Genesis
1-7 Isaac Is Born 8-21 Abraham Drives out Hagar and Ishmael 22-34 Abraham and Abimelech
Isaac Is Born

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

The son of the promise, the heir, is born “at the appointed time” (verse 22So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him.). God has the right time for everything (Ecc 3:11There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—
). Isaac is a picture of the Lord Jesus, as Abraham is of God the Father. The birth of Isaac is a picture of the introduction of the Firstborn, the Lord Jesus, by God into the world (Heb 1:66And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “And let all the angels of God worship Him.”). God has “put all things in subjection under his feet” (Heb 2:88You have put all things in subjection under his feet.” For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.), He is the true Heir.

An application for our personal lives is that the Lord Jesus can only be “born” in our lives, which means become visible, when the Philistine influences we saw in the previous chapter have been discarded.

Abraham calls his son “Isaac”, as God has said to him (Gen 17:1919But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.). “Isaac” means “laughter” (cf. Psa 126:22Then our mouth was filled with laughter
And our tongue with joyful shouting;
Then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
). Isaac brings joy to Abraham’s family. Thus the Lord Jesus will always give us His joy when He is central to our lives.

By circumcising his son, Abraham places him under the covenant God has made with him and his physical descendants (Gen 17:1-141Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him,
“I am God Almighty;
Walk before Me, and be blameless.
2“I will establish My covenant between Me and you,
And I will multiply you exceedingly.”
3Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying,
4“As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you,
And you will be the father of a multitude of nations.
5“No longer shall your name be called Abram,
But your name shall be Abraham;
For I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.
6I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you.7I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you.8I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”9God said further to Abraham, “Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.10This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised.11And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you.12And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a [servant] who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants.13A [servant] who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.14But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”
). For us Christians, circumcision is a picture of what happened to Christ on the cross (Col 2:1111and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;). Our life as a Christian is only valuable to God if we live from the meaning of the cross. There is the old man crucified with Christ (Rom 6:66knowing this, that our old self was crucified with [Him], in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;). This allows us to keep ourselves dead for sin and alive for God in Christ Jesus (Rom 6:1111Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.).

Sarah recognizes the good hand of God over her life. He has made her son’s name, laughter, a reality for her. She also speaks of her joy being shared by all who will hear of it (cf. Lk 1:5858Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her.). Others will rejoice in this example of God’s power and goodness and will be encouraged to trust in Him (Psa 119:7474May those who fear You see me and be glad,
Because I wait for Your word.
).

At the same time, she expressed her surprise that God was so good for her. Who has ever been able to think that? This wonder about granted grace must also characterize our lives. Why were we chosen by Him to be His children and to rejoice in the Son of His love? It can only be attributed to God’s infinite love.


Abraham Drives out Hagar and Ishmael

8The child grew and was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. 9Now Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking. 10Therefore 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.” 11The matter distressed Abraham greatly because of his son. 12But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the lad and your maid; whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her, for through Isaac your descendants shall be named. 13And of the son of the maid I will make a nation also, because he is your descendant.” 14So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave [them] to Hagar, putting [them] on her shoulder, and [gave her] the boy, and sent her away. And she departed and wandered about in the wilderness of Beersheba. 15When the water in the skin was used up, she left the boy under one of the bushes. 16Then she went and sat down opposite him, about a bowshot away, for she said, “Do not let me see the boy die.” And she sat opposite him, and lifted up her voice and wept. 17God heard the lad crying; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter with you, Hagar? Do not fear, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. 18Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” 19Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water; and she went and filled the skin with water and gave the lad a drink. 20God was with the lad, and he grew; and he lived in the wilderness and became an archer. 21He lived in the wilderness of Paran, and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

After the circumcision comes the phase that starts with being weaned. This indicates that Isaac is becoming independent. He is no longer dependent on his mother’s food, but is now able to take food himself. Herein he also is a picture of the believer who grows towards spiritual independence in order to grow further as an independent believer.

This does not mean that growth takes place separately from others, but from a personal relationship with the Lord. In this growth the help of others will be very much appreciated. Therefore the church is also compared with a body that God has composed in such a way that “the members may have the same care for one another” (1Cor 12:25b25so that there may be no division in the body, but [that] the members may have the same care for one another.).

For faith, this growth is a reason for a celebration. For the law, of which Ishmael is a picture, this is not so. He makes a mockery of it. That Ishmael is a picture of the law and of people who place themselves under the law and want to live accordingly, we see in Galatians 4, where Paul says: “Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. This is allegorically speaking, for these [women] are two covenants: one [proceeding] from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. For it is written, “Rejoice, barren woman who does not bear; Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor; For more numerous are the children of the desolate Than of the one who has a husband.” And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him [who was born] according to the Spirit, so it is now also. But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, For the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman.” So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman” (Gal 4:21-3121Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law?22For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman.23But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise.24This is allegorically speaking, for these [women] are two covenants: one [proceeding] from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar.25Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.26But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother.27For it is written, “Rejoice, barren woman who does not bear; Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor; For more numerous are the children of the desolate Than of the one who has a husband.”28And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise.29But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him [who was born] according to the Spirit, so it is now also.30But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, For the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman.”31So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.).

In this section Paul refers to Isaac and Ishmael and their mothers. He does not mention their names. It is not about their names, but about their positions, because the mothers transfer them to their children. After exposing the position, he points to the origins of both sons. Ishmael is born by Abraham’s own will, but Isaac he receives by a promise from God. The spiritual lessons to be learned by the Galatians and by us are clearly shown in that section.

At the end of that section we see the meaning of expelling Ishmael. That meaning is that what is born after the flesh always persecutes what is born after the Spirit (Gal 4:2929But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him [who was born] according to the Spirit, so it is now also.). Whoever is according to the Spirit and wants to live consistently according to it, will experience persecution from the side of people who want to serve God in their own power. Prosecution is inevitable, because living by faith is one great indictment of any form of religion that highlights one’s own performance.

He who wants to live according to the law, thinks of the things of the flesh and “the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God” (Rom 8:77because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able [to do so],). There is no connection between the flesh and the law on the one hand and the Spirit on the other. Nothing comes from the flesh that can be recognized and accepted and blessed by God. For Abraham all blessings are bound with the son of the promise. In him the offspring is promised and only that offspring receives the promised blessing (Rom 9:77nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “through Isaac your descendants will be named.”; Heb 11:1818[it was he] to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.”). Thus, for man, the blessing of God is linked to faith in Christ, the Son of promise. Unbelief, the flesh, has no part in this.

Therefore Paul concludes the explanation of this history as follows: “But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, For the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman” (Gal 4:3030But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, For the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman.”). The blessing of God can never be obtained through a kind of cooperation of law with grace. Everything that has to do with the law must disappear from the Christian’s life and thought.

It is a hard lesson to acknowledge that there is no place for the flesh. Abraham thinks so too. He does not want to drive out Hagar and Ishmael. God Himself must be involved to convince him of the correctness of Sarah’s decision. Then there is no more delay and Abraham sends Hagar and Ishmael away, after having provided them with the needs for the way.

Hagar represents the law (Gal 4:24-2524This is allegorically speaking, for these [women] are two covenants: one [proceeding] from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar.25Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.). Her son Ishmael is a picture of Israel under the law. This people, who have no connection with the Son of promise, and even mocked and rejected Him, wander, as Hagar and Ishmael wander. But God is going His way with those people.

God hears the voice of the boy. We do not read that Ishmael has spoken a word to God, but he will have cried with his mother, and God has heard this loud crying. The place where he cries is near a well in the desert “Beersheba”. ‘Beersheba’ means ‘well of the oath’. So will God listen to his people when they mourn for the Firstborn, when they see the One Whom they have pierced (Zec 12:10b10“I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.).

Hagar is instructed to lift her son up and hold her hand well. God’s gracious intervention does not mean that man has nothing more to do. She is also promised that her son will become a great nation. After these words, God opens sources of provisions she has not seen before.


Abraham and Abimelech

22Now it came about at that time that Abimelech and Phicol, the commander of his army, spoke to Abraham, saying, “God is with you in all that you do; 23now therefore, swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me or with my offspring or with my posterity, but according to the kindness that I have shown to you, you shall show to me and to the land in which you have sojourned.” 24Abraham said, “I swear it.” 25But Abraham complained to Abimelech because of the well of water which the servants of Abimelech had seized. 26And Abimelech said, “I do not know who has done this thing; you did not tell me, nor did I hear of it until today.” 27Abraham took sheep and oxen and gave them to Abimelech, and the two of them made a covenant. 28Then Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves. 29Abimelech said to Abraham, “What do these seven ewe lambs mean, which you have set by themselves?” 30He said, “You shall take these seven ewe lambs from my hand so that it may be a witness to me, that I dug this well.” 31Therefore he called that place Beersheba, because there the two of them took an oath. 32So they made a covenant at Beersheba; and Abimelech and Phicol, the commander of his army, arose and returned to the land of the Philistines. 33[Abraham] planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God. 34And Abraham sojourned in the land of the Philistines for many days.

Here the relationship between Abraham and Abimelech is completely reversed in comparison with the previous chapter. Abimelech acknowledges that God is with Abraham. This is a picture of what the nations will say in the future, when Israel has become the head of the nations (Zec 8:2323Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”‘“).

A Christian can already get this recognition. If a Christian walks faithfully with God, it will be noticed. This is the result of the ‘driving out’ of the flesh, of not walking as the nations do. When Isaac – in our life: the Lord Jesus – gets its true place, this recognition comes from Abimelech – for us: from the world. However, Abraham is painfully reminded of his failure (verse 2323now therefore, swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me or with my offspring or with my posterity, but according to the kindness that I have shown to you, you shall show to me and to the land in which you have sojourned.”).

Yet, as has been said, the relationship is completely different. Now Abraham reprimands Abimelech for a well and gives gifts to Abimelech. The well is named after the desert Beersheba. The covenant they make with each other is reinforced by a gift from Abraham’s hand. After this Abimelech returns to his country.

Abraham calls upon “the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God”. He expresses the awareness that God is beyond time and that all His promises will be fulfilled, even if there is nothing to be seen yet. That’s why in this belief he plants a tamarisk near Beersheba (‘well of the oath’). With this he indicates, as it were, the border between himself and the Philistines.


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