The Rest of The Story –

God Builds a Nation – Isaac…
But not Ishmael or the sons of Keturah


Genesis 21:1-11
Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 19: Genesis 21:8-21, Hagar expelled
Genesis 21:12-21
Genesis 24:1-16
Genesis 24:50-67
Genesis 25:1-21

More of the Rest of the Story

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Genesis 21:1-11 (8/6/12)

God has a plan to save the world, but it’s difficult – even for God – to do that with only two people on board. Therefore God promises Abraham and Sarah that they will become a mighty nation, countless as the stars. That this promise went to Abraham and Sarah is shown in part by the scripture passages we read this week. When Sarah finally has her own child, she decides to free her slave-girl Hagar and Hagar and Abraham’s son Ishmael (whom Sarah had adopted, see Genesis 16:2 and the comments here.

Sarah had the choice of freeing them or of letting Ishmael inherit along with Isaac. Ishmael, as the firstborn, would probably have received more than Isaac. Sarah would have no part of that, and she insisted that Abraham send them away. The covenant between God and Abraham thus passed to Isaac.


Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 19: Genesis 21:8-21, Hagar expelled (3/26/15)

Have you ever picked up a paperback novel with an interesting cover, only to find (200 pages later) that the cover art was apparently done by someone who had never read the book? All my sons were taller than I am by the time they were 12 or 13, and my 11-year-old granddaughter is already taller than I am. Genesis 16:16 tells us that Abraham was 86 when Ishmael was born, and Genesis 21:5 says he was 100 when Isaac was born. Even if Isaac was weaned early, Ishmael had to be at least 15 years old when Sarah insisted that Abraham free him and his mother Hagar.

So what’s my point? Does that kid look 15 to you, or maybe more like 5? Furthermore, vs. 10 tells us that the driving force in their expulsion was Sarah, and vs. 11 says that the whole situation was “very evil” to Abraham. He even took pains to give Hagar and Ishmael some provisions for the road. Doré’s Abraham, on the other hand, is sternly casting them out, while Sarah huddles behind him with her “poor little victimized baby.” Read for yourself, and when the artist hasn’t read the book, you’ll know.

Previous Step. Next Step.
Abraham expels Hagar. Click to enlarge. See below for provenance.
"Hagar Expelled" by Gustave Doré,
from the Gartin family Bible,
now in the private collection of Regina Hunter.


Genesis 21:12-21 (8/7/12)

There’s a children’s activity song called “Father Abraham,” which has the refrain, “Father Abraham had many sons; many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them, and so are you, so let’s all praise the LORD.” Three of the great world religions descend from the sons of Abraham: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Judaism traces the ancestry of Moses to Abraham’s son Isaac through Isaac’s grandson Levi, and Christianity traces the ancestry of Jesus to Isaac through his grandson Judah. Muslims trace the ancestry of Muhammad to Ishmael, Abraham’s oldest son. All of these people are on the chart.

But for today, let’s think about Ishmael. God promised Hagar that he too, would become a great nation, even though he was not to inherit the covenant made with Abraham.


Genesis 24:1-16 (8/8/12)

God is building a nation of people who will listen to him and be faithful to him. So far there are three people in this nation: Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac. When it comes time for Isaac to marry, the risk of losing the nation through assimilation into the Canaanite culture is very high. Abraham gives his foreman the potentially difficult task of finding Isaac a wife who is not a Canaanite and not unwilling to leave the old country and come to Canaan! One of the greatest dangers facing Christians and Jews is assimilation into the secular culture, so we should all feel some sympathy for Abraham’s position and the foreman’s plight.


Genesis 24:50-67 (8/9/12)

God continued to work with Abraham and his immediate family by leading Abraham’s foreman to the family of Rebekah, Isaac’s first cousin once removed (see the chart). Although we learn much later that Laban has household gods, it’s clear from today’s passage that he at least knew of and had some respect for the God of Abraham. By marrying within the family and by taking up residence in Canaan (which God had promised to Abraham’s descendants), Isaac and Rebekah demonstrate their willingness to continue the covenant relationship with God.


Genesis 25:1-21 (8/10/12)

Another version of “Father Abraham” says “Father Abraham had seven sons.” Actually, he had eight. As Christians and Jews, we claim to be the “children of Abraham,” and most of us know that many Muslims do, too. (Maybe all – I just don’t know much about Islam.) We all know about Isaac and Ishmael and what became of them. How many of us knew that Abraham had six sons by a third wife, Keturah? Abraham gave gifts to these sons during his lifetime, but he reserved the inheritance – and the covenant – for Isaac.


More of The Rest of the Story

Week 1. Beginning of Life As We Know It
Week 1. More on the Beginning of Life As We Know It
Week 2. God Builds a Nation – Abraham … But Not Lot
Week 2. God Builds a Nation – Isaac…But not Ishmael or the sons of Keturah
Week 2. God Builds a Nation – Jacob…But not Esau
Week 3. Joseph Preserves Two Nations
Week 4. Deliverance
Week 4. More on Deliverance
Week 5. New Commands and a New Covenant
Week 6. Wandering
Week 6. More on the Wandering
Week 7. The Battle Begins
Week 8. A Few Good Men...and Women
Week 9. The Faith of a Foreign Woman
Week 10. Standing Tall, Falling Hard
Week 11. From Shepherd to King
Week 12. The Trials of a King
Week 13. The King Who Had It All
Week 14. A Kingdom Torn in Two
Weeks 15 and 16. God's Messengers and The Beginning of the End
Week 17. The Kingdoms' Fall
Jeremiah, Prophet of the Exile
Story 19. The Return Home
Apocalyptic writings in the Old Testament
Story 21. Rebuilding the Walls
Story 22. The Birth of the King
Story 23. Jesus’ Ministry Begins
Story 24. No Ordinary Man
Story 25. Jesus, the Son of God
Story 26. The Hour of Darkness
Story 27. The Resurrection
Story 28. New Beginnings
James, Brother of the Lord
John and Jude
Story 31. The End of Time

Copyright 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved. This page has been prepared for the web site by RPB.

Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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