Genesis Ch. 21 - Sarah Bore Isaac to Abraham in Her Old Age
Sarah Bore Isaac to Abraham in Her Old Age
The LORD fulfilled his promise to Abraham and Sarah bore him a son in his old age. Ishmael mocked Isaac. He and Hagar were sent to live in the desert.
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. Genesis 21:1-2
Prior to the judgment by fire upon Sodom and Gomorrah, the LORD had appeared to Abraham and promised that Sarah would bear him a son. Sarah who was listening to the conversation at the entrance to their tent had laughed to herself in disbelief. In response, the LORD exclaimed: “Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.” Genesis 18:14
Since God is omnipotent, He possesses unlimited power and authority. Since God is omniscient, He possesses total knowledge and wisdom.
“To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his.” Job 12:13
God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? Numbers 23:19
Nothing is too hard for the LORD. God is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-wise and He watches over His word to perform it. His promises are yea and amen. The LORD did for Sarah what He promised to do. Although she was beyond child-bearing age, by God’s grace she miraculously became pregnant and bore Abraham a son in his old age.
“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23
The miraculous birth of a son born to Abraham by Sarah, who was past child-bearing age, foreshadowed the miraculous birth of Messiah who would be born to a virgin.
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. Genesis 21:3-4
The significance of a name was particularly true in Bible times. In both Old and New Testaments names were used to reflect personal experience, express character and may be prophetic. Abraham gave his son the Hebrew name, “Yitzchak” which is translated as “Isaac” in English. Yitzchak means laughter. The miraculous son of the promise was circumcised on the eighth day in obedience to the covenant that the LORD made with Abraham.
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. Luke 2:21
The incarnate Son of God was named Yeshua which means salvation. Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day.
“You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.” Hebrews 1:9
Isaac, who was the son of the promise made to Abraham, was conceived miraculously, circumcised on the eighth day and was named laughter. Isaac prefigured Jesus who was the promised Son of David, miraculously conceived, circumcised on the eighth day and anointed with the oil of joy.
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.” Genesis 21:5-7
By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. Hebrews 11:11-12
Abraham’s faith was in God’s promise and in God’s provision. Abraham believed God when He promised him a son. Abraham’s faith was faith in God, in God’s promise, and in God’s ability to provide that which He promised.
The great cloud of witnesses of Hebrew’s chapter eleven were those, among other exploits, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Hebrews 11:33-34
Believers in Messiah Jesus are not only saved by grace through faith, but also receive God’s other gracious promises and spiritual empowerment through faith as well.
Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. Galatians 3:7
Abraham believed God’s word and promise and therefore was accepted of God as a righteous man. As Abraham was justified by his faith, so those who place their trust in the finished work of Christ on the cross are justified by faith and are the spiritual seed of Abraham.
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, and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” Genesis 21:8-10
Sarah had finished nursing Isaac. He may have been anywhere from two to five years old. In Eastern countries this is a festive occasion. The newly weaned child is formally brought before the assembled relatives and friends, to partake of their first whole foods. Instead of celebrating, Ishmael mocked Isaac. The birth of Isaac has made a great change in the position of Ishmael. Now at the age of at least fifteen years, he was no longer the center of attention. Ishmael may have been bitter and jealous of his half-brother. Sarah was so enraged by Ishmael’s behavior that she told Abraham to cast out both Ishmael and his mother. This act would formally disinherit Ishmael so that Ishmael would not share in the family’s inheritance.
The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring.” Genesis 21:11-13
Abraham loved Ishmael and was greatly distressed knowing that Ishmael would no longer be part of his household. God tells Abraham to heed what Sarah has demanded and reminds Abraham that Isaac is the son of the promise. The LORD comforts Abraham in his distress by reminding him of the blessing that was already promised to Abraham in Genesis 17:20: And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation.
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. Genesis 21:14
Abraham gave Hagar some food and water for her and the boy. Abraham set these provisions on her shoulders. He did not give her a donkey, so she had to walk. Although they were to be wanderers in the desert, Abraham did not give Hagar and her son any sheep, goats or cattle to provide milk and meat for her and Ishmael. The flocks and herds were part of Isaac’s inheritance and Ishmael was not to share in his inheritance.
When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down nearby, about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there nearby, she began to sob.
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. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Genesis 21:15-18
When Hagar was pregnant with Ishmael she began to despise her mistress and was mistreated by Sarai. At that time, Hagar fled into the desert and the angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert. The angel of the LORD commanded that Hagar return to her mistress and submit to her. Now a decade and a half later, Hagar is sobbing in the desert and the angel of God calls to her from heaven. The angel of God declares that God has heard her son crying. Then the angel of God commands that Hagar take her son by the hand and that he, the angel of God, will make Ishmael into a great nation. The angel of the LORD and the angel of God are synonymous titles of the pre-incarnate Jesus.
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. Genesis 21:19
Hagar and her son were in vital need of water and could have died of hydration in the scorching heat of the desert sun. But God intervened and opened her eyes to see the well of water that was already within her reach.
When Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman who came to draw water from a well in Sychar, he proclaimed: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14
Just as Hagar was an outcast wandering in the burning desert wilderness, so is sinful man separated from a Holy God and on the downward path to hell. Just as the well of natural water was available to Hagar once her eyes were opened, so is the spiritual water that springs up to eternal life within the reach of anyone whose eyes are opened and calls on the name of the LORD.
God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. Genesis 21:20
Ishmael grew up under the protection of God and settled in the wilderness of Paran, which is present day northern Saudi Arabia. The LORD promised to make Ishmael the patriarch of 12 tribes and therefore watched over Ishmael as he grew into manhood. Ishmael became an archer. Ishmael became skilled in the use of the bow and arrow for hunting, for protection against wild beasts and in waging warfare.
According to Genesis 16:12, Ishmael was prophesied to be, “… a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”
Two other notable biblical characters were also known to be hunters:
He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.” Genesis 10:9
In Hebrew and Christian tradition, Nimrod is traditionally considered the leader of those who built the Tower of Babel in the land of Shinar. Nimrod is described as a “mighty hunter before the LORD.” This description implies ruthlessness and a lust for power. Nimrod is closely associated with the Hebrew word meaning “rebel.”
So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents. Genesis 25:27
Esau despised his birthright. Paul writing to the church at Rome reminds that God proclaimed, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Romans 9:13 b
These hunters were prideful, self-centered and violent men whose offspring were enemies of God’s people.
While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt. Genesis 21:21
Nimrod's wife was Semiramis who was noted for her beauty and gross immorality and licentiousness. Ishmael’s wife was from Egypt which was a land of many gods and full of idolatry. Esau, who was the firstborn son of Isaac and Rebecca, married two women at the same time who were Canaanites. These hunters relied on their own abilities and strength. In their pride, they rebelled against the Creator and all married pagan wives.
At that time Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, “God is with you in everything you do. 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 are living as an alien the same kindness I have shown to you.” Abraham said, “I swear it.” Genesis 21:22-24
Abraham and Sarah had settled in Gerar which was in Philistine territory for a while. Abraham had deceived Abimelech into believing that Sarah was unmarried, therefore Abimelech took Sarah as his wife. God had come to Abimelech in a dream and said that Abimelech was as good as dead because he took Sarah who was married as his wife. This Philistine king was so terrified that he not only returned Sarah to Abraham, but brought sheep and cattle and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham. Out of the fear of God, Abimelech wanted to be assured that Abraham would never again deal falsely with him or his children.
Then Abraham complained to Abimelech about a well of water that Abimelech’s servants had seized. But Abimelech said, “I don’t know who has done this. You did not tell me, and I heard about it only today.” Genesis 21:25-26
Gerar was an ancient town near the Negev. Abraham had dug a well in the Negev. A ready water supply in a desert region is essential and of great value. Abraham wanted his well returned otherwise his flocks and herds would have little chance for survival.
So Abraham brought sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelech, and the two men made a treaty. Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, and Abimelech asked Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?”
He replied, “Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.”
So that place was called Beersheba, because the two men swore an oath there. Genesis 21:27-31
The treaty site was literally called, “the well of the seven.” The word “Beer” signifies a well while the word “sheba” means seven. This location would be significant later on when Israel possessed the Promised Land. “From Dan to Beersheba” is a biblical phrase used nine times in the Hebrew Bible to refer to the settled areas of the Tribes of Israel between the city of Dan in the north and Beersheba in the south.
After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called upon the name of the Lord, the Eternal God. And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time. Genesis 21:32-34
The planting of a tamarisk tree by Abraham had a symbolic significance. This long-living hardwood tree represented the strength and faithfulness of Yahweh, the Eternal God who had made a covenant with Abraham. Abraham was in covenant relationship with God and called upon God by using God’s personal holy name. Believers in Messiah are also in covenant relationship with God. In a similar fashion, we are privileged to call upon God by using the personal holy name of God’s Son and our savior, Yeshua.