the chief captain of his host, and they returned into the land

of the Philistines.  33 And Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called

there on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God.”  And Abraham planted

as a sign of his peaceful occupation of the soil (Calvin); as a memorial of the

transaction about the well ('Speaker's Commentary'); or simply as a shade for his

tent (Rosenmüller); scarcely as an oratory (Bush, Kalisch) - a grove - the אֵשֶׁל

wood, plantation (Targum, Vulgate, Samaritan, Kimchi); a field, ἄρουραν

arourana tamarisk tree (Septuagint) - was probably the Tamarix Africanae

(Gesenius, Furst, Delitzsch, Rosenmüller, Kalisch), which, besides being common

in Egypt and Petraea, is said to have been found growing near the ancient Beersheba

in Beersheba, and called there (not beneath the tree or in the grove, but in the place)

on the name of the Lord, - Jehovah (see ch. 12:8; 13:4) - the everlasting God

τὸ ὄνομα κυρίου θεὸς αἰώνιοςto onoma kuriou Theos aionios - literally, the name

of THE GOD OF ETERNITY (Septuagint, Vulgate, Onkelos); not in contrast

to heathen deities, who are born and die (Clericus), but "as the everlasting Vindicator

of the faith of treaties, and as the infallible Source of the believer's rest and peace"



34 “And Abraham sojourned in the Philistines' land many days.”

The apparent contradiction between the statement of this verse and that

of v. 32 may be removed by supposing either:


(1) that as the land of the Philistines had no fixed boundary toward the desert,

     Beersheba may at this time have been claimed for the kingdom of Gerar (Keil);



(2) that as Beersheba was situated on the confines of the Philistines' territory,

     Abraham must frequently have sojourned in their country while pasturing

     his flocks (Rosenmüller).



                        Abimelech and Abraham, or Ancient Covenanters

                                                     (vs. 22-34)




Ø      The contemplated object. Peace. What modern monarchs mostly desire

                        at the close of exhausting campaigns is here sought before campaigns



Ø      The covenanting parties. Two powerful princes, in their conduct

                        exemplifying the spirit of unity and peace which should bind together

                        private persons in their daily intercourse, as well as kings and nations in

                        their political alliance.


Ø      The impelling motives. Worldly policy may have urged Abimelech to

                        cement a league with the powerful chieftain in his neighborhood, but

                        religions affinity would also seem to have exercised an influence in drawing

                        him to seek the friendship of one who appeared to enjoy celestial

                        protection. Good men mostly desire to have the saints as friends, and even

                        the wicked can perceive an advantage in being allied to the righteous.

                        Abraham’s acquiescence in the king’s proposal was no doubt dictated by:


o        a peaceable disposition,

o        a sense of equity,

o        a spirit of contentment, and

o        an unwavering confidence in God.


Ø      The public ceremonial. The alliance was contracted


o        by means of amicable conference, and

o        with the sanctions of religion.




Ø      The palpable injury. The herdsmen of the king had appropriated

                        Abraham’s well. God s people, though expected meekly to suffer wrong,

                        cannot always help seeing that it is wrong they suffer. Nor are they called

                        upon to bear what by lawful means they are able to redress. A godly man is

                        entitled to be careful of his property, to preserve it from damage, protect it

                        from theft, and recover it when stolen or lost.  (The child of God has the

                        same rights as an unbeliever!  CY – 2019)


Ø      The mistaken charge. Abraham, thinking the herdsmen had acted on

                        their master’s orders, reproved Abimelech. This, however, was an error,

                        which shows:


o        that a person cannot always be held responsible for what his servants


o        that it is wrong to judge on insufficient evidence with reference to the

                                    characters and conduct of others, and

o        that in making charges or preferring complaints it is well to avoid both:


§         heat of temper and

§         severity of language.


Ø      The satisfactory explanation. Abimelech declared himself perfectly

                        unacquainted with the wrong which had been done to Abraham, and

                        immediately returned the well, which discovers how easily

                        misunderstandings might be removed if, instead of harboring enmity, men

                        would resort to friendly conference. It is as much the duty of him who has

                        a grievance to reveal it, as it is the duty of him who has caused the

                        grievance to remove it.


Ø      The prudent measure.  Abraham gave Abimelech seven ewe lambs as a

                        witness that he had digged the well, and consequently had a right to its

                        possession. Seemingly betraying a secret suspicion of the prince’s veracity,

                        the act aimed at preventing any recurrence of the grievance, and in this

                        light it appears to have been regarded by Abimelech. Good men should not

                        only rectify the wrongs they do to one another, but adopt all wise

                        precautions against their repetition.




Ø      Peace established, Abimelech and Phichol, having accomplished their

                        mission, returned to Philistia. “Blessed are the peace-makers”

                        (Matthew 5:9) and “how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet

                        of him that publisheth peace.”  (Isaiah 52:7)


Ø      Peace commemorated. Abraham instituted two memorials of the

                        important transactions, naming the well Beersheba, and planting a

                        tamarisk beside his tent. It is good to remember God’s mercies,

                        of which national and civil quietude is one of the greatest, and it

                        is becoming to erect memorials of both privileges and obligations.


Ø      Peace enjoyed. Abraham called on the name of the everlasting God. As

                        a planter of tamarisks, the patriarch has been styled the father of

                        civilization; it is more important to remark that he never neglected to

                        worship God himself and publish his salvation to others. Happy they

                        who can do both in peace!



            A Covenant between the Patriarch and the Philistine King

                                                (vs. 22-34)


1. God’s care for those beyond the covenant. A Beersheba in a heathen


2. The things of this world made a channel of higher blessings. The

covenant arising out of bodily wants a civil agreement. The oath a

testimony to God where reverently made.

3. He is not far from every one of us. The neighborhood of Beersheba, the

revelation of Jehovah, the little company of believers.

4. The blessing made manifest. The days spent in Philistia left behind them

some enlightenment.

5. Adaptation of Divine truth to those to whom it is sent. Abraham’s name

of God, Jehovah El Olam; the two revelations:


  1. the God of nature and
  2. the God of grace.


The name of the Lord itself is an invitation to believe and live.

Paul at Athens adapted himself in preaching to the people’s knowledge

while leading them to faith. “In Him we live, and move, and have our

being.”  (Acts 17:26)


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