A Daily Genesis

Genesis 21:9-12

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[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†. [/COLOR]Gen 21:9 . . Sarah saw the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham playing.[/B]

At this point, Ishmael was around 17 or 18 years old. (cf. Gen 16:16, Gen 21:5, Gen 21:8)

It's hard to tell what kind of sport Ishmael was involved in. Some feel that he, the firstborn son, was picking on Isaac the younger sibling; and that's probably true because Gal 4:29 suggests that Ishmael was a bit of a bully. Others feel he was mocking the weaning party. But actually, nobody knows for sure. Maybe he was just swinging on an old tire in the backyard, and while Sarah was absently mindedly looking over there, a scheme spawned in her head.

Not only was Ishmael Abraham's son, but, by law, he was Sarah's boy too. (Gen 16:1-2). But Sarah rejected Ishmael and never was much of a mom to him. So Ms. Hagar went through all that for nothing. On top of that, she was still a slave; and had no husband. She was, in reality, a single mom saddled with a child that she never really wanted in the first place.

All of this created a home life that had become intolerable for everyone involved. Hagar gloated over Sarah's barrenness. Sarah, in turn, blamed Abraham for Hagar's attitude, and Ishmael, according to Gal 4:29, harassed Isaac (no doubt out of a spirit of sibling rivalry). Abraham loved Ishmael and was no doubt soft on Hagar. Plus, to make matters even worse; there were some very serious legal complications.

Ishmael's legal position was quite an advantage. As Abraham's firstborn son, he had a right to a double portion of his father's estate (cf. Gen 48:22).

[B][SIZE=1]NOTE[/SIZE]:[/B] The reason Joseph inherited a double portion is because Jacob transferred the right of the firstborn to him after Reuben messed around with one of his father's servant-wives. (Gen 49:3-4, 1Chr 5:1)

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 21:10-12 . . Sarah said to Abraham: Cast out that slave-woman and her son, for the son of that slave shall not share in the inheritance with my son Isaac. The matter distressed Abraham greatly, for it concerned a son of his own.[/B]

Hagar had lived in Abraham's home for all those years; yet Sarah so hated her that she couldn't even speak Hagar's name. She called her "that slave-woman".

How does a good and decent man like Abraham disown his own flesh and blood? If Ishmael were a gang-banger, a drug addict, an Islamic terrorist, or a career criminal it would be different. But he was really a pretty good kid and Abraham totally loved him. Being the lad's biological father, I'm sure Abraham felt very responsible for Ishmael's welfare. He and Ishmael had been a team together for seventeen or eighteen years. You just don't dissolve a bond like that as if giving away old clothes to Good Will.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 21:12 . . But God said to Abraham: Don't be distressed over the boy or your slave; whatever Sarah tells you, do as she says, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be continued for you.[/B]

So; was God backing Sarah? Not entirely. Sarah was no doubt highly motivated by unbearable tensions between herself and Hagar, and by the best interests of her own flesh and blood. But God had already decreed and predestined Isaac to be Abraham's heir apparent. Ishmael's position in the family was created by human meddling in Divine, long-range plans for the people of Israel. The man-made son had to be eliminated so the God-made son would have the preeminence, even though it would cause terrible grief for Abraham and Ishmael and Hagar. (cf. Ezra 9:1-10:44)

The phrase "cast out" implies cruelty; and leaves a wrong impression. Sarah (and God too) wanted her own flesh and blood to follow in Abraham's footsteps instead of Hagar's boy Ishmael; and, in the case of slave mothers, there was a perfectly humane way to do it.

The common laws of Abraham's day (e.g. the Code of Hammurabi and the laws of Lipit-Ishtar) entitled Ishmael to the lion's share of Abraham's estate because he was Abraham's firstborn biological son. However, there was a clause in the laws stipulating that if a slave-owner emancipated his child's in-slavery biological mother; then the mother and the child would lose any and all claims to a paternal property settlement with the slave-owner.

The trick is[B]:[/B] Abraham couldn't just send Hagar packing, nor sell her, for the clause to take effect; no, he had to emancipate her; which he did.

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