The Bible Slam: Genesis Chapter 21

The 90-year-old Sarah gives birth to Isaac, and then gets mad at Hagar the Egyptian (the gal that gave Abraham his other son, Ishmael) again.   Hagar and her son leave. Abraham and Abimelech have a fight over a well and then resolve their differences.

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Talking Points.

Family Values.   Abraham gives Hagar only a bottle of water and some bread and then sends her, along with his toddler son, away.

How Old Was Ishmael? Earlier, in Genesis Chapter 17 at Verse 25, it says that "And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised."   Abraham was also circumcised at that time and he was 99 years old.   Here in Chapter 21, he is 100 years old and sends Ishmael away. Chapter 17 would suggest that Ishmael was 14 when Isaac was born.   This chapter suggests that Ishmael is very young:

21:14 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.

21:15 And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs. [NOTE:   How could she cast a 14-year-old boy under a shrub?]

21:16 And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bow shot: 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.

21:17 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.

21:18 Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.

Who is the "angel of God," by the way?

Abimelech. In the previous chapter, Abraham lied to King Abimelech and because of it, every woman in Abimelech's house became barren.   If the Abimelech in this chapter is the same guy, no wonder he didn't quite trust Abraham, saying:

21:23 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.

The Skeptics Annotated version of the King James Bible notes that Verse 32, "They returned to the land of the Philistines" and says that the Philistines didn't arrive in the region of Canaan until around 1200 BCE — 800 years after Abraham's supposed migration from Ur.


About D. Beeksma

One of the growing crowd of American "nones" herself, Deborah is a prolific writer who finds religion, spirituality and the impact of belief (and non-belief) on culture inspiring, fascinating and at times, disturbing. She hosts the God Discussion show and handles the site's technical work. Her education and background is in business, ecommerce and law.
  • Sal

    notes that Verse 32, "They returned to the land of the Philistines" and says that the Philistines didn't arrive in the region of Canaan until around 1200 BCE — 800 years after Abraham's supposed migration from Ur.

    1.If you consider that Genesis has been written by Moses on 1513 bce it is not wird that, to indicate the place were Abraam went and to let the readers understand, not having chart or borders, Moses spoke of the land of the Philistines where they had established themselves 300 years before the writing of the book.
    2. Considering Chapter 21 seems to me that there no contradiction if the boy was very young or if the boy was 14 because either way they are very young.
    3. In case of doubts, a good suggestion is to read several different translations of the Bible for a better understanding, to see how different translators have understood the sense instead to remain focused only on one translation. (Often made on purpose to let the people NOT to understand clearly)
    Another translation of Genesis 21:15 "…And she threw the child under one of the bushes."
    It is very common in the african desert to lay down under the bushes during the hot hours of the day, man and animals. Go and see.

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