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Genesis 21:15-21 - Exposition

Hagar and Ishmael, or the fortunes of the outcasts.


1. Banished from home . Hitherto the household of Abraham had been to Hagar and her boy such a pleasant and doubtless much-prized abode; henceforth their connection with the patriarch's encampment was to be completely severed. So God in his mysterious providence and in many different ways frequently bereaves men of the shelter and society of home.

2. Separated from the Church . Practically the expulsion of this Egyptian slave-mother and her son from the household of Abraham, if it did not involve a casting off from God's mercy, amounted to extrusion from the patriarchal Church.

3. Lost in the wilderness . Whether because the region through which they traveled was unfamiliar, or because, impelled by indignation and excitement, they simply drifted on with aimless feet, the narrative depicts the unhappy pair as having "wandered," turned aside into unfrequented paths, and become lost; in that touchingly portraying the sad condition of thousands or homeless and churchless wanderers to-day, roaming purposeless and perplexed across the trackless waste of life.


1. Perishing through thirst . Extreme thirst one of the most excruciating torments to which the physical frame can be subjected, and a fellow-creature dying for lack of water, one of the commonest of God's mercies, as sad a spectacle as any on which the eye of man can gaze.

2. Sobbing in anguish . Too exhausted to weep aloud, the poor disheartened lad moans out his misery. Happy they who, if they cannot relieve, can at least understand and be affected by their necessities. To recognize and make complaint of one's spiritual destitution is better than to be callous and indifferent to one's dying condition.

3. Praying to God. Though not certain that the "voice" of the lad meant more than the rude cry of his distress, charity may hope that in the day of his calamity he directed his prayer to God. Prayer generally precedes deliverance.


1. The voice of heathen, superstition . "Let me not see the death of the lad." To a Christian mother Hagar's behavior is simply inexplicable. It is doubtful if Sarah would hate been a bow-shot removed from Isaac had he been expiring. But then Hagar, though she had been Abraham's wife, was still a poor untutored slave-girl. It rosy assist us to understand our indebtedness to the humanizing influences of Christ's religion.

2. The cry of material affection "She sat over against her boy, and lifted up her voice and wept." Even in the breast of this Egyptian bondmaid nature asserted her supremacy. Everywhere beautiful and sacred is a mother's love, worthy of being cherished and reciprocated by those who know its sweetness and strength, never failing to bring down retribution on those by whom it is rejected and despised.


1. Sympathizing with the sorrowful . "What aileth thee, Hagar?" What a glimpse into the infinite pitifulness of the Divine nature! Only when Christ came was it surpassed in clearness and fullness.

2. Listening to the suppliant . As the prayer of Ishmael came up into the wakeful ear of God, so the cries of dying men and perishing souls never fail to do.

3. Consoling the dejected . As to Hagar the angel spoke words of encouragement, and renewed the formerly-given assurance concerning the future greatness of her son, so God revives the drooping spirits of his people by directing them to his exceeding great and precious promises.

4. Providing for the destitute . "God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water." And so by the leadings of his providence, the teachings of his word, and the illumination of his Spirit does God guide the meek to the wells of salvation.

5. Abiding with the homeless . "God was with the lad." Ejected from Abraham's house, he was not deserted by Abraham's God. Happy they who amid life's wanderings can count on God's companionship. For desertions of friends and deprivations of goods it will prove ample compensation.


1. To prize the blessing of a home and the privilege of a Church.

2. To commiserate and succor those who have neither.

3. To use God in all the revealed aspects of his gracious character.


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