Genesis 21:15
And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs.
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(15) She cast the child under one of the shrubs.—The act was one of despair. Ishmael, though seventeen years of age, had not yet come to his strength, and at a time when human life was so prolonged that forty was the usual age for marriage, was probably not as capable of bearing fatigue as a young man nearly grown up would be in our days. He thus became exhausted, and apparently fainted; and his mother, after trying in vain to support him, cast him down in anguish, and abandoned herself to her grief.

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.

15. the water was spent, &c.—Ishmael sank exhausted from fatigue and thirst—his mother laid his head under one of the bushes to smell the damp while she herself, unable to witness his distress, sat down at a little distance in hopeless sorrow. Not as if she carried him in her arms, or upon her shoulders, for he was now about eighteen years old; but being weak and faint, and no doubt much dejected in spirit upon the prospect of his desolate and distressed condition, she was forced to support and lead him by the hand; but now, despairing of his life, she lays him down under a shrub.

And the water was spent in the bottle,.... It was all drank up by them, being thirsty, having wandered about some time in a wilderness, where they could not replenish their bottle: the Jewish writers say (e) that when Hagar came into the wilderness, she began to wander after the idols of the house of Pharaoh her father, and immediately the water ceased from the bottle, or was drank up by Ishmael, being seized with a burning fever:

and she cast the child under one of the shrubs; not from off her shoulder, but out of her hand or bosom; being faint through thirst, he was not able to walk, and she, being weary in dragging him along in her hand, perhaps sat down and held him in her lap, and laid him in her bosom; but, imagining he was near his end, she laid him under one of the shrubs in the wilderness, to screen him from the scorching sun, and there left him; the Greek version is, "under one of the fir trees", and so says Josephus (f): some Jewish writers (g) call them juniper trees; and some make this to be Ishmael's own act, and say, that, being fatigued with thirst, he went and threw himself under the nettles of the wilderness (h), see Job 30:7.

(e) Pirke Eliezer, ut supra. (c. 30.) Targ. Jon. in loc. (f) Antiqu. l. 1. c. 12. sect. 3.((g) Bereshit, ut supra. (sect. 53. fol. 47. 4.) (h) Pirke Eliezer, ut supra. (c. 30.)

And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs.
15. cast the child] This expression taken with the mention of the child in Genesis 21:14; Genesis 21:18 (“hold him in thine hand”), 20 (“and he grew”) implies that Ishmael is regarded in this story as a little boy, who could be carried by his mother.

under one of the shrubs] We should probably understand by this word the low scrub such as grows in the desert, like the broom, under which Elijah rested, 1 Kings 19:4. The word used occurs also in Genesis 2:5 in a general sense; see note.

Verse 15. - And the water was spent in (literally, from) the bottle, - so that the wanderers became exhausted, and were in danger of fainting through thirst - and she cast the child - a translation which certainly conveys an erroneous impression, first of Ishmael, who was not an infant, but a grown lad (vide supra, Ver. 14), and secondly of Ishmael's mother, whom it represents as acting with violence, if not with inhumanity; whereas the sense probably is that, having, as long as her rapidly diminishing strength permitted, supported her fainting son, she at length suddenly, through feebleness, released his nerveless hand as he fell, and in despair, finding herself unable to give him further assistance, left him, as she believed, to die where he had flung himself in his intolerable anguish - under one of the shrubs. Genesis 21:15The next morning Abraham sent Hagar away with Ishmael. The words, "he took bread and a bottle of water and gave it to Hagar, putting it (שׂם participle, not perfect) upon her shoulder, and the boy, and sent her away," do not state the Abraham gave her Ishmael also to carry. For ואת־היּלד does not depend upon שׂם and ויּתּן because of the copula ו, but upon יקּח, the leading verb of the sentence, although it is separated from it by the parenthesis "putting it upon her shoulder." It does not follow from these words, therefore, that Ishmael is represented as a little child. Nor is this implied in the statement which follows, that Hagar, when wandering about in the desert, "cast the boy under one of the shrubs," because the water in the bottle was gone. For ילד like נער does not mean an infant, but a boy, and also a young man (Genesis 4:23); - Ishmael must have been 15 or 16 years old, as he was 14 before Isaac was born (cf. Genesis 21:5, and Genesis 16:16); - and השׁליך, "to throw," signifies that she suddenly left hold of the boy, when he fell exhausted from thirst, just as in Matthew 15:30 ῥίπτειν is used for laying hastily down. Though despairing of his life, the mother took care that at least he should breathe out his life in the shade, and she sat over against him weeping, "in the distance as archers," i.e., according to a concise simile very common in Hebrew, as far off as archers are accustomed to place the target. Her maternal love could not bear to see him die, and yet she would not lose sight of him.
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