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The Birth of Ishmael

16 Now Sarai,[a] Abram’s wife, had not given birth to any children,[b] but she had an Egyptian servant[c] named Hagar.[d] So Sarai said to Abram, “Since[e] the Lord has prevented me from having children, please sleep with[f] my servant. Perhaps I can have a family by her.”[g] Abram did what[h] Sarai told him.

So after Abram had lived[i] in Canaan for ten years, Sarai, Abram’s wife, gave Hagar, her Egyptian servant,[j] to her husband to be his wife.[k] He slept with[l] Hagar, and she became pregnant.[m] Once Hagar realized she was pregnant, she despised Sarai.[n] Then Sarai said to Abram, “You have brought this wrong on me![o] I gave my servant into your embrace,[p] but when she realized[q] that she was pregnant, she despised me.[r] May the Lord judge between you and me!”[s]

Abram said to Sarai, “Since your[t] servant is under your authority,[u] do to her whatever you think best.”[v] Then Sarai treated Hagar[w] harshly,[x] so she ran away from Sarai.[y]

The angel of the Lord[z] found Hagar near a spring of water in the wilderness—the spring that is along the road to Shur.[aa] He said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” She replied, “I’m running away from[ab] my mistress, Sarai.”

Then the angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit[ac] to her authority. 10 I will greatly multiply your descendants,” the angel of the Lord added,[ad] “so that they will be too numerous to count.”[ae] 11 Then the angel of the Lord said to her,

“You are now[af] pregnant
and are about to give birth[ag] to a son.
You are to name him Ishmael,[ah]
for the Lord has heard your painful groans.[ai]
12 He will be a wild donkey[aj] of a man.
He will be hostile to everyone,[ak]
and everyone will be hostile to him.[al]
He will live away from[am] his brothers.”

13 So Hagar named the Lord who spoke to her, “You are the God who sees me,”[an] for she said, “Here I have seen one who sees me!”[ao] 14 That is why the well was called[ap] Beer Lahai Roi.[aq] (It is located[ar] between Kadesh and Bered.)

15 So Hagar gave birth to Abram’s son, whom Abram named Ishmael.[as] 16 (Now[at] Abram was 86 years old[au] when Hagar gave birth to Ishmael.)[av]


  1. Genesis 16:1 tn The disjunctive clause signals the beginning of a new episode in the story.
  2. Genesis 16:1 sn On the cultural background of the story of Sarai’s childlessness see J. Van Seters, “The Problem of Childlessness in Near Eastern Law and the Patriarchs of Israel,” JBL 87 (1968): 401-8.
  3. Genesis 16:1 tn The Hebrew term שִׁפְחָה (shifkhah, translated “servant” here and in vv. 2, 3, 5, 6, and 8) refers to a menial female servant.
  4. Genesis 16:1 sn The passage records the birth of Ishmael to Abram through an Egyptian woman. The story illustrates the limits of Abram’s faith as he tries to obtain a son through social custom. The barrenness of Sarai poses a challenge to Abram’s faith, just as the famine did in chap. 12. As in chap. 12, an Egyptian figures prominently. (Perhaps Hagar was obtained as a slave during Abram’s stay in Egypt.)
  5. Genesis 16:2 tn Heb “look.” The particle הִנֵּה (hinneh) introduces the foundational clause for the imperative to follow.
  6. Genesis 16:2 tn Heb “come to.” The verb בּוֹא (boʾ; “to come, enter”) with the preposition אֶל (ʾel; “to”) means “to approach, to come to” (HALOT 1:113) and is a euphemism for coming together for sexual relations (see further at 2 Sam 12:24). “Please get together with” might be closer to the Hebrew but would be less clear about the implication, so a different euphemism has been used for the Sarai simply sees this as the social custom of having a child through a surrogate. For further discussion see C. F. Fensham, “The Son of a Handmaid in Northwest Semitic,” VT 19 (1969): 312-21.
  7. Genesis 16:2 tn Heb “perhaps I will be built from her.” Sarai hopes to have a family established through this surrogate mother.
  8. Genesis 16:2 tn Heb “listened to the voice of,” which is an idiom meaning “obeyed.”sn Abram did what Sarai told him. This expression was first used in Gen 3:17 of Adam’s obeying his wife. In both cases the text highlights weak faith and how it jeopardized the plan of God.
  9. Genesis 16:3 tn Heb “at the end of ten years, to live, Abram.” The prepositional phrase introduces the temporal clause, the infinitive construct serves as the verb, and the name “Abram” is the subject.
  10. Genesis 16:3 tn Heb “the Egyptian, her female servant.”
  11. Genesis 16:3 sn To be his wife. Hagar became a slave wife, not on equal standing with Sarai. However, if Hagar produced the heir, she would be the primary wife in the eyes of society. When this eventually happened, Hagar become insolent, prompting Sarai’s anger.
  12. Genesis 16:4 tn Heb “came to.” See the note on the same expression in v. 2.
  13. Genesis 16:4 tn Or “she conceived” (also in v. 5)
  14. Genesis 16:4 tn Heb “and she saw that she was pregnant and her mistress was despised in her eyes.” The Hebrew verb קָלַל (qalal) means “to despise, to treat lightly, to treat with contempt.” In Hagar’s opinion Sarai had been demoted.
  15. Genesis 16:5 tn Heb “my wrong is because of you.”
  16. Genesis 16:5 tn Heb “bosom” or “lap.”
  17. Genesis 16:5 tn Heb “saw.”
  18. Genesis 16:5 tn Heb “I was despised in her eyes.” The passive verb has been translated as active for stylistic reasons. Sarai was made to feel supplanted and worthless by Hagar the servant girl.
  19. Genesis 16:5 tn Heb “me and you.”sn May the Lord judge between you and me. Sarai blamed Abram for Hagar’s attitude, not the pregnancy. Here she expects to be vindicated by the Lord who will prove Abram responsible. A colloquial rendering might be, “God will get you for this.” It may mean that she thought Abram had encouraged the servant girl in her elevated status.
  20. Genesis 16:6 tn The clause is introduced with the particle הִנֵּה (hinneh), introducing a foundational clause for the coming imperative: “since…do.”
  21. Genesis 16:6 tn Heb “in your hand.”
  22. Genesis 16:6 tn Heb “what is good in your eyes.”
  23. Genesis 16:6 tn Heb “her”; the referent (Hagar) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  24. Genesis 16:6 tn In the Piel stem the verb עָנָה (ʿanah) means “to afflict, to oppress, to treat harshly, to mistreat.”
  25. Genesis 16:6 tn Heb “and she fled from her presence.” The referent of “her” (Sarai) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  26. Genesis 16:7 tn Heb “the messenger of the Lord.” Some identify the angel of the Lord as the preincarnate Christ because in some texts the angel is identified with the Lord himself. However, it is more likely that the angel merely represents the Lord; he can speak for the Lord because he is sent with the Lord’s full authority. In some cases the angel is clearly distinct from the Lord (see Judg 6:11-23). It is not certain if the same angel is always in view. Though the proper name following the noun “angel” makes the construction definite, this may simply indicate that a definite angel sent from the Lord is referred to in any given context. It need not be the same angel on every occasion. Note the analogous expression “the servant of the Lord,” which refers to various individuals in the OT (see BDB 714 s.v. עֶבֶד).
  27. Genesis 16:7 tn Heb “And the angel of the Lord found her near the spring of water in the desert, near the spring on the way to Shur.”
  28. Genesis 16:8 tn Heb “from the presence of.”
  29. Genesis 16:9 tn The imperative וְהִתְעַנִּי (vehitʿanni) is the Hitpael of עָנָה (ʿanah, here translated “submit”), the same word used for Sarai’s harsh treatment of her. Hagar is instructed not only to submit to Sarai’s authority, but to whatever mistreatment that involves. God calls for Hagar to humble herself.
  30. Genesis 16:10 tn Heb “The angel of the Lord said, ‘I will greatly multiply your descendants….’” The order of the clauses has been rearranged in the translation for stylistic reasons.
  31. Genesis 16:10 tn Heb “cannot be numbered because of abundance.”
  32. Genesis 16:11 tn The particle הִנֵּה (hinneh) focuses on her immediate situation: “Here you are pregnant.”
  33. Genesis 16:11 tn The active participle refers here to something that is about to happen.
  34. Genesis 16:11 sn The name Ishmael consists of the imperfect or jussive form of the Hebrew verb with the theophoric element added as the subject. It means “God hears” or “may God hear.”
  35. Genesis 16:11 tn Heb “affliction,” which must refer here to Hagar’s painful groans of This clause gives the explanation of the name Ishmael, using a wordplay. Ishmael’s name will be a reminder that “God hears” Hagar’s painful cries.
  36. Genesis 16:12 sn A wild donkey of a man. The prophecy is not an insult. The wild donkey lived a solitary existence in the desert away from society. Ishmael would be free-roaming, strong, and like a bedouin; he would enjoy the freedom his mother sought.
  37. Genesis 16:12 tn Heb “His hand will be against everyone.” The “hand” by metonymy represents strength. His free-roaming life style would put him in conflict with those who follow social conventions. There would not be open warfare, only friction because of his antagonism to their way of life.
  38. Genesis 16:12 tn Heb “And the hand of everyone will be against him.”
  39. Genesis 16:12 tn Heb “opposite, across from.” Ishmael would live on the edge of society (cf. NASB “to the east of”). Some take this as an idiom meaning “be at odds with” (cf. NRSV, NLT) or “live in hostility toward” (cf. NIV).
  40. Genesis 16:13 tn Heb “God of my seeing.” The pronominal suffix may be understood either as objective (“who sees me,” as in the translation) or subjective (“whom I see”).
  41. Genesis 16:13 tn Heb “after one who sees me.”sn For a discussion of Hagar’s exclamation, see T. Booij, “Hagar’s Words in Genesis 16:13b, ” VT 30 (1980): 1-7.
  42. Genesis 16:14 tn The verb does not have an expressed subject and so is rendered as passive in the translation.
  43. Genesis 16:14 sn The Hebrew name Beer Lahai Roi (בְּאֵר לַחַי רֹאִי, beʾer lakhay roʾi) means “The well of the Living One who sees me.” The text suggests that God takes up the cause of those who are oppressed.
  44. Genesis 16:14 tn Heb “look.” The words “it is located” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.
  45. Genesis 16:15 tn Heb “and Abram called the name of his son whom Hagar bore, Ishmael.”sn Whom Abram named Ishmael. Hagar must have informed Abram of what the angel had told her. See the note on the name “Ishmael” in 16:11.
  46. Genesis 16:16 tn The disjunctive clause gives information that is parenthetical to the narrative.
  47. Genesis 16:16 tn Heb “the son of eighty-six years.”
  48. Genesis 16:16 tn The Hebrew text adds, “for Abram.” This has not been included in the translation for stylistic reasons; it is somewhat redundant given the three occurrences of Abram’s name in this and the previous verse.

Three Special Visitors

18 The Lord appeared to Abraham[a] by the oaks[b] of Mamre while[c] he was sitting at the entrance[d] to his tent during the hottest time of the day. Abraham[e] looked up[f] and saw[g] three men standing across from[h] him. When he saw them[i] he ran from the entrance of the tent to meet them and bowed low[j] to the ground.[k]

He said, “My lord,[l] if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by and leave your servant.[m] Let a little water be brought so that[n] you may all[o] wash your feet and rest under the tree. And let me get[p] a bit of food[q] so that you may refresh yourselves[r] since you have passed by your servant’s home. After that you may be on your way.”[s] “All right,” they replied, “you may do as you say.”

So Abraham hurried into the tent and said to Sarah, “Quick! Take[t] three measures[u] of fine flour, knead it, and make bread.”[v] Then Abraham ran to the herd and chose a fine, tender calf, and gave it to a servant,[w] who quickly prepared it.[x] Abraham[y] then took some curds and milk, along with the calf that had been prepared, and placed the food[z] before them. They ate while[aa] he was standing near them under a tree.

Then they asked him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” He replied, “There,[ab] in the tent.” 10 One of them[ac] said, “I will surely return[ad] to you when the season comes round again,[ae] and your wife Sarah will have a son!”[af] (Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, not far behind him.[ag] 11 Abraham and Sarah were old and advancing in years;[ah] Sarah had long since passed menopause.)[ai] 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, thinking,[aj] “After I am worn out will I have pleasure,[ak] especially when my husband is old too?”[al]

13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why[am] did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really[an] have a child when I am old?’ 14 Is anything impossible[ao] for the Lord? I will return to you when the season comes round again and Sarah will have a son.”[ap] 15 Then Sarah lied, saying, “I did not laugh,” because she was afraid. But the Lord said, “No! You did laugh.”[aq]

Abraham Pleads for Sodom

16 When the men got up to leave,[ar] they looked out over[as] Sodom. (Now[at] Abraham was walking with them to see them on their way.)[au] 17 Then the Lord said, “Should I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?[av] 18 After all, Abraham[aw] will surely become[ax] a great and powerful nation, and all the nations on the earth may receive blessing[ay] through him. 19 I have chosen him[az] so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep[ba] the way of the Lord by doing[bb] what is right and just. Then the Lord will give[bc] to Abraham what he promised[bd] him.”

20 So the Lord said, “The outcry against[be] Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so blatant[bf] 21 that I must go down[bg] and see if they are as wicked as the outcry suggests.[bh] If not,[bi] I want to know.”

22 The two men turned[bj] and headed[bk] toward Sodom, but Abraham was still standing before the Lord.[bl] 23 Abraham approached and said, “Will you really sweep away the godly along with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty godly people in the city? Will you really wipe it out and not spare[bm] the place for the sake of the fifty godly people who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the godly with the wicked, treating the godly and the wicked alike! Far be it from you! Will not the judge[bn] of the whole earth do what is right?”[bo]

26 So the Lord replied, “If I find in the city of Sodom fifty godly people, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

27 Then Abraham asked, “Since I have undertaken to speak to the Lord[bp] (although I am but dust and ashes),[bq] 28 what if there are five less than the fifty godly people? Will you destroy[br] the whole city because five are lacking?”[bs] He replied, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.”

29 Abraham[bt] spoke to him again,[bu] “What if forty are found there?” He replied, “I will not do it for the sake of the forty.”

30 Then Abraham[bv] said, “May the Lord not be angry[bw] so that I may speak![bx] What if thirty are found there?” He replied, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”

31 Abraham[by] said, “Since I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty are found there?” He replied, “I will not destroy it for the sake of the twenty.”

32 Finally Abraham[bz] said, “May the Lord not be angry so that I may speak just once more. What if ten are found there?” He replied, “I will not destroy it for the sake of the ten.”

33 The Lord went on his way[ca] when he had finished speaking[cb] to Abraham. Then Abraham returned home.[cc]


  1. Genesis 18:1 tn Heb “him”; the referent (Abraham) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  2. Genesis 18:1 tn Or “terebinths.”
  3. Genesis 18:1 tn The disjunctive clause here is circumstantial to the main clause.
  4. Genesis 18:1 tn The Hebrew noun translated “entrance” is an adverbial accusative of place.
  5. Genesis 18:2 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Abraham) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  6. Genesis 18:2 tn Heb “lifted up his eyes.”
  7. Genesis 18:2 tn Heb “and saw, and look.” The particle הִנֵּה (hinneh) draws attention to what he saw. The drawn-out description focuses the reader’s attention on Abraham’s deliberate, fixed gaze and indicates that what he is seeing is significant.
  8. Genesis 18:2 tn The Hebrew preposition עַל (ʿal) indicates the three men were nearby, but not close by, for Abraham had to run to meet them.
  9. Genesis 18:2 tn The pronoun “them” has been supplied in the translation for clarification. In the Hebrew text the verb has no stated object.
  10. Genesis 18:2 tn The form וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ (vayyishtakhu, “and bowed low”) is from the verb הִשְׁתַּחֲוָה (hishtakhavah, “to worship, bow low to the ground”). It is probably from a root חָוָה (khavah), though some derive it from שָׁחָה (shakhah).
  11. Genesis 18:2 sn The reader knows this is a theophany. The three visitors are probably the Lord and two angels (see Gen 19:1). It is not certain how soon Abraham recognized the true identity of the visitors. His actions suggest he suspected this was something out of the ordinary, though it is possible that his lavish treatment of the visitors was done quite unwittingly. Bowing down to the ground would be reserved for obeisance of kings or worship of the Lord. Whether he was aware of it or not, Abraham’s action was most appropriate.
  12. Genesis 18:3 tc The MT has the form אֲדֹנָי (ʾadonay, “Master”) which is reserved for God. This may reflect later scribal activity. The scribes, knowing it was the Lord, may have put the proper pointing with the word instead of the more common אֲדֹנִי (ʾadoni, “my master”).
  13. Genesis 18:3 tn Heb “do not pass by from upon your servant.”
  14. Genesis 18:4 tn The imperative after the jussive indicates purpose here.
  15. Genesis 18:4 tn The word “all” has been supplied in the translation because the Hebrew verb translated “wash” and the pronominal suffix on the word “feet” are plural, referring to all three of the visitors.
  16. Genesis 18:5 tn The Qal cohortative here probably has the nuance of polite request.
  17. Genesis 18:5 tn Heb “a piece of bread.” The Hebrew word לֶחֶם (lekhem) can refer either to bread specifically or to food in general. Based on Abraham’s directions to Sarah in v. 6, bread was certainly involved, but v. 7 indicates that Abraham had a more elaborate meal in mind.
  18. Genesis 18:5 tn Heb “strengthen your heart.” The imperative after the cohortative indicates purpose here.
  19. Genesis 18:5 tn Heb “so that you may refresh yourselves, after [which] you may be on your way—for therefore you passed by near your servant.”
  20. Genesis 18:6 tn The word “take” is supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. In the Hebrew text the sentence lacks a verb other than the imperative “hurry.” The elliptical structure of the language reflects Abraham’s haste to get things ready quickly.
  21. Genesis 18:6 sn Three measures (Heb “three seahs”) was equivalent to about 20 quarts (22 liters) of flour, which would make a lot of bread. The animal prepared for the meal was far more than the three visitors needed. This was a banquet for royalty. Either it had been a lonely time for Abraham and the presence of visitors made him very happy, or he sensed this was a momentous visit.
  22. Genesis 18:6 sn The bread was the simple, round bread made by bedouins that is normally prepared quickly for visitors.
  23. Genesis 18:7 tn Heb “the young man.”
  24. Genesis 18:7 tn The construction uses the Piel preterite, “he hurried,” followed by the infinitive construct; the two probably form a verbal hendiadys: “he quickly prepared.”
  25. Genesis 18:8 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Abraham) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  26. Genesis 18:8 tn The words “the food” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. In the Hebrew text the verb has no stated object.
  27. Genesis 18:8 tn The disjunctive clause is a temporal circumstantial clause subordinate to the main verb.
  28. Genesis 18:9 tn The particle הִנֵּה (hinneh) often accompanies a gesture of pointing or a focused gaze.
  29. Genesis 18:10 tn Heb “he”; the referent (one of the three men introduced in v. 2) has been specified in the translation for clarity. Some English translations have specified the referent as the Lord (cf. RSV, NIV) based on vv. 1, 13, but the Hebrew text merely has “he said” at this point, referring to one of the three visitors. Aside from the introductory statement in v. 1, the incident is narrated from Abraham’s point of view, and the suspense is built up for the reader as Abraham’s elaborate banquet preparations in the preceding verses suggest he suspects these are important guests. But not until the promise of a son later in this verse does it become clear who is speaking. In v. 13 the Hebrew text explicitly mentions the Lord.
  30. Genesis 18:10 tn The Hebrew construction is emphatic, using the infinitive absolute with the imperfect I will surely return. If Abraham had not yet figured out who this was, this interchange would have made it clear. Otherwise, how would a return visit from this man mean Sarah would have a son?
  31. Genesis 18:10 tn Heb “as/when the time lives” or “revives,” possibly referring to the springtime.
  32. Genesis 18:10 tn Heb “and there will be (הִנֵּה, hinneh) a son for Sarah.”
  33. Genesis 18:10 tn This is the first of two disjunctive parenthetical clauses preparing the reader for Sarah’s response (see v. 12).
  34. Genesis 18:11 tn Heb “days.”
  35. Genesis 18:11 tn Heb “it had ceased to be for Sarah [after] a way like women.”
  36. Genesis 18:12 tn Heb “saying.”
  37. Genesis 18:12 tn It has been suggested that this word should be translated “conception,” not “pleasure.” See A. A. McIntosh, “A Third Root ‘adah in Biblical Hebrew,” VT 24 (1974): 454-73.
  38. Genesis 18:12 tn The word “too” has been added in the translation for stylistic reasons.
  39. Genesis 18:13 tn Heb “Why, this?” The demonstrative pronoun following the interrogative pronoun is enclitic, emphasizing the Lord’s amazement: “Why on earth did Sarah laugh?”
  40. Genesis 18:13 tn The Hebrew construction uses both הַאַף (haʾaf) and אֻמְנָם (ʾumnam): “Indeed, truly, will I have a child?”
  41. Genesis 18:14 tn The Hebrew verb פָּלָא (palaʾ) means “to be wonderful, to be extraordinary, to be surpassing, to be amazing.”
  42. Genesis 18:14 sn Sarah will have a son. The passage brings God’s promise into clear focus. As long as it was a promise for the future, it really could be believed without much involvement. But now, when it seemed so impossible from the human standpoint, when the Lord fixed an exact date for the birth of the child, the promise became rather overwhelming to Abraham and Sarah. But then this was the Lord of creation, the one they had come to trust. The point of these narratives is that the creation of Abraham’s offspring, which eventually became Israel, is no less a miraculous work of creation than the creation of the world itself.
  43. Genesis 18:15 tn Heb “And he said, ‘No, but you did laugh.’” The referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  44. Genesis 18:16 tn Heb “And the men arose from there.”
  45. Genesis 18:16 tn Heb “toward the face of.”
  46. Genesis 18:16 tn The disjunctive parenthetical clause sets the stage for the following speech.
  47. Genesis 18:16 tn The Piel of שָׁלַח (shalakh) means “to lead out, to send out, to expel”; here it is used in the friendly sense of seeing the visitors on their way.
  48. Genesis 18:17 tn The active participle here refers to an action that is imminent.
  49. Genesis 18:18 tn Heb “And Abraham.” The disjunctive clause is probably causal, giving a reason why God should not hide his intentions from Abraham. One could translate, “Should I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation?”
  50. Genesis 18:18 tn The infinitive absolute lends emphasis to the finite verb that follows.
  51. Genesis 18:18 tn Or “find blessing.” The denominative verb בָּרַךְ (barakh) mainly occurs in the D-stems: Piel for actice, Pual for passive, Hitpael for middle or reflexive. Only in three formulations of the Abrahamic covenant does it occur in the Niphal. Few other verbs that occur in the Piel and Pual also occur in the Niphal but not the Qal; the tendency is for such Niphals to be middle rather than passive. The middle voice may be expressed here as “they may consider themselves blessed through him,” “they may find/receive blessing through him,” or “they may become blessed through him.” Verses 18-19 refer back to Gen 12:1-3 which include how others may receive blessing or cursing from the Lord.
  52. Genesis 18:19 tn Heb “For I have known him.” The verb יָדַע (yadaʿ) here means “to recognize and treat in a special manner, to choose” (see Amos 3:2). It indicates that Abraham stood in a special covenantal relationship with the Lord.
  53. Genesis 18:19 tn Heb “and they will keep.” The perfect verbal form with vav consecutive carries on the subjective nuance of the preceding imperfect verbal form (translated “so that he may command”).
  54. Genesis 18:19 tn The infinitive construct here indicates manner, explaining how Abraham’s children and his household will keep the way of the Lord.
  55. Genesis 18:19 tn Heb “bring on.” The infinitive after לְמַעַן (lemaʿan) indicates result here.
  56. Genesis 18:19 tn Heb “spoke to.”
  57. Genesis 18:20 tn Heb “the outcry of Sodom,” which apparently refers to the outcry for divine justice from those (unidentified persons) who observe its sinful ways.
  58. Genesis 18:20 tn Heb “heavy” or “severe.”sn Ezekiel 16:49-50 includes three types of sins of Sodom: failure to help the poor and needy while having prosperity, pride (or haughtiness), and committing abomination.
  59. Genesis 18:21 tn The cohortative indicates the Lord’s I must go down. The descent to “see” Sodom is a bold anthropomorphism, stressing the careful judgment of God. The language is reminiscent of the Lord going down to see the Tower of Babel in Gen 11:1-9.
  60. Genesis 18:21 tn Heb “[if] according to the outcry that has come to me they have done completely.” Even the Lord, who is well aware of the human capacity to sin, finds it hard to believe that anyone could be as bad as the “outcry” against Sodom and Gomorrah suggests.
  61. Genesis 18:21 sn The short phrase if not provides a ray of hope and inspires Abraham’s intercession.
  62. Genesis 18:22 tn Heb “And the men turned from there.” The word “two” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied here for clarity. Gen 19:1 mentions only two individuals (described as “angels”), while Abraham had entertained three visitors (18:2). The implication is that the Lord was the third visitor, who remained behind with Abraham here. The words “from there” are not included in the translation for stylistic reasons.
  63. Genesis 18:22 tn Heb “went.”
  64. Genesis 18:22 tc An ancient Hebrew scribal tradition reads “but the Lord remained standing before Abraham.” This reading is problematic because the phrase “standing before” typically indicates intercession, but the Lord would certainly not be interceding before Abraham.
  65. Genesis 18:24 tn Heb “lift up,” perhaps in the sense of “bear with” (cf. NRSV “forgive”).
  66. Genesis 18:25 tn Or “ruler.”
  67. Genesis 18:25 sn Will not the judge of the whole earth do what is right? For discussion of this text see J. L. Crenshaw, “Popular Questioning of the Justice of God in Ancient Israel,” ZAW 82 (1970): 380-95, and C. S. Rodd, “Shall Not the Judge of All the Earth Do What Is Just?” ExpTim 83 (1972): 137-39.
  68. Genesis 18:27 tn The Hebrew term translated “Lord” here and in vv. 30, 31, 32 is אֲדֹנָי (ʾadonay).
  69. Genesis 18:27 tn The disjunctive clause is a concessive clause here, drawing out the humility as a contrast to the Lord.
  70. Genesis 18:28 tn The Hebrew verb שָׁחַת (shakhat, “to destroy”) was used earlier to describe the effect of the flood.
  71. Genesis 18:28 tn Heb “because of five.”
  72. Genesis 18:29 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Abraham) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  73. Genesis 18:29 tn The construction is a verbal hendiadys—the preterite (“he added”) is combined with an adverb “yet” and an infinitive “to speak.”
  74. Genesis 18:30 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Abraham) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  75. Genesis 18:30 tn Heb “let it not be hot to the Lord.” This is an idiom which means “may the Lord not be angry.”
  76. Genesis 18:30 tn After the jussive, the cohortative indicates purpose/result.
  77. Genesis 18:31 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Abraham) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  78. Genesis 18:32 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Abraham) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  79. Genesis 18:33 tn Heb “And the Lord went.”
  80. Genesis 18:33 tn The infinitive construct (“speaking”) serves as the direct object of the verb “finished.”
  81. Genesis 18:33 tn Heb “to his place.”

The Birth of Isaac

21 The Lord visited[a] Sarah just as he had said he would and did[b] for Sarah what he had promised.[c] So Sarah became pregnant[d] and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the appointed time that God had told him. Abraham named his son—whom Sarah bore to him—Isaac.[e] When his son Isaac was eight days old,[f] Abraham circumcised him just as God had commanded him to do.[g] (Now Abraham was 100 years old when his son Isaac was born to him.)[h]

Sarah said, “God has made me laugh.[i] Everyone who hears about this[j] will laugh[k] with me.” She went on to say,[l] “Who would[m] have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have given birth to a son for him in his old age!”

The child grew and was weaned. Abraham prepared[n] a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.[o] But Sarah noticed[p] the son of Hagar the Egyptian—the son whom Hagar had borne to Abraham—mocking.[q] 10 So she said to Abraham, “Banish[r] that slave woman and her son, for the son of that slave woman will not be an heir along with my son Isaac!”

11 Sarah’s demand displeased Abraham greatly because Ishmael was his son.[s] 12 But God said to Abraham, “Do not be upset[t] about the boy or your slave wife. Do[u] all that Sarah is telling[v] you because through Isaac your descendants will be counted.[w] 13 But I will also make the son of the slave wife into a great nation,[x] for he is your descendant too.”

14 Early in the morning Abraham took[y] some food[z] and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He put them on her shoulders, gave her the child,[aa] and sent her away. So she went wandering[ab] aimlessly through the wilderness[ac] of Beer Sheba. 15 When the water in the skin was gone, she shoved[ad] the child under one of the shrubs. 16 Then she went and sat down by herself across from him at quite a distance, about a bowshot,[ae] away; for she thought,[af] “I refuse to watch the child die.”[ag] So she sat across from him and wept uncontrollably.[ah]

17 But God heard the boy’s voice.[ai] The angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and asked her, “What is the matter,[aj] Hagar? Don’t be afraid, for God has heard[ak] the boy’s voice right where he is crying. 18 Get up! Help the boy up and hold him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” 19 Then God enabled Hagar to see a well of water.[al] She went over and filled the skin with water, and then gave the boy a drink.

20 God was with the boy as he grew. He lived in the wilderness and became an archer. 21 He lived in the wilderness of Paran.[am] His mother found a wife for him from the land of Egypt.[an]

22 At that time Abimelech and Phicol, the commander of his army, said to Abraham, “God is with you[ao] in all that you do. 23 Now swear to me right here in God’s name[ap] that you will not deceive me, my children, or my descendants.[aq] Show me, and the land[ar] where you are staying,[as] the same loyalty[at] that I have shown you.”[au]

24 Abraham said, “I swear to do this.”[av] 25 But Abraham lodged a complaint against[aw] Abimelech concerning a well[ax] that Abimelech’s servants had seized.[ay] 26 “I do not know who has done this thing,” Abimelech replied. “Moreover,[az] you did not tell me. I did not hear about it until today.”

27 Abraham took some sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelech. The two of them made a treaty.[ba] 28 Then Abraham set seven ewe lambs apart from the flock by themselves. 29 Abimelech asked Abraham, “What is the meaning[bb] of these seven ewe lambs that you have set apart?” 30 He replied, “You must take these seven ewe lambs from my hand as legal proof[bc] that I dug this well.”[bd] 31 That is why he named that place[be] Beer Sheba,[bf] because the two of them swore an oath[bg] there.

32 So they made a treaty[bh] at Beer Sheba; then Abimelech and Phicol, the commander of his army, returned[bi] to the land of the Philistines.[bj] 33 Abraham[bk] planted a tamarisk tree[bl] in Beer Sheba. There he worshiped the Lord,[bm] the eternal God. 34 So Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for quite some time.[bn]


  1. Genesis 21:1 sn The Hebrew verb translated “visit” (פָּקַד, paqad) often describes divine intervention for blessing or cursing; it indicates God’s special attention to an individual or a matter, always with respect to his people’s destiny. He may visit (that is, destroy) the Amalekites; he may visit (that is, deliver) his people in Egypt. Here he visits Sarah, to allow her to have the promised child. One’s destiny is changed when the Lord “visits.” For a more detailed study of the term, see G. André, Determining the Destiny (ConBOT).
  2. Genesis 21:1 tn Heb “and the Lord did.” The divine name has not been repeated here in the translation for stylistic reasons.
  3. Genesis 21:1 tn Heb “spoken.”
  4. Genesis 21:2 tn Or “she conceived.”
  5. Genesis 21:3 tn Heb “the one born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac.” The two modifying clauses, the first introduced with an article and the second with the relative pronoun, are placed in the middle of the sentence, before the name Isaac is stated. They are meant to underscore that this was indeed an actual birth to Abraham and Sarah in fulfillment of the promise.
  6. Genesis 21:4 tn Heb “Isaac his son, the son of eight days.”
  7. Genesis 21:4 sn Just as God had commanded him to do. With the birth of the promised child, Abraham obeyed the Lord by both naming (Gen 17:19) and circumcising Isaac (17:12).
  8. Genesis 21:5 tn The parenthetical disjunctive clause underscores how miraculous this birth was. Abraham was 100 years old. The fact that the genealogies give the ages of the fathers when their first son is born shows that this was considered a major milestone in one’s life (G. J. Wenham, Genesis [WBC], 2:80).
  9. Genesis 21:6 tn Heb “Laughter God has made for me.”
  10. Genesis 21:6 tn The words “about this” are supplied in the translation for clarification.
  11. Genesis 21:6 sn Sarah’s words play on the name “Isaac” in a final triumphant manner. God prepared “laughter” (צְחֹק, tsekhoq) for her, and everyone who hears about this “will laugh” (יִצְחַק, yitskhaq) with her. The laughter now signals great joy and fulfillment, not unbelief (cf. Gen 18:12-15).
  12. Genesis 21:7 tn Heb “said.”
  13. Genesis 21:7 tn The perfect form of the verb is used here to describe a hypothetical situation.
  14. Genesis 21:8 tn Heb “made.”
  15. Genesis 21:8 sn Children were weaned closer to the age of two or three in the ancient world, because infant mortality was high. If an infant grew to this stage, it was fairly certain he or she would live. Such an event called for a celebration, especially for parents who had waited so long for a child.
  16. Genesis 21:9 tn Heb “saw.”
  17. Genesis 21:9 tn The Piel participle used here is from the same root as the name “Isaac.” In the Piel stem the verb means “to jest; to make sport of; to play with,” not simply “to laugh,” which is the meaning of the verb in the Qal stem. What exactly Ishmael was doing is not clear. Interpreters have generally concluded that the boy was either (1) mocking Isaac (cf. NASB, NIV, NLT) or (2) merely playing with Isaac as if on equal footing (cf. NAB, NRSV). In either case Sarah saw it as a threat. The same participial form was used in Gen 19:14 to describe how some in Lot’s family viewed his attempt to warn them of impending doom. It also appears later in Gen 39:14, 17, where Potiphar accuses Joseph of mocking them. sn Mocking. Here Sarah interprets Ishmael’s actions as being sinister. Ishmael probably did not take the younger child seriously and Sarah saw this as a threat to Isaac. Paul in Gal 4:29 says that Ishmael persecuted Isaac. He uses a Greek word that can mean “to put to flight; to chase away; to pursue” and may be drawing on a rabbinic interpretation of the passage. In Paul’s analogical application of the passage, he points out that once the promised child Isaac (symbolizing Christ as the fulfillment of God’s promise) has come, there is no room left for the slave woman and her son (who symbolize the Mosaic law).
  18. Genesis 21:10 tn Heb “drive out.” The language may seem severe, but Sarah’s maternal instincts sensed a real danger in that Ishmael was not treating Isaac with the proper respect.
  19. Genesis 21:11 tn Heb “and the word was very wrong in the eyes of Abraham on account of his son.” The verb רָעַע (raʿaʿ) often refers to what is morally or ethically “evil.” It usage here suggests that Abraham thought Sarah’s demand was ethically (and perhaps legally) wrong.
  20. Genesis 21:12 tn Heb “Let it not be evil in your eyes.”
  21. Genesis 21:12 tn Heb “listen to her voice.” The idiomatic expression means “obey; comply.” Here her advice, though harsh, is necessary and conforms to the will of God. Later (see Gen 25), when Abraham has other sons, he sends them all away as well.
  22. Genesis 21:12 tn The imperfect verbal form here draws attention to an action that is underway.
  23. Genesis 21:12 tn Or perhaps “will be named”; Heb “for in Isaac offspring will be called to you.” The exact meaning of the statement is not clear, but it does indicate that God’s covenantal promises to Abraham will be realized through Isaac, not Ishmael.
  24. Genesis 21:13 tc The translation follows the Smr, LXX, Syriac, and Vulgate here in adding “great” (cf. 21:18); MT reads simply “a nation.”
  25. Genesis 21:14 tn Heb “and Abraham rose up early in the morning and he took.”
  26. Genesis 21:14 tn Heb “bread,” although the term can be used for food in general.
  27. Genesis 21:14 tn Heb “He put upon her shoulder, and the boy [or perhaps, “and with the boy”], and he sent her away.” It is unclear how “and the boy” relates syntactically to what precedes. Perhaps the words should be rearranged and the text read, “and he put [them] on her shoulder and he gave to Hagar the boy.”
  28. Genesis 21:14 tn Heb “she went and wandered.”
  29. Genesis 21:14 tn Or “desert,” although for English readers this usually connotes a sandy desert like the Sahara rather than the arid wasteland of this region with its sparse vegetation.
  30. Genesis 21:15 tn Heb “threw,” but the child, who was now thirteen years old, would not have been carried, let alone thrown under a bush. The exaggerated language suggests Ishmael is limp from dehydration and is being abandoned to die. See G. J. Wenham, Genesis (WBC), 2:85.
  31. Genesis 21:16 sn A bowshot would be a distance of about 100 yards (90 meters).
  32. Genesis 21:16 tn Heb “said.”
  33. Genesis 21:16 tn Heb “I will not look on the death of the child.” The cohortative verbal form (note the negative particle אַל, ʾal) here expresses her resolve to avoid the stated action.
  34. Genesis 21:16 tn Heb “and she lifted up her voice and wept” (that is, she wept uncontrollably). The LXX reads “he” (referring to Ishmael) rather than “she” (referring to Hagar), but this is probably an attempt to harmonize this verse with the following one, which refers to the boy’s cries.
  35. Genesis 21:17 sn God heard the boy’s voice. The text has not to this point indicated that Ishmael was crying out, either in pain or in prayer. But the text here makes it clear that God heard him. Ishmael is clearly central to the story. Both the mother and the Lord are focused on the child’s imminent death.
  36. Genesis 21:17 tn Heb “What to you?”
  37. Genesis 21:17 sn Here the verb heard picks up the main motif of the name Ishmael (“God hears”), introduced back in chap. 16.
  38. Genesis 21:19 tn Heb “And God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.” The referent (Hagar) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  39. Genesis 21:21 sn The wilderness of Paran is an area in the east central region of the Sinai peninsula, northeast from the traditional site of Mt. Sinai and with the Arabah and the Gulf of Aqaba as its eastern border.
  40. Genesis 21:21 tn Heb “And his mother took for him a wife from the land of Egypt.”
  41. Genesis 21:22 sn God is with you. Abimelech and Phicol recognized that Abraham enjoyed special divine provision and protection.
  42. Genesis 21:23 tn Heb “And now swear to me by God here.”
  43. Genesis 21:23 tn Heb “my offspring and my descendants.”
  44. Genesis 21:23 tn The word “land” refers by metonymy to the people in the land.
  45. Genesis 21:23 tn The Hebrew verb means “to stay, to live, to sojourn” as a temporary resident without ownership rights.
  46. Genesis 21:23 tn Or “kindness.”
  47. Genesis 21:23 tn Heb “According to the loyalty which I have done with you, do with me and with the land in which you are staying.”
  48. Genesis 21:24 tn Heb “I swear.” No object is specified in the Hebrew text, but the content of the oath requested by Abimelech is the implied object.
  49. Genesis 21:25 tn The Hebrew verb used here means “to argue; to dispute”; it can focus on the beginning of the dispute (as here), the dispute itself, or the resolution of a dispute (Isa 1:18). Apparently the complaint was lodged before the actual oath was taken.
  50. Genesis 21:25 tn Heb “concerning the matter of the well of water.”
  51. Genesis 21:25 tn The Hebrew verb used here means “to steal; to rob; to take violently.” The statement reflects Abraham’s perspective.
  52. Genesis 21:26 tn Heb “and also.”
  53. Genesis 21:27 tn Heb “cut a covenant.”
  54. Genesis 21:29 tn Heb “What are these?”
  55. Genesis 21:30 tn Heb “that it be for me for a witness.”
  56. Genesis 21:30 sn This well. Since the king wanted a treaty to share in Abraham’s good fortune, Abraham used the treaty to secure ownership of and protection for the well he dug. It would be useless to make a treaty to live in this territory if he had no rights to the water. Abraham consented to the treaty, but added his rider to it.
  57. Genesis 21:31 tn Heb “that is why he called that place.” Some translations render this as an impersonal passive, “that is why that place was called.”
  58. Genesis 21:31 sn The name Beer Sheba (בְּאֵר שָׁבַע, beʾer shavaʿ) means “well of the oath” or “well of the seven.” Both the verb “to swear” and the number “seven” have been used throughout the account. Now they are drawn in as part of the explanation of the significance of the name.
  59. Genesis 21:31 sn The verb forms a wordplay with the name Beer Sheba.
  60. Genesis 21:32 tn Heb “cut a covenant.”
  61. Genesis 21:32 tn Heb “arose and returned.”
  62. Genesis 21:32 sn The Philistines mentioned here may not be ethnically related to those who lived in Palestine in the time of the judges and the united monarchy. See D. M. Howard, “Philistines,” Peoples of the Old Testament World, 238.
  63. Genesis 21:33 tn Heb “and he”; the referent (Abraham) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  64. Genesis 21:33 sn The planting of the tamarisk tree is a sign of Abraham’s intent to stay there for a long time, not a religious act. A growing tree in the Negev would be a lasting witness to God’s provision of water.
  65. Genesis 21:33 tn Heb “he called there in the name of the Lord.” The expression refers to worshiping the Lord through prayer and sacrifice (see Gen 4:26; 12:8; 13:4; 26:25). See G. J. Wenham, Genesis (WBC), 1:116, 281.
  66. Genesis 21:34 tn Heb “many days.”