Genesis Chapter Sixteen


Read Genesis 16:1-6 – Sarai and Abram Helping God


v.1Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.”


            We remember from our study of chapter 15 that Sarai was barren, unable to bear children.  In her household she had a handmaiden, a personal servant, an Egyptian whose name is Hagar and she is about to make a major mistake in judgment.


v.2And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.”


            First of all let us observe two facts in this situation.  Sarai knew that her barrenness was due to the providence or plan of God.  She was in the same situation that Hannah was but chose to approach a solution to her problem in a very different way.  Hannah took her problem to God:


I Samuel 1:10  And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore.”


Sarai, weary of waiting for God to bring her and Abram a child in His own good time and through his providence chose to take matters into her own hands.  She decided that she needed to help God and gave Abram direction to take her handmaiden, Hagar, and through her provide a child.


v.3  And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.”


            Abram had been in Canaan for ten years.  He’s in is mid 80’s by this time and Sarai is in her mid 70’s.  The fulfillment of God’s promise to provide an heir has not materialized.  So, at the insistence of his wife, he takes a second wife, Hagar.  Abram, honored by scripture for his great faith, called a “FRIEND OF GOD” (James 2:23), allows himself to be manipulated by his wife and to act as though he had no faith in God’s promise.  It reminds us of:


Jeremiah 10:23O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.”


v.4And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.”


            Hagar, now that she is Abram’s wife and is bearing his child, becomes unmanageable as a servant.  The scripture says that she despised her mistress, Sarai, she thinks of herself as a better woman that Sarai.  Trouble has come to the household of Abram, just as we’re told through the proverb of Agur usually happens in this kind of situation.


For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear: 22For a servant when he reigneth; and a fool when he is filled with meat; 23For an odious woman when she is married; and an handmaid that is heir to her mistress.  Proverbs 30:21-23


v.5And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee.”


            Sarai has forgotten whose idea it was that Abram should take Hagar as a second wife, hasn’t she?  This is not an unusual situation when man’s plans and actions bring about troubled times, is it?  “MY WRONG BE UPON THEE”, the wrongs I’m suffering, the trouble that has arisen is your fault.  Her tongue is as sharp as that of Job’s wife in Job 2:9 when she tells Job to “CURSE GOD AND DIE.”

            Those who understand their situation and what brought it into being would say that she is being totally unreasonable.  But that is not uncommon in situations such as this.  A man has written that when words are generated by pride and anger; “when passion is upon the throne, reason is out of doors, and is neither heard nor spoken.”  Sarai even, foolishly, appeals to God to judge between her and Abram regarding the fault for her problems.  Abram doesn’t help the problem, in fact, he takes the coward’s way out.


v.6But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face.”


            Abram tells Sarai, she’s your maid, you deal with the problem.  He says nothing about that’s recorded, nor does he take any responsibility upon himself as Hagar’s husband.  Hagar, who had been so favored that she was given to her master as a wife, now becomes like those who had to endure the wrath of God:




Hagar doesn’t tolerate this situation and runs away.


Read Genesis 16:7-14 – Hagar


v.7  And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.”


            Abram lived at Mamre.  Using the times of Israel and Judah as a reference it is loacted right in the middle of Judah, near Hebron.  When Hagar leaves the household of Abram she flees south back toward Egypt toward the wilderness of Shur.  The wilderness of Shur is next to the Red Sea on the border of Egypt:


Exodus 15:22  So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water.”


The Angel of God finds her at a spring or fountain of water.


v.8-9And he said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai. 9And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.”


            God’s instructions to Hagar are much the same as given to Christians through the apostles:


Titus 2:99Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again;”


I Peter 2:1818Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.”


v.10  And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.”


            God gives Hagar a promise.  Her seed, and consequently the seed of Abram through her, would be multiplied greatly to the extent that they could not be numbered.  This promise is repeated later to Abram:


Genesis 17:20And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.”


It is repeated to Hagar again in Genesis 21:18 and the twelve princes, sons of Ishmael, are named in Genesis 25:12.


v.11And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.”


            God, through his messenger, now tells Hagar that she will bear a son; a son that she should name Ishmael.  The name Ishmael means “God has hearkened” and would indicate a child born “as the fulfillment of a divine promise.”  Both Jewish and Islamic traditions and history regard Ishmael as the ancestor of the Arabic peoples.  Islam considers Ishmael a prophet and his name appears twelve times in the Quran.  Also according to Muslim tradition, Muhammad was a descendant of Ishmael through his son Kedar.


v.12And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”


            The scripture goes further to describe Ishmael as a wild man, against every man and every man’s hand against him.  This does describe in many ways the mindset of the Bedouin people, the desert dwellers that descended from Ishmael and many of the people in this region today that we see on our TV news every night.


v.13-14And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me? 14Wherefore the well was called Beer-la-hai-roi; behold, it is between Ka-desh and Be-red.”


            Hagar both praises and honors God.  Like David after her:




            The name Beer-la-hai-roi literally means “the well of him that liveth and seeth me.”  It is located south of Kadesh-barnea and north of Bered, which is further south still in the Wilderness of Shur.


Read Genesis 16:15-16 – Birth of Ishmael


v.15-16And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael. 16And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram.”


            So Hagar bears Abram’s son and he is given the name that God had reserved.  Then we’re told that Abram is now 86 years old.  Abram has now been in Canaan about 11 years.