Genesis 16: Sarai and Hagar

1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. 2 And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. 3 So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife.

-Being Egyptian, Hagar was most likely acquired during their time in Egypt. Despite Abram’s success in having faith in God in the past, we see a loss of patience on both their parts. They decide that is has been far too long and God must be waiting for them to figure it out and so they have the idea of having a son this way. Based on scripture, God did not actually say that the son Abram will have will be through his wife Sarai, it is only assumed. God has only said up to this point that Abram will have a son and a nation will come from him. They must have thought that maybe this is what God meant. It says here that they had been in Canaan 10 years, that is a very long time to wait on God. Abram would have been 85 to 86 years old at this point which may have been the equivalent of about 60 years old to us. That is already an old age to be having a child though its certainly possible for a man but Sarai is only 10 years younger than him so it may not be possible for her (without divine intervention of course). It’s reasonable to imagine they were looking at the facts, had not heard from God since the covenant was made some years before, and figured this was the only option. Knowing the whole story, the lesson we need to draw from this is to have patience and wait on the Lord. Whatever the Lord says will happen no matter what, no matter what we do. All we do is make things harder on ourselves by trying to second-guess God.

4 And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. 5 And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!” 6 But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her.

-It says that Hagar was given to Abram as a wife and there is no mention of this being done in secret although it may have been. If Hagar was truly a wife just as Sarai was, then why shouldn’t Hagar be treated as the “main” wife since she is pregnant and will give Abram an heir. In her mind, why is she still the servant when she is now the “better” wife for having given Abram a child? These are the consequences of sin. They had not been given the law yet but they must have had some knowledge that what was done was wrong and that marriage is between one man and one woman. Look at the problems having two wives has created. What a headache for poor Abram! He tells Sarai, “Look she’s your servant, you deal with her!”. It does say Hagar looked at Sarai with contempt but it doesn’t say she did anything worthy of expulsion from the household. She had followed orders when she was given to Abram. This is an example of the perfection of the law of God. Polygamy simply does not work and it isn’t the way we have been created. Marriage is a beautiful thing that reflects the divine nature of the Godhead. In Ephesians 5:22-33 Paul reveals that marriage reflects the relationship between Christ and the church. But it also reflects the nature of God Himself. God the Father is the authority and shows love to God the Son. God the Son submits to and respects the will of God the Father. This is the same for how it is supposed to be for Husband and Wife. Because of sin, no husband and wife can fulfill this all the time but the strongest marriages are when each make an effort to reflect this relationship whether they understand it or not. When suddenly you have two wives thrown into the mix, how does that work? The husband would have to show the exact same sacrificial love to both wives and both wives would have to somehow be completely submissive to the same husband. This is almost as chaotic as it would be if there were two Jesus’, it just doesn’t make any sense. There is the Holy Spirit, but He has the role of the children in a family relationship submitting to both but each “parent” has a different role. This is also why single parent households are less likely to produce stable, successful children. Things have been created the way they are for a reason.

7 The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.”

-This is the first time “angel” has been mentioned in the bible and this angel is not described or explained like the Cherubim was in the Garden of Eden. The word in Hebrew used here is “mal’ak” which means “a messenger”. Without a description, it might be possible this isn’t an “angel” the spiritual creature but someone else with a message. This is also another instance when it could have been Jesus who appeared. This “angel” did not simply deliver a message but asked a question that God would already know the answer to such as when Adam and Eve were hiding in the garden. God had asked them why they were hiding and who told them they were naked. We’ve already talked about how God the Father comes in the form of fire and God the Son comes in the form of a man. We are not told this angel was in the form of a man, but to suggest this also could have been Jesus is possible. If Jesus was in the garden with Adam and Eve walking with them essentially “playing dumb” then this could be Jesus as well doing the same thing. In other mentions of angels, a message is delivered or a task is performed, there is no questioning and the order in the next verse sounds like a command given by the being called an angel here and not simply relaying a message. Angels have no authority in themselves and are merely servants. In other instances of angels such as with Gabriel’s appearances, the angel explains that they have been sent by God to say or do something. It’s very clear they are not the source of the act but are doing it on God’s behalf. This is not indicated here. Shur is a desert region just east of Egypt so it seems Hagar was fleeing back to her homeland.

9 The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” 11 And the angel of the Lord said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has listened to your affliction.

-Further evidence that this is not just an angel is that He says “I” will surely multiply your offspring. It sounds like this angel just made a vow to Hagar as God had done to Abram in promising the offspring cannot be numbers as well. Not only that but this Angel also names her son and says “the Lord” has listened. Melchizedek, who we discussed could have been Jesus, also referred to God the Father in this way. Ishmael is believed by many to be the ancestor to which many if not all the Arab people’s in the middle east apart from the Jews descend from. This would certainly fit the definition of multitudes. Muslims believe in addition that Mohammad was a direct descendant of Ishmael and the nation referred to by the angel is those who follow the Muslim religion. The problem with this is that this angel doesn’t say that one of her descendants will birth a nation, it says all her descendants will and they are clearly identified as offspring which would suggest ethnicity, not a belief system.

12 He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.”

-It’s a very common interpretation to view this verse not just as referring to Ishmael but all of Ishmael’s descendants as well, the Arab race. The problem with this interpretation is that it literally says this will be true of Ishmael. It does not say his descendants, his nation, his people. Are all Arabs wild donkey’s of men? It seems to me quite racist to apply this to every Arabic person even if it were only true in a general sense. Abram is not representative of every Jew that would descend from him, why would Ishmael be of Arabs? We also don’t know that Arab’s are all descended from Ishmael, they are likely a huge mix of many different ethnic groups over time. We do see that Ishmael himself was this way later on so it seems what has been stated here has already come to pass. Even looking a the original Hebrew, there is no reason we should assume this applies to all Ishmael’s descendants. If it does, why would God tell us this. What is the purpose of knowing Arab’s will be trouble in the world? I think this is the case where we are looking at current events and assuming scripture is talking about our times solely because it is what we are familiar with. The Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, and European nations in general have all been great trouble for the world. It would be easy to accept this prophesy if it were referring to Europeans with all the conquest and imperialization that has taken place in both Africa and the New World. It does not matter the ethnic group, mankind is evil and capable of stubbornness, in fighting, and being wild donkey’s of men and there is nothing exclusive to Arab people’s in this regard.

13 So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”

-Could she have simply been mistaken by calling this angel God? We see in Revelation 22:8 when the apostle John begins to fall on his feet and worship the angel giving him this message and the angel forbids him and explains that he is a servant like him. God is the one to worship. This angel does not correct her further solidifying that this messenger was not an angel but rather God the Son. It’s warming to know that she has always felt that there has been someone looking after her and guiding her and recognizes that this is the being that had always done it.

14 Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered.

-Here is an image of the region this well is likely located: http://bibleatlas.org/region/kadesh-barnea.jpg . We do not know the exact location of this well and its likely it was destroyed or possibly built over in the thousands of years since this happened.

15 And Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.

-it says here that Abram called the name of the son, Ishmael. It does not say whether Hagar told him what happened or if Abram coincidentally called him by the name the angel said he was to be called. The name Ishmael in Hebrew means “God will hear”. It seems reasonable Abram would choose a name like this seeing as he finally has his heir that he believes is the one God had promised all along but we are not told.

Spanish Words:

atender = to pay attention, look after, attend to

ruego = request

concebir = to conceive, imagine

afrenta = affront, insult

desprecio = contempt

afligir = to afflict, distress

sumisa = submissive

contada = counted

fiero = firey, ferocious, wild, cruel

dio a luz = give birth

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