Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible
back to: Genesis
Book: Genesis
Chapter: 21

Birth of Isaac, Sarah's joy. (1-8) Ishmael mocks Isaac. (9-13)
Hagar and Ishmael are cast forth, They are relieved and
comforted By an Angel. (14-21) Abimelech's Covenant with
Abraham. (22-34)

1-8 Few under the Old Testament were brought into the world
with such expectations as Isaac. He was in this a Type of
Christ, that Seed which the holy God So long promised, and holy
men So long expected. He was born according to the promise, at
the set time of which God had spoken. God's promised mercies
will certainly come at the time which He sets, and that is the
best time. Isaac means "laughter," and there was good reason for
the name, ch. 17:17; 18:13. When the Sun of comfort is risen
upon the soul, it is good to remember how welcome the dawning of
the Day was. When Sarah received the promise, she laughed with
distrust and doubt. When God gives us the mercies we began to
despair of, we ought to remember with sorrow and shame our
sinful distrust of his power and promise, when we were in
pursuit of them. This Mercy filled Sarah with joy and wonder.
God's favours to his Covenant people are such as surpass their
own and others' thoughts and expectations: who could imagine
that he should do So much for those that deserve So little, nay,
for those that deserve So ill? Who would have said that God
should send his Son to die for us, his Spirit to make us holy,
his angels to attend us? Who would have said that such great
sins should be pardoned, such mean services accepted, and such
worthless worms taken into Covenant? A short account of Isaac's
infancy is given. God's blessing upon the nursing of children,
and the preservation of them through the perils of the infant
Age, are to be acknowledged as signal instances of the care and
tenderness of the Divine Providence. See Ps 22:9,10; Ho

9-13 Let us not overlook the manner in which this family matter
instructs us not to Rest in outward privileges, or in our own
doings. And let us seek the blessings of the new Covenant By
Faith in its Divine Surety. Ishmael's conduct was Persecution,
being done in profane contempt of the Covenant and promise, and
with malice against Isaac. God takes notice of what children say
and do in their play; and will reckon with them, if they say or
do amiss, though their parents do not. Mocking is a great Sin,
and very provoking to God. And the children of promise must
expect to be mocked. Abraham was grieved that Ishmael should
misbehave, and Sarah demand So severe a Punishment. But God
showed him that Isaac must be the Father of the promised Seed;
therefore, send Ishmael away, lest he corrupt the manners, or
try to take the rights of Isaac. The Covenant seed of Abraham
must be a people By themselves, not mingled with those who were
out of Covenant: Sarah little thought of this; but God turned
aright what she said.

14-21 If Hagar and Ishmael had behaved Well in Abraham's
family, they might have continued there; but they were justly
punished. By abusing privileges, we forfeit them. Those who know
not when they are Well off, will be made to know the worth of
mercies By the want of them. They were brought to distress in
the Wilderness. It is not said that the provisions were spent,
or that Abraham sent them away without Money. But the water was
spent; and having lost their way, in that hot climate Ishmael
was soon overcome with fatigue and thirst. God's readiness to
help us when we are in trouble, must not slacken, but quicken
our endeavours to help ourselves. The promise concerning her son
is repeated, as a reason why Hagar should bestir herself to help
him. It should engage our care and pains about children and
young people, to consider that we know not what great use God
has designed them for, and may make of them. The Angel directs
her to a present supply. Many who have reason to be comforted,
go mourning from Day to Day, because they do not see the reason
they have for comfort. There is a Well of water near them in the
Covenant of Grace, but they are not aware of it, till the same
God that opened their eyes to see their wound, opens them to see
their remedy. Paran was a wild place, fit for a wild Man; such
as Ishmael. Those who are born after the Flesh, take up with the
Wilderness of this world, while the children of the promise aim
at the heavenly Canaan, and cannot be at Rest till they are
there. Yet God was with the lad; his outward welfare was owing
to this.

22-34 Abimelech felt sure that the promises of God would be
fulfilled to Abraham. It is Wise to connect ourselves with those
who are blessed of God; and we ought to requite kindness to
those who have been kind to us. Wells of water are scarce and
valuable in eastern countries. Abraham took care to have his
title to the Well allowed, to prevent disputes in future. No
more can be expected from an honest Man than that he be ready to
do right, as soon as he knows he has done wrong. Abraham, being
now in a good neighbourhood, stayed a great while there. There
he made, not only a constant practice, but an open profession of
his religion. There he called On the name of the Lord, as the
Everlasting God; probably in the Grove he planted, which was his
place of Prayer. Abraham kept up public Worship, in which his
neighbours might join. Good men should do all they can to make
others So. Wherever we sojourn, we must neither neglect nor be
ashamed of the Worship of Jehovah.