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Genesis 21:9-13

Context
21:9 But Sarah noticed 1  the son of Hagar the Egyptian – the son whom Hagar had borne to Abraham – mocking. 2  21:10 So she said to Abraham, “Banish 3  that slave woman and her son, for the son of that slave woman will not be an heir along with my son Isaac!”

21:11 Sarah’s demand displeased Abraham greatly because Ishmael was his son. 4  21:12 But God said to Abraham, “Do not be upset 5  about the boy or your slave wife. Do 6  all that Sarah is telling 7  you because through Isaac your descendants will be counted. 8  21:13 But I will also make the son of the slave wife into a great nation, for he is your descendant too.”

1 tn Heb “saw.”

2 tn The Piel participle used here is from the same root as the name “Isaac.” In the Piel stem the verb means “to jest; to make sport of; to play with,” not simply “to laugh,” which is the meaning of the verb in the Qal stem. What exactly Ishmael was doing is not clear. Interpreters have generally concluded that the boy was either (1) mocking Isaac (cf. NASB, NIV, NLT) or (2) merely playing with Isaac as if on equal footing (cf. NAB, NRSV). In either case Sarah saw it as a threat. The same participial form was used in Gen 19:14 to describe how some in Lot’s family viewed his attempt to warn them of impending doom. It also appears later in Gen 39:14, 17, where Potiphar accuses Joseph of mocking them.

sn Mocking. Here Sarah interprets Ishmael’s actions as being sinister. Ishmael probably did not take the younger child seriously and Sarah saw this as a threat to Isaac. Paul in Gal 4:29 says that Ishmael persecuted Isaac. He uses a Greek word that can mean “to put to flight; to chase away; to pursue” and may be drawing on a rabbinic interpretation of the passage. In Paul’s analogical application of the passage, he points out that once the promised child Isaac (symbolizing Christ as the fulfillment of God’s promise) has come, there is no room left for the slave woman and her son (who symbolize the Mosaic law).

3 tn Heb “drive out.” The language may seem severe, but Sarah’s maternal instincts sensed a real danger in that Ishmael was not treating Isaac with the proper respect.

4 tn Heb “and the word was very wrong in the eyes of Abraham on account of his son.” The verb רָעַע (raa’) often refers to what is morally or ethically “evil.” It usage here suggests that Abraham thought Sarah’s demand was ethically (and perhaps legally) wrong.

5 tn Heb “Let it not be evil in your eyes.”

6 tn Heb “listen to her voice.” The idiomatic expression means “obey; comply.” Here her advice, though harsh, is necessary and conforms to the will of God. Later (see Gen 25), when Abraham has other sons, he sends them all away as well.

7 tn The imperfect verbal form here draws attention to an action that is underway.

8 tn Or perhaps “will be named”; Heb “for in Isaac offspring will be called to you.” The exact meaning of the statement is not clear, but it does indicate that God’s covenantal promises to Abraham will be realized through Isaac, not Ishmael.



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