Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Genesis 21:14-21 God Provides for Ishmael

"Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar.  He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy.  She went on her way and wandered in the desert of Beersheba.  When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes.  Then she went off and sat down nearby, about a bowshot away, for she thought, 'I cannot watch the boy die.'  And as she sat there nearby, she began to sob."  (Genesis 21:14-16 NIV)

I wonder what was going through Abraham's mind in this situation.  He loved Ishmael, yet God had told him to listen to Sarah, and send Ishmael and Hagar away.  Abraham did make some provision for Hagar and Ishmael, but it appears to be minimal.  Hagar and Ishmael seem to be abandoned.  Hagar wandered in the desert of Beersheba for a while.  She probably did not have many other options.  The trip back to Egypt would probably take an amount of preparation and supply which she did not have at that moment.  Right now it was survival that concerned her.  As their supply of water ran out, it is no wonder that she collapses in despair.

However, God has not abandoned her and Ishmael.  "God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, 'What is the matter, Hagar?  Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there.  Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.'  Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.  So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink." (Genesis 21:17-19 NIV)

Once again, God has 'heard' and met Hagar in her time of need.  He is aware and concerned with Hagar and Ishmael and able to meet their needs.  It is no accident that Hagar and Ishmael ran out of water right near that well, or that the well was there in the first place.  God also is concerned with keeping His promise to Abraham, of blessing his descendants and making Ishmael into a nation.

God's care and concern was not only for that moment.  "God was with the boy as he grew up.  He lived in the desert and became an archer.  While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt." (Genesis 21:20-21 NIV)  God continued to care for Ishmael as he matured.  As God had already told Hagar, Ishmael continued to live in the desert.  Eventually, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt.  Hagar and Ishmael remained living in the area of the Sinai Peninsula called the Desert of Paran.
Note:  While researching this article, I came upon these interesting points in materials by Wayne Blank ( .  I had wondered why Ishmael was not given his rights as a firstborn son.  I figured it was because, as the son of a maidservant, he did not have the same inheritance rights that the son of an actual wife would have received.  However, Mr. Blank brings up this interesting point:

 "The promise did not however go through Ishmael because the covenant had already been made with Abraham, with a yet unborn Isaac the designated heir, before Ishmael was conceived or born (Genesis 15:2-6).  While God does not play favorites, He was also not bound to any other arrangements for children that Abraham and Sarah had taken upon themselves to bring about after the matter had been firmly decided by God."

So, apparently, Ishmael was not cheated out of anything.  In fact, Mr. Blank also points out that the territory eventually occupied by the Arabs, the descendants of Ishmael, was about 150 times the size of the territory of the Israelites, and that it held rich reserves of oil, etc.

Another point which Mr. Blank brought up is that he is not 'pro-Israeli' or 'pro-Arab', but is trying to faithfully convey what the Bible says, so he is 'pro-Bible'.  I appreciated that distinction, because things can get pretty heated when these matters are discussed. :)

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