The Life of Abraham:
Hagar and the God Who Saw Her
God had once again promised Abram he would have a son. He reemphasized this promise by performing a covenant ceremony. Now a bit of time has passed, and yet, Abram and Sarai are still childless.
Sarai Gives Hagar to Abram
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “Now behold, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. After Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram’s wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife. (Genesis 16:1-3)
Throughout the Bible we read stories of God using sinful men to His glory. Even those men that the Bible refers to as “righteous” were not sinless, with the exception of the only sinless man to ever live, Jesus. While the Bible may call many of these people “righteous” not every action they took was a righteous one. These people were sinners just like you and me. Not every action recorded by these men and women should be considered allowable actions. The Bible records their actions to show that in spite of their sinful behavior, God still redeemed them and used them. This is one such situation. This is not a story to make an argument in favor of polygamy. In fact, this story shows that such arrangements go against God’s design and are sinful.
God had promised Abram that he would father a child. However, Abram and Sarai were getting older and had not had any children yet. Rather than trusting the Lord to bring about His will in His perfect timing, they decided to take matters into their own hands and force God’s blessing to come about.
This is never something we should do. We must wait on the Lord for His perfect timing. He is sovereign over all things including time. He knows what He is doing. Just wait to see how He brings about His will. Waiting isn’t easy or fun but God’s timing is perfect. If we try to take matters into our own hands, we always end up regretting it.
This passage reminds us of another instance of a wife advising her husband poorly, Adam and Eve. In Genesis 2:18 we read that God made woman to be a “helper” for man. As I have mentioned before, the Hebrew word used here is “ezer.” This word does not mean servant or assistant. It the same word used when referring to the Lord as having rescued someone. In other words, God created woman to rescue her husband, to give him good advice, to remind him of God’s Word and encourage him to choose the right path. We are to strive to lead our husbands out of temptation and encourage them to follow God’s Word.
Just as Eve usurped her God given role as wife and lead her husband into sin, Sarai, followed in the same path. As wives, or women who desire to one day be a wife, God has commissioned us to help our husbands. We are warrior women going into battle against sin alongside our husbands. We do not want to be weak and cause him to stumble. Study God’s Word, be wise and discerning, resolve to do the right thing, and champion your husband to follow and trust in the Lord.
We are warrior women going into battle against sin alongside our husbands. Study God’s Word, be wise and discerning, resolve to do the right thing, and champion your husband to follow and trust in the Lord. Click To Tweet
He went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight. And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done me be upon you. I gave my maid into your arms, but when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her sight. May the Lord judge between you and me.” But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her what is good in your sight.” So Sarai treated her harshly, and she fled from her presence. (Genesis 16:4-6)
This is a very tragic story. This Egyptian slave woman is married to Abram. We have no knowledge in this passage as to whether this was against her will or if she was a willing participant. However, we do not see any consideration for her desires or feelings on the subject.
Once she realizes she is pregnant, however, Hagar begins to despise or show contempt for her mistress, Sarai. We don’t know why this is. Perhaps she hated Sarai for forcing her to marry Abram or maybe she began acting arrogant because she was able to get pregnant but Sarai was not. Whatever the reason, we see that she was showing disrespect to Sarai. This sets Sarai off.
How typical that when things do not go as we expect they should, that we should rail against others. It was Sarai’s idea for Abram to marry and impregnate Hagar, yet she is now unhappy with the outcome. She has received what she wanted but is even more unhappy than before.
Rather than blaming herself and confessing her foolishness to both Abram, Hagar, and God, Sarai, blames her husband for their predicament.
Matthew Henry, in his commentary on this passage said these wise words:
“It is an absurdity which passionate people are often guilty of to quarrel with others for that of which they themselves must bear the blame. Sarai could not but own that she had given her maid to Abram, and yet she cries out, ‘My wrong be upon thee,’ when she should have said, ‘What a fool was I to do so!’ That is never said wisely which pride and anger have the inditing of; when passion is upon the throne, reason is out of doors, and is neither heard nor spoken.”1
As Christians, we should never blame others for our sin. We must admit our guilt, confess it, and repent. Passing the blame, which again reminds us of Adam and Eve, just compounds the guilt of sin. It will lead to greater bitterness and heartache.
Sarai not only blames Abram but she makes an appeal to God. She is hoping that God will back her up and prove her to be innocent in this conspiracy.
We have likely heard this from people arguing against a truth found in God’s Word or arguing in error. They may say something like “I prayed about this…” These are conversation killers and have very little weight if it is not argued from God’s Word.
“Those are not always in the right who are most loud and forward in appealing to God. Rash and bold imprecations are commonly evidences of guilt and a bad cause.” ~ Matthew Henry1
Abram had had enough of the complaints of this woman. He told her that Hagar was her property to do with as she pleased and washed his hands of the matter. Abram should have taken responsibility of the situation. He was just a guilty in this situation as Adam was in the sin in the Garden of Eden. Rather than leading his wife into trusting in God’s Promises, he complied and feel into even greater sin. Now these two women, both his wives, are squabbling. Abram should have stopped this mutual disrespect and protected and lead them both into righteousness. He should have confessed his part in this sin to Sarai, Hagar, and God. He should have demonstrated true repentance and lead these women in righteousness. However, he decided to back out of the situation entirely, abandon his new wife and child, and turn them over to his wife that would treat them harshly. Abram is not showing love to anyone but himself in this situation. He is showing hatred to Sarai for abandoning her to greater sinful behavior and he is abandoning Hagar and his child to unfair treatment.
Sarai is in pain and rather than turning to God, confessing her unbelief, and resting in His peace, she takes out all her hurt out on Hagar. Rather than talking to Hagar about her pain, confessing her sin, and asking for Hagar’s forgiveness, Sarai treats her unjustly.
Hagar, having had enough of this family, abandons her position and runs into the wilderness. Hagar should have gone to Sarai, confessed her disrespectful attitude and asked Sarai for her forgiveness. However, her pride would not allow this and she ran away from her responsibilities.
This whole story is one describing how pride will wreck havoc on a life, even one devoted to God. We must always be on guard and looking for this evil in our own lives. The moment we recognize it, we must root it out. We must humble ourselves before the Lord, confess this sin, and beg for Him to grant us greater humility.
Hagar Meets God
Now the angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from and where are you going?” And she said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.” Then the angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority.” Moreover, the angel of the Lord said to her, “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.” The angel of the Lord said to her further,
“Behold, you are with child,
And you will bear a son;
And you shall call his name Ishmael,
Because the Lord has given heed to your affliction.
“He will be a wild donkey of a man,
His hand will be against everyone,
And everyone’s hand will be against him;
And he will live to the east of all his brothers.” (Genesis 16:7-12)
Again we are reminded of Adam and Eve and even Cain. Just as God went searching for Adam and Even in the Garden after they had sinned and how He sought Cain after he killed Abel, God has gone after Hagar.
“…the only one who goes in search of Hagar, the only person who responds with any compassion toward her whatsoever – is God. Despite the fact that Hagar is not the one through whom the promised seed will eventually come, and despite the fact that, if anything, her presence in the developing storyline signals the beginning of endless trouble – the reality is that God knows the injustice that has been done to her and very mercifully, by means of this representative Angel, goes to visit Hagar.in her distress.” ~ Scott Lindsay2
The angel of the Lord goes to Hagar. What an honor! Hagar is not part Abram’s line. She is not one of the chosen people of God, yet He took time to show her a special blessing.
This is a reminder that while God chose to send His Son through the line of Abram and while the Bible states that Jesus came “to the Jew first,” Gentiles are not beyond God’s saving work. God cares for the Gentile just as He cares for the Jew. God uses Gentiles for His glory just as He used the nation of Israel.
The angel addresses Hagar by name but also position. He reminds her of who she is in order to humble her a bit. He could have referred to her as “Abrams wife,” but he referred to her as “Sarai’s maid” in order to humble her.
He then asks where she had come from and where she was going. This is not because God didn’t know the answer, but just as He did with Adam and Eve, with Cain, and with us, He is giving Hagar a chance to confess her sin. These questions also may have lead her to consider her situation a bit closer as well. He asked here where she was coming from. This may have reminded her that she was running from a God fearing home. Although they were greatly flawed people, they worshiped the One True God. The question, “Where are you going,” might have reminded her that running back to Egypt was running back into a nation of idol worshipers. While this home of Abram and Sarai’s was a home of sinners, Egypt was a place of even greater sin. While her life may not be ideal with Abram, at least she was in the home of worshipers of God.
The angel gives her instructions and a blessing. He sends her back to a place where she is likely to be punished and continue to be treated harshly. However, he sends her with hope. She has been made a promise that will bring her joy in the midst of the harsh treatment. It will give her something to think on in the suffering to come and not loose hope.
This angel also names her son. His name would be “Ishmael” which means “God hears.” What an encouragement to Hagar! She has been humbled and reminded that her occupation is lowly and her heritage and place of potential escape is even worse. Yet, the angel lets her know that although she is a lowly woman, God, the Creator and Sustainer of all, has heard her. We can trust this same truth today. We are lowly sinners deserving hell but God hears our cries.
It is also interesting to note that this is the same blessing God has given Abram. Now Hagar, is promised an innumerable amount of decedents.
The God Who Sees
Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees”; for she said, “Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?” Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered. (Genesis 16:13-14)
Hagar believes in God and acknowledges His sovereignty and omniscience. She has been simultaneously humbled and honored.
When God humbles us, His humbling does not leave us a crumpled mess. Rather, we forget the hurt of our pride and we are captivated by the presence of God. When we are humbled, it is to be expected to feel crushed but focusing on God causes our heart to be light. The more we see how lowly we are compared to Him, the more in awe we are of Him and honored and overjoyed that He would take time to hear and see us. It eventually leads to us desiring to be humbled more and more so we can be more and more in awe of our King. Rather than morning and crying out in pain over our crushed spirit, we are full of gratitude, hope, praise, and peace.
When God humbles us, His humbling does not leave us a crumpled mess...The more we see how lowly we are compared to Him, the more in awe we are of Him and honored and overjoyed that He would take time to hear and see us. Click To Tweet
Hagar named this place “Beer-lahai-roi” which means “The well of Him that lives and sees me.” She could not contain this truth within her. She had to tell the world. When we come to God, we have a vigor to tell everyone the Gospel. Hagar wanted to proclaim the truth of God to all the world.
God met with Hagar while she was in the wilderness running from the home of God worshipers. How often is this the case for so many of us? How many of us did God save when we wanted nothing to do with Him?
I know this was the case with my salvation. I grew up in a home that worshiped God. I even thought I was a Christian for many years. But then, in my mid-twenties, I wanted little to do with anything Christian. I never didn’t believe in God, I just had no interest in Him. I didn’t want to hear about Him, I didn’t want to think about Him, I wanted to live my life how I pleased and not even think about anything dealing with God or the Bible. But, one day, God decided that was enough and caused me to realize He was the God who sees me.
Ishmael is Born
So Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to him. (Genesis 16:15-16)
Hagar, having trusted in God, returned to her mistress and bore Abram a son, Ishmael. It appears that upon returning, she told Abram about what had happened to her and what God said because Abram named his son by the name God had told Hagar his name would be. Abram has finally had a son and Hagar has her Lord.
This is a tragic story but one with a happy ending. It is encouraging to see that God works His will out in our sin and fallenness. He has the power to overcome our obstinance to Him and “work all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
We are not unlike any of the characters in this story. We are selfish, prideful, arrogant, untrusting of God, manipulators of God, and are quick to abandon our responsibilities. Yet, God hears us and He sees us. We are His lowly servants but He is a loving, gentle, merciful, and gracious Master.
1. Henry, M. Chapter 16 – Matthew Henry’s Commentary – Bible Gateway. Biblegateway.com. Retrieved 12 February 2018, from https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/matthew-henry/Gen.16.1-Gen.16.16
2. Lindsay, S. (2007). Genesis 16:1-16. Reformedperspectives.org. Retrieved 12 February 2018, from http://reformedperspectives.org/newfiles/sco_lindsay/sco_lindsay.Gen.16.html