Genesis 16


‘Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so, she said to Abram, ‘The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.’ Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So, after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, ‘You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.’ ‘Your slave is in your hands,’ Abram said. ‘Do with her whatever you think best.’ Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so, she fled from her.’ Genesis 16:1-6

It’s now been ten years since the first promise and so it’s not surprising that Sarai thought she needed to help God out with the child promise, Genesis 12:16. Sarai because she’s getting older, and Abram who is now 86 years old, proposes to give Hagar, a slave from Egypt to Abram as his wife, why?

Possible because she thought it was her fault, maybe she simply had given up hope that the promise of an heir would come through her childbearing.


The custom was that if a wife couldn’t bear children, then she could select and present to her husband a servant girl who would be a surrogate mother for an heir to the husband. And so, she, with Abram’s consent, wanted to work out the fulfilment of the promise through their own inventiveness, Romans 9:6-13 / Galatians 4:21-31.

The way this was done as to custom of the day was the slave woman would sit on the lap of the other woman. Hagar sat on Sarai’s lap while Hagar and Abram had intercourse.

They were acting in accordance with the flesh rather than in accordance with God and Abram agrees to Saria’s request. Abram isn’t being a spiritual leader because he passes the responsibility to his wife. As someone once said, ‘It’s better to receive God’s help, rather than help God out’.

It’s clear that because she couldn’t have children, she felt even worse, so jealousy came in. She complained to Abram and he said, ‘do whatever you want with her’.

Resentment grew, and Hagar became arrogant toward Sarai and became bitter and abusive toward Hagar and as a result Sarai mistreated Hagar. The same law that said a wife could give her servant to her husband, also said that the wife couldn’t send the pregnant servant away. As time goes by Hagar shows contempt for Sarai and so, out of sin comes another situation, Hagar flees from Sarai.

‘The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, ‘Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?’ I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,’ she answered. Then the angel of the LORD told her, ‘Go back to your mistress and submit to her.’ The angel added, ‘I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.’ The angel of the LORD also said to her: ‘You are now pregnant, and you will give birth to 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.’ 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’. Genesis 16:7-14

Notice that angel of the Lord found Hagar, here she is in the middle of nowhere, homeless, pregnant, a soon to be single mum with no hope of a future but God gives her one, hence why she says that God is ‘the God who sees’.

We often think that God doesn’t see us in our moments of despair, but He does, and He cares about His children, He cares about single mums.

The angel of the Lord found Hagar and the angel the angel tells Hagar to go back but a promise is also added. Hagar’s problem was her arrogance, hence why she wouldn’t submit to Sarai, I personally believe if she wasn’t so arrogant then things may have worked out between her and Saria. If she obeyed the Lord to return, God said a great nation will come from her.

Ishmael is going to be blessed but will be sustained also notice that Ishmael isn’t going to fit into the peaceful social structure of Abram’s family, he wouldn’t socially adapt to the social structures of every man. It’s not said that he would be a social outcast, but because of his nature, he would produce a nomadic culture of people who would be native to themselves in the deserts of the south.

Later in Genesis 21:11-20 we find Hagar and Ishmael fighting, we also find that Isaac and Ishmael are always fighting, this is basically nation against nation. This is the consequence of sin, lack of trust, sin leads to worse sin.

‘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.’ Genesis 16:15-17

This is the first time a child is named before its birth. Hagar returned which must have taken a lot of courage and faith and told her story because the son is born, and they called him Ishmael.

Abraham was eighty-six years old when Ishmael was born, but he had no children when he was ninety-nine, Genesis 17:1. That’s why we know that Ishmael was thirteen years old when the events of Genesis 17 begin.

Go To Genesis 17



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