"Let the little children come to me . . ."
After the great flood the family of Noah and those who came after him grew in number, until, as the years went on, the earth began to be full of people once more. But there was one great difference between the people who had lived before the flood and those who lived after it. Before the flood, all the people stayed close together, so that very many lived in one land, and no one lived in other lands. After the flood families began to move from one place to another, seeking for themselves new homes. Some went one way, and some another, so that as the number of people grew, they covered much more of the earth than those who had lived before the flood.
Part of the people went up to the north and built a city called Nineveh, which became the ruling city of a great land called Assyria, whose people were called Assyrians.
Another company went away to the west and settled by the great river Nile, and founded the land of Egypt, with its strange temples and pyramids, its sphinx and its monuments.
Another company wandered northwest until they came to the shore of the great sea which they called the Mediterranean Sea. There they founded the cities of Sidon and Tyre, where the people were sailors, sailing to countries far away, and bringing home many things from other lands to sell to the people of Babylon, and Assyria, and Egypt, and other countries.
Among the many cities which the people built were two called Sodom and Gomorrah. The people in these cities were very wicked and were nearly all destroyed. One good man named Lot and his family escaped. There was another good man named Abraham who did not live in these cities. He tried to do God's will and was promised a son to bring joy into his family.
After Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, Abraham moved his tent and his camp away from that part of the land, and went to live near a place called Gerar, in the southwest, not far from the Great Sea. And there at last, the child whom God had promised to Abraham and Sarah, his wife, was born, when Abraham, his father, was a very old man.
They named this child Isaac, as the angel had told them he should be named. And Abraham and Sarah were so happy to have a little boy, that after a time they gave a great feast and invited all the people to come and rejoice with them, and all in honor of the little Isaac.
Now Sarah had a maid named Hagar, an Egyptian woman, who ran away from her mistress, and saw an angel by a well, and afterward came back to Sarah. She, too, had a child and his name was Ishmael. So now there were two boys in Abraham's tent, the older boy, Ishmael, the son of Hagar, and the younger boy, Isaac, the son of Abraham and Sarah.
Ishmael did not like the little Isaac, and did not treat him kindly. This made his mother Sarah very angry, and she said to her husband:
"I do not wish to have this boy Ishmael growing up with my son Isaac. Send away Hagar and her boy, for they are a trouble to me."
And Abraham felt very sorry to have trouble come between Sarah and Hagar, and between Isaac and Ishmael; for Abraham was a kind and good man, and he was friendly to them all.
But the Lord said to Abraham, "Do not be troubled about Ishmael and his mother. Do as Sarah has asked you to do, and send them away. It is best that Isaac should be left alone in your tent, for he is to receive everything that is yours. I the Lord will take care of Ishmael, and will make a great people of his descendants, those who shall come from him."
So the next morning Abraham sent Hagar and her boy away, expecting them to go back to the land of Egypt, from which Hagar had come. He gave them some food for the journey, and a bottle of water to drink by the way. The bottles in that country are not like ours, made of glass. They are made from the skin of a goat. One of these skin-bottles Abraham filled with water and gave to Hagar.
And Hagar went away from Abraham's tent, leading her little boy. But in some way she lost the road, and wandered over the desert, not knowing where she was, until all the water in the bottle was used up; and her poor boy in the hot sun and the burning sand had nothing to drink. She thought that he would die of his terrible thirst; and she laid him down under a little bush; and then she went away, for she said to herself:
"I cannot bear to look at my poor boy suffering and dying for want of water."
And just at that moment, while Hagar was crying, and her boy was moaning with thirst, she heard a voice saying to her:
"Hagar, what is your trouble? Do not be afraid. God has heard your cry and the cry of your child. God will take care of you both, and will make of your boy a great nation of people."
It was the voice of an angel from heaven; and then Hagar looked, and there, close at hand, was a spring of water in the desert. How glad Hagar was as she filled the bottle with water and took it to her suffering boy under the bush!
After this Hagar did not go down to Egypt. She found a place where she lived and brought up her son in the wilderness, far from other people. And Ishmael grew up in the desert and learned to shoot with the bow and arrow. He became a wild man, and his children after him grew up to be wild men also. They were the Arabians of the desert, who even to this day have never been ruled by any other people, but wander through the desert, and live as they please. So Ishmael came to be the father of many people, and his descendants, the wild Arabians of the desert, are living unto this day in that land.