Sarah, Hagar-Keturah, Ishmael, Itzchaq & the Code of Hammurabi

B’rashith (Genesis) 24.62 “Now Isaac was on his way, coming from Be’er Lachai Ro’i, and he dwelt in the land of the south.”

RASHI: coming from Be’er Lachai Ro’i: where he had gone to bring Hagar to Abraham his father, that he should marry her (Gen. Rabbah 60:14).

בָּ֣א מִבּ֔וֹא ba mi’bo

RASHI: literally, ba – mi’bo “came from coming” which Rashi says is not redundant as the word, (mi’bo) has special meaning and is probably read in the sense of “bringing” להביא – what was Isaac bringing? Why Hagar (Keturah – 25.1) of course:

16.13 “And she called the name of the LORD that spoke unto her, Thou art a God of seeing; for she said: ‘Have I even here seen Him that seeth Me?’ 14 Wherefore the well was called ‘Beer-lahai-roi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.”

RASHI: and he dwelt in the land of the south: Near that well, as it is said (above 20:1): “And Abraham traveled from there to the south land, and he dwelt between Kadesh and Shur,” and there the well was located, as it is said (above 16:14):“Behold it is between Kadesh and Bered.”

In the midrashic depiction, after Abraham divorces Hagar and sends her into the wilderness she sits by the well and cries to God: “See my shame!” Hagar’s demand for justice was accepted by God, who revealed Himself to Abraham after Sarah’s death and commanded him to take back his divorcée, Hagar-Keturah (Gen. Rabbah loc. cit.).

A different story has Isaac initiating his father’s marriage. When Isaac married Rebekah, he said to himself: I have taken a wife, while my father is without a spouse! What did he do? He went and brought him Keturah. This tradition is based on Gen. 24:62: “Isaac had just come back from the vicinity of Be’er-la-hai-ro’i”—he brought back with him Hagar, who had been at “Be’er-la-hai-ro’i,” and had also given this place its name, as is related in Gen. 16:14 (Tanhuma, Hayyei Sarah 8).


Avraham’s Gifts: 25.5And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac. 6 But unto the sons of the concubines, that Abraham had, Abraham gave matanot gifts מַתָּנֹת ; and he sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country.”

RASHI: And Abraham gave, etc.: (Gen. Rabbah 61:6) R. Nechemiah said: He gave him a permanent blessing, for the Holy One, blessed be He, had said to Abraham (above 12:2)“ and you shall be a blessing,” i.e., the blessings are delivered into your hand to bless whomever you wish. And Abraham gave them over to Isaac. — [Mid. Ps. 1:5] (“Therefore, the wicked shall not stand up in judgment, nor shall the sinners in the congregation of the righteous.”)

A Difficulty: Ishmael was a son of Avraham Avinu’s “concubine” – (pilgesh) Hagar. “Cast Out the bondwoman – (21.10 Wherefore she said unto Abraham: ‘Cast out this bondwoman and her son בְּנָהּ ; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.’ ) Since Hagar was Keturah, (as explained from 62, above) then it only made sense that Sarah’s wishes be fulfilled by sending out of the land (to the east) Hagar’s (Keturah’s) children, along with Ishmael. Ishmael dwelt in the wilderness of Paran – why did Sarah insist that Ishmael not be a heir with her son Isaac and be driven out geresh? From this geresh you [will] learn [below] that Ishmael was given manumission.

RASHI: (21.12) hearken to her voice: (to the voice of the holy spirit within her.) We learn from here that Abraham was inferior to Sarah in prophecy. — [from Exod. Rabbah 1:1, Tan. Shemoth 1]

RASHI: concubines: (Gen. Rabbah 61:4) This [the word [פִּילַגְשִׁם] is spelled defectively [missing the letter “yud”], because there was only one concubine. That was Hagar, who was identical with Keturah. [The“yud,” denoting the plural, is absent, hence Rashi understands that the word פִּילַגְשִׁם denotes the singular. In our Torah scrolls, the plene spelling appears.] Wives are those who have a marriage contract, whereas concubines have no marriage contract, as is explained in Sanhedrin (21a) regarding David’s wives and concubines.

RASHI: Abraham gave gifts: Our Sages explained that he gave them “the name of impurity” (Sanh. 91a). Another explanation: All that was given to him because of Sarah and the other gifts that were given to him, all these he gave to them, for he did not wish to benefit from them.


On another occasion the Ishmaelites and the Ketureans23  came for a lawsuit against the Jews before Alexander of Macedon. They pleaded thus: ‘Canaan belongs jointly to all of us, for it is written, Now these are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son;24  and it is [further] written, And these are the generations of Isaac,’ Abraham’s son.’25  Thereupon Gebiha b. Pesisa said to the Sages: ‘Give me permission to go and plead against them before Alexander of Macedon. Should they defeat me then say, “Ye have defeated one of our ignorant men;” whilst if I defeat them, say, “The Law of Moses has defeated you.”‘ So they gave him permission, and he went and pleaded against them. ‘Whence do ye adduce your proof?’ asked he. ‘From the Torah,’ they replied. ‘Then I too,’ said he, ‘will bring you proof only from the Torah, for it is written, And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac. But unto the sons of the concubines which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts:26  if a father made a bequest to his children in his lifetime and sent them away from each other, has one any claim upon the other? [Obviously not.]’

What gifts [did he give them]? — R. Jeremiah b. Abba said: This teaches that he imparted to them [the secrets of] the unhallowed arts.27

27 I.e., the knowledge of sorcery, demons, etc.

A Difficulty: if they had the secrets of the unhallowed arts, to what purpose? It must be that they exercise power over the demons, etc., but only for good purposes. Surely Avraham would not permit his offspring to practice “sorcery,” would he!


Avraham was having difficulty having children. He asks God about this in Bereishith (Genesis) 15:2 and on. God promises him descendants. Later, Sarah gives her handmaiden Hagar to Avraham so that he will have children, and they will be reckoned Sarah’s children. See “go in, I pray thee, unto my handmaid; it may be that I shall be builded up through her” in Bereishit 16:2. Compare with the same language used by Rachel in giving her maidservant to Yaakov.

why did Sarah insist that Ishmael not be a heir with her son Isaac?

Because she saw the negative trait of cruelty in Ishmael’s mocking or making sport of Isaac, a smaller, weaker person to whom Ishmael should have been eager to demonstrate kindness to!

בְּנָהּ – 21.10 this is not the equivalent of b’ni “my son” בְּנִי (“shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.”) – the son of this bondwoman בֶּןהָאָמָה

Shmoth (Exodus) 4.25 Then Zipporah took a flint, and cut off the foreskin of her son, בְּנָהּ and cast it at his feet; and she said: ‘Surely a bridegroom of blood art thou to me.’

her son, my son – personal possessive

from this 21.10 בְּנָהּ and fromבֶּןהָאָמָה you learn: 1) Sarah disinherited Ishmael (for she thought to give Hagar to Avraham for a wife – so that Ishmael might be an heir; (16.3) (that is, have an equal share of Avraham’s wealth;) and, 2) that, “a slave does not inherit from a slave. a bondwoman’s son does not inherit the master’s wealth – bondage attaches to the bondwoman’s son unless a bill of release – manumit is given!!! 16.3 And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar the Egyptian, her handmaid, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to Abram her husband to be his wife. – future tense – Keturah



Hepner, G. “The Affliction and Divorce of Hagar Involves Violations of the Covenant and Deuteronomic Codes,” Zeitschrift für Altorientalische und Biblische Rechtsgeschichte 8 (2002) 192. Hapner claims that “the key to Sarah’s demand ostensibly lies in a clause in Lipit-Ishtar  where it is stipulated that if the father grants freedom to a slave woman and the children she has borne him they forfeit their share of the paternal property (Judges 11:1-3).

Judges 11.2 “And Gilead’s wife bore him sons; and when his wife’s sons grew up, they drove out וַיְגָרְשׁוּ Jephthah, and said unto him: ‘Thou shalt not inherit in our father’s house; for thou art the son of another woman.3 Then Jephthah fled from his brethren, and dwelt in the land of Tob; and there were gathered vain fellows to Jephthah, and they went out with him. ”

16.6 “But Abram said unto Sarai: ‘Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her that which is good in thine eyes.’ And Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her face.8 And he said: ‘Hagar, Sarai’s handmaid, whence camest thou? and whither goest thou?’ And she said: ‘I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.’ ”


The Code of Hammurabi stipulates – 145 If a man take a wife, and she bear him no children, and he intend to take another wife: if he take this second wife, and bring her into the house, this second wife shall not be allowed equality with his wife. 146 if a man take a wife and she give this man

a maid-servant as wife and she bear him children, and then this maid assume equality with the wife:

because she has borne him children her master shall not sell her for money, but he may keep her as a

slave, reckoning her among the maid-servants. 147 If she have not borne him children, then

her mistress may sell her for money.

The Code of Hammurabi also prescribes that in case the woman chosen by a wife and given to her husband becomes arrogant, she would lose her new status and become a slave again. Sarah implies that.Thus Sarah could legally demand that Hagar and her son who are slaves (ha’Amah and ben haAmah) in Gen 21:10 rather than ben hagar be given their freedom geresh thereby renouncing all claim to a share of the family estate.

maid-servants: “thy maid…” – 21.12 “And God said unto Abraham: ‘Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman אֲמָתֶךָ ; in all that Sarah saith unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall seed be called to thee.”

16.4 her mistress was despised וַתֵּקַל in her eyes; 16.5 I was despised וָאֵקַל in her eyes.” Here, Hagar cursed Sarah! Hagar said about Sarah to other nobelwomen, “If she were a righteous woman she would not be barren!”

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 21:14 “If you are not pleased with her, let her go wherever she wishes. You must not sell her or treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her.”

Here, Hagar was cast “out of the tent of Sarah” [cast outside Avraham’s House] and “miraculously” went to Beer-lahai-roi. Then she is told by the Angel, “submit yourself to your mistress, Sarah. So she was not manumitted, whereas her son, Ishmael was.

For instance, Eliezer was given a manumit – (“But Abram said, “Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?”
” and, “this shall not be thine heir….” were it not possible for Eliezer to inherit Avraham the Torah would have said so – thus, Eliezer was given his freedom – the code of Hammurabi for instance, permits adoption and manumission of one’s slave when the master has no blood heir (son) but that code specified that the inheritance is never passed from the adoptee/manumit even if the master were to later have a son.

A slave does not inherit from a slave – Avraham was a servant of HaShem – while Ishmael was Avraham’s servant. 18.3 “and said: ‘My lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant.” 5 “And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and stay ye your heart; after that ye shall pass on; forasmuch as ye are come to your servant.’ And they said: ‘So do, as thou hast said.’ ”


When she (Sarah) saw Ishmael mocking or making sport of Isaac, she has a change of heart; saying “Cast Out the bondwoman – In 16.3 Hagar is referred to as shifchathah (Then she [Ruth] said, “I have found favor in your sight) while in 21.10 she is referred to as ha’amah (21.10 Wherefore she said unto Abraham: ‘Cast out this bondwoman ha’amah and her son; for the son of this bondwoman ha’amah shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac [with laughter].’ – Isaac was to be Sarah’s sole heir!

The one, שִׁפְחָתָהּ is a servant in good standing, ( “I have found favor in your sight”) while the other, הָאָמָה is a servant that is injured. Shmoth (Exodus) 21:27 And if he smite out his bondman’s tooth, or his bondwoman’s amah tooth, he shall let him go free for his tooth’s sake.” From this you will derive the change of, or the “injured status” of ha’ amah Hagar!)

shall not be [an] heir with [my] laughter – with rejoicing – (Isaiah 55.12 “you shall go forth with joy…. And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. “) 25.8 And Abraham expired, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people. 21.12 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 saith unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall seed be called to thee. 25.9 And Isaac and Ishmael his sons buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre; (“Therefore, the wicked shall not stand up in judgment, nor shall the sinners in the congregation of the righteous.”)


16.4 her mistress was despised וַתֵּקַל in her eyes; 16.5 I was despised in her eyes.” Here, Hagar cursed Sarah!1

16.6 But Abram said unto Sarai: ‘Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her that which is good in thine eyes.’ And Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her face. 9 And the angel of the LORD said unto her: ‘Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.’

RASHI: And Sarai afflicted her: She enslaved her harshly. — [from Gen. Rabbah 45:6]

Here, Hagar miscarried – RASHI: I gave my handmaid, etc. between me and you: Every בֶּינֶיךָ in Scripture is spelled defectively (without the second yud), but this one is spelled plene. It may thus also be read וּבֵינַיִךְ (second person feminine), for she cast an evil eye on Hagar’s pregnancy, and she miscarried her fetus. That is why the angel said to Hagar, “Behold, you will conceive.” But was she not already pregnant? Yet he announces to her that she will conceive? But this teaches that she miscarried her first pregnancy. — [from Gen. Rabbah 45:5]

R. Hoshaya said: Binka (thy son) is written. 1 Seeing that it is already written, And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived, why is it further stated, Behold, thou wilt conceive (ib. 11)? 2 This, however, teaches that an evil eye took 
possession of her and she miscarried.

16.11 And the angel of the LORD said unto her: ‘Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son; and thou shalt call his name Ishmael, because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.

Exodus 21:22 “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life,”

Deuteronomy 24:1 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house,”

Here, we see that Hagar deserved compensation for misscarrying – and what compensation she was given, that she should be called Keturah!!! 25.1

Keturah: (Gen. Rabbah 61:4) This is Hagar. She was called Keturah because her deeds were as beautiful as incense (קְטֹרֶת), and because she tied (קָטְרָה, the Aramaic for“tied”) her opening, for she was not intimate with any man from the day she separated from Abraham.

Ruth 2:13 Then she said, “I have found favor in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and indeed have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants.

Ruth 2:13 שִׁפְחֹתֶיךָ though I am not like one of your maidservants.”- (she was a convert like Ruth)


שִׁפְחָתֵ 16.3

אָמָה 21.10


21.9 “And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, making merry.” RASHI: making merry: Heb. מְצַחֵק. An expression of idolatry, as it is said (Exod. 32:6):“and they rose up to make merry” (לְצַחֵק) . Another explanation: An expression of illicit sexual relations, as it is said (below 39:17):“to mock (לְצַחֶק) me.” Another explanation: An expression of murder, as it is said (II Sam. 2:14):“Let the boys get up now and sport (וַיִשַׂחֲקוּ) before us, etc.” – [from Gen. Rabbah 53:11]

RASHI: with my son, etc.: From Sarah’s reply, “For the son of this handmaid shall not inherit with my son,” you learn that he would quarrel with Isaac regarding the inheritance and say,“ I am the firstborn and should take two portions,” and they would go out to the field, and he would take his bow and shoot arrows at him, as it is said (Prov. 26:18f.): “Like one who wearies himself shooting firebrands, etc. and says: Am I not joking?” – [from above source – Gen. Rabbah]

with my son, with Isaac: (Gen. Rabbah 53:11) Just because he is my son, even if he were not as deserving as Isaac, or [if he were] as deserving as Isaac, even if he were not my son, this one [Ishmael] does not deserve to inherit with him. How much more so [does he not deserve to inherit] with my son, with Isaac, who has both qualities!-

With Itzchaq Laughter – In Isaac shall thy seed be called (to the judgment seat – The Sanhedrin –

Tehillim 149.8 To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; 9 To execute upon them the judgment written; He is the glory of all His saints. {N} Hallelujah.

but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming. Psalm 37:13

The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Psalm 2:4

“Therefore, the wicked shall not stand up in judgment, nor shall the sinners in the congregation of the righteous.” Tehillim 1.5

Daniel 7.10 “and the judgment was set” – Malachi 3.10 “and a favorable (sun of righteousness) morning shall rise on those who fear My Name”
21.6 “And Sarah said [prophesied]וַתֹּאמֶר שָׂרָה : ‘God hath made laughter for me; every one that heareth will laugh on account of me.’ ”

24.60 And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her: ‘Our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of ten thousands, and let thy seed possess the gate of those that hate them.’ )

The ancient children of the East were wise; they inherited the wisdom that Abraham sent with the sons of his concubines, as is written: “Abraham gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them eastward [to India], away from his son Isaac while he was still alive.” Over time they were drawn down many wrong paths by that wisdom.

This didn’t happen to the descendants of Isaac and the inheritors of Jacob, as it is written: “And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac“. This was the holy portion of faith which Abraham adhered too and which gave rise to the inheritance of Jacob, of whom it is written: “And behold G d stood over him and said ‘I am the Lord G d of Abraham your father, and the G d of Isaac'”. And it is further written: “And now listen, Jacob my servant, and Israel whom I have chosen.” (Isaiah 44:1). Because of this it is proper for a person to be drawn after the Holy One Blessed be He always, as is commanded: “You shall serve Him, and to He you shall adhere.” (Deut. 10:20)

16.4 And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes. 5 And Sarai said unto Abram: ‘My wrong be upon thee: I gave my handmaid שִׁפְחָתִי into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee.’

“And I will establish My covenant with laughter”

Genesis 17:19 “Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.”

Genesis 17:21 “But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.”

21.6 “And Sarah said [prophesied]וַתֹּאמֶר שָׂרָה : ‘God hath made laughter for me; every one that heareth will laugh on account of me.’ ”

1Another tradition has Hagar posing this question. The midrash relates that noblewomen would come to inquire about Sarah’s well being. Sarah told them: “Go and inquire about the well being of that sorry woman [= Hagar].” Hagar said to the noblewomen: “My mistress Sarah’s inner nature is not like her revealed side. She seems to be righteous, but she is not. If she were a righteous woman, would she be barren? See how many years she has not become pregnant, while I became pregnant in a single night!” Sarah would say: “Should I pay any attention to the words of that sorry one, and engage in discourse with her? Rather, I will engage in discourse with her master!” She immediately addressed Abraham (Gen. 16:5): “And Sarai said to Abram, ‘The wrong done me is your fault!’“ (Gen. Rabbah loc. cit.). This exposition judges Hagar severely. Based on the preceding verse (v. 4): “and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was lowered in her esteem,” Hagar is described not only as one who acted disrespectfully to her mistress, but as one who caused other noblewomen to denigrate Sarah. Hagar takes advantage of her pregnancy to besmirch her mistress’s good name. Sarah is depicted in these expositions as a noble woman who is well aware of her station, and has no intention of descending to the level of her handmaiden. The fact that she does not argue with Hagar accentuates the moral and class difference between them.


About johnmhummasti

Was the victim of Human Rights Abuses (e.g. Hummasti v Bell, 98-3651-JTC) while a patient in the custody of the US Attorney General and hospitalized under 18 USC 4241 through 4244, et seq.! Interests: Biblical Studies, Talmudic Studies, Dead Sea (Yam Melek [Sea of Kings Soferim]) Scrolls, Scribal (Stam Sofer) Traditions, Cantorial (Hazzan) Psalms (Tehillim). Illustrated Calligraphy (e.g. Ketuvim [Jewish Marriage Contracts], Poetry). Self Published Manuscripts and Screen Plays at yhummastiscribd web site:
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One Response to Sarah, Hagar-Keturah, Ishmael, Itzchaq & the Code of Hammurabi

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