Eternity Daily Bible Study

The Life Of Abraham

Number: 572

Verses: Genesis 21:8-13

Topic: Ishmael Is Cast Out

Date: 23rd February 2006


Genesis 21:8-13 MKJV And the child grew and was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast the day that Isaac was weaned.  (9)  And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian (whom she had borne to Abraham) mocking.  (10)  And she said to Abraham, Cast out this slave woman and her son. For the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son, with Isaac.  (11)  And the thing was very evil in Abraham's sight, because of his son.  (12)  And God said to Abraham, Let it not be grievous in your sight because of the boy and because of your slave woman. In all that Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice. For in Isaac your Seed shall be called.  (13)  And also, I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman, because he is your seed.


Abraham ends up divorcing Hagar and expelling Ishmael – things that were totally against his nature and instincts and his love for the boy, but which nevertheless were from God. That which was “very evil in Abraham's sight” was yet of God.


Sarah would have made it impossible for Hagar and Ishmael to stay. The two could not live under the same roof. There was no choice, Hagar would have to go. And Abraham disliked the idea utterly for he was a kind and compassionate man who seems to have abhorred such conflict.


Life has some shocks and surprises, and sometimes the very things that displease us, are yet from the hand of the Lord. For instance, a parent may ban a child from going to bible college, and that young student may obediently take some other course, which in time turns out to be used by God. When life blocks our way, with great intransigence, and we can do nothing about it, then we have to trust that somehow it is from the Lord.


Just yesterday I found that a small mission agency I had founded in another nation, and funded, and put much work into, had been dissolved by the national board members - without consulting me. Initially I was deeply disappointed but then what could I do? It was over, it was God telling me to “move on” from there - and so I will. Somehow it will prove to be for the better!  God does not always do that which we like!


Ishmael was to be rejected from the direct Abrahamic inheritance, but yet Ishmael was to be blessed and also made into a great nation, but the line of Ishmael would not be the line that would lead to the Messiah! This was not total rejection, it was simply second place. The gold medal would not be shared by Isaac and Ishmael – instead Ishmael would have to take the silver medal instead. The “gold” would go to Isaac, and now Ishmael's descendants are the Arab peoples – a numerous and great nation indeed.


In Galatians Paul sees in this incident a parallel between Christians and Jews. Christians are born into freedom – and thus are Isaac, while the Jews are born into the bondage of the Law – and thus are of Ishmael spiritually! This must have deeply offended any legalistic Jewish readers!


Galatians 4:21-31 MKJV Tell me, those desiring to be under Law, do you not hear the Law?  (22)  For it is written: Abraham had two sons, the one out of the slave-woman, and one out of the free woman.  (23)  But, indeed, he out of the slave-woman has been born according to flesh, and he out of the free woman through the promise; (24) which things are being allegorized; for these are the two covenants, one indeed from Mount Sinai bringing forth to slavery, which is Hagar.  (25)  For Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and answers to Jerusalem which now is, and is in slavery with her children.  (26)  But the Jerusalem from above is free, who is the mother of us all.  (27)  For it is written, "Rejoice, barren one not bearing; break forth and shout, you not travailing; for more are the children of the desolate than she having the husband."  (28)  But brothers, we, like Isaac, are children of promise.  (29)  But then even as he born according to flesh persecuted him born according to the Spirit, so it is also now.  (30)  But what does the Scripture say? "Cast out the slave-woman and her son; for in no way shall the son of the slave-woman inherit with the son of the free woman."  (31)  Then, brothers, we are not children of a slave-woman, but of the free woman.


Christians are the “Isaac” - the children of miracle and promise and freedom and inheritance, while those bound up in legalism and old religious traditions are Ishmael and are “in bondage” and “of the flesh” trying to please God in their own strength, pride and willpower – which simply cannot be done. Paul tells us that we are a heavenly people “from the Jerusalem above” and citizens of heaven. We are not tied to the physical earthly Jerusalem below and to priests and temples and human ordinances.


Ishmael who was “of the flesh” taunted and persecuted Isaac who was “of promise / of the Spirit” and so legalists (and Jews in NT times) will always persecute those who have the freedom of the Holy Spirit. (29)  But then even as he born according to flesh persecuted him born according to the Spirit, so it is also now.  Thus “control freaks” in religious circles have always opposed outbreaks of revival!


The Scriptural remedy proposed by Paul is harsh - “But what does the Scripture say? "Cast out the slave-woman and her son; for in no way shall the son of the slave-woman inherit with the son of the free woman." In other words, the legalists need to be “cast out” - though often the reverse happens and those how have the Spirit are ejected from the denomination.  Just as Christianity had to leave Judaism, so those with the Spirit have to part ways with those of the Law. Ishmael and Isaac cannot dwell together though many old wise Abraham's wish that they could.


But the inheritance is through the Isaac, that is the future and the path to glory. Now i do not wish to promote schism here, but simply to point out a powerful and often recurring spiritual reality – that fleshly mocking legalism and real Holy Spirit of promise gospel living, cannot abide long together. Once the new movement comes of age, and is “weaned” then the separation will occur, just as when the early church started to come of age, it was cast out of Judaism by the Sanhedrin. New movements may begin in old structures but they do not long abide therein.








John Edmiston (



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