Genesis 21

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Read Genesis 21

The Birth of Isaac

Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

Hagar and Ishmael Sent Away

The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”

11 The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son.12 But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. 13 I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”

14 Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba.

15 When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she began to sob.

17 God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”

19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

20 God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. 21 While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt.

The Treaty at Beersheba

22 At that time Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, “God is with you in everything you do. 23 Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you now reside as a foreigner the same kindness I have shown to you.”

24 Abraham said, “I swear it.”

25 Then Abraham complained to Abimelek about a well of water that Abimelek’s servants had seized. 26 But Abimelek said, “I don’t know who has done this. You did not tell me, and I heard about it only today.”

27 So Abraham brought sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelek, and the two men made a treaty. 28 Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, 29 and Abimelek asked Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?”

30 He replied, “Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.”

31 So that place was called Beersheba, because the two men swore an oath there.

32 After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. 33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God. 34 And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.

Go Deeper

This chapter gives us one of the more ugly stories in the book of Genesis. Sarah doesn’t enjoy being around Hagar (and understandably so!) because it reminds her of Abraham’s past actions. So Abraham grabs some food and a little bit of water and sends Hagar and his son Ishmael to go survive on their own in the wilderness. With no plan, no money, and no more water, Hagar realizes that her situation is hopeless. As she and her baby weep, God hears them and has compassion towards them.  

We can learn a couple of things from Hagar’s story. First, whenever we are isolated, we are not alone. Even though she was abandoned to survive in the desert, the Lord was with her. This is the character of our God. He will never leave you, nor forsake you. We see this idea repeated by Paul in the New Testament. He wrote in 2 Timothy 4:16-17: “no one stood with me, but everyone deserted me. May it not be charged against them. But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me.” Does this not describe the situation in Genesis 21?! Our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Even when no one else is for you, he’ll be standing beside you. 

Secondly, we need not fear isolation. For many of us, our greatest times with the Lord will be when we feel most alone here on Earth. It’s when everyone else has left us that we realize the sufficiency of God’s companionship. It’s in these seasons that we understand that He knows us more deeply than anyone ever could. It’s in these moments that we know that He cares about you more fiercely than any friend ever could. We need not fear being alone, because our isolation can breed intimacy with our Father. Wherever you are today, be encouraged that he sees you, he hears you, and he desires to provide you water in a dry land.

  1. What did you notice about Sarah in this chapter?  Do you understand her emotion or were you surprised by her?

  2. Do you think Abraham was wrong to let Hagar go?  Did he let her leave out of faith or out of passivity?

  3. When have you felt isolated?  How has it brought you closer to God?

Did You Know?

The name Issac means “laughter.” This is appropriate for a couple of reasons. First, it refers back to Abraham and Sarah’s response of joy and disbelief earlier in Genesis 17-18, second it foreshadows the great pleasure and joy that Issac will bring to his parents.

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