Genesis 21:16 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Genesis 21:16, NIV: "Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, 'I cannot watch the boy die.' And as she sat there, she began to sob."

Genesis 21:16, ESV: "Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, “Let me not look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept."

Genesis 21:16, KJV: "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."

Genesis 21:16, NASB: "Then she went and sat down opposite him, about a bowshot away, for she said, 'May I not see the boy die!' And she sat opposite him, and raised her voice and wept."

Genesis 21:16, NLT: "Then she went and sat down by herself about a hundred yards away. 'I don't want to watch the boy die,' she said, as she burst into tears."

Genesis 21:16, CSB: "and went and sat at a distance, about a bowshot away, for she said, "I can't bear to watch the boy die!" While she sat at a distance, she wept loudly."

What does Genesis 21:16 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

This verse continues a heartbreaking scene. Hagar and Ishmael have been wandering in the wilderness, sent away by Abraham at the Lord's command. Sarah had demanded that these two be banished from Abraham's family in order to ensure that Isaac would have no competition for his father's inheritance. God reassured Abraham that Ishmael would prosper, but this did not make the act any less distressing to Abraham (Genesis 21:11–13).

Now, Hagar and Ishmael are out of water and seem certain to die. In the previous verse Hagar put her son, about 16 years old, under the shade of a bush. Here, she walks quite a distance away from him and sits down herself. She tells herself she doesn't want to see the death of her child. This might indicate that Ishmael was faltering due to a lack of water. Or, it might simply mean that Hagar was anticipating his eventual death.

The length of a bowshot, however, is not quite far enough away to be completely out of view. She doesn't abandon him. Perhaps she doesn't want to hear Ishmael weeping, or she doesn't want him to hear her. In any case, this is a sad moment.