Sarai and Hagar (Genesis 16) Commentary


Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. This issue weighed also on Abraham, who confided in the Lord about it. It must have been emotionally painful for Sarai not to bear to children, and our emotional distress is preyed upon by Satan.  But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar;  A servant, who was attained when they had fled to Egypt during the famine  so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. God distributes his gifts as they suit his purpose. Sarai would indeed have a child, as God promised Abram a son.  Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”  This decision is without the counsel of God.

Abram agreed to what Sarai said. This was not God’s instruction to Abraham, but human wisdom, which falls short of God’s providence and will. Abraham was supposed to be the spiritual head of the household, and he wilts to Sarai’s command. (Refer to Genesis 3:12 “The man [Adam] said, ‘The woman [Eve] …gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.’ ) 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. This devalues herself and Abraham. While God allowed polygamy in the Old Testament, it was often demonstrated to be harmful to His perfect design of a marriage between one man and one woman.  He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. The desired outcome was accomplished. This also proved that it was Sarai who could not concieve.

When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. She carried Abraham’s heir, and was well aware of it. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. Sarai, resentful of herself for her decision, blames Abraham entirely. Good spiritual sense was required of Abraham and he did not provide it, but the fault does not lie with him alone.  I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. How quickly our own plans and devices crumble when we do not request the guidance of God.  May the Lord judge between you and me.”   Sarai is bold to appeal to God, whom she shut out when turning to her own ambitions.

“Your slave is in your hands, ” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Abraham sought to have the matter over with, ignoring that two people, including an unborn child, were involved. Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; purposefully, but we do not know what she specifically did so she fled from her. Driven away, yet the truth of what occured does not vanish without the evidence. Only Jesus can wash away our sins.

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?”  Hagar was exiled and abandoned by both Abraham and Sarai. The Lord was compassionate.

“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.”  Her child, Ishamael, would be the ancestor of the Arabian tribes, sometimes referred to in the Bible as Ishmaelites. Muhammad claimed to be a descendant of Ishmael, and used this to raise up the falsehood of Islam.

You shall name him Ishmael,  for the Lord has heard of your misery.  Ishmael meaning “God Listens”

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
Ishmael and his descendants will be a wild, wandering, plundering people, at odds with all others. Can we see this presence today?

She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me, ”  This was unique to Hagar, an Egyptian, who was accustomed to worshipping many gods; false deities. Here she witnesses the one true God.

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