Genesis 21:1-21 “Birth of Isaac ”

Posted on May 16, 2010. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

Redeemer Church Sunday School- Genesis Class

Genesis 21:1-21 “Birth of Isaac ”

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bryan E. Walker

Read- Genesis 21:1-21

21:1 The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised. 2 And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. 3 Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac.  4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6 And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.” 7 And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

8 And the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. 9 But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, laughing.  10 So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.” 11 And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account of his son. 12 But God said to Abraham, “Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named. 13 And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring.” 14 So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.

15 When the water in the skin was gone, she put the child under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, “Let me not look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. 17 And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. 18 Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” 19 Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. 20 And God was with the boy, and he grew up. He lived in the wilderness and became an expert with the bow. 21 He lived in the wilderness of Paran, and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.





  1. I.                   Literary Analysis- Chiastic Structure- The Big Picture

A-    God’s Choice of the younger Son, Isaac 21:1-19

Family feud, Sarah sends out older son, Sarah appeals to Abraham, blessing given to banished son

B-Non-elect Ishmael marries foreign women (a broader theme in Pentateuch          and into Solomon’s time, Nehemiah), etc 21:20-21.

           C- More Strife with Abimelech over a well 21:22-34

                Treaty at Beersheba w/Abimelech and Phicol, Sarah not taken by  

                 Abimelech, naming Beersheba

                 D- Total commitment to the Covenant 22:1-19

                       Abraham willing to sacrifice Isaac for the Covenant

                       E- Genealogy of the non-elect Nahor 22:20-24

                            F- Death of Sarah 23:1-20

                                 G- CENTER- God chooses Rebekah as Isaac’s wife 24:1-67

                            F1-Death of Abraham, second wife, burial 25:1-10

                        E1- Genealogy of the non-elect Ishmael’s family 25:11-18

                  D1- Esau scorns the Covenant 25:19-34

             C1- More Strife with Abimelech over a well 26:1-33

                     Treaty at Beersheba, w/Abimelech and Phicol, Rebecca taken by   

          Abimelech, naming Beersheba

              B1- Non-elect Esau marries foreign women 26:34-35

        A1-  God’s Choice of the younger Son, Jacob 27:1-28:4

                Family feud, Rebecca sends out younger son, Rebecca appeals to Isaac,     

                 blessing given to banished son 

  1. II.                Literary Analysis- Outline, key words and theme
    1. A.      The Birth of Isaac 21:1-7
      1. God’s Word is Fulfilled in the Birth of Isaac vv. 1-2
      2. Abraham Obeys God by Naming Him Isaac vv. 3 
      3. Abraham Obeys God by Circumcising Isaac v .4
      4. Abraham’s Age v.5
      5. Sarah’s Joy vv. 6-7
      6. B.      Departure of Hagar and Ishmael 21:8-21
        1. Isaac is weaned v. 8
        2. Family Feud, vv9-10
        3. Abraham’s pain v.11
        4. God’s reassurance vv. 12-13
        5. Hagar and Ishmael sent away v.14
        6. At the point of death vv.15-16
        7. Angel of God speaks to Hagar again vv.17-18
        8. God opens her eyes v.19
        9. God blesses yet he takes a foreign wife v. 20-21
      7. C.      Key Words and Themes
        1. After all the tension from 11:30 on about Sarah being barren, you would think the birth narrative of Isaac would be a bigger deal. It gets 7 verses. But it is not so much the birth of Isaac that is the big deal, it is God’s covenant that is big, and in chapter 22, Abraham’s faith is tested to the limits as he is asked to sacrifice Isaac, there is the climax of the story.
        2. Again we will see the family strife/conflict theme that goes back to Cain and Abel as Ishmael laughs at (mocks) little Isaac. This takes on a mega theme as even today the descendants of Ishmael mock and attack the Jews.
        3. Related to #2 above is the Threat Theme. From Sarah’s initial barrenness and Abraham’s age, to the drought and Pharaoh, Lot, the kings of the East, etc. threats have plagued Abraham and Sarah in regards to the promise of God made in 12:1-3.
        4. The Key Word is the Heb. sahaq – to laugh. It shows up 6 times in these 21 verses, 5 times in vss.1-7 playing off of Isaac’s name and then in vs.9 as Ishmael mocks, laughs at, Isaac, thus setting off the strife leading to his banishment.
        5. Nowhere in the passage is Ishmael’s name actually used, thus signaling he is not elect. Look at how he is referred to in every verse except 21. (Notice the same literary device is used by Jesus in this morning’s sermon text, Luke 16:19-31 as the rich guy is never named, yet Lazarus is named). Now look at Rev. 20:15.
        6. Waltke writes, p292, “Abraham’s natural and supernatural seed both experience God’s testing and blessing. Hagar and Ishmael’s rugged trek has striking parallels to the challenge Abraham and Isaac will have to face: (i) journey into the unknown at the command of the Lord; (ii) provision for the journey; (iii) child at the point of death; (iv) intervention of God’s messenger; (v) parent’s sighting of the way out; and (vi) promise of future blessing. Abraham must relinquish his natural seed in order to embrace God’s supernatural promises. Yet even as God initiates an extraordinary future for the supernatural seed, he directs the destiny of the natural seed.”
        7. Question: God promised to bless Ishmael numerous times in this Abraham narrative, even though he is portrayed as a non-elect son. Historically now we can see the blessings of God upon the Arabs, Ishmael’s descendents, and upon the muslims. They are now numerous, many are crazy rich from oil, and they are powerful. They are still hating the Jews, descendants of Isaac, and us, the spiritual heirs of Abraham. Why has God blessed them if it is creating such worldwide turmoil? Why are they blessed when they are so abusive of women and so cruel? Could it be that God has a big role for the descendants of Ishmael to play? Might they not be the instigators of a world wide crisis that could bring on the Second Coming of Christ? Should we oppose them?


  1. III.             Exposition- Vss.1-7
    1. A.      Laughter
      1. As I said earlier, the Heb. for laughter is a key word in this text because Isaac’s very name is built upon that word. We have seen earlier in our studies that the promise of offspring for Abraham goes back to 12:1-3 but the promise of a son is greeted with laughter in recent days Abraham and Sarah had greeted the Lord’s specific promise with laughter. 17:17-19; 18:9-15. Those two occasions the laughter was half believing/joy and half cynical. But the Lord worked a miracle in their bodies even to the extent that Sarah was so beautiful at 90yrs of age Abimelech desired her for his harem. But back in 17 the Lord had promised Abraham a son and, since Abraham laughed, he was to name him Laughter, Isaac.
      2. In 21:6-7 we see Sarah’s laughter is rooted in the joy of seeing God’s promises kept. God accomplished what he had promised. She was full of joy at the miracle. Finally, she was a mom and others would laugh for joy with her.
      3. B.      God’s Word
        1. There is an overwhelming emphasis in this text on God’s Word. Look at v.1 “as he had said”…”as he had promised”. V. 2 “God had spoken to him.” V.4 “as God had commanded him”. The point here is not so much that “Oh how nice, this older couple finally had a baby” The point is that it is God who saves, God who is the author of life, God who keeps his Promises, God who is working through Abraham and Sarah not just for their benefit but for his glory as he accomplishes his purposes and his great plan of Redemption. God’s plans were so much bigger than just Abraham and Sarah, and yet he chose to include them in his plans, grant them a miracle and give them unspeakable joy along the way after decades of sorrow in this matter. Our salvation is not just about us, it is always first and foremost about God’s plan, God’s will, God’s glory. That is where our deepest joys ought to rooted.
        2. One source of Abraham and Sarah’s joy was in discovering that God is faithful to keep his promises. His Word holds sure. Abraham and Sarah had times of great faith and times of  “Well… this isn’t working so let’s try this!”  But God is faithful even when we aen’t! Amen?
        3. Another source of this couple’s great joy is that they learned God can work miracles. They were past the age of child bearing yet God allowed them to conceive. Back in 18:14 God had said, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” And now they know it’s true! What joy! Look at how the miracle is stressed in the text: vs.2 “Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age” vs.5 “Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born” Vs.7 “I have born him a son in his old age.”
        4. When I look around at our country and see how badly things have gone for the last 40 yrs, how we have become a godless, socialist state on the verge of economic collapse, I see the need for a miracle of God’s grace. It appears as if it is too late to save the Republic. But God can work miracles. God can send a great awakening. He has done it before.
        5. God can do a great work in your life, and mine. It is not too late to pull us out of spiritual mediocrity.
        6. But notice that the miracle for Abraham and Sarah did indeed take decades. It was a long wait. They needed patience. They did not ever give up and go worshiping false gods of the land. They stayed the course. We have to have the faith that will persevere over the long haul. God has his own timetable and in fact sometimes tells us no.
      4. C.      Isaac and Jesus
        1. Isaac is a type of Jesus in several ways. First he was a “promised seed”. Jesus was first promised back in Gen. 3:15; and again in Isaiah 7:14 and scores of other OT prophecies. Then there was the delay between the promise and the birth that required great faith and hope. In both the promise and birth of Isaac and Jesus there was a physical miracle that was needed to overcome a natural problem. In Sarah’s case it was age and barrenness  but in Mary’s case it was her virginity.  Luke 1:34,37. Both Isaac and Jesus were assigned names prior to the birth by God. Both births occurred at the “appointed time”  Gen.17:21; 18:10,14; 21:2 and Gal.4:4. And there is the theme of joy/laughter at the births of each Lk.1:46f; 2:10-11.
      5. D.      Isaac’s Birth and You
        1. Rom.4:18-25 Just as the birth of Isaac was miraculous because his body was as good as dead and Sarah was old and barren, so too, are we dead in our trespasses and sins , Eph 2:1, and unable to cause ourselves to be born again. See John 3:3ff.



James Montgomery Boice, Genesis: an Expositional Commentary, Vol.2, Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI 1985 (pp.194-199)

Bruce K. Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary, Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI 2001 (pp.289-294).

Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Obedient- Learning the Secret of Living By Faith, SP Publications: Wheaton, Ill. 1991 (pp.97-106).



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