Genesis 21:12
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.
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(12) In Isaac shall thy seed be called—Heb., in Isaac there shall be called to thee a seed: that is, the seed that shall especially be accounted thine, and which, as such, shall inherit the promises, will be that sprung from Isaac.

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.

12. in all that Sarah hath said—it is called the Scripture (Ga 4:30). Thus Abraham had better authority for his divorce from Hagar than he had for his marriage with her, Genesis 16:2.

Thy seed, to wit, the promised Seed, the heir of thy estate, covenant, and promises, the progenitor of my church and people, and particularly of the Messias.

Called, i.e. reputed and valued, both by me and other men. The words may be thus rendered, by Isaac shall thy seed be; for to be called is ofttimes put for to be, as Isaiah 1:26 47:1,5 Mt 5:9,19.

And God said unto Abraham,.... Either by an articulate voice, or by an impulse on his mind, suggesting to him what he should do, being no doubt in great perplexity how to conduct between his wife and his son, but God determines the case for him, and makes him easy:

let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of the bondwoman: that is, let not the motion displease thee, which Sarah has made, to turn out the bondwoman and her son; let not thine affection to the one and to the other hinder compliance with it; do not look upon it as an ill thing, or as an hard thing; it is but what is right and proper to be done, and leave the bondwoman and her son to me; I will take care of them, be under no concern for them and their welfare:

in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken to her voice; the Targum of Jonathan adds, for she is a prophetess: and indeed in this affair she spoke under a spirit of prophecy, according to the will of God; at least what she said became a divine oracle, and is called the Scripture, Galatians 4:30; for the word "all" here must be restrained to what she had said concerning Hagar and Ishmael, and their ejection, and not to be extended to everything she had said, or should say to Abraham, to which he was always to be attentive: whereas on the other hand, it became her, as a wife, to hearken and be obedient to the voice of her husband: but in this particular Abraham is bid to listen to her, and do accordingly, for the following reason:

for in Isaac shall thy seed be called; he, and those that descended from him, should be called and reckoned the seed of Abraham more especially; and Abraham's seed in his life should inherit the land of Canaan, given to him and his seed for an inheritance: and this is a good reason why the bondwoman and her son should be cast out, that they or their offspring might not inherit the land with Isaac, or his descendants; and particularly from Abraham in his line, and not in the line of Ishmael, should the Messiah spring, that seed in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed; and therefore a separation was necessary, that this might abundantly appear.

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 {d} called.

(d) The promised seed will be from Isaac, and not from Ishmael, Ro 9:7, He 11:18.

12. And God said] It is revealed to Abraham by night (Genesis 21:14), that compliance with Sarah’s demand will be overruled to fulfil the destiny of Hagar’s child. The Israelite tradition, according to the comparatively low moral standard of its time, especially in connexion with the conditions of slave concubinage and its domestic results, attributed to the voice of God a command that in our ears sounds unfeeling and cruel.

in Isaac shall thy seed be called] Lit. “in Isaac shall seed be called to thee.” LXX ἐν Ἰσαὰκ κληθήσεταί σοι σπέρμα, which is quoted in Romans 9:7 and Hebrews 11:18. The meaning is that in Isaac and in his descendants Abraham will have those who will be called by his name.

Isaac is to be the father of the “children of promise.” He stands, therefore, in the allegory (Galatians 4:27-28), in contrast with him “that was born after the flesh” (i.e. Ishmael). Isaac stands for those “born after the spirit.”

Verse 12. - And God said unto Abraham, - probably in a dream, or night vision (vide Ver. 14) - Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; - who was never recognized by God as Abraham's wife (cf. Genesis 16:8) - in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice. Though Sarah's counsel was approved by God, it does not follow that her conduct was. On a former occasion Abraham's hearkening unto Sarah's voice had led to sin (Genesis 16:2); this time it would lie exactly in the line of duty. For in Isaac shall thy seed be called. Literally, in Isaac shall seed (i.e. posterity) be called to thee; meaning neither, "by Isaac shall thy seed be called, or named" (Hofmann, Kalisch, Ainsworth), nor, "in Isaac shall thy seed be called into existence" (Dreschler); but, "in Isaac shall there be posterity to thee which shall pass as such," i.e. be called or recognized as such (Keil); or, more simply, "in Isaac," i.e. in the line of Isaac, "shall be called to thee a seed," i.e. a seed par excellence, the seed already promised (Bleek, Delitzsch, Rosenmüller, Alford, Murphy). Genesis 21:12Sarah 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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