Genesis 21:20
And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelled in the wilderness, and became an archer.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) He grew.—Literally, became great, that is, grew to manhood.

And dwelt in the wilderness.—He sought no refuge in Egypt, where so large a Semitic population was gathering, nor in any Canaanite town, but took to the wandering life in the desert, such as is still usual with the Arabs.

An archer.—Heb., a shooter of bowshots. Another explanation, from a verb signifying to multiply, or be great, is not tenable.

Genesis 21:20-21. God was with the lad — This accounts for his preservation and support in that wilderness, in which, had not God been with him in an extraordinary manner, in answer to Abraham’s prayer, in all probability he must have perished.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 fortunes of Ishmael. God cares for the wanderers. He hears the voice of the lad, whose sufferings from thirst are greater than those of the mother. An angel is sent, who addresses Hagar in the simple words of encouragement and direction. "Hold thy hand upon him." Lay thy hand firmly upon him. The former promise Genesis 16:10 is renewed to her. God also opened her eyes that she saw a well of water, from which the bottle is replenished, and she and the lad are recruited for their further journey. It is unnecessary to determine how far this opening of the eyes was miraculous. It may refer to the cheering of her mind and the sharpening of her attention. In Scripture the natural and supernatural are not always set over against each other as with us. All events are alike ascribed to an ever-watchful Providence, whether they flow from the ordinary laws of nature or some higher law of the divine will. "God was with the lad." Ishmael may have been cured of his childish spleen. It is possible also his father did not forget him, but sent him a stock of cattle with which to begin the pastoral life on his account. "He became an archer." He grew an archer, or multiplied into a tribe of archers. Paran Genesis 14:6 lay south of Palestine, and therefore on the way to Egypt, out of which his mother took him a wife. The Ishmaelites, therefore, both root and branch, were descended on the mother's side from the Egyptians.20, 21. God was with the lad, &c.—Paran (that is, Arabia), where his posterity has ever dwelt (compare Ge 16:12; also Isa 48:19; 1Pe 1:25).

his mother took him a wife—On a father's death, the mother looks out for a wife for her son, however young; and as Ishmael was now virtually deprived of his father, his mother set about forming a marriage connection for him, it would seem, among her relatives.

i.e. A skilful hunter of beasts, and warrior with men too, according to the prediction, Genesis 16:12. For the bow was a principal instrument in war, as well as in hunting, Genesis 48:22 49:23,24. And these two professions oft went together. See Genesis 10:9. And God was with the lad,.... To confirm his health, to provide for him the necessaries of life, to protect him from danger in the wilderness where he was, and to prosper and succeed him in temporal things; all which is owing to the providential goodness of God:

and he grew; increased in bodily stature, and arrived to manhood; or, "he became great", in riches and in substance, as Ben Melech interprets it:

and dwelt in the wilderness; of Beersheba, where he now was, or of Paran after mentioned, a fit place for a wild man to dwell in, as it was said he should be; and by this means the oracle was fulfilled, Genesis 16:12,

and became an archer; skilful in the use of the bow and arrow, both for hunting and slaying of wild beasts, on whose flesh he lived, and for lighting with men, against whom his hand would be: the Jewish writers (l) say he was born with a bow, and brought up with one, and that he shot an arrow at his brother Isaac, with an intention to kill him, while he was in Abraham's house; but it does not appear that he had any knowledge or use of the bow until he was in the wilderness and was grown up, by which he lived and defended himself; and so his posterity the Kedarenes, who sprung from his son Kedar, were famous for archery, Isaiah 21:17; and the Ituraeans, from Jetur, another of his sons, Genesis 25:15, were remarkable for their bows, of which Virgil (m) speaks; and so the Arabians that live in the deserts and round about them, called Nabathees, from Nabaioth, another son of Ishmael, are now extraordinary marksmen for bows and arrows, and to sling darts which are made of cane (n): the Saracens got their living not by the plough, but chiefly by the bow, and were all of them warriors, and lived upon wild flesh, and as rapacious as kites (o); and now the troops of the governor of Mecca, whereabout Ishmael, by the Arabs, is supposed to live, which are only infantry, are called Al-Harrabah, that is, archers, or dart men (p).

(l) Pirke, c. 30. Ammian. Marcellin. Hist. l. 14. (m) "Ithyraeos taxi curvantur in arcus". Georgic. l. 2. ver. 448. (n) Rauwolff's Travels, par. 2. ch. 4. p. 118. by Ray. (o) Ammian. Marcellin. l. 14. p. 8. Ed. Vales. (p) Sharif al Edrisi, apud Pocock. Specim. Arab. Hist. p. 122, 124.

And God was {i} with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer.

(i) Concerning outward things God caused him to prosper.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
20. God was with the lad] Cf. 22, Genesis 26:3, Genesis 39:2.

became an archer] R.V. marg. rightly, became, as he grew up, an archer. Lat. factusque est juvenis Sagittarius. His descendants were famous in later times for their skill in the use of the bow (cf. Isaiah 21:17). Cf. Jetur the son of Ishmael (Genesis 25:15), the reputed ancestor of the Ituraeans.Verses 20, 21. - And God was with the lad. Not simply in the ordinary sense in which he is with all men (Psalm 139:3-9; Acts 17:27, 28); not, certainly, in the spiritual sense in which he had promised to be with Isaac (Genesis 17:21), and in which he is with believers (Genesis 26:24; Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 28:20); but in the particular sense of exercising towards him a special providence, with a view to implementing the promise made concerning him to Abraham and Hagar. And he grew (literally, became great, i.e. progressed towards manhood), and dwelt in the wilderness (i.e. led a roving and unsettled life), and became an archer. Literally, and he was ׃ך׃ך רֹבֶה קַשָּׁת deriving רֹבֶה from רָבַה, to grow great or multiply, either

(1) when he grew up, an archer, or man using the bow (Gesenius, Keil);

(2) growing an archer, or acquiring skill as a bowman (Kalisch, Wordsworth); or

(3) growing, or multiplying into, a tribe of archers (Murphy). With the first of these substantially agree the renderings καὶ ἀγένετο τοξότης (LXX), and factus est juvenis sagittarius (Vulgate). Others, connecting רֹבֶה with רָבַכ, in the sense of to cast arrows (cf. Genesis 49:23), read,

(1) "and he was a shooter of arrows from the bow" (Jarchi, Kimchi, Rosenmüller), though in this case קֶשֶׁת would have to be read for קַשָּׁת (Furst);

(2) a marksman, archer, i.e. a marksman skilled in using the bow (Ewald, vide ' Hebrews Synt.,' § 287). Baumgarten translates, a hero (or great one), an archer. And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: - the desert of El-Tih, on the south of Canaan (cf. Genesis 14:6) - and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt (cf. Genesis 24:4, 55; Exodus 21:10).

CHAPTER 21:22-34 The 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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