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Chapter 21

Birth of Isaac.[a] The Lord took note of Sarah as he had said he would; the Lord did for her as he had promised.(A) Sarah became pregnant and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time that God had stated.(B) Abraham gave the name Isaac to this son of his whom Sarah bore him.(C) When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God had commanded.(D) Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Sarah then said, “God has given me cause to laugh,[b] and all who hear of it will laugh with me.(E) Who would ever have told Abraham,” she added, “that Sarah would nurse children! Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

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  1. 21:1–21 The long-awaited birth of Isaac parallels the birth of Ishmael in chap. 16, precipitating a rivalry and expulsion as in that chapter. Though this chapter is unified, the focus of vv. 1–7 is exclusively on Sarah and Isaac, and the focus of vv. 8–21 is exclusively on Hagar and Ishmael. The promise of a son to the barren Sarah and elderly Abraham has been central to the previous chapters and now that promise comes true with the birth of Isaac. The other great promise, that of land, will be resolved, at least in an anticipatory way, in Abraham’s purchase of the cave at Machpelah in chap. 23. The parallel births of the two boys has influenced the Lucan birth narratives of John the Baptist and Jesus (Lk 1–2).
  2. 21:6 Laugh: for the third time (cf. 17:17 and 18:12) there is laughter, playing on the similarity in Hebrew between the pronunciation of the name Isaac and words associated with laughter.