Devotional Short Note on Genesis 21


In this chapter Isaac was born and that was when Abraham was 100 years old. Born in 2240 BCE, Abraham was 100 in 2140 BCE. It was after the destruction of Sodom and Gemorrah. Ishmael was now about 14 years old. Lot was living in the surroundings of the mountains. The Dead Sea looked as it is for us today. Abimelech the Amorite was a kind of king, for his people were many near Gerar. They were called “Philistines” in those days (Genesis 21:32) “And they made a covenant at Beer-sheba; and Abimelech rose up, and Phicol the captain of his host, and they returned into the land of the Philistines” = וַיִּכְרְתוּ בְרִית בִּבְאֵר שָׁבַע וַיָּקָם אֲבִימֶלֶךְ וּפִיכֹל שַׂר-צְבָאוֹ וַיָּשֻׁבוּאֶל-אֶרֶץ פְּלִשְׁתִּים. Abimelech was an Amorite, a king at Gerar close to Gaza and after making a covenant with Abraham at Beer-sheba he returned to his kingship “in the land of the Philistines”.

Is this an anachronism of the Philistines that we all know of in the Books of Samuel with Saul and David? Is it the ancestors of these later Philistines? A millennium separates the two groups and they are not related at all. They just share the same jargon. It is not the name of an ethnic group but a mode of living. As traders, as colonialists, as sojourners in nomadic fashion, they came from their own countries, wherever, and squat in a space that is not theirs. Thus, the locals gave them a skelwoord = derogatory name and this name happen to be from a word that means pls “to make level” or plš “to roll oneself, to wallow” or plt “to escape, to flee”. The migrants from Latin-America heading for the USA in November 2018 and the Syrian refugees fleeing to Europe in 2016-2018 from Africa and everywhere, can be viewed as a type given a skelname migrants but also similar words “escapees” from their brutal war-zone and gangster circumstances they were living in. Thus, any nations arriving and settling under such conditions are then “Philistines”.

Even the Philistines in Saul and David’s day were migrants and squatters. They were called by the Egyptians in Merneptah’s day pw-r’-s’-ty “feathered headdress” and since the Egyptians do not have a sign to distinguish the /p/ and the /f/, it is clear that the name is not Philistines but Pilistines. Also the Egyptians used the /r/ where we would read an /l/.

From the conception of Sarah (Genesis 21:2) to the birth of Isaac is a time period of 9 months and then when Isaac was born in 2140 BCE another time period continued until he was weaned (Genesis 21:8).

Moses is skipping a lot of detail in his Book of the Patriarchs vellums in scrolls from which he was citing for his excerpts in the Book of Genesis. One can see the patches by Moses of separate combined stringing of cut and paste paragraphs. If Isaac was weaned about two years later in 2138 BCE that was the time for the feast and the time Hagar was laughing at Sarah. That would make Ishmael 16 years old at the scorning of Sarah (Genesis 21:9-11).

Many people have an image of Hagar holding her baby and the harsh words of Sarah “'Cast out this bondwoman and her son” = גָּרֵשׁ הָאָמָה הַזֹּאת, וְאֶת-בְּנָהּ (Genesis 21:10). The root of the word is sometimes used even by Moses in his other books meaning a public space shared outside a city. That is for the word “cast out” = גָּרֵשׁ. One should look in an Ebla tablets Word List whether the word ga-ra-šu(m) appears that early in the times of Abraham or the times of Jacob and Joseph. If Moses, who could speak Middle Egyptian fluently, had in his mental dictionary the sounds k3rs = “to skip, to jump” in mind, then one can also think that it is a loanword meaning from Egyptian and Sarah is saying to Abraham not to “cast out” Hagar but to “skip” her and her son in the memory for inheritance.

In Genesis 21:14 it was not Ishmael that was put on the shoulder of Hagar but the bread and bottle of water that was put on the shoulder of Hagar was also put on her 16 year old son.

When they left to Beersheba and it was very hot, they became depressed. Then Hagar “cast the child under one of the shrubs” = וַתַּשְׁלֵךְ אֶת-הַיֶּלֶד תַּחַת אַחַד הַשִּׂיחִם (Genesis 21:15). The word for this action of casting down is the same that God did to Satan in Ezechiel 28:17 “ I have cast you to the ground” עַל-אֶרֶץ הִשְׁלַכְתִּיךָ. A boy of 16 years old can also be cast down to the ground by his mother for God cast a full grown out of heaven. Especially if Ishmael is stressed, rebellious, angry, grumbling and out of desperation and confusion she pushed him to the ground. It is not a baby thrown in a garbage box and deserted by the mother. He fell asleep and the action is very common in disputes and stress endured by Koreans in South Korea today. He doesn’t resist or react to his mother but succumbed to her physical anger by saying nothing and just falling asleep. They were very exhausted so she expected them to die “'Let me not look upon the death of the child” (Genesis 21:16).

A very nice idiom used by Moses is that Hagar went as far as one can shoot with a bow and arrow. About 20 meters or 30 meters from the child.

Ishmael missed his friends and other relations where he was when they were with Abraham. He sobbed for the text reads “And God heard the voice of the lad” = וַיִּשְׁמַע אֱלֹהִים אֶת-קוֹל הַנַּעַר (Genesis 21:17). He may even have had a girlfriend already there.

The separation between mother and son is dramatically portrayed in a healing of relations scene by Moses: “Arise, lift up the young man, and hold fast upon him by your hand” = קוּמִי שְׂאִי אֶת-הַנַּעַר וְהַחֲזִיקִי אֶת-יָדֵךְ בּוֹ (Genesis 21:18). Gestures count in the Ancient Near East. A simple strong grip means a lot and meaning is interchanged between mother and child. It is common in Asia. It has nothing to do with a little baby or a little cry-child.

Moses then ended this excerpt by saying in broad detail what happened to the mother and Ishmael in Paran and how she eventually allowed him to marry an Egyptian woman as they lived in the Wilderness of Paran.

Moses then started another excerpt unrelated to the previous anecdote about Hagar and Ishmael in Genesis 21:22-32. It is the covenant with Abimelech, the digging of a well, the payment to Abimelech for it, the swearing ceremony and planting of a tamarisk tree.


Dear God

Abraham had his time of separation of his son and other relations with society of those days. But through all the stress and turns You were there for Him to direct him. Also us our Lord we pray. In Jesus Name, Amen.