Genesis 21:9
And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born to Abraham, mocking.
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(9) Mocking.—The verb used here is the same as that rendered to laugh in Genesis 21:6, but in an intensive conjugation. What exactly Ishmael was doing is not said, but we may dismiss all those interpretations which charge him with abominable wickedness; for had he been guilty of any such criminal conduct, the sending him away would not have been so “very grievous in Abraham’s sight” (Genesis 21:11). On the other hand, we may feel sure that Sarah was not without good reason for her conduct; for St. Paul bears witness that Ishmael persecuted Isaac (Galatians 4:29). The LXX. and Vulg. translate playing, sporting, and Gesenius thinks that he was “dancing gracefully; “but if this were all, Sarah’s jealousy would have been most unjust. When, however, we consider that Ishmael had been for fourteen years the heir, and that he now fell back into an inferior position, we cannot be surprised if at this banquet in his rival’s honour he gave way to spiteful feelings, and by word and gesture derided and ridiculed him. Hagar too had probably never regarded Sarah with much affection since her forced return, and now that her son was disinherited, her bitterness would grow more intense. These jealousies are the inevitable results of polygamy; and wherever it exists, the father’s life is made wretched by the intrigues of the women for their children.

Genesis 21:9. Sarah saw the son of the Egyptian, mocking — Mocking Isaac, no doubt, for it is said, with reference to this, Galatians 4:29, that “he that was born after the flesh, persecuted him that was born after the spirit.”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.

9. Sarah saw the son of Hagar … mocking—Ishmael was aware of the great change in his prospects, and under the impulse of irritated or resentful feelings, in which he was probably joined by his mother, treated the young heir with derision and probably some violence (Ga 4:29). Signifying either by words or gestures his contempt of Isaac, and his derision of all that magnificence then showed towards his younger brother. And this carriage proceeding from a most envious and malicious disposition, and being a sufficient indication of further mischief intended to him, if ever he should have opportunity, it is no wonder it is called persecution, Galatians 4:29, although the Hebrew word may be rendered beating him, as it is used 2 Samuel 2:14. And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian,.... That is, Ishmael, who is not expressed by name, but described by being a son of Hagar, a servant of Sarah's, and an Egyptian woman; all which seems to be observed by way of slight, both to Hagar and her son:

which she had born unto Abraham; not unto Sarah, as she proposed to herself, when she gave her maid to Abraham, Genesis 16:2. This son of Abraham she saw

mocking; either at the entertainment made at the weaning of Isaac; or rather at Isaac himself, laughing at his name, and treating him with contempt as his younger brother, and boasting that he was the firstborn, and that the inheritance belonged to him; and threatening what he would do to him, should he hereafter offer to dispute it with him, under pretence of the promise of God that he should be Abraham's heir, and at which promise also he may be supposed to mock: and that this contention was about the inheritance seems plain from the words of Sarah in Genesis 21:10; and in it Ishmael might not only rise to high words, but come to blows, and beat his brother; for it is observed the word used sometimes so signifies, 2 Samuel 2:14; wherefore the apostle might truly call it a persecution, Galatians 4:29; and as even cruel mockings are, Hebrews 11:35. As for the various senses the Jewish commentators put upon this, there does not seem to be any foundation for them, as that Ishmael was committing idolatry, and endeavouring to draw his brother into it; or was talking in an indecent and lascivious manner, in order to corrupt his mind; or that he was intending and attempting to take away his life, by shooting an arrow at him, and pretending it was but in jest and in play; See Gill on Galatians 4:29.

And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, {c} mocking.

(c) He derided God's promise made to Isaac which the apostle calls persecution Ga 4:29.

9. mocking] Better, as R.V. marg., playing. The original is the same verb, in the intensive mood, which is rendered “laugh,” e.g. in Genesis 21:6. There is no need to introduce the meaning of “mockery,” which would require an object. The verb used absolutely, and rendered, as in the marg., gives a suitable sense. The LXX and Latin so render it, adding words of explanation: παίζοντα μετὰ Ἰσαὰκ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτῆς, ludentem cum Isaac filio suo, as if Sarah, watching Ishmael playing with her own child, had been seized with a sudden fit of passionate jealousy. Ishmael was the elder, but he was the son of her handmaid; and in Sarah’s eyes it was unfitting that Ishmael should even play with or near her own child.

The Rabbinic interpretations of this word were productive of strange speculations. St Paul refers to one of them, which understood the word to denote “teasing” and “persecution”; hence Galatians 4:29. Other more fantastic attempts at exegesis connected this verse with Ishmael’s sins of idolatry, of impurity, and even of attempts to take his brother’s life.Verse 9. - And Sarah saw - at the feast already mentioned (Knobel, Keil); probably also on different occasions since the birth of Isaac - the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking. Παίζοντα μετὰ Ισαὰκ τοῦ υἰοῦ αὐτης (LXX.), ludentem cum Isaaco filio sue (Vulgate), playing like a child (Aben Ezra, Knobel, Tuch, Ilgen), playing and dancing gracefully (Gesenius); but the stronger sense of the word, implying mockery, scoffing, irritating and deriding laughter (Kimchi, Vatablus, Grotius, Calvin, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, 'Speaker's Commentary,' Murphy), besides being admissible (cf. Genesis 19:14; Genesis 26:8; Genesis 39:14, 17; Exodus 32:6), seems involved in the Piel form of the participle מְצַחֵק (Kurtz), and is demanded by Galatians 4:29. That Ishmael ridiculed the banquet on the occasion of Isaac's weaning (Malvenda), quarreled with him about the heirship (Fagins, Piseator), and perhaps made sport of him as a father of nations (Hengstenberg), though plausible conjectures, are not stated in the text. Ainsworth dates from this event the 400 years of Israel's oppression (vide Genesis 15:13). Birth of Isaac. - Jehovah did for Sarah what God had promised in Genesis 17:6 (cf. Genesis 18:14): she conceived, and at the time appointed bore a son to Abraham, when he was 100 years old. Abraham gave it the name of Jizchak (or Isaac), and circumcised it on the eighth day. The name for the promised son had been selected by God, in connection with Abraham's laughing (Genesis 17:17 and Genesis 17:19), to indicate the nature of his birth and existence. For as his laughing sprang from the contrast between the idea and the reality; so through a miracle of grace the birth of Isaac gave effect to this contrast between the promise of God and the pledge of its fulfilment on the one hand, and the incapacity of Abraham for begetting children, and of Sarah for bearing them, on the other; and through this name, Isaac was designated as the fruit of omnipotent grace working against and above the forces of nature. Sarah also, who had previously laughed with unbelief at the divine promise (Genesis 18:12), found a reason in the now accomplished birth of the promised son for laughing with joyous amazement; so that she exclaimed, with evident allusion to his name, "A laughing hath God prepared for me; every one who hears it will laugh to me" (i.e., will rejoice with me, in amazement at the blessing of God which has come upon me even in my old age), and gave a fitting expression to the joy of her heart, in this inspired tristich (Genesis 21:7): "Who would have said unto Abraham: Sarah is giving suck; for I have born a son to his old age." מלּל is the poetic word for דּבּר, and מי before the perfect has the sense of - whoever has said, which we should express as a subjunctive; cf. 2 Kings 20:9; Psalm 11:3, etc.
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