Questions From Readers
◼ God’s people are supposed to ‘care for those who are their own,’ so how could Abraham just send Hagar and Ishmael off into the wilderness?
It is both loving and fitting for God’s servants to care for needy family members. Concerning Christian parents, the apostle Paul wrote: “Certainly if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.”—1 Timothy 5:8.
God promised a blessing through Abraham’s seed, or heir. When Sarah had become elderly and was still barren, she urged Abraham to produce a son through her Egyptian maidservant Hagar. Later, when Hagar was pregnant, she began to act so insolently toward Sarah that it could be described as “violence,” or a malicious wrong against Abraham’s beloved wife. (Exodus 23:1; 2 Samuel 22:49; Psalm 11:5) Abraham let Sarah put Hagar in her place, whereupon Hagar ran away to the wilderness, perhaps heading back to Egypt. The account does not say that she took provisions with her, so she may have known that she could obtain food and water at other encampments, such as from Bedouin groups.—Genesis 12:1-3, 7; 16:1-6.
An angel intervened and told Hagar that she should return, that she would have many descendants, and that her son Ishmael’s ‘hand would be against everyone.’ (Genesis 16:7-12) Not too many years later, Ishmael proved to be against young Isaac, Abraham’s true heir born to Sarah. Ishmael began to ‘poke fun’ at, or abuse, Isaac. This was more serious than sibling rivalry. God’s Word identifies it as “persecuting” Abraham’s divinely foretold seed. So firm action was fitting.—Genesis 21:1-9; Galatians 4:29-31.
Jehovah told Abraham to heed his wife’s stand on what needed to be done, to ‘drive out Hagar and her son.’ Though Abraham was not pleased with the prospect of Hagar’s leaving with his son, Abraham did make material provisions for them. In possible contrast to the previous time when Hagar went into the wilderness, this time she left with a supply of bread (perhaps implying various foods) and water—provided by Abraham. She evidently got lost somewhere “in the wilderness of Beer-sheba,” and her supplies ran out before she found one of the wells in the area. But her predicament was not to Abraham’s discredit, for he had made ‘provisions for those who were his own,’ even in the face of misconduct that required their dismissal from the household.—Genesis 21:10-21.
[Map/Picture on page 31]
(For fully formatted text, see publication)
Based on a map copyrighted by Pictorial Archive (Near Eastern History) Est. and Survey of Israel
Wadi Zin, a dry river valley south of Beer-sheba