Notes for Gen 21:1LEB

The Hebrew verb translated "visit" (פָּקַד, paqad ) often describes divine intervention for blessing or cursing; it indicates Elohim’s special attention to an individual or a matter, always with respect to his people’s destiny. He may visit (that is, destroy) the Amalekites; he may visit (that is, deliver) his people in Egypt. Here he visits Sarah, to allow her to have the promised child. One’s destiny is changed when the Lord "visits." For a more detailed study of the term, see G. André, Determining the Destiny (ConBOT).


Heb "and Yahweh did." The divine name has not been repeated here in the translation for stylistic reasons.


Heb "spoken."


Notes for Gen 21:2LEB

Or "she conceived."


Notes for Gen 21:3LEB

Heb "the one born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac." The two modifying clauses, the first introduced with an article and the second with the relative pronoun, are placed in the middle of the sentence, before the name Isaac is stated. They are meant to underscore that this was indeed an actual birth to Abraham and Sarah in fulfillment of the promise.


Notes for Gen 21:4LEB

Heb "Isaac his son, the son of eight days." The name "Isaac" is repeated in the translation for clarity.


Just as Elohim had instructed him to do. With the birth of the promised child, Abraham obeyed Yahweh by both naming (Gen 17:19LEB) and circumcising Isaac (17:12).


Notes for Gen 21:5LEB

The parenthetical disjunctive clause underscores how miraculous this birth was. Abraham was 100 years old. The fact that the genealogies give the ages of the fathers when their first son is born shows that this was considered a major milestone in one’s life (G. J. Wenham, Genesis [WBC], 2:80).


Notes for Gen 21:6LEB

Heb "Laughter Elohim has made for me."


The words "about this" are supplied in the translation for clarification.


Sarah’s words play on the name "Isaac" in a final triumphant manner. Elohim prepared "laughter" (צְחֹק, ysékhoq ) for her, and everyone who hears about this "will laugh" (יִצְחַק, yitskhaq ) with her. The laughter now signals great joy and fulfillment, not unbelief (cf. Gen 18:12–15LEB).


Notes for Gen 21:7LEB

Heb "said."


The perfect form of the verb is used here to describe a hypothetical situation.


Notes for Gen 21:8LEB

Heb "made."


Children were weaned closer to the age of two or three in the ancient world, because infant mortality was high. If an infant grew to this stage, it was fairly certain he or she would live. Such an event called for a celebration, especially for parents who had waited so long for a child.


Notes for Gen 21:9LEB

Heb "saw."


The Piel participle used here is from the same root as the name "Isaac." In the Piel stem the verb means "to jest; to make sport of; to play with," not simply "to laugh," which is the meaning of the verb in the Qal stem. What exactly Ishmael was doing is not clear. Interpreters have generally concluded that the boy was either (1) mocking Isaac (cf. NASB, NIV, NLT) or (2) merely playing with Isaac as if on equal footing (cf. NAB, NRSV). In either case Sarah saw it as a threat. The same participial form was used in Gen 19:14LEB to describe how some in Lot’s family viewed his attempt to warn them of impending doom. It also appears later in Gen 39:14-17LEB, where Potiphar accuses Joseph of mocking them.


Mocking. Here Sarah interprets Ishmael’s actions as being sinister. Ishmael probably did not take the younger child seriously and Sarah saw this as a threat to Isaac. Paul in Gal 4:29LEB says that Ishmael persecuted Isaac. He uses a Greek word that can mean "to put to flight; to chase away; to pursue" and may be drawing on a rabbinic interpretation of the passage. In Paul’s analogical application of the passage, he points out that once the promised child Isaac (symbolizing Christ as the fulfillment of Elohim’s promise) has come, there is no room left for the slave woman and her son (who symbolize the Mosaic law).


Notes for Gen 21:10LEB

Heb "drive out." The language may seem severe, but Sarah’s maternal instincts sensed a real danger in that Ishmael was not treating Isaac with the proper respect.


Notes for Gen 21:11LEB

Heb "and the word was very wrong in the eyes of Abraham on account of his son." The verb רָעַע (raa’) often refers to what is morally or ethically "evil." It usage here suggests that Abraham thought Sarah’s demand was ethically (and perhaps legally) wrong.


Notes for Gen 21:12LEB

Heb "Let it not be evil in your eyes."


Heb "listen to her voice." The idiomatic expression means "obey; comply." Here her advice, though harsh, is necessary and conforms to the will of Elohim. Later (see Gen 25), when Abraham has other sons, he sends them all away as well.


The imperfect verbal form here draws attention to an action that is underway.


Or perhaps "will be named"; Heb "for in Isaac offspring will be called to you." The exact meaning of the statement is not clear, but it does indicate that Elohim’s covenantal promises to Abraham will be realized through Isaac, not Ishmael.


Notes for Gen 21:14LEB

Heb "and Abraham rose up early in the morning and he took."


Heb "bread," although the term can be used for food in general.


Heb "He put upon her shoulder, and the boy [or perhaps, "and with the boy"], and he sent her away." It is unclear how "and the boy" relates syntactically to what precedes. Perhaps the words should be rearranged and the text read, "and he put [them] on her shoulder and he gave to Hagar the boy."


Heb "she went and wandered."


Or "desert," although for English readers this usually connotes a sandy desert like the Sahara rather than the arid wasteland of this region with its sparse vegetation.


Notes for Gen 21:15LEB

Heb "threw," but the child, who was now thirteen years old, would not have been carried, let alone thrown under a bush. The exaggerated language suggests Ishmael is limp from dehydration and is being abandoned to die. See G. J. Wenham, Genesis (WBC), 2:85.


Notes for Gen 21:16LEB

A bowshot would be a distance of about a hundred yards (ninety meters).


Heb "said."


Heb "I will not look on the death of the child." The cohortative verbal form (note the negative particle אַל,’al) here expresses her resolve to avoid the stated action.


Heb "and she lifted up her voice and wept" (that is, she wept uncontrollably). The LXX reads "he" (referring to Ishmael) rather than "she" (referring to Hagar), but this is probably an attempt to harmonize this verse with the following one, which refers to the boy’s cries.


Notes for Gen 21:17LEB

Elohim heard the boy’s voice. The text has not to this point indicated that Ishmael was crying out, either in pain or in prayer. But the text here makes it clear that Elohim heard him. Ishmael is clearly central to the story. Both the mother and Yahweh are focused on the child’s imminent death.


Heb "What to you?"


Here the verb heard picks up the main motif of the name Ishmael ("Elohim hears"), introduced back in chap. 16.


Notes for Gen 21:19LEB

Heb "And Elohim opened her eyes and she saw a well of water." The referent (Hagar) has been specified in the translation for clarity.


Notes for Gen 21:21LEB

The wilderness of Paran is an area in the east central region of the Sinai peninsula, northeast from the traditional site of Mt. Sinai and with the Arabah and the Gulf of Aqaba as its eastern border.


Heb "And his mother took for him a wife from the land of Egypt."


Notes for Gen 21:22LEB

Elohim is with you. Abimelech and Phicol recognized that Abraham enjoyed special divine provision and protection.


Notes for Gen 21:23LEB

Heb "And now swear to me by Elohim here."


Heb "my offspring and my descendants."


The word "land" refers by metonymy to the people in the land.


The Hebrew verb means "to stay, to live, to sojourn" as a temporary resident without ownership rights.


Or "kindness."


Heb "According to the loyalty which I have done with you, do with me and with the land in which you are staying."


Notes for Gen 21:24LEB


"I swear." No object is specified in the Hebrew text, but the content of the oath requested by Abimelech is the implied object.


Notes for Gen 21:25LEB

The Hebrew verb used here means "to argue; to dispute"; it can focus on the beginning of the dispute (as here), the dispute itself, or the resolution of a dispute (Isa 1:18LEB). Apparently the complaint was lodged before the actual oath was taken.


Heb "concerning the matter of the well of water."


The Hebrew verb used here means "to steal; to rob; to take violently." The statement reflects Abraham’s perspective.


Notes for Gen 21:26LEB

Heb "and also."


Notes for Gen 21:27LEB

Heb "cut a covenant."


Notes for Gen 21:29LEB

Heb "What are these?"


Notes for Gen 21:30LEB

Heb "that it be for me for a witness."


This well. Since the king wanted a treaty to share in Abraham’s good fortune, Abraham used the treaty to secure ownership of and protection for the well he dug. It would be useless to make a treaty to live in this territory if he had no rights to the water. Abraham consented to the treaty, but added his rider to it.


Notes for Gen 21:31LEB

Heb "that is why he called that place." Some translations render this as an impersonal passive, "that is why that place was called."


The name Beer Sheba (בְּאֵר שָׁבַע, er shava’) means "well of the oath" or "well of the seven." Both the verb "to swear" and the number "seven" have been used throughout the account. Now they are drawn in as part of the explanation of the significance of the name.


The verb forms a wordplay with the name Beer Sheba.


Notes for Gen 21:32LEB

Heb "cut a covenant."


Heb "arose and returned."


The Philistines mentioned here may not be ethnically related to those who lived in Palestine in the time of the judges and the united monarchy. See D. M. Howard, "Philistines," Peoples of the Old Testament World, 238.


Notes for Gen 21:33LEB

Heb "and he"; the referent (Abraham) has been specified in the translation for clarity.


The planting of the tamarisk tree is a sign of Abraham’s intent to stay there for a long time, not a religious act. A growing tree in the Negev would be a lasting witness to Elohim’s provision of water.


Heb "he called there in the name of Yahweh." The expression refers to worshiping Yahweh through prayer and sacrifice (see Gen 4:26; 12:8; 13:4; 26:25). See G. J. Wenham, Genesis (WBC), 1:116, 281.


Notes for Gen 21:34LEB

Heb "many days."