Genesis 21


How long is a year? For a couple that had struggled with infertility for almost a century, one cannot help but wonder if the last year seemed like all the previous years combined? The Lord visited Sarah and fulfilled his promise. Sarah conceived at the ripe old age of ninety-nine years young. Imagine the whispers of people as the body of this elderly woman began to change. Picture the embrace between Abraham and Sarah as her belly started to require a longer reach each day. This senior couple must have smiled at one another all the time. God is faithful, and the evidence of the son of promise was undeniable. Abraham and Sarah already had the name chosen so that when Isaac arrived there would be no doubt about his future. Abraham was diligent to obey the obligations of the covenant with God, and so on the eighth day, Isaac was circumcised. Laughter was everywhere. A woman well past her prime could giggle at the God who brings life from impossible circumstances. Hopelessness had given way to joy, dreams, and laughter. God had kept his promise, and a son was born.

Time Does Not Heal All Wounds

The birth of Isaac did not solve all of Abraham and Sarah's problems. No family is perfect, and this family was no exception. Abraham threw a feast for Isaac on the day he was weaned, and it seems that Ishmael made a scene by mocking the son of promise. This teenage boy was disrespectful, and it would appear that this was an ongoing pattern. When Sarah saw it, she demanded that Abraham send both Hagar and Ishmael away. This displeased Abraham, but God tells him to comply with Sarah's wishes. Isaac was the child of promise. Ishmael was the child of impatience. God reminds Abraham that Ishmael would become a nation because he was Abraham's offspring as well. Sending Hagar and Ishmael away was cruel punishment, to say the least. Imagine the tears and sorrow associated with this decision as Hagar and Ishmael are sent away from the camp. Hagar did not go back to Egypt, and they wandered in the wilderness until their resources were exhausted. This mother could not bear to watch her son die, so she tried to make him as comfortable as possible while she walked some distance away. Once she was out of earshot, she began to weep. God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel who had directed Hagar before again comes to her aid. He renews his promise and shows her a well of water. She quickly filled the skin and went to her son, and they were refreshed. God was with Ishmael as he grew and he became a skilled archer. Hagar also got him a wife from her homeland Egypt.

A Peace Treaty

Abimelech, the ruler of the Philistines, and his commander Phicol came to broker peace with Abraham. They could see God's blessings and wanted to guarantee friendship. Abraham was willing to enter into such an agreement, but he needed to resolve a matter concerning Abimelech's servants. They had seized a well from Abraham. Abimelech explained that he was not aware that this had taken place and the two resolved their differences. Abraham provided sacrifices so that the two of them could make a covenant. Seven ewe lambs were given to Abimelech as a witness that the well belonged to Abraham. Abraham remained in the land of the Philistines for many days, and there was peace. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree as a memorial to the covenant between him and Abimelech. He also participated in the public worship of the Everlasting God. 

Things To Consider:

  • How should a Christ follower think about conception based on this passage?
  • Is there anything that God has promised that you are struggling to believe?
  • What can you learn from Sarah about trusting God?
  • Has the world ever laughed at you because of your obedience to God?
  • What are ways that teenagers show disrespect today toward older adults?
  • What are ways that adults sometimes over react?
  • How difficult do you think it was for Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away? Why?
  • What can we learn from Abraham about politics?
  • Why should we publicly worship?