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Chapter 16 

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Hagar And Ishmael (ch. 16:1 - 15)  


In verse 1 we note that Sarai did not have any children, and she actually believed that was because of God's doing.  That most likely was the case since in the end she does have a child and he is born as a result of a promise from God.  I do believe Sarai was right when she said that God had withheld children from her.  God left her childless so she could have a miracle child that He promised. Again, as we saw with Abram, we note that Sarai believed that children came from the Lord.  The general consensus in those days was that child birth came about because of the gods, or in this case, because of God.   


We also see Hagar mentioned here.  Hagar is an Egyptian maid servant that her and Abram  got from Pharaoh during their stay in Egypt.  Hagar becomes the subject of a theological issue that Paul sets forth  in the book of Galatians.  Paul states that Hagar represents Old Testament Jews while Sarai represents New Testament Christians.     


In verse 2 Sarai suggests to Abram that since she has had no children that he go and sleep with Hagar so she can conceive and have a baby that both Sarai and Abram could build a family with.  We, in our day and age might think this to be strange, but it wasn't so strange back then.  It was culturally acceptable.


Abram agreed to sleep with Hagar.  We don't know how eager he was to do this.  Maybe he did this willingly or maybe he hesitated.  I suggest due to the practice of the day that he was willing to sleep with Hagar.


Verse 3 might really seem to be strange for us who live in the western world today.  The text says that Sarai brought Hagar to Abram to be his wife. "To be his wife" simply means to "sleep with her".  Sarai was the one who went to Hagar and told her what was to happen.  Abram was not the one who went to Sarai.  Can you imagine your wife bringing another woman to you as a husband and saying, "here she is, please sleep with her".


Verse 4 tells us that Abram did as his wife suggested.  He slept with Hagar and she conceived that very night. 


Verse 4 also tells us that when Hagar "knew she was pregnant she began to despise her mistress."   This means that she began to despise Sarai, her master.  I think this is easy to figure out.  Here Sarai was Abram's wife, number one woman in his life, but now Hagar has Abraham's son.  I think she felt that she should replace Sarai in Abram's life, and that she should be his number one woman.  She was the one with the child, not Sarai.  She should be more important to Abram.


In verse 5 we see that at this point Sarai is quite upset.  She knows that Hagar now despises her.  There is clearly some bad things gong on between Sarai and Hagar now.  So Sarai comes to Abram and as humans can be, she is upset with Abram for what he did, even though it was her idea.  This is often the case.  We can have an idea that we convince others to do, but when the idea turns out bad, we blame those we have convinced to participate in our idea.  We don't think of blaming ourselves who first thought of the idea.


Sarai said, "you (Abram) are responsible  for the wrong that I am suffering.  In one sense of the word she is right.  He did not have to agree with the plan.  Yet in another sense she is wrong too.  It was her plan, and as she puts it, she was the one who "put her servant into the arms of her husband".   We learn here that Hagar was actually Sarai's servant.


The last part of verse 5 says, "may the Lord judge between you and me."  To me, this suggests that Sarai is expressing how upset she is.  I think she's saying that the Lord will judge who is right, me or you, and I'm sure He'll decide for me, not for you.  She probably  said this in response to Abram saying that it was her idea, although there is no written text that says this.  I think we can safely say that Abram had a response to Sarai's accusation against him. 


Verse 6 does tell us how Abram responds to Sarai's last statement concerning the Lord judging between him and her.  He tells Sarai to do whatever she wishes with Hagar.  To me, this suggests that Abram might well be a bit disgusted with everything at this point and so he washes his hands clean of the whole affair.  He just tells Sarai, "do whatever you want," as if to say, it's not my responsibility as you suggest it is.


Verse 6 also tells us that Sarai did as Abram said.  She was quite vindictive.  She mistreated Hagar to the point that Hagar ran away.  As I said earlier, Paul speaks about this in his letter to the Galatians.  Paul says  that the son of the slave woman was mistreated by the son of the free woman, and it was the same in his day.  He equated the free woman to the Jews and the slave woman to the Christian Jews. As Sarai  mistreated Hagar, so the Jews mistreated the Christians.  This is often the case with any new move of the Lord.  The older movement often-times criticizes the new movement.


Verse 7 tells us that the angel of the Lord found Hagar by a well on the road to Shur.  Shur is near the north eastern border of Egypt.  Hagar was an Egyptian.  It seems to me that she was heading back to her home land, when the Lord interrupted her journey. 


Usually when the Old Testament uses the term "angel of the Lord", most Bible teachers understand the angel of the Lord to be "pre-incarnate Jesus".   So I suggest that Jesus found Hagar because He wanted to talk with her


The angel of the Lord asks Hagar in verse 7, "where have you come from and where are you gong?"  I'm sure that the angel of the Lord, or Jesus, knew where Hagar was coming from and where she was going, but as often is the case, He wants us to make a verbal confession.  I believe that is what Jesus wanted from Hagar at this moment in time.


So also in verse 7 Hagar tells the angel of the Lord that she is running away from her mistress, who is Sarai. 


In verse 9 the angel of the Lord says in no uncertain terms that Hagar needed to return to Sarai and "submit to her".   I'm sure this was not a welcome piece of information that Hagar wanted to here.  Her and Sarai had many relational problems and human tendency is to run away from such problems.


In verse 10 the angel, that is Jesus, promises Hagar the slave woman, that she'd have descendents that would be too numerous to count.  This promise sounds much like the promise God gave to Abraham concerning his descendents and his offspring.  And remember, Paul, in Galatians 3 tells us that Abram's offspring was Jesus. 


In the physical sense of the word, this promise came true.  The descendents of Hagar became many great nations, yet spiritually speaking, if you consider what Paul teaches in Galatians, Christian Jews became numerous as well. 


I believe what God tells Hagar here is prophetic.  Once again, if you consider Paul's message in Galatians 4. Paul says that Hagar is the Jews of his day who were persecuting the church, who is compared to Sarai.  As God told Hagar to return to Sarai, so He was telling the Jews of Paul's day to turn to the children of promise, that is, Christians.  


In verse 11 God continues to speak to Hagar.  He confirms that she is pregnant and that when she has her baby she will call him Ishmael.  The name Ishmael means "God hears", and that is what the text implies.  The reason why God told Hagar to name her son Ishmael was because He said, "the Lord has heard" the state of her misery.  Ishmael was born from a state of misery and in one sense of the word became a nation of  misery.


In verse 12 God predicts just what kind of man Ishmael will be.  He says that he will be a "wild donkey".  Ishmael, and we can assume his descendents will be in conflict with everyone, and such has been the case with Ishmael's descendents ever since.


In verse 13 we see, or at least it seems to me, that Hagar does not understand God in the same way that Abram does.  She does not know what to call the one who has just spoken to her so she calls Him, "the one who sees me", since God has seen her in her misery.  Verse 14 tells us that the well where she was at is called by the same name.


Verse 15 confirms that Hagar did have a son and that she actually did return to Sarai because it was Abram who officially called the baby boy Ishmael.  Of course Hagar would have told him what to call the boy.  The practice in those days was that the father would choose and announce the name of the babies. 


Verse 16 tells us that Abram was 86 years of age at this point. 


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