Genesis 21:16
And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bowshot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept.
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(16) Let me not see the death of the child.—The whole story is most touching. Day after day the mother, with her child, had wandered in the wilderness, using the water in the skin sparingly, ever hoping to come to some spring, but with too little knowledge of the locality to guide her steps wisely. At last the water is spent, and the young life withers first, and the mother knows that soon they both must die. They had made their last effort, and with that hopelessness which travellers have so often described as stealing over the lost wanderer in the desert, they yield themselves to their doom. The boy is entirely passive; but not so the mother. A softer nature would have remained with him to soothe him, but the agony of the wild Egyptian will grant her no rest. She casts his fainting body almost angrily under a shrub, and withdraws to a bowshot distance, because she cannot bear to see him die. She there gives way not to tears only, but to unrestrained outcries of grief. But it is not her loud lamentation, but the mute prayer of Ishmael that is heard, and an angel of God comes to her relief.

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. Who wept? Either Hagar, for the verb is of the feminine gender; or the lad, as the words following seem to intimate. And for the change of the genders, that is not unfrequent in Scripture use.

And she went and sat her down over against him, a good way off,.... Not being able to bear the sight of her child in his agonies, and, as she apprehended, ready to expire, she went from the place where she had laid him, and sat down under one of the shrubs or trees to shade herself, right over against that where her child was, though at some distance, which is next expressed:

as it were a bowshot; about as far off from him as an arrow can be shot, or is usually shot out of a bow; according to the Jews this was about half a mile, for they say (i) two bowshots make a mile; here she sat waiting what would be the issue, whether life or death, which last she expected:

for she said, let me not see the death of the child; she could not bear to hear his dying groans, and see him in his dying agonies:

and she sat over against him, and lift up her voice and wept; on account of her desolate and forlorn condition, being in a wilderness, where she could get no water, and her child, as she thought, dying with thirst: the Septuagint version is, "and the child cried and wept"; and certain it is, from Genesis 21:17, that the child did lift up its voice and cry, but that is not expressed in the text; it is quite clear in the original that it was Hagar and not her son that is said to weep, since the verb is feminine.

(i) Bereshit Rabba, ut supra. (sect. 53. fol. 47. 4.)

And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bow shot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept.
16. as it were a bowshot] LXX ὡσεὶ τόξου βολήν, Lat. quantum potest arcus jacere.

The child’s strength had given out before the mother’s. She could not bring herself to watch her child die of thirst, and she could not leave him. She remained within hearing.

and lift up her voice and wept] The LXX probably preserves the right rendering “And the child lifted up its voice and wept,” ἀναβοῆσαν δὲ τὸ παιδίον ἔκλαυσεν.

Verse 16. - And she went, and sat her down - וַתֵּשֶׁב לָהּ, the pronoun being added to the verb, as an ethical dative, to indicate that the action was of special importance to her, meaning, "she, for herself, or for her part, sat down" (vide Ewald's 'Hebrews Synt. ,' § 315, a.; and Glass, 'Phil Tract.,' 1. 3. tr. 2. c. 6; and cf. Genesis 12:1; Genesis 22:5) - over against him a good way off. The hiph. inf. of רָחַק, to go far away, to recede from any one, is here used adverbially, as in Joshua 3:16 (Gesenius, Furst, Kalisch), though by others it is understood as explaining the action of the previous verbs, and as equivalent to a gerund in do, or a participle, elon-gando se (Rosenmüller), or simply" removing to a distance" (Ewald; vide 'Hebrews Synt., § 280 a.). As it were a bowshot. Literally, as those who draw the bow, i.e. as far off as archers are accustomed to place the target (Keil). The sense is correctly given by the LXX.: μακρόθεν ὡσεὶ τόξου βολήν. For she said, Let me not see - i.e. look upon with anguish (cf. Numbers 11:15) - the death of the child - τοῦ παιδίου μου (LXX.). And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept. The verbs, being feminine, indicate that it is Hagar's grief which is here described, and that the rendering, "and the child lifted up his voice and wept" (LXX.), is incorrect; although the next verse may suggest that Ishmael, like his mother, was also dissolved in tears. Genesis 21:16The 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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