Genesis 21:1-21:34 Laughter and Tears

honoring Sarah… forgive and heal… laughter… mocking into mirth… to mocking… insecurity… dysfunctional family… no option… trusting God… water ran out.. promise and a well… water oath… everlasting God…

Genesis 21:1-21:34

And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken.

I am struck by the contrast between Yahweh’s (Y@hovah ) honoring of Sarah (Sarah) here, and Abraham’s disrespect for her in the previous chapter. Even more dramatic is the parallel between Abraham praying for Abimelech’s family to have children, and his own fruitfulness:

For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.

One can’t help but wonder if there is a connection; certainly it is often the case that as we forgive and heal others, we ourselves are healed and forgiven. Certainly Isaac (Yitschaq, laughter) healed their disbelief:

And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac.

and turned mocking into mirth:

And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, [so that] all that hear will laugh with me.

Alas, Isaac’s presence turns Ishmael to mocking:

And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking.

Like most sarcasm, I assume the reaction was borne of insecurity. It’s hard enough on a child to gain a younger sibling who steals the limelight, especially if their parents don’t communicate a continued role and acceptance; how much worse when the mother feels the same way?

Alas for them, Sarah shares in the insecurity:

Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, [even] with Isaac.

Tough call; do you honor your wife, or protect your son?

And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son.

I wonder if Abraham and Sarah missed the parallel with the previous chapter, how loving one’s enemies opened the door to personal healing. Alas, at least at this point the dysfunctional family dynamics and cultural pressures may have left no other option but divorce:

And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.

Interestingly, God’s justification is apparently not to protect Isaac, but simply to honor Sarah. But that doesn’t mean He’s insensitive to Ishmael’s plight (or Abraham’s concerns);

And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he [is] thy seed.

There’s a lesson for marriage in there; about honoring one’s wife above all earthly things, and trusting God to fulfill His promises regarding our other concerns. Hmm.

Of course, Hagar exiled in the desert probably didn’t know (or maybe just believe) that promise — especially when the water ran out:

And she went, and sat her down over against [him] a good way off, as it were a bowshot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against [him], and lift up her voice, and wept.

Interestingly, while Hagar couldn’t bear to watch, God did:

And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he [is].

Hagar then gets the same promise:

Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.

and a well to go with it:

And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.

Interestingly, the very next passage also involves a promise (which Abimelech asks of Abraham):

Now therefore swear unto me here by God that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son’s son: [but] according to the kindness that I have done unto thee, thou shalt do unto me, and to the land wherein thou hast sojourned.

and a well:

And Abraham reproved Abimelech because of a well of water, which Abimelech’s servants had violently taken away.

It reminds me of what’s called water oath, though the term may just be from fiction. In this case, the well is witnessed (`edah) with sheep (kibsah):

And he said, For [these] seven ewe lambs shalt thou take of my hand, that they may be a witness unto me, that I have digged this well.

and perhaps the oath (shaba`) is also, since Beersheba (B@’er Sheba`) can also mean seven:

Wherefore he called that place Beersheba; because there they sware both of them.

More than a peace treaty, this seems to become an altar for Abraham:

And [Abraham] planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God.

I can’t help but feel that these three different passages are somehow telling the same story. Perhaps it will become clearer next chapter, where children, promises, and sheep will collide in an unexpected way.


God, thank you for the faithfulness you showed Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, and Ishmael — if in different ways. Lord, I want a whole family, and I want to honor my wife, and I want to enter in to all of your promises. Give me wisdom to have the right priorities. But, teach me to live in transforming love with my would-be enemies, like Abraham did with Abimelech — not jealousy, like Sarah did with Hagar. Help me to rest secure in your covenant with me, and your promises for my future, that I too can make promises that endure. May I call you, the everlasting one, al my days. In the Name of the Lamb, Amen.