Genesis 21:11
And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight because of his son.
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(11) The thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight.—Heb., the word (or matter) was evil exceedingly in Abraham’s eyes. It was not merely painful to him because of his natural affection for Ishmael (Genesis 17:18), but he also thought the proposal unjust.

Genesis 21:11. The thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight — Because of his affection to his son, and God’s promise concerning him. He who, at God’s command, which he was bound to obey, afterward so cheerfully gave up Isaac, was not so ready to part with Ishmael, to gratify the passion of an angry woman. And probably he would have denied her desire, if God had not interposed. It is remarkable that it is not said the thing was grievous because of his wife; probably he hardly considered Hagar as properly his wife: or, at least, had not the affection for her a man ought to have for his wife. Hereby we may learn the excellence of God’s institutions, who appointed only one woman for one man, that each might, under God, have the entire interest in the other’s affections; and we may observe the evil of men’s inventions which brought polygamy into the world, whereby a man’s affections are divided into several and contrary streams. But probably it grieved Abraham that Ishmael had given such provocation, as well as that Sarah insisted on such a punishment.

21:9-13 Let us not overlook the manner in which this family matter instructs us not to rest in outward privileges, or in our own doings. And let us seek the blessings of the new covenant by faith in its Divine Surety. Ishmael's conduct was persecution, being done in profane contempt of the covenant and promise, and with malice against Isaac. God takes notice of what children say and do in their play; and will reckon with them, if they say or do amiss, though their parents do not. Mocking is a great sin, and very provoking to God. And the children of promise must expect to be mocked. Abraham was grieved that Ishmael should misbehave, and Sarah demand so severe a punishment. But God showed him that Isaac must be the father of the promised Seed; therefore, send Ishmael away, lest he corrupt the manners, or try to take the rights of Isaac. The covenant seed of Abraham must be a people by themselves, not mingled with those who were out of covenant: Sarah little thought of this; but God turned aright what she said.The dismissal of Hagar and Ishmael. "The son of Hagar ... laughing." The birth of Isaac has made a great change in the position of Ishmael, now at the age of at least fifteen years. He was not now, as formerly, the chief object of attention, and some bitterness of feeling may have arisen on this account. His laugh was therefore the laugh of derision. Rightly was the child of promise named Isaac, the one at whom all laugh with various feelings of incredulity, wonder, gladness, and scorn. Sarah cannot brook the insolence of Ishmael, and demands his dismissal. This was painful to Abraham. Nevertheless, God enjoins it as reasonable, on the ground that in Isaac was his seed to be called. This means not only that Isaac was to be called his seed, but in Isaac as the progenitor was included the seed of Abraham in the highest and utmost sense of the phrase. From him the holy seed was to spring that was to be the agent in eventually bringing the whole race again under the covenant of Noah, in that higher form which it assumes in the New Testament. Abraham is comforted in this separation with a renewal of the promise concerning Ishmael Genesis 17:20.

He proceeds with all singleness of heart and denial of self to dismiss the mother and the son. This separation from the family of Abraham was, no doubt, distressing to the feelings of the parties concerned. But it involved no material hardship to those who departed, and conferred certain real advantages. Hagar obtained her freedom. Ishmael, though called a lad, was at an age when it is not unusual in the East to marry and provide for oneself. And their departure did not imply their exclusion from the privileges of communion with God, as they might still be under the covenant with Abraham, since Ishmael had been circumcised, and, at all events, were under the broader covenant of Noah. It was only their own voluntary rejection of God and his mercy, whether before or after their departure, that could cut them off from the promise of eternal life. It seems likely that Hagar and Ishmael had so behaved as to deserve their dismissal from the sacred home. "A bottle of water."

This was probably a kid-skin bottle, as Hagar could not have carried a goat-skin. Its contents were precious in the wilderness, but soon exhausted. "And the lad." He took the lad and gave him to Hagar. The bread and water-skin were on her shoulder; the lad she held by the hand. "In the wilderness of Beer-sheba." It is possible that the departure of Hagar occurred after the league with Abimelek and the naming of Beer-sheba, though coming in here naturally as the sequel of the birth and weaning of Isaac. The wilderness in Scripture is simply the land not profitable for cultivation, though fit for pasture to a greater or less extent. The wilderness of Beer-sheba is that part of the wilderness which was adjacent to Beer-sheba, where probably at this time Abraham was residing. "Laid the lad." Ishmael was now, no doubt, thoroughly humbled as well as wearied, and therefore passive under his mother's guidance. She led him to a sheltering bush, and caused him to lie down in its shade, resigning herself to despair. The artless description here is deeply affecting.

10. Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman—Nothing but the expulsion of both could now preserve harmony in the household. Abraham's perplexity was relieved by an announcement of the divine will, which in everything, however painful to flesh and blood, all who fear God and are walking in His ways will, like him, promptly obey. This story, as the apostle tells us, in "an allegory" [Ga 4:24], and the "persecution" by the son of the Egyptian was the commencement of the four hundred years' affliction of Abraham's seed by the Egyptians. Because of his tender affection to him, and God’s promise concerning him. See Genesis 17:18,20. He who cheerfully parted with Isaac, was hardly brought to part with Ishmael, because the former was done by God’s command, which he was obliged to obey; the latter by the passion of an enraged woman, wherewith he thought not fit to comply; and probably he had denied her desire if God had not interposed in it. He doth not say because of his wife; from whence may be gathered, either that Hagar was not properly his wife, or that this was another of Abraham’s infirmities, that he had not that affection for her which he should have had. Whereby we may also see the excellency of God’s institutions, who appointed but one woman for one man, that each might have the entire interest in the other’s affections; and the danger of men’s inventions, which brought polygamy into the world, whereby a man’s affections are divided into several, and sometimes contrary streams.

And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight,.... The motion that Sarah made to turn out of his house Hagar and Ishmael was not agreeable to him, but the reverse; it seemed an ill thing to him; it was greatly displeasing to him, and he was unwilling to come into it:

because of his son; his son Ishmael; not grieved and uneasy for what he had done; not for committing idolatry, as the Targum of Jonathan suggests, or for mocking at Isaac; but for what was proposed to be done to him, the ejection of him from his house, because of the great love he had for him, and the great concern he had for his education, and that he might enjoy the blessing promised him, he, was loath to have him cast out of his family: no concern is expressed for Hagar, though both by what God said to Abraham, and by the provision he made for her, he had a regard unto her; but his chief concern was for his son, who perhaps had a greater share in his natural affections than as yet Isaac had; nor did express so much reluctance when he was bid to him up, as he did at this time, that being at the command of God, this at the instance of his wife, and which he supposed only proceeded from passion and resentment: the Hebrew writers say (x), that of all the evils that came upon Abraham this was the hardest and most grievous in his sight.

(x) Pirke Eliezer, c. 30.

And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight because of his son.
11. And the thing was very grievous] Lit. “was very evil,” or “ill.” Abraham was displeased, because he loved his son. Sarah’s suggestion, however, was in accord with the prevalent harsh treatment of slaves. Abraham raises no objection on the grounds of common humanity, honour, or reason, to the proposal to expel Ishmael and Hagar.

Verse 11. - And the thing (literally, the word, i.e. Sarah's proposal) was very grievous (literally, evil exceedingly; for the contrary phrase vide Genesis 20:15) in Abraham's sight (literally, in the eyes of Abraham) because of his son - who, besides being bound to him by the ties of natural affection, had for years been regarded as the Heaven-appointed heir of the promise (vide Genesis 17:18). Genesis 21:11Sarah therefore asked that the maid and her son might be sent away, saying, the latter "shall not be heir with Isaac." The demand, which apparently proceeded from maternal jealousy, displeased Abraham greatly "because of his son," - partly because in Ishmael he loved his own flesh and blood, and partly on account of the promise received for him (Genesis 17:18 and Genesis 17:20). But God (Elohim, since there is no appearance mentioned, but the divine will was made known to him inwardly) commanded him to comply with Sarah's demand: "for in Isaac shall seed (posterity) be called to thee." This expression cannot mean "thy descendants will call themselves after Isaac," for in that case, at all events, זרעך would be used; for "in (through) Isaac shall seed be called into existence to thee," for קרא does not mean to call into existence; but, "in the person of Isaac shall there be posterity to thee, which shall pass as such," for נקרא includes existence and the recognition of existence. Though the noun is not defined by any article, the seed intended must be that to which all the promises of God referred, and with which God would establish His covenant (Genesis 17:21, cf. Romans 9:7-8; Hebrews 11:18). To make the dismissal of Ishmael easier to the paternal heart, God repeated to Abraham (Genesis 21:13) the promise already given him with regard to this son (Genesis 17:20).
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