Genesis 16 Abram, Sarai, Hagar, And Ishmael.

From the great high point of the solemn making of the covenant with Abram and his seed, we are plunged once again to the depths of unbelief in the promises, in this case of a physical seed for Abram and Sarai (v. 1 Cf. 11:30; 15:2-3). This story reminds us all of how impatient we can sometimes be with God’s providential dealings with us. In this case it was Sarai who pushed Abram to have sexual relations with Hagar, in effect to use Hagar as a surrogate, so that they might “obtain children by her” (v. 2a). Not unlike Adam, Abram heeded the voice of his wife over that of the LORD’s (v. 2b Cf. 3:17). The scriptures are clear, nonetheless, that though there may be no official ceremony or government certificate, Hagar was nevertheless now also Abram’s wife (v. 3). So in addition to their unbelief in the LORD’s clear promise, they also broke the original creation ordinance of one man and one woman as one flesh (1:24), following in the practice of the evil ungodly Lamech (4:19). So when Hagar got pregnant Sarai became “despised in her eyes” (v. 4).

Sarai then made two more mistakes. Like Eve who blamed Satan, and Adam who blamed Eve, Sarai blamed Abram for what had happened (v. 5a). To this she added the foolish audacity of invoking the LORD to judge between them (v. 5b). The last thing she really wanted was the judgment that was deserved her! Abram was also, like Adam, not free of guilt and adding one more bad decision upon another. Abram, rather than finally taken his manly husband responsibility seriously, abdicated his leadership to Sarai, who then proceeded to mistreat Hagar (v. 6 Cf. Pr. 30:21-23). We can not and must not overlook the serious flaws in both their characters. If anything, this account and the revelation we find here, all the more speaks to how this covenant relationship which the LORD sovereignly instituted with them and their seed, was truly all of grace! Hagar would flee from Sarai’s presence, but she did not escape the LORD’s presence, for the angel of the LORD visited her and also spoke to her and her seed promises of hope and a future (vv. 7-12).

There was a condition to these promises to Hagar though-she must return to Sarai and submit to her (v. 9). Even these promises to Hagar and Ishmael were conditioned by their remaining under the umbrella of the covenant which the LORD made with Abram. The angel of the LORD both saw and heard Hagar. It is also clear that this was a pre-incarnate manifestation of the Son, since Hagar called the name of the LORD who spoke to her “the God Who sees” (v. 13). The name ‘Ishmael’ also means “God hears,” and he certainly did hear Hagar’s cries, and they represent all those nations and people’s who God does hear and does save by the very same covenant of grace (Cf. 17:20; 21:17). The well to which Hagar had fled was also called “Beer Lahai Roi,” meaning “well of the One who lives and sees me” (v. 14). This is some very profound theology which becomes a testimony and confession borne out of deep spiritual struggle. True biblical theology is always wedded to the salvation history of God’s covenant people. Ishmael was also Abram’s seed (vv. 15-16 Cf. Gal. 4:22).

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