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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Genesis 21

 

 

Verse 1

Genesis 21:1 And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken.

Ver. 1. And the Lord visited Sarah.] God pays not his people with words only, as Sertorius did his soldiers, (a) He fools them not off with fair promises, (b) as Ptolemy (surnamed therefore Dωσων) did his favourites; but is real, yea, royal in his promises and performances. Of many promisers it may be said, as Tertullian of the peacock, all in changeable colours: as oft changed as moved. Italians all; as Aeneas Sylvius said of Italy; Novitate quadam, nihil habet stablile . Not so their ancestors, the Romans. They had a great care always to perform their word; insomuch, that the first temple built in Rome was dedicated to the goddess Fidelity. Great men’s words, saith one, are like dead men’s shoes: he may go barefoot that waits for them. Not so good men; they will stand to their oath, though it tend to their loss. [Psalms 15:4] They are children that will not lie. [Isaiah 63:8] Their Father is a God that cannot lie. [Titus 1:2] He is the God of Amen, as Isaiah calleth him; [Isaiah 65:16] and "all his promises are Yea and Amen in Christ Jesus," [2 Corinthians 1:20] "the faithful and true witness". [Revelation 3:14] Judah would not break promise with the harlot, lest he should be shamed. [Genesis 38:23] One of the laws of the knights of the band in Spain was, that if any of them broke his promise, he went alone by himself, and nobody spake to him, nor he to any. When God serves any so, let him be so served. But the promises are ancient. [Titus 1:2] And not any tittle of them, as yet, ever fell to the ground. Wherefore, "gird up the loins of your minds, and trust perfectly on the grace that is brought unto you". [1 Peter 1:13] "Faithful is he that hath promised, who also will do it". [1 Thessalonians 5:24]


Verse 2

Genesis 21:2 For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.

Ver. 2. For Sarah conceived.] By the force of her faith, though at first she faltered. [Hebrews 11:11]

And bare Abraham a son in his old age.] Beatae senectutis et emeritae fidei filium , as one well calleth Isaac. (a) St Paul, for this, saith he was "born after the Spirit". [Galatians 4:29]


Verse 3

Genesis 21:3 And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac.

Ver. 3. And Abraham called the name, &c.] A ridiculous name, but such as God had imposed. All God’s ways are foolishness to the world, - Christ and all. But - as old men use to say to young - they think us fools, we know them to be so. It will not be long ere they shall wail and howl out, Nos insensati , we fools held their life madness, &c. Say therefore with David, If this be to be vile, we will be more vile. God hath a barren womb for mocking Michal. He is a fool, we say, that would be laughed out of his coat; but he is a double fool that would be laughed out of his skin, that would hazard his soul, because loath to be laughed at. Caligula socerum Scyllanum, molestum ei propter virtutem et affinitatem, ad mortem sibi consciscendam ludibriis adegit . More fool he.


Verse 4

Genesis 21:4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old, as God had commanded him.

Ver. 4. And Abraham circumcised his son.] At circumcision, as now at baptism, names were given. Let them be such as are significant, and may immind us of some good, either person or thing; all will be found little enough, Optima nomina, non appellando fieri mala, faenerator Alfius dixisse verissime fertur .{ a} We read of a good woman, that had named her three daughters, Faith, Hope, and Charity. And when she was to be condemned by Bonner; My lord, said she, if you burn me, I hope you will keep Faith, Hope, and Charity. No, by my truth, will I not, quoth the bishop; keep them who will, I’ll take no charge of them. (b) We read also of another, that, courting a harlot, asked her name: she answered, Mary; whereupon, remembering Mary Magdalene, that penitent harlot, he repented him of his evil purpose, and, advising the courtesan to repent by her example, departed, and lived honestly. (c) We cannot have too many monitors to mind us of our duty.


Verse 5

Genesis 21:5 And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him.

Ver. 5. And Abraham was a hundred years old.] After twenty years’ praying, and waiting the fulfilling of the promise; besides thirteen of those years’ silence, for aught we read, after the promise of a child. This was a sore trial; but God knew him to be armour of proof, and therefore tried him thus with musket-shot. Well might the apostle say, "Ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God," and suffered it too, "ye might receive the promise". [Hebrews 10:36] The "spoiling of their goods" required patience: but this waiting much more. Good men find it easier to bear evil, than to wait till the promised good be enjoyed. This waiting is nothing but hope and trust lengthened; which they that cannot do, like children, they pull apples afore they are ripe, (a) and have worms bred of them; as those hasty Ephraimites, that set upon the Philistines, and were slain in Gath. They had indeed a promise of the land, but the time was not yet come. They were weary of the Egyptian bondage, and would have thus got out; but they were too hasty. Fugientes ergo fumum, incidebant in ignem .{ 1 Chronicles 7:21-22 Psalms 78:9}


Verse 6

Genesis 21:6 And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, [so that] all that hear will laugh with me.

Ver. 6. God hath made me to laugh.] "A wise son maketh a glad father". [Proverbs 10:1] Monstri autem simil est, quando pro risu sunt fletus, sunt flagellum . And yet this is many a good man’s case. How many parents are put to wish Moses’ wish, [Numbers 11:15] "Lord, if I have found favour in thy sight, kill me, that I behold not my misery!" Had he lived to see what ways his grandchild Jonathan took, what a grief would it have been unto him! [ 18:30] "Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh," &c. In the best Hebrew copies, Nun is suspended in that name: whereupon the Hebrews descant, that this Gershom was the son of Moses; but because he and his posterity walked not in the ways of Moses, but rather of Manasses, [2 Kings 21:1-9] and did his works: therefore the penman of this book would not so far disgrace Moses, as to make him his son, as indeed he was, [Exodus 2:1-2; Exodus 2:10 1 Chronicles 23:14-15] but rather of Manasses, whom he imitated and resembled. (a) How much better and happier had it been for them both if they had expressed their father’s manners, as Constantine’s sons did: of whom it is said, that they had put on whole Constantine, and in all good things did exactly resemble him. (b)


Verse 7

Genesis 21:7 And she said, Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given children suck? for I have born [him] a son in his old age.

Ver. 7. That Sarah should have given children suck.] So she had a double blessing, - of the womb, and of the breasts. Milk she had at those years, and great store of it too: whence she is said to "give children suck," not a child only. She could have nursed another for a need, besides her own. Note, that though she were a great lady, yet she was a nurse. Let it not be niceness, but necessity that hinders any mother from so doing; lest she be found more monstrous than the "sea-monsters," that "draw out their breast, and give suck to their young". [Lamentations 4:3] If the child must be set out, let a fit nurse be looked after. Quidam scrofae lacte nutritus cum esset, in coeno sese identidem volutabat. (a)


Verse 8

Genesis 21:8 And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the [same] day that Isaac was weaned.

Ver. 8. And Abraham made a great feast.] A laudable custom, saith Cajetan, that the beginning of the eating of the firstborn should be celebrated with a feast. St Augustine observeth here, that this solemnity at the weaning of Isaac, was a type of our spiritual regeneration: at, and after which, the faithful keep a continual feast, (a) "Let us keep the festivity, {εωρταζωμεν 1 Corinthians 5:7} or holy day," saith Paul, that "feast of fat things full of marrow; of wines on the lees well refined," [Isaiah 25:6] proceeding from milk to stronger meat, [Hebrews 5:12] and being to the world, as a weaned child. His mouth doth not water after homely provisions, that hath lately tasted of delicate sustenance.


Verse 9

Genesis 21:9 And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking.

Ver. 9. And Sarah saw the son of Hagar mocking.] At that mystical name Isaac, as a gaud, or laughingstock. At the feast also, made upon such a frivolous occasion. As who should say, What care I, though this ado be made now about Isaac’s weaning? I am the firstborn, and beloved of my father, who will not deny me the inheritance. This Sarah had soon spied, or overheard. Liberorum curiosi sunt parentes . The mother especially observeth the wrong done to the child. And besides, dislike soon spies a fault. A fault it was no doubt, and a great one too. Otherwise, the apostle would not have called it "persecution": [Galatians 4:29] nor God have punished it with ejection. Machiavel, that scoffing atheist, rotted in the prison at Florence. Jeering Julian had his payment from Heaven. Sir Thomas Moor ( qui sceptice et scabiose de Luthero et Religione Reformata loquebatur) lost his head. Another lost his wits for mocking at James Abbs, martyr, as a madman; for that, having no money, he gave his apparel to the poor; some to one, some to another, as he went to the stake (a) "What is truth?" [John 18:38] said Pilate to our Saviour, in a scornful profane manner. Not long after which, he became his own deathsman. Apion scoffed at circumcision, and had an ulcer at the same time, and in the same place. (b) Surely, God is the avenger of all such: he calls it blasphemy in the second table, and shows his wrath from heaven against it, as that which proceeds from the very superfluity of malice (as herein Ishmael) and tends to murder. The Hebrew word here used signifies that he not only mocked Isaac, but also made others to mock him.


Verse 10

Genesis 21:10 Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, [even] with Isaac.

Ver. 10. Cast out this bondwoman.] Who had been, likely, either an author or abettor of her son’s sin, in ambitiously seeking the inheritance. Out they must, therefore, together: as all hypocrites one day must be cast out of God’s kingdom. Heaven is an "undefiled inheritance": no dirty dog ever trampled on that golden pavement. There is no passing e coeno in coelum . Heaven would be no heaven to the unregenerate. Beetles love dunghills better than ointments; and swine love mud better than a garden.

Quid Paris? ut salvus regnet vivatque beatus,

Cogi posse negat .”

“What of Paris? To reign in saftey and live in happiness,

- nothing, he says, can force him.”

- Horat., epist. 2, lines 9, 10.


Verse 11

Genesis 21:11 And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son.

Ver. 11. And the thing was very grievous, &c.] See, there is grief sometimes between the best couples as above said. [Genesis 16:5] But why was it so grievous to cast out Ishmael, when in the next chapter, it seems no such grief to him to slay Isaac? Surely for that, here, he hears only his wife’s voice: there he well understood it to be the will of God. Veniat, veniat verbum Domini, et submittemus illi, sexcenta si nobis essent colla , said that reverend Dutchman. (a) When Abraham came to know it was God’s will as well as Sarah’s, he soon yielded.


Verse 12

Genesis 21:12 And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.

Ver. 12. In all that Sarah hath said unto thee, &c.] The wife then is to be hearkened to when she speaks reason. Samson’s mother had more faith than her husband: [ 13:23] and Priscilla is sometimes set before Aquila. Paul’s hearers at Philippi were only women at first. [Acts 16:13] And St Peter tells Christian wives that they may win their husbands to Christ by their "chaste conversation coupled with fear". [1 Peter 3:1] "The Scripture" is said to "say" what Sarah here saith. [Galatians 4:30]


Verse 13

Genesis 21:13 And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he [is] thy seed.

Ver. 13. Because he is thy seed.] So bountiful a Master is God, so liberal a Lord, that he blesseth his servants in their seed too. We count it a great favour if an earthly lord give an old servant a country cottage, with some small annuity for life; but God’s love extends beyond life; as David’s love to Jonathan preserves Mephibosheth from the gallows, yea, promoteth him to a princely allowance, and respect at court. Your children shall find and feel it, double and treble, said that martyr, whatsoever you do or suffer for the Lord’s sake. (a)


Verse 14

Genesis 21:14 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave [it] unto Hagar, putting [it] on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.

Ver. 14. And Abraham rose up early.] He was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but set upon the execution of God’s will with expedition. Voluntas Dei, necessitas rei . A godly man says Amen to God’s Amen, go it never so much against the hair with him: he puts his fiat, his assent to God’s; and saith, {as Acts 21:14} "The will of the Lord be done," which was Vox vere Christianorum , as one said.


Verse 15

Genesis 21:15 And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs.

Ver. 15. And the water was spent in the bottle.] All creature comforts will fade and fail us; as the brook Cherith dried up while the prophet was drinking of it; as those pools about Jerusalem, that might be dried up, with the tramplings of horse and horsemen. [2 Kings 19:24] But they that drink of Christ’s water shall never thirst; for it shall be in them (as the widow’s oil, or Aaron’s ointment) "a well of water springing up to eternal life". [John 4:14]

She cast the child, &c.] Whom till then she had led in her hand, faint, and ready to die for thirst; who while he lived at the full in his father’s house, but could not be contented. God loves to let us see the worth of his favours by the want of them; (a) to chasten men’s insolency with indigency, as he did the prodigal in the gospel.


Verse 16

Genesis 21:16 And she went, and sat her down over against [him] a good way off, as it were a bowshot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against [him], and lift up her voice, and wept.

Ver. 16. Let me not see the death of the child.] This, saith an interpreter, (a) was but poor love. Give me a friend that will not leave in the instant of death. [Genesis 46:4]

She lift up her voice, and wept.] As hinds by calving, so we by weeping "cast out our sorrows". [Job 39:3]

Expletur lachrymis, egeriturque dolor .”


Verse 17

Genesis 21:17 And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he [is].

Ver. 17. And God heard the voice of the lad.] Weeping hath a voice. [Psalms 6:8] And as music upon the water sounds farther and more harmoniously than upon the land, so prayers joined with tears. These, if they proceed from faith, are showers quenching the devil’s cannon shot; a second baptism of the soul, wherein it is rinsed anew, nay, perfectly cured: as the tears of vines cure the leprosy; as the lame were healed in the troubled waters. Whether Hagar’s and Ishmael’s tears were for sin, or for the present pressure only, I have not to say. (a) But God is so pitiful, that he hears and helps our affliction, as he had done Hagar’s once afore. [Genesis 16:11] And as our Saviour raised the young man of Nain, though none sought to him, merely because he was the only son of his mother, a widow, the stay of her life, and staff of her old age. See a sweet place, 2 Kings 14:26-27.


Verse 18

Genesis 21:18 Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.

Ver. 18. For I will make him a great nation.] A nation by himself, as he had promised to Abraham. This had not come to pass, had not she missed her way to Egypt, and wandered in this wilderness. God, by his providence, ordereth our disorders to his own glory. Divinum consilium dum devitatur, impletur: Humana sapientia dum reluctatur, comprehenditur. (a)


Verse 19

Genesis 21:19 And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.

Ver. 19. God opened her eyes, &c.] The well was there before, but she saw it not till her eyes were opened. So, till God irradiate both the organ and the object, we neither see nor suck those "breasts of consolation". [Isaiah 66:11] We turn the back, and not the palm of the hand, to the staff of the promises.


Verse 20

Genesis 21:20 And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer.

Ver. 20. And God was with the lad, &c.] The fountain of Hagar, saith a divine, lying between Bared and Kadesh Barnea, was afterwards called the well of the living God; and seemeth mystically to represent baptism, the laver of regeneration. For the Church, like Hagar with her son Ishmael, travelling through the wilderness of this world, is pressed with a multitude of sins and miseries, &c. Wherefore they, joining together in prayer, crave to be refreshed with the water of life. For Hagar signifieth a pilgrim. Ishmael, a man whom the Lord heareth; who, travelling together with his mother the Church in this world, fighteth against the enemies thereof, and shooteth the arrows of faith against all infernal and cruel beasts and lusts. Thus he. (a)


Verse 21

Genesis 21:21 And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt.

Ver. 21. And his mother took him a wife.] Adeo est iuris non gentium, sed ipsius naturae, ut parentes matrimonia liberis procurent . Children are a chief part of their parents’ goods; therefore to be disposed of by them in marriage. When Satan had commission to afflict Job in his goods, he fell upon his children. Yet, in the Church of Rome, parents’ consent is not much regarded.


Verse 22

Genesis 21:22 And it came to pass at that time, that Abimelech and Phichol the chief captain of his host spake unto Abraham, saying, God [is] with thee in all that thou doest:

Ver. 22. God is with thee in all that thou doest.] Natural conscience cannot choose but stoop to the image of God stamped upon the natures and works of the godly. When they see in them that which is above ordinary, they are afraid of the name of God called upon by them. Their hearts even ache and quake within them. [Deuteronomy 28:10]


Verse 23

Genesis 21:23 Now therefore swear unto me here by God that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son’s son: [but] according to the kindness that I have done unto thee, thou shalt do unto me, and to the land wherein thou hast sojourned.

Ver. 23. Swear unto me here by God, &c.] This visit, we see, was more of fear than of love: there can be no hearty love, indeed, but between true Christians. Kings, then, have their cares, crowns their crosses: thistles in their arms, and thorns in their sides. This made one cry out of his diadem, O vilis pannus ,& c. And Canutus set his crown upon the crucifix. Frederick, the Elector of Saxony, is said to have been born with the sign of a cross upon his back. (a) And the next night after that Rodulphus Rufus was crowned emperor of Germany, anno Dom. 1273, over the temple, where the crown was set upon his head, a golden cross was seen to shine, like a star, to the admiration of all that beheld it. (b) These were the same emperor’s verses concerning his crown imperial: -

Nobilis es fateor, rutilisque onerata lapillis:

Innumeris curis sed comitata venis;

Quod bene si nossent omnes expendere, nemo

Nemo foret, qui te tollere vellet humo .”

{a} Scultet. Annal.


Verse 24

Genesis 21:24 And Abraham said, I will swear.

Ver. 24. I will swear.] Abraham quickly consents to so reasonable a request, from so honourable a person. The wisdom from above is "easy to be entreated". [James 3:17] The churl Nabal holds it a goodly thing to hold off. It is but manners to reciprocate: very publicans can find in their hearts to do good to those that have been good to them. [Matthew 5:46-47]


Verse 25

Genesis 21:25 And Abraham reproved Abimelech because of a well of water, which Abimelech’s servants had violently taken away.

Ver. 25. And Abraham reproved Abimelech.] Inferiors may reprove their superiors, so they do it wisely and modestly.


Verse 26

Genesis 21:26 And Abimelech said, I wot not who hath done this thing: neither didst thou tell me, neither yet heard I [of it], but to day.

Ver. 26. I wot not who hath done this thing.] A fault it might be in Abraham, not to complain to the king. For many a good prince is even bought and sold by his officers and counsellors; as it was said of Aurelian the Emperor, who might know nothing but as they informed him. As of another German prince it was said, Esset alius, si esset apud alios .{ a}


Verse 27

Genesis 21:27 And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech; and both of them made a covenant.

Ver. 27. Abraham took sheep and oxen.] In token of true and hearty reconciliation. Reconciliationes , saith Menander, sunt vulpinae amicitiae . Let it be so among heathens. But we have not so learned Christ.


Verse 28

Genesis 21:28 And Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves.

Ver. 28. By themselves.] Because for a distinct use; nothing concerning the covenant aforementioned.


Verse 29-30

Genesis 21:29 And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What [mean] these seven ewe lambs which thou hast set by themselves?
Genesis 21:30 And he said, For [these] seven ewe lambs shalt thou take of my hand, that they may be a witness unto me, that I have digged this well.

Ver. 29, 30. These seven ewe-lambs.] Wherewith I will buy my peaceable enjoyment of this well, for the future.

That they may be a witness.] A means to prevent contention, which is sooner stirred than stinted. And I have not observed, saith one, that many have been healed by going into troubled waters, though moved by the best angels of the Church.


Verse 31

Genesis 21:31 Wherefore he called that place Beersheba; because there they sware both of them.

Ver. 31. They sware both of them.] Or, they were sworn. The Hebrew is passive ( נשׁבע ). To show that an oath is not rashly to he undertaken, but by a kind of necessity imposed. It comes of a root that signifies to satisfy; because he, to whom we swear, must therewith be contented. An oath is an end of strife, saith the apostle. [Hebrews 6:16] The Greeks call it ορχος ψυασι ερχος, a hedge, which a man may not break.


Verse 32

Genesis 21:32 Thus they made a covenant at Beersheba: then Abimelech rose up, and Phichol the chief captain of his host, and they returned into the land of the Philistines.

Ver. 32. A covenant.] Foedus , παρα το πεποιθεναι (a)


Verse 33

Genesis 21:33 And [Abraham] planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God.

Ver. 33. Abraham planted a grove.] That he might have a private place for prayer and meditation. And thus he improved and employed that recent peace he had made with Ahimelech. Oh that God would once more try us, and trust us with the blessing of peace! How should we now prize it, and praise him for it! Bona a tergo formosissima .


Verse 34

Genesis 21:34 And Abraham sojourned in the Philistines’ land many days.

Ver. 34. Many days.] Twenty-five years at least: for so old was Isaac when he went to be sacrificed. Some halcyons God vouchsafes to his "afflicted, and tossed with tempest"; [Isaiah 54:11] some rest and repose to his poor pilgrims. Laus Deo .

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Genesis 21:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/genesis-21.html. 1865-1868.

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