Before Abraham left Haran, God promised him a land and innumerable descendants. Several times over a period of 25 years, God reaffirmed His promise. Abraham believed God and what had seemed impossible only a year before was now a reality. Sarah had given birth to a son!
GENESIS 21:1-7 (emphasis added)
“And the Lord visited Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had spoken. For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. And Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him—whom Sarah bore to him—Isaac. Then Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. And Sarah said, ‘God has made me laugh, and all who hear will laugh with me.’ She also said, ‘Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? For I have borne him a son in his old age.’”
The promised son was Isaac.
God had named him more than a year earlier when He first announced the event to Abraham. The name Isaac means laughter and has significance. When Abraham first heard the good news that Sarah would conceive and bear a son, he laughed exuberantly and with anticipation.
When the Lord personally conveyed the same news to Sarah a few days later, she also laughed, but with uncertainty. Now, Sarah was laughing for joy. She had given birth to the son God promised. Everyone would laugh and rejoice with her because she had delivered a son in her advanced age. Isaac’s name continually reminded Abraham and Sarah that God had kept His promise and that they had every reason to be joyful!
When Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him thereby affirming the sign of the covenant according to the instruction given to him by God (17:10-12). Once again, Abraham demonstrated practical and genuine faith by meticulously obeying God’s instruction.
Because infant mortality rates were high in the ancient world, families joyously celebrated the weaning of a child. When Sarah had weaned Isaac, Abraham made a great feast. During the celebration, however, Sarah saw Ishmael mocking Isaac. The Hebrew word translated “mocking” conveys the idea of persecution. Although the details are not given, Sarah saw his actions as a threat to Isaac’s position as the inheritor of God’s covenantal promise. She responded by urging Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away.
Being a man of peace, Abraham was reluctant. God intervened by speaking to Abraham. God’s message was clear; Abraham must heed Sarah’s warning because, “in Isaac your seed shall be called” (21:12). (Although God promised to bless Ishmael for Abraham’s sake, he has no part in the covenantal promises.) It was a difficult decision for Abraham, but God assured it was the right thing to do.
Giving them provision for their journey, Abraham sent Hagar away with Ishmael who was then 16 or 17 years old. Abraham no doubt sent them away assuming they would return to Egypt, Hagar’s homeland. Whether they got lost or Hagar simply gave-up, they ran out of water before reaching a destination. God ministered to their needs by directing them to a well of water, reassured Hagar that He had not forgotten her and promised to raise a nation through Ishmael (v. 18).
Ishmael settled on the edge of the Negev at the southern border of Canaan. Close proximity to Egypt made it possible for Hagar to arrange a marriage for Ishmael with an Egyptian woman (v. 20). He became a skilled archer most likely out of necessity to obtain food in the wilderness environment. His bow would also become his weapon in a future characterized by conflict (16:12). In time, Ishmael’s family grew to become a nation that migrated to a location in the northeast corner of the Sinai Desert near the Gulf of Aqaba.
Genesis 21 details an important record leaving no doubt as to the identity of the covenantal son. The passage repeatedly emphasizes that God fulfilled His promise by providing Abraham with a legitimate heir to the promise through Sarah—Isaac was that son.
1) Bible opened to Isaiah. By Ken Horn, [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
2) Abraham and Isaac. Bible Pictures with brief descriptions by Charles Foster, (1897), [PD-US, PD-Art], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
© Charles E. McCracken 2016, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.