Verses 9-13 (Genesis 21:9-13)

The casting out of Ishmael is here considered of, and resolved on.

I. Ishmael himself gave the occasion by some affronts he gave to Isaac his little brother, some think on the day that Abraham made the feast for joy that Isaac was safely weaned, which the Jews say was not till he was three years old, others say five. Sarah herself was an eye-witness of the abuse: she saw the son of the Egyptian mocking (Gen. 21:9), mocking Isaac, no doubt, for it is said, with reference to this (Gal. 4:29), that he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit. Ishmael is here called the son of the Egyptian, because, as some think, the 400 years? affliction of the seed of Abraham by the Egyptians began now, and was to be dated hence, Gen. 15:13. She saw him playing with Isaac, so the LXX., and, in play, mocking him. Ishmael was fourteen years older than Isaac; and, when children are together, the elder should be careful and tender of the younger: but it argued a very base and sordid disposition in Ishmael to be abusive to a child that was no way a match for him. Note, 1. 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. 2. Mocking is a great sin, and very provoking to God. 3. There is a rooted remaining enmity in the seed of the serpent against the seed of the woman. The children of promise must expect to be mocked. This is persecution, which those that will live godly must count upon. 4. None are rejected and cast out from God but those who have first deserved it. Ishmael is continued in Abraham?s family till he becomes a disturbance, grief, and scandal to it.

II. Sarah made the motion: Cast out this bond-woman, Gen. 21:10. This seems to be spoken in some heat, yet it is quoted (Gal. 4:30) as if it had been spoken by a spirit of prophecy; and it is the sentence passed on all hypocrites and carnal people, though they have a place and a name in the visible church. All that are born after the flesh and not born again, that rest in the law and reject the gospel promise, shall certainly be cast out. It is made to point particularly at the rejection of the unbelieving Jews, who, though they were the seed of Abraham, yet, because they submitted not to the gospel covenant, were unchurched and disfranchised: and that which, above any thing, provoked God to cast them off was their mocking and persecuting the gospel church, God?s Isaac, in its infancy, 1 Thess. 2:16. Note, There are many who are familiarly conversant with the children of God in this world, and yet shall not partake with them in the inheritance of sons. Ishmael might be Isaac?s play-fellow and school-fellow, yet not his fellow-heir.

III. Abraham was averse to it: The thing was very grievous in Abraham?s sight, Gen. 21:11. 1. It grieved him that Ishmael had given such a provocation. Note, Children ought to consider that the more their parents love them the more they are grieved at their misconduct, and particularly at their quarrels among themselves. 2. It grieved him that Sarah insisted upon such a punishment. ?Might it not suffice to correct him? would nothing less serve than to expel him?? Note, Even the needful extremities which must be used with wicked and incorrigible children are very grievous to tender parents, who cannot thus afflict willingly.

IV. God determined it, Gen. 21:12, 13. We may well suppose Abraham to be greatly agitated about this matter, loth to displease Sarah, and yet loth to expel Ishmael; in this difficulty God tells him what his will is, and then he is satisfied. Note, A good man desires no more in doubtful cases than to know his duty, and what God would have him do; and, when he is clear in this, he is, or should be, easy. To make Abraham so, God sets this matter before him in a true light, and shows him, 1. That the casting out of Ishmael was necessary to the establishment of Isaac in the rights and privileges of the covenant: In Isaac shall thy seed be called. Both Christ and the church must descend from Abraham through the loins of Isaac; this is the entail of the promise upon Isaac, and is quoted by the apostle (Rom. 9:7) to show that not all who come from Abraham?s loins were the heirs of Abraham?s covenant. Isaac, the promised son, must be the father of the promised seed; therefore, ?Away with Ishmael, send him far enough, lest he corrupt the manners or attempt to invade the rights of Isaac.? It will be his security to have his rival banished. The covenant seed of Abraham must be a peculiar people, a people by themselves, from the very first, distinguished, not mingled with those that were out of covenant; for this reason Ishmael must be separated. Abraham was called alone, and so must Isaac be. See Isa. 51:2. It is probable that Sarah little thought of this (John 11:51), but God took what she said, and turned it into an oracle, as afterwards, Gen. 27:10. 2. That the casting out of Ishmael should not be his ruin, Gen. 21:13. He shall be a nation, because he is thy seed. We are not sure that it was his eternal ruin. It is presumption to say that all those who are left out of the external dispensation from all his mercies: those may be saved who are not thus honoured. However, we are sure it was not his temporal ruin. Though he was chased out of the church, he was not chased out of the world. I will make him a nation. Note, (1.) Nations are of God?s making: he founds them, he forms them, he fixes them. (2.) Many are full of the blessings of God?s providence that are strangers to the blessings of his covenant. (3.) The children of this world often fare the better, as to outward things, for their relation to the children of God.

- Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary