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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 21

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy ScripturesEverett's Study Notes

Verses 1-21

Hagar is Sent from Abraham and Sarah Genesis 21:1-21 gives the account of Abraham sending Hagar off into the wilderness with their son Ishmael. Genesis 16, 21 contain accounts of Hagar in the wilderness.

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

Genesis 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.

Genesis 21:2 Comments - God promised Abraham that He would return (Genesis 18:10).

Genesis 18:10, “And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.

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

Genesis 21:3 Word Study on “Isaac” Strong says the Hebrew name “Isaac” ( יִצְחָק ) (H3327) means, “laughter.”

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

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

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

Genesis 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.

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

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

Genesis 21:9 Comments - Paul makes a reference to Ishmael mocking Isaac in Galatians 4:29.

Galatians 4:29, “But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.”

Genesis 21:10 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.

Genesis 21:10 Old Testament Quotes in the New Testament - Paul quotes Genesis 21:10 in Galatians 4:30.

Galatians 4:30-31, “Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.”

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

Genesis 21:11 We have to put ourselves into Abraham’s position of sending away his only son. This broke his heart, yet he was obeying God by his action. Abraham would face a greater test yet, when God tells him to take Isaac to Mount Moriah and sacrifice him on an altar.

Genesis 21:12 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.

Genesis 21:12 “for in Isaac shall thy seed be called” - Comments - Note references to this verse in the New Testament.

Romans 9:7, “Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called .”

Hebrews 11:17-18, “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called :”

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

Genesis 21:13 Comments - Ishmael became one nation, but Isaac became several nations through Jacob and Esau.

Genesis 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 Beersheba.

Genesis 21:9-14 Comments Abraham Casts out Hagar and Ishmael - The story of Abraham casting out Ishmael is a perfect example of Proverbs 22:10. Hagar's son was mocking, or scorning Isaac. The only way to deal with this was to cast out the scorner.

Proverbs 22:10, “Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease.”

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

Genesis 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.

Genesis 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.

Genesis 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?” - Comments - It is interesting to note that God heard the prayer of the child, but not the prayer of Hagar. Note these insightful words by Frances J. Roberts regarding this passage of Scripture:

“Lo, I have sought thee, following thee upon the hills and pursuing thee through the barren wastes. Yea, I have called after thee, but thou hast not heard. Thou thoughtest in thine heart that thou wouldst find Me, and thou hast set out in thine haste to seek for Me, but thou hast looked for Me in vain. Thou hast scanned the horizon from day to day, until thine eyes fail thee from thy searching, as the traveler seeking in vain for a spring in the desert, and finding none languisheth for water and fainteth in the heat.

“Lo, as Hagar of old, thy tears have blinded thine eyes whilst meantime I have revealed My glory and made My provisions apparent to the child . Fir it is written, ‘Except thou become as a little child, ye shall in no wise enter in.’ (Luke 18:17) For My ways are hid to those who seek Me in impatience, and the eyes which seek Me in human wisdom shall never find Me. For I am found of them that seek Me in utter simplicity and in candid honesty…..

“For when thou art utterly finished and exhausted in thy struggling; when thou hast come to an end in all thy striving; when thou art ready to desert thine intellectual pursuit, and when thou shalt cast thyself upon Me as a babe upon its mother’s breast; then shalt thou know surely that I have been constantly at thy very side; that I have never deserted thee.” [210]

[210] Frances J. Roberts, Come Away My Beloved (Ojai, California: King’s Farspan, Inc., 1973), 87.

Genesis 21:17 “fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is” - Comments - The statement by the angel, “fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is,” appears to be a play on words from the meaning of Ishmael's name, which means “God hears” (Genesis 16:11).

Genesis 16:11, “And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction .”

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

Genesis 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.

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

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

Genesis 21:21 Comments - Hagar was an Egyptian (Genesis 16:1), so naturally she took a wife for her son from her people, perhaps her family. She is not mentioned in Abraham and Sarah’s life again.

Genesis 16:1, “Now Sarai Abram's wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar .”

Verses 1-34

The Calling of the Patriarchs of Israel We can find two major divisions within the book of Genesis that reveal God’s foreknowledge in designing a plan of redemption to establish a righteous people upon earth. Paul reveals this four-fold plan in Romans 8:29-30: predestination, calling, justification, and glorification.

Romans 8:29-30, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”

The book of Genesis will reflect the first two phase of redemption, which are predestination and calling. We find in the first division in Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:3 emphasizing predestination. The Creation Story gives us God’s predestined plan for mankind, which is to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth with righteous offspring. The second major division is found in Genesis 2:4 to Genesis 50:25, which gives us ten genealogies, in which God calls men of righteousness to play a role in His divine plan of redemption.

The foundational theme of Genesis 2:4 to Genesis 11:26 is the divine calling for mankind to be fruitful and multiply, which commission was given to Adam prior to the Flood (Genesis 1:28-29), and to Noah after the Flood (Genesis 9:1). The establishment of the seventy nations prepares us for the calling out of Abraham and his sons, which story fills the rest of the book of Genesis. Thus, God’s calling through His divine foreknowledge (Genesis 11:27 to Genesis 50:26) will focus the calling of Abraham and his descendants to establish the nation of Israel. God will call the patriarchs to fulfill the original purpose and intent of creation, which is to multiply into a righteous nation, for which mankind was originally predestined to fulfill.

The generations of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob take up a large portion of the book of Genesis. These genealogies have a common structure in that they all begin with God revealing Himself to a patriarch and giving him a divine commission, and they close with God fulfilling His promise to each of them because of their faith in His promise. God promised Abraham a son through Sarah his wife that would multiply into a nation, and Abraham demonstrated his faith in this promise on Mount Moriah. God promised Isaac two sons, with the younger receiving the first-born blessing, and this was fulfilled when Jacob deceived his father and received the blessing above his brother Esau. Jacob’s son Joseph received two dreams of ruling over his brothers, and Jacob testified to his faith in this promise by following Joseph into the land of Egypt. Thus, these three genealogies emphasize God’s call and commission to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their response of faith in seeing God fulfill His word to each of them.

1. The Generations of Terah (& Abraham) Genesis 11:27 to Genesis 25:11

2. The Generations Ishmael Genesis 25:12-18

3. The Generations of Isaac Genesis 25:19 to Genesis 35:29

4. The Generations of Esau Genesis 36:1-43

5. The Generations of Jacob Genesis 37:1 to Genesis 50:26

The Origin of the Nation of Israel After Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 9:29 takes us through the origin of the heavens and the earth as we know them today, and Genesis 10:1 to Genesis 11:26 explains the origin of the seventy nations (Genesis 10:1 to Genesis 11:26), we see that the rest of the book of Genesis focuses upon the origin of the nation of Israel (Genesis 11:27 to Genesis 50:26). Thus, each of these major divisions serves as a foundation upon which the next division is built.

Paul the apostle reveals the four phases of God the Father’s plan of redemption for mankind through His divine foreknowledge of all things in Romans 8:29-30, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” Predestination - Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 11:26 emphasizes the theme of God the Father’s predestined purpose of the earth, which was to serve mankind, and of mankind, which was to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with righteousness. Calling - Genesis 11:27 to Genesis 50:26 will place emphasis upon the second phase of God’s plan of redemption for mankind, which is His divine calling to fulfill His purpose of multiplying and filling the earth with righteousness. (The additional two phases of Justification and Glorification will unfold within the rest of the books of the Pentateuch.) This second section of Genesis can be divided into five genealogies. The three genealogies of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob begin with a divine calling to a patriarch. The two shorter genealogies of Ishmael and Esau are given simply because they inherit a measure of divine blessings as descendants of Abraham, but they will not play a central role in God’s redemptive plan for mankind. God will implement phase two of His divine plan of redemption by calling one man named Abraham to depart unto the Promised Land (Genesis 12:1-3), and this calling was fulfilled by the patriarch. Isaac’s calling can also be found at the beginning of his genealogy, where God commands him to dwell in the Promised Land (Genesis 26:1-6), and this calling was fulfilled by the patriarch Isaac. Jacob’s calling was fulfilled as he bore twelve sons and took them into Egypt where they multiplied into a nation. The opening passage of Jacob’s genealogy reveals that his destiny would be fulfilled through the dream of his son Joseph (Genesis 37:1-11), which took place in the land of Egypt. Perhaps Jacob did not receive such a clear calling as Abraham and Isaac because his early life was one of deceit, rather than of righteousness obedience to God; so the Lord had to reveal His plan for Jacob through his righteous son Joseph. In a similar way, God spoke to righteous kings of Israel, and was silent to those who did not serve Him. Thus, the three patriarchs of Israel received a divine calling, which they fulfilled in order for the nation of Israel to become established in the land of Egypt. Perhaps the reason the Lord sent the Jacob and the seventy souls into Egypt to multiply rather than leaving them in the Promised Land is that the Israelites would have intermarried the cultic nations around them and failed to produce a nation of righteousness. God’s ways are always perfect.

1. The Generations of Terah (& Abraham) Genesis 11:27 to Genesis 25:11

2. The Generations Ishmael Genesis 25:12-18

3. The Generations of Isaac Genesis 25:19 to Genesis 35:29

4. The Generations of Esau Genesis 36:1-43

5. The Generations of Jacob Genesis 37:1 to Genesis 50:26

Divine Miracles It is important to note that up until now the Scriptures record no miracles in the lives of men. Thus, we will observe that divine miracles begin with Abraham and the children of Israel. Testimonies reveal today that the Jews are still recipients of God’s miracles as He divinely intervenes in this nation to fulfill His purpose and plan for His people. Yes, God is working miracles through His New Testament Church, but miracles had their beginning with the nation of Israel.

Verses 22-34

Abraham’s Covenant with Abimelech Genesis 21:22-34 gives the account of Abraham’s covenant with Abimelech.

Genesis 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:

Genesis 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.

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

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

Genesis 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 to day.

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

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

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

Genesis 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.

Genesis 21:31 Wherefore he called that place Beersheba; because there they sware both of them.

Genesis 21:31 “Wherefore he called that place Beersheba” Word Study on “Beersheba” TWOT says the Hebrew name “Beersheba” ( בְּאֵר שֶׁבַע ) (H884) means “well of seven,” or “well of an oath.” Gesenius also interprets this name to mean, “the well of the oath.” Strong tells us that the name “Beersheba” comes from two Hebrew words, ( בְּאֵר ) (H875) which means, “well, pit, spring,” and ( שֶׁבַע ) (H7651), which means, “seventh.” However PTW interprets this name to means, “well of oaths” with the second part of the word coming from ( שָׁבַע ) (H7650), which means, “to swear, to adjure, to take an oath.” BDB translates this word to means, “well of the sevenfold oath.” Smith tells us that this place still retains its ancient name today where there are found “two principle wells and five smaller ones” which are still in use today. Gesenius refers to Seetzen, who says “that there are found there five or seven wells called Szabça, with a valley of the same name.”

Comments - We find that the place was named Beersheba because Abraham made a covenant with Abimelech there, and because Isaac made a covenant with him as well (Genesis 26:26-33).

Genesis 26:33, “And he called it Shebah: therefore the name of the city is Beersheba unto this day.”

Genesis 21:31 “because they sware both of them” - Comments - To swear means to give one's word, to bind oneself with an oath. The origin of the verb “sware” is the noun “sheba,” which means “seven.” To swear meant either to “completely bind oneself,” that is, to repeat some detail of the oath seven times. Perhaps this is why Abraham gave seven lambs to Abimelech here as a part of the oath.

Genesis 21:32 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.

Genesis 21:33 And Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God.

Genesis 21:34 And Abraham sojourned in the Philistines' land many days.

Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Genesis 21". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/genesis-21.html. 2013.
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