Abraham Throws Out His First Son: Genesis 21

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Did you know that Abraham, Godly man that he is, threw out his first son when he had a second? Yes, and God even told him to!

You may remember that back in Genesis 16, Abraham’s wife Sarah, who was too old to bear children, told Abraham to have sex with her slavewoman Hagar and get her pregnant instead. Abraham, always the obedient husband, did as he was told, and Hagar the slavewoman bore Abraham a son named Ishmael.

Now, the Lord visits Sarah and makes her fertile in her old age, so she has a son as well for Abraham, whom they name Isaac. Abraham was getting up there too, being 100 years old when Isaac was born.

Expulsion of Ishmael and his mother - Gustav Dore

A whipped Abraham casts out his firstborn and the lad's mother in this Gustav Dore piece.

Sarah wasn’t too happy with her slave’s son, Ishmael, mocking her son. So, even though the whole thing was her idea in the first place, she tells Abraham to cast out Hagar and Ishmael, so that the slave’s son will never be an heir of Abraham’s alongside (or ahead of) Isaac.

What do you think would be the Godly thing to do? Would you tell Sarah to get over it? Or would you throw your own son and his mother out in the desert?

Abraham didn’t like the idea of giving Ishmael and Hagar the boot; the Bible even says that it was “grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son.” (Gen. 21:11) No concern for the boy’s mother, of course; Hagar was just a slave.

God appeared and told Abraham that he should listen to Sarah and throw the two out, because Isaac was more important . . . but not to worry, because he’d make a nation of Ishmael as well.

So, in the morning, Abraham gave Hagar some bread and water and threw her out into the wilderness.

What, he couldn’t send her with assistance to live with Lot, maybe? Or take her to a town? No, he just put her out in the desert.

Hagar and Ishmael in the wilderness - Gustav Dore

This 19th-Century depiction by Gustave Dore forgets the shrub.

She wandered, lost, until the water was gone, then put her child under a bush so she wouldn’t have to watch him die of thirst.

She cried, and so did the child, and the angel of the Lord came and told her to stop crying, saying God had heard the child and would make a great nation of him. Hagar then noticed a nearby water well.

And Ishmael grew up living in the wilderness, and became an archer.

What lessons have you learned about Godly behavior from this Bible story? Share them in the comments section below!

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