Genesis – Chapter 21

The Bible – Old Testament



Chapter 21


The LORD took note of Sarah as he had said he would; he did for her as he had promised.


Sarah became pregnant and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time that God had stated.


Abraham gave the name Isaac to this son of his whom Sarah bore him.


When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God had commanded.


Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.


Sarah then said, «God has given me cause to laugh, and all who hear of it will laugh with me.


Who would have told Abraham,» she added, «that Sarah would nurse children! Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.»


Isaac grew, and on the day of the child’s weaning, Abraham held a great feast.


1 Sarah noticed the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham playing with her son Isaac;


so she demanded of Abraham: «Drive out that slave and her son! No son of that slave is going to share the inheritance with my son Isaac!»


Abraham was greatly distressed, especially on account of his son Ishmael.


But God said to Abraham: «Do not be distressed about the boy or about your slave woman. Heed the demands of Sarah, no matter what she is asking of you; for it is through Isaac that descendants shall bear your name.


As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a great nation of him also, since he too is your offspring.»


2 Early the next morning Abraham got some bread and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. Then, placing the child on her back, he sent her away. As she roamed aimlessly in the wilderness of Beer-sheba,


the water in the skin was used up. So she put the child down under a shrub,


and then went and sat down opposite him, about a bowshot away; for she said to herself, «Let me not watch to see the child die.» As she sat opposite him, he began to cry.


God heard the boy’s cry, and God’s messenger called to Hagar from heaven: «What is the matter, Hagar? Don’t be afraid; God has heard the boy’s cry in this plight of his.


Arise, lift up the boy and hold him by the hand; for I will make of him a great nation.»


Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. She went and filled the skin with water, and then let the boy drink.


God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the wilderness and became an expert bowman,


with his home in the wilderness of Paran. His mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.


3 About that time Abimelech, accompanied by Phicol, the commander of his army, said to Abraham: «God is with you in everything you do.


4 Therefore, swear to me by God at this place that you will not deal falsely with me or with my progeny and posterity, but will act as loyally toward me and the land in which you stay as I have acted toward you.»


To this Abraham replied, «I so swear.»


Abraham, however, reproached Abimelech about a well that Abimelech’s men had seized by force.


«I have no idea who did that,» Abimelech replied. «In fact, you never told me about it, nor did I ever hear of it until now.»


Then Abraham took sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelech and the two made a pact.


Abraham also set apart seven ewe lambs of the flock,


and Abimelech asked him, «What is the purpose of these seven ewe lambs that you have set apart?»


Abraham answered, «The seven ewe lambs you shall accept from me that thus I may have your acknowledgment that the well was dug by me.»


5 This is why the place is called Beer-sheba; the two took an oath there.


When they had thus made the pact in Beer-sheba, Abimelech, along with Phicol, the commander of his army, left and returned to the land of the Philistines.


6 Abraham planted a tamarisk at Beer-sheba, and there he invoked by name the LORD, God the Eternal.


Abraham resided in the land of the Philistines for many years.

1 [9-19] This story of Hagar’s expulsion, in the Elohist source, is in general a duplicate of the one from the Yahwist source in ⇒ Genesis 16:5-14; but the two stories differ greatly in detail.
2 Placing the child on her back: the phrase is translated from an emended form of the Hebrew text. In the current faulty Hebrew text, Abraham put the bread and the waterskin on Hagar’s back, while her son apparently walked beside her. This reading seems to be a scribal attempt at harmonizing the present passage with the data of the Priestly source, in which Ishmael would have been at least fourteen years old when Isaac was born; compare ⇒ Genesis 16:16 with ⇒ Genesis 21:5; cf ⇒ Genesis 17:25. But in the present Elohist story Ishmael is obviously a little boy, not much older than Isaac; cf ⇒ Genesis 15:18.
3 [22] Here and in ⇒ Genesis 21:32 the Greek text has «. . . Abimelech, accompanied by Ahuzzath, his councilor, and Phicol . . .»; but this is probably a secondary harmonization with ⇒ Genesis 26:26. Abimelech took Phicol with him in order to intimidate Abraham by a show of strength.
4 [23] This place: Beer-sheba (⇒ Genesis 21:31). Abimelech had come from Gerar (⇒ Genesis 20:2), about thirty miles west of Beer-sheba.
5 [31] Beer-sheba: the Hebrew name really means, «the well of the seven,» i.e., the place where there are seven wells, alluded to in the episode of the seven ewe lambs, ⇒ Genesis 21:28-30; but it can also be interpreted to mean «the well of the oath.»
6 [33] God the Eternal: in Hebrew, el olam, perhaps the name of the deity of the pre-Israelite sanctuary at Beer-sheba, but used by Abraham merely as a title of Yahweh; cf ⇒ Isaiah 40:28.