…in a 2001 article in the journal “Vetus Testamentum”, S. Nikaido of Berkeley University made a very interesting observation about the depiction of Ishmael in Genesis 21, which supports our contention that the story has been altered by Jewish scribes. Nikaido states:
“According to Gen. xvii 25 (P), Ishmael was at least thirteen. Therefore, Gen. Rabbah 53.13 (also Rashi) suggests that he was carried because of illness; Abravanel interprets we”et-hayyeled as meaning Ishmael helped carry the provisions. Modern commentators, however, fault the discrepancy on P’s superimposed chronology (Gen. xvi 16 and xxi 5; xvii 25), a phenomenon occurring elsewhere (e.g., Gen. xii 11 compared with xvii 17 and xii 4). The text clearly does not portray Ishmael as a grown child (P) but most likely as an infant (E), since Hagar not only carries him (xxi 14) but also “casts” him under a bush (v. 15; cf. Exod i 22) and “lifts him up” (v. 18). Other clues include: God hears the child’s voice (v. 17), presumably crying, rather than his mother’s (E. Fripp, “Note on Gen. xxi 6. 8-12”, ZAW 12 , pp. 164-65), the reference to his “growing” (v. 20), and the fact that Hagar is not portrayed as being in any mortal danger but only the child.”
The texts quoted to support the supposed superimposed chronology are Genesis 16 v 16, 21 v 5 and 17 v 25:
And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram.
And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him.
And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
Abram Named Abraham
17 v 1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
The Covenant of Circumcision
17 v 9 And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. 11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. 12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.
I’m looking for some evidence of some “superimposed chronology” but I don’t find it. The text is straightforward:
17 v 24 And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 26 In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son. 27 And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him.
A year after Abraham and his house had been circumcised Isaac was born in fulfilment of God’s promise:
The Birth of Isaac
21 v 1 And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken. 2 For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. 3 And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac. 4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old, as God had commanded him. 5 And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him. 6 And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me. 7 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.
This would put Ishmael at 14 years old at the time of Isaac’s birth, would it not?
Assuming 2 years to wean, which is just an arbitrary guess on my part, Ishmael is 16 years old at the time of his banishment by Sarah.
Ishmael is referred to both as child and lad at the same point in time in the same chapter. This proves by itself that the word hay-ye-led does not always have the meaning of a small child or infant. Isaac is referred to only as child because he is an infant at this point in time, having just been weaned:
21 v 8 And the child ( Isaac ) grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned.
Sarah Turns against Hagar
9 And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking. 10 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. 11 And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son. 12 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. 13 And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed. 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, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.
The text does not mean that Hagar carried Ishmael on her shoulder but the conspiracy theorists shoehorn it in to this mould. Obviously Hagar cannot carry both Ishmael and the water on her shoulder. This is not possible. Even if he were an infant how would it be practicable?
15 And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs.16 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. 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. 18 Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation. 19 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.
The point that the conspiracy theorists seem to be trying to make is that the word child can only, in their minds, refer to a small child as it does in the case of Isaac and Moses ( Exodus 2 v 3 ). This is obviously not the case. Even in modern parlance a teenager can also be called a child. There is nothing incongruous about that. Child is not necessarily a synonym for infant or a term exclusively used to mean a small child.
To conclude the conspiracy theorists are superimposing their restriction of what the word hay-ye-led can mean because they have an agenda.