Tuesday, February 10, 2015


  Abraham named his son Isaac, which means “he laughs.”  Abraham and Sarah both had laughed to think they could have a son at this state in life.  Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born and Sarah was 90.  All of those who had laughed at Sarah during the boyhood of Ishmael now laughed WITH her after the birth of Isaac.  God had kept his promises.

On the day that Isaac was weaned Abraham celebrated by giving a great feast.  Abraham and Sarah wanted the world to join in their celebration of the fact that the birth of Isaac had brought such great joy to them. 

 Yet this birth had ironically brought a sense of sorrow and disgust to Hagar and Ishmael.  Their arrogant false- confidence had been squashed with the birth of Isaac.  Although, in those days The Code of Hammurabi stated that the son of a slave woman had a legal claim on his father’s property:

"If his wife bear sons to a man, or his maid-servant have borne sons, and the father while still living says to the children whom his maid-servant has borne: "My sons," and he counts them with the sons of his wife; if then the father dies, then the sons of the wife and of the maid-servant shall divide the property in common. The son of the wife is to partition and choose."

 Abraham, until the birth of Isaac had said to Ishmael “my son.”  He had stopped saying this to him when Isaac was born, yet we know that Abraham loved Ishmael and was always thinking of him, wanting to provide for him too.  Abraham was in a very hard place in his heart concerning Ishmael, a place where God would have to intervene to bring about the desired results  

  It was obvious that Ishmael was not supposed to be the one to inherit Abraham’s place among the people.  Hagar’s dreams and ambitions were crushed.  Ishmael was very jealous as this had crushed many of his dreams too.  He had been so sure of his future, now he was not so sure.  He resented Isaac in his heart.  


 Perhaps Sarah saw a legal fight coming which she wanted to head off at the pass.    Sarah looked out at her son on this day of celebration and saw Ishmael mocking Isaac and she became very angry about it.  The wording of this passage that speaks of “mocking” could mean two things; either Ishmael was mocking Isaac, or Ishmael was playing with Isaac.  It could also mean BOTH things.   Some think that Ishmael, who was already an excellent marksman at 16 was shooting arrows all around Isaac, and they were landing just short of hitting him.  That would certainly bring a reaction from most mothers!

 Whatever he was up to; Ishmael was probably about 16 years old now, and he was old enough to know better.  Sarah was tired of his wild, selfish, dangerous ways.  Sarah talked to Abraham and told him to get rid of Hagar and her son so that this slave woman’s son should never be able to interfere with Sarah’s son’s inheritance.   Sarah was basically asking Abraham to disinherit Ishmael; to make it legal and binding so that Isaac would always be considered the only heir.

 At first Abraham was distressed and concerned about this request of Sarah, but God spoke to Abraham and said:  “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman.  Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”    God reassured Abraham that He would make the son of the slave into a nation also, because of the fact that he was Abraham’s offspring.

So it was that Abraham harkened to the voice of God and granted Sarah’s wish to send Hagar and Ishmael away.  He gave them food and water to take with them and they began to wander in the dessert of Beersheba.

 It wasn't long before their water ran out and Ishmael became very weak.  Hagar laid him under a bush and went off the distance of about a bow shot away from him because she did not want to watch him die.  She sat down and began to sob

We are told that the Angel of God heard the boy crying (not Hagar’s tears, but Ishmael’s)  and called out to Hagar.  He told her not to be afraid, to go to the boy and take him by the hand, that God would make him into a great nation.  God opened the eyes of Hagar and she saw a well where she filled the flask with water and gave the boy water to drink.


Have your eyes ever been opened to see a well in the middle of the desert?   Where death and desolation was all Hagar could see just one minute before; now she sees hope.  Hope is always the beginning of something better.  God promises a future for Ishmael and God provides the sustenance they need to survive.


And Ishmael's life as a young man started right there under a bush in the dessert where Hagar lay Ishmael to die.  How strange and yet, how fitting!  I can think of another incident of hope that started under a bush in the dessert, it was a burning bush and the person was Moses, but that is yet another story.    

 So Hagar and her nearly-grown son began a life in the wilderness of Paran.

 God was with the boy as he grew up and he thrived in the dessert.  This location seemed to be in the northeast section of the Sinai peninsula southwest of Edom and south of the wilderness of Zin, near the Judean mountains but as far north as Kadesh or even Beersheba. 

Ishmael grew to manhood in the desert and became a very skilled archer; no doubt killing small animals that provided clothing and food for them. When he was older, Hagar returned to her native Egypt and found a wife for her son.

 Though there are legends and tales from the Oral scriptures, the Old Testament scriptures hardly speak of Ishmael again until the time when he is 73 years old and Isaac and Ishmael are once again spoken of together in the day when they bury Abraham, indicating that they did keep up with one another off and on over the years, and were probably aware of each other’s lives. 

Ishmael had twelve sons who became tribal leaders living in the land from Havilah to Shur, near the border of Egypt as you go toward Ashur.  Ishmael lived to be 137 years old.  

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