Genesis 21, Isaac born

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by Helen, Jun 20, 2002.

  1. Helen

    Helen
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    This chapter actually includes three separate things, only one of which is Isaac's birth, and that is covered in just the first six verses. There is an interesting, and very human thing to note. Sarah no longer seems to remember laughing at the prophecy, and that that was why the Lord said her son was to be named Isaac, which means laughter. But she is so delighted that she credits the Lord with bringing her laughter, and that is what her son's name now means to her.

    On a personal note, I also was only able to give birth to one child, and he is a he (I had miscarried before and it was doubtful I would ever be able to have children). I remember the awe and surging love when I held him. I remember so many details that are still special in my mind. I have a feeling Sarah must have been the same -- every moment was precious.

    The second part of this chapter comes about as a result of Isaac's birth. By the time Isaac is about 2 1/2 or 3, which was the time of weaning, if not even a little later, Ishmael is in his mid to late teens. And he does not seem to be the pleasant sort, for we read he is mocking during the party for Isaac at his weaning. (By the way, weaning was the mark that the child did not die in infancy and was now officially free of mother physically and an individual who would probably survive to adulthood -- this was big then.)

    So Ishmael is mocking the whole thing. Bad move. Sarah wants him and Hagar out of there for good.

    Abraham has shown in the bits and pieces we can glean from the Bible that he loved Ishmael a great deal. After all, this was his son! He is very upset by the problems between the two women and Sarah's demands, but God tells him not to worry, go ahead and send Hagar away.

    The first time Hagar ran away it was evidently with no provisions. This time Abraham supplies her with water and food, but then they are on their own with the desert before them.

    It is interesting that when the water is gone, it is Ishmael who falls victim first, and is at the point of death.

    Had hagar simply been so tired and afraid that she had missed the water nearby? The Bible says God opened her eyes to see it. That seems to imply it had been there all along! If so, that is certainly a good picture of the way so many times in life seem to be! We feel desperate and afraid and even though the answer is right there for us, God has to 'open our eyes' to see it! That can be a very humbling experience!

    Hagar, it is written, got Ishael a wife from Egypt. She herself was Egyptian, so this, for her, was simply returning to where she belonged in terms of blood lines. But the symbolism here is, again, interesting. Ishmael was the product of man's wisdom, trying to 'help' God along, and he married into 'the world,' of which Egypt was a very good symbol.

    It is the third part of this chapter which is often overlooked as we read about Isaac and Ishmael -- the human interest stories -- in the first part of the chapter. But there is some really important material in this third section.

    Abimelech -- remember him? -- is getting nervous about Abraham. He and his commander, Phicol, have a meeting with Abraham in which they ask for a treaty. But look at what Abimelech says at the end of his opening speech: "...Show to me and the country where you are living as an alien the same kindness I have shown to you." (emphasis added by me)

    Here Abimelech is attempting to create a balance -- Abraham may be stronger and God may be prospering him in everything, but Abimelech owns the land! It is from this position of relative equality that Abimelech wishes to establish a treaty. This would have been necessary to make sure the treaty was not one-sided against him!

    Abraham does not argue. He agrees.

    BUT, Abraham then uses the opportunity, riding in on his easy agreement, to complain to Abimelech about a well of water that Abimelech's servants had forcefully taken possession of.

    For those who do not know the importance of this, remember that this was NOT a land of running streams. The water was underground. If you wanted water you had to dig for it. So wells were important and the possession of wells, which rightfully went to the person who dug them, was imperative for survival. Throwing a dead animal in someone's well, to pollute and poison it, was considered tantamount to murder and was a capital offense in most of the Middle Eastern areas.

    So Abraham's complaint was severe, not just a passing bit of "oh and by the way..."

    Abimelech immediately defends himself with two points: he was ignorant of who did this and he was ignorant of the fact it had happened until Abraham told him just then.

    At this point Abraham had a choice: press his claim via witnesses; press his claim by force; give up title to the well; or....

    He chose the 'or...' With wisdom only God could have given him, Abraham literally buys back the well by giving Abimelech both sheep and cattle. But then Abraham does an additional thing. He culls out seven ewe lambs -- these are treaty animals, not payment for the well. Abraham tells Abimelech to accept the lambs as a sign that he, Abraham, dug the well.

    Abimelech accepted. The well was thus named, as many wells were. "Beersheba" can mean either 'well of the seven' or 'well of the oath.' Abraham had his bases covered either way!

    Abimelech leaves. Abraham plants a tamarisk tree. The tamarisk is capable of living in arid areas and its leaves provide welcome shade for travelers.

    The chapter closes with the remark that Abraham stayed there, in the land of the Philistines, for a long time.

    [ June 20, 2002, 01:29 AM: Message edited by: Helen ]
     
  2. Clint Kritzer

    Clint Kritzer
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