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Book of Genesis Chapter 21 Summary

Sarah Gives Birth and Hagar Gets the Boot

  • Sure enough, Sarah gets pregnant and gives birth to a son.
  • That's right—the 90-year-old lady had a baby. The narrator emphasizes that this is in accordance with what the deity has been saying all along (remember 15:5; 17:16-19; 18:10?)
  • Abraham names his son Isaac, which in Hebrew means "one who laughs." He did make his parents laugh quite a bit before he was born.
  • Abraham circumcises Isaac when he's eight days old—as per his agreement with God—and he celebrates Isaac's weaning with a party. 
  • Sarah sees Ishmael, who is not named here, but called, "the son of Hagar, the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham" (21:9 NRSV). These epithets in the place of the name help us get why Sarah is so upset. 
  • Ishmael is "playing" (21:9 NRSV) or "mocking" (KJV) or simply "laughing." The real point is that the verb used is formed from the same root as Isaac's name and means, "to laugh."
  • Sarah tells Abraham to eject "this slave girl with her son" (21:10 NRSV). Still no proper names being used.
  • God tells Abraham to listen to Sarah and not to worry. 
  • Abraham sends Hagar away, and she and Ishmael wander through the wilderness of Beersheba. 
  • The water Abraham gave them doesn't go very far, and they soon run out. Hagar is worried and "casts" Ishmael under a bush (21:15).
  • But God's messenger comes to comfort Hagar: Ishmael's descendants will be a great nation. 
  • Suddenly, God opens Hagar's eyes, and she sees a well of water and gives Ishmael a drink.
  • And guess what? Ishmael gets married and does just fine.
  • One last thing: Abraham and Abimelech make treaties. Of particular importance is a well.

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