Saturday, October 04, 2008

Genesis 21:8-11 Sarah Demands Abraham Banish Ishmael and Hagar

Genesis 21:8-11: The child grew and was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. Now Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking. Therefore she said to Abraham, "Drive out this maid and her son, for the son of this maid shall not be an heir with my son Isaac." The matter distressed Abraham greatly because of his son.

Scripture tells us that Isaac grew and was weaned from nursing. Not being a woman, I do not know how a mother feels when her child is weaned. I am sure that a sense of loss is experienced as a child moves, ever so slightly, towards less dependence on his/her mother. On the other hand, there could be great joy in seeing the child reach that age not unlike how a parent feels when his/her child takes their first steps.

It may have been this joy that caused Abraham to have a great feast on the day Isaac was weaned. And perhaps everyone in the household was invited plus the neighbors. It is also possible that this is where Sarah ran into Hagar’s son, Ishmael, again. As an added indication of Sarah’s disdain for Hagar, the text points out that she was an Egyptian and thus really an outsider in Sarah’s eyes. It must have angered her even more to see before her eyes a son borne to Abraham because of her own lack of faith and impatience.

It is not clear from the text who exactly was doing the ‘mocking’. Was it Sarah or was it Ishmael? Most translations indicate that it was indeed Ishmael that was mocking the young Isaac – perhaps intentionally, perhaps jokingly as a young boy might. Whatever the cause, it was enough for Sarah and she asked Abraham to get rid of both Ishmael and Hagar from their household. She gave as her reason that “no son of Hagar will share in Abraham’s or her estate as heir along with her own son Isaac.” Was this said because Ishmael was mocking Isaac or was this said because Sarah had a great fear that as first-born Ishmael may not only be co-heir with ‘her’ son, but may come out ahead in the game? We can only assume that because of Sarah’s past feelings about Hagar and because of her strong possession of Isaac as ‘her’ son, she was indeed concerned more about Ishmael’s present acceptance and future rights. When we pursue our own plans contrary to what we know is right by God’s standards, we are likely to end up in a more unpleasant and sometimes most dreadful circumstance. Sarah and Abraham were now reaping the fruits of their own efforts when they chose not to trust God and be patient, awaiting His timing to fulfill His promise to them.

All of this of course distressed Abraham to a great extent. Like a true father, he loved both his sons, even if differently. The situation is no different than what many parents, fathers and mothers, often experience today following divorce and remarriage where there are children from the first marriage. Not all new spouses accept the children of one’s first spouse. Not all children of the first marriage accept the second spouse. Not all first spouses go away in peace; some stick around to cause considerable challenges. All of this is a result of someone’s greed, sin, and pursuit of his/her own selfish desires and thinking. May God keep us from such circumstances and should we by chance find ourselves in them, may we have the wisdom to seek His daily help and guidance to do the right things from that point forward.

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