Genesis 21 – Everybody Laughs at Isaac

We saw in the last chapter that God had enabled everyone in Abimelek’s household to conceive again but Sarah was still kept barren. Abraham had laughed at the very thought of Isaac being born to Sarah, Sarah now has joyous laughter that God came through for her despite her disbelief and then there is Ishmael who is mocking his new younger brother. The Hebrew texts quite aptly say that Ishmael was laughing at Isaac. That captures the sentiment of everyone involved in this saga.

Chapter 21 starts off with how gracious the Lord had been to Sarah and the promise made by him was fulfilled, Sarah bore a son to Abraham in his ripe old age at the very time that God had promised a year back. They named him Isaac and circumcised him on the 8th day according to the covenant that God had made with them.

After Isaac is weaned, Abraham holds a feast at the joyous occasion but somehow Sarah is still not happy. She sees Hagar’s son Ishmael laughing at Isaac and the very thought of her son having to share his inheritance with the son of her slave engulfs her. She wanted Abraham to get rid of the pair at any cost. How quickly did Sarah forget how God had been gracious to her but could not extend the same kindness to Hagar.

On hearing this, Abraham was distressed as it concerned his first born. Surprisingly, God also asks Abraham to listen to Sarah but assures him that he’ll make Ishmael into a nation. This time Abraham is obedient and the very next day gets rid of Hagar and Ishmael, sending them off to wander in the desert of Beersheba with little food and water but no one else to help them on their harsh journey.

After the water had gone, Hagar felt helpless and alone in the desert. She knew that her son would not live much longer and left Ishmael under a bush and started crying. God appeared to her again and assured her that Ishmael will be made into a great nation. God opened her eyes to see the well of water in front of her and God again delivered Hagar and Ishmael. God was with Ishmael and he grew up to be an archer living in the desert of Paran.

God blessed both Isaac and Ishmael but the promise of the snake crusher was to come to fruition through Isaac’s lineage and that is the only blessing that we will ever need.

Questions Discussed in this Podcast

V10: Why did Sarah think that Isaac would have to share his inheritance with Ishmael?

V12: Why did God tell Hagar to go back to her mistress and waste 14 years of her life when He would have known that she will be thrown out by Abraham and Sarah as soon as Isaac was born?

V14: Abraham was very obedient to send off Hagar and Ishmael the next morning itself, but he sent them out to wander in the desert? He didn’t even send them with enough water. How could he be so ignorant if he was actually concerned about his son?

V22: Why is Abimelek entering in to a treaty with Abraham?

Summary: Joseph was bought by Ishmael’s descendants who were wealthy merchants while Jacob’s family were struggling to survive a famine. They were fewer in number than Ishmael’ descendant and even today the people of Israel don’t have a clear demarcated land and have always been under bondage under another empire. When we look at the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael who did God bless more?

So What are God’s blessings in our lives?


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