Genesis 16:1-16 Comments by Stephen Ricker
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Hagar and Ishmael
Comments for Study 12

Genesis 16:1-16
Memory Verse 11


I. Sarai's Idea (1-4)

>1. How old was Abram when he set out from Haran? (12:4) How long had Abram been living in Canaan when Sarai sent Hagar to Abram to conceive Ishmael? (16:3) Why did Sarai and Abram think it was reasonable, and even God's will for Abram to take Hagar as a concubine? What was wrong with this?

Genesis 16:1 "Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar;"

* This is takes place after Abram and Sarai were in Canaan ten years, thus Abram was 85 years old (3).

* "Now Sarai" -Up until now the author had focused on God's dealings with Abram. Now it would focus on Sarai.

Up till now, even though Sarai had followed Abram who was following God's leading, it is unclear if she had faith in the God who called Abram.

In all of God's promises to Abram it was clear that God was going to give him a son. But God had not made it clear who was going to be the mother. Although it is true today from the Bible's teaching of the sacredness of the marriage bed, it might not have been clear to Abram and Sarai. So they could have wondered who was going to be the mother.

Sarai did want to be the mother. This contributed to the events of this chapter.

1 Peter 3:6 says Sarah obeyed Abraham and called him master.

* "Abram's wife" -The marriage of Abram and Sarai was recognized by God as sacred.

Sarai, no doubt, had always known Abram's great desire to have a son. It must have truly grieved her, because she loved him, not to be able to give him a son.

* "had borne him no children" -God had made several promises to Abram if he left his family, home, and country. The one that Abram was probably most interesting in being fulfilled was a son as Abram's words show in chapter 15. But that promise was not fulfilled yet. Not only that but as time went on it seemed less likely that this promise would be answered. Abram could have wondered why it was taking so long for this promise to be fulfilled. Perhaps he thought that he had to do something special-find the secret way that God was going to fulfill the promise. That is what lead to the events in this chapter.

In those days having children was a great blessing and the sign of God's blessing. The woman who could provide her husband with many children, especially sons would be considered blessed by all. Yet Sarai had none and thus must of have been burdened and unblessed by not having children.

* "But she had and Egyptian maidservant" -This servant must have been acquired by Abram and Sarai while in Egypt (12:10-20). This "girl" obviously did not know them before God called them to a life of faith. Nor it can be assumed that she had faith in the God of Abram. Most likely she had faith in Egyptian God's.

This girl being called Sarai's maidservant implies that Sarai was the "master" of her and all the women maidservant.

* "maidservant" -In Hebrew "shiphchah". It means, "to spread out (as a family); a female slave (as a member of the household); (bond-, hand-); maid, bond woman, woman servant."

* "Hagar" -since this is a foreign name its origin is unknown.

Genesis 16:2 "so she said to Abram, "The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her." Abram agreed to what Sarai said."

* "so she said to Abram" -Sarai was the one to suggest this. This plan cause not only her much problems and anguish, but also Abram and Hagar. Yet through this event, which was not what God would have considered the best, God enabled Sarai to learn faith.

* "The LORD has kept me from having children" -Some time had passed since the revelation of 15:4, and Sarai impatiently implied that God was not keeping his promise.

* "Go, sleep with my maidservant" -An ancient custom, illustrated in Old Assyrian marriage contracts, the Code of Hammurapi and the Nuzi tablets to ensure the birth of a male heir. Sarai would herself solve the problem of her barrenness.

Having children through another women, even though it was the custom of the time, was no according to God's will and promise.

* "Abram agreed to what Sarai said" -Abram compromised his faith. The man of faith can not fulfill God's promises through his own ideas and the ways of the would which conflict with God's way of doing things. James says, "Anything not done by faith is a sin." Through agreeing with his wife, Abram thought he would avoid an argument with her and/or made her feel better for the moment. But in the end his compromised faith would cause much problems.

Genesis 16:3 "So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife."

* "to be his wife" -This act was more than spending the night together. It was considered to be an act of marriage. More than that, most likely having sex in those days was marrying another.

Genesis 16:4 "He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress."

* "He slept with Hagar, and she conceived" -Although it could have been more than one time, this seems to say it was only one time. Which would add to Sarai's humiliation and frustration.

* "When she knew she was pregnant" -I have read that when a woman has sex with a man she binds with the man in ways that are different than in a man, because women establishes their self esteem on the relationships that they have with others. In the same way and even more, when women conceive their relationship with the man is even more defined for she is not only the wife but the mother of his children.

For this reason, after Hagar conceived through Abram, her sub conscience evaluation of her relationship with Abram changed. Hagar's relationship with other women changed as well. Since God only meant that one man and one woman join together in marriage, Hagar's relationship with Sarai changed as well. This is seem a lot in are day when people marry, divorce and remarry another again. The old spouse sub conscientiously and many time conscientiously despises the new spouse.

* "she began to despise her mistress" -Peninnah acted similarly toward Hannah.

This, of course, is not a Christ like attitude. Thus Sarai's idea and Abram's agreeing to it was a bad influence to Hagar in more ways then they knew at the time. To one who should have learned the true way of living from Abram and Sarai, Hagar could only see actions that were worse than many Egyptians that she knew. Not only that, but their action was bringing about even worse actions and feelings than she would have had if she had not meet Abram and Sarai. Yet through even this God used Abram and Sarai to be a blessing to Hagar, for Hagar was about to learn faith in the LORD God in a very personal way. God was faithful to his promise to Abram in ways that baffles and delights my sinful mind and self.

II. The Result of Their Lack of Faith (5-6)

>2. What problem arose in Abram's family after Hagar became pregnant? How did Abram and Sarai deal with this problem?

Genesis 16:5 "Then Sarai said to Abram, "You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.'"

* "Then Sarai said to Abram" -Sarai knew of Hagar's despising Sarai, but the Bible does not say how. It does not matter.

Out of a lack of self esteem, cause by not having children and thus feeling as if she is not blessed, Sarai did not address Hagar, even though Hagar was Sarai's maidservant.

* "You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering" -Instead of going to Hagar, Sarai went to Abram and complained. Because women define themselves through relationship's to others (The closer the person the more they are defined by them.), they often lash out at others, especially those they love, when they feel or see some undesirable things in themselves. By lashing out at those they call friends and love, they are lashing out at themselves and throwing pity on themselves.

Men do not define themselves by relationship as much as women do. Thus when their wives lash out at them, they do not understand why women seemingly accuse them of things they think and feel they are not responsible for.

* "I put you in my servants arms" -Sarai knew that she initiated the whole thing, thus it was her doing. But she did not verbally say it was her fault.

* "and now...she despises me" -Was Sarai most concerned by the fact that Hagar despised her? No. Even though this did effect her, what really made her react this way was that Hagar was pregnant with Abram, her husband only after one time (or at least a short time), when Sarai and Abram was married so long and childless.

* "May the LORD judge between you and me" -An expression of hostility or suspicion (31:49-53).

Genesis 16:6 ""Your servant is in your hands," Abram said. "Do with her whatever you think best." Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her."

* "Your servant is in your hands" -Abram attributed Sarai's words of bitterness to a thing between Sarai and Hagar. But it was more than that.

Abram, as a well seasoned husband, should have known the heart of Sarai's, his wife's, actions and reactions. The problem was not as was implied in Sarai's exact words, but what she was saying behind the words. That was, Sarai's barrenness. What should he have done when Sarai said this?
    1) Say nothing immediately back to Sarai
    2) Bring the problem to God in prayer
    3) Accept that Sarai's actions and words to him was the result of him accepting the suggestion of her sinful action (Laying with Hagar to produce a son.)
    4) Repent before God and seek his guidance
    5) If nothing directly was given by God, go to Sarai and admit his fault to her
    6) Comfort her;
    7)Help her to pray. It would have been good for Abram in this situation to suggest to Sarai nothing to do, which is often what men do very quickly when their wives complain to them about something.

In real life men (I) do not have time to evaluate our wives words like this. Thus we (I) often make the same mistakes over and over again. In time I pray that God may help me act toward my wife in the steps I have outlined above.

* "Do with her what you think is best" -Not only shouldn't have Abram given her a suggestion right away as he did, but he gave bad advise. This came about because he did not pray.

* At this point I must point out that neither Abram nor Sarai claimed responsibility for the mistake and sin they did. If we have done wrong it is easy to say someone else did it, as was done in the garden of Eden. We have to be responsible for our sins and confess them before God and sometimes men (Lev. 5:5, James 5:15b-16).

* "Then Sarai mistreated Hagar" -This shows the extent to which Sarai was hurting. Yet this does not excuse this terrible act of Sarai. God could have judged her for this, after all it was all a result of one sin after another. But he did not. Instead, as I have said before, God used this to teach Sarai faith.

* "so she fled from her" -Understandable that when one is mistreated they would want to flee. Could have Hagar seen that this mistreatment was because she despised Sarai and so caused Sarai's bareness to be magnified to great pain? I do not know. But a study of women's relationship with other women could be done here.

III. God Intercedes (7-16)

>3. Why did Hagar flee and why did she return? What did she learn about God?

Genesis 16:7 "The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur."

* "The angel of the LORD" -Since the angel of the Lord speaks for God in the first person (10) and Hagar is said to name "the LORD who spoke with her: 'You are the God who sees me.'" (13), the angel appears to be both distinguished from the Lord (in that he is called "messenger" -the Hebrew for "angel" means "messenger") and identified with him. Similar distinction and identification can be found in 19:1,21; 31:11,13; Ex 3:2,4; Judges 2:1-5; 6:11-12,14; 13:3,6,8-11,13,15-17,20-23; Zec. 3:1-6; 12:8. Traditional Christian interpretation has held that this "angel" was the pre-incarnate manifestation of Christ as God's Messenger Servant. Others have recently said, as the Lord's personal messenger who represented him and bore his credentials, the angel could speak on behalf of (and so be identified with) the One who sent him (see especially 19:21; cf. 18:2,22; 19:2). Whether this "angel" was the second person of the Trinity remains therefore uncertain to scholars.

The angle could be seen and heard by Hagar and she wasn't afraid or startled, so perhaps he was in the form of a man.

* "found Hagar" -God went looking for her in her distress even though she did not go looking for him, but was only running.

* "Shur" -located east of Egypt (25:18; 1 Sam. 15:7).

Genesis 16:8 "And he said, "Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?" "I'm running away from my mistress Sarai," she answered."

* "Hagar, servant of Sarai" -The angle recognized and acknowledged that she was a servant and not a wife, mistress, or a prostitute. This must have been assuring to Hagar.

* "Where have you come from and where are you going?" -The angle already knew. So why ask? As can be seen in former chapters and in Jesus' life, God often asks questions not to learn what is going on but for the benefit of the one being asked. Verbalising our situation helps us acknowledge what we often go through in our minds. Verbalizing our thoughts and situation often quiets our minds and emotions.

* "I am running away" -Hagar was most likely a young lady. See could be considered similar to run away girls in my time. The future of a run away girl is often grim.

* Hagar did not say where she was going for perhaps she didn't have a destination other than back to Egypt. The road she was on went back to Egypt.

Genesis 16:9-10 "Then the angel of the LORD told her, 'Go back to your mistress and submit to her.' The angel said, 'I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.'"

* "go back and submit" -not an easy thing to do when someone is being harsh towards us.

* "increase your descendants" -This is a prophecy to encourage. He was saying, "Go back for the sake of your descendants, who will be great in number if you go back."

* Good parents sacrifice for their children from the moment of conception in ways that their children will often never know. Bad parents live for themselves at the expense of the children.

* This promise will be repeated in 17:20 and fulfilled in 25:13-16.

Genesis 16:11-12 "The angel of the LORD also said to her: "You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.""

* Ishmael means "God will hear" in Hebrew. His name will reminder him and his mother that God will hear their prayers. His name marks a promise.

* Ishmael was the father of twelve rulers who lived on the eastern boarder of Egypt.

* "hostility toward all his brothers" -Abraham would be the father of Isaac through Sarah and other children after Sarah died. The brothers refereed to here is the other children of Abraham including Isaac.

* "wild donkey of a man" -His character would be stubborn and resilient. He would not live in settlements. but roam the county similar to his father Abraham. Donkeys are originally from Africa and are considered "beasts of burden (hard labor)" where horses are originally from Asia and are most used for war and fast transportation.

Genesis 16:13-14 "She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me." That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered."

* "You are the God who sees me"-The is the first time that this word for God is used, "EL Roi" or "El Roiy". The word "God" here is in Hebrew "El" which is the base word for God used by the Hebrews as I have mentioned in earlier lessons.

"who sees me" in Hebrew is "Ro'iy" or "Roi". Strong's Exhaustive Concordance says, "sight, whether abstr. (vision) or concr. (a spectacle):-gazingstock, look to, (that) see (-th)."

>4. What was the spiritual weakness that led to Abram's family into this compromising situation? What can we learn about God who helped Abram?

Genesis 16:15-16 "So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael."

* "Abram was eighty-six years old" -The next verse (17:1) says that Abram was ninety-nine years old. For thirteen years nothing is recorded in the Bible about this family. Often their are long stretches of time when it appears that God is not working in our lives. It does not mean that he has given up or stopped working with us.

* Thirteen is considered the age of becoming a man in the Middle East in those days. Nothing happened significant from a spiritual point of view while Ishmael grew up.

* Many things happened because of this incident. The most significant could be considered Abram having to wait thirteen more years for the Lord to give him a son of the promise. This is only speculation, but I believe that the Lord waited for Ishmael to reach the age of manhood before he fulfilled the promise he made to Abraham. Of course it is impossible to and pointless to speculate what would have happened if this incident didn't happen. Yet it is good to see that deviating from God's will and promise does have its consequences.