The Promised Seed Comes


VERSES 1-18  “And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar.
“And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.
“But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife.
“But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation?
“Said he not unto me, She is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this.
“And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her.
“Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine.
“Therefore Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants, and told all these things in their ears: and the men were sore afraid.
“Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done.
“And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing?
“And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife’s sake.
“And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.
“And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said unto her, This is thy kindness which thou shalt show unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He is my brother.
“And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and women servants, and gave them unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife.
“And Abimelech said, Behold, my land is before thee: dwell where it pleaseth thee.
“And unto Sarah he said, Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of silver: behold, he is to thee a covering of the eyes, unto all that are with thee, and with all other: thus she was reproved.
“So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children.
“For the Lord had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham’s wife.”

In this chapter we have another interesting narrative revealing the Lord’s interest in preventing anything from happening that would interfere with his purpose that Sarah should be the mother of Isaac, the typical seed of promise. The chapter also emphasizes what we have previously mentioned; namely, that codes of honor in those days seem to have greatly favored the men.

It is said that Eastern princes claimed the right to gather all the beautiful women of their domain into their harems. It was apparently in keeping with this ‘right’ that Abimelech ‘sent and took Sarah’. Sarah must have been a remarkable woman, especially in appearance, for at this time she was getting well along in years, yet her beauty was such that she appealed to this heathen king as desirable for his harem.

The ethical code of the time was quite different from ours in many respects. Apparently the only ‘legitimate’ way a king or prince could requisition another man’s wife was to have the husband killed. Abraham was aware of this, hence his partial deception in representing Sarah to be his sister. This tended to serve as a protection for him, but could have ended in serious consequences for Sarah.

Had Abimelech learned through the ordinary course of events that Sarah was Abraham’s wife instead of merely his half sister, he might well have sought the death of the patriarch in order lawfully to keep Sarah in his harem. But something extraordinary occurred—“God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife.”

Now the tables were turned. It was Abimelech’s life that was in danger, and he was very willing to return Sarah to Abraham. God had intervened before Sarah had been defiled, and this was the important consideration. But Abimelech was concerned, nevertheless, and asked if the Lord would slay “innocent people.”—vs. 4, RSV

His claim of innocency, and the acknowledgment of that claim by God, must be understood as pertaining to the general heading of what God “winked at” (Acts 17:30) because of the ignorance of the people. It was not his time to enlighten the world. What he was chiefly concerned about in this instance was the protection of Sarah in order that his purpose pertaining to the seed of promise should not be hindered. It was not the time to regulate the moral codes of the heathen.

While Abimelech’s standards were quite unlike those of Christianity, he was apparently sincere in his efforts to live up to that which he believed to be right—either this, or else he was thoroughly frightened by the threat of death which came to him from the Lord in his dream. In any case, he accused Abraham of causing him to bring a great sin upon his kingdom.

The whole affair turned out to the satisfaction of all concerned, but meanwhile the Lord employed harsh measures to make sure that Abimelech lived up to his professions. The account says that ‘Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children: for the Lord had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham’s wife’.


VERSES 1-5  “And the Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did unto Sarah as he had spoken.
“For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.
“And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac.
“And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old, as God had commanded him.
“And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him.”

‘And the Lord visited Sarah as he had said’. One of the great lessons the Lord taught in connection with the birth of Isaac was that he was a child of promise, and born as a result of a special dispensation of Divine grace. He was not born by the will of the flesh, in the ordinary sense of the word; for Sarah, in addition to being barren all her life, was now well past the normal age when she could expect to become a mother.

It is important to take into account the fact that Isaac was a miracle child, for the circumstance was a token from the Lord that all his promises toward the human race will be fulfilled because of his infinite wisdom, grace, and power. Throughout all the ages man has failed to rescue himself from the result of his own sin, and would continue to be impotent in his efforts to save himself, but this does not hinder the outworking of God’s loving purposes toward the dying race.

It seems appropriate, therefore, that in fulfilling his promise concerning the seed of blessing, the Lord should make it plain that he alone was responsible for making it possible. God asks his people to cooperate with him in his work, but it is always well to remember that their efforts are quite fruitless except as he bestows his blessing upon them.

Abraham had great confidence in the promises of God, and a great deal of respect for his instructions in connection with their fulfillment. When this child of promise was born, he was named Isaac, in keeping with the Lord’s instructions. (Gen. 17:19) Isaac was also circumcised in obedience to the Lord’s command.

‘Abraham was an hundred years old’ when Isaac was born. He had waited a long time for the birth of this “seed” of promise, and during that long waiting period his faith was severely tested many times. (Heb. 11:11) But now his faith was at least partially rewarded—not wholly so, for the Apostle explains that, even as with the remainder of the faithful of Old Testament times, Abraham ‘died in faith, not having received the promise’; that is, the fulfillment of the promise.—vss. 13,39,40

Many of the Lord’s people have been tested by their long wait for the fulfillment of God’s promises. The vision has seemed to tarry; the Bridegroom tarried; and many have been disposed to cry out, ‘How long, O Lord, how long?’

But the Lord has a due time for the accomplishment of all his purposes. And while he does not reveal all the time features of his plan, we can take comfort in the thought that there is never actually any delay. There was a ‘due time’ for Isaac to be born, but because Abraham did not know it far in advance, his faith was tested.

VERSES 6-8  “And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.
“And she said, Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given children suck? for I have born him a son in his old age.
“And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned.”

Sarah also exercised a great deal of faith in connection with the birth of Isaac. (Heb. 11:11) Evidently God’s ‘visit’ to her in this connection brought about a renewal of her youth; for she not only gave birth to Isaac, but nursed him as well, indicating that her whole system had undergone a change which was contrary to nature for one of her age.

VERSES 9,10  “And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking.
“Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.”

Evidently Sarah possessed a sensitive disposition, for when Ishmael was born she was somewhat disturbed by the attitude of Hagar, his mother. And now that she had a son of her own and Ishmael was mocking him, or ‘persecuting him’ (Gal. 4:29), it was more than she could endure, so she directed Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away from the household. It would be unfair, though, to blame Sarah’s attitude entirely upon her sensitive nature. Doubtless the promises of God pertaining to her seed had much to do with it, and probably she was merely acting in a manner which she believed would be pleasing to the Lord—‘the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac’.

VERSES 11-21  “And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son.
“And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.
“And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed.
“And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.
“And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs.
“And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bowshot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept.
“And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is.
“Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.
“And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.
“And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer.
“And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt.”

Sarah’s directive to Abraham concerning the casting out of Hagar and Ishmael was ‘grievous in his sight because of his son’. Ishmael was Abraham’s own son, and because of his fatherly love for his boy, it was not an easy thing for him to comply with the insistence of his wife. Perhaps he hesitated to do it, wondering if the demand might be merely an emotional outburst of Sarah, and not expressive of what would be the proper thing to do under the circumstances.

But Abraham was not left long in doubt, for the Lord spoke to him and told him that he should obey Sarah’s demand—‘hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called’. The Lord never causes any unnecessary anxiety, or grief. While he made it plain to Abraham that Isaac was the one in whom his seed should be called, nevertheless he revealed that Ishmael was to become the father of a great nation, or people.

Abraham made what provision he could to preserve the lives of mother and child as he sent them away. While Sarah had lost interest in them, the same could not be said of Abraham; for Ishmael was his own son, and Hagar, for a time, had been to him a wife. Their lot for a while was a difficult one, and seemingly hopeless. Hagar gave up in despair, and then the Lord intervened; for although Ishmael was not the promised seed, there was a certain typical purpose he was carrying out through him.

This is brought to our attention in Galatians 4:21-31. Here the apostle speaks of two great covenants, and of a “seed” that is produced by each. God’s original covenant with Abraham called for a “seed” for the blessing of mankind through that seed. Paul explains that Sarah pictures that part of the Abrahamic Covenant which brings forth the seed of promise.

Four hundred and thirty years after this original covenant was made, God entered into a covenant with the natural descendants of Abraham at Mount Sinai—the Law Covenant. Because of the inability of the Israelites to keep this perfect Law of God, they were brought into bondage by its requirements. This covenant, Paul explains, was prefigured by Hagar, the bondmaid, and the Israelites in bondage under that covenant, by Ishmael.

Paul speaks of this as an allegory. Actually, of course, Ishmael was not the father of the Israelitish nation, for they were and are the natural descendants of Abraham through Isaac. Ishmael, on the other hand, is accredited as being the father of a goodly portion of the Arab race. Ishmael however is used by Paul as a type of Israel under the Law Covenant.

VERSES 22-34  “And it came to pass at that time, that Abimelech and Phichol the chief captain of his host spake unto Abraham, saying, God is with thee in all that thou doest:
“Now therefore swear unto me here by God that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son’s son: but according to the kindness that I have done unto thee, thou shalt do unto me, and to the land wherein thou hast sojourned.
“And Abraham said, I will swear.
“And Abraham reproved Abimelech because of a well of water, which Abimelech’s servants had violently taken away.
“And Abimelech said, I wot not who hath done this thing: neither didst thou tell me, neither yet heard I of it, but to day.
“And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech; and both of them made a covenant.
“And Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves.
“And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What mean these seven ewe lambs which thou hast set by themselves?
“And he said, For these seven ewe lambs shalt thou take of my hand, that they may be a witness unto me, that I have digged this well.
“Wherefore he called that place Beersheba; because there they sware both of them.
“Thus they made a covenant at Beersheba: then Abimelech rose up, and Phichol the chief captain of his host, and they returned into the land of the Philistines.
“And Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the Lord, the everlasting God.
“And Abraham sojourned in the Philistines’ land many days.”

Abraham reproved Abimelech in connection with a well of water which he supposed Abimelech had taken away, but the latter’s explanation was satisfactory and the covenant was made. The presenting of a token of covenants made, seemed to be the custom of the time, and that part of the covenant which Abraham wished particularly to be made secure pertained to a certain well which he had digged. Apparently water was not too plentiful, and Abraham wisely safeguarded this much of a supply. Abraham did not lose sight of the source of all his blessings, and his faith in God was now stronger than it had ever been.

Click here to go to Part 11
Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |