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Restoring the Family — Genesis Chapter 21

This blog post will cover the devotionals #102-105 for Genesis Chapter 21.

Please note that this devotional book is for sale as a physical (paperback) &/or digital (PDF) book on my website.

[102] Genesis 21:1-7

Abraham was one hundred years old when Sarah bore Isaac. Sarah was ninety. It feels even more impressive that she gave birth at her age than Abraham fathering a child at his age. This is especially so since she’d been barren up until that point. Hebrews 11:11, 12 states that Sarah was past age, and Abraham was as good as dead. After Isaac was born, Sarah said, “God has made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me. Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah should have nursed children—for I have born him a son in his old age.” In Genesis 17:17, 19, we saw God telling Abraham that he’d indeed have a son of his flesh—and not by Hagar, but by Sarah. Abraham laughed, saying, “Will a child be born unto him that is a hundred years old? And will Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?” Then, when God visited him again, in Genesis 18:12-15, Sarah laughed this time, saying, “After I have waxed old, will I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” We saw this in devotional #91. One thing to notice is that Abraham and Sarah weren’t the ones that named Isaac—God was. After Abraham laughed, God told him what to name his son. Names denote character, as we’ve discussed. So, I believe God chose Isaac’s name as a reminder of their own character. ‘Isaac’ means ‘laughter’. However, Strong’s Concordance clarifies the definition—it’s not a joyful laughter, but a mocking one. Whenever they said / heard his name, they’d recall how they’d mockingly, doubtfully laughed at God about His promise.

[103] Genesis 21:8-14

The day Isaac was weaned (at five years old), Abraham held a feast and Sarah saw Ishmael mocking. Recall that Hagar and Ishmael believed he’d be Abraham’s heir—with birthrights as the firstborn son. Thus, they hated Isaac for destroying their dreams. When Sarah saw him mocking Isaac, she told Abraham to dismiss Hagar and Ishmael from their home—knowing that he’d be a continual source of strife in the family. They were to leave once and for all—and he wasn’t to be heir with her son, Isaac. Abraham was distraught about this. He now knew that Isaac was the promised son, but he still dearly loved his son, Ishmael. That day was meant to be one of celebration, but now he was in sorrow, knowing that he had to break up his family—sending away his son. However, God spoke to him, telling him that he shouldn’t view it as a grievous thing, but that he should listen to his wife Sarah, whose son would fulfill the promise of a line of great nations. It wasn’t that God didn’t care about Hagar and/or Ishmael (which we’ll see more about soon), or that He expected Abraham to disregard his own care for them. Though God approves of divorce in very few circumstances, this was one of them. God never supported polygamy, and Abraham was practicing that by having Hagar as a second wife. When we go against God’s principles, there'll always be some form of strife in our life. There was indeed a lot of strife in Abraham’s home—from jealousy, disrespect, favoritism, pride, hatred, etc. The rights as Abraham’s wife were clearly Sarah’s. She was his first, and only true, wife—and her wish for his separation from the other woman was to be honored—as nobody could share what was rightfully hers as his wife. God didn’t rebuke her actions in sending them away. Things could only return to happy harmony when they were gone. This is an example for those of us who consider having a family with more than one partner (nowadays, it’s less often polygamy, but rather, extramarital affairs or relations that leads to these types of issues). Regardless, God didn’t forget about Ishmael or Hagar, or even Abraham’s distress over the break-up of his unfortunate family. He promised Abraham that He would still multiply the offspring of Ishmael because he was Abraham’s son. The next morning, Hagar and Ishmael were supplied with one bottle of water and some bread and sent on their way into the wilderness.

[104] Genesis 21:15-21

Ishmael was thirteen years old when Abraham (ninety-nine years old) circumcised him and all the other males in their household. Roughly one year later, Isaac was born. Thus, when he was weaned (at five years old), Ishmael would’ve been roughly eighteen or so. We saw, in devotional #103, that this is when Hagar and Ishmael were sent away with a bottle of water and bread. We see, in Genesis 21:15, that the water in the bottle was used up, and she threw the ‘child’ under one of the shrubs and went a good distance away to cry, believing he’d die—which she couldn’t bear to see. It’s hard to imagine that a young man was less alive than she was, or that he had to be handled by her, as if he were a small child. The angel of God spoke to Hagar, telling her not to fear, because God had heard the boy’s voice—and said to raise him up. He said that He would make of Ishmael a great nation. At that point, she saw a well and filled the bottle and gave it to him to drink. This was the second time God met with Hagar in the wilderness after she’d departed from Abraham’s camp. This was the second time He told her that He heard her (or her son). Even with her later use in Scriptures as ‘negative’ examples, God still loved her and wanted to reach her heart. He didn’t forsake Ishmael, who grew and lived in the wilderness of Paran and became an archer (as we discussed in devotional #88). Thus, despite the sin they were involved in (Hagar in polygamy and pride as well as disrespect and hatred towards her mistress, and Ishmael in much of the same, especially towards Isaac), God didn’t overlook them. Even with Abraham’s sin that eventually led to the heart-wrenching ‘divorce’ from Hagar and Ishmael, God still looked out for Abraham’s concerns for his family.

[105] Genesis 21:22-34

Abraham and Abimelech had another encounter following the one with Sarah. This time, it was a more positive exchange. Abimelech told Abraham, “God is with you in all that you do: now, therefore, swear to me here, by God, that you will not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son’s son: but according to the kindness that I have done to you, you should do to me, and to the land in which you have sojourned.” Abraham said that he’d swear it. Next, Abraham reproved Abimelech for the situation in which Abimelech’s servants had violently taken from Abraham a well that he'd dug. Abimelech said he didn’t know who’d done it, nor did he ever even hear about it until then. Abraham gave him sheep and oxen, and they made a covenant. Something interesting happened though. Abraham had set aside seven ewe lambs, and when asked his purpose, he explained that it’d be given to Abimelech as a witness that Abraham had indeed dug the well. The gift he sent with the king was a sign of his integrity in claiming the well was his, just as the gift Abimelech had sent with Abraham for Sarah’s sake was a sign of his integrity in claiming innocence in his motives with her. They called the place where the well was ‘Beersheba’, meaning, ‘well of an oath’. Afterwards, Abraham planted a grove of trees there and called on the name of the Lord. He sojourned for quite a while in the land of the Philistines.

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