Verse 1 – Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children:and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.
Sarai’s handmaid Hagar is introduced. Sarai had no children. Remember in Genesis 11:29-30 Sarai was introduced and we were told that she was barren and had no child. Now Sarai’s handmaid Hagar is introduced. All we know is that she is an Egyptian. (Sarai was later renamed Sarah by The Lord.)
Verses 2-3 And Sarai said to Abram, Behold now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in to my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. 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.
Sarai has an idea. Sarai and Abram have been in the Canaan land ten years. Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran. That means he is 85 yrs old now. Sarai has an idea. Abram (later renamed Abraham by The Lord) didn’t come up with the idea. He didn’t say “that Hagar sure is cute.” It was Sarai’s idea. She decides that the only way Abram would get a child was through her handmaid. (This apparently was not an uncommon practice. In Genesis 30:3 and 9, Rachel and Leah give their handmaids to Jacob to bear children for them.) Abraham hearkened (listened) to Sarai. Yes, some husbands DO listen to their wives. Was Sarai’s idea a good idea? Let’s read on.
Verse 4 – And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.
Hagar despises Sarai. As soon as Hagar knew that she had conceived, she despised Sarai. Maybe she felt like she now held a more important position than Sarai because she was carrying Abram’s heir. She went from a lowly servant to someone deserving respect, in her mind. Whatever the reason, we know that she now despised Sarai and let it be known.
Verses 5-6 And Sarai said to Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into your bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the Lord judge between me and you. But Abram said to Sarai, Behold, your maid is in your hand; do to her as it pleases you. And when Sarai dealt hardly with Hagar, she fled from her face.
Sarai responds to Hagar’s attitude. Sarai is a good wife. She realizes there is a problem. She goes to her husband and says I was wrong and seeks his counsel. Abram is a good husband. He says do whatever you think is best. Whatever you decide, I support you 100%. Sarai “dealt hardly” with Hagar. She was pretty harsh and Hagar ran away.
Looking Back: Was Sarai’s original idea the best way to handle the situation? Probably not. The best thing would have been to wait on the Lord to fulfill His promise. Sarai was like a lot of us. We want results now. If God promised this, and it’s not possible that He could have really meant it the literal way, He must have meant my handmaid is going to provide the heir. How often do we interfere when God in working out a plan in our husbands’ lives?
Story of man going bankrupt:
A wealthy businessman began having financial problems to the point that he was about to go bankrupt. His wife stepped in and made some changes and saved the business. Sounds like a good plan; however, the husband later left his wife for another woman. God could have been using financial problems to chasten the man for immoral behavior. The wife interfered with the chastening. The man then went unchastened and his immoral behavior continued to the point that he left his wife for another woman.
Verses 7-8 And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. And he said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, From where do you come? and where will you go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.
Hagar has a conversation with the angel of the Lord. Hagar is on her way back to Egypt – “in the way to Shur.” She stops at a fountain of water in the wilderness. It is there that the angel of the Lord finds her. Hagar has a conversation with the angel of the Lord. He asks where she came from and where would she go. Did he already know the answer? Yes, the Lord knows and sees everything.
In Genesis 3:9, the Lord called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where are you?
And in Genesis 4:9, the Lord said to Cain, Where is Abel your brother?
God already knows the answer. Maybe these questions were opportunities for confession. God asks, “Where are you?” What is your answer? Where are you spiritually? Have you sinned like Adam and Cain? Are you hiding from The Lord, hoping he doesn’t see your sin? He does see your sin. The good news is He is giving you any opportunity to confess and begin (or return to) a right relationship with Him.
Hagar says she is fleeing from her mistress.
Verse 9 – And the angel of the Lord said to Hagar, Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hands.
The angel tells Hagar to return and submit herself to her mistress. I think this is important. Hagar had not acted appropriately toward her authority. She had deserved to be reprimanded. The angel tells her to go back and act in the way she should act toward her authority. Sarai had been willing to have a child through Hagar, but Hagar’s attitude when she realized she was pregnant with the master’s heir made the situation unbearable for Sarai. Hagar’s submissive behavior (change in attitude) would change the situation. How often could a change in our attitude change the atmosphere at home? At work? In conflicts with church, family, or friends? Remember in Genesis 13: 8-9 how Abram went to Lot and humbly offered a solution in a time of conflict. Abram was the authority, but he submitted himself to Lot’s decision.
Story of the wife who wanted a divorce:
A woman wanted to leave her husband, but she really wanted him devastated when she left. They didn’t get along at all. So probably if she left he would just be happy about it. She went to a lawyer and told him she wanted to divorce her husband and told him her dilemma. She really wanted her husband to hurt when she left. The lawyer suggested that she go home and for three months be an absolutely perfect wife. Everything she thought a good wife should do, she should do that. At the end of the three months, she could leave and it would really hurt the husband. The woman thought this was a good plan, so she went home and got to work. She became the perfect wife. She anticipated all of her husband’s needs. She cooked, she cleaned, she made herself indispensable. She even spent some time with him doing the things he enjoyed doing (fishing, watching football). Two months later, she ran into her lawyer. He asked how the plan was going. Just one more month and she would be able to divorce her husband. “Divorce?” The woman was shocked to hear the word. “Why, I would never THINK of divorcing such a WONDERFUL man!”
Many times, a change in OUR attitude can change the situation. We think we are the offended party, but we might find out that others are reacting to our actions or attitudes.
Verses 10-12 And the angel of the Lord said to Hagar, I will multiply your seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. And the angel of the Lord said to her, Behold, you are with child, and shall bear a son, and shall call his name Ishmael; because the Lord has heard your affliction. And 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 angel goes on to tell Hagar about her child. Her child will be a son. His name will be called Ishmael. Ishmael means “God shall hear.” His descendants will be so numerous they can not be numbered. He will be a wild man. Genesis 21:20 Says God was with Ishmael and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness. “His hand will be against every man and every man’s hand against him.” I think this means he will fight other nations in wars and battles. But he will live in the presence of all his brethren. They will be a pretty powerful force – Ishmael and the twelve nations of his sons (Genesis 17:20, Genesis 25:16)
Verses 13-14 And she called the name of the Lord that spake to her, “You God see me”: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that sees me? Therefore the well was called Beerlahairoi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.
The well is named. The well is called Beer-lahai-roi. It means “The well of him who lives and sees me.” The names of the well and the child tell us about our Lord. We serve a God who lives, a God who sees us and hears us.
Verses 15-16 And Hagar bare Abram a son:and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael. And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram.
Hagar bares Abram a son. When Abram is 86 years old, Hagar bares a son. Abram calls his name Ishmael.
Other verses about Ishmael:
Genesis 17:20 – (God is speaking to Abraham) And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: 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.
Genesis 21:8-21 Sarai tells Abraham to send Hagar away. God tells Abraham not to be afraid to send Hagar and Ishmael away. God reaffirmed his promise to make of Ishmael a great nation. Ishmael dwelt in the wilderness and became an archer. He took a wife out of the land of Egypt.
Genesis 25:9 Ishmael returned home to bury his father Abraham. Isaac was present also.
In Genesis 25:12-18 we find out that Ishmael has twelve sons, twelve princes. He dies at the age of 137 in the presence of all his brethren.
God is true to his word. All that He promised for Ishmael took place.
Genesis 28:9 “Then went Esau to Ishmael, and took to the wives which he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife.” So Ishmael becomes Esau’s father-in-law.
What are the long-term consequences of Sarai’s idea? Ishmael’s descendants were divided into twelve tribes. They lived in tents and traveled around in large caravans. They were rich in cattle, but a great portion of their wealth may have been gained by lawless activity. After harassing Israel for a time, they were overcome by Gideon. During the reign of the more powerful kings they became more peacefully inclined to the Israelites, they even sent presents to King Solomon and King Jehosaphat. However, these peaceful inclinations did not endure for long.
I believe that when we don’t wait on the Lord’s perfect timing, when we take matters into our own control, we just introduce conflicts into our lives. By jumping ahead of God and planning for Abram to have a son through Hagar, Sarai created for Israel a powerful group of enemies. God even blessed these enemies because they were Abraham’s seed. (In Genesis, 17:20 God had promised to make Ishmael a great nation.)