Genesis 16 discusses the birth of Ishmael by Hagar, Sara’s “handmaid” (παιδίσκη). Genesis 21 discusses the birth of Isaac by Sara. In chapter 21, Sara becomes angry about Hagar, Ishmael, and their position within her family. Verse 9 of chapter 21 is interesting:
ἰδοῦσα δὲ Σαρρα τὸν υἱὸν Αγαρ τῆς Αἰγυπτίας, ὅς ἐγένετο τῷ Αβρααμ, παίζοντα μετὰ Ισαακ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτῆς.
But Sara saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, the one whom was (born) to Abraham, playing with Isaac her son.
The participle underlined is pretty interesting. παίζω, the verb from which παίζοντα comes, can mean “to play”, but also can mean to pursue, chase, or even hunt (LSJ A.6). This is somewhat preserved in the Vulgate where Ishmael is described as a filium ludentem, “ludo” having the meaning “to play” as well as to mock or tease (not nearly as harsh as the other meanings of παίζω it seems). Does this “harsh” reading of παίζω show up in Paul’s allegorical reading of this text?
ἡμεῖς δὲ, ἀδελφοὶ, κατὰ ᾿Ισαὰκ ἐπαγγελίας τέκνα ἐσμέν. ἀλλ’ ὥσπερ τότε ὁ κατὰ σάρκα γεννηθεὶς ἐδίωκεν τὸν κατὰ πνεῦμα, οὕτως καὶ νῦν.
But we, brethren, are children like Isaac according to the promise. But just as then the one born according to the flesh persecuted the one born according to the spirit, so it is now.
διώκω has a variety of meanings ranging from “pursue” to “persecute.” διώκω is obviously not παίζω, but it seems that Paul can only come up with this reading of Ishmael and Isaac’s story if he’s reading the παίζοντα as “hunting”. I cannot read Hebrew, but I would be grateful if someone would like to share the Hebrew word here and if it too has a variety of meanings as παίζω and ludo do.