Genesis 21:8–13

218 The child grew and was weaned. Abraham prepared a great feast on the day Isaac was weaned. 9 Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, laughing. 10 And she said to Abraham, “Drive out this slave-woman and her son! This slave-woman’s son shall not share inheritance with my son, with Isaac.”
     11 This is terribly bad in Abraham’s eyes because the boy was his son. 12 God said to Abraham, “Do not let it be evil in your eyes about the boy and the slave-woman. Whatever Sarah says, listen to her voice, for through Isaac shall your seed be called by your name. 13 I will make the son of the slave-woman into a great nation, too, because he is also your seed.”

After Isaac’s birth and nursing came growing and weaning and time to celebrate making it through a dangerous time of life. In concise form, we go from Sarah’s fear of being laughed at to her interpretation of Ishmael’s laughter as laughter at her or a claim of birthright. Whether that was Ishmael’s meaning or Sarah’s fear or lack of trust in a promise about Isaac will not be known.

There, in the middle of a celebration, community falls apart as languages or meanings are confused. The immediate response is Sarah’s—“Send my mocker away!” This response has been building for a while. Sarah desires that her victory of a son never falls into question and is a significant part of the scene.

The question of inheritance, of substance, is yet another attempt to guarantee a promise made by another. This demand is as transparent as placing Hagar on Abram’s lap—forcing G*D’s hand (similar to Christian Zionists attempting to force Jesus to return). There will be no question of inheritance—only Isaac will be the start of the main branch in Abram’s family tree.

Sarah’s solution is not understood by Abraham. It is not that Abraham has any greater trust in YHWH, but he does have years of experience with Ishmael as his only son. Abraham sees Sarah’s demand as “evil.”

Immediately we find a bargaining G*D back at it with Abraham in the reversed role of arguing against a judgment of evil or offense.

The laughter of Ishmael, like it or not, is a discount of Sarah and a usurping of Isaac as the genuine laughter of G*D. As a result, G*D supports Sarah’s decision, separating individual persons from doctrinal and tribal judgments.

Whatever innocence Ishmael may claim, he is an analog of Sodom. Through some yet unspecified method, Ishmael will be the father of a nation, even as Lot became the father of two nations through the unorthodox route of incest.To claim one is called or named is to run headlong into decisions that never measure up to the fullness of mercy and justice—privilege always makes itself known.

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