“When the water in the skin was used up, she left the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him, about a bowshot away, for she said, “Do not let me see the boy die.” And she sat opposite him, and lifted up her voice and wept.” Gen. 21:15-16
This may strike us as odd behavior upon reading, and it should cause us to pause; it is not normal behavior. Hagar runs out of water, then puts Ishmael (now over 16 years old) under a tree. She leaves him there because she does not want to see him die. If our child is dying, we comfort them until their last breath, do we not? R’ Hirsch explains that this shows Hagar’s selfishness, she could not trouble herself to comfort the boy in his dying moments. After all, we see it was Ishmael’s cry (v. 17), rather than Hagar’s weeping, that God heard. Hence Ishmael’s name holds true – as his name means “God hears”, or “The LORD will hear”.
This turn of events to save Ishmael ultimately comes about due to what was already ordained by God: His promise to Abraham concerning his descendants; to make them into a great nation. This promise applied to both Isaac and Ishmael. So in this way, Hagar was able to be comforted by God’s promise to Abraham concerning the fate of her son. Today, we still reap the benefits of the promises God made to Abraham.