Abraham (Genesis 16)

By Mary Jane Chaignot

Categories: Patriarchs

  • Abraham and Sarah left Haran ten years ago.
  • This is the point when Sarah comes to terms with her inability to have a child.
  • God told Abraham he would have a son from his body; nothing was said about Sarah.
  • Finally, Sarah said, "God has kept me from having children. Go and lie with my slave, Hagar. Perhaps I can have a family through her." Sarah believed that God was the cause of everything. Sarah could have legally adopted Hagar's child.
  • It was considered a disgrace if a woman didn't have a child at that time.
  • Abraham agreed to do what Sarah asked.
  • As Sarah's maid, Hagar was expected to do whatever Sarah wanted. Hagar was given to Sarah when she was in Pharaoh's palace in Egypt.
  • Hagar got pregnant right away.
  • But once she was pregnant, Hagar began to despise Sarah.
  • Sarah blamed Abraham for her suffering. She said, "May the wrong done to me be upon you!" Maybe Abraham was doting on Hagar. The text suggests Sarah's marriage was at risk.
  • Hagar, however, was the one at the mercy of both of them. Scholars see her as the first "suffering servant."
  • Abraham told Sarah to do whatever she wanted to Hagar.
  • Sarah mistreated her; Hagar ran away. (Later on, Pharaoh will "mistreat" the Israelites in Egypt, and they will "run away." The words are the same.)
  • Hagar was on her way back to Egypt when she stopped at a spring.
  • An angel of the Lord found her and asked where had she come from and where was she going. Not only did this angel know her name, but he was also the first one who actually spoke to her.
  • Hagar said she was running away from her mistress (this is also the first time the text records Hagar speaking).
  • The angel told her to go back and submit to Sarah. After these two commands, the angel promised that her descendants would be "too numerous to count." (This is the same promise Abraham had been given from God.)
  • The angel told her she would have a son, and she should name him Ishmael. His name means, "God has heard your cry." Ishmael's name would forever remind her of this meeting.
  • Ishmael would be a "wild man," always stirring up trouble and always at odds with his family (probably with Abraham's other children).
  • The angel's commands and promises resembled those given to Abraham. Hagar, however, was an immigrant and a woman!
  • Hagar was so moved that she shouted with joy and praise. Then she named God, "You are the God who sees me." She is the only person in the entire Bible who names God.
  • She also named the well where all of this took place – "the well of the Living One who sees me." Her focus was on God. Then she could go back and trust his promises.
  • As the angel predicted, Hagar bore a son, and Abraham named him Ishmael. In naming the child, Abraham was officially adopting him. But there is no mention of Sarah. So it seems that Sarah's dream of having a family through Hagar never happened.
  • Abraham was 86 when Ishmael was born.

Bible Characters