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Hagar and Ishmael

16 Abram’s wife Sarai had not been able to have any children. But she owned a young Egyptian slave woman named Hagar, and Sarai said to Abram, “The Lord has not given me any children. Sleep with my slave, and if she has a child, it will be mine.”[a] Abram agreed, and Sarai gave him Hagar to be his wife. This happened after Abram had lived in the land of Canaan for ten years. Later, when Hagar knew she was going to have a baby, she became proud and was hateful to Sarai.

Then Sarai said to Abram, “It’s all your fault![b] I gave you my slave woman, but she has been hateful to me ever since she found out she was pregnant. You have done me wrong, and you will have to answer to the Lord for this.”

Abram said, “All right! She’s your slave, and you can do whatever you want with her.” But Sarai began treating Hagar so harshly that she finally ran away.

Hagar stopped to rest at a spring in the desert on the road to Shur. While she was there, the angel of the Lord came to her and asked, “Hagar, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

She answered, “I’m running away from Sarai, my owner.”

The angel said, “Go back to Sarai and be her slave. 10-11 I will give you a son, who will be called Ishmael,[c] because I have heard your cry for help. And later I will give you so many descendants that no one will be able to count them all. 12 But your son will live far from his relatives; he will be like a wild donkey, fighting everyone, and everyone fighting him.”

13 Hagar thought, “Have I really seen God and lived to tell about it?”[d] So from then on she called him, “The God Who Sees Me.”[e] 14 That’s why people call the well between Kadesh and Bered, “The Well of the Living One Who Sees Me.”[f]

15-16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar gave birth to their son, and he named him Ishmael.

God’s Promise to Abraham

17 Abram was ninety-nine years old when the Lord appeared to him again and said, “I am God All-Powerful. If you obey me and always do right, I will keep my solemn promise to you and give you more descendants than can be counted.” Abram bowed with his face to the ground, and God said:

4-5 I promise that you will be the father of many nations. That’s why I now change your name from Abram to Abraham.[g] I will give you a lot of descendants, and in the future they will become great nations. Some of them will even be kings.

I will always keep the promise I have made to you and your descendants, because I am your God and their God. I will give you and them the land in which you are now a foreigner. I will give the whole land of Canaan to your family forever, and I will be their God.

Abraham, you and all future members of your family must promise to obey me. 10-11 As the sign that you are keeping this promise, you must circumcise every man and boy in your family. 12-13 From now on, your family must circumcise every baby boy when he is eight days old. You must even circumcise any man or boy you have as a slave, both those born in your homes and those you buy from foreigners. This will be a sign that my promise to you will last forever. 14 Any man who isn’t circumcised hasn’t kept his promise to me and cannot be one of my people.

15 Abraham, your wife’s name will now be Sarah instead of Sarai. 16 I will bless her, and you will have a son by her. She will become the mother of nations, and some of her descendants will even be kings.

17 Abraham bowed with his face to the ground and thought, “I am almost a hundred years old. How can I become a father? And Sarah is ninety. How can she have a child?” So he started laughing. 18 Then he asked God, “Why not let Ishmael[h] inherit what you have promised me?”

19 But God answered:

No! You and Sarah will have a son. His name will be Isaac,[i] and I will make an everlasting promise to him and his descendants.

20 I have heard what you asked me to do for Ishmael, and so I will also bless him with many descendants. He will be the father of twelve princes, and I will make his family a great nation. 21 But your son Isaac will be born about this time next year, and the promise I am making to you and your family will be for him and his descendants forever.

22 God finished speaking to Abraham and then left.

23-27 On that same day Abraham obeyed God by circumcising Ishmael. Abraham was also circumcised, and so were all other men and boys in his household, including his servants and slaves. He was ninety-nine years old at the time, and his son Ishmael was thirteen.

The Lord Promises Abraham a Son

18 One hot summer afternoon Abraham was sitting by the entrance to his tent near the sacred trees of Mamre, when the Lord appeared to him. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. He quickly ran to meet them, bowed with his face to the ground, and said, “Please come to my home where I can serve you. I’ll have some water brought, so you can wash your feet, then you can rest under the tree. Let me get you some food to give you strength before you leave. I would be honored to serve you.”

“Thank you very much,” they answered. “We accept your offer.”

Abraham quickly went to his tent and said to Sarah, “Hurry! Get a large sack of flour and make some bread.” After saying this, he rushed off to his herd of cattle and picked out one of the best calves, which his servant quickly prepared. He then served his guests some yogurt and milk together with the meat.

While they were eating, he stood near them under the trees, and they asked, “Where is your wife Sarah?”

“She is right there in the tent,” Abraham answered.

10 One of the guests was the Lord, and he said, “I’ll come back about this time next year, and when I do, Sarah will already have a son.”

Sarah was behind Abraham, listening at the entrance to the tent. 11 Abraham and Sarah were very old, and Sarah was well past the age for having children. 12 So she laughed and said to herself, “Now that I am worn out and my husband is old, will I really know such happiness?”[j]

13 The Lord asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Does she doubt that she can have a child in her old age? 14 I am the Lord! There is nothing too difficult for me. I’ll come back next year at the time I promised, and Sarah will already have a son.”

15 Sarah was so frightened that she lied and said, “I didn’t laugh.”

“Yes, you did!” he answered.

Abraham Prays for Sodom

16 When the three men got ready to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked part of the way with them.

17 The Lord said to himself, “I should tell Abraham what I am going to do, 18 since his family will become a great and powerful nation that will be a blessing to all other nations on earth.[k] 19 I have chosen him to teach his family to obey me forever and to do what is right and fair. Then I will give Abraham many descendants, just as I promised.”

20 The Lord said, “Abraham, I have heard that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah are doing all kinds of evil things. 21 Now I am going down to see for myself if those people really are that bad. If they aren’t, I want to know about it.”

22 The men turned and started toward Sodom. But the Lord stayed with Abraham, 23 who asked, “Lord, when you destroy the evil people, are you also going to destroy those who are good? 24 Wouldn’t you spare the city if there are only fifty good people in it? 25 You surely wouldn’t let them be killed when you destroy the evil ones. You are the judge of all the earth, and you do what is right.”

26 The Lord replied, “If I find fifty good people in Sodom, I will save the city to keep them from being killed.”

27 Abraham answered, “I am nothing more than the dust of the earth. Please forgive me, Lord, for daring to speak to you like this. 28 But suppose there are only forty-five good people in Sodom. Would you still wipe out the whole city?”

“If I find forty-five good people,” the Lord replied, “I won’t destroy the city.”

29 “Suppose there are just forty good people?” Abraham asked.

“Even for them,” the Lord replied, “I won’t destroy the city.”

30 Abraham said, “Please don’t be angry, Lord, if I ask you what you will do if there are only thirty good people in the city.”

“If I find thirty,” the Lord replied, “I still won’t destroy it.”

31 Then Abraham said, “I don’t have any right to ask you, Lord, but what would you do if you find only twenty?”

“Because of them, I won’t destroy the city,” was the Lord’s answer.

32 Finally, Abraham said, “Please don’t get angry, Lord, if I speak just once more. Suppose you find only ten good people there.”

“For the sake of ten good people,” the Lord told him, “I still won’t destroy the city.”

33 After speaking with Abraham, the Lord left, and Abraham went back home.

Footnotes

  1. 16.2 Sleep. . . mine: It was the custom for a wife who could not have children to let her husband sleep with one of her slave women. The children of the slave would belong to the wife.
  2. 16.5 It’s. . . fault: Or “I hope you’ll be punished for what you did to me!”
  3. 16.10,11 Ishmael: In Hebrew “Ishmael” sounds like “God hears.”
  4. 16.13 Have. . . it: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  5. 16.13 The God Who Sees Me: Or “The God I Have Seen.”
  6. 16.14 The Well. . . Me: Or “Beer-Lahai-Roi” (see 25.11).
  7. 17.4,5 Abraham: In Hebrew “Abraham” sounds like “father of many nations.”
  8. 17.18 Ishmael: Ishmael was the son of Sarah’s slave Hagar (see 16.1-16).
  9. 17.19 Isaac: In Hebrew “Isaac” sounds like “laugh.”
  10. 18.12 know such happiness: Either the joy of making love or the joy of having children.
  11. 18.18 that will be. . . on earth: Or “and all other nations on earth will ask me to bless them as I have blessed his family.”

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