Richard Agee

Genesis 21:1-13: Ishmael the son of human effort mocks Sarah the mother of God’s promise

Richard AgeeWhy did apostle Paul connect Hagar with Sinai and Jerusalem in Galatians 4? Was it to free believers in Yeshua (Jesus) as God’s Messiah from obedience to God’s Law?

As we go through the Hebrew in this section, I hope it will help you help you understand what apostle Paul teaches about the story of Sarah vs. Hagar in Galatians 4. Remember that the leadership of the “church” during the first century were Jews, not gentiles. Jews who believed in Yeshua as the Messiah in the first century upheld Torah. They had no thought to live outside Torah. It wasn’t until the third century when the gentiles became the majority of the believers in “the Church” that Torah was diminished.

Today, we are focusing on God’s actions in Sarah’s life. 

In Gen. 21:1, we see that God “took notice of Sarah” or “visited Sarah.” When Abraham laughed at God’s promise to give Sarah a son, God turned Abraham’s mocking and told Abraham that not only would Sarah have a son but that he would name the boy Isaac, which literally means “he laughed.” For all of Abraham’s life and had to be reminded of the fact that he laughed at God when God told him he would have a son by Sarah in their old age. 

The word translated as visited or took notice is פָּקַד paqad (Strong’s lexicon No. H6485), which is also means “appointed.” In a sense, God appointed Sarah. He didn’t just appoint her to have a baby. He appointed her to continue the sacred line that would lead to the birth of the Messiah. 

Isaac was born “at the appointed time” that God had revealed to Abraham. God set a specific time for Sarah to give birth. The word is the same for this appointed time as for the Shabbat, the New Moons and the Festivals of the LORD (מוֹעֵד moed, Strong’s H4150). God does not do things on a moment’s notice, He is not spontaneous. All of God’s actions are meticulously timed. 

Let’s go back in time a little bit, to Gen. 1:14:

“And God said, “Let luminaries come into being in the firmament of the sky for illumination of the earth, to separate between the day and between the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and for years.”

The same word, moed, is used in this verse. 

The root of Isaac’s name is צָחַק tsachaq (Strong’s H6711) which is translated as to laugh, entertain or mock. Abraham had tsachaq God when He told Abraham that Sarah would bear him a son. To get a better grasp of the meaning of this word, we can look to other examples of this word, including when Potipher’s wife was falsely accusing Joseph of raping her in Gen. 39:17 when she says, “The Hebrew slave, whom you brought to us, came in to me to tsachaq me…”


Apostle Paul tells us that Abraham had left his homeland at the beginning of the year, which hints that Isaac was also born at the beginning of the year, near Passover. 

Eight days later, Isaac was circumcised but the household discord between Sarah and Hagar didn’t come to a head until after Isaac was weaned and they had a party to celebrate this milestone. We read that “Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking.” The word that is translated into “mocking” is the same word, tsachaq. Who was Ishmael mocking?

This controversy between Sarah and Hagar doesn’t end in Genesis 21. The Apostle Paul teaches on the topic in Galatians 4. The apostle Paul uses the example of these women to present a profound spiritual lesson. 

“Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father.” (Gal. 4:1-2)

The father does not act spontaneously when he makes a decision about when the son is ready to take care of his own affairs. Until the son comes to the age that the father has set to emancipate the child, the father appoints a guardian to take care of the son. But when the son comes of age, the slave is still a slave but the son is now the ruler of all the estate, as appointed by the father. 

The apostle Paul tells us that the Law is a guardian, appointed by the Father. The prophets were the stewards to make sure the children of God kept the law. The Torah teaches us how to live our lives. The heirs were the Jewish people. 

Gal. 4:4 starts, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son.” That “fullness of time refers to a מועד mo’ed, an “appointed time.” God’s Son came to the earth at a specific time. The Apostle Paul tells us that even the “heirs”, the Jewish people, become sons of God by adoption, just as the Gentiles are sons of God through adoption by Yeshua. 

Paul goes on to address the non-Jewish members of the Galatian congregation:

“However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?” 

According to the apostle Paul, death and sin reigned from Adam to Moses even though there was no Torah (Rom. 5:12–14). The Torah had to be codified because of sin. Sin had to be explained. If you do everything the Torah says to do, does it justify you? No. It just tells you what sin is. 

Paul explained that there are two deals between mankind and God represented by Hagar and Ishmael vs. Sarah and Isaac. The promise was given to Abraham and Sarah first, before Hagar. Hagar, in a sense, tried to usurp that promise, but God would not allow it. The “freedom” of Sarah was before the “bondage” of Hagar. Why did Paul connect Hagar with Sinai and Jerusalem in Galatians 4? That “city” is built upon the Law and built by man on Earth. Sarah is the “mother” of believers in God, and she represents New Jerusalem — the one in heaven, a city that no man built. Sarah and her promise are not bound to the Earth.    

Reader: Jeff. Speaker: Richard Agee. Summary: Tammy.

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