(Gen 16:1 NASB) Now Sarai, Abram’s wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar.
Gen 16:1: Ten years have elapsed since Abram left his father’s house. Sarai was getting impatient and her hopes were dwindling.
The maidservant Hagar was to attend to the personal needs of Sarai and was not the common property of both husband and wife.
(Gen 16:2 NASB) So Sarai said to Abram, “Now behold, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children through her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.
Gen 16:2: It was a common practice in that day to blame infertility on the woman and ultimately on Elohim. Sarai was losing hope in the promise of Elohim. She decided to take matters into her own hands.
The text indicates that Abram did not argue with his wife’s plan. Abram was 85 years old and Hagar was likely a young lady possibly in her twenties or even teens.
Abram shrugged his shoulders and said, “Okay. If you say so honey…”
Sarai was wrong for trying to take Elohim’s promise into her own hands. Abram was wrong in allowing her to do this.
(Gen 16:3 NASB) And after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram’s wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife.
(Gen 16:4 NASB) And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight.
Gen 16:4: Hagar was an Egyptian and was probably given to them by Pharaoh when they went to Egypt and Sarai was taken to Pharaoh. Hagar was given to Abram as a wife as desired by Sarai. We should keep in mind that all wives are not equal. If a man had more than one wife, one wife was primary and the others had a lower status. In this case, Sarai had primary status and Hagar was a lesser wife subject to Sarai as well as Abram.
When Hagar saw that she had conceived, she despised Sarai. She saw herself as superior to Sarai if for no other reason than she could bear Abram’s children.
Keep in mind that barrenness was a disgrace and Hagar was probably rubbing it into Sarai.
There are cases in ancient historical laws that reflect the diminished social position of the barren wife. Hammurabi’s laws (2000 B.C. or so) deal with the situation of the female salve-concubine who claims equal status with her mistress because she bore children. Not that Abram would have followed these laws, but that mindset was present in that day.
(Gen 16:5 NASB) And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done me be upon you. I gave my maid into your arms; but when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her sight. May the LORD judge between you and me.”
Gen 16:5: Sarai gave Hagar to Abram. She tells him it is now his responsibility to control her behavior.
(Gen 16:6 NASB) But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her what is good in your sight.” So Sarai treated her harshly, and she fled from her presence.
Gen 16:6: There may have been more than just words between these two. The laws of Ur-Nammu (2000 B.C.?) say that the insolent concubine-slave have her mouth scoured with a quart of salt. The previously mentioned laws of Hammurabi prescribe that she be reduced to slave status and receive the slave mark.
The Hebrew verb used here suggests that Sarai subjected Hagar to physical and psychological abuse. The verb insinuates that Sarai dealt with her inappropriately. It would appear that Hagar had no choice but to flee.
(Gen 16:7 NASB) Now the angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur.
Gen 16:7: The “angel of Yahweh” spoken of here is apparently a manifestation of Yahweh Himself. Elohim is showing His love and care to the slave as well as the masters in the world.
Hagar fled in the direction of her native land, Egypt.
(Gen 16:8 NASB) And he said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from and where are you going?” And she said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.”
(Gen 16:9 NASB) Then the angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority.”
Gen 16:9: The examples of slaves being obedient to their masters and exhorting them to do so is consistent throughout the Tanakh and the New Testament. We are to respect their authority.
(Gen 16:10 NASB) Moreover, the angel of the LORD said to her, “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they shall be too many to count.”
Gen 16:10: The fact that the Angel of Yahweh makes this declaration in the first person means that this is a manifestation of Elohim.
Her son would be Ishmael and he will become the father of twelve tribes. The fulfillment of this is recorded in Gen. 25:12-18.
(Gen 16:11 NASB) The angel of the LORD said to her further, “Behold, you are with child, And you shall bear a son; And you shall call his name Ishmael, Because the LORD has given heed to your affliction.
Gen 16:11: The name Ishmael means “Elohim hears.” Arabs claim him as their father and claim Palestine as their own land due to their relationship with Abraham.
Gen 16:12: This is an amazing prophecy. This is exactly what we have today. The Arabs are among their brethren and they are still fighting even to this day. The descendants of Ishmael live to the east of the descendants of Isaac to this day.
(Gen 16:13 NASB) Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “Thou art a God who sees”; for she said, “Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?”
Gen 16:13: The Angel of the Yahweh is declared to be a manifestation of Elohim by her comment.
(Gen 16:14 NASB) Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.
(Gen 16:15 NASB) So Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael.
(Gen 16:16 NASB) And Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to him.
Gen 16:16: Notice that it was not Hagar but Abram who named their son Ishmael. This signifies acceptance of her and Ishmael.
Patrick McGuireCopyright 2014 Patrick McGuire and Beit Yeshua Torah Assembly All rights reserved, no portion of this Lesson may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations in articles and reviews. Beit Yeshua Torah Assembly Fort Smith, Arkansas