Genesis 21:14–21

2114 Abraham rose early in the morning, took some bread and a skin of water, and gave them to Hagar—placing them on her shoulder. He gave her the child and sent her away.
     She left and wandered through the wilderness of Beer-Sheba. 15 When the water in the skin ran out, she flung the child under one of the bushes 16 and went away from him to sit a bowshot away. She thought, “I can’t see the child die.” She sat at a distance and raised a cry and wept.
     17 God heard the lad’s cry, and God’s messenger called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the lad’s voice where he is. 18 Rise, lift the lad, and grasp his hand for I will make a great nation from him.” 19 God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. She went, filled the water skin, and gave the lad a drink. 20 God was with the lad; he grew up, settled in the desert, and became an expert archer. 21 He lived in the wilderness of Paran, and his mother found him a wife from Egypt.

Sarah says, “Send her away!” G*D says, “Do as Sarah says.” With this double set of instructions running against Abraham’s own sense, he sends Hagar and Ishmael off with a picnic basket of food and water to face the Negeb wilderness. It should be noted that Ishmael is in his mid-teens at this point.

When the initial supplies have been consumed, and a thirst rose that could not be slaked, Hagar abandons Ishmael under a shading bush and goes to sit under another bush at some distance so she need not watch Ishmael’s death by dehydration. There she waters the soil with the last of her tears.

It is reported that G*D hears the cry of the “lad” even as the cry of Sodom was heard. Why Hagar’s cry is not noted, remains a mystery but rings of patriarchy. Note: “Lad” will also be a later designation of Isaac when bound by Abraham.

When Sodom’s cry was heard, G*D engaged Abraham; when Ishmael is heard, Hagar is engaged. A two-fold involvement began with a rhetorical question, “What’s up, Hagar?” and was followed by directions to rise, return to Ishmael, and to hold him by the hand for he will be the founder of a great nation. How is such positive thinking going to help? Is this adding insult to dying teen?

Either under her bush or while holding Ishmael’s hand, Hagar opened her eyes and saw what wasn’t there before or what she couldn’t see before—a well of water. Readers may remember Hagar’s previous well of Beer-Lahai-Roi, where she was seen and now when Ishmael is heard. Wells are a recurring motif of renewal and worth noting as they come along.

For whatever reason, when the waterskin from Abraham was empty, it was not abandoned in the disillusion of dehydration. Hagar refills the skin and revives Ishmael.So it was that Ishmael survived the wilderness and it became his home. Along the way, Ishmael became known as a hunter of all within a bowshot. Eventually, Hagar arranged for a wife for Ishmael from her Egyptian heritage (anticipating Abraham’s arrangement for Isaac to have a wife from his ancestral family in Mesopotamia). 

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