Devotionals Archive

Daybreak: Genesis 21:8-34

Sep 09, 2021

“And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.” (Genesis 21:19)

About forty years ago, a lady in our church was widowed when her three children were young. In time, taxes were due on her house and her car transmission needed repair, and she did not have enough money for either one. One morning as she left her house to catch a bus to work, she noticed an envelope on the ground just outside her front door. She hurriedly picked it up and, seeing that it was addressed to her, put it into her purse. Then, realizing that the children had probably dropped it when they brought in the mail the previous evening, she pulled the envelope back out and opened it as she walked. Inside were seven $50 bills! She was so astonished that she almost dropped it. The money had been folded inside a small note card that said simply, “Jesus loves you, and we do too!” That money was enough to finish paying the taxes and get the transmission repaired. 

God was watching out for His child, and He is ever mindful of His own. In today’s text, Hagar and Ishmael had been sent away from Abraham’s home with bread and water, and they went into the desert. When their provisions were gone, it seemed that death was imminent, but God heard the boy’s cry. Deliverance came — as the focus verse says, Hagar saw a well and they were sustained. 

When we face life’s difficulties and it seems there is no solution, we can look to God. Our circumstances have not escaped His notice. He cares about each one of us just as He cared about this widow, and Hagar and Ishmael. The answer will probably not come for us in the same way it did for them, but God will come through. We will find Him to be a very present help. As we serve Him day by day, He will sustain us and be our comfort and strength. We can cry out to Him with any need, and trust Him to answer our prayers. 


This segment of Genesis 21 covers two key events in Abraham’s life: the separation from Hagar and Ishmael, and his covenant with Abimelech.

Ishmael, Abraham’s son by Hagar the Egyptian handmaid, was fourteen years old when Isaac was born (see Genesis 16:16 and 21:5). Scholars believe that Isaac may have been three years old when he was weaned, which would mean that Ishmael was about seventeen at the time of the events in today’s text. A celebration feast at the time of weaning was a common practice. In the course of the celebration for Isaac, Ishmael “mocked” the child, apparently with spiteful intent (see Galatians 4:29). 

Until Isaac’s birth, Ishmael had been Abraham’s heir and would have led the family upon Abraham’s death. In Abraham’s culture, as the son of a bondwoman, Ishmael forfeited that position to Isaac, who was the son of Abraham’s wife. Sarah referenced this custom in verse 10 and, angry at Ishmael’s mocking, demanded that Hagar and Ishmael be cast out. This was grievous to Abraham because he loved Ishmael, and in their culture both boys would have been reared under his care. God settled the matter with a reminder that the covenant would be fulfilled in Isaac. Though Hagar and Ishmael were to leave the family, God promised Abraham that a great nation would come from Ishmael.

Abraham obeyed, and after giving Ishmael and Hagar provisions, sent them away. They went to the wilderness of Beersheba, which was south of Hebron. When their supplies were gone, it appeared that Ishmael would die, but the angel of God directed Hagar toward a well and stated God’s promise that Ishmael would become a great nation. 

In time, Ishmael dwelt in the wilderness of Paran, which was further south toward what is the Gulf of Aqaba today, and Hagar “took him a wife out of the land of Egypt” (verse 21).

Verses 22-33 tell of Abraham’s covenant with Abimelech. Because both men had flocks and herds, grazing areas and water privileges could be a source of conflict. Abimelech suggested an agreement, and Abraham took the opportunity to resolve the issue regarding ownership of the well at Beersheba. He gave Abimelech seven ewe lambs as a witness to the fact that he had dug that well. The name Beersheba means “well of seven” or “well of swearing.” Abraham spent much time in that vicinity, which was in the southern part of Canaan. 

Amplified Outline

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines – Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II.   The early history of the chosen race 
      B.   Isaac 
            2.   The expulsion of Ishmael (21:8-21)
            3.   The pact with Abimelech (21:22-34)

A Closer Look

  1. Why was it necessary for Hagar and Ishmael to leave Abraham’s house?
  2. What did Abimelech’s request show about Abraham’s testimony?
  3. How can we exhibit faith in God when we find ourselves in unpleasant circumstances? 


God is watching out for us, and we can rely upon Him to bring us through whatever challenges we experience.

Reference Materials