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HAGAR AND ISHMAEL.
GENESIS xxi. 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.
In the histories of the Old Testament there is much information respecting ancient customs and manners.
We learn much of the state of society in those early days, and are often introduced into the interior of the houses of these men of old times. We see them as members of families, as well as citizens of nations, and parts of the church of God; and if we witness some things of
which the superior morality of the Gospel has taught us to disapprove, we behold also much simple faith and implicit obedience : we see a regard to the will of God prevailing in all their actions, and forming the great principle by which they lived.
Also in very many of the facts recorded, there is a certain intention which has reference to the times and circumstances of the New Testament. We are told from the highest authority that Moses wrote of Christ, and it becomes us specially to notice the things which shadow forth the great Redeemer himself, or the dispensation of his Gospel.
With this view I now propose to consider the account given us in this chapter of the casting out of Hagar the Egyptian slave, and Ishmael her son, from the family of Abraham.
We shall consider, in the first place, the circumstances of the history, and, in the second place, the allegory contained in it.
I. We find from the sixteenth chapter that Sarah, despairing of the fulfilment of God's promise of a numerous offspring from herself, had suggested to Abraham that he should take Hagar her handmaid, and raise up a family by her; an unwise expedient, full of unbelief and carnal policy, which under the light of the Gospel would be very sinful, whatever it might be in that less perfect revelation, and which brought no inconsiderable degree of pain and trouble upon every one of the parties : thus Ishmael was born. About thirteen years after his birth the promise was renewed to Abraham and Sarah, and in the following year Sarah herself bare a son, whom they called Isaac. On the weaning of this child, Abraham made a great feast, and on that occasion it was that the circumstance occurred which is recorded in the text, and Sarah saw Ishmael mocking. A former chapter tells us that her mistress was despised by Hagar, and that in consequence of hard usage given her for her insolence and contempt, she had quitted Abraham's house. Returning, as she did by the direction of God, she probably concealed her feelings ; but she instilled her spirit, as it seems, into the breast of her son. In what manner or on what particular ground he mocked we are not informed; but probably he ridiculed Isaac as the child of promise, from whom they expected so much. Impiety was at the bottom of it, and it was a scorping on account of the religion which was connected with this child. It might be called a kind of persecution for righteousness' sake. This was doubtless the principal cause that excited the contempt of Ishmael, and at which his mockery was aimed. The same spirit too often prevails in our own families. A pious child is frequently exposed to the sarcastic sneer or even the bitter hatred of his irreligious brothers and sisters, treated with contempt, and held up as an object of ridicule: and such is the depravity of man's nature, and the innate enmity of his heart to God, that very few truly pious persons can escape at least this kind of persecution.
Sarah, perhaps more enraged with the affront, than grieved with the impiety of the youth, demands his expulsion, with that of kis mother also : “ cast out this bondwoman and her son, for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.” The demand was very grievous to Abraham : his sense of justice and his natural affection made him unwilling to comply, and he was perplexed how to act. But God appears for his direction.
He bids him accede to the demand of Sarah, for, saith the Lord, “ in Isaac shall thy seed be called.” His was the line in which Abraham's posterity should be numerous as the sand on the sea-shore; his the line in which all the promises should proceed, and in which eventually all the families of the earth should be blessed. Yet although Ishmael was thus excluded from the family of Abraham, and from participating in the privileges of the covenant made with him and his seed, the promise was confirmed, which God had previously made concerning him, in these words, “and also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy son.” This promise had been originally given to Hagar, when she first fled from the face of her mistress, even before the birth of the child; for the angel of the Lord had said to her, “I will