Genesis xxi.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. Visited, either by the angel, chap. xviii. 10, or by enabling her to have what he had promised, at the return of the season.

Ver. 3. Isaac. This word signifies laughter; (Challoner) or “he shall laugh,” and be the occasion of joy to many, as St. John the Baptist was, Luke i. 14; and thus Sara seems to explain it, ver. 6.

Ver. 7. Gave suck; a certain proof that the child was born of her. (Menochius) — His old age, when both the parents were far advanced in years, ver. 2. The mother being ninety at this time, would render the event most surprising. (Haydock)

Ver. 8. Weaned. St. Jerome says when he was five years old, though some said twelve. The age of men being prolonged, their infancy continued longer. One of the Machabees suckled her child three years, 2 Machabees vii. 27. (2 Paralipomenon xxxi. 16.) (Calmet) — Feast. The life of the child being now considered in less danger. From the time of conception till this took place, the husband kept at a distance from his wife. (St. Clement of Alexandria, strom. iii.) Samuel’s mother made a feast or present when she weaned him, 1 Kings i. 24. (Menochius)

Ver. 9. Playing, or persecuting, as St. Paul explains it, Galatians iv. 29. The play tended to pervert the morals of the young Isaac, whether we understand this term metsachak, as implying idolatry, or obscene actions, or fighting; in all which senses it is used in Scripture. See Exodus xxxii. 6; Genesis xxvi. 8; 2 Kings ii. 14. (Menochius)  Ismael was 13 years older than Isaac; and took occasion, perhaps, from the feast, and other signs of preference given by his parents to the latter, to hate and persecute him, which Sara soon perceiving, was forced to have recourse to the expedient apparently so harsh, of driving Ismael and his mother from the house, that they might have an establishment of their own, and not disturb Isaac in the inheritance after the death of Abraham. (Haydock) — In this she was guided by a divine light; (Menochius) and not by any female antipathy, ver. 12. Many of the actions of worldlings, which at first sight may appear innocent, have a natural and fatal tendency to pervert the morals of the just; and therefore, we must keep as much as possible at a distance from their society. — With Isaac her son. Hebrew has simply mocking, without mentioning what. But the sequel shews the true meaning; and this addition was found in some Bibles in the days of St. Jerome, as he testifies, and is expressed in the Septuagint. (Haydock) — Ismael was a figure of the synagogue, which persecuted the Church of Christ in her birth. (Du Hamel)

Ver. 11. For his son. He does not express any concern for Agar. But we cannot doubt but he would feel to part with her also. It was prudent to let both go together: and the mother had perhaps encouraged Ismael, at least by neglecting to punish or to watch over him, and so deserved to share in his affliction.

Ver. 14. Bread and water. This seems a very slender allowance to be given by a man of Abraham’s riches. But he might intend her to go only into the neighbourhood, where he would take care to provide for her. She lost herself in the wilderness, and thus fell into imminent danger of perishing. (Haydock) — This divorce of Agar, and ejection of Ismael, prefigured the reprobation of the Jews.

Ver. 17. Of the boy, who was 17 years old, and wept at the approach of death. — Fear not. You are under the protection of God, who will not abandon you, when all human succour fails; nor will he negelct his promises, chap. xvi. (Haydock)

Ver. 20. Wilderness, in Arabia Petrea. — An archer, living on plunder. (Calmet)

Ver. 22. Abimelech, king of Gerara, who knew that Abraham was a prophet, and a favourite of God, chap. xx. 7. (Haydock)

Ver. 23. Hurt me. Hebrew, “lie unto me, ” or revolt and disturb the peace of my people.

Ver. 24. I will swear. The matter was of sufficient importance. Abraham binds himself, but not his posterity, who by God’s order fought against the descendants of this king.

Ver. 27. Gave them; thus rendering good for evil. (Du Hamel)

Ver. 31. Bersabee. That is, the well of oath; (Challoner) or “the well of the seven;” meaning the seven ewe-lambs set apart. (Menochius) — This precaution of Abraham, in giving seven lambs as a testimony that the well was dug by him, was not without reason. See chap. xxvi. 15. (Calmet)

Ver. 33. A grove: in the midst of which was an altar, dedicated to the Lord God eternal; to testify that he alone was incapable of change. Thither Abraham frequently repaired, to thank God for all his favours. Temples were not probably as yet known in any part of the world. The ancient saints, Abraham, Isaac, Josue, &c., were pleased to shew their respect for God, and their love of retirement, by planting groves, and consecrating altars to the supreme Deity. If this laudable custom was afterwards perverted by the idolaters, and hence forbidden to God’s people, we need not wonder. The best things may be abused; and when they become a source of scandal, we must avoid them. (Haydock) — (Josue xxix. 26[xx. 16?]; Deuteronomy xvi. 23[21?]; Judges vi. 25.)

Bible Text & Cross-references:

Isaac is born. Agar and Ismael are cast forth.

1 And the Lord visited* Sara, as he had promised: and fulfilled what he had spoken.

2 *And she conceived and bore a son in her old age, at the time that God had foretold her.

3 And Abraham called the name of his son, whom Sara bore him, Isaac.*

4 And he circumcised him the eighth day, *as God had commanded him,

5 When he was a hundred years old: for at this age of his father, was Isaac born.

6 And Sara said: God hath made a laughter for me: whosoever shall hear of it will laugh with me.

7 And again she said: Who would believe that Abraham should hear that Sara gave suck to a son, whom she bore to him in his old age?

8 And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast on the day of his weaning.

9 And when Sara had seen the son of Agar, the Egyptian, playing with Isaac, her son, she said to Abraham:

10 Cast out this bond-woman and her son; for the son of the bond-woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.

11 Abraham took this grievously for his son.

12 And God said to him: Let it not seem grievous to thee for the boy, and for thy bond-woman: in all that Sara hath said to thee, hearken to her voice: *for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.

13 But I will make the son also of the bond-woman a great nation, because he is thy seed.

14 So Abraham rose up in the morning, and taking bread and a bottle of water, put it upon her shoulder, and delivered the boy, and sent her away.* And she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Bersabee.

15 And when the water in the bottle was spent, she cast the boy under one of the trees that were there.

16 And she went her way, and sat over-against him a great way off, as far as a bow can carry, for she said: I will not see the boy die: and sitting over-against, she lifted up her voice and wept.

17 And God heard the voice of the boy: and an angel of God called to Agar from heaven, saying: What art thou doing, Agar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the boy, from the place wherein he is.

18 Arise, take up the boy, and hold him by the hand, for I will make him a great nation.

19 And God opened her eyes: and she saw a well of water, and went and filled the bottle, and gave the boy to drink.

20 And God was with him: and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became a young man, an archer.

21 And he dwelt in the wilderness of Pharan, and his mother took a wife for him out of the land of Egypt.

22 At the same time Abimelech, and Phicol the general of his army, said to Abraham: God is with thee in all that thou dost.

23 Swear therefore by God, that thou wilt not hurt me, nor my posterity, nor my stock: but according to the kindness* that I have done to thee, thou shalt do to me, and to the land wherein thou hast lived a stranger.

24 And Abraham said: I will swear.

25 And he reproved Abimelech for a well of water, which his servants had taken away by force.

26 And Abimelech answered: I knew not who did this thing: and thou didst not tell me, and I heard not of it till to-day.

27 Then Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them to Abimelech: and both of them made a league.

28 And Abraham set apart seven ewe-lambs of the flock.

29 And Abimelech said to him: What mean these seven ewe-lambs which thou hast set apart?

30 But he said: Thou shalt take seven ewe-lambs at my hand: that they may be a testimony for me, that I dug this well.

31 Therefore that place was called Bersabee; because there both of them did swear.

32 And they made a league for the well of oath.

33 And Abimelech, and Phicol, the general of his army, arose and returned to the land of the Palestines. But Abraham planted a grove in Bersabee, and there called upon the name of the Lord God eternal.

34 And he was a sojourner in the land of the Palestines many days.



1: Genesis xvii. 19. and xviii. 10.

2: Galatians iv. 23.; Hebrews xi. 11.

3: Year of the World 2108, Year Before Christ 1896.

4: Genesis xvii. 10.; Matthew i. 2.

12: Romans ix. 7.; Hebrews xi. 18.

14: Year of the World 2113, Year before Christ 1891.

23: Genesis xx. 13.