- Locate the passage
This passage occurs immediately after the renewal of the Abrahamic Covenant in Gen. 15
It represents the parenthesis between God’s promise and its fulfillment. It is the third in a series of episodes of doubt (cf. 12:10-20; 15:2; 17:17-18; 20:2-13; see also 18:11-15) and lack of faith from Abraham regarding God’s provision (for a child) and protection (with his wife).
The passage is narrative. It includes conversations between Sarai and Abram and the Angel of the Lord and Hagar, but not between Abram and Hagar or Abram and the Lord.
- Determine the structure of the passage
16:1-6 – Abram’s lack of faith and Hagar’s flight
16:1-2 – Listening to the wrong voice: Abraham listens to Sarai
16:3-4 – Things didn’t turn out like we thought
16:5-6 – Making Matters Worse: compounding a bad decision
16:7-14 – The faith of an Egyptian maid
16:15-16 – The fruit of a lack of faith
- Exegete the passage
Key Phrases: God hears; God sees
Abram and Sarai’s attempt to manipulate the fulfillment of God’s promise juxtaposes Abram’s profession of faith in the immediately preceding chapter.
The passage begins with two significant statements:
- “Abram’s wife” – here Sarai is distinguished from Hagar who represents a lack of faith on Abram’s part
- Note the repetition of the words wife (1, 3, 3) and maid (1, 2, 3, 5, 6) which highlight the tension between the two women
- “[Sarai] had borne him no children” – Here is the tension of the passage. It’s been 11 years since God promised that he would have a child. Now, at age 86, doubt and impatience has begun to win.
- The Lord has restrained me – part of a theme of barren women in Scripture
Vs. 2 – perhaps I shall obtain children by her
- Hebrew (“bana”) – lit. – I may “build” from her (cf. Gen. 30:3; Ruth 4:11)
- Note the selfishness of Sarai’s statement (“I” shall obtain); and the arrogance to presume to manipulate the fulfillment of God’s promise
- The name, “Hagar” occurs twelve times in this passage
Vs. 2 – Key Word in the passage (2, 11, 11, 16)
- Abram “heeded” (“shama”) Sarai
- The name “Ishmael” is built off of the Hebrew word to hear (“shama”) and the name of God (el).
- Yet, ironically, it is Hagar who actually listened to the Lord in this passage, spoke to Him, changed the name of the place to reflect her encounter with Him, and obeyed Him.
- To whom are you listening?
Ill. Eve listened to the serpent;
Adam listened to Eve;
Aaron listened to people;
Reuben listened to brothers about Joseph;
Israel listened to spies;
Israel did not listen to their judges (Judges 2:17);
Israel listened to other nations (need king);
Solomon listened to his wives; Rehoboam listened to advisors;
King Joash failed to listen to wise counsel after the death of Jehoiada;
Jesus warned His Disciples not to listen to the Pharisees (Matt. 16:5-12)
App. To whom are you listening?
Vs. 3 – It is significant that Hagar is Egyptian
- Anticipates a theme of Israel trusting in Egypt and not God
Vs. 4 – He went into Hagar
- Abram, here, became the husband to another woman out of his doubt just like Sarai would later become the wife of another man out of his doubt?
- Hagar “despised” Sarai
- This is the same word used in Gen. 12:3 – the one who “treats you lightly” (curses), I will curse.
- Gal. 4:24-27
Vs. 5-6 – Abram listened to Sarai again
- He made a bad decision worse by allowing Hagar to be abused by Sarai
- His callous response, “do to her as you please” suggests that he never really loved Hagar, but was merely using her to manipulate the fulfillment of God’s promise
Vs. 7 – The Angel of the Lord found her
- Note that the Angel of the Lord speaks in first person (theophany; Christophany)
- Note a different way of conveying divine conversation in Gen. 21:17. Here the angel speaks FOR God
- Hagar understands – “you are the God who sees me” and “I have here seen Him who sees me,” and “well of the God who sees me.)
Vs. 7 – “Shur” will be the site of several significant events on the Old Testament (cf. Gen. 20:1; 25:18; Ex. 15:22; 1 Sam. 15:7; 27:8)
Vs. 11 – the Lord heard your affliction
- Ishmael’s name is a reminder that God heard (shama) Hagar’s affliction, but they did not listen to (hear) God
Vs. 13 – “The God who sees me”
- The theology of an oppressed mistress …
- God hears the cries of the afflicted (Job 34:28; Ps. 72:12; 102:1)
Vs. 14 – Ishmael settled “in the presence of” his brothers
- See comment below on Gen. 25:18
- Here, the text clearly suggests in the first part that Ishmael was “wild,” against every man, and they were against him
- The phrase “in the presence of” can mean “in opposition to.” However, that would be redundant here. The phrase here and Gen. 25:18 seems to simply mean “nearby.” Ishmael lived in the same region as his brothers. This rendering best fits both contexts as well as the historical and current climate in the land.
Vs. 15-16 – These verses form something of a summary of the entire passage
- The effort to manipulate God will have long-lasting consequences
Vs. 16 – Ishmael means, “God will hear”
- There is a certain irony to the fact that the Egyptian Hagar spoke to the Lord and was seen by Him and Abraham, the man of faith, only clings to the hope that God will hear him
- Let the structure of the text drive the sermon
Impatience with God – she had borne him no children
- Is. 8:17; Hab 2:3; Luke 2:25
Listening to the Wrong Voices
- Doubting the Word of the Lord – just like Adam and Eve in the garden
- The contrast of Hagar listening to and seeing the Lord
Acting on our Own without God
- Is it possible that Abram and Sarai (and us as well sometimes) convinced themselves that they were doing God a favor by helping Him fulfill His promise?
- There are consequences to our sin (Ishmael – consequences still in effect today)