Bible Commentaries
Genesis 21

Dummelow's Commentary on the BibleDummelow on the Bible

Verses 1-34

Birth of Isaac. Dismissal of Hagar and Ishmael. Covenant between Abraham and Abimelech

8. Weaned] in his second or third year, as is usual among Orientals.

9. Ishmael had no doubt been regarded as Abraham’s heir until the birth of Isaac. The change in his prospects may account for his conduct, which St. Paul uses to illustrate the persecution of the Christians by the Jews (Galatians 4:29). Proud of their natural descent as children of Abraham, the Jews scorned the idea that God could regard others as His spiritual children and allow them to share in their privileges and blessings: see Galatians 3, 4. The story affords painful evidence of the jealousies and unhappiness caused by polygamy.

12. In Isaac shall thy seed be called] i.e. the promises should centre in Isaac.

14. Beer-sheba] 30 m. S. of Hebron.

15. Bottle] (RM ’skin’): made of the skin of a sheep or goat. All openings are sewn up and made watertight with pitch except the neck, which is tied up when the skin is full.

17, 18. Formerly (Genesis 16:7-8) God sought out Hagar to reprove her, and bid her go back upon her course: now He appears to her to comfort her, and supply her needs and those of her child. In both ways, He displays His grace.

19. A miraculous supply of water is not suggested here. God enabled Hagar to see an existing spring of water.

21. Wilderness of Paran] Et-Tih, the country between Canaan and the Peninsula of Sinai. The descendants of Ishmael, Bedouin Arabs, still possess the country. It was the scene of the wanderings of the Israelites: cp. Deuteronomy 1:19; Numbers 10:12.

22-34. Abraham was still living in the neighbourhood of Abimelech, king of Gerar: see Genesis 20. He was now regarded as a chieftain of great importance (cp. Genesis 23:6), and the king here seeks to enter into a covenant of friendship with him. Abraham takes the opportunity to secure his right to a well which he had made. Abimelech acknowledges Abraham to be the rightful possessor by accepting the seven lambs which he offers. The place was henceforth called Beer-sheba, ’well of the seven,’ or ’well of the oath,’ because the covenant had been ratified by the sacred or perfect number seven which was the usual number of things sworn by. Some very ancient wells have been discovered at Beersheba which marks the southern limit of Palestine.

33. A grove] RV ’a tamarisk tree’: see on Genesis 12:6.

Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Genesis 21". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.