Genesis 21:14
And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.
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(14) And the child.—Ishmael was now sixteen or seventeen years of age, but the word yeled used in this place has no reference to age, and in Genesis 4:23 is even translated “young man.” It literally signifies one born, and is applied in Genesis 42:22 to Joseph, when he was about Ishmael’s age. So the “children who mocked Elisha” (2Kings 2:23) were doubtless grown young men. In Genesis 21:18, Ishmael is called “a lad;” shortly afterwards he was able to maintain himself and Hagar with his bow (Genesis 21:20), and his mother took a wife for him from Egypt (Genesis 21:21). The narrative, therefore, does not represent Ishmael as a small child, and the idea has probably arisen from the supposition that Abraham placed Ishmael, as well as the supply of food, on Hagar’s shoulder.

She departed, and wandered.—Her dismissal had come upon Hagar suddenly, and so she had no plan or purpose, but went hither and thither till the water in the skin was spent.

The wilderness of Beer-sheba.—As yet this region had no name (see Genesis 21:31). It lay about twenty Roman miles or more below Hebron, and was the most southerly part of Palestine, while beyond it lay the vast desert of Et-Tih, of which the wilderness of Beer-sheba formed a part. Gerar, which place Abraham had now evidently left, was situated upon the western side of Beer-sheba, but at no great distance from it. (Seo Genesis 21:22; Genesis 26:26.)

Genesis 21:14. Abraham rose up early in the morning — Immediately, it seems, after he had received orders in the night visions to do this: and took bread and a bottle of water — All necessary provision seems to be here included, of which it is probable they had sufficient to have served them till they had come to Hagar’s friends in Egypt, if they had not lost their way. Ishmael, it is thought, was more than sixteen years of age at this time, yet the provisions were put upon Hagar’s shoulders, as being more inured to labour, and the lad was committed to her care.21:14-21 If Hagar and Ishmael had behaved well in Abraham's family, they might have continued there; but they were justly punished. By abusing privileges, we forfeit them. Those who know not when they are well off, will be made to know the worth of mercies by the want of them. They were brought to distress in the wilderness. It is not said that the provisions were spent, or that Abraham sent them away without money. But the water was spent; and having lost their way, in that hot climate Ishmael was soon overcome with fatigue and thirst. God's readiness to help us when we are in trouble, must not slacken, but quicken our endeavours to help ourselves. The promise concerning her son is repeated, as a reason why Hagar should bestir herself to help him. It should engage our care and pains about children and young people, to consider that we know not what great use God has designed them for, and may make of them. The angel directs her to a present supply. Many who have reason to be comforted, go mourning from day to day, because they do not see the reason they have for comfort. There is a well of water near them in the covenant of grace, but they are not aware of it, till the same God that opened their eyes to see their wound, opens them to see their remedy. Paran was a wild place, fit for a wild man; such as Ishmael. Those who are born after the flesh, take up with the wilderness of this world, while the children of the promise aim at the heavenly Canaan, and cannot be at rest till they are there. Yet God was with the lad; his outward welfare was owing to this.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.

Ge 21:14-21. Expulsion of Ishmael.

14. Abraham rose up early, &c.—early, that the wanderers might reach an asylum before noon. Bread includes all sorts of victuals—bottle, a leathern vessel, formed of the entire skin of a lamb or kid sewed up, with the legs for handles, usually carried over the shoulder. Ishmael was a lad of seventeen years, and it is quite customary for Arab chiefs to send out their sons at such an age to do for themselves: often with nothing but a few days' provisions in a bag.

wandered in the wilderness of Beer-sheba—in the southern border of Palestine, but out of the common direction, a wide extending desert, where they lost their way.

He who before doubted and lingered to do it when Sarah’s passion suggested it, when once he understands it to be God’s will, he makes haste to execute it. An excellent example of prudence and piety.

Bread, by which may be here understood all necessaries, as Malachi 1:7,12 Mt 6:11 14:15, compared with Mark 6:36 Luke 14:1.

Quest. How is it likely that so rich and liberal a person as Abraham would send away such near and dear relations with so mean accommodations?


1. This might be done by particular command from God to Abraham, though it be not here expressed, as many things were said by God, and done by men, which are not mentioned in Scripture, as is evident from John 20:30,31 21:25, and many other places. And God might order it thus, partly, to chastise Abraham’s irregular marriage with Hagar; partly, to correct and tame the haughty and rugged temper of the bond-woman and her son, and to prepare them for the receiving of God’s help and mercy; and partly, that he might more eminently show his care and kindness to Abraham, in providing for such forlorn and neglected creatures, because they belonged to him.

2. It cannot be reasonably doubted that Abraham gave her these provisions only for the present, and intended to send further and better afterward to a place appointed by him, which also he did. But she missed her way, as well she might, in the wilderness, and thereby came into these straits designed by God for the signification of greater mysteries, as may be gathered from Galatians 4:1-31.

Beer-sheba, a place near Gerar, so called here by a prolepsis. See Genesis 21:31. And Abraham rose up early in the morning,.... It was in the night the Lord spoke to him, and bid him hearken to the voice of Sarah; and, as soon as it was morning, he arose, and was not disobedient to the heavenly vision; for, though the thing he was directed to was disagreeable to flesh and blood, and contrary to his natural affection, yet, it being the will of God, he readily complied with it:

and took bread and a bottle of water; a loaf of bread very probably, and a leathern or wooden bottle of water, as Aben Ezra supposes it to be; for there is no need to say that these are put for all necessaries, and a liberal provision that might be made by Abraham; but it is to be taken strictly, according to the letter and history, as a matter of fact, since it could be no more than Hagar could carry, and did carry upon her shoulder: and, though Abraham could have sent cattle laden with provisions, and servants to attend them, yet he did not, which his natural affection and liberal disposition might dictate to him; but, as he was to hearken in this affair to whatsoever Sarah said, and act accordingly, perhaps this was all she would grant; or it might be so ordered by the providence of God, as a chastisement for their ill behaviour, and that they might know the difference between being in Abraham's house and out of it; and that there might be an opportunity given to show favour to them for Abraham's sake, who might probably direct them to some place where to go; and, till they came there, this might be a sufficient supply, when he gave them reason to expect more from him; but they got into the wilderness, wandered about and lost their way, and so became destitute of provisions; and this may be an emblem of the low, mean, and starving condition such are in who are under the law, and seek for happiness by the works of it:

and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder; that is, the bread and the water, which might be put in one parcel or bundle, or in a basket, and so laid and carried on her shoulder: the Targum of Jonathan adds,"and bound it to her loins, to show that she was an handmaid:"

and the child; not that the child was "on her shoulder", which is quite improbable; for, since he was thirteen years of age when he was circumcised, he must be fourteen when Isaac was born; and if Isaac was two years old when weaned, Ishmael must be sixteen; and if he was three years of age, he must be seventeen; and if five years, he must be nineteen: some of the Jewish writers say (z), he was twenty seven years of age when he went out of his father's house; but they seem to come nearest the truth that make this event to be when he was at the age of seventeen (a), and when he must be too big to be carried on his mother's shoulder: but the sense is, that Abraham, when he put the provision on her shoulder, gave Ishmael to her, delivered him into her hand, to be taken care of by her; and very probably she led him in her hand:

and sent her away out of his house to some place assigned for her; the Targum of Jonathan adds, with a bill of divorce, dismissing her not only from his house, but as his wife; and so the Jewish writers (b) generally understand it: but there is no reason to believe there was any such custom before the law of Moses: nay, they go further, and say, that he dismissed her from himself, and from Isaac his son, and from this world, and from the world to come:

and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba; or, as the Targum of Jonathan, in the wilderness which was near to Beersheba; the place where it is probable Abraham now lived, and where Isaac was born, and the above affair was transacted, which was afterwards called by this name; for this is said by way of anticipation, see Genesis 21:31. Beersheba is said (c) to be twelve miles from Gerar, and twenty miles from Hebron, to the south (d).

(z) Pirke Eliezer, c. 30. Bereshit Rabba, sect. 53. fol. 47. 4. (a) Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 2. 2. (b) Pirke Eliezer & Shalshalet, ut supra. (z), (a).) (c) Bunting's Travels, p. 57. (d) Hieron. de loc. Heb. fol. 89. E.

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 {f} sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.

(f) True faith renounces all natural affections to obey God's commandment.

14. a bottle of water] or, better, “a skin of water.” LXX ἀσκός. The vessel for carrying water in the East is generally the skin of a goat. The recollection of this will explain passages like Matthew 9:17. Its shape made it easy to carry or to hang up. Cf. Psalm 119:83.

and the child] These words imply that Hagar carried the child, as well as the skin of water, upon her shoulder. So the LXX καὶ ἐπέθηκεν ἐπὶ τὸν ὦμον αὐτῆς καὶ τὸ παιδίον. Lat., avoiding the difficulty, “tradiditque puerum.”

According to P (cf. Genesis 16:16, Genesis 21:5), Ishmael would be a boy of over fourteen years of age. According to E, Ishmael is still a child (cf. Genesis 21:15-17).

the wilderness of Beer-sheba] i.e. the high plateau at the extreme south of Palestine. The country is hilly and bare.

Beer-sheba the sanctuary of the south—the modern Bir-es-Seba. See, for the meaning of its name, Genesis 21:29-34, Genesis 26:33.Verse 14. - And Abraham rose up early in the morning, - hastening to put in force the Divine instructions (cf. Genesis 19:27; Genesis 22:8, Abraham; Genesis 20:8, Abimelech; Genesis 28:18, Jacob) - and took bread, and a bottle of water, - the bottle, from a root signifying to enclose (Furst); ἀσκόν (LXX.), was composed of skin, the material of which the earliest carrying vessels were constructed (cf. Joshua 9:4, 13; Judges 4:19; 1 Samuel 16:20; Matthew 9:17). "The monuments of Egypt, the sculptures of Mesopotamia, and the relics of Herculaneum and Pompeii afford ample opportunities to learn the shape and use of every variety of bottles, often surprising us both by their elegance and costliness" (Kalisch) - and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, - the usual place for carrying such vessels among Oriental women. According to Herodotus (2. 35), Egyptian women carried burdens on their shoulders, Egyptian men upon their heads - and the child, - not placing the child, now a youth of over seventeen years, upon her shoulder (LXX., Schumann, Bohlen); but giving him, along with the bottle (Havernick, Kalisch, A Lapide, Ainsworth), or, as well as the bread (Keil, Murphy), to Hagar, not to be carried as a burden, but led as a companion - and sent her away - divorced her by the command of God (A Lapide); but as Hagar was never recognized by God as Abraham's wife, her sending away was not a case of divorce (Wordsworth) - and she departed (from Beersheba, whither Abraham had by this time removed, and where, in all probability, Isaac had been born), and wandered - i.e. lost her way (cf. Genesis 37:15) - in the wilderness (the uncultivated waste between Palestine and Egypt) of Beersheba - introduced here by anticipation, unless the incident in Vers. 22-33 had previously taken place (vide on Ver. 31).

CHAPTER 21:15-21 Expulsion of Ishmael. - The weaning of the child, which was celebrated with a feast, furnished the outward occasion for this. Sarah saw Ishmael mocking, making ridicule on the occasion. "Isaac, the object of holy laughter, was made the butt of unholy wit or profane sport. He did not laugh (צחק), but he made fun (מצחק). The little helpless Isaac a father of nations! Unbelief, envy, pride of carnal superiority, were the causes of his conduct. Because he did not understand the sentiment, 'Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?' it seemed to him absurd to link so great a thing to one so small" (Hengstenberg). Paul calls this the persecution of him that was after the Spirit by him that was begotten after the flesh (Galatians 4:29), and discerns in this a prediction of the persecution, which the Church of those who are born after the spirit of faith endures from those who are in bondage to the righteousness of the law.
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