Question: "Why did Abraham banish Ishmael (Genesis 21:14)?"
Answer: “Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, laughing. So she said to Abraham, ‘Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac’” (Genesis 21:10).
Abraham was not happy with Sarah’s response (Genesis 21:11). He cared about Sarah, but he did not share her view that Hagar and Ishmael should be sent away. Ismael was his own son, after all.
Then God spoke to Abraham on this issue: “Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named. And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring’” (Genesis 21:12-13). God’s promise to make another nation from Ishmael began to be fulfilled when Ishmael had twelve sons who presided over twelve tribes (Genesis 25:16).
Abraham obeyed the Lord. “So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away” (Genesis 21:14). As far as we know, Abraham did not see Ishmael again. Ishmael appears later at Abraham’s burial (Genesis 25:9).
Sending away Hagar and Ishmael may seem cruel from our perspective, but the Bible records both Abraham’s concern and God’s command. Abraham expressed compassion for his son, but he also demonstrated obedience when God required something different from what Abraham personally desired. In doing so, Abraham models a humility that applies still today.
God calls us to obedience, and that requires that we be willing to give up personal desires in order to follow Him. Those who love the Lord know that the Lord’s will is what matters most. Abraham obeyed God and was known as a friend of God (James 2:23). His faith followed God’s will, even in difficult times.