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Reply to sTs - no, that's not a mistake in the Bible

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in response to reader comment: spot the mistake in the bible

Submitted by jennifer solis (United States), May 25, 2008 at 22:26

Hello sTs,

Thank you for providing the verses this time.

Yes, Ishmael was 14 years old when Isaac was born. Genesis 21:8 describes the feast on the event of Isaac having been weaned; add another two-three years to Ishmael's age.

So now we have Ishmael at 17.

Genisis 21:9 - "Now Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whome she (Hagar) had born to Abraham, mocking." The word "mocking" here in the Hebrew is the word "tsachaq", and in Gen. 21:9 it means to "play, sport, or jest with singing and dancing".

Genisis 21:10 - "Therefore she (Sarah) said to Abraham, 'Drive out this maid and her son, for the son of this maid shall not be an heir with my son Isaac.' "

Apparently, from 21:9-10, Sarah had observed Ishmael "mocking", or singing and dancing, about his being the heir (the first born). Sarah was irritated at this, and asked Abraham to kick them (Hagar and Ishmael) out.

You left out a following verse or two, sTs. Abraham "drove out" Hagar and Ishmael ONLY AFTER God Himself commanded it -

Genisis 21:11 - "The matter distressed Abraham greatly because of his son." - Abraham knew the customs of his day, and they prohibited the arbitrary expulsion of a servant girl's son.

Genisis 21:12-13 - "But God said to Abraham, 'Do not be distressed because of the lad and your maid; whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her; for through Isaac (son of Abraham and Sarah) your descendants shall be named; And of the son of the maid I will make a nation also, because he (Ishmael) is your descendant.' "

The word "lad" here is the Hebrew "na`ar", which means "a boy, lad, servant, youth".

While the word "child" is sometimes used (in the King James) - HOWEVER, verses 21:12 and 21:17,18 and 21:20 use "lad" which again means "boy, lad, servant, youth" - and not "child".

What is interesting is that the word "child" in these verses ALWAYS describes Hagar's son (Ishmael), and is NEVER used for Sara's son (Isaac). So what does this particular word "child" in the Hebrew mean?

The word "child" here, used a few times to describe Hagar's son, is the Hebrew word "yeled" - which can mean "child", but also, "son, boy, offspring, youth - of wickedness".

Genesis 21:14 - "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 (yeled), and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered away in the wilderness of Beersheeba." - King James

Abraham put the bread and the "bottle" of water on Hagar's shoulder, not Ishmael!!!! Ridiculous. Even if Ishmael was an infant, as you try to say, sTs, she would have been wise to carry him in her arms, NOT on her shoulder!

Genesis 21:15 - "And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast (shalak) the child (yeled) under one of the shrubs."

The word "shalak" , above, means to "throw away", or "cast down".

Genesis 21:16 - "And she went, and sat her down over against (opposite) him a good way off, as it were a bow shot (the distance an arrow from a bow would be shot, a good distance): for she said, Let me not see the death of the child (yeled). And she sat over against him (opposite) him, and lift up her voice, and wept."

Genesis 21:17 - "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 (nasa') up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation."

The word "lift" in the above verse is the Hebrew word "nasa' ", which here means to "lift up, exalt, support, aid, assist". Notice, in verse 21:15 Hagar "casts down" her son Ishmael; then, in 21:17, God instructs Hagar to "lift up" Ishmael.

"Hold him in thine hand" does not mean literally to hold Ishmael in the palm of your hand. Even if Ishmael was an infant (a word never used in ANY of these verses, by the way) it would be a stupid thing to try and hold a baby in one hand.

"Hold him in thine hand" means to help him (Ishmael). God is telling Hagar not to "throw Ishmael away", as she did in 21:15, but to "help support him" because he did have a future; he was not going to die; he was to be the fore-father of a "great nation".

Once again, the frequent use of the word "lad", which means "boy, lad, servant, youth" (na`ar in the Hebrew) reveals we are talking about Ishmael being 17 years old.

"Child" in these verses is yeled, which can mean child, but also can mean "son, boy, offspring, youth of wickedness".

Ishmael was not the one who would be offered as a sacrifice by Abraham (read Genesis 22). Abraham had nothing to do with Ishmael after verse 21:14.

As far as circumcision goes, God commanded Abraham to circumcise not just himself, but every male member of his houshold (including the male servants; Gen. 17:23). Abraham was 99 years old (Gen. 17:24) and Ishmael was13 (Gen. 17:25) when they both were circumcised.

As God promised (Gen. 17:20; Gen. 21:17), Ishmael went on to have a great nation; he was the fore-father of twelve kings, or tribes - Nebaioth, Kedar, Anbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah (Gen. 25:12-18).

But only through Isaac would God fulfill His personnal covenant to Abraham and the Jewish race(Gen.17:21). Abraham through Isaac would ALSO father a great nation (the 12 tribes of Israel), it was just not the SAME nation as that of Ishmael.

I will close with a very revealing verse:

The angel of the LORD said to her further,

Behold, you are with child, And you will bear a son, And you shall call his name Ishmael, Because the LORD has given heed to your affliction;

He will be a wild donkey of a man, his hand will be against everyone, And every hand will be against him; and he will live to the east of his brothers.

- Genesis 16:11-12

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